Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 7, 2018 — “From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, etc. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

February 6, 2018

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 331

Image may contain: 3 people, shoes

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, painting by Giovanni Demin (1789-1859)

Reading 1 1 KGS 10:1-10

The queen of Sheba, having heard of Solomon’s fame,
came to test him with subtle questions.
She arrived in Jerusalem with a very numerous retinue,
and with camels bearing spices,
a large amount of gold, and precious stones.
She came to Solomon and questioned him on every subject
in which she was interested.
King Solomon explained everything she asked about,
and there remained nothing hidden from him
that he could not explain to her.When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom,
the palace he had built, the food at his table,
the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters,
his banquet service,
and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the LORD,
she was breathless.
“The report I heard in my country
about your deeds and your wisdom is true,” she told the king.
“Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes,
I have discovered that they were not telling me the half.
Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard.
Blessed are your men, blessed these servants of yours,
who stand before you always and listen to your wisdom.
Blessed be the LORD, your God,
whom it has pleased to place you on the throne of Israel.
In his enduring love for Israel,
the LORD has made you king to carry out judgment and justice.”
Then she gave the king one hundred and twenty gold talents,
a very large quantity of spices, and precious stones.
Never again did anyone bring such an abundance of spices
as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Responsorial Psalm PS 37:5-6, 30-31, 39-40

R. (30a) The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
The mouth of the just man tells of wisdom
and his tongue utters what is right.
The law of his God is in his heart,
and his steps do not falter.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The mouth of the just murmurs wisdom.

Alleluia SEE JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth:
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

.

Related image

Gospel MK 7:14-23

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

.
**************************************
.
Reflection on 1 Kings 10
.
“The story of the Queen of Sheba appears in religious texts sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Described in the Bible as simply a Queen of the East, modern scholars believe she came from the Kingdom of Axum in Ethiopia, the Kingdom of Saba in Yemen, or both. Their main clue is that she brought bales of incense with her as a gift, frankincense, [which] only grows in these two areas. Both countries claim her as theirs. Given that they are separated by only 25 kilometers of water, both could be right.”
A seeker of truth and wisdom, the Queen of Sheba was said to have heard that King Solomon of Israel is a wise man. So it’s said she went  to Jerusalem to test his knowledge with questions and riddles. During their conversations, people say, Solomon taught her about his God “Yahweh” and she became a follower.
“This is how some Ethiopians believe Christianity came to their county. The Queen agrees to stay with King Solomon as a guest. An unmarried woman, she warns the King not to touch her. He replies that in exchange she should not take anything of his. He has tricked her, however. In the middle of her first night she is thirsty and she takes a glass of water. He confronts her and tells her that by breaking her agreement she has released him from his. They spend the night together and when she returns home from his kingdom, she is pregnant with a son, Menelik.
The Queen of Sheba raises Menelik on her own, as a single black mother.In Ethiopian legend Menelik goes back to see his father, Solomon. When he returns home Ethiopia he has the Ark of The Covenant with him, where it to remains to this day. According to Ethiopian legend, Menelik is the first “in an unbroken line of Ethiopian kings that stretches into the 20th century.

.
.
See also:
.
.
*******************************************
.

Commentary on Mark 7:14-23 from Living Space

.
After defending himself against the accusations of some Pharisees and scribes, about his not observing the traditions of the elders, Jesus now turns to the people. He enunciates what for him is the main principle:
– Nothing that goes into the body from outside can make a person ritually or religiously unclean.

.
– What makes a person unclean is the filth that comes from inside their mind and spoken through their mouth or expressed in action.

This was a major issue in the earliest days of the Church and was dealt with by the Council of Jerusalem. The story is told in the Acts of the Apostles. The first Christians were all Jews who continued to observe Jewish customs. But when non-Jews began to be accepted into the Christian communities, should they also be obliged to follow these laws and customs? It became clear that, from a religious point of view, no food could be called unclean. This helped to break down the barriers between Jew and Gentile. It has been pointed out that, immediately after this (cf. tomorrow’s reflection), Jesus entered Gentile territory, something he did not often do in his own ministry.

Even Jesus’ disciples seemed shocked by Jesus’ teaching (probably reflecting the reactions of some of the early Jewish Christians). Jesus repeats what he says in the light of the Kingdom he was proclaiming. No food that goes into a person from the outside can make a person unclean. Food does not go into the heart but into the stomach and ultimately passes out as waste. Real uncleanness is in the heart, in the mind. Real uncleanness comes from inside people in the form of “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly”. This is real uncleanness and the source is in ourselves and not in what we eat.

As Christians, we do not normally worry about clean and unclean foods on religious grounds but we can sometimes judge people’s religious commitment by their observance or non-observance purely external things – a nun not wearing a habit, not taking holy water on going into the church, taking communion in the hand/in the mouth.

We may have got rid of the problem of unclean foods but there are many other ways by which we focus on trivial externals while ignoring the real evils, the places where real love is absent – in ourselves.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2054g/

.
*******************************************
.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
07 FEBRUARY, 2018, Wednesday, 5th Week, Ordinary Time
CHRIST AS THE WISDOM OF GOD ENLIGHTENS US IN OUR FOLLY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KGS 10:1-10MK 7:14-23 ]

What is the cause of our misery and unhappiness in life?  Quite often, we think the problem lies outside of us.  We blame our unhappiness on people around us who make our life difficult or on the situation. They are our scapegoats for those times when we got angry or unhappy.  This is precisely what the Pharisees and Scribes thought. They thought that salvation has to do with external ritual purification.  But in the gospel Jesus made it clear.  He said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand.  Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.”

These words of Jesus were certainly a shock and scandal to the Jews, considering that King Antiochus IV, during the time of his reign, persecuted the Jews by seeking to eliminate the Jewish religion.  He caused them to violate their religious laws by forcing them to consume unclean food, as in the case of the seven brothers who were put to death before the eyes of their mother in the Second Book of Maccabees because they refused to eat unclean food as commanded by the King.  (Confer 2 Mac 7)  So when Jesus made light of their dietary Laws by permitting the consumption of unclean food, it surely would have evoked much emotional despair that their ancestors died for nothing!

Yet, Jesus was simply enlightening them on the real cause of their unhappiness in life.  Holiness is not an external performance but an interior conversion of the heart.  Certainly, outward rituals and displays of religiosity are important insofar as it helps and promotes devotion to God and a reminder of our love for Him, but it cannot replace the interior devotion of the heart.

Real transformation must begin from within, since the root of the problem lies within the hearts of men;not with the external environment.  Indeed, as Jesus told His disciples, “It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean.  For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”

So the heart is the real source of our defilement, the evil desires that come from the innermost being of the person.  Sin is not from external forces.  Such secret desires and intentions are conceived first in the mind and heart of the individual.  Action follows from thoughts.  So it is because the mind is evil and the heart has evil desires that a person performs sinful actions.

For this reason, Jesus comes to enlighten us so that He can free us from the web of sin.  He is truly the Wisdom of God in person.  Knowing where the cause of our misery lies is the beginning of true freedom.  The book of Proverbs says, “Happy the man who discovers wisdom, the man who gains discernment; gaining her is more rewarding than silver, more profitable than gold.  She is beyond the price of pearls; nothing you could covet is her equal.”  (Prov 3:13-15) So if we want to be liberated from our bondage to sin, we must look into the depths of our heart.  Jesus, as our teacher of wisdom, will lead us to enter into the depth of our souls.

What, then, is the cause for such a heart, since evil comes from within us?  In Christian understanding, the cause of our brokenness comes from a wounded nature, which the Church speaks of as Original Sin.  As a result, we have lost the grace of God to battle against the enemies of the Kingdom of God.  As the Church tells us, original sin is a deprivation of original holiness and justice.  The consequence of original sin is that our human nature has been “wounded in the natural powers proper to it,” and that it is subject to “ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence.’”

This concupiscence, which is now part of our human nature, causes the disordered tendencies, be it inordinate lust, greed or any form of craving in our lives.  When we give in to these excessive cravings, we defile ourselves.  Hence, holiness and purification must begin from within.  We must heal our hearts and minds so that we can overcome our disorientation and lack of self-control.  Nevertheless, the Church, whilst affirming that our nature is fallen and weakened, assures us that we have not lost our freedom to choose.  We are still responsible for our choices and thus cannot exonerate ourselves from all blame to original sin.  Yet it is true that the power to exercise that freedom of choice is weakened.

In the light of this dilemma, St Paul says, “if death came to reign through that one man, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:15).  Indeed, it is true that sin continues to reign in us but it is equally true that we have been given the grace to overcome the temptations and roots of sin.  What is needed is that we must turn to Christ who can heal us of our brokenness by assuring us that we are loved unconditionally by His Father and have been forgiven of our sins.  His death on the cross and His resurrection are the surety for us that sin and death have been overcome and what reigns is love and life.

Most of all, He gives us His Spirit at the resurrection to help us struggle with our hurtful desires and sinful tendencies.  We are given the necessary grace and strength to resist and overcome sin. Through the Holy Spirit too, we are freed from our guilt and the destructive forces of sin in our personal lives.   The Holy Spirit comes to empower us and enlighten us in Christ so that we can walk the way of wisdom.

Accordingly, we must turn to Christ who can heal us by first enlightening us of our follies in life.  The book of Hebrews asks us to turn to Christ to purify our hearts.  Jesus who is “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”  (Heb 4:12f)  Recourse to the Word of God is the only way to gain wisdom of heart.

We must learn from the Queen of Sheba.  When she heard of the wisdom of King Solomon, she came to discover for herself instead of simply being contented with the reports about him.  She said, “What I heard in my own country about you and your wisdom was true, then!  Until I came and saw it with my own eyes I could not believe what they told me, but clearly they told me less than half: for wisdom and prosperity you surpass the report I heard.”  Indeed, the Queen tested Solomon with many difficult questions and “Solomon had an answer for all her questions, not one of them was too obscure for the king to expound.”  We must therefore no longer delay in coming to Christ our Wisdom teacher to help us under the truth about ourselves and what it takes to free us from our sins.   To know true wisdom, we need the Holy Spirit who gives us the Wisdom of Christ our Lord by enabling us to understand the Word of God that Christ has left to His Church.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, January 25, 2018 — Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. — Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature — Do you Evangelize?

January 24, 2018

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle
Lectionary: 519

Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

Art: Saul on the Road to Damascus by Caravaggio

Reading 1 ACTS 22:3-16

Paul addressed the people in these words:
“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia,
but brought up in this city.
At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated strictly in our ancestral law
and was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.
I persecuted this Way to death,
binding both men and women and delivering them to prison.
Even the high priest and the whole council of elders
can testify on my behalf.
For from them I even received letters to the brothers
and set out for Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem
in chains for punishment those there as well.”On that journey as I drew near to Damascus,
about noon a great light from the sky suddenly shone around me.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me,
‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’
And he said to me,
‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.’
My companions saw the light
but did not hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
I asked, ‘What shall I do, sir?’
The Lord answered me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus,
and there you will be told about everything
appointed for you to do.’
Since I could see nothing because of the brightness of that light,
I was led by hand by my companions and entered Damascus.”A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law,
and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there,
came to me and stood there and said,
‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’
And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him.
Then he said,
‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before all
to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?
Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away,
calling upon his name.'”or

Acts 9:1-22
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, AAnanias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.
All who heard him were astounded and said,
“Is not this the man who in Jerusalem
ravaged those who call upon this name,
and came here expressly to take them back in chains
to the chief priests?”
But Saul grew all the stronger
and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus,
proving that this is the Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 117:1BC, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia  SEE JN 15:16

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

Gospel MK 16:15-18

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
.
*********************************************
.
From One Year Ago:
.
.
There are only two people, as far as we know, that used the phrase, “Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes.”  One was saul. The other was one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W. (Bill Wilson)
.
Image may contain: 1 person, closeup
Bill Wilson
.
Image may contain: outdoor
.
Conversion of Saint Paul (By Michelangelo)
.

Who else in our “modern world” said “scales fell from my eyes”?

In November 1934, a man named Ebby Thacher visited Bill Wilson and sat with Bill in the kitchen of the Wilson’s Brooklyn apartment, and talked about the way this new spiritual answer to alcoholism had gotten him sober.  Bill W.’s fundamental conversion experience took place while he was talking with Ebby, as “the scales fell from his eyes” and he became willing for the first time to turn to the experience of the holy in prayer and meditation, and let its healing power begin to restore his soul.

The scales fell from the eyes….

Bill’s Story, p.12, Big Book

“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

Ebby Thacher with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Ebby Thacher (on the right) with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

***************************************

The story of how Saul, the devout Jew and zealous persecutor of the church, became Paul, a passionate preacher of the faith, begins along the road going northward from Jerusalem to Damascus. As Saul approached Damascus with plans to arrest those who “belonged to the Way,” he had a vision that totally changed the direction of his life. Luke describes the conversion three times in Acts (Acts 9:1-19Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:4-18), and Paul alludes to it in his letters to the churches in Galatia and Corinth (Galatians 1:16-212 Corinthians 11:22-23).

Saul was one of many Jews who felt that the followers of Jesus posed a threat to the Jewish religion. Earlier he stood by approvingly at the stoning of Stephen, one of the seven church deacons, for alleged blasphemy. Later, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, he went to the Jewish high priest for permission to arrest any followers of “the Way” in the synagogues of Damascus, where the Gospel was attracting converts.

The 150-mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus can now be completed in one day, thanks to excellent roads. When Saul set out from Jerusalem with his escort, he had the choice of two routes: One went east down through the canyon called Wadi Qelt to Jericho, then turned north through the Jordan River valley. It crossed the river at Scythopolis (modern-day  Beit Shean). This route would have taken Saul around the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee and up to the mountain roads linking the Decapolis with Damascus. In summer time it is hot and uncomfortable, lying far below sea-level until the area east of the Sea of Galilee is reached.

The more frequented route moved through the khaki-colored hills of Samaria (the northern part of the West Bank/Palestine today), across the Jezreel Valley, then skirted the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, passing very near Capernaum, the base for Jesus’ three-year ministry (irony!).

.

*********************************

.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
25 JANUARY, 2018, Thursday, The Conversion of St Paul, Apostle
ST PAUL A MODEL FOR ECUMENISM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 22:3-16 or ACTS 9:1-22PS 117:1-2MK 16:15-18  ]

The feast of the Conversion of St Paul is designated as the conclusion of the celebration of Unity Week with our Christian brothers and sisters.  This is very appropriate because his conversion exemplifies how Catholic Christians and Protestant Christians are called to work together as disciples of Christ for the transmission of the Good News.  Reflecting on his conversion story, we can extract the kind of disposition, the approaches that we must adopt to work together in one common mission for the spread of the gospel in obedience to the Lord’s command. “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved.”

Indeed, the last prayer of our Lord for His Church was that the Church be one.  He prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”  (Jn 17:11)   Again, He said, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.”  (Jn 17:21-23)

What, then, is the way to unity among Christians?  Firstly, sincerity is a pre-requisite.  St Paul sought to clarify his position.  “Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you.”  (Acts 22:1)  He wanted to share with them his conversion experience of how he, once a persecutor of the Christians, had now become a disciple of Christ.  With truthfulness, he shared his conversion story with them.  When we are sincere in sharing our personal experiences without imposing our views on others, then we will get a better reception.  That is why the fostering of unity must begin with personal sharings rather than a debate over doctrines.  Without sincerity in seeking to make ourselves understood, as opposed to seeking to win an argument, it will be difficult for us to win the trust of our audience.

Secondly, St Paul immediately identified himself with his fellow Jews, their culture and their aspirations.  He wanted them to know that he was one of them and one with them.  He spoke their language.  “And when they heard that he addressed them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet.”  (Acts 22:2)  He also expressed his zeal for the Law.  “I am a Jew and was born at Tarsus in Cilicia. I was brought up here in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was taught the exact observance of the Law of our ancestors. In fact, I was as full of duty towards God as you are today. I even persecuted this Way to the death, and sent women as well as men to prison in chains as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify, since they even sent me with letters to their brothers in Damascus.”  Identifying with our audience is necessary if we are to engage them.

Thirdly, St Paul did not engage them on matters over doctrines because it is divisive.  He appealed to their hearts, not their heads.  Hence, he began with the sharing of his conversion experience.  In engaging with Christians from different traditions, including non-Christians, it is best that we, too, begin by sharing our conversion experience and our religious encounters with the Lord.  When we begin with experience, there can be no room for dispute.  It calls for faith and trust.  This must also be our approach.  This is what the Lord asked of Paul.  Ananias said to him, “The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Just One and hear his own voice speaking, because you are to be his witness before all mankind, testifying to what you have seen and heard.”  This is what is required.

What about unity in doctrines?  Is there no place in ecumenism?  If we are divided over doctrines, how can we speak of unity?  Doctrines of course are important, but what are doctrines?  They are the human formulation of a Christian religious experience or our encounters with the Lord; and the ensuing logical conclusions that are derived from such experiences.

So before we can even enter into a theological discussion, we need to enter into each other’s religious experiences.  Unless we can encounter God from the perspective of a particular Christian tradition, we will be talking in the abstract and this explains why we cannot agree because our presupposed religious experience is not shared.  In other words, we need to appreciate the different Christian traditions, how they originated and how such religious experiences were expressed according to the cultural, theological, historical and even political context; and how they were further developed and refined in the process of articulating their faith experience.  So in our relationship with Christians from different denominations, without understanding their history, we cannot understand the theological formulation of their religious experience.

Secondly, because theological developments are complex, it would be more manageable if we first begin with what we have in common.  We need to focus on what is fundamental to the Christian Faith before divergences take place in interpretation because of different philosophical, cultural and theological background.  Indeed, Pope Francis wrote, “The biggest problem is when the message we preach then seems identified with those secondary aspects which, important as they are, do not in and of themselves convey the heart of Christ’s message.”  (GE 34)  “Pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed. When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone with­out exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.”  (GE 35)  “All revealed truths derive from the same di­vine source and are to be believed with the same faith, yet some of them are more important for giving direct expression to the heart of the Gos­pel.  In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made mani­fest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead. In this sense, the Second Vatican Council explained, “in Catholic doctrine there exists an order or a ‘hierarchy’ of truths, since they vary in their relation to the foundation of the Christian faith.”  (EG 36)

Thirdly, this means that we are called to affirm our brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ.  Like Ananias when he met Saul, his first greeting was, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.”  We must affirm that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ by virtue of our common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, sharing in one common baptism and filled with His Holy Spirit.  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.”  (Eph 4:4-6)  This one faith we profess in common when we recite the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed.

Fourthly, we share also in the one mission of proclaiming the Good News to all creation.  We do this not by expounding doctrines, especially the secondary doctrines that divide us, but by demonstrating our common faith in the Risen Christ through the signs that He works through us, namely, miracles, healings, deliverance from the Evil One and eradication of falsehood spread by the Devil.  Indeed, the Good News is more than mere words.  It is about the Risen Christ that continues to work in our lives, showing forth His glory, His mercy and His love through us, in our words and deeds.  So we will be better off as Christians working together in manifesting the power of Christ at work in our lives, through preaching the name of Jesus, manifesting His mercy and love in miracles and healings.

Finally, ecumenism is completed through charity, dialogue and prayer.  Differences in doctrines are often due to different world views, linguistic and cultural divergences.  So the truth must be reformulated through dialogue, as what was done in the doctrine of “Justification by Faith” with the Lutherans.  Today, most Christian communities, Anglicans, Methodists, the Reformed Churches, together with the Catholic Church, recognize that we are no longer divided in this fundamental doctrine.   This dialogue must continue with the help of the Holy Spirit who is the source of Christian unity.  He will lead us to the truth by enlightening us as we continue this dialogue in truth and in love.   Let us speak the truth in love and with charity without ridiculing and misinterpreting the doctrines of others.   In the final analysis, the best means in the promotion of Christian unity is prayer, in imitation of our Lord.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh

.

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

******************************************

.

Do you evangelize?

.

Image may contain: text

Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.

“Twelve-step programs teachs, of course, twelve steps. Matthew Kelly suggests we can boil those down to just Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian/Catholic.”

The Four Signs are:
.
  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life. These people perform selfless service to others…
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”
I find that these are the same four signs we might see in someone recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism — They pray; They study (The Big Book and other resources); They act with generosity by helping and sponsoring others (They do a lot of “service to others”); and they Evangelize (they do “12 Step work” and help others to get and stay sober).
.
Related:
.
.
.
The most frequently spoken line in the Bible may be: “do not be afraid.” So why is everyone complaining about anxiety and depression in our society today?
.
Answer: Declining connection to the Gospels and to God.
.
Who and what lives inside each of us?
.
.
Our Most frequently viewed articles:
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
Image may contain: text
.
Book: Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
.
Some “Buzzwords” heard in AA that are also common to the scripture:
.
.
*************************************************
.
Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting and indoor
Art: Conversion of St. Paul (Number 2) by Caravaggio. Rarey do we see one artist depict the same bible event over and over.
.

ENCOUNTER, ILLUMINATION, AND CONVERSION: ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

In celebrating the lives of her saints, rarely does the Church bestow more than one feast day on the same person. Even more rarely does she celebrate specific events in the lives of those saints other than the day of their birth into eternal life (the die natale). Therefore, tomorrow’s celebration – the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle – is one that deserves our contemplation.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” The pithiness of the statement doesn’t belie its essential truth, and we see this readily in the story of St. Paul, or Saul, as he was known prior to his conversion. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that Saul avidly persecuted the first Christians, that he was not only present for the martyrdom of St. Stephen, but that “Saul was consenting to his execution” (Acts 8:1). At this point in the story, we would do well to pause and pretend that we don’t already know what happens next. That way, the intervening grace of God will take us by complete and utter surprise all the more.

Saul was party to an execution; he was, for all intents and purposes, an accessory to murder (assuming he didn’t actually assist in the deed itself). And he was hell-bent on continuing his war on the followers of Jesus in the city of Damascus, as we continue reading in Acts: “Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains” (Acts 9:1-2). We know how the story continues from there: en route to Damascus, a blinding flash of light knocks Saul from his horse, and a voice from the sky says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4b). The voice identifies himself as Jesus, and instructs Saul to continue to the city, where he is to be met by a disciple named Ananias.

In one of the most dramatic accounts of the New Testament, Saul encounters the Risen Christ – not in physical form as the Apostles did after the Resurrection, but as a voice resounding from the midst of a blinding light. Since he had taken it upon himself to persecute Jesus’ followers, Saul no doubt had heard of Him; perhaps he had even heard Him preach in the synagogue in Jerusalem. Yet, until that very moment, Saul’s heart had been hardened to the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, to the point where he was ready to kill in order to prevent the spread of the Good News. This is hardly the kind of man we would imagine God to want on His team, and hardly the kind of man we would imagine capable of playing for that team. However, “nothing is impossible for God” (cf Lk 1:37), and the light of grace pierces through what seemed to be an impenetrable darkness surrounding Saul’s heart. Physically, Saul enters into the darkness as he is struck blind; spiritually, the illumination of his soul has just begun.

Following the encounter on the road, Scripture says that “for three days [Saul] was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9). I imagine this time as a period of ascetic penance: Saul demonstrated remorse for the sins he had committed against the followers of Jesus and contemplated how his life would have to change in light of what had happened on the road to Damascus. In his hunger, thirst, and blindness, Saul longed for fulfillment and enlightenment, and slowly came to the realization that they could only come through Christ.

Indeed, it is only after Saul has been stricken blind that he is able to see clearly for the first time. The resounding voice of Jesus on the road serves as a death knell to his former way of life, and the three days he spent in darkness parallel the three days Christ Himself spent in the darkness of the tomb. After three days, Ananias heals Saul of his physical blindness and he emerges from this experience an entirely changed man, one who has been made new in the light of Jesus the Messiah. The scales falling from Saul’s eyes symbolize a sloughing off of a former way of life, a casting away of the blindness that kept him from seeing the truth: that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who saves the human race from sin and death. Indeed, he is so far removed from his former way of life that he is no longer known as Saul but as Paul; even his name has been made new in the light of his identity as a follower of Jesus. The light of Christ shatters the darkness of Saul’s soul and grants to him a new vision, one that will impel him to spend the rest of his life (and beyond) leading others to Jesus.

Another pause in our story so that we may contemplate the person of Ananias. He had heard of Saul, of the horrible things he had done to the disciples of Jesus, and of the fact that he was at that moment on his way to Damascus to continue wreaking havoc. For Ananias, seeking out this man’s company undoubtedly would have resulted in imprisonment or worse. If I had been in his sandals, I would have kept a low profile in Damascus until Hurricane Saul moved on. But such is not the will of God for Ananias. God calls to Ananias, who shows fidelity in his discipleship by responding immediately… until he hears what it is that God actually wants him to do. God wants Ananias to lay his hands on Saul so that he may regain his sight. Perhaps Ananias felt that Saul had gotten what he deserved, and that his reign of terror over the Christian people might finally be at its end. Surely he must have thought it a key strategic error to heal the man who had been causing such harm, and he expresses his concerns to God. Nevertheless, God insists, saying, “This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15b). Again, if I were Ananias and had heard all of that, I still would have been tempted to say, “Really? Him?” Fortunately for Saul, and fortunately for us, Ananias displayed more trust in God, and although he still might have been afraid for his life, he accepted God’s will and sought Saul out, healing him of his blindness and initiating him into the Christian faith through baptism. Without the cooperative faith of Ananias, Paul might have remained in the darkness; he might have remained Saul. Ananias, too, underwent a conversion – a turning away from his previous assumption of how God works and an embracing of a new vision, a new understanding that God’s ways are not our ways. As Paul would later attest in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27-9).

In celebrating the conversion of St. Paul, we might be tempted to wish for a blinding flash of light that would knock us to the ground and eliminate our desires for those things in our lives that lead us from Jesus. I know that I’ve certainly wished for the clarity Paul seemed to have in the immediate wake of his encounter with Christ. However, it’s important to remember that Paul’s conversion was no one-time-only event; it continued for the rest of his life. As we see from his writings, Paul continued to struggle with temptation, fatigue, frustration, and persecution; yet he continued to turn his face toward Christ, continued to say “yes” to the will of God and “no” to that which clouded his vision, and in so doing, he fulfilled the command of Christ to “proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15), and forever changed the course of human history.

http://sites.nd.edu/oblation/2013/01/24/encounter-illumination-and-conversion-on-the-road-to-damascus/

.
Image may contain: sky, mountain, cloud, outdoor and nature

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, January 22, 2018 — “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” — Are we devoted to the sanctity of human life? Or to an unclean spirit?

January 21, 2018

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Lectionary: 317

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

Photo: Fetus at 20 weeks

Reading 1 2 SM 5:1-7, 10

All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said:
“Here we are, your bone and your flesh.
In days past, when Saul was our king,
it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back.
And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel
and shall be commander of Israel.'”
When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron,
King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD,
and they anointed him king of Israel.
David was thirty years old when he became king,
and he reigned for forty years:
seven years and six months in Hebron over Judah,
and thirty-three years in Jerusalem
over all Israel and Judah.Then the king and his men set out for Jerusalem
against the Jebusites who inhabited the region.
David was told, “You cannot enter here:
the blind and the lame will drive you away!”
which was their way of saying, “David cannot enter here.”
But David did take the stronghold of Zion, which is the City of David.David grew steadily more powerful,
for the LORD of hosts was with him.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 89:20, 21-22, 25-26

R. (25a) My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
Once you spoke in a vision,
and to your faithful ones you said:
“On a champion I have placed a crown;
over the people I have set a youth.”
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
“I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
That my hand may be always with him,
and that my arm may make him strong.”
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.
“My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him,
and through my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand upon the sea,
his right hand upon the rivers.”
R. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him.

AlleluiaSEE 2 TM 1:10

R.  Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R.  Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 3:22-30

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus,
“He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and
“By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”

Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables,
“How can Satan drive out Satan?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house is divided against itself,
that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided,
he cannot stand;
that is the end of him.
But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can plunder his house.
Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies
that people utter will be forgiven them.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never have forgiveness,
but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
For they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

********************************************

Related:

.

***********************************************

The Massacre of the Innocents is the biblical account of infanticide by Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews. According to the Gospel of Matthew,[1] Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi. In typical Matthean style, it is understood as the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy:[2]

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”[3]

is the biblical account of infanticide by Herod the Great, the Roman-appointed King of the Jews. According to the Gospel of Matthew,[1] Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi. In typical Matthean style, it is understood as the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy:[2]

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”[3]

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

****************************************************

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Innocents 

With great and terrible irony we see in the slaughter of the Holy Innocents the wrath of the world against the gift of God.

God gives the gift of his Son–an innocent infant. Herod–the King of this world slaughters the infants. God gives us the gift of the Holy Family. Herod killed his own sons and wives. So the powers of this world attack and destroy the Holy Family.

God comes to us as an infant within a family and so he still comes to us within our families. That is where we learn to love. That is where we learn to treasure other immortal souls. That is where love lives and God lives because whoever lives in love lives in God and God lives in them.

Therefore, Satan hates the family. He hates children. He hates husbands. He hates wives. He wants to kill children. He wants to break families. He wants brothers to kill brothers, mothers to kill children and fathers to kill their wives. He wants to break, smash and destroy families. He has hated families from the beginning when he saw the blissful love of Adam and Eve. So he broke that love and the violent cycle began when their son became the first murderer.

So the violence and demonic hatred of the family continues: The story is stunning and simple in its terror: King Herod’s throne and dynasty is threatened by the possibility that the real King of the Jews has been born. Remember that Herod was an imposter. A foreign and from a convert family, he assumed the throne and made himself the King of the Jews. In a bald attempt to consolidate and conserve his power, prestige, prosperity and pleasure he slaughtered every boy two years and younger in the Bethlehem area.

Modern Biblical skeptics dispute the historicity of the story. They say this was fabricated to make Jesus seem like a second Moses: Moses was also saved from a cruel slaughter of the infants. Moses also came up out of Egypt. Furthermore, they see the reference in Matthew’s gospel to the fulfillment of prophecy and argue that Matthew or whoever it was who wrote the gospel made it all up. They argue that there are no historic references to the slaughter so it must not have happened. This article explains the personality of Herod the Great and argues that if he murdered three of his sons and one of his wives and various others in order to defend his throne, dynasty and memory it would have been completely consistent with his behavior to have murdered children. Furthermore, the population of Bethlehem at the time was very small and it is likely that the number of children killed was no more than about 20 or 30. In a cruel and genocidal age this was not noteworthy.

Read the rest:

.
Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2015/12/the-slaughter-of-the-innocents-today.html#JczMUmfaUAOQ7dX2.99

Image may contain: 2 people

Art: Cranach — Massacre of the Innocents (detail)

**************************************************

Homily Summary: Every Life is Worth Living

.
• Each of our lives, and every life, is worth living, no matter the circumstances.

.
• As Christians, we know that suffering is not the end of the story; it can be the path by which the Lord perfects us in love and leads us to Heaven.

.
• We are called to respect and protect our lives and the lives of others, and we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ to all, especially the most vulnerable. We have been given one life to
live, which has inestimable value—how will we choose to live it?

http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2015/upload/Respect-Life-Sunday-Homily-Suggestions-RLP-2015.pdf

*************************************************

Choices of Readings for Mass

On January 22, the celebrant may use the readings of the day, any readings from the “Mass for Giving Thanks to God for the Gift of Human Life,” (Lectionary for Mass Supplement, nos. 947A-947E), or any readings from the “Mass for Peace and Justice,” (Lectionary for Mass, vol. IV, nos. 887-891).

MASS FOR GIVING THANKS TO GOD FOR THE GIFT OF HUMAN LIFE

The readings listed in nos. 947A-947E are as follows:

947A – Old Testament

  • First option: Genesis 1:1—2:2
  • Second option: 2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31
  • Third option: Isaiah 49:1-6

947B – New Testament

  • First option: Romans 11:33-36
  • Second option: Ephesians 1:3-14
  • Third option: Ephesians 3:14-21
  • Fourth option: Colossians 1:12-20
  • Fifth option: 1 John 3:11-21

947C – Responsorial Psalm

  • First option: Psalm 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
  • Second option: Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

947D – Gospel Acclamation

  • First option: Psalm 119:88
  • Second option: See John 6:63c, 68c
  • Third option: See John 17:17b, 17a

947E – Gospel

  • First option: Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
  • Second option: Mark 9:30-37
  • Third option: Luke 1:39-56
  • Fourth option: Luke 17:11-19
  • Fifth option: Luke 23:35-43
  • Sixth option: John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18
  • Seventh option: John 6:24-35

MASS FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE

The readings listed in nos. 887-891 are as follows:

887 – Old Testament

  • First option: Isaiah 9:1-6
  • Second option: Isaiah 32:15-18
  • Third option: Isaiah 57:15-19

888 – New Testament

  • First option: Philippians 4:6-9
  • Second option: Colossians 3:12-15
  • Third option: James 3:13-18

889 – Responsorial Psalm

  • First option: Ps 72:2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 11-12, 13-14
  • Second option: Ps 85:9 and 10, 11-12, 13-14
  • Third option: Ps 122:1-2, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

890 – Gospel Acclamation

  • First option: Matthew 5:9
  • Second option: John 14:27

891 – Gospel

  • First option: Matthew 5:1-12a
  • Second option: Matthew 5:38-48
  • Third option: John 14:23-29
  • Fourth option: John 20:19-23

Homiletics

Although originally written for earlier occasions, these homily notes can be adapted for other uses, such as the current Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children.

Intercessions for Life

Additional Resources

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/resources/january-22-day-of-prayer-leader-resources.cfm
Return to January 22 Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

**************************************************

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
22 JANUARY, 2018, Monday, 3rd Week, Ordinary Time
REALIZING UNITY IN HIS TIME AND BY HIS STRENGTH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 5:1-710MK 3:22-30 ]

Building unity is crucial not just for our mission, but it is the foundation for peace, happiness and progress in every organization, society, religion and nation.  This is what the Lord said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last.  And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand.”  The beginning of the fall of a nation or any organization is disunity.  When the country is fragmented, when religious leaders are fighting among themselves, when society is divided, the peoples cannot work together for the growth of the organization.

Preserving and fostering unity is a very daunting task, especially in this modern world.  In the olden days, leaders could use their juridical authority and power to unite the people.  But today, no one listens to authority unless authority agrees with him or her.  In a world of relativism and individualism, with diverse opinions on every issue, it is very challenging to get everyone on board.  There will be strong dissenters who want to have things their way.  Still, in the business and corporate world, they can hire and fire.  Not so in the Church, because compassion and patience are very important virtues that leaders must exercise or else he loses credibility in leading his flock.  That is why religious leaders often appear to be weak and inept because they fail to discipline or enforce the rules on dissenting individuals and groups.  But if they do, then they are condemned for lacking compassion.  Either way, the leader will be penalized.   A leader pleases no one.

Indeed, this is the strategy of Satan to destroy the world.  His task is to sow doubt and create confusion.  This was what he did when Jesus was accused of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebul. By sowing doubt, people will lose confidence in authority.  Today, we see lots of fake news being passed around in social media.  The Devil is the father of lies.   Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  (Jn 8:44)  He is doing this today by promoting relativism and individualism.  He is confusing people on their own sexual identity, the meaning of marriage and family. He is the one who tempts people to pornography, promiscuity, infidelity and causes marriages and beautiful relationships to break up.

This explains why St John Paul II underscored the importance of communion in mission and mission in communion.  “Communion with Jesus, which gives rise to the communion of Christians among themselves, is the indispensable condition for bearing fruit; and communion with others, which is the gift of Christ and his Spirit, is the most magnificent fruit that the branches can give.  In this sense, communion and mission are inseparably connected. They interpenetrate and mutually imply each other, so that ‘communion represents both the source and fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion’.”  (Ecclesia In Asia, No 24)

How, then, can we cultivate this spirituality of communion?  First and foremost, we need to be in communion with the Lord.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  (Jn 15:4f)  Without communion with the Lord, we will not have the capacity to love our brothers and sisters, and the patience to listen to them and their struggles.  Indeed, to fight against the Evil One, we need a strong man to help us.  “But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first.  Only then can he burgle his house.”   St Paul writes, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  (cf Eph 6:10-12)  What does this armour of God consist of?  Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, Word of God and prayers.  (cf Eph 6:13-18)

The spirituality of communion must include dialogue in the search for truth.   Dialogue is an important principle in bringing divergent parties together, even if it is a very trying exercise.   Often in dialogue, we might never agree on everything.  Still, we need to persevere and never give up hope.  Again, St John Paul II wrote, “As the sacrament of the unity of all mankind, the Church cannot but enter into dialogue with all peoples, in every time and place.  Her efforts to engage in dialogue are directed in the first place to those who share her belief in Jesus Christ the Lord and Saviour. It extends beyond the Christian world to the followers of every other religious tradition, on the basis of the religious yearnings found in every human heart. Ecumenical dialogue and interreligious dialogue constitute a veritable vocation for the Church.”  (Ecclesia In Asia, No 29)

King David is a good example of one who ruled his kingdom based on the principles of communion and dialogue.  He sought to unite Israel but he did not take things into his own hands.   He did not become King of Judah until he was 30 years old.  When he was anointed king over all Israel, he was then 37 years old.  It was the third time that he was anointed.  Earlier on, he was secretly anointed King by Samuel when he was still a young boy.  (1 Sm 16:13).  Then he was made king of Judah after Saul’s death.  (2 Sm 2:4)   It took many years before the promise of the Lord was fulfilled in him. All these years, David waited patiently for the Lord to fulfill His promise.  He was not in a hurry to take the crown from Saul or from anyone.   He took the waiting period as an opportunity for him to strengthen his character and his army.

Firstly, he knew and trusted in the Lord.  He clung on to the promise of God.  “Of old you spoke in a vision.  To your friends the prophets you said: ‘I have set the crown on a warrior, I have exalted one chosen from the people.  I have found David my servant and with my holy oil anointed him. My hand shall always be with him and my arm shall make him strong.”  Indeed, “He grew greater and greater, and the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.”  He knew that it was the Lord who established him as king; not by his own strength.  He was aware that his greatness came from God.  That was why throughout his life as king, he kept a close relationship with the Lord.  He put God first in his life.  He served the people according to the covenant laid down by the Lord.  His stronghold was not the army or his strength but in the power of God.   Unlike the pagan armies who relied on conquest, power, armies and wealth to be successful, David relied completely on the Lord of Hosts.

Secondly, he won over the hearts of the people, especially of Israel, by his genuine love for them.  When Saul died, David lamented for him.   He did not take the life of Saul but his enemies did.  Even after his death, he did not forcefully take the throne from Saul.  He allowed Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth to take over the throne since he was next in line to succeed Saul.  But Ish-Bosheth was too weak a king.  He relied on Abner, his military commander.  When Abner was murdered by Joab, David’s military commander, he was upset.  He made it clear that he had nothing to do with the killing of an innocent life.  In fact, he grieved over the loss of an outstanding military warrior.  To show that Abner’s killing was not his plot, he walked behind the bier as a symbol of him leading the mourning.  He even ordered Joab to mourn with the rest as well.  Then Ish-Bosheth was murdered by his own men in the end.  Again to show his innocence, David had the assasins killed.  He accorded both Abner and Ish-Bosheth a proper burial.  By his devotion to Saul and graciousness towards Saul’s tribes, he showed his sincerity.  Through such actions he eventually won their trust.  All the tribes, recognizing that they needed a strong leader to fight against the Philistines, pledged their loyalty to David.

We too must work at communion, relying on the Lord and not just our strength.   There will be times when our plans are wrecked by wicked and divisive people.  But like David, we must remain firm and trust in the Lord.  We must abide by God’s time.  He knows when to unfold His plans for us.  In the meantime, we need to work with all our strength, relying on His grace and wisdom to forge greater unity among ourselves and those under our charge.  It will not be easy but with patience, we will overcome the obstacles to peace and unity.  There is no other road except through dialogue and genuine love in order to bring unity and peace.

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

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

Pope urges hope in visit to Peru area devastated by floods — “Fill your lives always with the Gospel. Never lose faith and hope in Jesus” — “Unite your suffering to Christ’s suffering on the cross.”

January 21, 2018

Reuters

TRUJILLO, Peru (Reuters) – Pope Francis, visiting an area of Peru that was devastated last year by heavy rains linked to climate change and plagued by gang violence, urged people not to lose hope.

On his penultimate day in Peru, Francis flew north to the this city near the Pacific Ocean to say Mass for about 200,000 people on the beach at the nearby oceanside town of Huanchaco.

“Peruvians today do not have the right to lose hope,” he said in improvised comments in his homily to the vast crowd from his vantage point on a huge altar overlooking the Pacific.

Trujillo, capital of the region of La Libertad, was hit by major floods after six landslides in less than a week at the beginning of 2017, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless. The vast majority of people affected were poor.

 Image result for Pope Francis, in Perus, photos

The disaster was caused by the climatic phenomenon called Niño Costero, a warming of surface waters on the Pacific Ocean that generates intense rains on the coast of South America. Scientists have said climate change will make El Ninos more frequent and intense.

“You know the power of nature, you have experienced its force,” Francis said. “You had to face the brunt of the ‘Niño Costero’ whose painful consequences are still present in so many families, especially those who are not yet able to rebuild their homes”.

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

Pope Francis celebrates Mass next to a statue of the Virgin de la Puerta, at Huanchaco beach in Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20, 2018.
.

Apocalyptic scenes recorded on cellphones and shared on social media broadened the sense of chaos. Bridges collapsed as rivers breached their banks and cows and pigs turned up on beaches after being carried away by rivers.

.

Francis, who has often warned about the effects that climate change has on the poor, wrote a major document in 2015 on the need to protect the environment in which he backed scientists who say climate change is at least partially caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

.

Throughout Peru, an unusually brutal rainy season last year killed at least 162 people, slowed economic growth sharply and caused damage equivalent to 2 percent of Peru’s gross domestic product. The cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure was expected to be about $8 billion.

.

In his homily, Francis also mentioned increasing violence in the Trujillo area, where there have been hundreds of murders related to drug trafficking.

.

.

The pope said “organized violence, like contract killings, and the insecurity they breed,” insecure housing, and unemployment were the other “storms” the area had to bear.

.

Thousands of people spent the night on the beach in tents and sleeping bags waiting for the pope.

.

“You cannot imagine the enthusiasm we have for the pope, our faith is so great that it makes us forget the cold and fatigue in this vigil,” said Roger Montañez, 56, who was wrapped in a blanket to protect from the ocean breeze.

.

Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Bill Trott

.

*******************************************

.

Pope in Peru: When Storms Come, Have Faith in Jesus
.
‘The crucified Jesus wants to be close to us,’ Francis said at Mass Saturday. ‘Fill your lives always with the Gospel.’
.
HUANCHACO, Peru — In a homily Saturday, Pope Francis spoke about the natural disasters Peru experienced over the last year, praising the way in which Peruvians joined together to help one another during these difficult moments.
 .
“I know that, in the time of darkness, when you felt the brunt of the [storm], these lands kept moving forward,” the Pope said during Mass near Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20.
 .
Like the five wise virgins in the parable in the day’s Gospel, the people of Peru were prepared with “the oil needed to go out to help one another, like true brothers and sisters,” he continued. “You had the oil of solidarity and generosity that stirred you to action, and you went out to meet the Lord with countless concrete gestures of support.”
 .
The Mass, which took place in Huanchaco, a beach town outside the city of Trujillo, was part of Pope Francis’ Jan. 18-21 visit to Peru.
 .
In his homily he referred to the “Niño,” or “Coastal El Niño,” the name given to a weather phenomenon off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, which began in December 2016. The pattern caused warmer-than-usual water temperatures off the coasts of the two countries, which in turn triggered heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
 .
The excess run-off from the rains caused severe flooding and mudslides, devastating parts of Peru, particularly in the north. Trujillo, Peru’s third-most-populated city, was one of the worst hit after a period of heavy rains last March caused mudslides and flooding, directly affecting around 800,000 people and killing almost 100.
 .
Francis encouraged Peruvians not to lose heart during these times of trials, but to use this Eucharistic celebration as an opportunity to unite their suffering to Christ’s suffering on the cross.
 .
“These times of being ‘buffeted,’” he said, “call into question and challenge our strength of spirit and our deepest convictions. They make us realize how important it is to stand united, not alone, and to be filled with that unity which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
..
Image may contain: 1 person, crowd and outdoor
Pope Francis waves from his pope mobile as arrives to celebrate Mass on Huanchaco Beach, near the city of Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20, 2018
 .
Many people are still suffering from the damage caused by “Coastal El Niño,” the Pope noted. And it’s possible these difficulties have caused their faith to waver.
 .
If this is the case, “we want to unite ourselves to Jesus,” he said, because “[Jesus] knows our pain and our trials; he endured the greatest of sufferings in order to accompany us in our own trials. The crucified Jesus wants to be close to us in every painful situation, to give us a hand and to help lift us up.”
 .
Like the story of the 10 virgins in the Gospel reading, who were surprised by the bridegroom’s arrival in the middle of the night, the storms of life — both the physical storms as well as other difficulties — can catch us off-guard.
 .
In the passage, we learn that five of the virgins were prepared with oil for their lamps and five were not. “At the appointed time, each of them showed what they had filled their life with,” Francis noted, and “the same thing happens to us.”
.
“There are times when we realize what we have filled our lives with. How important it is to fill our lives with the oil that lets us light our lamps in situations of darkness and to find the paths to move forward!”
 .
He commended the Peruvians for being well-prepared with the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that “in the midst of darkness, you, together with so many others, were like living candles that lighted up the path with open hands, ready to help soothe the pain and share what you had, from your poverty, with others.”
 .
“Fill your lives always with the Gospel,” he concluded. “I want to encourage you to be a community that lets itself be anointed by the Lord with the oil of the Spirit. He transforms, renews and strengthens everything.”
.
.
.

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 6, 2018 — The Spirit is the one who testifies and the Spirit is truth — The “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in each of us

January 5, 2018

Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 209

Image result for holy spirit, photos, stained glass window

Photo: Christ the King Catholic Church (Ann Arbor, Michigan) – interior, Holy Spirit window

Reading 1  1 JN 5:5-13

Beloved:
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God
has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE MK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”or

LK 3:23-38 OR 3:23, 31-34, 36, 38

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel,
the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam,
the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea,
the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed,
the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,
the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug,
the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad,
the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared,
the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

or

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha,
the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala,
the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin,
the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

.
**********************************************
.

Genealogy of Jesus

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus

.

***********************************************

.

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
06 JANUARY, 2018, Saturday, Weekday of Christmas Time
OUR CAPACITY TO LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JOHN 5:5-13PS 147:12-13,14-15,19-20MK 1:6-11  ]

The theme of the First Letter of John is the love of God and the implications of His love for us.  As the children of God, we too are called to love one another.  In yesterday’s reading, St John wrote, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”  (1 Jn 3:16-18)  The question that is raised today is, how then can we find the capacity to love as He loved?

This capacity to love as He loved us depends on whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  St John said, “I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal life.”   Faith in Jesus as the Son of God means to believe that He is truly human and divine.  St John in his time was battling with a heresy called Gnosticism where the true humanity and divinity of Jesus was not fully accepted.  Some thought that Jesus was only divine when he was baptized and “the Christ” left his body just before He died.  This heretical theological position was expounded to protect the divinity of Christ, since God cannot die.   If that were the case, then there is no real salvation for humanity because only God can take away our sins.

The faith of the Church in Jesus is clear.  Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Son of man in one person since the moment of His incarnation.  Only this faith in His divine sonship can help us to overcome all trials in life and give us the capacity to love as He loved.  “Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Only Jesus who was truly man, doing the will of God even though He was divine, can give us hope that we too can do the will of God with a human will.  Indeed, He “emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”  (Phil 2:7)

What, then, is the basis for us to believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God and not just a man?  St John gives us three criteria.  “Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is the truth – so that there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and all three of them agree.”  In the bible, when there are three witnesses, the testimony is considered valid.  Furthermore, St John said, “We accept the testimony of human witnesses, but God’s testimony is much greater, and this is God’s testimony, given as evidence for his Son.”

In the first place, the water refers to the baptism of our Lord.  We are aware that Jesus was baptized even though as the Son of God, He was sinless and hence did not require baptism.  When John the Baptist deterred Him from getting baptized, Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15)  Jesus received baptism as a man from John the Baptist in order to be identified with sinners like us so that He could assume in His body our sins.  St Paul remarked, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Cor 5:21)

Baptism too was the beginning of His mission.  He was confirmed as the Son of God so that He could live out His sonship for others to follow the same.  “A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’”  Confirmed by His Father, this gave Him the impetus to bring all others into sonship in Him by inviting us to follow Him, living His way of life. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  (Jn 1:12f)  As a consequence, by virtue of our baptism, we are to live His life.

Secondly, Jesus came “not with water only, but with water and blood.”  In other words, Jesus not only came as a man even though He was God but as St Paul said, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:8) The death of Jesus on the cross reveals to us the ultimate meaning of sonship in Christ.  It means that we are called to empty our lives totally for the love of God and our fellowmen, even unto death.  The command to love has no limits.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (Jn 15:12-14)  Truly, in the death of Christ, we see the unconditional and total love of God, not just of Christ but of His Father as well.  “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”  (Rom 8:32)

Thirdly, it was not just that Jesus was baptized and that He died, more importantly, the Holy Spirit was with Jesus throughout His life.  He is the witness to Christ as the Son of God.  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”  (Jn 15:26)  The Spirit came upon Jesus when He was baptized.  “No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him.” Throughout His ministry, Jesus was working in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The apostles testified “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  (Acts 10:38)

Most of all, Jesus did not end His life just in death, He was also raised in the power of the Holy Spirit.  “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”  (Rom 8:11)  “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Phil 2:9-11)  If this is God’s testimony for His Son, it means therefore “Everybody who believes in the Son of God has this testimony inside him; and anyone who will not believe God is making God out to be a liar, because he has not trusted the testimony God has given about his Son.”

Consequently, only with faith in Christ’s divine sonship can we be given new life in the Spirit.  John the Baptist said, “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”  After His resurrection and ascension, He sent the Holy Spirit upon them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  (Jn 20:22f)  This same Holy Spirit is given to us at our baptism and renewed at confirmation when we are sent out on mission.  We are made sons and daughters in Christ.  Sharing in His life, we are called also to share in His suffering and glory.  “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Rom 8:15-17)

This same Holy Spirit not only empowers us to be His disciples by giving us the Spirit of Christ but also gives us the power to do what He did.  Jesus assured His disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (Jn 14:12-14)  True enough, we read in Mark’s gospel, “And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it”  (Mk 16:20) by using His name to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, lay their hands on the sick.  (cf Mk 16:17f)

Consequently, we can understand why the Christian experience of God’s love follows that of Christ’s;sharing in His baptism as we die to our sins and so begin the path of sonship; following Him to the extent of dying with Him on the cross, so that we can share in His resurrection.  This is all made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism and confirmation and reinforced by the Eucharist.  This explains why the Christian experience of God is called the Rite of Christian Initiation.  Unless, we share a common experience of sonship in Christ, we cannot do what He did.

Today, as we celebrate the Eucharist, we are called to renew the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism and confirmation, for it is the same Holy Spirit that transforms the bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  Only by receiving the Eucharist frequently, do we receive the Holy Spirit anew as well.  By inserting ourselves into Christ and His Church, the mystical body of Christ, we can grow in faith, in love and in our sonship so that we can live the life of the Spirit, the life of Christ.  Unless we renew the Holy Spirit in us daily through the Eucharist, the Sacraments and prayers, we will lose the power to be witnesses of His love.

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

.

************************************************

Image may contain: one or more people

Fr. Edward Leen’s book “Holy Spirit” is a great read for any Christian. Leen believes that the Holy Spirit lives inside each of us in a phenomena known as the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” Believers say this indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes for the “Sanctity of Human Life” in each of us. And how do we make the most of this most precious gift? We live within God’s Law (The Commandments), and we seek to do the Will of God.

Matthew Kelly tells us in “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” to pray and meditate, to study and stay true to the scriptures, to pour ourselves out in loving service to others and to evangelize to have a spectacular God-centered life!

Image may contain: text

“Twelve-step programs teachs, of course, twelve steps. Matthew Kelly suggests we can boil those down to just Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian/Catholic.”

Related:

Image result for Bishop Robert Barron, photos

 (By Bishop Robert Barron)

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, December 5, 2017 — Isaiah Tells What To Look for When The Messiah Arrives — “The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure.”

December 4, 2017

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 176

Reading 1  IS 11:1-10

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

.
**************************************
.
Homily Ideas for Isaiah 11: 1-10
.

He understands what you’re going through

Isaiah’s opening sentence tells us His earthly roots. Then a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. A stump is all that is left of a tree that has been cut down. Israel is just a clear-cut field of burned out stumps on the landscape of world history, Isaiah writes. But God will be faithful to His promises in regard to His people.

A small, green shoot will spring forth from one of the dead stumps, from the family tree of Jesse. Recall that Jesse was the father of Israel’s greatest king, David. Though this royal lineage holds incredible importance to the people of Judah, Isaiah does not mention David’s name here. Instead, he refers to humble Jesse, which emphasizes three things.

God loves to magnify His grace in mysterious ways

The Apostle Paul noted that God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world – what is viewed as nothing – to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence. (1 Cor.1:27-29) We tend to value beauty and strength, influence and wealth. But God brings His Deliverer to this world in the most unpretentious, unpredictable ways.

The Messiah will not be born into privilege

Jesse was never a king. Being born in the line of Jesse means the Messiah will not be born into the royal family as a crowned prince and grow up in the ruling class. He will not start out as royalty; He will inherit His kingdom.

 

The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure

He knows what you need and how best to meet your needs.

Verse 2: The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. We have never known a president like this. The people in Isaiah’s day hadn’t either. This tender shoot from Jesse’s family tree will have the breath of God upon Him. He will not attempt to accomplish His goals by human means, but will be controlled by the Spirit of God.

Therefore, He will exercise His judicial duties with wisdom and understanding. Unlike every world leader in human history, this Messiah will not require a cabinet of advisors or any of the other political machinery seated leaders need to accomplish their plans, for upon Him rests the Spirit of counsel and strength. He knows what needs to be done and has the power to accomplish His plans.

Isaiah adds that everything this Messiah will do will flow from a unique connection with God, for He has the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. In fact, the opening phrase of v. 3 tells us that His delight will be in the fear of the Lord. It will be the defining drive of His life and work.

This combination of attributes springs from a man in whom the Holy Spirit finds no impedance of sin, and is therefore able to empower Him to do all of the will of God. This level of spiritual innocence and unhindered dependence upon the Spirit of God can only be explained by what we call the Incarnation, when God was born a man in the person of Jesus Christ.

His reign will bring people face-to-face with the King

Verses 3-5: He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, He will not execute justice by what He hears with His ears, but He will judge the poor righteously and execute justice for the oppressed of the land. He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth, and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips. Righteousness will be a belt around His loins; faithfulness will be a belt around His waist.

The hallmark of the reign of God’s Messiah is captured in three primary words in this passage: righteousness, equity, and faithfulness. Each of those words is about conforming to a standard, about aligning to a criterion. And it’s plain from this passage that the benchmark by which God’s final King will rule is not derived from the people over whom He will reign. He is not elected to this office by a vote; there will be no vote. He reigns by the authority of God and rules by the standards of the will of God.

And notice that He means to exercise His rule down to the lowest level. The tone of these verses tells us that He is not legislating for the masses, but in each of our lives. He will render His rule on an individual basis!

So He will judge you according to reality rather than perception. He will not be swayed by emotion or fooled by ignorance of the truth. He will see you for who you really are. No one will be overlooked. He will deal with you with precise justice, evaluating your life in accordance with the holiness of God. And when He pronounces His judgment, it is final. All who are made righteous by faith in Christ will be exalted. And all others, called the wicked, He will wipe from the face of the earth.

Read the rest:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-christmas-triumph-savior-isaiah-11

THE PROPHECY THE FULFILLMENT
The Messiah: Jesus of Nazareth:
Will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) Was born of a virgin named Mary (Luke 1:26-31)
Will have a Galilean ministry (Isaiah 9:1,2) Ministry began in Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:13-16)
Will be an heir to the throne of David (Isaiah 9:7; 11:1, 10) Was given the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32, 33)
Will have His way prepared (Isaiah 40:3-5) Was announced by John the Baptist (John 1:19-28)
Will be spat on and struck (Isaiah 50:6) Was spat on and beaten (Matthew 26:67)
Will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13) Was highly exalted by God and the People (Philippians 2:9, 10)
Will be disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2) Was scourged by Roman soldiers who gave Him a crown of thorns (Mark 15L15-19)
Will make a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5 Shed His blood to atone for our sins (1Peter 1:2)
Will be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3) Was not accepted by many (John 12:37, 38)
Will bear our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4, 5) Died because of our sins (Romans 4L25; 1Peter 2:24, 25)
Will be our substitute (Isaiah 53:6,8) Died in our place (Romans 5:6, 8; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment for sin (Isaiah 53:7,8) Jesus took on our sins (John 1:29; Romans 6:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
Gentiles will seek Him (Isaiah 11:10) Gentiles came to speak to Jesus (John 12:20,21)
Will be silent before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7) Was silent before Herod and his court (Luke 23:9)
Will save us who believe in Him (Isaiah 53:12) Provided salvation for all who believe (John 3:16; Acts 16:31)
Will die with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) Was numbered with the transgressors (Mark 15:27, 28; Luke 22:37)
Will heal the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1,2) Healed the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18, 19)
God’s Spirit will rest on Him (Isaiah 11:2) The Spirit of God descended on Jesus (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; 4:1)
Will be buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9 Was buried in the tomb of Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42)
He will judge the earth with righteousness (Isaiah 11:4,5) Jesus was given authority to judge (John 5:27; Luke 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:1,8)

http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/charts/Isaiah’s%20Messianic%20Prophecies.htm

**************************************

Image may contain: 1 person

Lectio Divina Reflection on Luke 10: 21-24

Today’s text reveals the depth of the Heart of Jesus, the reason for his joy. The disciples had gone on the mission, and when they return, they share with Jesus the joy of their missionary experience (Lk 10, 17, 21)

.
• The reason for the joy of Jesus is the joy of the friends. In listening to their experience and in perceiving their joy, Jesus also feels a profound joy. The reason for Jesus’ joy is the well-being of others.

.
• It is not a superficial joy. It comes from the Holy Spirit. The reason for the joy is that the disciples – men and women – have experienced something of Jesus during their missionary experience.

.
• Jesus calls them “ little children”. Who are the “little children”? They are the seventy-two disciples (Lk 10, 1) who return from the mission: father and mother of a family, boys and girls, married and single, old and young. They are not doctors. They are simple persons, without much science, much study, but they understand the things of God better than doctors.

.
• “Yes, Father, for that is what it has pleased you to do!”  A very serious phrase. It pleases the Father that the doctors and the wise do not understand the things of the Kingdom and that, instead the little ones understand them. Therefore, if the great want to understand the things of the Kingdom, they should become the disciples of the little ones!

.
• Jesus looks at them and says: “Blessed are you!” And why are they happy? Because they are seeing things which the prophets would have liked to see, but did not see. And what will they see? They will be able to perceive the action of the Kingdom in the common things of life: to cure the sick, to console the afflicted, to expel the evil from life.

“I give you praise, Father,  for although you have hidden these things from the wise  you have revealed them to the childlike.” (cf. Lc 10,21)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-luke-10-21-24

******************************************

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

05 DECEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 1st Week of Advent

BUILDING A NEW WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 11:1-10LUKE 10:21-24  ]

What is the world like today?  This world that we live in is in such a confused state.  It is ruled by extreme ideologists, religious fundamentalists and terrorists!  Indeed, how can there be peace and unity in this world when we are all so divided in everything, from morality to religion and politics.  We cannot agree even on the fundamentals of life, such as our sexual identity, marriage and the family.  How, then, can we ever come to agreement on other critical moral issues like abortion, euthanasia, cloning?  If such basic issues that concern love, life and death are contentious, what can we say about political ideology and religious beliefs.  For this reason, we are living in a very tense world.  This is the most unsafe world we are in at any time of human history.  We fear terrorist attacks, which can come any time at any place.  We fear World War III might break out, if not, a nuclear war causing mass destruction of life if relations between nuclear-armed countries are not properly managed.  Above all, there is a divide between globalization and protectionism, whether in politics or in economics, not to mention in religions.   Because of this too, we are afraid that the economy could be derailed anytime when war breaks out.

So is there hope for tomorrow?  This is what the scripture readings seek to address.  Advent is a season of hope.  It tells us of a new world that is to come.  This was what the prophet Isaiah spoke about to his people before the exile.  He spoke about a new world and a new creation where there will be justice, peace and harmony.  In this kingdom, he envisaged the almost impossible dream where “the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid, calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand. They do no hurt, nor harm, on all my holy mountain.”

What a beautiful vision of tomorrow!  Dare we hope for this world?  Do we believe that this world has a future?  Or are we like those in the world who have given up hope for happiness in this world, or of building a world of peace and harmony, progress and prosperity?  The truth is that both fundamentalists and liberals have given up hope on this world.  The fundamentalists think that this world has no more hope because there is so much evil and injustice.  Hence, they would do anything, even offer themselves as martyrs through terrorist acts so that they can gain the rewards of the eternal kingdom of joy, love and abundance promised them.  The liberals also go the same way.  Because they think that there is no hope for tomorrow, they become individualistic and materialistic.  They care only for themselves and their comfort now.  So it is important that they enjoy all that they can and grab whatever they can from others.

But such attitudes precisely will destroy the peace and progress for the nations!  What we need to establish peace in this world is to acquire the spirit of the promised Messiah.  This is what the prophet Isaiah said. “A shoot springs form the stock of Jesse, a scion thrusts form his roots: on him the spirit of the Lord rests, a spirit if wisdom and insight, a spirit of counsel and power, a spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (The fear of the Lord is his breath.) He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges the wretched with integrity, and with equity gives a verdict for the poor of the land. His word is a rod that strikes the ruthless, his sentences bring death to the wicked. Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.”

Truly what the world needs are leaders who possess such qualities in governing the country or in leading and forming the young.  We need wisdom to understand what the essentials of lifeare, rather than just pursuing the transient and the passing values of this world.  We need understanding of the truth of what we are doing, the policies that we formulate for our organization, Church and the people.  We need counsel to discern prudently how we should act.  We need fortitude to push through our convictions and to persevere in our goals.  We need the spirit of piety and devotion to God and to our fellowmen if we are to offer ourselves as a sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.  Finally we need people who have reverence for God and not think too highly of themselves, but that there is a supreme being that is in charge of this world.  

When a leader possesses all these qualities, only then can he live a life of integrity.  At the end of the day, integrity will determine the fruits that a leader brings. “Integrity is the loincloth round his waist, faithfulness the belt around his hips.”  Without integrity, a leader cannot command the trust of his subjects.  Without integrity, there can be no justice, impartiality and honesty.  That is why, among all the qualities a leader should have is integrity and honesty, transparency and accountability in all that he does before God and the people he leads or governs.  This is what the psalmist prays.  O God, give your judgement to the king, to a king’s son your justice, that he may judge your people in justice and your poor in right judgement. In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails. He shall rule from sea to sea, from the Great River to earth’s bounds. For he shall save the poor when they cry and the needy who are helpless. He will have pity on the weak and save the lives of the poor.”

Is there such a leader in this world?  The Good News is that Christ is the promised Messiah who possesses these gifts of the Spirit.  Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  Historically, Isaiah was giving assurance to the Kingdom of Judah, which was under threat from the great empire, Assyria.  It would not destroy Judah but like a tree, Assyria would be cut down at the height of its power.  (cf isa 10:33f)  Judah would be like a tree chopped down to a stump.  But from that stump, the Davidic Dynasty would arise anew with the coming of the Messiah.  He will be greater than the previous kings.  He would bear much fruit and he would rule forever.   Of course, Christ the King of Kings will rule the world with justice, righteousness, compassion and wisdom.

This hope of a new world in Christ is confirmed in today’s gospel.   We read earlier how the 70 disciples rejoiced upon their return from their mission.  They said, “’Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” (Lk 10:17-20)  And Jesus praised God for using Him to restore the world back to order through the healing miracles and overcoming the work of the Evil One when He remarked, “Happy the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.”   Through His works and words, Jesus revealed to us the love and mercy of His Father for us.  He said, “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

We, too, as His disciples are sent forth to proclaim the rule of God in this world, based on justice, equality, compassion and mercy.  We must build a new world that the Lord has come to establish based onrighteousness and justice and to give fair treatment to all.  Our judgement cannot be based on appearance, hearsay and false evidence.  We need to refrain from copying the corrupt practices of Judah that oppressed the poor, the weak.

Instead of lamenting how society and the world is heading, we must not give in and succumb to despair.  On our part, we must play an active role in building a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.  By virtue of our baptism, we are called to exercise the messianic gifts given to us.  All of us in our capacity are called to contribute our resources, money, talents and time for the greater good of our Church and the nation.  The only way to save ourselves is to save the world.  We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world because we are all living in this world.  Let us work for the golden age where there will be peace, love, compassion and a world where poverty no longer exists.  Let us realize the dream of God for humanity when all will become a great family of God where there is love and unity.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 4, 2017 — “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain…”

December 3, 2017

Monday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 175

Image may contain: sky, mountain, outdoor and nature

Reading 1 IS 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Responsorial Psalm PS 122:1-2, 3-4B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

AlleluiaSEE PS 80:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
.
Image may contain: 5 people, people standing

The Centurion said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Gospel MT 8:5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

.
*********************************************
.

Centurion Beseeching Jesus, William Brassey Hole

Commentary on Matthew 8:5-17 From Living Space

Today we read the second of the 10 miracles of Jesus described by Matthew after the Sermon on the Mount. It is a story also found in Luke and John but, strangely enough, not in Mark.

The significant element in this story is the fact that the person asking for help is a centurion, a soldier and presumably not a Jew. Yet he has this great faith in Jesus. It is a sign of the future role of Gentiles in the originally all-Jewish Christian community.

He asks Jesus to cure a servant who has become paralysed. Jesus immediately responds that he will go and cure him. “No, no,” replies the centurion. “I am not worthy that you should come to my house. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” (Words very familiar to us from their paraphrase used in the prayers before sharing in Communion.) And he goes on to say that as an army officer, he just has to give commands and they are carried out on the spot. When it comes to healing, he knows that Jesus can do the same.

Jesus is astonished at the faith of this pagan: “Nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this!” And he foretells that this is a sign of what is going to happen in the future when Gentiles from all over the world will enter the Kingdom while many of Jesus’ own people will be left outside. What is more they will become God’s people sharing glory with the Jewish ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is a sad theme running through the whole of this gospel: the rejection of Jesus by so many of his own people and their self-chosen exclusion from the Kingdom.

The faith that Jesus expects is not an acceptance of religious doctrines. It is rather an act of total trust and surrender by which people commit themselves to the power of God – in this case, the power of God in Jesus. “Christ asks for this faith especially when he works his miracles, which are not so much acts of mercy as signs attesting his mission and witnessing to the kingdom; hence he cannot work miracles unless he finds the faith without which the miracles lose their true significance.” (Jerusalem Bible, loc. cit. Text references omitted.)

For this reason this faith was not easy to give, especially for many of Jesus’ hearers who could not see the presence of God in Jesus and hence could not commit themselves to him. Even the disciples were slow to believe. We see this especially in Mark’s gospel. But, once present, such a faith can bring about the transformation of a person’s life, as many converts to Christianity can attest.

Turning to the centurion Jesus says, “Go back home; you have believed, so let this be done for you.” The servant was cured at that very moment.

What is clear from this story and from many other healings by Jesus is the crucial element of faith in the one approaching Jesus. It is the only condition necessary – racial origins are irrelevant. Luke will tell us that Jesus was restricted in the help he could give to the people in his home town of Nazareth because they simply did not have faith in him.

Let us pray that we may never lose that gift of faith which has, in the mysterious ways of divine Providence, been given to us. And let us remember that, without that faith, God will be hampered in reaching out his healing love to us.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2127g/

Related:
.

**************************************

.

On Suffering — From Suffering With Joy

We hear the tale of the Roman centurion who is used to ordering others around and getting instant obedience.  But he, too, approaches Jesus with a humble heart full of compassion for his suffering servant and complete faith in Jesus’ power to heal, even at a distance.  From this encounter with the Lord we have the powerfully compelling words, “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.”

From this passage in Matthew we draw the beautiful prayer we say together before receiving Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

In the traditional Latin Mass we say this prayer three times.  Why?  Because in Hebrew expression there is no comparative or superlative as we have in English.  Thus, the triple repetition of something signifies the greatest emphasis possible in what is being said.  Since much of the Traditional Mass originates from the time of the apostles, we find this custom retained in the Latin expression of the Hebrew culture.  Thus, we, in praying this prayer three times at Mass, emphasize our great lowliness in the face of Jesus, our helplessness to cure ourselves, and our great faith in Jesus.  A second reason for the triple repetition is acknowledgement of the triune God.  Jesus is the second Person who cannot be separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

I write a lot from the viewpoint of suffering in this world.  Often we suffer because our souls need healing.  We need God’s help to root out anger, resentment, envy, covetousness, and many other evils from our hearts/souls.  Often, physical suffering can be eliminated or greatly ameliorated by the healing of the soul. This prayer of the centurion prepares us to receive the healing power of Christ in Holy Communion when we say it at Mass.

When we are not at Mass but on a bed of pain, we can repeat this prayer as an offering to God as we unite ourselves to the Passion of Christ and seek His aid in conforming ourselves to the will of God.

Source: http://sufferingwithjoy.com/2012/01/23/the-leper-the-centurion-and-jesus/

********************************

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

04 DECEMBER, 2017, Monday, 1st Week of Advent

CHRISTIAN HOPE FOR WORLD PEACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 2:1-5MATTHEW 8:5-11  ]

We are living in a world that has changed so rapidly beyond our imagination.   This is a fast moving technological age.  Technology has made life easier for us.  Certainly, life is much more comfortable than the days of our forefathers.  But technology is blind. It is amoral. Depending on who harnesses it and for what purpose, technology can be employed for good or for evil.  This explains why technology, whilst it has its advantages, can also be used to destroy lives through wars, acts of terrorism, spreading of fake news slandering the reputation of people, and also for cheating and deceiving innocent and trusting people.  Ironically, more than ever, in spite of sophisticated equipment and weapons, this is the most unsafe world we are living in because anything can happen; wars, religious conflicts and terrorism.

What, then, is our basis and hope for world peace?  The first reading from Isaiah says that world peace will come about when everyone knows their place in this world and acknowledges God as the creator and source of all life.  “In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Jerusalem.’”   Indeed, only when all men walk in the ways of the Lord can there be peace.  Without taking directions from the Lord, man cannot agree among ourselves because we are all short-sighted and do not possess the wisdom to know and understand everything.

We need the laws of God to guide us to walk the right path.  As the psalmist says, “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.  It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord. For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name. There were set the thrones of judgement of the house of David.”  Walking in His way, we will foster peace in our midst.  “He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war. House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

But why are there religious conflicts when all religions profess to lead their faithful to God?  This is where each religion must ask whether they are teaching the truth and where this truth comes from?  If it is from man, then we cannot claim to have the absolute truth.  Only through God’s revelation, can man understand the fullness of truth.  Consequently, different religions possess different levels of truth accordingly.  We are not here to pass judgement.   This is what the Church in the Modern world says of other religions.  “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, No 2)  Every religion therefore must purify herself in the truth.

Consequently, “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”  (NA, No 3)  Together, we are called to share our faith so that we will be enriched in our own understanding of our faith as we listen to others who too have truth and goodness in their religions to share with us.  With humility, we can always learn from others and through other religions examine our own faith and be purified through them.

So if there are religious conflicts, it is because of an inadequate interpretation of the Sacred Texts.  Some followers narrowly interpret the texts in such a way that it becomes exclusive and divisive.  All religions, if they are from God, must promote peace and goodwill among all of humanity.  Exclusivity is a danger and we cannot afford to act in such a manner today because it will lead to greater division, conflicts, wars and resentment among believers of different faiths.  With mass communication and digital communication, we need to be more sensitive in what we say and teach so that others will not feel offended by our teachings.  All true religions must point the way to peace and goodness.  So long as they are teaching what is true and good, they too partake of God’s truth and love.

Of course for us, Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life because He shows us the face of the Father.  This of course is the Christian claim rooted in our personal encounter with Him in His passion, death and resurrection.  Without this prior encounter with the Risen Lord, no one can make this claim.  This is what St Paul wrote to the Romans, “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.”  (Rom 10:9f)  So not all can make this confession of faith.  Only on this basis is the Christian claim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life to the Father is founded since as He told Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves. (Jn 14:10-11; Cf Jn 14:4)

Yet, even if they have not yet come to this truth, it does not mean that they have no inkling of God.  It is significant that the Centurion, although not a Jew, showed his faith in God, perhaps not exactly in the way the Jews worshipped the One God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  His faith in Christ was also not that of a divine person but he could somehow sense that Jesus was truly a man of God, who mediated God to him.  He did believe that he possessed the powers of God to do the works that only God could do.  Hence, he said to Jesus, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured.  For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.”  So even with an inadequate faith in the identity of Jesus, the Lord responded to his request.  We can thus believe and hope that even those who do not know the Lord personally, could come to experience Him in other ways as the Holy Spirit makes it possible.

The Constitution of the Church in the Modern World gives this possibility.  “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”  (GS 22)  On our part, we must live the life of Christ in such a way that others will come to see us as the messengers of God and be inspired by our lives to search for the Way, the Truth and the Life in Christ themselves.  We are called to bring life and love to them.  No amount of words and doctrines can convince people except by a life of inclusivity, justice and charity.

We must not conduct ourselves like the Jews who were exclusive in their approach to non-Jews.  They excluded others from the Kingdom.  The warning of Jesus to such people is this, “I tell you that many will come from the east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.”  By preventing others from entering the Kingdom because of prejudice and arrogance, we will further cause division and scandals in the world   Let us be peacemakers and bridge builders if we want the world to be a world of peace.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 29, 2017 — “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves…” — “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 

October 28, 2017

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 148

“To live is to strive to love.”

“For I am compassionate.”

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

Reading 1 EX 22:20-26

Thus says the LORD:
“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.”If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him.
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2 1 THES 1:5C-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Alleluia JN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
.
******************************************
.
Image may contain: one or more people and text
John 14:15
.
*************************************
.

From The Abbot

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

All that God wants of us is to love Him and to love one another. Why can we not fulfill these commands? Why do we find ourselves so incapable of such a simple commandment? When we are honest with ourselves, we admit that there is something broken in our humanity. Our Catholic Tradition calls this “original sin” and because of our sinfulness, the Father sends His Son to save us in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The first reading today is from the Book of Exodus. This particular passage speaks to us of the mercy and compassion that God has for the orphans, the widows and the poor. God tells us that we must be like Him and also have mercy and compassion in a special way for the orphans, the widows and the poor. This is a requisite of those who belong to the “covenant.”

Today many of us Christians forget that we belong to the “new covenant” with Jesus Christ. We inherit the promises of the Old Covenant and have the gifts of the New Covenant. It is our baptism into Christ that makes us members of this Covenant. It is important for us Christians to remember that in this New Covenant we have the promise and commitment of God Himself for our salvation and for our well-being.

The second reading is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians. In this passage of this Letter, Saint Paul reminds us that we must always give example of how to live our Christian faith. When we live with joy and gladness the New Covenant, others are drawn to come to know the Lord. Most of us know at least one or two people that we would consider models for living a Christian life. We ourselves need to become models of how to live. We do that we striving to live as Christ lived, striving to be faithful to our Covenant with Him and by each day renouncing all that is against the Lord.

Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew is very short but also very clear. What is the greatest commandment? To love God and to love one another. This message of the Lord Jesus is very clear: to live is to strive to love! If we want to be faithful to the God who created us, then we must love all others. We know that in the tradition, it is easy to love those who love us. Jesus calls us to love everyone and that proof of that love is the special love that we must have for our enemies and those who try to destroy us.

We are invited today to live more profoundly the love given to us in Christ Jesus. We are invited to show that love for all people and especially for those who are our enemies in any way. The promise for us, the Covenant, is that we shall possess everlasting life and be with the Lord forever.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

*******************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
29 OCTOBER, 2017, Sunday, 30th Week, Ordinary Time
LET OUR LIVES BE AN INSTRUCTION FOR OTHERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 22:20-26PS 18:2-4,47,511 THES 1:5-10MT 22:34-40 ]

In the second reading, St Paul wrote, “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord.”   How many of us can say this to our children, our spouse, our siblings, our friends and colleagues?  Can we say to them that we are a model and an exemplar for them? Indeed, the question we need to ask ourselves before God and our fellowmen is:  has our life been an inspiration for them?  Have we made a difference in their lives?  Have we lived in such a way that they look up to us and desire to imitate the way we live?   We can only elicit such a response if we have lived an inspiring, edifying, loving and liberated life.

Indeed, today, what we need are mentors.  It is not enough just to be a Christian or a worker doing our work well.  We are all called to be mentors to each other.  We all have an influence over each other for better or for worse.  St Paul wrote to the Romans, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.”  (Rom 14:7f)  People do not believe in talkers but in witnesses.   We can teach beautiful things about God and love, but if we do not live out what we preach then everything is spoken in vain.  Truly, many Catholics have left the Church not because they do not believe in Christ or His teachings but they are scandalized by how fellow Catholics, especially the leaders, behave and conduct themselves.  Many are disillusioned with the Church and have stopped coming because they find it difficult to reconcile with what the Church teaches and how we live out the gospel. In contrast, when we find witnesses of Christ, we are inspired to live likewise, just as the early Christians did when they saw how St Paul and his fellow missionaries lived out the gospel.

What kind of faith inspires people today?  A faith that focuses on the ultimate of life.  Many in the world, especially in affluent societies, are finding life so dissatisfying because they have everything they want.  They have luxury, food, pleasures.  They live and travel in comfort, go for holidays often, eat well and have great careers.  Yet, many of them find life meaningless.  This is because many are living life superficially.  They are living life like an animal that is concerned in keeping itself alive.  Such a life is a life of idolatry.  It is a worship of self.  Such kind of life will not make us feel liberated.  Life is more than just pleasure, success and fame.  This was what happened to the Christians at Thessalonians before they were converted.  St Paul praised them saying, “how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”

We have a Spirit, a human and a divine spirit.  The divine spirit connects us with God and the human spirit connects with us with our fellow men.   For this reason, to live a life that is worthy of living is to live a life in communion with God and with our fellowmen.  Anyone can live a meaningful and inspiring life if we live for God and for our fellowmen.  Only such a life can give us lasting meaning.   This explains why when the Lord was asked, “Which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.”   Loving God as the ultimate in life and loving our neighbours is to love ourselves.   In the final analysis, it is love that provides us meaning and purpose in life.  All other achievements when pursued other than for the service of love, will not liberate us or give us life.  They will only enlarge our ego and make us self-centered and inward-looking.  We will remain unfulfilled, empty and insecure in spite of having all that we want.

To put God as the center of our lives means that He is the ultimate.  It is to believe that we are not the ultimate answer to life, unlike those humanists and secularists who think that they can dictate their own future and control life.  We are contingent beings.  Our life comes from God and to Him, we return.  This truth is revealed to us in Christ by His passion, death and resurrection.  And this was the kind of life the early Christians lived, how they “are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.”  Our life is therefore not just a life on this earth.  We live fully in the present for the future, which is to be with God.  We become more humble and realistic about life.  We no longer cling on to the things of this world as they are passing.  We know that nothing on this earth will last except love.

Loving God with our all heart, soul and mind therefore means to submit our entire life to Him.  Love is more than an emotional response but it means to trust Him completely and live according to the way He loves us in Christ Jesus.  We are called to obey His commandments and all that He has taught us.  Jesus is for us, the Way, the Truth and the life. We are called to love God completely only because He has revealed His love for us when He delivered the Hebrews from the slavery of the Egyptians, and when He died for us in Christ for our salvation.  The call to love God is possible only because He has first loved us.  “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”  (1 Jn 4:9f)

Consequently, the love of God leads to the love of neighbor, which is the second greatest commandment.  Jesus said, “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” St John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”  (1 Jn 4:11f)  This love of our neighbor is not just based on humanitarian grounds, although it not does preclude it.  But rather, it is based principally on the love of God for us.  This was what Moses told the sons of Israel.  “You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt.”  In other words, when we reach out to help those who are weak and in need, it is rooted in the fact that we ourselves were once in their place and have been set free by God, whether from material poverty, uselessness of life, or spiritual poverty.  Only when we are conscious that we were once sinners and helpless, can we then from the love of God in us reach out to others.

Of course, for those who lack the love of God, they are still capable of love if they identify themselves with their fellowmen using platonic love, a love that springs from the origin of humanity.  The examples given by Moses illustrate the need to be identified with their sufferings.  He said, “You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.  If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.  If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”

Finally, an inspiring life is one that empowers and witness to others the love of God in our lives in word and in deed.  We read how the early Christians, filled with “the joy of the Holy Spirit” “took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition” they faced.   They were those who were not left defeated by opposition and failure.  They knew that God was their strength. They knew where their hope lay.   So we too can surrender our lives to Him because of the assurance of His love for us.  With God on our side, we can overcome all trials in life because we know that we can win every battle with Him fighting on our side.  This security in God gives us the courage to let go of the things of this life, the false securities, and enable us to give ourselves in love and service to others and not be preoccupied with our needs.

By living such a life that is devoted to God and man, we in turn inspire others in their faith.  They too become living examples to others and a source of inspiration to others.  This is how we become mentors for each other.  Good mentors produce great mentors after them. This was the case of the early Christians.  “This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere.”

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

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, October 13, 2017 — “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste.”

October 12, 2017

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

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing

Jesus Casts a Devil Out of the Mute Man

Reading 1 JL 1:13-15; 2:1-2

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

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

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

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

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

Alleluia JN 12:31B-32

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

.

Image result for driving out demons, art, bible, photos

Gospel LK 11:15-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh
********************************************************
.

Commentary on Luke 11:15-26 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*********************************************
.

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, October 5, 2017 — “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.”

October 4, 2017

Thursday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 458

Image result for Ezra reads from a scroll near the Watergate, art, pictures

Reading 1 NEH 8:1-4A, 5-6, 7B-12

The whole people gathered as one in the open space before the Water Gate,
and they called upon Ezra the scribe
to bring forth the book of the law of Moses
which the LORD prescribed for Israel.
On the first day of the seventh month, therefore,
Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak until midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
(for he was standing higher up than any of the people);
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
“Amen, amen!”
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
As the people remained in their places,
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
“Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep”–
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”
And the Levites quieted all the people, saying,
“Hush, for today is holy, and you must not be saddened.”
Then all the people went to eat and drink,
to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy,
for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (9ab) The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye;
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

Alleluia MK 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 10:1-12

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.

.
Image may contain: outdoor and nature
.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
.
**********************************************
.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
05 OCTOBER, 2017, Thursday, 26th Week, Ordinary Time
PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL IN WORD AND IN DEEDS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Neh 8:1-12Lk 10:1-12]

“The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit.”  Like the disciples, we are all called to prepare the way for the Lord to enter into the lives of people, be they Catholic or otherwise.   Indeed, our task is to lead them into an encounter with the Lord.  The work of evangelization is to offer them the Good News, which is Jesus Christ Himself.  Only by encountering the Lord personally, can they be converted and follow Him in the way of love and service.

How then can we prepare the way for the Lord to enter into their lives?  Firstly, we are called to be messengers of peace and love.  “Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.”  Many are looking for peace in their lives.  Many are confused and burdened by sin and by their worldly pursuits of life.  They live in deep insecurity and are blinded by their fears, which lead them to act selfishly towards others whom they see as their competitors.  As a result, they have many enemies in their lives.  Of course, they themselves are their worst enemies because of the lack of authentic self-love, direction, purpose and meaning in life.  To such people, we are called to offer the Good News of peace and joy.  This was the message of the angels to the Shepherds when they said, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:  to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’” (Lk 2:10-14)

Secondly, to find peace, they need to hear the Word of God.  The psalmist praises the beauty of the Law when he said, “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 precepts of the Lord are right, they gladden the heart. The command of the Lord is clear it gives light to the eyes.  The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just.  They are more to be desired than gold, than the purest of gold and sweeter are they than honey, than honey from the comb.” This was what Ezra the Scribe did for the people of Israel.  “On the square before the Water Gate, in the presence of the men and women and children old enough to understand, he read from the book from early morning till noon; all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.”   And we also read that when “Ezra opened the book; and when he opened it all the people stood up.  Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people raised their hands and answered, ‘Amen! Amen!’; then they bowed down and, face to the ground, prostrated themselves before the Lord.”  This was the great reverence for the Word of God.  Unless we have that same conviction, the Word of God has no effect on us.  This is what St Paul wrote, “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13)

Thirdly, the Word of God needs explanation and exposition.  Indeed, the homily at mass is part of the Word of God.  It is a living interpretation of the Word of God for us today.  This is the task of the preacher of the gospel.  “The Levites explained the Law to the people while the people remained standing.  And Ezra read from the Law of God, translating and giving the sense, so that the people understood what was read.”  For the Word of God to be alive, it requires that we apply the principles of the Word of God to our daily lives.  Reading the Word of God is not simply for information but for our formation in the truth of the gospel so that we can walk the way of the Lord.  God uses His word to sanctify us, to protect us and to build us up.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:16f)

Indeed, hearing the Word of God that is preached with conviction, with depth and understanding brings about conversion of the heart.  This is what we read “Then Nehemiah – His Excellency – and Ezra, priest and scribe (and the Levites who were instructing the people) said to all the people, ‘This day is sacred to the Lord your God.  Do not be mournful, do not weep.’ For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.”  As preachers and teachers and evangelizers of the gospel, if our words do not strike the hearts of our listeners, it is because we lack the Holy Spirit to read the inner spirit of the Word of God which we read.  We must preach and teach in the power of the Holy Spirit as St Paul did. He wrote, “When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:1-5)

Fourthly, the ultimate purpose of hearing the Word of God is the transformation of the person and not just enlightening the person with great insights and beautiful words of inspiration.  As St James warns us, “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.  For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror;  for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.  But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act –  they will be blessed in their doing.”  (Jms 1:1-5)  This was not what the Israelites did.  They did not keep the joy to themselves.  On the contrary, they were instructed to share their joy with others by sharing their food with those who had nothing.  “’Go, eat the fat, drink the sweet wine, and send a portion to the man who has nothing prepared ready.  For this day is sacred to our Lord.  Do not be sad.’ And all the people went off to eat and drink and give shares away and begin to enjoy themselves since they had understood the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them.”

Indeed, in the final analysis, the proclamation of the gospel is not merely by words but by deeds.  The latter speaks more powerfully than the former.  It is for this reason that the disciples were asked to proclaim the gospel, not so much by their words but by their deeds.  Jesus instructed them, “Stay in the house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.  Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you.”   By their simplicity and unconditional love and acceptance of people whom they visit, they are called to show them God’s acceptance of their graciousness, regardless what food they could offer.  This is important so that no one would feel unworthy to receive the Good News of salvation

Then Jesus said, “Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you.’” It is not enough to proclaim the Good News with mere words of encouragement and hope.  But we need to testify to this hope here and now by healing the sick and bringing the kingdom near to them.  For this reason, in the early Church, the proclamation of the Good News was always accompanied by deeds.  “And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;  they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  (Mk 16:17f)  Unless we demonstrate our words by works of charity, compassion and healing, people will not be able to encounter the love of God in a real and personal way.

But we cannot preach and teach with conviction, or find the power to demonstrate His love in action unless we are in touch with the Lord and are totally dependent on Him.  That is why Jesus told the disciples, “Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.”  We cannot rely on our own strength but on Him.  Unless preachers understand and experience the power of God helping them in their lives, they cannot preach the Word with conviction.  So the evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience and celibacy are to make us rely totally on His grace, will and His love.  So long as we can depend on ourselves, we will hinder God from working in and through us.  That is why before preachers can preach the Word, they need to spend time in prayer, meditation on the Word of God daily.  If preachers are not ready to make time to converse with the Lord in prayer and set aside time to reflect on the Word of God, His Word will have no effect in our lives.  A true preacher of the gospel must depend on Christ alone who gives us His Holy Spirit to announce Him to the world.

.

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

.
.
**************************************************
.