Posts Tagged ‘He was amazed at their lack of faith’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 8, 2018 — “For when I am weak then I am strong.”

July 7, 2018

Can I abandon myself? Can I pour myself out for others? — “As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me.”

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 101

Reading 1  EZ 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Responsorial Psalm PS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

R. (2cd) Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
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Reading 2 2 COR 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak then I am strong.

Alleluia CF. LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
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Reflection By The Abbot in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Are we able to see the presence of God in others?  Are we able to recognize that God speaks through others?  Do we see and acknowledge the prophets of our own time?  Today’s readings call us to open our hearts, our minds and our whole being to the presence of God in others.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel.  God sends prophets to His people.  We don’t always like to hear the words that a prophet speaks.  On the other hand, not everyone who speaks is a prophet.  The Old Testament and the New both understand clearly that a true prophet must speak according to the Word of God, and not according to the words of men.

Today many claim to be prophetic, but most lack any claims to speaking the Word of God.  A true prophet in our Christian tradition must reflect both the Holy Scriptures and the Church.  The Prophet Ezekiel clearly speaks the same message as the other prophets and that message is always the same:  faithfulness to God’s word revealed in Holy Scripture, love for God, love for others, care for the needy and the oppressed.

This message of the Scriptures remains the same from the beginning to the end of the Scriptures.  The message always demands that we give up our own concerns and be concerned only for God and God’s message for us.  The moment we begin to seek our own good, our own enrichment, our own way of thinking—then we become unfaithful to the word of God.

The second reading today is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  Here we also listen to God’s word:  “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  We are invited to embrace the word of Jesus Christ with all our strength and all our being.  When we do embrace this word of God, we shall surely suffer and know our own weaknesses.  This also is a form of prophecy because the more we embrace Christ and follow His way, the more our lives speak about God and His incredible love for us.  We prophesy simply by living.

The Gospel today is from Saint Mark and takes us back to the challenge of rejection.  We should remember that Ezekiel told us that it does not matter if a prophet is recognized or not.  What matters is that the prophet speaks the word of God.  Today’s Gospel points out that we can reject a true prophet simply because we don’t believe that God acts in the ordinary events of our lives and in seemingly ordinary people.

God is always speaking to us:  in others, in the events of our lives, in the Church, in our world.  In order to understand God we must be attentive first of all to His revealed word.  When that revealed Word is our whole way of living, then we begin to recognize His word in all the other realities of our lives.  Today God invites us:  listen to the prophets!  Open your hearts and minds and beings!  God loves you and wishes to speak with you.  Harden not your hearts today!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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I am but an empty cup….fill me Lord, with your unlimited love…..

We who profess to be Christians, have been infused with the Christ Spirit whose life is intricately intertwined in the tattered threads of our humanity, and He is the One who works in and through us to bring about His plans and purposes for our lives, not we ourselves.

backlit cemetery christianity clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have discovered this faith life, is not so much about doing anything, it is all about being God’s Heart of love in the flux of life coming at me.

The Art of Surrendering

This life becomes a daily act of surrendering on my part and a daily action on God’s part to lead, direct, and guide in the continual high call upon my life in intricately allowing His Spirit life to manifest His love wherever I walk and with whomever I meet.

Letting go becomes a necessary process in moving forward in my journey as a woman of Faith in this world. God’s ways are not my ways.  Letting go so God’s love can saturate those places I am giving up in a consecrated devotion in desiring Him above anything else in this world.

God’s Redemptive Love

Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus that they (along with all of us) would “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” and “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”(Ephesians 3:18-19).

I am not sure about you, but have you ever stopped to think about the multiple dimensions of God’s love—the breadth, length, depth, and height— that Paul mentions?

I can barely imagine such extraordinary, magnificent, gracious, glorious, expounding, expansive dimensions of this love, where I have only tasted a bit, barely scratching the surface of a love that is untainted by any human concept of love.

God’s love never gives up on me and He pursues me dearly all the days of my life.  His love is faithful, loyal, and remains steadfast.  His love requests no return.  His love is freely gifted to me. His love cannot be forced onto anyone.

Those who come to Him do so in response to His love. Love shows kindness to all. Love  went about doing good to everyone without partiality. Love did not covet what others had, living a humble life without complaining. Love did not brag about who He was in the flesh, although He could have overpowered anyone He ever came in contact with.

Love does not demand obedience. God did not demand obedience from His Son, but rather, Jesus willingly obeyed His Father in heaven. “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31). Love was/is always looking out for the interests of others.

This love has a name, Jesus Christ, Father God, Holy Spirit, who dwell in a perfect union known in the fellowship of their love and when I abide, dwelling in this secret place, I  become their expression of love upon this earth..

When I am deeply touched in their love, I desire to fellowship in this Triune Godhead, receiving love into my heart each day.  It is in this known intimacy in having this near relationship with a living God where I become His love.

My God hears, always responding lovingly, desiring communion with us, calling us to Himself each moment.  God, whose timing is perfect and whose actions always stem from a purely motivatedfoundation of His true love for all mankind.

God’s Love dwells in me

Wherever I travel today, His love dwells in the core of my inner being.

God gave His love to me and offers His love to anyone who will receive it. In the gospel of it is writing;  “For God so loved the world.” John 3:16.  In John 16:27 we read, “For the Father Himself loves you.” The apostle John, again, speaks of God’s love in 1 John 3:1 when he says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us.”

These verses are simply a sampling of the many times this truth is expressed in the Scriptures. God is love, and He expresses His love in many ways.

green trees surrounding lake

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.comWe All Struggle At Times

In those times of uncertainty, unknowing, wondering, it is His love I return in finding Him again, seeking His grace to help in sustaining me through any difficulties.  I myself have weather sudden and unexpected chronic health issues, unrelenting emotional/physical pain, lost job, death of loved one, estranged family members, etc.

Perhaps you too are struggling with some sort of unrelenting issues in your life.  We all do at times and we all need someone to help us to get through these times. We were never meant to be on our own in this faith life. God has gifted us with a community of saints all over the world.

It was in my search for His guidance to lighten my burdens in the dark times I found myself wondering, around, in and through, I discovered His love was the only way to be in this world, regardless of any life altering events that came my way.

It was in those times of not having answers, I realized, I have no power of my own to carry the divine nature of the Christ in me, and I needed to surrendered on a deeper level, allowing His Spirit room to move in the edges and in the corners of all the hidden regions of my heart.

In this process of letting go, in giving up of my ways, it was God’s love who continued to wash me, refreshing me by His Spirit of regeneration, and it was His love who continually changing my inner thoughts, attitudes to be more loving in my response with myself and with others.

Through all of the situations and circumstances in my life, it has been God who drew me nearer to His bosom of love, so that I could become God’s Heart, manifesting His genuine, sincere,authentic love towards others.

Manna From God

Each falling in my own strength, ushered me into the new land graced with honey combs, where I become strengthened in the daily manna from God’s hand, and all I had to do was to come to Him, again and again and again, as an open receptacles thirsting and hungering to receive His presence of love.

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Proverbs 26:24

Yes, pleasant words, God’s words, scriptures are as honey – health for body and good for my soul. It’s especially healthy for my bones, the strength of body and combined with Holy Spirit living, He holds me together within His frame of Holinessknitting my flesh, bones and blood in the shed blood of the crossinterconnecting me in the sufferings of Christ.

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Book: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Holy Spirit Power

In those times of my human failings, He stepped in, lifting me by His resurrection power of His Holy Spirit, where I became His adopted daughter, desiring only Him, longing to be with Him each day, pining to be filled with His sweet love and goodness towards me.

In this way I become the fragrance of His character walking this earthly pilgrimage one step at a time, in and by His abundant mercy and grace.

When I am in the dark, spiritually blind to the secret things of God, it is He who unveils His ways, His love, revealing spiritual insights that are birthed from those dark times when I became blind to His activity in my life, either through wrong decisions, or from life events.

I find myself bowing before Him in humility asking for His forgiveness in my errors in not being His love.

Stepping out in faith often requires me to fall flat on my face in the realization, on my own, I am unable, but in Him, I am more than able to fulfil the purposes and intentions He has on my life, and the greatest ones are in being His breath of love in the hearts of the men, woman and children I meet in my journey.

I do this one step at a time, one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time….

A New Day is Here

Today is a new day, to begin again. To begin again on the road that revives life in my soul and brings life to all those I touch, as I come into His presence with humbleness, asking forgiveness when I react from my flesh rather than responding through His love.

I am ever thankful for His tender gentle care towards me, as I ask again, for my God to pour into my dry days, His rain of lovefilling my empty cup by His streams of living waters, giving me His compassion for this day.

As I walk this road with others, one step at a time, in and by His ability, I am mindful, He has gifted me with sisters who join with me in this journey, to encourage, to support, to edify, to prayerful lift one another up, for in God we are never alone, and in the fellowship of one anthers’ company, we will never be alone!

The New Way is Love

In scriptures, the book of James tells us to not be surprised when troubles come our way, for we will have many in this world, but Jesus Christ and His love is the way in and through the hard times and Jesus Christ and His love is the way in and through all the good times.

It is in the dark times He draws me ever nearer to Him, as I draw ever nearer to His love, and I am are drawn ever nearer to the community of the saints.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to me.”  James 4:8

I have learned this faith life is all of us gathering together, walking hand in hand, helping, assisting, being His love Heart, lighting the way for one other, where our love becomes the healing balm, uniting in the fellowship of the Triune Godhead and in the intimacy found in becoming vulnerable with one another in our relationships, where truth, honor and integrity become moral codes.

God as my Source

When I learn the art of dwelling in Him, coming to Him in each moment, drinking from the living waters in the well of life that will never go dry, I am learning the art of abiding, of resting, of being in His Spirit, who becomes the very breath in my lungs, granting me His new life each day generously filling me in His rich unlimited love.

His love becomes my source for enduring in the difficulties found in being human, in being born in the flesh having an earthly vessel, where I become weary at times, where I feel alone at times, where I see the tragedies all around me, and where I come face to face with the overwhelming suffering of people, often beyond what any human being seems capable of bearing.

Then I discover again, His supernatural ability enters into my humanness helping me to persevere in adversity, in the many life challenges, in the often unexpected arrival of life altering events, and in having weathered these times of intense unrelenting suffering.

God’s Agents offering Compassionate Caring

In and through my own pained sorrows, I have learned to carry the compassionate caring of my Lord, with all those I come face to face with who are daily suffering, and I become His active agent in pouring into their souls, an offering of His mercy and grace.

In becoming His holy breath of love in those who have lost hope, in those who are downtrodden, in those who are poor, in those who are ill, in those who know not my God, I can help to inspire a renewed hope simply through those acts of kindness in being sensitive in meeting others right where they are at, not forcing them to be where I am.

When we realize, we can be powerful influencers in our own sphere of the world, helping to ignite passions in others in desiring to seek out this God who is love, in developing spiritual patterns in a new way of being, and showing there is a way we can bridge all that comes to separate us in this world, in learning to relate with others, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In this way we are instilling value and worth into the lives of those we touch, becoming God’s human agents, infusing His love into the souls of those we encounter and our lives become a balm of healing in the midst of the struggles of those we come face-to-face with in this world.

I am but an empty cup….fill me Lord, with your unlimited love…..

Living Intentionally

 

I have a few questions I would like us to reflect on.  If you wish to share your answers with us in the ‘Penny for your thoughts’ section at the end of this post, please do so, as we can all learn from one another.

  1. Where is my motivations when with others?
  2. What is my life purpose on this earth?
  3. What gives me meaning and value in my life?
  4. Where am I failing in sincerely loving others?
  5. How can I become more balanced as a person in offering compassion?
  6. How can I find God as my source to help me in my life’s struggles?

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If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

— Isaiah 58:10

See also 1 Samuel 1: 15

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

 

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 3, 2016 — “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?” — We can do nothing without God’s help

February 2, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 325

Art: Jesus In The Synagogue by Robert Leinweber

Reading 1 2 SM 24:2, 9-17

King David said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him,
“Tour all the tribes in Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba
and register the people, that I may know their number.”
Joab then reported to the king the number of people registered:
in Israel, eight hundred thousand men fit for military service;
in Judah, five hundred thousand.Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people,
and said to the LORD:
“I have sinned grievously in what I have done.
But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant,
for I have been very foolish.”
When David rose in the morning,
the LORD had spoken to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying:
“Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says:
I offer you three alternatives;
choose one of them, and I will inflict it on you.’”
Gad then went to David to inform him.
He asked: “Do you want a three years’ famine to come upon your land,
or to flee from your enemy three months while he pursues you,
or to have a three days’ pestilence in your land?
Now consider and decide what I must reply to him who sent me.”
David answered Gad: “I am in very serious difficulty.
Let us fall by the hand of God, for he is most merciful;
but let me not fall by the hand of man.”
Thus David chose the pestilence.
Now it was the time of the wheat harvest
when the plague broke out among the people.
The LORD then sent a pestilence over Israel
from morning until the time appointed,
and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beer-sheba died.
But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it,
the LORD regretted the calamity
and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people,
“Enough now! Stay your hand.”
The angel of the LORD was then standing
at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
When David saw the angel who was striking the people,
he said to the LORD: “It is I who have sinned;
it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong.
But these are sheep; what have they done?
Punish me and my kindred.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R. (see 5c) Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.

AlleluiaJN 10:27

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

Gospel MK 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place,
accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
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Art: Saint Joseph, the Carpenter. Found in the collection of Musée des Beaux-Arts
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Commentary on Mark 6:1-6 From Living Space

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Jesus returns to his home town in the company of his disciples. On the sabbath day, as was his right, he began teaching in the synagogue. His listeners, who all knew him since he was a child, are staggered at the way he speaks. “Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him and these miracles that are worked through him?” He had no more education than any of his fellow-villagers. But the point is that they do recognise his wisdom and his power to perform miracles. Yet, he is “only” a carpenter, the son of Mary and related to James and Joset and Jude and Simon and with “sisters” as well.

And, because they knew him so well, they could not accept him. They deliberately chose not to see what was happening before their eyes. This, of course, is the irony of the whole situation. They did not know him at all. They were blinded by a superficial familiarity. So Jesus says, “A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations, and in his own house.” A saying known in other cultures and an experience all too often repeated in our own day. In comparing himself to the Hebrew prophets who went before him, Jesus foreshadows his ultimate rejection by many of his own people. We have already seen his problems with his own family and now with his townspeople. It is not the end.

The trap of familiarity is one we can all fall into very easily. How many times have we failed to recognise the voice of Jesus speaking to us because the person is someone we meet every day, a person we may not like or despise? But God can and does talk to us through all kinds of people, Catholic or not, relative, friend, colleague, our own children, total stranger, educated, uneducated…

As a result, we are told, Jesus not only did not but “could not” work any miracles there, except for a few sick people who were cured by the laying of hands. But he could not help those who had no faith in him. Jesus works only when we cooperate and open ourselves to him. Mark often says how amazed the people are at Jesus’ teaching. Now it is Jesus” turn to be amazed at his home town’s lack of faith and trust in him.

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Commentary For Mark 6: 1-6
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The Gospel today is from Saint Mark and shows that even the people with whom Jesus had lived for so many years could not accept Him. They saw Him as simply an ordinary Jewish man. They could see and hear that He had received extraordinary gifts of wisdom and that He could work miracles–but that hardly dented their rejection of Him as simply an ordinary person. They could not accept God dwelling in Jesus. Again, the prophet is rejected, the extraordinary work of God is rejected.

Part of what we can learn today is that what is divine and extraordinary and wonderful is often hidden in the ordinary of human existence. We are invited to seek the Lord Jesus in the poor and the weak and the rejected. Amen.

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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Can we accept that there is God in “ordinary human people”? Do we believe in the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit”? Do we seek the Holy Spirit and allow him to grow in us? How do we show God we respect every human life?
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The sanctity of human life is a powerful undercurrent here. Jesus at first seems like any “ordinary human person.” Yet Jesus is the one who challenges us to see himself in every human person!
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Art: The Vision of Ezekiel by Francisco Collantes (1500-1656)
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The prophet Ezekiel is known to us through the Book of the Bible which bears his name. Probably deported into Babylon around 579 BC, he lived with the captive Jews in exile and pronounced his prophecies in the region of present day Tel Aviv. One day, his life was penetrated with the “glory of the Lord”, which he discovered in a series of visions. In one of his visions, the Lord went with him as he walked in a valley full of dry bones.  At the Word of God, the bones rose up and “lived”, and “an exceeding great army” arose in their place. This event heralded Israel’s rebirth, and would be read by Christians as the annunciation of the resurrection of the body at the Last Judgment. More than 500 years before Christ, Ezekiel was a prophet of the resurrection.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 FEBRUARY 2016, Wednesday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time
THE GRAVITY OF THE SIN OF A LEADER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 2Sm 24:2. 9-17; Ps 31:1-2, 5-7; Mk 6:1-6

Many aspire to be leaders.  But not many understand the responsibilities and the magnitude of a leader’s burden.  Most people think of leadership in terms of power, glory, honour, status and even wealth.  Many fail to realize that leaders are not only responsible to themselves but to the community, the organization or the nation that they lead.  Leaders are ultimately accountable to God and to their people.

The scripture readings today impress on us the grave responsibility of leaders.  Every decision that a leader makes has far reaching consequences beyond himself to his community.  Making the wrong decision could destroy not just himself or his family but the whole nation, as in the case of David.  This is true for all forms of leadership, whether it be political, corporate or religious leadership; or simply as parents and teachers.  Their success is the community’s success and their failure is the community’s failure.  Their honor is that of the community’s honor; so too their shame is the community’s shame.

Because our decisions and actions have serious implications for everyone under our charge, leaders must not take decisions or even the conduct of their personal life lightly.  His mistakes and sins will affect the rest as well.  When a father of a family commits a crime, he brings shame to the whole family and even to the clan.  His children will suffer the shame and ridicule of the public when he commits an offence.  So it need not be professional decisions that we make as leaders that are exposed to the world; even our personal life is on exhibit.  Failure in personal life will impinge on our credibility as leaders.  If we cannot manage our own life and our family, how can we manage the household of God or that of the nation?  “He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Tim 3:4f)

This was the lesson King David learnt, albeit at great cost to the lives of his people.  He did not think through his decision.  He regretted, but it was too late.  In his impulsivenss, he ordered a census of the people so that he could determine the strength of his army and military might.  Instead of relying on the power of God, he relied on himself and the strength of his soldiers.  It was an affront to the Lord who, in the bible, was supposedly the Lord of Hosts, the Military commander of Israel who fought the battles for Israel.  As a result, the Lord was annoyed and angry with David and the peoples for lacking faith and trust in Him.  David was sorry for that rash decision of his.  Indeed, as leaders, how often do we do things without thinking through the consequences and implications for our people?  We make decisions lightly without prayerful consideration and proper discernment of the spirits.  We are not in touch with our motives.

How do we avoid such pitfalls so that we do not cause the people whom we lead and serve to suffer the consequences of our actions?  We must be aware that the greatest sin of a leader is always the temptation to pride.  Most leaders think that they know everything.  As they are used to having people at their beck and call, they become arrogant, demanding, impatient and presumptuous.  Just because everyone defers to them and few contradict them, they begin to believe that they are omnipotent and omniscient, knowing everything and how everything must be done.  Ironically, leaders have difficulty submitting to higher authority, but they expect all those under their charge to submit to their authority!   The pride of a leader is always the cause of his or her fall from grace.

When his right hand man, Joab, advised David against conducting the census, he refused to listen. It would have been enough for David to trust in God, but he was too proud and blind to his pride.  And so those under a leader normally oblige, as Joab did against his will.

Indeed, when King David ordered the census, it was done out of pride.  He wanted to feel great about himself because of what he had done for Israel.  It is true that with King David, there was peace and prosperity after 400 years of fighting and war.  He was able to unite Judah and Israel into one nation; and conquered the surrounding foreign nations, or at least subjugate them.

So too we read in the gospel that the townsfolk of Jesus’ village did not welcome Him because of pride.The gospel said that “most of them were astonished when they heard him.  They said, ‘Where did the man get all this?  What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him?  This is the carpenter, surely the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon?  His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’  And they would not accept him.”  This pride was manifested in prejudice.  It was too difficult for them to believe that someone who was amongst them and whom they knew as a carpenter could have such eloquence and power.   It was too humiliating for them to admit that Jesus was better than them.

When we allow pride and prejudice to colour our judgments, then we will have to suffer the consequences of our sins.  What we sow is what we reap.  So too in the case of David! Even in allowing the fruits of his sinful pride to take place, God was merciful enough to give him three options.  “So Gad went to David and told him.  ‘Are three years of famine to come on you in your country,’ he said, ‘or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three days’ pestilence in your country?  Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.’”

Yet, when we consider the sin of King David, we see there is also God’s saving grace, even in his sinfulnessA leader does not have to be always perfect.  God does not demand that a leader be impeccable all the times.  But like King David, we must be quick and humble enough to admit our mistakes and make amends immediately.  So in his moment of folly, David called for the census.  But immediately upon realizing what he had done, he repented.

David was sorry for his sins that caused the people to suffer on his behalf.  His sorrow for his sins is reflected in today’s responsorial psalm.  David continued to rely on the mercy of God even in his sin and in his suffering.  He said to Gad, “This is a hard choice.  But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.’ So, David chose pestilence.”  As leaders, we need not be perfect at all times.  But we must be humble like King David, acknowledge our failures and mistakes and learn from them, ask for forgiveness from God and our people, and then move on.

Indeed, the greatness of King David was because he was truly a man after the heart of God, the Good Shepherd.  He knew his weaknesses and sinfulness, but he trusted in the Lord’s mercy and confessed his sins whenever he was confronted or came to realization.  He did not blame anyone for his woes, whether it was his adultery with Bathsheba or the calling of the census.  He accused himself without any excuses.  “Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin.”   He also accepted the punishment because of his sin.   He was a true leader who was willing to assume full responsibility for his decisions and not blame his subordinates.  He chose to suffer for the rest of the nation and take the guilt upon himself and his family.  He put the safety and interests of his people before his own and even his loved ones.  Such was the kind of leadership that David displayed.

We too are called to imitate King David when we carry our responsibilities as leaders.  We must always be conscious that as leaders, we are public figures and no longer private citizens. Everything a leader does, whether in his public or private capacity, is under scrutiny by the public.  Our enemies are waiting for us to make a mistake so that they can discredit us and put us and the community or organization we lead to shame.  As such, leaders must be watchful always not just of their public life but personal life so that we do not cause scandal and hurt our community.  This is what the scripture readings today remind us; that pride and the lack of faith will deprive our community of the healing grace of God.

Let the life St Paul remind us as well. “We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.  We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (1 Cor 6:3-10)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on 2 Sam 24:2, 9-17 from Living Space

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Today we have our last reading from the Second Book of Samuel. We are also coming to the end of David’s life.

Today’s reading comes from the final chapter of 2 Samuel. It seems that the material was originally part of chapter 21 where we are told that there had been three consecutive years of famine.

David gives a command for a military census to be made of the whole country from the far north (Dan) to the very south (Beer-sheba). However, as soon as it was done, David deeply regretted what he had done. The preceding verse (not in our reading) implies that David’s decision was the result of God’s anger against the people and would result in a lot of suffering.

The census does not appear to have been prompted by any external threat. Since he wanted to “know how many there are” (v.2), it is evident that his action was motivated either by pride in the size of the empire he had acquired or by reliance for his security on the size of the reserve of manpower he could muster in an emergency or, more likely, both.

The mere taking of a census was hardly sinful (there were precedents in the past) but in this instance it represented an unwarranted glorying in and dependence on human power rather than the Lord (not much different from Israel’s initial desire to have a king for their security, see 1 Sam 8-12). In those days a census was often considered impious because it usurped the prerogative of God to whom alone it belonged to give increase to family and nation. The act in many ways was uncharacteristic of David.

The result of the census found that in Israel (the northern part of the kingdom) there were 800,000 men fit for military service and in Judah (the southern part) there were 500,000. Even by today’s standards for a large country, they would be huge figures so we can take it they are highly inflated. This, of course, only makes clearer the taking of the census as a kind of hubris.

Almost immediately, David could see the whole exercise as a not so subtle act of arrogance, of pride in the size of his kingdom, and of the material resources he had to deal with any enemies. In other words, it seemed to turn the focus away from the Israelites’ real source of strength and security, namely, the Lord God and towards themselves. David now begs God’s forgiveness for what he has done.

And indeed God seems to concur with David’s view. The following day, Gad the seer is sent with a message. David is offered a choice of three forms of punishment: three years of famine, to be on the run from his enemies for three months, or endure a pestilence for three days. The three alternative judgments were all included in the curses that Moses said would come on God’s people when they failed to adhere to their covenant obligations (see Deut 28:15-25).

It was a very difficult choice but David chose the last of the three – three days of pestilence. “Let us fall by the hand of God, for he is most merciful,” he said. David, who knew both God and war, knew that even in his anger God was more merciful than man let loose in the rampages of war (see Ps 30:5).

It may have been only three days but it coincided with the time of the wheat harvest. The death toll throughout the nation was 70,000 people. But as the plague was about to destroy Jerusalem, God relented and stayed the hand of the avenging angel. He stopped at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. This was located on Mount Moriah, immediately north of David’s city and overlooking it. Later it would become the site of the temple.

Characteristically, David takes responsibility for the sin that had been committed. The sin was his and not that of the people. It was David’s decision to have the census. They should not have had to suffer. “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong. But these are sheep… Punish me and my kindred.” The people of Israel were certainly not without guilt; in fact, it was the Lord’s anger against them that led David to order the census for which they would have to pay the price. Even so, David characteristically assumes full blame for his own act and acknowledges his responsibility as king for the well-being of the Lord’s people.

The story reminds us of the subtle arrogance that can rule our lives. We can set so much store by our intellectual or academic abilities, by our professional skills or status, by the material goods we have accumulated. And we forget how really vulnerable we are and how little we can do without God’s help.

There is also our constant tendency to lay the blame on others when things go wrong. We don’t find it easy to follow David’s example.

Let us reflect today on where we put our day to day security and where God fits into our lifestyle.

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 5, 2014 — “Pray without ceasing” — Seek a “constant contact with God”

February 4, 2014

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King David in Prayer, by Pieter de Grebber (c. 1640).  “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.”

Memorial of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr Lectionary: 325

Reading 1 2 sm 24:2, 9-17

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King David said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him, “Tour all the tribes in Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba and register the people, that I may know their number.” Joab then reported to the king the number of people registered: in Israel, eight hundred thousand men fit for military service; in Judah, five hundred thousand.
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Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people, and said to the LORD: “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.” When David rose in the morning, the LORD had spoken to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying: “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I offer you three alternatives; choose one of them, and I will inflict it on you.’” Gad then went to David to inform him. He asked: “Do you want a three years’ famine to come upon your land, or to flee from your enemy three months while he pursues you, or to have a three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and decide what I must reply to him who sent me.” David answered Gad: “I am in very serious difficulty. Let us fall by the hand of God, for he is most merciful; but let me not fall by the hand of man.” Thus David chose the pestilence. Now it was the time of the wheat harvest when the plague broke out among the people. The LORD then sent a pestilence over Israel from morning until the time appointed, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beer-sheba died. But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD regretted the calamity and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people, “Enough now! Stay your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was striking the people, he said to the LORD: “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong. But these are sheep; what have they done? Punish me and my kindred.”
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Responsorial Psalm ps 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

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R. (see 5c) Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered. Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt, in whose spirit there is no guile. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not. I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. For this shall every faithful man pray to you in time of stress. Though deep waters overflow, they shall not reach him. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done. You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me; with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round. R. Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.
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Gospel mk 6:1-6

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Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples. When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
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Jesus Teaching in the Temple By Gustave Dore
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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Christ teaches us to pray by his many good examples of retiring to pray and meditate throughout his public life. Jesus also gave us “The Lord’s Prayer” during his Sermon on the Mount.
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Here, in today’s first reading, we have another King teaching us how to pray. King David cries out, “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.”
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Maybe all my prayers need to be just this honest and humble — always seeking forgiveness and guidance.
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The Bible tells us in 1 Thess 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”
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Alcoholics Anonymous teaches everyone to seek a “constant contact with God” through prayer and meditation. (Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”)
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Related:
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How many times did Jesus pray in the Bible?
http://jesusalive.cc/ques204.htm
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection
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The Gospel today speaks of the visit of Jesus to Nazareth and describes the mental obstinacy of the people of Nazareth, who do not want to accept him. (Mk 6, 1-6). Tomorrow the Gospel describes the openness of Jesus toward the people of Galilee, shown through the sending out of his disciples on mission (Mk 6, 7-13).
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Mark 6, 1-2ª: Jesus returns to Nazareth. At that time Jesus went to his home town, and his disciples accompanied him. “With the coming of the Sabbath, he began teaching in the Synagogue”. It is always good to return to one’s own home town and to find the friends. After a long absence, Jesus also returns and, as usual, on Saturday, he goes to the Synagogue to participate in the meeting of the community. Jesus was not the coordinator of the community, but even if he was not he takes the floor and begins to teach. This is a sign that persons could participate and express their own opinion.
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Mark 6, 2b-3: Reaction of the people of Nazareth before Jesus. The people of Capernaum had accepted the teaching of Jesus (Mk 1, 22), but the people of Nazareth did not like the words of Jesus and were scandalized. For what reason? Jesus, the boy whom they had known since he was born, how is it that now he is so different? They do not accept God’s mystery present in Jesus, a human being, and common as they are, known by all! They think that to be able to speak of God, he should be different from them! As we can see, not everything went well for Jesus.
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The persons who should have been the first ones to accept the Good News were precisely those who had the greatest difficulty to accept it. The conflict was not only with foreigners, but also, and especially with his own relatives and with the people of Nazareth. They refused to believe in Jesus, because they could not understand the mystery of God embracing the person of Jesus. “From where do all these things come to him? And what wisdom is this which has been given to him? And these miracles which are worked by him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Jude and Simon? His sisters too, are they not here with us?” And they would not accept him, they do not believe in Jesus!
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The brothers and the sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes much polemics among Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves on this text and in others, the Protestants say that Jesus had more brothers and sisters and that Mary had more sons! The Catholics say that Mary had no other sons. What should we think about all this? In the first place, the two positions, that of Catholics and that of the Protestants, both have arguments taken from the Bible and from the tradition of their respective Churches. Therefore, it is not convenient to discuss this question with arguments drawn only from reason. This is a question of profound convictions, which have something to do with the faith and with the sentiments both of Catholics and of Protestants. An argument taken only from reason cannot succeed to change the conviction of the heart! On the other hand, it irritates and draws away!
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Even when I do not agree with an opinion of another, I should always respect it! And we, both Catholics and Protestants, instead of discussing on texts, we should unite to struggle in defence of life, created by God, a life which has been so disfigured by poverty and injustice, by the lack of faith. We should remember other phrases of Jesus: “I have come in order that they may have life and life in abundance” (Jn 10, 10). “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that you, Father, has sent me” (Jn 17, 21). “Who is not against us, is for us” (Mk 10, 39.40).
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Mark 6, 4-6. Reaction of Jesus before the attitude of the people of Nazareth. Jesus knows very well that “nobody is a prophet in his own country”. And he says: “A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house”. In fact, where there is no acceptance or faith, people can do nothing. The preconception prevents this. Even if Jesus wanted to do something, he cannot, and he is amazed at their lack of faith. For this reason, before the closed door of his community “he began to make a tour round the villages, teaching”. The experience of this rejection led Jesus to change his practice. He goes to the other villages and, as we shall see in tomorrow’s Gospel, he gets the disciples involved in the mission instructing them as to how they have to continue the mission.

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Personal questions
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Jesus had problems with his relatives and with his community. From the time when you began to live the Gospel better, has something changed in your relationship with your family, with your relatives?
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Jesus cannot work many miracles in Nazareth because faith is lacking. And today, does he find faith in us, in me?
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Concluding prayer
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How blessed are those whose offence is forgiven, whose sin blotted out. How blessed are those to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt, whose spirit harbours no deceit. (Ps 32,1-2)
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How blessed are those whose offence is forgiven, whose sin blotted out. How blessed are those to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt, whose spirit harbours no deceit. (Ps 32,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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“No prophet is without honor except in his native place, among his own kindred, and in his own house.”  This is one of the most poignant statements made by Jesus. We can easily identify with the sentiments of Jesus when He uttered these words, for like Jesus, we are often distressed over the apparent lack of openness of our fellow human beings in accepting us for what we are because of their prejudices, especially those closest to us.

On the other hand, taking on the perspectives of the villagers of Jesus’ time, we too can identify with them.   We all know it is difficult to accept someone from our own kind telling us what to do, especially if that person is deemed to be inferior to us in age, status, education or experience. The question we need to confront ourselves is, why is it so difficult to accept authority from our own peers or people of our own kind?

The first reason is simply pride.  This is perhaps the real reason.  When we examine the gospel text, indeed, we find that Jesus’ townsfolk and relatives were not rejecting His knowledge, wisdom and power.  Rather, we are told that they found Him ‘too much’ for them.  What is the reason?  Because they knew Him when He was a little boy; He was just one of them; only the son of a carpenter.   So for them to accept Jesus’ teachings and to admit that He was wiser and more knowledgeable than them, would mean that they would have had to acknowledge His superiority (and their own inferiority).  That of course would not do!   It is the same for us too.  It is very difficult for some of us, for example, to be told what to do by someone more junior to us, whether in terms of age or status.  It is a threat to our ego and security.

But there could be another reason.  It is what we call prejudice.  But this word has been used so often that we have become prejudiced to the word itself.  So instead of calling it prejudice, we adopt the biblical language by calling it the lack of faith.  This lack of faith of course is simply the lack of openness to the newness of someone or something.   It is to have a fixated and static view of a situation.  It is to live in the past.

This happens when we hang on to our old mental models of people, things and situations, forgetting that nothing remains constant.   Hence, parents often forget that their children have grown up.  Some parents continue to treat their grown-up sons and daughters as if they were still little children.  This was what the townsfolk and relatives of Jesus did.  They forgot that Jesus was no longer the little boy in Nazareth; that He has grown up.  Their out-dated impressions of Jesus prevented them from being open to the new Jesus before their eyes. They were prejudiced.

But the price of being prejudiced is the price of missing out on opportunities for life and growth.  The gospel tells us that Jesus could work no miracles for them since their minds were closed.  Similarly, when we are closed to people and situations, we miss out on opportunities for gaining new wisdom and the experience of miraculous deeds.  We become the real losers in life when we refuse to see the newness in others.

Finally, for those of us who face rejection like Jesus, we can learn not to get bitter or angry.  Instead, He only felt sorry for them, for He had nothing to lose. The rejection by His own people did not prevent Jesus from living out His life and His love.  He did not engage in any form of self-pity.  Instead, He was open to other avenues and opportunities.  So, rather than offering His love and message to people who were prejudicial and disinterested, He offered His message to neighbouring villages instead.

This is the kind of attitude we should adopt.  If people are not interested in what we have to offer, we need not react with resentment, we need not force our goodness on them, rather we should simply take them to others who can appreciate them.   We need not allow our enthusiasm to be life-givers to be dampened simply because one group cannot accept us, because there are many others who are waiting to receive the good news.  Thus, whether as messengers or recipients of the good news, so long as we adopt a fundamental openness to what others can offer us and what we can offer them, we will always be faith-filled and growing people.   

http://www.csctr.net/05-february-2014-wednesday-4th-week-ordinary-time/

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