Posts Tagged ‘hatred’

Top US general condemns racism after Charlottesville violence

August 17, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP | General Joseph Dunford joined top military figures who have spoken out against the violence in Charlottesville

BEIJING (AFP) – The United States’ top general condemned “racism and bigotry” on Thursday, joining other military leaders in their denunciation of deadly violence in Charlottesville.

The military usually stays out of the political fray, but it has been keen to distance itself from the weekend’s neo-Nazi demonstrations because some demonstrators were sporting US military clothes or insignia.

“I can absolutely and unambiguously tell you that there’s no place for racism and bigotry in the US military or in the United States as a whole,” General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, told reporters during a visit to Beijing.

He added that military leaders “were speaking directly to the force and to the American people… to make it clear that that kind of racism and bigotry is not going to stand inside the force… and to remind (the American people) of the values for which we stand in the US military which are reflective of what I believe to be the values of the United States.”

The statement contrasts with remarks from President Donald Trump, who said there was “blame on both sides” after a white supremacist rally ended with a suspected Nazi sympathiser ploughing his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.

“What about the alt-left that came charging… at the, as you say, the alt-right?” the president asked on Tuesday. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?”

The heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, have responded to the incident in recent days.

Admiral John Richardson, who leads the Navy, called the events in Charlottesville “shameful.”

“The Navy will forever stand against intolerance and hatred,” he said in a statement Saturday.

Top US generals issue veiled criticism of Donald Trump’s Charlottesville comments

August 17, 2017

Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism after saying there were ‘two sides to every story’

By Chloe FarandAndrew Buncombe New York

The Independent

Two senior US military officers have made what has been interpreted as veiled criticism of Donald Trump in the wake of his comments about the Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville.

Mark A Milley, the US Army Chief of Staff, said in a tweet the army did not accept “racism, extremism and hatred”, though he did not specifically condemn the President, or even mention him.

In the tweet, Mr Milley said: “The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our rank. It’s against our values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.”

The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.

Another senior officer, General Robert B Neller, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, also appeared to counter Mr Trump’s comments. “No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honour, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act,” he said on Twitter.

No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act.

Mr Trump has faced widespread criticism since he veered off the teleprompter at an infrastructure press launch and began answering questions as to whether or not he had been slow to denounce white supremacist-led violence that resulted in the death of one young woman, Heather Heyer, and the injury of up to 20 others over the weekend.

Mr Trump had initially sought to say there had been wrong on “all sides”, but under intense pressure from within his own party and without, he then issued a statement in which he said racism was evil and denounced white supremacy and neo-Nazism.

But as he was questioned on Tuesday afternoon about his slow-paced response to the incident, Mr Trump became defensive and then went on the attack.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly watches on nervously at Trump’s Charlottesville press briefing

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he said. “I thought what happened was a horrible moment for our country, but there are two sides to every story.”

Many public figures and officials have come out to condemn the violence at the white supremacists’ rally in the Virginia college town, including senior member of the Republican Party. There have been mounting calls for the President to fire a number of his White House staff, among them Steve Bannon, who have been accused of promoting nationalism or white nationalism. Mr Trump notedly refused to voice his support for Mr Bannon when he was asked at the same press conference.

This is not the first time that Mr Milley has appeared to stand up to some of  Mr Trump’s more controversial comments or directives. Last month, when Mr Trump tweeted that transgender people could not serve in the armed forces, Mr Milley was among those within the military hierarchy that said it would not act on the announcement until it received a formal directive from the White House.

“We grow up and learn to obey the chain of command, and my chain of command is secretary of the Army, secretary of Defence and the president,” Mr Milley said. “We will work through the implementation guidance when we get it. …To my knowledge, the Department of Defence, Secretary Mattis has not received written directives yet.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/mark-milley-us-army-chief-staff-donald-trump-charlottesville-latest-racism-extremism-hate-neo-nazi-a7896366.html

Why are Nazis In America?

August 14, 2017

The ‘Last Week Tonight’ host didn’t hold back Sunday night.

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This weekend, the nation was fixated on the horrifying display of hate in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a group of neo-Nazis held court armed with tiki torches, military cosplay, guns, clubs, and an outrageous sense of entitlement.

These preppy fascists were said to have congregated on the University of Virginia campus to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, but really, most of these whiny brats couldn’t tell you the first thing about the Confederate general. They came to instigate outrage, and violence. And when all was said and done, a suspected white nationalist was arrested for allegedly plowing his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least another 19 people.

“It was truly a weekend of horrifying images. We saw Nazi flags and marchers carrying torches—tiki torches, by the way, because nothing says ‘white nationalist’ like faux Polynesian kitsch,” said John Oliver.

The Last Week Tonight host opened his program Sunday evening by addressing the events in Charlottesville—including President Donald Trump’s rambling, insufficient reaction to the tragedy, with the commander-in-chief refusing to denounce white nationalists, slipping in President Barack Obama’s name, imploring Americans to “cherish our history” (see: Robert E. Lee’s statue), and condemning hate “on many sides.”

“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence—on many sides. On many sides,” declared Trump from his Bedminster golf club.

“Wait… on many sides?!” exclaimed Oliver. “This was a white nationalist rally—you have to call that out by name. There aren’t many instances in modern American politics where you can honestly think, ‘That guy really should have mentioned the Nazis,’ but this is emphatically one of them. It’s like a reverse Godwin’s Law: if you fail to mention Nazism, you lose the argument.”

And, after “having made a wild false equivalence between Nazis and people who oppose Nazis,” Trump attempted to clear his own name, saying, “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

But this rally did have plenty to do with Donald Trump—according to the white nationalists who participated in it. In addition to white nationalists chanting things like “Heil Trump,” David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (whose presidential endorsement candidate Trump famously refused to disavow for several days), was interviewed in Charlottesville by a reporter.

“We are determined to take our country back. We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump,” said Duke.

“I’ve gotta say, David Duke and the Nazis really seem to like Donald Trump, which is weird because Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them,” said Oliver, adding, “And that kind of connection there is something that anyone in their right mind would want to immediately and repeatedly disavow, and it’s not like Trump wasn’t given the opportunity.”

Yes, Trump was repeatedly asked to condemn the white nationalists in Charlottesville, many of whom took to the streets in his honor, as he exited his Bedminster press conference. “How do you respond to white nationalists who say they’re participating in Charlottesville because they support you?” one reporter asked. “Do you want the support of these white nationalist groups who say they support you, Mr. President?”

The questions fell on deaf ears.

“Here’s the problem with that: A non-answer in a moment like this is an answer,” said Oliver. “And look, don’t take that just from me. White nationalists seemed pretty clear about the message Trump had sent to them with his response.”

Indeed, neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer ran a piece on Saturday praising President Trump’s vague speech. “Trump comments were good… He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him,” they wrote.

“And look, maybe Trump will eventually take a second swing at personally condemning the white nationalists. Maybe he has since we’ve taped this show. But even if he does, it’ll be too late. Because his first response is who he is. And the truly infuriating thing is how predictable this was,” offered Oliver.

“It simply doesn’t get easier than disavowing Nazis. It’s as much of a presidential gimme as pardoning a fucking turkey. It is almost impossible to screw it up. But that’s exactly what happened,” the comedian continued. “So there is clearly no point waiting for leadership from our president in moments like this, because it is just not coming, which means we will have to look to one another, because incredibly, in a country where previous presidents have actually had to defeat Nazis, we now have one who cannot even be bothered to fucking condemn them.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/john-oliver-accuses-trump-of-feeding-the-charlottesville-nazis

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‘Why are these Nazis able to come into our city?’ Charlottesville left in shock after day of violence

At the scene where a suspected far-right extremist mowed down anti-fascist protesters in Charlottesville, local resident Anna Quillom spent Sunday laying dozens of carnations along the street.

“I grew up here but this doesn’t feel like my home anymore. The lid’s come off it,” said Miss Quillom, 36, who runs wine tours in the historic college town. Welling up with tears, she added: “It was the best place in the world, inclusive, everyone cares about each other. Why are these Nazis able to come into our city?”

Nearby, at a makeshift memorial, a sign read “No Place For Hate!” A red shoe, lost by one of the victims, had been stuffed with roses.

 A mourner lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene of where a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville
 A mourner lays flowers at a makeshift memorial at the scene of where a car plowed into counter-protesters in Charlottesville CREDIT: JUSTIN IDE/REUTERS

Charlottesville, a town of 47,000 with a university very much at its heart, was shattered by Saturday’s events when hundreds of racist extremists descended and violence erupted.

In the high street, dotted with book and antique shops, people appeared stunned….

Read the rest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/08/13/nazis-able-come-city-charlottesville-left-shock-day-violence/

Donald Trump’s Charlottesville Comments Draw the Attention of Cartoonists

August 13, 2017

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

BY HAGAY HACOHEN, SHOSHANA KRANISH
The Jerusalem Post
 AUGUST 13, 2017 07:58

 

After violent clashes in Charlottesville in which one woman died, US president denounced violence ‘on many sides.’

US President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio, US July 2

US President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio, US July 25, 2017. (photo credit:REUTERS)

In a televised announcement, Trump told reporters that he condemned the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” Trump’s decision not to specifically condemn the white supremacy rally where the violence occurred has earned him scorn.

We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST.

John Cole, a Pennsylvania-based editorial cartoonist, tweeted four drawings. One depicted a man wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat – a hallmark of Trump’s campaign and presidency – with a Hitler-esque mustache, standing in front of an American flag while performing a Nazi salute. Another showed Trump standing in front of a crowd of KKK members and other assumed white supremacists, with his arms opened to a Black couple, encouraging them to join him. One of the cartoons was a play on the film The Producers, in which a Jewish accountant helps produce a play about the ‘happy home life of Hitler.’

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

I’ve drawn a few cartoons about @POTUS‘ normalization of white nationalism/neo-nazism. Here are a few. 

Trump’s statement that ”we are all Americans” drew criticism from many people.

The original rally, called ”Unite the Right,” was headlined by prominent white nationalists and neo-Nazis, including Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler. The organizers called the protest against what they saw was an infringement on the rights of white Americans, and a perceived special treatment of people of color and immigrants. The organizers also made explicit their support of the confederacy movement, a modern reincarnation of the original Confederacy.

The Confederacy was a union of slave-holding states that sought to secede from the United States, which led to the American Civil War.

Virginia was an important state in the Confederacy and throughout the South, the memory of the Civil War is a complex issue that deals with states’ rights, racial relations, and politics.

One of the more famous cartoons associated with the alt-right and the neo-Nazi movement during Trump’s campaign was Pepe the Frog, who reportedly made a few appearances at this weekend’s rally.

An alt-right protestor holds a sign depicting Pepe the Frog

An alt-right protestor holds a sign depicting Pepe the Frog
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Trump condemns ‘horrible’ anti-Semitism — “We have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said.

February 21, 2017

BBC News

US President Donald Trump (R) gives the thumb-up while visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington

US President Donald Trump with his nominee to be the Secretary of Housing and Human Development (HUD) Dr. Ben Carson, his wife Lacena “Candy” Carson and others toured the African-American museum in Washington, DC on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.  Photo credit REUTERS

US President Donald Trump has condemned dozens of violent threats made against US Jewish community centres in the past few weeks.

“We have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” he said while visiting an African-American museum in Washington.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centres are horrible and painful”, he said.

The FBI opened an investigation on Monday following more threats.

“I will tell you that anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop and it has to stop,” Mr Trump said in an interview with NBC earlier on Tuesday.

Last week, 27 Jewish community centres in at least 17 US states reported receiving hoax bomb threats. On Monday 11 more were made across the country.

No bombs were found at any locations, and normal services resumed following building evacuations.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39011090

 

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 3, 2016 — “He will be gracious to you when you cry out” — “At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them”

December 2, 2016

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
Lectionary: 180

Clear
Jesus Wept By Ray Downing

Reading 1 IS 30:19-21, 23-26

Thus says the Lord GOD,
the Holy One of Israel:
O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem,
no more will you weep;
He will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.
The Lord will give you the bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.
No longer will your Teacher hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,
While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or to the left.He will give rain for the seed
that you sow in the ground,
And the wheat that the soil produces
will be rich and abundant.
On that day your flock will be given pasture
and the lamb will graze in spacious meadows;
The oxen and the asses that till the ground
will eat silage tossed to them
with shovel and pitchfork.
Upon every high mountain and lofty hill
there will be streams of running water.
On the day of the great slaughter,
when the towers fall,
The light of the moon will be like that of the sun
and the light of the sun will be seven times greater
like the light of seven days.
On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people,
he will heal the bruises left by his blows.

Responsorial Psalm PS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (see Isaiah 30:18d) Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Praise the LORD, for he is good;
sing praise to our God, for he is gracious;
it is fitting to praise him.
The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;
the dispersed of Israel he gathers.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He tells the number of the stars;
he calls each by name.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.
Great is our LORD and mighty in power:
to his wisdom there is no limit.
The LORD sustains the lowly;
the wicked he casts to the ground.
R. Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.

Alleluia IS 33:22

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The LORD is our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King;
he it is who will save us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 9:35B-10:1, 5A, 6-8

Jesus went around to all the towns and villages,
teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom,
and curing every disease and illness.
At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
Then he said to his disciples,
The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Then he summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”

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Commentary on Matthew 9:35 -10:1,6-8 From Living Space

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The promises of the First Reading are shown being fulfilled in the person of Jesus in the Gospel. We can read it in three sections:

Jesus is shown constantly on the move, teaching in synagogues all over the region, proclaiming the Good News of God’s reign coming among them and bringing healing to all who are sick and diseased. Matthew does not use the title of Good Shepherd for Jesus but he does indicate the deep compassion of Jesus for all those are harassed and depressed, people with no direction in their lives, who are like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus is clearly the Shepherd who can lead them back to where they belong.

He then says to his disciples that there is a huge harvest waiting to be reaped. Up to this he has been working alone but he needs help, especially after he has gone. There are very few people available to work in the harvest field. He then calls the Twelve and hands on to them his own powers to liberate people from evil powers and to heal all kinds of sickness.

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The harvest is still great and the need for labourers is as great as ever. In asking the Lord to send labourers into the harvest, we have to ask ourselves what is the role of each one of us. It is not just a question of priests and religious. Jesus was not talking to priests and religious (there was no such thing at the time the gospels were written) but to every one of his followers – to every one of us who has been baptised. Every one of us is being called to be a harvester. Each one of us can reach a corner of the harvest field that is accessible to no one else. These include my family, my neighbours, my work colleagues and others who come into my life. I may be the only person who brings Jesus with his healing and compassion into their lives.

And what are we to do? Let people know that the Reign of God is very close, because God himself and Jesus are so close. Once we say Yes to God and his Son, they become part of our lives. And we are to do the same work he told his to do:

Heal the sick: by our sympathy and support, which can often do more than any medical treatment.

Raise the dead: perhaps not literally. But there are many who are intellectually, emotionally and socially dead. They are physically alive but they have stopped living meaningful lives. We can help them to find life again.

Cleanse the lepers: all those people who are on the fringes of society, whom we neglect, ignore, despise, reject, avoid. There are the dropouts, the drug addicts and alcoholics, the HIV/AIDS victims, the homeless, single mothers, ‘sex workers’… Let them know they are accepted and loved by God.

Cast out devils: help people liberate themselves from the demons of fear, anger, hatred, violence, from drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sexual abuse (themselves and others), greed for money…

There are so many people who need to hear and to experience the message of Christmas.

There are many, alas, for whom Christmas is Bad News, a time of misery, depression and loneliness. Let’s change that.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/a1017g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 DECEMBER 2016, Saturday, St Francis Xavier
THE JOY IN PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23; Ps 116:1-2; Mk 16:15-20  ]

In his apostolic encyclical, Pope Francis spoke of the joy of the gospel.  Those who encounter Jesus and receive the gospel fill their hearts with joy and they are set free from sin, loneliness and emptiness in their lives.  The gospel always gives hope and meaning to those who receive it.  This joy must constantly be renewed because our involvement in the world, with all its pleasures and preoccupations can cause us to lose the voice of God so that His love is no longer felt and the desire to spread the Gospel also fades.

However, equally important for Pope Francis is that the proclaimers must first be filled with joy.  He is wearied of evangelizers who lack joy and enthusiasm, as if they had just come back from a funeral.  If we evangelizers are dejected, discouraged, impatient and anxious, we will become counter witnesses.  Hence, today, we need to recover and deepen our enthusiasm by entering into the joy of St Paul, the missionary zeal of St Francis Xavier in the proclamation of the Good News.

St Paul in the first reading asked, “Do you know what my reward is?”  Indeed, in a world where the subject is given priority, many ask “what is in it for me if I do this or that?”  In other words, what do I get out of this job or work or service? We need to explain why we are doing what we are doing.  Why does a person choose the priesthood?  Why does a person choose to serve in the ministry? Why does a person enter into public service?  What reward do you expect for your sacrifices?

Perhaps, in the first place, as Christians, we should not be speaking about rewards. The word “reward” is too worldly, secular, materialistic and self-serving.  Rather, it would be better for us to think in terms of meaning, purpose and fulfillment.  Of course, there are some who are worldly, thinking in terms of power, glory, status and even material gains from the ministry.  They will only destroy themselves.  St Paul wrote, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”  (1 Tim 6:6-9)

Secondly, St Paul made it clear that he does not even “insist on the rights which the Gospel gives me.”  This is a reference to his right to material needs.  We know that at one point, he was working as a tent maker to pay for his own ministry.  Later on, he depended on the generosity of others but he was always contented with what he had, without insisting on his rights as he rightly wrote to the Philippians, “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.”  (Phil 4:11f)  This is so unlike the world today when we all speak of rights all the time.  Whilst we certainly must be just to everyone yet this preoccupation of our rights certainly compromises the proclamation of the gospel as a free gift to be given freely to others without counting the cost.

The principle of finding joy in the proclamation of the gospel is derived from the fact that it is freely received and therefore freely given, without any strings attached, unconditional and pure.  This is the starting point of St Paul’s attitude towards his ministry.  His reward is that in his preaching he is “able to offer the Good News free.”  Jesus instructed the disciples, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay.”  (Mt 10:8)

How, then, can such an attitude of selfless joy be attained?  What attitudes must we have?  Firstly, we must see ourselves as servants and apostles.  Our ministry is a calling. St Paul said, “I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it!”  It is a responsibility placed on us.  As servants of God, we are slaves, like St Paul.  We have nothing that is ours because all belong to God.  “So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could.”

At the same time, as apostles, we are sent.  We do not send ourselves and hence it is a vocation, a calling.  We do not take it upon ourselves but we have been entrusted with the message of salvation for all.  Just as the Father sent Christ, as apostles Christ sends us.  We are always dependent on Him and we act on His behalf and never in our own capacity.  Our task is not to proclaim ourselves but Christ as our Lord and Saviour.   We are to proclaim the gospel, the Good News of God’s love, mercy and justice.

Secondly, this duty and privilege must be done out of gratitude.  St Paul says, “If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.”  Unless we are grateful for the Good News we have received, we will not understand the responsibility that comes with it.  Good News is always meant to be shared, not to be kept.   Thus, the commission to announce the Good News is addressed to the disciples who have encountered the Risen Lord.  “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.”  (Mk 16:15)  Are we grateful for our vocation or do we take it up with reluctance?

So we need to get back to the question, ‘what is our reward?’ St Paul said, “I still do this, for the sake of the Gospel, to have a share in its blessings.”  

Indeed, the first great reward is sharing in the joy of Christ who came to give Himself freely for humanity and our salvation.  The greatest joy in giving is when we give freely and for free.  When we are able to free ourselves from our own needs and focus on the needs of others, we experience the joy of freedom and the joy of pure love and pure giving.  It is a joy that no one can explain.  This is the joy of those who help the poor.  This is the joy of St Teresa of Kolkata.  This, too, is the joy of the priesthood and religious life; that we are not paid for our services.   Indeed, the beauty of Christian ministry is that we are not paid like workers so that we can render our services freely without discriminating people.

Secondly, it is the joy of being one with our fellowmen in their pains, struggles and joys.  St Paul wrote, “For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost.”  Feeling with our brothers and sisters and journeying with them help us to remain human, for joy flows from a man who is compassionate and sensitive to the sufferings and joys of his fellowmen.   Indeed, as a priest, my great joy is to let people know that I am with them in their journey of life, in their struggles.  Many times, I cannot do much for them but supporting them morally and in whatever ways I could, I know I bring hope and joy to them.  This joy is a liberating and fulfilling joy.

In a nutshell, the only way to share in the blessings of the gospel is to share the gospel with others.  In giving the gospel to others, in giving hope, meaning, love and life to others, we too in the process partake of their joy and happiness.  As we give ourselves in service to others, we receive the same blessings as well.  When I preach the gospel, I preach first and foremost to myself.  When I heal others, I heal my own wounds.  When I hear confession, I hear my own sins.  When I give kindness to others, I grow in kindness and mercy. This is what the gospel says, “These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.”  In restoring others to health and life, we receive faith and life ourselves because we see the power of God at work in us like the early apostles who, “going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by signs that accompanied it.”

Consequently, today as we celebrate the Feast of St Francis Xavier, I invite all Christians to renew their personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, in repentance, in conversion, in ministry and in service to the poor.   No one should ever think that this invitation is not for him or her as no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.  If, like St Francis, we are willing to risk our lives for Him, He will not disappoint us.  Let us take the words of our Lord seriously, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?  Or what shall a man give in return for his life?”  (Mt 16:25f)  This was the text that changed the life of St Ignatius of Loyola.  What about us?

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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https://www.catholic.sg/03-december-2016-saturday-st-francis-xavier/
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 DECEMBER 2015, Thursday, St Francis Xavier (Last Year)
PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL AS THE PRIMARY WORK OF MERCY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: IS 58:7-10; 1 COR 9:16-19, 22-23; PS 33:2-9; MARK 16:15-20

How can the Church be a beacon of mercy?  It is ironical that often the Church is not seen as a place where mercy is shown.  This happens when the Church becomes too institutionalized and legalistic.  At times, the institutional Church can seem to be lacking in compassion and mercy to the poor, to the sick and those in need.  Indeed, many have left the Church because the Church refused to allow them to remarry or because some confessors have humiliated them at the confessional with their judgmental attitude.  This is in contrast to the gospel of mercy that St Paul spoke about, “Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.”  So if the Church were to be a beacon of mercy, we must proclaim the Gospel as a work of mercy.

Many people today are walking in the valley of tears and darkness.  Many are wounded by relationships with their spouse because of infidelity or irresponsibility and constant quarrels. Those who are divorced and unable to remarry find life very lonely. Worse still, when they have children to raise all by themselves with no one to carry their burden with them.  Children are disillusioned with their parents for failing to show fatherly and motherly love and care.  Siblings are often at odds with each other, competing for attention and acceptance from their parents and relatives.  In offices, many feel so pressured by work and by office politics.   Many others have fallen out of society and recruited into secret societies, living a life of sin and crime.  Then there are those who are financially strapped or emotionally and psychologically so broken that they do not know how to handle their lives anymore.  Of course, many are sick; some suffering from terminal illnesses or rare diseases.  In all these desperations, the world is looking for mercy.

Indeed, as Christians we must be instruments of God’s mercy.  This is how we, as Church and as individuals, must radiate the mercy of God.  Again in today’s scripture readings, we are encouraged to show the mercy of God.  In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah urges us, “Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin.”  In a similar vein, Jesus in the gospel instructs us, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised is saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.” Indeed, in Luke Chapter 4 the Lord inaugurates His mission by citing the text of Isaiah proclaiming the Jubilee Year, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Lk 4:18f)

But over and above all the works of mercy, we are called to proclaim Christ as the God of mercy.  He is the Good News for all of humanity.  This must be the primary work of mercy.  Many fail to realize that to speak about Jesus to others is itself already a work of mercy.  He is called Divine Mercy, as Sr Faustina has revealed to us.  What greater gift can we give to anyone than the Divine Mercy Himself?  Many of our Catholics do not mind rendering mercy in terms of charity to the poor or help people but they are afraid to announce Jesus as the Divine Mercy to them.  It is as if we are happy to give those who do not have fish but we would not tell them where we got our fish from.  What we must do is to give them the source of mercy, which is none other than Christ Himself.  That is why to proclaim God’s mercy in works of charity and compassion, whilst necessary, without announcing Christ as the Mercy of God is to shortchange the world.  How could we hide such a wonderful gift from those people whom we are reaching out to?  We must give them the most important of all gifts, the Giver, Christ the Divine Mercy and no less.  We cannot substitute good works and charity for divine mercy. Regardless of how much mercy we can show to them, we will fall short if we do not reveal to them the source of mercy, Jesus Himself.

In truth, who can lead them out of darkness and slavery?  We cannot.  No matter how much charity we do, we can never fill empty hearts.  No matter how much assurance we can give to anyone, we can never give them peace and love and security.  No matter how much condolence we can give to one in bereavement, we can never console them or give them back the one they love.  Only Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life can fulfill the longings of their souls and heal the pains in their heart.  For this reason, before Jesus instructed the disciples to heal the sick and to liberate them, He told them first and foremost to proclaim Him as the Good News for humanity.   He showed Himself to the Eleven and said to them, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised is saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.”

So the proclamation of Christ as our Lord and Saviour is the primary work of mercy.  It is not a secondary work of mercy.  This is because in Jesus, we find hope for eternal life.  In Jesus, we receive the healing grace of God and His unconditional forgiveness of all our sins.  By His death on the cross, we know that we are forgiven because He prayed for all His enemies.   In Jesus, we find the fullness of life by dying to self and living for God and for others.  In Jesus, we know He can heal us of all our sinfulness and the consequences that come from sin.  Jesus is the love of the Father in person.  So in Jesus, we can face life and we can face death with courage because death has been overcome.  With Jesus, we are liberated for new life and for love, like the apostles and the early Christians.  Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, heals us and transforms us.

But we cannot proclaim Christ as Divine Mercy unless we have encountered His mercy.  St Paul wrote,“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ.” (2 Cor 1:3-5)  Indeed, granting mercy presupposes we have received God’s mercy.  Only those who have known the Lord’s mercy in person can proclaim to the world that He is mercy.  Only those who have encountered Christ could pray, “Eternal Father, it is by your gift that we praise you:  the wonder of our making is only surpassed by the splendour and joy of our coming to life in Christ.” This is what the psalmist is inviting us as well.  He prayed, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips; in the Lord my soul shall make its boast.  The humble shall hear and be glad. I sought the Lord and he answered me; from all my terrors he set me free.” Only having tasted the sweetness and goodness of God, can we proclaim His mercy.

This was the same reason that motivated St Francis Xavier to travel to foreign lands like many of our missionary Fathers to save souls.  They would do anything and everything, taking with them nothing except their faith in the Lord to proclaim the gospel to all of humanity even at the threat of hunger, shipwreck, opposition and death.   Like St Paul who wrote, “So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.”

We can understand where they are coming from and what gave them such impetus to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ.   For them, having discovered Christ as the gift of God’s mercy, they could no longer be silent about the Good News in person.  They went beyond just doing good works and actively proclaimed Christ, in and out of season.  As St Paul shared, “I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.”

The birthday of our Lord is coming.  At Christmas, we are called to do good, reach out especially to the poor, the elderly who are abandoned and to those who feel lonely and unloved.  But let us not forget to give them the Saviour as well.  Like the angels we must announce the coming of the Saviour.   With the psalmist we say, “Look towards him and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed. This poor man called; the Lord heard him and rescued him from all his distress.”

Together with this direct proclamation of the Gospel, we accompany our announcement with the works of mercy and compassion.  As in the early Church, Jesus promises us that He would accompany our words with works, “while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.”  Indeed, if we continue this work of proclaiming Christ as the Divine Mercy and demonstrate by works of mercy, we can be sure that our listeners will believe and experience God’s mercy.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta (7 April 1506 – 3 December 1552) was a Roman Catholic missionary born in Xavier, Kingdom of Navarre (now part of Spain), and co-founder of the Society of Jesus. He was a student of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits, dedicated at Montmartre in 1534.[1] He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time. He was influential in the spreading and upkeep of Catholicism most notably in India, but also ventured into Japan, Borneo, the Moluccas, and other areas which had thus far not been visited by Christian missionaries. In these areas, being a pioneer and struggling to learn the local languages in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India. It was a goal of Xavier to one day reach China.

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Francis Xavier, born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta

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

Related:

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, November 23, 2016 — Through a Glass Darkly — “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

November 22, 2016

“By patient endurance you will save your lives.”

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 505

 

Reading 1 RV 15:1-4

I, John, saw in heaven another sign, great and awe-inspiring:
seven angels with the seven last plagues,
for through them God’s fury is accomplished.Then I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire.
On the sea of glass were standing those
who had won the victory over the beast
and its image and the number that signified its name.
They were holding God’s harps,
and they sang the song of Moses, the servant of God,
and the song of the Lamb:“Great and wonderful are your works,
Lord God almighty.
Just and true are your ways,
O king of the nations.
Who will not fear you, Lord,
or glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All the nations will come
and worship before you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 2-3AB, 7-8, 9

R. (Rev. 15: 3b) Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!
Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.
R. Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!
Before the LORD, for he comes,
for he comes to rule the earth;
He will rule the world with justice
and the peoples with equity.
R. Great and wonderful are all your works, Lord, mighty God!

Alleluia RV 2:10C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain faithful until death,
and I will give you the crown of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 21:12-19

Jesus said to the crowd:
“They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

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The Sea of Glass

Twice in the book of Revelation, John mentions a “sea of glass” near the throne of God. John does not elaborate much about what this sea of glass actually is. Is it water that looks like glass? Is it smooth or rough like broken glass? Does it move like the waves of the sea, or is it stationary? As we know it, the sea is a dynamic, moving force, but “glass” gives the impression of stillness. How can a sea be made of glass? What is John talking about?

Revelation 4:6 says, “Before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.” And Revelation 15:2says, “I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire.” In neither verse does John say that he saw a literal sea of glass; rather, he says, “There was as it were a sea of glass” and “I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass.” The words of comparison make a big difference. It is one thing to say you were struck by lightning; it is quite another thing to say you feel as if you were struck by lightning.

Apparently, what John saw was impossible to describe – it was so different from anything he had seen that he was compelled to describe it using a contradictory statement. Expressing the inexpressible may demand an oxymoron. Whatever John saw, it obviously had qualities both of the sea and of glass. Perhaps it had the sea’s motion and expanse and glass’s transparency and purity. Add to that the words “crystal” and “mingled with fire,” and chances are that John was trying to convey the vivid brilliance, vast expanse, and lucid purity of what he saw.

Daniel’s vision of four beasts. Ezekiel’s vision of wheels with eyes. John’s vision of a sea of crystalline glass. Any time the prophets described visions of the spiritual world, they were forced to use metaphorical language, and that can be confusing. Finite human language cannot fully describe infinite things. The human mind is too limited to apprehend all the realities of the spiritual realm. But we have this confidence: the prophets and apostles wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the words they chose are the best possible communication. Daniel, Ezekiel, and John faithfully described what they saw, and we must faithfully attempt to “decode” their descriptions. For now, we see “through a glass darkly,” and, to a certain degree, the “sea of glass” and other heavenly verities will remain mysteries – until we see them for ourselves with glorified eyes and minds.

Recommended Resource: Heaven by Randy Alcorn

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Commentary on Luke 21:12-19 from Living Space

Jesus continues his warnings, but now mainly to his own disciples. He foretells experiences and happenings which will be soon realised in the Acts of the Apostles, not to mention in the subsequent history of the Church through the centuries, not excluding our own.

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Jesus speaks of abuse and persecution. “They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons…” The term ‘hand over’ is a theme word occurring again and again in the New Testament. John the Baptist was handed over to Herod who put him in prison and then executed him. Jesus himself is handed over first to the leaders of his own people and then into the hands of the Romans who would execute him. And now Jesus tells his disciples that they, too, can expect to be ‘handed over’ and to be dragged before civil and religious courts and “all because of my name”.

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Many of the early Christians came in conflict with Jewish communities and were ‘handed over’ to synagogues. Synagogues were not only prayer halls and places to learn the Scriptures but also for civil administration and as places of confinement while awaiting trial.

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The charges may be civil or criminal but the real reason will be that the accused are followers of Christ. (China, for example, always insists that the arrest of religious people is because of their violation of civil and criminal laws and not because of their religious affiliation.) As such Christians become objects of fear and hatred, their ideas seen as threatening and even subversive.

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But, says Jesus, they are not themselves to fear or be anxious. When the time comes, they will know what to do and what to say. He will tell them what to say and how to answer. A promise that has been vindicated again and again. The really sad thing is that those betraying them to the authorities will often be members of their own household – “parents, brothers, relatives and ‘friends’”. Again, this prophecy sadly has been realised all too often.

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“All will hate you because of me.” This is strange and, in a way, makes no sense. Jesus who preached truth, love, freedom, peace, justice and non-violence becomes, in his followers, the object of lies, hatred, imprisonment and torture, division, injustice and the most terrible violence.

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“Yet not a hair of your head will be harmed.” Not a phrase to be taken literally because many suffer terribly in their bodies but there is an inner integrity and wholeness that nothing can destroy.

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“By patient endurance you will save your lives.” That is, by going through all that our enemies can throw at us we come out at the end people who are whole and complete and who can lift our heads up high. One thinks of, in our own time, Bishop Oscar Romero, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Maximilian Kolbe and many others. Their memories are treasured and become an inspiration to all of us.

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Saint Maximilian Kolbe

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Let us pray that we may have the courage to be true to our Christian values whatever the cost. Let us not be surprised that our faith and our religion can create such anger and such hostility. At the same time, we reach out continually in truth and love to dissipate the unjustified fears that our beliefs can engender in others.

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We are a threat to false values but we must try hard to help people see where real truth and goodness lie. And we do that by seeking for that in our own lives.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1344g/

See also:

He Leadeth me by Fr. Walter Ciszek

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Related:

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Father Jacques Hamel was killed in his church while saying Mass, July 26, 2016. Martyrs are still with us today.

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Francois Murad, a Catholic priest, was kidnapped and beheaded by jihadist fighters in Syria, June 2013

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Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, the last catholic Bishop of Saigon before the Communists took over, kneeling while praying in prison

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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23 NOVEMBER 2016, Wednesday, 34th Week in Ordinary Time
THE VICTORY OF THE MARTYRS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  REVELATION 15:1-4; LUKE 21:12-19   ]

The way of the world is to promise us the sky and all the pleasures of life that satisfy our ego and the flesh.  Indeed, the world entices us to what are pleasurable: food, sex, glory, power and comfort.  They assure us of security in this world.  But that precisely is the way Satan also tempts us.  Just like in the temptation of Jesus, he promises us glory, wealth and power.   But one thing the world and Satan does not tell us is the fullness of the truth. Satan is called the Father of lies.  “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:4)  The devil deludes us into believing that we can be happy and fulfilled by living a sensual and self-centered life.  On the contrary, one who lives a life of selfishness, self-centeredness filled with pride, anger and envy, enslaved by gluttony, greed, lust and sloth cannot be happy or be fulfilled.

Sometimes, even the Church in some ways is like this.  We invite non-believers to be baptized.  We tell them all about the benefits of being a Christian but we do not warn them about the trials ahead of them.  So they get baptized and then come to realize that the Church is not so perfect after all, that there are so many difficult and wounded people in Church.  Those who are involved in Church ministry know how challenging it is to get the members to work together.  Sad to say, we see division, competition, backbiting and politics fought in the spiritual world as well, just like in the corporate world.  So too sometimes in the promotion of priestly and religious vocations, the joys of the religious vocation is presented but they never tell you the truth about the demands, the sacrifices, the trials in the ministry, the struggles of living a life of celibacy, poverty, obedience and loneliness even in community life.  Then when these people are ordained or professed, they get a rude awakening to the reality of the imperfections of priests and religious.

But Jesus tells us the truth, plainly and bluntly.  He does not simply show us the crown but the thorns as well.  He is candid to the point of being blunt.  He told the disciples in the gospel, “Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name.”   In another place, He said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  (Mt 16:24f)

Indeed, we will be persecuted, rejected and ostracized when we become the disciples of the Lord.  There will be times when the rulers and the authorities cannot stand our guts for speaking the truth, especially when there is injustice and oppression.  There will be situations when in speaking for the marginalized or the truth, we will be persecuted and threatened even with our lives.  In some cases, even family members ostracize us because we have chosen Christ over the family’s religion.  Most surprising of all, even the Christian community persecutes us when we seek to do the right thing in Church or in our organization because their vested interests are compromised.  So from within and without we will face the trials and sufferings of being a Christian; the trials that Jesus went through in His ministry, passion and death.

But Jesus also reassures us that our sufferings will not be in vain.  The challenges of life are meant to be seen as “your opportunity to bear witness.”  Negatively, they may seem to be obstacles but in truth, they are grace moments to reveal to others the love and mercy of God.  Hence, we should not be too disillusioned or troubled when we face the trials of the apostolate.  Rather, we must thank God and deal with these oppositions creatively and proactively so that we can bring good out of evil, truth out of falsehood, love out of hatred, and life out of death.

Most of all, Jesus also assures us of His divine assistance.  He said, “Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.”  We are not alone in our struggles to be faithful to Christ.  He will send us the Holy Spirit to give us the courage and the strength to endure all our trials.  The Lord never asks us to do something without supplying us the necessary talents or graces to accomplish them.  The Lord assures us of a definite victory over sin and death.

Indeed, when we look at the history of the Church, particularly the primitive Church, this was what the Lord did.  The apostles and disciples of Jesus were very much persecuted, especially in the first 300 years of existence until the conversion of the Roman Emperor, Constantine.   Until then, Christianity was outlawed as a religion.  Initially, the Christians were persecuted by the Jews and then the Romans.  Yet, as we read in the first reading, many Christians chose martyrdom over their lives.  They chose Christ before their families.  Such was the courageous display of fidelity to the gospel even unto death.

The irony we read in the book of Revelation is that their death is their victory.  By dying for Christ, they won victory over death.  “Standing by the lake of glass, those who had fought against the beast and won, and against his statue and the number which is his name”, the martyrs witnessed the destruction of their enemies who were judged and condemned.  Those who opposed the Lord were thrown down into the glass lake of fire.  It is a symbol of punishment.   They on their part were repeating the triumphant song of Moses that the Israelites sang when they defeated the Egyptians who were in pursuit of them.  “They all had harps from God, and they were singing the hymn of Moses, the servant of God, and of the Lamb:  ‘How great and wonderful are all your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are all your ways, King of nations.’”

Yet in their rejoicing, no one claimed any credit.  The victory was not due to their strength but the power and might of God.  “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory, for the sake of thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness!”  (Ps 115:1)  The psalmist says, “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation.”   On the contrary, they were absorbed in the praise of God, rejoicing in His wonderful love and power.  “Who would not revere and praise your name, O Lord? You alone are holy, and all the pagans will come and adore you for the many acts of justice you have shown.”  Contemplating on His justice and the salvation God had won for them, they were filled with great joy and gratitude.

Truly, this is what heaven is like when everyone is focused on giving glory and praise to God and no longer thinking of himself or herself.  Heaven is to see God face to face and consists of perfect praise and thanksgiving.  When man rests in God, his heart is at peace, for no creature and nothing on earth can satisfy the heart of man save for the love of God.  Only in contemplating His glory, is our intellect quenched and satisfied.   This accounts for why the things of this world are always passing and the happiness cannot be sustained.  But what outlasts the pleasures of life is love, everlasting love.   With the joy of God in our hearts, we will share with each other the joys of Christ.  And all will rejoice with each other so that in sharing and rejoicing together, our joys and happiness increases.

In the light of what is ahead of us, we must therefore endure the trials of life.  We must think of the blessed life waiting for us when we will finally fulfill all our desires.  We should not fear death but if we live a good life, death is the gateway to fullness of life.  We should be happy for our loved ones who returned to the Lord for they are now rejoicing forever in praise and thanksgiving to God.  It is they who have already won the victory but we are the ones that are still struggling.  But Jesus promised us, “Your endurance will win you your lives.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Want to be a saint?

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.

“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he thought maybe he wanted to be a good Catholic.

Lax stopped him in his tracks.

“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”

Merton was dumbfounded.

“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.

Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”…

Thomas Merton knew his friend was right.

Merton, of course, would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century.

His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself — and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.

But the words Lax spoke ring down through the decades to all of us today. Because they speak so simply and profoundly to our calling as Catholic Christians.

Related:

Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.

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Road of Hope — The Spiritual Journey of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

Mitch Albom and Morrie taught me about acceptance, communication, love, values, openness, and happiness.

September 24, 2016

Tuesdays With Morrie An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson

“Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom is a book (and movie) about acceptance, communication, love, values, openness, and happiness. Albom emphasizes the importance of forging a culture of one’s own to transcend the tyranny of popular culture, suggesting that the media are preoccupied with death, hatred, violence and depression.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuesdays_with_Morrie

Which is exactly what I discovered myself suggesting to others one I got the hang of it!

We have to escape from depression, sadness and all the other negative feelings if we are to do any good or be any good.

So where is the better culture taught to us? Where our culture does not want you to look! GOD.

“Religion is the opium of the people” is one of the most frequently paraphrased statements of German philosopher and economist Karl Marx.

So who tells us to throw out religion?

Hollywood, Marxists, Communists, you name the rest.

And personally, I am not too consumed with religion. I am a believer in Jesus Christ and the compassion, service to others, love, and goodness that he
suggests we try to learn, emulate and live.

And how do we find Jesus? There are lots of ways. One is to pick one thing that he teaches and to actually try to do it. This was easy for me because an old Vietnamese man in a hospital ASSIGNED me to be his Simon of Cyrene — so running  away seemed like cowardice would win. Which is what always happens when we ignore Jesus. Cowardice (and at least for me — evil) wins….

So because depression kills people and I am prone to depression and there is already age and neurological disorder trying to kill me I decided to invest in  some life saving effort with Jesus. After a few years of this it has occurred to me that this has promised to lead to ETERNAL life saving. Service to others can  become a longer life for ME and everyone! What a deal. And it is free. Good thing since I am poor and cheap.

Jesus talks a lot about the “show stoppers” that keep us out of the kingdom of heaven.

UNLESS you become like little children…..

It is easier to get the nose of a camel through the eye of a needle…..

Go the extra mile…..

Let the one without sin throw the first stone…..

Leave the 99 to find the lost one….

Do not be afraid….

— Everything we need to get into the Kingdom of Heaven is right at hand. It’s written down for us in snappy stories.

But there is something much more practical here. Depression sucks and has almost killed me (several times). I just don’t really want to end up like Philip  Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams, Whitney Houston or Amy Winehouse.

I’ve been there. Almost.

When I have more than $20.oo I have a return ticket.

But it’s more than that. When I’m mowing the lawn and you come over to say hello — I want us both to be happy that you came.

That will keep us both happy and alive.

You should give it a try.

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Mitch Wrote A Second Book called “have a little faith.” More on that later….

Related:

 (Those words, spoken to an advocate of sex, drugs and rock and role, changed everything)
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Catholic Church Teaching on Human Life and Suicide:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

Get God To Help With Your Problem

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

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 (AGED 19)

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Worrying claim: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ¿death pathway¿ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Worrying claim in Britain: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

 

 

 

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“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.

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

Many people have said to us that the four signs of a “dynamic Catholic” are also the characteristics of many Christians of all denominations and people in recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.

Tapping Into Our God Given Spirituality — Man outlives finite mortal definitions of himself

March 18, 2016

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Our God-given spirituality is a key to increasing freedom and happiness

By Stephen Carlson
The Christian Science Monitor

A look at the news on any given day tells us the obvious: Appropriate, lasting solutions are needed on a wide range of issues that deeply affect people’s lives. There’s so much needless suffering. There’s also much good – many wonderful examples of love and caring, of people working tirelessly to help humanity, of individuals expressing great integrity. All of this effort on the right side of things points to what some feel is the deepest overall need: a recognition that spirituality, in its truest sense – in harmony with the Bible’s teachings – provides the most substantial foundation for mankind’s progress from every standpoint.

Nothing could be more important than to grow in our love for God, divine Spirit, and to value the timeless and spiritual, placing less and less trust in the finite and material. It is, after all, materiality that underlies mankind’s suffering. Characteristics associated with the fleshly, “carnal mind,” to use St. Paul’s words from the Bible – traits such as hatred, envy, sensuality, and so on – need to give way to the spiritual-mindedness that he describes as “life and peace” (see Romans 8:6, 7). This is what’s valued by so many people, despite the glittery but empty promises of a sensuous view of life and the cruelty so often seen in the world.

The naturalness of spirituality and the inevitable triumph of Spirit over all that’s opposed to the divine nature were vividly illustrated in Christ Jesus’ life and healing works. He showed that treasuring the spiritual – and living in line with it more and more – leads to lasting happiness. The Bible says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, 23).

McLaren P1 — Perhaps beyond our scope of materiality

Christian Science, discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy, zeros in on the indispensability of Bible teachings in a world that often tends to be impressed by what’s fashionable and to pay more respect to the physical and fleeting than to the spiritual and eternal. This Science brings out what Jesus proved: that the true nature of man is wholly good, the very likeness of Spirit, of the one God who is Love. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Man is more than physical personality, or what we cognize through the material senses.” She goes on to say a bit further along: “Man outlives finite mortal definitions of himself, according to a law of ‘the survival of the fittest.’ ” And she writes at the end of that paragraph, “Man is the image and likeness of God, coexistent and coeternal with Him” (“No and Yes,” p. 25).

To focus less on physical personality day by day, and more on man’s timeless, God-derived individuality, can play a modest but significant role in helping to lift off humanity the impositions of materialism that undermine people’s well-being. The deeply felt desire to look beyond the material and to nurture within ourselves our God-given spirituality is a key to increasing freedom and happiness.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/A-Christian-Science-Perspective/2016/0318/Looking-beyond-materiality

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To dwell ‘in the secret place of the most High’?

A Christian Science perspective: What does it mean to dwell ‘in the secret place of the most High’?

By Katherine Stephen MARCH 17, 2016

At times when I have felt the need for security or courage, I have found comfort and strength in the 91st Psalm. The opening verse of that much-loved psalm reads, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

How wonderful it would be to understand that we live continuously under God’s protection – “under the shadow of the Almighty” – and experience that truth, which this verse says happens when we dwell or live in the “secret place of the most High.”

But where is this secret place? If it’s “secret,” is it hard to find? And, if so, how do we commence the search?

My study of the Bible and Christian Science has helped me understand that the secret place isn’t actually a place at all; “the secret place” is an understanding or a consciousness of our true identity. This identity is spiritual and the perfect reflection of God, who is good (see Genesis 1:26, 27, 31). As God’s spiritual child or idea, each of us naturally and necessarily expresses the full range of divine qualities, such as intelligence, beauty, strength, and joy.

The Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, puts it this way: “The ‘secret place,’ whereof David sang, is unquestionably man’s spiritual state in God’s own image and likeness, even the inner sanctuary of divine Science, in which mortals do not enter without a struggle or sharp experience, and in which they put off the human for the divine” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany,” p. 244).

If we’re having “a struggle or sharp experience,” we find refuge and freedom as we gain a clearer understanding of our identity and of God. While our true spiritual selfhood may seem hidden from the material, limited view of life, we are able to better understand it through prayer. We can be assured that, in the sanctuary of prayer, holding to this real and perfect view of ourselves will forward – not hinder – our spiritual growth. Gaining a clearer view of our spiritual status as God’s image and likeness necessarily includes the healing of whatever is discordant in our lives.

Here’s just one small example. I recall a time when holding to this spiritual concept of others helped me and my husband during a threatening experience on a rural highway some years ago. As we were driving in the fast lane to pass a car, a truck pulled up behind us making it clear that he wanted us to move more quickly into the other lane. As we did, the driver began apparently to try to run us off the road. Though at first we were afraid, I immediately prayed about the safety of being in the “secret place of the most High.” Having been familiar with this concept since being brought up in the Christian Science Sunday School, it was natural for me in my prayer to consciously protest against the material view of this driver as outraged and to affirm his true, spiritual identity that is always dwelling under God’s harmonious government. Through actively praying to see all involved as God’s image and likeness, what appeared to be an escalating incident was resolved with no harm to anyone. We called the police to ensure the safety of other drivers, and when the truck driver was apprehended, the policeman informed us that the man had apologized for his behavior. Through prayer, we found peace and forgiveness, and we didn’t feel the need to press charges.

It was empowering to realize the truth that dwelling in the “secret place” is a prayerful realization of my and everyone’s identity as the image and likeness of God – protected and safe. In many other situations, this truth has been an essential bulwark for me. I have developed the mental habit to go quickly in prayer to the secret place when challenges arise.

Christ Jesus counsels, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matthew 6:6). I do this through prayerful affirmation of the truth of the perfection of my spiritual identity and the identities of all with whom I come into contact. I believe this prayerful approach has helped harmonize my experience and bring safety in dangerous situations, giving me glimpses of what it’s like to abide “under the shadow of the Almighty.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/A-Christian-Science-Perspective/2016/0317/The-secret-place

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 20, 2015 — The incarnation; the Word of God becoming flesh — Are we capable of laying down our life for another?

December 19, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 12

Reading 1 MI 5:1-4A

Thus says the LORD:
You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah
too small to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time
when she who is to give birth has borne,
and the rest of his kindred shall return
to the children of Israel.
He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock
by the strength of the LORD,
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
and they shall remain, for now his greatness
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Reading 2 HEB 10:5-10

Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.’“First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Alleluia LK 1:38

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

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Commentary on Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-44 From Living Space

THE BIRTH OF JESUS is now imminent. In a few days’ time we will be celebrating the memory of that great event. Today’s Mass prepares us for the Christmas celebration. Each of the three readings takes up a different aspect of this great mystery to help us in our understanding and in our personal preparation.

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Promise of things to come

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The First Reading, from the prophet Micah, sets out the promise of great things to come. The starting point will be the unexpectedly obscure town of Bethlehem and not some other greater centre of Israel. But the one who will come from there will be “the one who is to rule over Israel” and “his origin goes back to the distant past”.

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The one who is to come “will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord”. And his new people “will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land”. And, very significantly, “he himself will be peace, shalom”.

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A remote corner of Israel

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This promise is magnificent but how is it to come into existence and fulfilment? In the Gospel we come down with a bump into the real world. From the grand prophetic language of Micah we are brought to a small remote corner of Israel. Two unknown women, Mary and Elizabeth, seem to be the principal actors. There is no mention of Zachary, the husband of Elizabeth, though he must have been around. But he had doubted the word of the angel and so he cannot speak until after the birth of his son.

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And yet, the really important characters are the unseen children, Jesus and John. It is through their mothers that they are first brought together.

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Though both women are with child, it is Mary who takes the initiative to visit Elizabeth. In a sense, that is right and proper because Mary is the younger of the two. On the other hand, we know that the status of Mary is higher because she bears within her the Son of God.

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When Mary approaches, the child in Elizabeth’s womb reacts immediately. Already, before his birth, John is touched with the Spirit of Jesus. This, we might say, is his baptism. Although John will appear first on the public stage, Jesus is the real source of John’s role as prophet and of his greatness.

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At the sound of Mary’s voice, John experienced the presence of Jesus and is filled with the Spirit. “For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy,” Elizabeth tells Mary.
But Elizabeth also is affected by the presence of Jesus. She bursts into praise for Jesus and his mother and says prophetically: “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” And, by implication, with a visit from the Lord himself.

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Surely it is only through faith and the inspiration of the Spirit that she recognises in her younger cousin the Mother of her Lord.

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Spirit of service

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Already we can see a major theme of Luke’s gospel being unfolded at this early stage in the coming of Jesus, even before his birth in Bethlehem. For we are presented with the humility of the mother and her Son. It is they who go to visit and not they who are visited. There is no question of status or “face” with these two people. Even before he is born, Jesus already comes to serve and not to be served. It is through service we will recognise him as Lord. Later on he will tell his disciples, “You call me Master and Lord and you are right and yet I am the one who washes your feet. You go and do the same” (John 13:13-15).

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It is the beginning of God’s great plan to bring salvation and wholeness to the world. God’s own Son is preparing to come and live among us as a human being. He will be like us in every respect except in his freedom from sinfulness and its source, our fears and insecurity. As we party our way through the Christmas season, let us not forget what it is really about: the coming of God among us to show us the greatest love that can be shown, the laying down of one’s life for one’s friends.

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We should not, then, be surprised at the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass. It reminds us to look forward to the life of Jesus, a life lived totally in love that will end in suffering and death as the way to glory and everlasting life. Christmas might seem a strange time to be thinking of the suffering of Jesus. But Jesus’ life is to be seen as a seamless robe: birth in poverty to death on a cross as the essential way to new life and glory. We celebrate his birth because of the triumphant victory of his death. He emptied himself for love of us and the Father has raised him to the highest heavens.
Total submission

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All that happened from the moment of Jesus appearing among us as a human person can only be fully understood in the light of the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews which is our Second Reading for today.
It is by the total submission of the Son to the will of his Father that the fulfilment of the promise becomes possible. The Father, says the Letter, is not really interested in sacrifices and oblations of animals and things. “You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin.” Instead, the Father “prepared a body” for his Son. And, united with that body as a true human being, the Son offered himself unconditionally to his Father.

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“Here I am! I am coming to obey your will” and the obeying of that will was effected by the total offering of his human self. This self-offering far transcends any other offering that could be made. No one can offer more than one’s own self.

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That offering of himself will be seen in the whole life of Jesus as it unfolds in the Gospel pages, leading finally to the dramatic confrontation between love and greed, hatred, pride. Not without difficulty, Jesus will make the final offering of himself with “the greatest love that a person can show”. The outcome will be the Cross as the gateway to Resurrection.

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An invitation to follow

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Jesus does not only do all this for us while we sit back and wait to be “saved”. He invites us to say with him to the Father: “Here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”

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Mary herself has already followed her Son, though he is not yet born. Asked as an unmarried virgin if she is willing to be the mother of Jesus and assured that, with God, all things are possible, she has already said: “Yes! Let all this happen to me as you have planned it.” At this stage, she has no idea what is in store but she has said her Yes and she will be faithful to it.

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There was an advertisement for a brand of cigarettes some years ago which used to ask: “Have you said ‘Yes’ yet?” It is a question that the readings of today’s Mass are asking each one of us. We are about to celebrate Christmas very soon. Probably all our other preparations have been made or we are up to our eyes making them. But have we made the most important preparation of all? Yes to the Father, Yes to Jesus, Yes to all that we will experience in the coming year, Yes to every call that God makes and will make of us?

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Part of the meaning of Christmas is that by contemplating the experiences of Jesus and Mary, we learn from them how to say an unqualified and unconditional Yes. Because that is where the real joy and happiness of Christmas lies. All the rest is tinsel.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/ac041-ac041g-ac041r/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 DECEMBER 2015, 4th Sunday of Advent
REJOICING IN CHRIST’S COMING THROUGH ENCOUNTERING HIM IN HEART AND MIND
SCRIPTURE READINGS: MICAH 5:1-4; HEB 10:5-10; LK 1:39-44Christmas is near.  Christ is coming!  Are you happy?  Are you excited? But why are you happy and excited?  Is it because you will be receiving Christmas presents?  Yes, it is nice to receive presents!  Or is it because you will be attending parties and meeting friends?  Yes, it is nice to meet friends and enjoy their company!  But if these are the only reasons why you are happy and excited, your excitement and happiness is not going to last very long.  We must found our joy and happiness not on something, not on just anyone, but on Christ Himself!  If our joy is to be lasting, it must rest on a spiritual joy!

Thus, Christmas joy and our material and social celebrations must come from a deeper source, which is to encounter the Lord, to encounter His presence and know that the Lord is with us.  Only when we encounter the Lord who is the Emmanuel, God who is with us, can we find lasting peace and joy!  And indeed, Jesus is the one promised since the days of old, the one, as prophet Micah prophesied, who will rule over us.  Jesus, who calls Himself the Good Shepherd, will give us that peace and joy we are looking for because He is Peace.  If we want to find peace, we must know Christ and encounter Him.  No Christ, no peace!

In the gospel, the encounter between Elizabeth and Mary, between John the Baptist and Jesus, brought about great joy.  Mary must have betrayed her joy in her voice of greeting that something extraordinary had happened.  This in turn caused Elizabeth to be moved and exclaim with wonder and humility, “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?”, for she immediately perceived that she was in the presence of a great divine mystery, that Mary bore salvation in her.

But not only were Mary and Elizabeth filled with joy, so, too, did John the Baptist when he encountered Jesus.  Elizabeth remarked, “For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”  For pregnant women to feel the child’s movements in their womb and to be aware of life within is nothing exceptional.  But Luke used the word; “leapt”, not simply “stirred or moved”, implying a certain astonishing power or strength.  Truly, Elizabeth must have experienced the joy of John the Baptist in encountering Jesus that he danced for joy.

How, then, can we share the same joy as they did?  Or rather, how can we encounter Christ for ourselves so that we too can find true peace and joy?  Firstly, we need to cultivate an attitude of wonder and contemplation.  The problem with modern man is that he has lost the sense of wonder.  He is no longer fascinated by anything. But man wants to strip mystery from everything. He stripped Santa Claus of its mystery!   He has lost touch with creation.  He has lost touch with the mystery of life and death.  This is because he lacks humility.  He thinks science has all the answers to life and destiny.

On the contrary, Mary and Elizabeth in today’s gospel were filled with wonder and praise as to what was happening in their lives.  When the gospel says, “Thereupon, Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah”, it is not simply to indicate Mary’s curiosity to see what was happening to Elizabeth.  Nay, Mary’s haste speaks of her interior disposition that made her act with fervour and zeal because of the marvels that God was working in her life.

We, too, are called to contemplate on the sublimity of Christmas, especially on the incarnation; the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us.  The irony, as St John would tell us, is that God who created the world through His Word and this Word who has now became flesh and dwells amongst us, unfortunately is not recognized by men!  This is the tragedy – man has failed to recognize the God who created him.  Hence, still cut off from the presence of God, man remains empty and incomplete, since without God, man is nothing.   Yes, we must gaze on Jesus and contemplate on God’s wisdom and greatness in emptying Himself to become one with us and one for us. To know that God is with us as the Emmanuel should fill us with great joy and courage, especially in difficult times. 

The second attitude flowing from the sense of wonder is faith, not reason.  When we begin to wonder and sense the awesomeness of life, then one cannot but either surrender in faith or in confusion, because reason cannot understand.  If we choose faith, then the life of God and the hope of men can meet in faith.  That was why Elizabeth remarked, “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Faith in His coming and in His promise is a pre-requisite to encountering the presence of Jesus in our hearts.

Faith is the source of Mary’s blessedness.  It is her faith in the Word and because of her Son that she is elevated to such joyous and wondrous blessedness.  This faith of Mary is the basis for her continued joy even in suffering.  Her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and His promises.  Indeed, the word “blessed” literally means “happiness” or “beatitude”. It describes a kind of joy which is serene and untouchable.

The joy of Mary and that of Jesus is a joy that is interior and not influenced by changing circumstances in life.  Mary was blessed by being the mother of the Son of God.  But her blessedness also entailed having a sword pierce her heart as her Son died upon the cross.   As a consequence, God’s saving grace could display all of its strength in her.  Jesus promised His disciples that “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).  The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take away.  Only the faith of Mary can help us to embrace the will of God in life. 

The third attitude is that of obedience to God’s will.   God’s will becomes ours only when we have faith and trust in God.  In God, being, desiring and acting are one and the same.  To be with God is to desire Him; and to desire Him is to act like Him.  That is to say, if we are one with God, then we desire to become like Him in mind and heart.  Conforming our own will to His and to live in obedience to Him, is the only way we can unite ourselves with God.

Mary is full of grace and truly blessed because she lives out the beatitudes as taught by Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount.  If we proclaim the sinlessness of Mary, what we mean is that she always surrendered herself in obedience to the will of God. But to be chosen by God is an awesome privilege and responsibility.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. Indeed, if Mary is called the Mother of God, it is because Mary received the word of God in total, humble obedience.  Similarly, this was the way Jesus acted as well.  We know that Jesus is truly the Son of God because even before His incarnation, He said in union with His Father, “God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”  And what is the will of the Father?  That like Mary, He offers His entire self for the love of humankind!  

Like Jesus, we are called to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice for others for the love of His Father.  United with Jesus, we are invited to offer real worship, not just in rituals but in spirit and truth by living a holy life in love and selfless service.  We are called to make ourselves the presence of God for others.  Like God the Father and Jesus, we are called to give not just presents but to give ourselves to others.  Isn’t Christmas the celebration of the mystery of this God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16)?

However, more than simply giving gifts, it is equally important to ask what to give and how to give as well.  We are called to give primarily ourselves.  What was the most important thing Mary brought to Elizabeth?  Not foodstuff, but the gift of herself!  She gave Elizabeth the gift of her very presence.  This gift is perhaps the most difficult gift to give to anyone.  We can send flowers and we can give presents, but to give ourselves, to make time to be with someone, is not so easy.  Yet, Mary’s example tells us that besides giving presents, we must give of ourselves, our presence, our time. This is the greatest gift because its value cannot be calculated in terms of money.  Do you know one thing everybody needs today? Everybody needs encouragement and an understanding ear.  Everybody needs the interior peace and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. This is what Mary’s visit did for Elizabeth. Mary’s visit was an inspiration to Elizabeth. When we visit people this Christmas, let us try to bring some inspiration into their lives.

For this reason, the greatest of all gifts that we can give is the person of Jesus who has come to be with us!  Isn’t that what we all need most?  Isn’t Christmas the celebration of Jesus as the Gift of God in person?  Jesus comes to give us Himself, to share in our condition and to share in our struggles.  Hence, the presents and even our presence are to let them know that Jesus is real and living in us.  But surely, we want them to find Jesus themselves.  Let us seek to bring them closer to God, and let us try to share with them the Spirit of God in us, the Spirit of consolation, of courage, of peace and joy, just as Mary did.

So like Mary who gave Jesus to Elizabeth, we too must give Jesus to others. Following the example of Mary and Elizabeth, we need to find courage to testify to others what God has done for us in our lives.  We need to share how the gospel has changed our lives, guided us in daily life, and offered us inspiration in difficult times and when we have to make important decisions.  Yes, we need to share with each other in simplicity of heart how God is present in our lives by celebrating with thanksgiving the marvels which the Lord has worked for, in and through us. Perhaps, we need to spend some time to pray for those who have not yet encountered the Lord in their lives, those who need healing and prayers.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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