Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Morning Prayer for Sunday, October 21, 2018 — For God is not a God of disorder but of peace

October 21, 2018

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will remain with him and him with Me.” The knocking of God’s spirit, asking to come into your life, is due to no merit of yours, though it is in response to the longing of your heart. Keep a listening ear, an ear bent to catch the sound of the gentle knocking at the door of your heart by the spirit of God. Then open the door of your heart and let God’s spirit come in.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may let God’s spirit come into my heart. I pray that it may fill me with an abiding peace.

From the Book, “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

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“Be still and know that I am God.” The moments of deepest prayer are usually moments of quiet awe before the throne of God.

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God is a God of peace. He does not speak and does not operate except in Peace — Jacques Philippe, author of “Searching for and Maintaining Peace”

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace–as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. — 1  Corinthians 14:33

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God Hears Us — Morning Prayer for Friday, October 19, 2018

October 19, 2018

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We can believe that somehow the cry of the human soul is never unheard by God. It may be that God hears the cry, even if we fail to notice God’s response to it. The human cry for help must always evoke a response of some sort from God. It may be that our failure to discern properly keeps us unaware of the response. But one thing we can believe is that the grace of God is always available for every human being who sincerely calls for help. Many changed lives are living proofs of this fact.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may trust God to answer my prayer as He sees fit. I pray that I may be content with whatever form that answer may take.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 OCTOBER, 2018, Friday, 28th Week, Ordinary Time

YEAST OF HYPOCRISY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EPHESIANS 1:11-14LUKE 12:1-7  ]

“The people had gathered in their thousands so that they were treading on one another.  And Jesus began to speak, first of all to his disciples. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy.’”    Why did Jesus call the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, the yeast?  Sadly, it was their hypocrisy that was the cause of their downfall.  As the Lord reprimanded them, “You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”  (Mt 15:7-9)

Why is hypocrisy described as a yeast?  We know that yeast will grow and spread.  So, too, hypocrisy, which springs from the sin of Pride, will lead to many offsprings of sin.  Underlying the sin of hypocrisy is the desire to look good before others.  That is why it is fundamentally the sin of pride.  We want to be appreciated, recognized, liked, adored and even worshipped.  It comes from our insecurity and the desire to be accepted and admired.  As a result, we try to appear good, righteous, holy and kind.  But deep in our hearts, we know that we are not.  So, for the sake of public image we appear to be that kind of person.

By so doing, who we are and what we are suffer a dichotomy.  We live a double life; a public life where we project ourselves to be the person that people expect of us; and a private life where we are anything but the public persona we project.  We try hard to live up to people’s expectations, projecting a confident, self-made and happy facade.  But deep within us, we are insecure, lonely, empty and tired.  This accounts for why many of us live a double life, including priests and religious.  They try hard to live up to peoples’ expectations, but they suffer an emotional and psychological misfit.  This explains why some celebrities commit suicide, to the surprise and dismay of their many fans.  And we are scandalized to find religious people and professionals who are pedophiles, or are having extra marital affairs.

Hypocrisy leads to a loss of our real identity.  We want to believe that we are that kind of person when we are not.  We seek to be holy and do things people expect of us.  We think we are worshipping God with all our pious acts and rituals, but we are in truth worshipping ourselves.  We think we are serving our people, but in reality, we are serving ourselves because we want appreciation and recognition.  We do not worship or serve God or people with the right motive.

What is even more devious is that hypocrisy leads to self-righteousness.  When we think we are so good and holy, or so efficient and hardworking, we begin to despise others who cannot do as much as us.  We condemn others who fail in their moral life.  We pass judgement on them as if we are sinless ourselves.  We pick at the faults of others, always looking and judging others, instead of looking at our own failings.  We make ourselves the judge of others, wanting to take out the splinter from our neighbour’s eyes whilst failing to see the beam in our own eyes.  (cf Mt 7:1-5)

This sin of hypocrisy is supported by lying and boasting.  We tell all kinds of lies to cover up our sins and failings.  We are afraid to tell the truth for fear that people might not love us once they discover our weaknesses.  They are always boasting of what they are doing and how much they have accomplished in life.  They like to show off their wealth, their generosity, their kindness and their good deeds.  It is all about creating a good image.

But are we that different from the Pharisees?  They were the supposedly good Jews from the Old Covenant.  They were trying to make themselves the model of how a true Jew should conduct himself.  Unwittingly, they ended up being hypocritical because, as the Lord said of them, “For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land to make a single convert, and you make the new convert twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”  (Mt 23:13-15 cf Mt 23:1-36)

Indeed, we are also the hypocrites of the Christian Faith.  We come to church to worship God but we quarrel at the car park and in church over seats.  We park our cars inconsiderately, blocking residents’ gates, and take our time removing our cars after service, preventing others from leaving.  We receive communion just because everyone else does, even when we are in mortal sin.  We serve in Church ministries, but at home and at work, we order people around and do nothing to help them.  We go for seminars, growth talks and devotions but we do not live out the gospel life.  We do holy things but do not live holy lives.  So who are we to condemn the Pharisees when we are the new ones.

Today, the Lord warns us of the danger of hypocrisy.  Sooner or later, we will be exposed and we will have nowhere to hide our faces.  “Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.  For this reason, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in hidden places will be proclaimed on the housetops.”  Indeed, the truth about ourselves, our character and the motives of our deeds will be revealed and we will be put to even greater shame.  Even if we are not, we cannot live in peace but always in fear because of the possibility that we will be exposed one day.  St John wrote, “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God.”  (1 Jn 3:18-21)

Today, we are reminded of who we are.  We are the chosen ones of God, not because of our merits but simply because of His grace and love.  “It is in Christ that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.”  So we do not need to prove ourselves to be loved by God.  He loves us as we are.   We are His adopted sons and daughters.  Of course He wants us to share in the fullness of His life and love.  This is what it means to be chosen for His greater glory.  That is why we can live a life of freedom and peace.  “Now you too, in him, have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation, and have believed it; and you too have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised.”

Flowing from this new identity, we are called to live it out so that we can become who we are meant to be.  St Peter said, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.”  (2 Pt 1:10f) St John in a similar vein wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  (1 Jn 3:2f) This means that we are not perfect now.  God knows that and He accepts that we are not what and who we should be as yet.  It is a process of becoming God’s adopted sons and daughters.  He is patient with our growth and He waits for us to grow in grace, slowly but surely.

So flowing from the gratitude of being called and chosen, we strive to live according to our new identity, not with our own strength but with His grace.  This is what the psalmist says.  “Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.  For the word of the Lord is faithful and all his works to be trusted. The Lord loves justice and right and fills the earth with his love.  They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own. From the heavens the Lord looks forth, he sees all the children of men.”

Hence, we can afford to be authentic people.  We recognize we are sinners and yet to be saints.  So let us not be afraid to admit our weaknesses and at the same time focus on our growth in Christ-likeness more and more.  This is what the Lord is asking of us.  He is asking us to be authentic when He said, To my friends I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.  Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight.  Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”  Indeed, the Lord is with us and He will protect us from hypocrisy even as we strive to be His true sons and daughters.  But let us not allow people’s judgment to affect us.  Rather, we should accept God’s judgement instead, as St Paul said. “I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”  (1 Cor 4:4f)

Morning Prayer for Tuesday, October 16, 2018 — All reform is from within

October 16, 2018

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If your heart is right, your world will be right. The beginning of all reform must be in yourself. It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you take it. However restricted your circumstances, however little you may be able to remedy financial affairs, you can always turn to your inward self and seeing something not in order there, seek to right it. And as all reform is from within outward, you will always find that the outward is improved as the inward is improved. As you improve yourself, your outward circumstances will change for the better. The power released from within yourself will change your outward life.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that the hidden power within me may be released. I pray that I may not imprison the spirit that is within me.

From the book “Twenty Four Hours A Day”

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Why We Pray and Meditate:

“If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)
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Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

16 OCTOBER, 2018, Tuesday, 28th Week, Ordinary Time

FAITH IN CHRIST AS THE POWER FOR OUR MINISTRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GAL 5:1-6LK 11:37-41  ]

We all know that our justification is by faith alone.  We are made right with God not because of what we can do or what we have done but simply because of His merciful love for us.  Hence, how effective and dedicated we are to be as disciples and apostles of our Lord, depends on how strong our faith is in Him.

But in reality, do we truly believe in His merciful love?  How does one measure one’s faith in Christ?  Do we measure our faith in terms of how much good works and how many projects we have done?  Do we measure our faith in Him by examining how faithful we are to the decrees of the Lord, always keeping the law and delighting in His commands?  If these are the means by which we gauge our faith in the Lord, then Jesus warns us that we might be putting the cart before the horse.

Yes, we too have fallen into the same mistake of the Galatians.  Instead of clinging to Christ’s love and mercy, they clung to the laws and we, our good works.  Hence, St Paul challenged them saying that “everyone who accepts circumcision is obliged to keep the whole Law.”  As a consequence, they lost the joy of being Christians.  Indeed, this so disappointed Paul that he urged them, “When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”

This, too, was the misunderstanding of the Pharisees and the Scribes about justification.  They were apparently so faithful to the Torah, just like the psalmist who worshipped the commands of the Lord.  Unfortunately, they literally worshipped the commands of God by making the laws their idols.  They were preoccupied and meticulous in the observation of the rituals and the traditions of the Fathers.  In itself, the observation of such traditions has its value and is not to be despised.  Yet, we know that Jesus deliberately broke the Jewish customs by eating without first washing His hands.  The intention, as implied by the evangelist, is to surprise them rather than to deny the value of the traditions.  Jesus wanted to put the all-important point across that what is essential is not so much the commandments that we observe legalistically but that they are really meant to help us to live a righteous and charitable life.  Indeed, He reprimanded them, “Oh, you Pharisees!  You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness.  Fools!  … Instead give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.”   So what is necessary is that we purify the heart rather than be too taken up by externals which, although are important, do not necessarily mean that they are the measure of true holiness.

But does it mean therefore that if we do good deeds, that is, almsgiving, we can claim to have a deep faith in Christ?  Is Jesus implying that if we give alms then we can presume that we love God?  Such an interpretation would only lead us to believe that we can justify ourselves by good works.   The truth is that this is no real indication that we have a deep faith in Jesus.  How then does one measure one’s faith in Christ?

Faith in Christ means that we do not rely on the Law, as St Paul tells us.  Concretely it means that we do not rely on our observance of the laws or good works.  Why? Because obedience to the laws and even the performance of good works spring from pride.  Pride, we know, was the first sin of Adam and Eve.  They wanted to be like God without God.  Often, we, too, act in that manner.  Although our lips profess that we rely on God, yet in faith we can actually be like the Galatians whom Paul condemned.

Sometimes we can stress too much on the strict observance of rubrics, rules, regulations and doing the right thing by our faith, and forget the real purpose or intention of the rules, which is to promote love and unity.  Indeed, Jesus condemned the Jews not because of their observance of the customs but because they forgot the real reason for their observance.  Just the execution of them is no guarantee that we love God if it springs from our pride, for the consequence is that we begin to think too highly of ourselves and even despise those who fail to keep to the rules.  We become proud and condescending.  We say to others, “If I can do it, why can’t you?”  So it is nothing but human power and strength.  If we can do it on our own strength and will, it is really not the work of God but our own work.  If that were the case, we do not really need God or His grace. If we think we are such good Christians and consider ourselves worthy and therefore have a place reserved for ourselves in heaven, it is already a sign of pride because we think we have earned it.

Secondly, for those of us who cannot live up to the laws or are incapable of loving, we may feel depressed and demoralized.  We hate ourselves.  We feel that we are not worthy of God or of His love. When we see ourselves as hypocritical and unlovable, we begin to hate ourselves more and more.  As a result we become envious of those who are well loved and who do well in their calling.  Some of us might even condemn others more harshly because we act like sour grapes.  How can we accept others when we cannot admit our own sinfulness?

The solution cannot be based on our good works.  It must be because of our faith in the love of God in Jesus.  This is primary and central.  We must realize that our faith is primarily in the love of God and His forgiveness in Christ Jesus before anything else.  It has nothing to do with our works.  This is the faith that is presupposed.  As St Paul says, it is faith that manifests its power through love.  There is great import in this statement.  Faith in Christ means that we no longer depend only on ourselves but always on His love for us.  We must never think of ourselves as unworthy of His love.  This is the kind of faith in Christ that St Paul means.

Hence, even when we fail, especially when we have tried our best, then we must trust in God’s mercy.  We are loved by God even if we have not been able to live up to our calling; even if we have not been able to do as much as we want.  We will still feel unworthy before the Lord, but without despising ourselves simply because we have not lived up to the gospel demands.  All the more we want to love Him so that our lives can be lived in union with Him.  Unless we have this faith, we cannot say that we have faith in Him.

Without this faith, we will fall back to slavery as we try to prove ourselves in good works.  Thus, we must not misunderstand Jesus as simply saying that it is enough to love.  We must qualify His statement with that of Paul.  Jesus was not so much against the external practices but He was speaking of the heart that has been transformed by the love of God.  He was not speaking of charity only.   A lot of philanthropists do that.  But that can also make them proud.  So even to love is not sufficient to make us happy in life.  We can think highly of ourselves, but we will always feel insecure and never feel that we have done enough.  We become restless as we try to keep proving ourselves to others.  We remain forever unhappy because we think we can do better and strive to do better.  If such a thought comes from our recognition of our powerlessness, it is good, but when it comes from our pride, then it will unsettle us and make us anxious and fearful people.

Thus, the Good News that we are called to proclaim to ourselves and to others is that, although unworthy, we know that He still loves us unconditionally and always.  With this confidence in His love, we are now healed and transformed.  We want to tell the world that they do not have to prove themselves before God but that God loves them just as they are and want us to share in His love even more each day.  Hence, when we speak of good works, it is a work and obedience to the commandments rooted in our deep experience of God’s love for us.  It is His love that makes us good; not that He loves us because we are good.  Our strength must come from our experience of the merciful love of the Lord.  With the psalmist we implore, “Lord, let your love come upon me, the saving help of your promise. Do not take the word of truth from my mouth for I trust in your decrees.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Memoir of depression and prayer

October 11, 2018

Yesterday, Oct. 10, was World Mental Health Day. The UN Secretary General issued a message, a portion of which said: “We must leave no one behind… Healthy societies require greater integration of mental health into broader health and social care systems, under the umbrella of universal health coverage.”

By  – @inquirerdotnet

Timely for me to have interviewed Geoffrey Lilburne, the author of “Joy Interrupted: A Memoir of Depression and Prayer” (Coventry Press, 2018), a slim volume packed full of insights derived from firsthand experience.

Lilburne is a theologian and poet, with qualifications in counseling and professional supervision, a retired lecturer in theology (with graduate studies at the Yale School of Divinity in the United States). He is a Uniting Church minister in active ministry with a rural congregation in Western Australia.

Lilburne was in the country recently with his wife, Sophie Lizares, my friend of more than 30 years and at one time a colleague in social action and journalism. Sophie is now an ordained minister in the Uniting Church in Australia and is chaplain at UnitingCare West.

Lilburne begins with a startling revelation of how it began: “I awoke one morning wishing I had died during the night… I was 13 years of age.” What was a boy in the cusp of adolescence to make of what was going on inside him, a boy whose family background was relatively normal, who had no traumas to hark back to?

The book details Lilburne’s lifetime battle with depression (and manic episodes), how it was in different stages of his life, his seeking “professional assistance from general practitioners, psychiatrists, counselors, pastoral carers, ministers and spiritual directors.” But alongside these is Lilburne’s journey as an academic and, later, in various church ministries.

What was it like and what did he do to cope with it, deal with it, be healed of it, live with it? Lilburne’s early struggles meant pharmacological interventions or prescribed antidepressants, with names that were hard to spell and even harder to pronounce.

It was while he was in the United States that he met famous Catholic priest, theologian and author Henri Nouwen, who suggested a week at the Trappist monastery as a suitable therapy. Lilburne writes: “I have already alluded to the possibility that prayer might be significant in relation to depression, and have so far advanced the view that, for the person suffering from depression, prayer seems like a desperate ‘last resort.’” Much like what happens to atheists in the trenches.

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Henri Nouwen

But he also admits that the “episodic dips into depression also seemed to deprive me of any sense of relationship with God. They were not only dark times of sadness, they were for me also godless periods.” Lilburne writes (and he did say this in our interview) that the carer needs to pray for the depressed who are incapable of praying for themselves.

Lilburne ends the dark chapters by announcing that “just as joy had suddenly disappeared from my life when I was a young teenaged boy, joy returned to this old man… One day, it just came.” I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ “Surprised by Joy.”

This space is not enough for Lilburne’s rich insights, so let me zoom to the end chapter, “Spirituality and Depression,” where he discusses “medicalization” or reliance on pharmacology and finding a “better framework,” “an alternative engagement.”

For spiritual counselors and carers, read Lilburne’s take on Saint John of the Cross’ “Dark Night of the Soul.” Lilburne describes depression as a “spiritual disturbance” or “spiritual disfiguring.” He asks: “Might it be helpful then, to regard depression and/or mood disorders as fundamentally disturbances of a person’s spirit, and to propose that the treatment of them should be a form of holistic therapy that embraces body, mind and spirit?”

St. John of the Cross

Lilburne provides guidelines on “living with the black dog” while discovering “one’s best friend which is one’s self, with God as the ultimate ground of our best friend self, the source of best friending.”

I am not a depressive, but reading Lilburne, I say I am awed. I paraphrase Saint Augustine on his behalf: (Not) too late have I (found) Thee, beauty so ancient yet ever new.

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An Extra Morning Prayer: October 4, 2018 — Saint Francis Prayer for Peace

October 4, 2018

Peace of Soul:

Related:

Morning Prayer for Thursday, October 4, 2018 — Prayer(s) for Enlightenment

October 4, 2018

O Holy Ghost, divine Spirit of light and love, I consecrate to Thee my understanding, my heart and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity. May my understanding be always obedient to Thy heavenly inspirations and the teachings of the holy Catholic Church, of which Thou art the infallible Guide; may my heart be ever inflamed with love of God and of my neighbor; may my will be ever conformed to the divine will, and may my whole life be a faithful following of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and Thee be honor and glory for ever. Amen.

https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=82

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This Prayer is a little bit more universal:

To be attracted toward God and a better life, we must be spirit-guided. There is wonderful illumination of thought given to those who are spirit-guided. To those who are material-guided, there is nothing in God or a finer life to appeal to them or to attract them. But to those who are spirit-guided there is strength and peace and calm to be found in communion with an Unseen Lord. To those who believe in this God they cannot see but whose power they can feel, life has a meaning and purpose. They are children of the Unseen Lord, and all human beings are their brothers and sisters.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be spirit-guided. I pray that I may feel God’s presence and power in my life.

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From the Book, “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

Related:

Morning Prayer for Sunday, September 30, 2018 — Seeking The Healing Touch of God

September 30, 2018

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When you look to God for strength to face responsibility and
are quiet before Him, His healing touch causes the Divine
Quiet to flow into your very being. When in weakness you cry
to God, His touch brings healing, the renewal of your courage,
and the power to meet every situation and be victorious. When
you faint by the way or are distracted by feelings of inferiority,
then rely on the touch of God’s spirit to support you on your way.
Then arise and go forth with confidence.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may lay myself open today to the healing touch of God.
I pray that I may not falter or faint by the wayside, but renew
my courage through prayer.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 SEPTEMBER, 2018, Sunday, 26th Week, Ordinary Time

UNIVERSALITY AND INCLUSIVITY OF THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  NUM 11:25-29PS 19:81012-14JAS 5:1-6MK 9:38-48 ]

In both scripture readings, we have the theme of inclusivity and recognition of the universality of the working of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. The world is becoming a global village. Through migration, interaction and exchange of cultures, appreciation of other religious practices and doctrines, collaboration in the work of social justice and assistance of the poor, we are realizing more and more the mission of the Church, which is to be a sacrament of unity, peace and love for the world.

But this work of fostering unity through inclusivity and a real recognition of the universality of the work of the Holy Spirit is constantly being threatened by narrow-minded people who cannot accommodate the diversity of cultural and religious values of peoples in the world.  There is this tendency towards superiority in our attitude towards others, whether in faith or in culture.  We want to impose our values on others.  We think that our culture is the best and others must follow what we do, just like some nations that want to impose their understanding of democracy, freedom and human rights on others.   We want to restrict the gifts of the Holy Spirit to ourselves.  We think that only Christians can do good works, perform miracles and possess the truth.   Others, if they do good, are working by the power of Evil Spirits and whatever good they do are questionable.

However, the first reading and the gospel in no uncertain terms speak of the inclusive attitude of Moses and our Lord.  When Moses was told that two men among the seventy elders who stayed back in the camp prophesied and received the Spirit as did those who were in the Tent, he was not disappointed.  When Joshua wanted him to stop them from exercising the gift of prophecy, Moses saw the bigger picture and said, “Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!”  Moses never claimed to be the owner of the gift of the Spirit.  He was not the controller of God’s gifts. He respected the sovereignty of God and His choice.  He was a recipient like the rest.  He did not merit the gift that God gave him.  So who was he to hinder the Lord from giving His Spirit to whom He chooses?

In the gospel, Jesus had a similar experience as well when some people who were not part of His group of disciples were exorcising using His name.    John said, “‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him’. But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’”   The response of Jesus was open-minded and accommodating.  The Lord was not jealous of others who had gifts that He had.  He was not territorial or parochial-minded.  He did not seek to restrict others from doing good even if they came from other groups.

This was because He was clear of His mission, which was to extend the kingdom of God’s justice and mercy through preaching, healing and exorcism.  So if others are doing good and more so when they are exercising these gifts in His name, all the more, we should be happy that through their services, more people can come to encounter God. So long as people are touched by the Lord and encounter His mercy and love, regardless whether it is through us or not, is immaterial.  We should rejoice with those who rejoice; and thank and praise God for them, for the gifts that the one Sovereign Lord has given to them as well. There is no need to be jealous or envious of them or feel insecure because our position is threatened or our popularity and influence is compromised.  By doing good as we do, they are helping to realize God’s vision for humanity, which is to be one family of God.

Indeed, we must not only permit others to do their works of mercy and spread the Good News of their religions, we must encourage them as well.  Jesus made it clear, “If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.”  In the eyes of our Lord, all of us share the same Father and He is identified in every human person.  Indeed, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”  (Mt 5:45) In the parable of the Last Judgement, the Lord said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  (Mt 25:45) And if the world fails to realize this, it is because, as John wrote, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”  (1 Jn 3:1)  St Paul reiterates this when he taught, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.”  (1 Cor 12:4-6)

And with regard to the teachings of other religions, Vatican II says, “Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing ‘ways’, comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”  (Nostra Aetate, 2)

What we should be on guard only are those who are selfish and exclusive.  This is what St James said of the rich.  “Now an answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days.”   If we use our wealth, gifts and position for ourselves, we are going against the gospel of Christ.  What we have are given to us on trust so that we can use them for others and for the good of the community.  Indeed, as St James says, we cannot take anything with us when we die.

But worse still is that riches can lead us to act wrongly against our fellowmen.  Because of greed and selfishness, we cheat and destroy others in the process.  We have many sad cases of political, corporate and even religious leaders cheating people of their money and resources, and using them to fund their luxurious lifestyle.  They are not concerned with the people but with their own.  Against this is the warning of St James to those who ill-treat their workers.  “Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.”  Eventually, those who do not care for others will hurt themselves by their narrow, inward-looking behavior.

That is why the Lord urges us not to allow such selfish and protectionist attitudes to destroy us and the community.  He exhorts us that if our foot, hand or eye causes us to sin, then it is “better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out.”  The foot stands for the outreach that we must strive at, the hand stands for the assistance we must give to our neighbour, regardless of race, language or religion, and the eye symbolizes the way we look at them, whether as our brothers and sisters in the Lord or as our enemies or people whom we can take advantage of.  We must think of the larger interest and the good of the community instead of our narrow concerns.

Indeed, the Lord warns us that “anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck.”  Let us not be the obstacles of faith and love to those under our charge.  Those of us who are leaders must also foster unity and inclusivity.  We cannot just be taking care of our groups and our interests only.  Rather, we should encourage those under our charge to reach out to other groups, even those of other faiths, encourage them to work together for better mutual understanding so that together we can build a people of love and unity, valuing our diversity and enriching each other by our beliefs and culture, so that we grow into the fullness of truth and love.  

Let us walk in the precepts of the Lord as the psalmist invites us.  We must encourage everyone to walk in the ways of the Lord, which is wisdom and truth.  “The law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul. The rule of the Lord is to be trusted, it gives wisdom to the simple. The fear of the Lord is holy, abiding for ever. The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just. So in them your servant finds instruction; great reward is in their keeping. But who can detect all his errors? From hidden faults acquit me.”  Most of all, we must pray that “from presumption restrain your servant and let it not rule me. Then shall I be blameless, clean from grave sin.”  Let us learn humility when we approach others who are different from us.  We must not be presumptuous but ready to learn and listen to each other.   This is the key to unity in diversity, truth in love.

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

Morning Prayer for Thursday, September 27, 2018 — Seeking willingness, honesty, open mindedness and meaning in life

September 27, 2018
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Continuing the consideration of the term spiritual experience: “What often takes place in a few months could seldom have been accomplished by years of self discipline. With few exceptions, our members find that they have tapped an unsuspected inner resource, which they presently identify with their own conception of a Power greater than themselves. Most of us think this awareness of a Power greater than ourselves the essence of spiritual experience. Some of us call it God consciousness. In any case, willingness, honesty and open mindedness are the essentials of recovery.” Have I tapped that inner resource which can change my life?

Meditation for the Day

God’s power in your life increases as your ability to understand His grace increases. The power of God’s grace is only limited by the understanding and will of each individual. God’s miracle-working power is only limited in each individual soul by the lack of spiritual vision of that soul. God respects free will, the right of each person to accept or reject His miracle-working power. Only the sincere desire of the soul gives Him the opportunity to bestow it.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may not limit God’s power by my lack of vision. I pray that I may keep my mind open today to His influence.

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From the Book: “Twenty Four Hours A Day”
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From The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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27 SEPTEMBER, 2018, Thursday, 25th Week, Ordinary Time

ENTRUSTING THE LABOURS OF OUR WORK TO THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ECCLESIASTES 1:2-11LUKE 9:7-9  ]

“For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?”  Indeed, this is an inevitable question that we have to ask ourselves sooner or later.  No one can escape from this question in life.  What sustains us in the work we do, day in and day out?  Do we find meaning in what we do?  Are we fulfilled?  Are we contented with our achievements?

The stark reality is that after a long process, we will come to the same sentiment of King Solomon who is the author of this book. He has accomplished much in life.  He was a great king, full of wisdom.  It was in his time that the kingdom of David flourished and there was peace and unity among all the tribes of Israel and freedom from the attacks of foreign countries.  Yet, in spite of all his achievements, he looked back at all that he did and concluded, “vanity of vanities!”

This life is such a struggle, fraught with anxieties, fears, competition and pain.  It is the survival of the fittest.  We need to struggle and compete with others in order to find our security and fulfill our needs.  Whether at work or at home, in the community or in Church, we find people competing with each other for more power, recognition, promotion, money and fame.  The alternative is to cop out of this world.  But if we do, it means that we would be left behind to rot.  No one will bother about us.

Yet we wonder whether all our toils are worth it?  For those of us who work for a vision, do we really find happiness when we arrive at it?  We spend years, endless days and nights, working hard to cultivate and promote our vision, be it for the country, the organization or even for the Church.  After many years of laboring, we think we have attained the vision we set out.  Then another person takes over our job. He projects another vision and the one we painstakingly built is forgotten overnight.  Indeed, the values of hard work, strong family life, time immemorial moral principles, etc have all been discarded by today’s generation.  What were then considered to be the right direction or right values are no longer relevant or even considered wrong today.  So all that we have worked for in our life will be undone by the next generation.

For those of us who think that having an ambition can satisfy us and give us meaning in life, this again may not necessarily be the case.  Those of us who aspire to climb the social ladder will find ourselves lacking real freedom when we arrive at the top, because our fear of losing popularity, position or power will prevent us from doing what we want or believe to be right.  We will realize that there is so much political backstabbing and competition among leaders.  We will not be able to call a spade a spade.  We have to use politically correct language so that no one will be annoyed with us.  We are silenced from speaking the truth. We see corruption and manipulation of those who are weak.  There is much jealousy, greed for money and power.  We think that being the top man, we can change situations and put things right.  Yet, often the top man is powerless because he is controlled by those who support him.  He has to pander to their selfish needs so that he can get their support.  Without their support, he cannot accomplish his tasks.  So he is in a dilemma.

If our ambition is to become rich, we too will realize when we get there that money cannot buy happiness.   We do not have real friends.  In truth, we do not need so much money because we can never spend it all.  75% of our money will be passed down to our children who will not be appreciative of what they receive, as they would not understand the value of money that they did not earn.  They will squander what we have miserly saved and worked so hard for over the years in no time.  So we wonder whether it is a wise thing to save so much money for our children when they do not value what they have.

If we are driven by an ideology, we too will find everything is futile even if we could change the views of people.  Would our ideology bring about the happiness we desire?  Those who advocate same-sex union, do they really believe that this would make the world a better place, that there will be more holistic and happy children, stronger families, population will grow, etc? The communists were promoting socialist ideology as a panacea to all the sufferings in the world.  Have they achieved it?   Even if they had managed to raise the material standard of living in their country, were the people happy or fulfilled without God in their lives?

In the final analysis, we have to come back again to the question of the meaning of life and all that we do.  If all that we have done, built, cultivated and promoted are going to be destroyed soon or even before we are gone, then why waste so much time and effort trying to control the direction of the world?  We might as well just throw it to the beast to devour it.  What is the use of trying to promote our values and work hard for the people and our country when we know that all these would not last for long? So says the preacher about the rise and fall of dynasties, nations and civilizations.  “A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go.”

The truth and wisdom that we can acquire from King Solomon, is that life and the world are beyond our control.  We can only do our best according to the constraints and resources available to us.  We are called to do our part as well as we can.  We must leave the rest to God ultimately, for He is in charge.  With the psalmist, we say, “You turn men back to dust and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’ To your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, no more than a watch in the night.  You sweep men away like a dream, like the grass which springs up in the morning. In the morning it springs up and flowers: by evening it withers and fades.”  Indeed, let us remember that we are finite beings.  We are not God and so we do not need to play God and pretend that we are in charge of this world.    At the end of the day, success or failure is all in the hands of God.  The psalmist says, “In the morning, fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days. Let the favour of the Lord be upon us: give success to the work of our hands.”

However, we must do all we can within our power and influence.  We simply have to do our part and play our role, but the outcome belongs to the Lord.  This was what the Lord told Ezekiel about fulfilling our role as God’s sentry for His people.  “So you, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.”  (Ezk 33:7-9)  St Paul urged Timothy to do the same.  “Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.”  (2 Tim 4:2)

Otherwise, we will live a life of regret and bear the burden of a guilty conscience, like King Herod in today’s gospel.  He was feeling guilty that he had executed a holy man of God who had now reappeared in Jesus and he was anxious to find out.  He “had heard about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.”  Herod said, “John? I beheaded him. So who is this I hear such reports about?”

Our hearts should be at rest knowing that we have acted according to our conscience, regardless.  We do not have the answer for the next generation.  History will teach them and divine grace will work in its own ways in their lives so that they will learn wisdom like us.  Great men have come and gone and so will we when our time comes.  Indeed, history repeats itself in new ways.  “No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory of remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Catholic Recovery: AA and The Sacraments (Addiction is no joke)

September 25, 2018

The Best Cure for a Sick Human Being May Be Prayer 

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By John Francis Carey

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The “Big Book”

Addicted people, alcoholics and drug addicts, generally know where to go to get sober: Alcoholics Anonymous (and Narcotics Anonymous). Oh you can go to Malibu if your health insurance is good enough or you are  rolling in dough, but only the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has a decades-long proven track record of getting drug addicts and alcoholics sober and keeping them that way.

So, having exhausted all prior options and afraid that sacrificing a live chicken in suburbia would upset the neighbors, I went to AA.

But since I am a Catholic, I have another place to go to help me to maintain a “fit spiritual condition.” We have the Church.

Suffering miserably, I trembled as I asked my spiritual advisor and AA sponsor the secret to good health and happiness.

“Go, listen to the Spoken Word, eat the Body of Christ in the form of the Eucharist at Mass, and confess your sins,” both of them replied.

I told them I thought I needed a better doctor and more health insurance.

“Nonsense,” one said.  “Physically you are fine. What you need is a spiritual awakening!”

There’s that thought again: spiritual awakening.

Isn’t “spiritual awakening” the entire point of Alcoholics Anonymous? Isn’t Step Twelve “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

So,  I stepped into a Catholic Church for the first time in years.  Before too long The Holy Spirit began to talk to me and recommended I go to confession and get a new start on life by wiping away all the built-up sin and grime and dirt.

After confession, my first in decades, I felt like I could fly. So, for once in my life I followed orders exactly: I went to Mass every day, I listened, paid attention, concentrated and consecrated my efforts in life.

I also received Holy Communion daily: The Bread of Life. I have been keeping this daily routine supplemented with lots of prayer and spiritual reading since 2007; and you know what? I have had a spiritual recovery.

My Old friend Peter calls it a “CONVERSION.”  Like Saul in the Scripture: “the scales fell from my eyes.”

And Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, used those same words.

“The scales fell from our eyes.”

One of the landmark books that told me I was on the right track was “Holy Spirit” by Father Edward Leen.

Father Leen says if you do the daily diet of Mass and Communion and you keep your life in a helpful, grateful and useful frame of mind with lots of good works: you will be filled with an “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

It happened to me exactly the way my spiritual advisor and Fr. Leen promised.  And I am reborn.

Many Catholics in AA find St. Francis de Sales a good one to read in order to straighten out a long lost catholic soul. “Introduction to the Devout Life” is the book that includes just about everything Francis de Sales teaches: but there are several shorter books of his teachings to get folks started.

And don’t let that word “devout” slow you down. Are you devoted to your sobriety or not? Are you grateful to God and devoted to Him?

I keep in mind that “what we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

Like a Space Walker tethered to the mother ship by a three inch diameter chord — we have support from our AA fellowship and the Church and all its benefits. But, I know that a mortal sin just now will slam the hatch, sever my relationship with God, and I could float off into space before I come to my senses and return to the Spiritual Life again! IF I can return to the spiritual life again.

Ed White was the first American to perform a spacewalk. Image Creit: NASA

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” So as I look at the Twelve Steps and the Ten Commandments, and see that our supplemental Catholic Church effort actually has fewer steps that AA! And since we are seeking that “daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” — it might be a good idea for me not to continue to violate the Ten Commandments. I need all the Grace God can give me and I sure don’t want to slam the door in God’s face again.

It is only by the Grace of God that I am still alive.

So we use everything at our disposal to stay sober and stay on a spiritual path. We “go to any lengths to get it.” That means we pray, we go to AA meetings and we go to Church.

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob both once said, “I’ll never go to church again.” But both DID go back to church after they got sober using the steps.

Now a few thoughts on prayer:

“A soul should not resolve, on account of the dryness it experiences, to abandon prayer.” — St. Teresa of Avila

“No prayer, no spiritual life.” –St. John Paul II

“Nothing so much purifies our mind from its errors, or our will from its depraved  affections, as prayer.” — St. Francis de Sales

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” — St. Pio of  Pietrelcina (“Padre Pio”)

For thousands of years, human beings have been praying. We modern Americans may need to give it a try too. I know it’s not cool but being cool won’t keep me sober or get me to heaven!

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Related:

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We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

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Padre Pio

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 (“Stay in the present moment.”)
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Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.
  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others
  4. EVANGELIZE