Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 27, 2017 — “We must obey God rather than men.” — “The Spirit is given only to those who obey Him.”

April 26, 2017

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 270

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Reading 1 ACTS 5:27-33

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 34:2 AND 9, 17-18, 19-20

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 20:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord;
blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe?
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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During the month of January we meditated on John 3, 22-30, which shows us the last witness of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. It was a response given by him to his disciples, in which he reaffirms that he, John, is not the Messiah, but rather his precursor (Jn 3, 28). On that occasion, John says that beautiful phrase which summarizes his witness: “It is necessary that he grows greater and I grow less!” This phrase is the program for all those who want to follow Jesus.

The verses of today’s Gospel are, again, a comment of the Evangelist in order to help the communities to understand better all the importance of the things that Jesus did and taught. Here, we have another indication of those three threads of which we spoke about before.

John 3, 31-33: A refrain which is always repeated. Throughout the Gospel of John, many times there appears the conflict between Jesus and the Jews who contest the words of Jesus. Jesus speaks of what he hears from the Father. He is total transparency. His enemies, not opening themselves to God and because they cling to their own ideas here on earth, are not capable to understand the deep significance of the things that Jesus lives, does and says. In last instance, this is the evil one which pushes the Jews to arrest and condemn Jesus.

John 3, 34: Jesus gives us the Spirit without reserve. John’s Gospel uses many images and symbols to signify the action of the Spirit. Like in the Creation (Gen 1, 1), in the same way the Spirit descends on Jesus “like a dove, come from Heaven” (Jn 1, 32). It is the beginning of the new creation! Jesus repeats the words of God and communicates the Spirit to us without reserve (Jn 3, 34). His words are Spirit and life (Jn 6, 63).

When Jesus is about to leave this earth, he says that he will send another Consoler, another defender, to be with us forever (Jn 14, 16-17). By his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus obtains for us the gift of the Spirit. Through Baptism all of us have received this same Spirit of Jesus (Jn 1, 33). When he appears to the apostles, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20, 22). The Spirit is like the water which springs from the persons who believe in Jesus (Jn 7, 37-39; 4, 14). The first effect of the action of the Spirit in us is reconciliation: “”If you forgive anyone’s sins they will be forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained!” (Jn 20, 23). The Spirit is given to us to recall and understand the full significance of the words of Jesus (Jn 14, 26; 16, 12-13). Animated by the Spirit of Jesus we can adore God in any place (Jn 4, 23-24).

Here is fulfilled the liberty of the Spirit of which Saint Paul speaks: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Co 3, 17).

• John 3, 35-36: The Father loves the Son. He reaffirms the identity between the Father and Jesus. The Father loves the Son and places all things in his hand. Saint Paul will say that the fullness of the divinity dwells in Jesus (Col 1, 19; 2, 9). This is why the one who accepts Jesus and believes in Jesus has eternal life, because God is life. The one who does not accept to believe in Jesus, places himself outside.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-331-36

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

27 APRIL, 2017, Thursday, 2nd Week of Easter

HANDLING TENSION BETWEEN STATE AND RELIGION


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:27-33; PS 33:2,9,17-20; JOHN 3:31-36  ]

Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.”  This principle seems to be quite clear and straight forward.  No one would be able to fault this principle.  No believer of any religion would disagree with this truth.  This is because believers who are God-fearing recognize that we are not gods and we do not possess the ultimate truth.  To claim that we have the truth is a lie.  We do not exist by ourselves, for ourselves and in ourselves.  We originate from another source.   Indeed, the great falsehood of humanity today is when the world speaks of complete human autonomy as independence from God.  When that happens, truth is decided by the majority and we must obey. Yet, in the history of humanity, the majority can speak so loudly that the silent minority is obliged to follow them even when what they propose is evil and based on falsehood. The decision of the majority is a double-edged sword because it can either be a consensus of truth or falsehood, of good or evil.  In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is deemed to be completely blind, and the blind are those who can see.  Such an irony! This dictatorship of evil in a subtle way is forcing the Church to succumb to the amoral and immoral values of the world.

But what if all religions subscribe to this principle and yet disagree on what obedience to God entails?  This is the fear of the State as the primary duty of the State is to ensure justice, equality and harmony in the country.  If each religion would to push its own agenda, there will inevitably be tension, chaos, division and even religious wars.  If we go by that route, there is no way to preserve peace and unity in the world because religions cannot agree. There is always a danger of fundamentalism, triumphalism, comparison and exclusivity among religions.  We have challenges dealing with the ISIS, fundamentalist preachers and intolerant religions. If religions cannot coexist peacefully, this is the justification for secularization and a secular government that is impartial to all religions.

Consequently, this principle cannot be applied without qualification.  How do we discern whether something is from God or from man?  John the Baptist gave us the guideline.  “He who comes from above is above all others; he who is born of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way.  He who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted.”

Firstly, a person can be said to have come from above if what he or she teaches does not contradict reason and morals.  Faith is not against reason.  So, if it were the laws of God, it does not contradict truth.  To speak of truth means that whatever is taught and practiced must be rooted in justice and seek what is good. It must promote peace, unity, love, joy, kindness and compassion. If a religion seeks to destroy lives, condemn others who are different from them, shows disrespect for others’ beliefs and cultures, discriminate others who are different and causes division and hatred among peoples, it is difficult to claim that one is speaking in the name of God.

Of course, whilst faith is not opposed to reason, it transcends reason.  In other words, we go beyond natural reason and human justice to divine revelation and divine justice.  There are some religious beliefs like the Incarnation, the Holy Trinity and the resurrection of Christ that cannot be proven like empirical science because it has logic of its own.  Revelation is required but only faith can perceive them as divine revelation.  Such beliefs therefore cannot be imposed on others as there is no faith.  This is dependent on grace.  So religions cannot impose on others what pertains to faith.   This is true when it comes to beliefs about God, life-hereafter, rituals, the institutions and the scriptures.

However, there is another level of divine love which is not contradictory to reason but goes beyond human justice.  Instead of the principle of revenge, tit-for-tat, or punishment, one can go beyond basic human justice by exercising compassion and forgiveness.  So the Church does not advocate death penalty because she believes that human being is as much the product of society as the work of the offender.   Criminals are not born but they are greatly influenced by the evils promoted by society.  Furthermore, the Church does not believe that a person is hopeless.  Change is always possible when they are healed of their wounds and enlightened in their ignorance. This is an extreme case of what divine compassion and forgiveness is all about.  For the justice of God is His mercy for humanity.  We are all sinners but God forgives us all whenever we sin and repent of our wrong doings.

Secondly, we need to trace the source of their authority.  Today’s scripture readings make allusion to this principle because at the end of the day, the origin of one’s authority will determine the truth of what we teach.  For the religious leaders, their authority comes from the institution.  Hence, we can see why the religious authorities were anxious and nervous that the apostles could cause disturbance and provoke the Roman authorities to step in and take control of the country.  The danger is that those whose authority relies only on the institution can lack moral authority.  They are simply carrying out the laws without understanding the spirit of the laws. This explains why many are skeptical about institutions, including religious institutions because those in authority teach without credibility and authenticity. They use their powers to suppress and control dissent for their own benefit instead of using their powers for service to justice.

In contrast, the apostles spoke with authority even though the authorities could not figure out where they got their authority from!  They not only spoke with conviction but they demonstrated it by their fearlessness of being cowered to suppress the truth.  The moment they were released by the angel, they went forth to proclaim the Good News.  They could go against the institution simply because they witnessed and had seen for themselves the Risen Lord.  They recounted that “it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus, but it was you who had him executed by hanging on a tree.  By his own right hand God has now raised him up to be a leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel.  We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”   The real authority of anyone must come from a personal encounter with the Lord; not from hearsay or a second source.

This authority of course is manifested by their way of life; not just by their beliefs.  Like the Lord, he “turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal.”  He is “close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save.”  In other words, he must show the fruits of the Spirit in his life, namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal 5:22f)  How do we know that someone is a man of God?  He is a man of integrity, honesty, peace, forgiveness, love, compassion, understanding and tolerance.  With the fruits of the Spirit, there is no ambiguity.

Thirdly, respect for legitimate authority includes abiding by the laws of the State.  Yet there is a distinction here.  Between religion and the State, there is mutual autonomy but yet not in opposition.  The laws of the country must be observed for the common good.  Secular laws that promote justice, truth, and order must be complied.   Only unjust laws cannot be imposed on the people.  The role of the State is to promote economic growth, social order and justice.   Religions cannot interfere unless the laws are unreasonable.   On the order hand, the State cannot interfere in the beliefs of religions unless their doctrines cause disharmony and disorder in the country.  How and what each religion believes and how they practice their faith is not the concern of the State.  Freedom of worship and religion is the basic right of every person but this is not absolute if one’s practice of the faith results in causing social disorder contrary to the promotion of peace, love, unity and mutual respect.

In the final analysis, there is no real dichotomy between the State and religions because both seek the common good of all.  Religions enable humanity to go beyond themselves and offer them peace, love and joy and meaning in life.  The State seeks to provide human justice and the physical needs of its citizens, ensuring justice, law and order.  The State seeks justice on the natural order whilst religions, over and above the natural laws, speak of the supernatural laws.  The ultimate question we need to ask is whether our life is richer, fuller, happier and more liberated.  Accepting Jesus for us is to go beyond what this life on earth can offer. St John said, “God gives him the Spirit without reserve.  The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him. Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him.”  By accepting Jesus, we find the fullness of life.

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

 

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Related:

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From 2015

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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The Conviction to Witness to Christ
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SCRIPTURE READINGS:  ACTS 5:27-33; JN 3:31-36

To be brought before authorities and face charges is indeed a most frightening experience.  Those who have gone to court to face charges or simply to witness their loved ones being tried will tell us of their harrowing experience.  Indeed, just waiting for the trial or the judgment after the trial will cause anyone to lose sleepless nights.  Anxiety and fear of the punishment awaiting an accused will debilitate the person long before the actual trial begins. And yet today, we see the apostles standing before the Sanhedrin without fear for their lives.  Instead of compromising and humbly accepting the high priest’s warning, Peter and the apostles defiantly said, “Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.”  In fact, they even incurred the wrath of the officials further by accusing them of killing Jesus who had now been raised as leader and Saviour.

My first question upon reflection of the first reading was:  What was it that gave them such courage to witness to the crucified Jesus?  The answer of course is their encounter with the Resurrected Lord. But this is not the complete answer.  What is even more important is their theological reflection on the resurrection of a crucified man.  Their conclusion of the resurrection of Jesus is that He is indeed the Saviour.  How is that so?  Because if Jesus had been raised from the dead, it means that the Father has identified Himself with the cause and the life of Jesus.  Consequently, John’s reflection, which has probably been cast as the words of John the Baptist, concluded that Jesus must have come from above and therefore could understand God and speak God’s words, since He knew God intimately.

But most of all, the implication is that since the Father had identified Himself with Jesus in His resurrection, it means that He has entrusted everything to the Son.  Everything that Jesus said and did, receive its legitimacy and verity only because of the resurrection. If the Father has raised Jesus from the dead, one who was condemned as a criminal and shamefully put to death on the cross, it means that the Father endorses the words and deeds of Jesus. Hence, John said, “The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him. Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life, but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him.”

In other words, the Father who gave Jesus His Spirit without reserve demands that we believe in Jesus.  Since the functions of the Spirit are to witness to the Truth and lead people to recognize the truth, necessarily, to know God, one must accept the witness of Jesus.  Acceptance of Jesus brings about life.  This, then, is the choice given to us today.  Life can only be found if we accept Jesus because in Jesus we can be certain of who God is and what life is.  It is this realization that Jesus is the leader and Saviour that gave Peter and the apostles the courage to willingly risk their lives for their testimony of Jesus.

But what about us?  Do we have the courage to stand up for Jesus or for our faith?  The truth is that many of us lack the moral courage to do so.  It is a fact that many of us do not mind living a good life by being kind, charitable and loving towards others, serving the poor and the Church.  But it is another thing to demand from Catholics that they speak out for justice and for morality in the world. Many of us are afraid of being marginalized or considered old-fashioned by the world.  In moral issues, many of us prefer to remain silent rather than to speak and act on behalf of the truth.  When it comes to standing up for Jesus, especially for the Christian Faith, many of us, in the name of religious harmony and sensitivity, are quite ready to compromise our beliefs, suggesting to non-Christians that all religions are the same and that it is a matter of personal choice and preference and not so much based on the divine truth that has been revealed to us in Christ.  Perhaps we need not even consider witnessing to Jesus’ resurrection when quite a good number of our Catholics would so easily give up their faith simply because they had a tiff with their parish priest or their ministry leader!  So how can we speak about dying for our belief in the resurrection of Jesus?  How, then, can we have the same faith that enabled the apostles to die for Jesus?

Firstly, we suffer from certain disadvantages. We have never encountered the historical Jesus in person.  Consequently, we have nothing much to reflect about Him.  At least if we have encountered the historical Jesus, we might have been able to see the presence of God in Him, just as many people today could recognize the presence of God in the late Blessed Mother Teresa.  Of course, we must be fair in saying this because it does not mean that we are completely unaware of this historical Jesus. We still can come to know Him through study, reflection and most of all, contemplation.  For this reason, the mystical tradition of the Church encourages us to contemplate on the humanity of Jesus.  All great spiritual writers tell us that this is the path to come to know the resurrected Christ.  St Ignatius, St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila all followed the same path. Our faith in Christ is not reducible to a cosmic Christ.

Secondly, while a physical encounter with Jesus can lead to a personal encounter, it does not mean that we are deprived of a personal encounter with Jesus even if we have not seen Him physically.  In fact, even though many have had a personal encounter with Jesus, not all believe in Him as the Lord.  So whilst it might be good to know Jesus as a historical person, it is no guarantee that we will have a deeper faith in Him.  But even here, the Easter encounter of the apostles is radically different from ours.  They had a special encounter with the Risen Christ which cannot be repeated.  At most, our encounter with Jesus is a personal one, non-corporeal but nevertheless deeply personal.  This can come through contemplation or through those who manifest to us His love.  It would be worthwhile also to visit the Holy Land as it can help us to bring the gospel to life and enable us to know how Jesus lived during His time.

Even with these apparent two disadvantages, we actually have a certain advantage over the apostles.  For the apostles, they were required to make an act of faith before they could see the risen Lord.  For us, it is easier to make this act of faith because we have the courageous testimonies of the apostles.  The apostles surrendered themselves completely to the risen Lord, placing their entire trust in Him.  They were not disappointed.  Like the psalmist, they have confidence that God will hear the cry of the just man.  By surrendering ourselves in faith, we can be certain that we too will come to experience what they experienced.  In this sense, the apostolic faith paves the way for our own personal faith and the faith of the Church.  Because we know that they are reliable witnesses, we dare to take the calculated risk of giving ourselves to Jesus.  But that is not all.  By giving ourselves to Jesus and His message, we can verify in our own lives whether the teachings and the message of Jesus is true or not.  In living out His message, the truth of the words of Jesus will verify itself.  By following the life and teachings of Jesus, we too will experience true liberation and joy in our lives, which are characteristics of the risen life in the Spirit.  Only with such a real experience of the effects of the Spirit in our lives, can we then testify confidently both to the resurrection of Jesus and that He is truly our Saviour because we experience Him and His saving works in our lives.

This Spirit is of course given only to those who obey Him as the apostles declared.  They said, “we are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”  If we want to receive the same Holy Spirit that brought them into a deep intimacy with the Risen Lord and revealed to them the truth about Him, then we too must surrender in obedience to the Lord.  Obedience is the expression of one’s total docility to the grace and power of God in one’s life.  So long as we do not place obstacles, God will also give us the same Spirit as He gave to His Son without reserve.  Through the same Spirit, we will bear witness to Christ with boldness, courage and conviction, disregarding our fears and safety but willing to risk our lives for Christ and the gospel.

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Homily by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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The last six verses in John chapter 3 speak directly about Jesus Christ. They teach us many wonderful truths about who He is and most importantly that salvation from sin and from the fires of hell is found by faith in His name. The Bible says in the Gospel of John chapter 3 verse 31, “He that cometh from above is above all; he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth; he that cometh from heaven is above all.”

 

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Your physical life began when Jesus gave you life, and at your physical death Jesus will be there to either welcome you into His arms or to say, “depart from me, I never knew you.” And your spiritual life begins when you put your faith in Jesus Christ. He is the alpha and the omega. “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

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Before the world began, there was Jesus Christ. Jesus is from above. This also means that His teachings are above all. They are the highest moral standards, and the greatest revelation of the eternal truth of God that we will be given in this life. This simple statement declares the Lordship and authority that Jesus Christ has over His creation, and mankind is a part of that creation. There is a contrast being made here in verse 31 between that which is from above and that which is from the earth. God sits on His throne as Lord of all the universe. He is the final authority. This is one reason God created the physical universe the way that He did. So far, from what we do understand of the universe, it is vast: filled with thousands and thousands of stars and galaxies, which span millions and trillions of miles apart.

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To look into this physical heaven and see its beautiful and mathematically precise wonders, we must gaze upward toward that which is above. This physical truth about the universe illustrates to us just how far God is above us. Man has many abilities, which God has given him. And in the apparent achievements of this age man has used the intelligence, which God has given him to build rockets and launch himself into space and even to the moon. But man will never reach the end of the universe, because there is no end.

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The universe is an eternal expanse that can only be crossed by God Himself. Spiritually speaking, for man to see God, he must look up to heaven; and to look up to God, man must look down on himself and see the truth that he is sinner. Next time the invisible hand of God gently guides the sun to hide behind the night’s horizon, gaze up into the sky and behold the wondrous glory of God. He that cometh from above is above all.

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You could spend the rest of your life gazing into that black abyss of space, but you will never of your own will or intelligence be capable of crossing the universe and reaching God. As far away as the edge of the universe is from this earth, so too is your soul from God, unless the Spirit of God touches your life and shows you the path to Calvary. It is only faith in Jesus Christ that will bridge the distance between the earth and heaven and between your soul and God. It is faith in Jesus that will nail you to the cross along with Him and give you life anew.

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Jesus said, “Whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” When God reaches across the vast expanse of space and time and touches the soul of a sinner, He not only saves that soul from his sins, but he comes to dwell inside of that person. There can be no closer relationship of any kind than to have God dwell inside of you. When you place your faith in Jesus Christ, instead of existing in a realm where the endless universes measures the distance between you and God, you will discover that you now live in a realm where the universe is your place of intimate fellowship with God every step you take throughout life.

 

The Bible says every knee shall bow to Jesus and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus is above all and, therefore, He is Lord of all. As Lord of all; your will, your mind, your heart, your desires belong to Him. In the absolute authority that Jesus has, He has given you the freedom to submit to Him or to rebel. But before you choose your path, make sure you are aware of where both paths lead. Repenting of your sins and giving your heart to God means eternal bliss and intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ in the eternal kingdom of God. But if you do not trust in Jesus Christ as your savior, then you will spent eternity burning in the fires of hell. And as the flames rise about you, you will spend your eternal agony confessing that Jesus is Lord of all. It’s your choice. You can choose to spend eternity confessing that Jesus is Lord of all in either eternal agony or eternal bliss. It all depends on whether or not you repent of your sins to Jesus Christ.

 

There is one other important truth that we are being taught here in verse 31. Just as Jesus spoke those words which the Father gave Him, so too will those who are led by the Spirit of God. Beware! There are many false teachers out there. Do not blindly listen to and accept the teachings of others, thereby many have been deceived and led astray. He that is earthly speaketh of earthly things. Jesus also taught that he that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory, but he that speaketh of God the same is true. Those that are sent by the Father and preach the truth will speak as of the oracles of God, they will speak the word and ideas of God and not their own ideas. The words of God offer freedom but the words and ideas of man will always be legalist and bind you with heavy burdens.

 

The Bible says in John chapter 3 verses 32 and 33, “And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” What is the testimony of Jesus Christ? To be familiar with the testimony of Jesus Christ, you must study the life of Jesus. There is not a man who has left a greater mark in the history of humanity. Jesus said, “seek and ye shall find,” but make sure you seek in the right place. There is plenty of historical and archeological evidence to verify the life of Jesus Christ, but the ultimate and most complete source to the life of Christ is the Word of God. The Bible is the most accurate history book ever written. This should not be surprising because the Bible is written by God.

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He is the Almighty Who writes the pages of history according to His will. Therefore, if you want to know the testimony of Jesus Christ, you must look to the Word of God. Jesus said in John chapter 10 verse 30, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus also said in John chapter 14 and verse 6, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” The Life of Jesus Christ in word and deed is the only example of a perfect testimony to God. Every word and deed was always done according to the will of God and led by the Spirit of God, and with complete love in heart, mind, strength, and will. How many moments of each day can you claim to have done this? Not very many.

 

Of all the many wonderful teachings of Christ, and of the many great and marvelous miracles that Jesus did while on the earth, the primary and most important part of His testimony to be familiar with is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The Bible says in Romans chapter 1 verses 3-4, “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh: And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The book of Romans is considered to be the great doctrinal book on salvation. Here in the first chapter when speaking about Jesus, Paul mentions the resurrection of Jesus.

 

Of all of the wonderful works, miracles and acts of the power of God, the resurrection is mentioned as proof to who Jesus is. Over in the land of Palestine in the city of Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified there is a tomb that to this day remains empty because Jesus is the Son of God and He rose from the grave. If you do not believe then go there yourself and you will find that that tomb is indeed empty. Jesus came into this world to die for the sins of the world that we might all have the opportunity to enter into a relationship with God by grace through faith. It’s time to ask yourself the question what do you believe?

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Paul said in I Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 20, ”Now Christ is risen from the dead.” Of all the evidence that verifies the truth about Jesus Christ, the greatest evidence is His resurrection from the grave. The Bible says, in the Book of Hebrews, that without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore, lack of faith displeases God. Most humans in the world do not have faith in God. There is nothing more foolish that a person could possible do than to not have faith in the great and infinite God. There are also many in the world who say they would have faith in God if only they were given some visible physical proof.

 

If you were to journey across this land or any other country, you will find that there are thousands of graveyards that stand as testimony to the power of death. The slow and steady hand of time will call all to the grave: young or old, rich or poor, powerful or weak. History will testify to this. There have been countless discoveries by archeologists of famous historical figures: King Tut for example.

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If you go to the grave of Elvis or to one of the Presidents of the United States, you will find they are still there, rotting and decaying. After all, man is nothing but dust. But, if you go to the grave of Jesus Christ, you will find nothing but an empty tomb. That’s the power of God. Jesus said, in Mathew chapter 12 verses 39-40, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; but there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The greatest sign ever given to the world is the resurrection of Jesus. If you do not believe in the words of Jesus Christ and in His death, burial, and resurrection, then you will never believe.

 

What is the testimony of Jesus Christ? It is just as Paul said in Romans 1:4. The testimony of Jesus Christ is His death, burial, and most importantly His resurrection. What is a testimony? The dictionary defines the word testimony as a public profession of one’s religious experience. But it is also the words and the deeds that a person does in his lifetime. How effective your light will shine in this world will depend upon how consistently you follow the teachings of Christ. Verse 33 says, “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” When you accept Jesus as your Savior, the testimony of Jesus becomes your testimony. Just as Jesus gave His life while He was on this earth, so will a true believer make it his number one goal in life each day to follow God. And then, when the dark hand of death seeks to chain thy soul to the grave, you will be able to say triumphantly, just as Paul did in I Corinthians chapter 15 verses 55-57, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

The only testimony that a true believer has is the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is a testimony of how bad I am and how good God has been to me in spite of my own sinfulness. The emphasis is always on the work of Jesus Christ and not my work. No matter how consistent I may seem to be in living a righteous life, the only accurate and truthful statement I could ever say of myself is that my righteousness is as filthy rags. Do you think of yourself as consistent in keeping the commandments of God? One of the great challenges of the Christian life is to learn to rely upon God day by day to help you understand how great your sins are and to have faith in God and His word so that He can change you. It is a lifelong challenge. Do not strive to be perfect because you will never be perfect in this life, but seek to always improve.

 

For those of us who have been washed in the blood of the lamb, then we have the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us as a free gift. Some believers make the mistake of emphasizing their ability to keep the law of God. You should always try your best to do what is right, but you will never be very consistent at it, because you’re just a sinner. Don’t emphasize your works; emphasize the work of Jesus Christ. If you do otherwise, you will become legalistic in your teachings and in your life. It’s all about understanding and appreciating the forgiveness that Christ has given you. Those who do not understand God’s forgiveness will be legalistic and entangled in the yoke of bondage. They will be quick to condemn others. And they themselves will always be plagued by the guilt of their own sins even though they may have confessed those sins to Christ. Instead of focusing on the work of Christ and the wonderful forgiveness that Jesus offers us which is revealed in such wonderful verses as Romans 8:1 which says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Those who do not understand the forgiveness of God will seek some other way to find that forgiveness and justification, most often through their own works.

 

The Bible says in John chapter 3 verse 34, “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” One of the most important principles in the Christian life is the concept of being led by the Spirit of God. Being led by the Spirit of God is simply doing and saying the things that God wills you to do and say in each situation that you find yourself in. The mind of God and the mind of man are most often completely opposite in the way that both operate. The Bible says man’s ways are not of the Lord. The Bible says in Luke chapter 4 verse 18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…” One thing is for sure: if any man is led by the Spirit of God, then there will be a right emphasis on the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are several other obvious and key indicators of what actions and words are those that the Spirit of God would have us do and say. It is important to understand how the Spirit of God operates because if you are led by the Spirit then you in your actions and words will be functioning the very same way in which the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit functions in our lives.

 

The Bible says in John chapter 16 verse 8 about the Spirit of God, “And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” One of the primary jobs of the Holy Spirit is to reprove the world of sin. If you are led by the Spirit of God, then you too will reprove the world of sin. This concept of reproving the world of sin is not an angry, aggressive and condemning approach to others, but most often by simply living a righteous and holy life. Our righteous deeds will shine as a light to convict the conscious of other sinners; and when we do rebuke others of sin, it is done out of love and meekness, not self-righteous pride and anger.

 

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Comforter. Those who are led by the Spirit of God, when they come into contact with other human beings in the things they say and do will exhort and encourage others in their faith. Another word for exhort is to comfort. The end result is that people who have a heart that is open to God will be comforted by you in situations where God has given you the opportunity to exhort others. This is the result of being led by the Spirit of God.

 

Another important spiritual truth to remember is that we have all been given spiritual gifts. Learn what your spiritual gifts are and learn how to use them. If you do this, then you will have a good foundation in knowing how to look for opportunities to serve God, and also in knowing the when, where, what and how of what The Spirit of God would lead you to do in your service for Christ.

 

The Bible says in Romans chapter 8 verse 14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”   In salvation it is the Holy Spirit which draws us to Christ. It is God that does all the work. Jesus died for our sins. It is God that did all the work in our salvation, and we merely accept the free gift. This concept that it is all of God and none of man is the same throughout the Christian life. The leading of the Spirit is the same throughout the Christian life just like in salvation. Man is weak, without strength, and ungodly. We need the comfort, the empowering, the wisdom, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, otherwise we cannot accomplish what we should for God. In other words just as in salvation, doing the work of God is all God and none of man. What is required of man is that he is submitted to the will of God and that his faith is in God. Ultimately it is the knowledge and wisdom of the Word of God that will build up your mind and make your heart sensitive to the Spirit of God. The Bible says here in verse 34, “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the Words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” Jesus Christ had the most powerful and effective ministry in the history of mankind. One of the reasons for this is simply because Jesus lived His life led and empowered by the Spirit of God. If you want your light to effectively shine in this dark and wicked world then learn what words God would have you say each day in each situation, and say them. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. This is also one reason many preachers are not effective in their preaching. Because they are not saying the words and the message that God would have them say, but rather they are saying their own ideas. It does not matter how much you think you know or understand about the Bible, what matters is that you do and say the will of God.

 

It’s not as hard as you think it is to be led by the Spirit of God. It does take experience and wisdom. And certainly those with a complete and fanatical determination to do the right thing no matter what the cost will do best at being consistently led by the Spirit of God. Although trying to live your life led by the Spirit of God takes more effort than to live otherwise. It makes life much easier and life will be completely satisfying. Really the secret to tapping into the vast power of the Spirit is simple. It’s just as Jesus said. Love the Lord thy God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength.

 

The Bible says in John chapter 3 verses 35 and 36, “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Here in the last two verses of John chapter 3 the basic and simple concept of salvation is repeated. This truth has been emphasized greatly in this chapter of the Bible. In fact the entire ministry of Jesus had this emphasis on the gospel as does the entire Word of God. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. “The Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand”: all things especially salvation. You cannot come to God except through Jesus Christ. In reality you have not ever come to Jesus unless at some moment in your life you have surrendered all. No one has surrendered and given all they are to God every moment of each day, but you must have at least one moment out of your entire lifetime. That is one necessary step in salvation, the surrendering of your will to God. It is the will of God that you repent of your sins, but it’s your choice. I Timothy 2:4 says about the will of God, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

 

With such a strong emphasis on how to be saved and with the concept of salvation being such a simple truth one would think that once a person accepted the free gift of Jesus that that person would then live the rest of their life in great confidence, assurance, and appreciation for the forgiveness and eternal bliss that is found in Christ. Yet this not the case. There is probably not a Christian in the world who has not had doubts about his salvation. But God is omniscient and this is the reason that He has given us so many verses in the Bible that Christians consider great verses on assurance of salvation and assurance of the forgiveness and love of God. Because God knows how weak we are in our faith sometimes, and He knows how little we truly understand.

 

One of the great passages on the assurance of salvation is found in John chapter 10 verses 27-29 which says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” Salvation is by grace through faith. It is the work of Jesus Christ, not my works. Those who are weak in the faith and new believers in Christ may struggle with assurance. And those who do not understand the difference between law and grace will certainly have struggles with their salvation because the law is all about your ability to keep the law and the purpose of the law is to show to you how miserably you have failed in keeping the law of God. If you focus on what you are capable of doing then you will doubt your salvation and you will even doubt God’s forgiveness. After all, to doubt your salvation is to doubt God’s forgiveness. Focus on Jesus Christ, not on yourself.

 

Jesus said in Matthew chapter 13 verses 31 and 32, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches therof.” Life is a process of increasing in the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God has its foundations in being revealed through faith. Increasing faith and increasing in knowledge go hand in hand when it is God that is the source. Jesus is teaching us that the Christian life is like a tree. Trees take years and years to grow and become strong where their roots are ground deep in the earth and to where they can withstand the storms of life and also to where they are capable of producing greater amounts of oxygen to give life to the world around them. It’s the same for the Christian life. One you are saved you have not learned everything you need to learn about salvation. The reality is you have only just begun to learn about salvation. The forgiveness of God is like an ocean without a shore. You can sail those waters day and night but the forgiveness and the love of God is a sea that will never reach an end. It’s no wonder we’re all so unspiritual and unthankful. We don’t understand the great grace of God. After all we will spend eternity learning more about the wonderful grace of God. If you want to be dedicated to God, if you want to be thankful, if you want to feel the presence of God, walk close with God and have joy and peace that is unaffected by your outside surroundings then ask God to help you understand your salvation. When we understand the great grace of God and the forgiveness of God then we realize nothing else matters. That is why Paul said, for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And it’s all revealed in the Word of God. Think about such wonderful verses as I John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Or Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Or John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Think about the Word of God, read it, recite it over and over and over again in your mind each day of your life. If you do so then your eyes will be opened by the grace of God and you will see a wonderful world of bliss, peace, security, comfort, close and personal fellowship with God, a world that could never be grasped in your wildest dreams, but can only be grasped by faith.

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, April 24, 2017 — “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light…”

April 23, 2017

Monday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 267

Jesus with the Pharisee named Nicodemus

Reading 1 ACTS 4:23-31

After their release Peter and John went back to their own people
and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them.
And when they heard it,
they raised their voices to God with one accord
and said, “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth
and the sea and all that is in them,
you said by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of our father David, your servant:

Why did the Gentiles rage
and the peoples entertain folly?
The kings of the earth took their stand
and the princes gathered together
against the Lord and against his anointed.

Indeed they gathered in this city
against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed,
Herod and Pontius Pilate,
together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
to do what your hand and your will
had long ago planned to take place.
And now, Lord, take note of their threats,
and enable your servants to speak your word
with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal,
and signs and wonders are done
through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook,
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 2:1-3, 4-7A, 7B-9

R. (see 11d) Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples utter folly?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the princes conspire together
against the LORD and against his anointed:
“Let us break their fetters
and cast their bonds from us!”
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He who is throned in heaven laughs;
the LORD derides them.
Then in anger he speaks to them;
he terrifies them in his wrath:
“I myself have set up my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD.
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall rule them with an iron rod;
you shall shatter them like an earthen dish.”
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaCOL 3:1

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:1-8

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
Jesus answered,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

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Homily Reflection on Nicodemus
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John describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee. Sad to say, the Pharisees are in many ways the victims of bad press. By and large they were not the sourpusses, the spiritual killjoys, that they have sometimes been depicted to be. Simply put, and more than anything else, the Pharisees were people who sincerely desired to lead lives that were pleasing to God, that were consistent with his laws laid down in the Old Testament. They were moral, upright people. They were regular attenders in the synagogues. They were tithers. They would help little old ladies across the street (as long as it wasn’t a sabbath). In every respect they were model citizens—just the kind of people you would want to have as neighbors.

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John further informs us that Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but that he was a religious leader, literally “a ruler of the Jews”. This suggests that he was actually a member of the Sanhedrin, a body that comprised within itself the highest legal, judicial and legislative authority among the Jews. He was one of a number of prominent and influential people who came to Jesus in the gospels, among them a centurion, a royal official, Lazarus of Bethany, the anonymous rich young ruler, Jairus the synagogue ruler, and Simon the Pharisee.

He came by night

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John tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Now night and darkness are significant words in John’s gospel. In the opening chapter John has told us of Jesus, the eternal Word, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). Jesus proclaims of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (8:12). It was while it was still dark on the first Easter morning that Mary Magdalene, believing Jesus to be dead, went to his tomb (20:1). And perhaps most significantly of all, after Judas leaves the Passover supper in the upper room, John laconically remarks, “And it was night” (13:30).

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So it was significant for John that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. And we need to ask ourselves, why? It may easily have been because the crowds that so regularly followed Jesus had dispersed. Things would definitely have been quieter and there would have been opportunity for a more in-depth conversation. It has been my experience that some of the most significant conversations in my life have taken place at night.
Yet I rather think there was a different reason that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night—and it was that he did not wish to be seen. To me this corresponds with Nicodemus as we meet him at two other points in John’s gospel. The first incident is in chapter 7. It is the Feast of Booths, or Succoth. Knowing that there are plots to do away with him, Jesus has gone to Jerusalem secretly, not even telling his brothers. Midway through the festival, however, he begins to teach in the Temple. Inevitably there is controversy over him but the Temple police hold back from arresting him. When the Pharisees criticize the police for their inaction, it is Nicodemus who stands up and asks, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” And that, for the moment at least, seems to be the end of the matter.

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The final time we meet with Nicodemus is towards the end of the gospel. Jesus has died on the cross and Joseph of Arimathea has petitioned Pontius Pilate for his body. Then John tells us, “Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.” I think it is significant that John chooses to identify Nicodemus as the one who came to Jesus by night, under cover of darkness. It seems to me that, while Nicodemus had sympathy for Jesus, he was one that always stood in the shadows. He was never quite willing to come out into the light.

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I suppose there is a parallel with Peter at this point, in his threefold denial of Jesus as he warmed himself in the courtyard of the high priest. Yet Peter we hear from again. He is reconciled and restored. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. He later answers the high priest and the Sanhedrin, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Nicodemus himself may well have been there at the time when Peter spoke. Yet we never hear from him again. He simply slips into the shadows whence he came.

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The tragedy is that down through the centuries to our present day there have been many Nicodemuses, men and women who respect Jesus, who admire him. Yet whether it is for fear or some other reason, they find themselves unable to step out into the light and identify with him. So it is that as the chapter unfolds that John comments (and I believe with a deep sense of sorrow), “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light…”

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Born from above

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So it is that under the shadows and with no one around Nicodemus begins by expressing his admiration for Jesus. “Rabbi…,” and even to use the term rabbi to a man who had no formal training and was his junior in every way was to show enormous respect. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God were with him.” To which Jesus gives the puzzling reply, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Jesus’ words are literally, “Amen, amen, I say to you…” They carry a solemnity and an earnestness to them that the English cannot convey.

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“Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” What was it that prompted these enigmatic words? The answer is to be found in the way that John introduces Nicodemus to us in the first verse. Literally it goes like this: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus…” This is an odd way to describe someone in English, so most of our English translations have simplified it to something like what we see in our pew Bibles: “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus…” But it is an odd turn of phrase in Greek also; and John has chosen to use it specifically because of what he has just finished saying in the previous paragraph, which if you read it literally, goes, “Jesus did not need anyone to testify about man, for he knew what was in man.”

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Then he continues, “There was aman…”

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What I can only conclude is that Jesus knew exactly what was going on in Nicodemus’ heart—and he chose to speak not to his words but directly to his heart. Remember that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. His whole life was dedicated to obedience to the Law. What Jesus was saying was, “Nicodemus, you have spent your entire life doing things for God. And tragically you have missed the point. It’s not about what you can do for God. It’s about what God wants to do in you.”

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To see how focused Nicodemus was on doing things, you have only to look at his response: “Can one enter a second time into one’s mother’s womb and be born?” For him it was all about what he could do: his efforts, his hard work, his endeavors. And so Jesus drives the point home again. “Listen, Nicodemus, while I tell you another time: no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” As Tim Keller has put it, “I contributed nothing to my birth: I contribute nothing to my being born again.”

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The Spirit blows

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Jesus makes the same point again when he shifts from the mystery of birth to the mystery of the wind. “You hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going.” In both Hebrew and Greek the same word can be used to mean “wind” or “spirit”. No one can control the wind. Here in Minnesota we are reminded of that at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. We cannot control the wind, but we can harness it. And we are reminded of that as we cross the prairie and see rows of enormous wind turbines.

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In 2012 wind turbines in this country generated 140 million megawatt-hours of electrical power.
What Jesus was inviting Nicodemus to was to allow the Holy Spirit to blow through his life—to allow the Spirit to do in him what, even with the strictest obedience, even with the most valiant of efforts, he could never achieve for himself. Later in the New Testament we meet with another Pharisee who did take to heart what Jesus taught.

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He wrote, If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

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Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

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Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus occupies a very special place in my own life as well. I first overheard it many years ago when I was a senior in high school. I had become involved in church and was trying to live a Christian life, but I always sensed that there was something missing. I had begun reading the New Testament and was several months into it when I arrived at this passage. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, it was as though he were speaking to me: “In very truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” It was on reading those words that I knelt and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life—and he became a reality for me in a way that he had never been before.

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Nicodemus never came out of the shadows. But thank God that you and I have the opportunity to let him do his work in us. “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”

http://notworthyofthename.blogspot.com/2014/03/nicodemus.html

 

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Commentary on John 3:1-8 From Living Space

Today we go back to the early part of John’s gospel and begin reading chapter 3.  In the coming Easter weeks we will be going through John’s gospel more or less in order.

Today we see the encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee who was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the governing council of the Jews.  He was, then, a very highly placed official.

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  This, on the one hand, indicates his fear of being seen by others but, on the other, probably also has a symbolic meaning.  Religious man though he was, when he came to Jesus he was in a kind of spiritual darkness.  His virtue is that he comes to seek light.  Jesus, of course, is the Light of the World.  (On the other hand, in the following chapter, the Samaritan woman will meet Jesus in the full blaze of the midday sun.)

Nicodemus begins by praising Jesus.  No man, he says, could do the things that Jesus did if he did not come from God.  (Given the fact that at this stage of John’s gospel Jesus has hardly begun his public life, it is odd that Nicodemus can make this statement.  But it shows that the events described in this gospel are not to be taken with a strict chronology.  This gospel is rather a set of themes about the role of Jesus for us and the world.)

Nicodemus sees in Jesus a prophet, a man of God but has yet to recognise the full identity of Jesus.  Jesus counters by saying that no one can see the rule, the kingdom, of God unless “he is born from above” (or “born again” – both readings are possible and the meaning is basically the same).  Though very common in the other gospels, the term ‘Kingdom of God’ is only used here in John (vv. 3 and 5).  Its equivalent in the rest of John’s gospel is ‘life’.  To be truly in the Kingdom of God, to be fully integrated in the Reign or Rule of God is to be fully alive.

Nicodemus hears Jesus literally.  “How can a man be born again when he is old?  Is he to return to his mother’s womb and start life all over again?” His misunderstanding gives Jesus the opportunity to lead Nicodemus to a deeper understanding.  To be born again is to be born of “water and the Spirit”, a clear reference to Christian baptism.  Flesh only produces flesh (as in natural birth) but the Spirit gives birth to spirit and that is the second birth we all need to undergo.

“You must all be begotten from above.”  A statement directed to all and not just to Nicodemus.

And, once we are reborn in the Spirit, we let ourselves be led to where God wishes.  “The wind blows where it will.  You hear the sound it makes but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes.”  The ‘wind’, ‘breath’ of the Holy Spirit is the sole Guide for our lives.  He brings about our renewal in his own way.  The word for “wind” here is a word which also means “breath” and “spirit” [Greek, pneuma, pneuma].

Once we are guided by the Spirit we have put ourselves totally in God’s hands ready to be led wherever God wants us to go. This is the message which is being given to Nicodemus.  He must be ready to move in a different direction from that which has guided his life up to this.  This readiness will lead him to see in Jesus the Word of God.

We, too, wherever we happen to be right now must ever be ready for God, through his Spirit, to call us in a new direction and to follow his lead.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1022g/

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Gospel today presents part of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus. Nicodemus appears several times in the Gospel of:
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John (Jn 3, 1-13; 7, 50-52; 19, 39). He was a person who held a certain social position. He was a leader among the Jews and formed part of the supreme tribunal, called the Synedrium. In the Gospel of John, he represents the group of Jews who were pious and sincere, but who did not succeed in understanding everything which Jesus said and did. Nicodemus had heard about the signs and the wonderful things that Jesus did, and he was struck, amazed.
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He wanted to speak with Jesus in order to understand better. He was a cultured person, who thought he believed the things of God. He expected the Messiah with the Book of the Law in his hand to verify if the novelty announced by Jesus would arrive. Jesus makes Nicodemus understand that the only way to understand the things of God is to be born again! Today this same thing happens. Some like Nicodemus: accept as new only what agrees with their ideas. What does not agree with their ideas is rejected and considered contrary to tradition. Others allow themselves to be surprised from facts and are not afraid to say: “I have been born anew!”
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• John 3, 1: A man called Nicodemus. Shortly before the encounter of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist was speaking of the imperfect faith of certain persons who were interested only in the miracles of Jesus (Jn 2, 23-25). Nicodemus was one of these persons. He had good will, but his faith was still imperfect. The conversation with Jesus helped him to perceive that he has to advance in order to be able to deepen his faith in Jesus and in God.
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• John 3, 2: 1st question of Nicodemus: the tension between what is old and what is new. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a prominent person among the Jews and with a good common sense. He went to meet Jesus at night and said to him: “Rabbì, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him”. Nicodemus gives an opinion of Jesus according to arguments which he, Nicodemus himself, has within himself. This is already important, but it is not enough to know Jesus. The signs which Jesus works can arouse a person and awake in the person some interest. They can generate curiosity, but they do not generate greater faith. They do not make one see the Kingdom of God present in Jesus. For this reason it is necessary to advance, to take one more step. Which is this step?
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• John 3, 3: The response of Jesus: “You must be born again!” In order that Nicodemus can perceive the Kingdom present in Jesus, he should be born again, from above. Anyone who tries to understand Jesus only from his arguments alone does not succeed to understand him. Jesus is much greater. If Nicodemus remains only with the catechism of the past in his hand, he will not succeed to understand Jesus. He should open his hand completely. He should set aside his own certainties and his security and abandon himself totally. He should make a choice between, on the one hand, the security which comes from the organized religion with its laws and traditions and, on the other hand, launch himself to the adventure of the Spirit which Jesus proposes to him.
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• John 3, 4: 2nd question of Nicodemus: How can anyone who is already old be born again? Nicodemus does not give in and returns with the same question with a certain irony: “How can a man be born when he is old? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born again?” Nicodemus takes the words of Jesus literally and, because of this, he understands nothing. He should have perceived that the words of Jesus had a symbolic sense.
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• John 3, 5-8: The answer of Jesus: To be born from above, to be born from the Spirit. Jesus explains what it means: to be born from above or to be born again. It is “To be born from water and the Spirit”. Here we have a very clear reference to Baptism. Through the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist invites us to review our Baptism. He gives the following words: “What is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is Spirit”. Flesh means that which is born only from our ideas. What is born from us is within our reach. To be born of the Spirit is another thing!
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The Spirit is like the wind. “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going; so it is with anyone who is born of the Spirit”. The wind has within itself, a direction, a route. We perceive the direction of the wind, for example, the North wind or the wind coming from the South, but we do not know, nor can we control the cause why the wind moves in this or that direction. This is the way the Spirit is. “No one is the master of the Spirit” (Ecl 8, 8). What characterizes the wind best, the Spirit, is liberty. The wind, the Spirit, is free, He cannot be controlled. He acts on others and nobody can act on him. His origin is a mystery. The boat must first find the route of the wind. Then it has to place the sails according to that route. That is what Nicodemus should do and what we should all do.
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• A key to understand better the words of Jesus on the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew language uses the same word to say wind and spirit. As we have said the wind has within it a route, a direction: the North wind, the wind from the South. The Spirit of God has a route, a project, which already manifested itself in creation. The Spirit was present in creation under the form of a bird which flew over the waters of the chaos (Jn 1, 2). Year after year, he renews the face of the earth and sets nature through the sequence of the seasons (Ps 104, 30; 147, 18). The same is also present in history.
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He makes the Red Sea move back (Ex 14, 21) and he gives quails to the people to eat (Nb 11, 31). He accompanies Moses and, beginning with him, he distributes the leaders of the people (Nb 11, 24-25). He took the leaders and took them to carry out liberating actions: Othniel (Jg 3, 10), Gideon (Jg 6, 34), Jephthah (Jg 11, 29), Samson (Jg 13, 25; 14, 6.19; 15, 14), Saul (1S 11, 6), and Deborah, the prophetess (Jg 4, 4). He is present in the group of the prophets and acts in them with the force which is contagious (1S 10, 5-6. 10), his action in the prophets produces envy in the others. But Moses reacts: “If only all Yahweh’s people were prophets, and Yahweh had given them his spirit!” (Nb 11, 29).
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• All along the centuries the hope grew that the Spirit of God would have oriented the Messiah in the realization of God’s project (Is 11, 1-9) and it would have descended upon all the people of God (Ez 36, 27; 39, 29; Is 32, 15; 44, 3). The great promise of the Spirit appears in various ways in the prophets of the exile: the vision of the dry bones, risen by the force of the Spirit of God (Ez 37, 1-14); the effusion of the Spirit of God on all the people (Jl 3, 1-5); the vision of the Messiah-Servant who will be anointed by the Spirit to establish the right on earth and announce the Good News to the poor (Is 42, 1; 44, 1-3; 61, 1-3). They perceive a future, in which people, always more and more, are reborn thanks to the effusion of the Spirit (Ez 36, 26-27; Ps 51, 12; cf. Is 32, 15-20).
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• The Gospel of John uses many images and symbols to signify the action of the Spirit. Just like in creation (Gn 1, 1), in the same way the Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove, coming from heaven” (Jn 1, 32). It is the beginning of the new creation! Jesus pronounces the words of God and communicates to us His Spirit (Jn 3, 34). His words are spirit and life (Jn 6, 63). When Jesus announces that he is going to the Father, he says that he will send another Consoler, another defender, so that he can remain with us. He is the Holy Spirit (Jn 14, 16-17). Through his Passion, death and resurrection, Jesus obtains for us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism all of us receive this same Spirit of Jesus (Jn 1, 33). When he appears to the Apostles, he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20, 22). The Spirit is like the water which springs up from persons who believe in Jesus (Jn 7, 37-39; 4, 14).
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The first effect of the action of the Spirit in us is reconciliation: “If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins they are retained” (Jn 20, 23). The Spirit is given to us in order to be able to remember and understand the full meaning of the words of Jesus (Jn 14, 26; 16, 12-13). Animated by the Spirit of Jesus we can adore God any place (Jn 4, 23-24). Here is realized the liberty of the Spirit of whom Saint Paul speaks: “Where the Spirit is, there is liberty” (2 Co 3, 17).

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Personal questions
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• How do you react before the new things which present themselves; like Nicodemus or do you accept God’s surprises?
• Jesus compares the action of the Holy Spirit with the wind (Jn 3, 8). What does this comparison reveal to me about the action of the Spirit of God in my life? Have you already had some experience which has given you the impression of being born again?
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Concluding prayer
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I will bless Yahweh at all times,
his praise continually on my lips.
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice. (Ps 34,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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24 APRIL, 2017, Monday, 2nd Week of Easter
PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS WITH ALL BOLDNESS IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:23-31; JOHN 3:1-8 ]

When we read of the courage of Peter and John in proclaiming the gospel with such boldness, we wonder where they got such power of witnessing from.  After being arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, threatened and warned, then released, they continued undeterred to proclaim the Good News about Jesus Christ.  The greater the opposition from the authorities, the more they were emboldened to proclaim about Jesus, without fear of man or for their lives.  Most of us would succumb to opposition.  How many of us can withstand fierce criticisms of our Catholic beliefs, especially with regard to morality when the secular world attacks us?  We are afraid to be unpopular.  Few would risk their reputation in the world, tolerate being misunderstood and ridiculed.  Going to jail and losing our family is not something we are willing to sacrifice for Jesus and our faith.   But the apostles and the early Christians were ever ready.

What is the source of their strength and motivation if the not the power of the Holy Spirit?  Jesus in the gospel told Nicodemus that if we want to enter the Kingdom of God, we must be reborn again in the Holy Spirit.   He said, “I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”   This Kingdom of God, unlike what the Jews thought, is not so much an earthly territorial spatial kingdom.  It is the rule of God in our hearts.  Great things happen to anyone who allows the rule of God to happen in his or her life.  To enter the Kingdom is to live by and under the power of God’s rule.

That was what the apostles prayed in the early Church.  They saw themselves under the rule of God. “They lifted up their voice to God all together, ‘Master, it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them.’”  First and foremost, they acknowledged that God is the supreme ruler and the creator. Everything is under His rule. God is therefore sovereign in all things.  Quoting from the psalm, they recognized the fulfillment of the prophecy of King David when he said, “Why this arrogance among the nations, these futile plots among the peoples? Kings on earth setting out to war, princes making an alliance, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”  Applying this opposition to Jesus, they said, “This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen.”  So nothing is not within the radar of God.

No matter what happens, God is in charge. Again quoting from the psalm, the early Christians saw how God was supreme over all peoples and that nothing could derail the plan of God for humanity.  The psalmist said, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord is laughing them to scorn. Then he will speak in his anger, his rage will strike them with terror. ‘It is I who have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’”  True enough, this prophecy is fulfilled in Christ.  He was ridiculed, mocked, wrongly condemned as a criminal but the authorities on earth could not bind Him.  God raised Him from the dead and proved His enemies wrong.

How, then, can we enter into the heart of God if not through His Holy Spirit?  This was what the Lord told Nicodemus.  Jesus said, “Unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God: what is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  So it is through baptism that we are reborn in the Holy Spirit.  Baptism has always been the ordinary means when God would fill His people with His Holy Spirit.  He comes to dwell in us in the Holy Spirit and recreates us as His children and makes us into a new creation.

The Holy Spirit is the power of God.  He is the force of God.  Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.”  With the Holy Spirit, God works beyond human calculation and our limitations.  The Holy Spirit can empower us, enlighten us, and give us the gift of speech and eloquence as He did to the uneducated apostles when they could argue and defend their position confidently and convincingly before the educated scholars of religion.  Instead of putting faith in themselves, they put their faith in God.  This is what the responsorial psalm says, “Blessed are they who put their trust in God.”

The Holy Spirit also leads us to Jesus.  In their prayer to God, they said, “Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  The disciples were fully aware that whatever they did or said, it was never from their own strength or their capacity.  They were exercising the ministry in the name of Jesus.  The miracles and healings they worked were never attributed to themselves but always in the name of the Lord.  The Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus, continued to work in their ministry.  That they could perform the same miracles that Jesus did, proved beyond doubt that He had risen and that He lived and reigned in the hearts of His disciples.  As Nicodemus said, “’Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.”

So we need to be connected with the Holy Spirit if we are to do what the apostles did.  We need to be born again in the Holy Spirit.  Like Nicodemus, many of us are weak and timid in our faith.  We read that he came in the dark to meet Jesus so that he would not be seen by others, especially his fellow rabbis for fear of losing his position and credibility.  His faith in Jesus was not perfect but he was a sincere seeker of truth.  He did not believe in making judgment without first clarifying and coming into personal contact with the Lord.  He believed that judgment must be fair and just.  Indeed, he came into the defence of Jesus when the chief priests and Pharisees sought to have Jesus arrested.  He said, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” (Jn 7:51)

What is admirable about Nicodemus is his humility to learn from others even though he himself was a very learned rabbi.  He knew the scriptures well.  But unlike his fellow colleagues, he was not afraid of Jesus’ popularity undermining his position and status in the eyes of the people.   He came to the Lord to learn.  He did not allow his prejudice or study to be docile to people who thought differently.  He was not defensive of his ideas or beliefs.  If only we can be more like Nicodemus, we too would be able to experience the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pride and skepticism are always the obstacles to encounter the dynamism of the Holy Spirit.  In my ministry, whenever I pray for the release of the Holy Spirit, I always encounter resistance from people.  Many lack the faith that the Holy Spirit as experienced by the early Church is still the reality in our lives.  So they are cynical about the Holy Spirit and the gifts that come with the bestowal of the Spirit.  Some make fun of those who pray in tongues or receive healing miracles.  But for those who open themselves up in faith, in surrender and in humility, they truly experience the release of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  No longer do they doubt the power of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the Risen Lord.

If you feel powerless in witnessing to the Lord or are timid in sharing Jesus with others, it is clear that you are not conscious of the Holy Spirit at work in you.  You are using your own strength and human reasoning.  This is where we need to pray for an awakening of the Holy Spirit.  Get someone to pray over you in faith so that you can feel once again the Holy Spirit in your heart as you experience joy, love, peace and courage.  Most of all, you feel that you are confident and able to do your work and ministry well.   We must learn from the apostles.  “As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.”

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, April 21, 2017 — Jesus is revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead

April 20, 2017

Friday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 265

Reading 1 ACTS 4:1-12

After the crippled man had been cured,
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people,
the priests, the captain of the temple guard,
and the Sadducees confronted them,
disturbed that they were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They laid hands on Peter and John
and put them in custody until the next day,
since it was already evening.
But many of those who heard the word came to believe
and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

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Even after they are arrested, Peter and John continue to preach the gospel…

On the next day, their leaders, elders, and scribes
were assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest,
Caiaphas, John, Alexander,
and all who were of the high-priestly class.
They brought them into their presence and questioned them,
“By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them,
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1-2 AND 4, 22-24, 25-27A

R. (22) The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

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

Gospel  JN 21:1-14

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Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

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“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Psalm 118:22).

The image comes from the ancient quarries where highly-trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used in construction. No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line. For that reason, builders inspected many stones, rejecting each one until they found the one they wanted. Rejected stones might be used in other parts of the building, but they would never become the cornerstone or the capstone (the first and last stones put in place).

When Peter preached to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8–12, he quoted Psalm 118:22 to show that Jesus is the rejected stone whom God made to be the cornerstone of salvation. They (the Jewish leaders) rejected him, but God not only accepted him but put him in the position of highest honor.

Peter pressed the point home with this powerful conclusion: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These words are utterly exclusive. There is no other hope, no other way, and no other name than the name of Jesus. If we would be saved, we must come God’s way or we won’t come at all.

Do not be like the builders who rejected God’s Stone of salvation! Do not reject Jesus Christ. Do not stumble over this rejected stone. The very stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. May God open your eyes to see Jesus as he really is—the Cornerstone of eternal salvation.

Taken from “Rejected Stone” by Keep Believing Ministries 

http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/the-stone-that-the-builders-rejected-became-the-cornerstone.html

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Reflection
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• Chapter 21 of the Gospel of Saint John seems like an appendix which was added later after the Gospel had already been written. The conclusion of the previous chapter (Jn 20, 30-31) makes one perceive that it is an addition. However, whether it is an addition or not, it is the Word of God which presents us the beautiful message of the Resurrection on this fifth day of Easter week.
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• John 21, 1-3: The fisherman of men returns to be a fisherman of fish. Jesus has died and has risen. At the end of three years of life together with Jesus, the disciples returned toward Galilee. A group of them find themselves together before the lake. Peter goes back to the past and says: “I am going fishing!” The others answer: “We will come with you!” Thus, Thomas, Nathanael, John and James together with Peter go to the boat to go fishing. They go back to the life of the past as if nothing had happened. But something did happen. Something was taking place! The past did not return! “We have caught nothing!” They go back to the shore, tired. This had been a night filled with frustration.
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• John 21, 4-5: The context of the new apparition of Jesus. Jesus was on the shore, but they did not recognize him. Jesus asks: “Little children, have you anything to eat?” They answered: “No!” In the negative response they realize that the night had been deceiving because they had caught nothing, no fish. They had been called to be fishermen of men (Mk 1, 17; Lk 5, 10), and they go back to be fishermen of fish. But something had changed in their life! The experience of three years with Jesus produces in them an irreversible change. It was no longer possible to return to the past as if nothing had happened, as if nothing had changed.
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• John 21, 6-8: “Throw the net out to the right of the boat and you will find something” They did something which perhaps they had never done in their life. Five experienced fishermen obey a foreigner who orders them to do something which is in contrast to their experience. Jesus, that unknown person, who is on the shore, orders them to throw the net on the right side of the boat. They obey; they throw the net, and behold the unexpected result. The net was full of fish! How was this possible! How to explain this surprise so unexpected, unforeseen! Love makes one discover. The beloved disciple says: “It is the Lord”. This intuition clarifies everything. Peter jumped into the water to get close to Jesus very quickly. The other disciples follow him, pulling the boat, and dragging the net full of fish.
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• John 21, 9-14: The kindness of Jesus. Coming ashore, they saw a charcoal fire which had been lit by Jesus, where he was roasting fish and bread. He asked them to take some of the fish they had caught and immediately Peter went to the boat and towed the net containing one hundred and fifty fish. A great number of fish and the net did not break. Jesus calls the multitude: “Come and eat!” He had the kindness to prepare something to eat after a deceiving night during which they had caught nothing. A very simple gesture which reveals something of God’s love for us. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14, 9). None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, Who are you, because they knew he was the Lord. And recalling the Eucharist, John, the Evangelist contemplates: “Jesus stepping forward took the bread and gave it to them”. Thus, he suggests that the Eucharist is the privileged place for the encounter with the Risen Jesus.
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Personal questions
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• Has it ever happened to you that someone has told you to throw the net to the right side of your life, to do something contrary to your experience? Have you obeyed? Have you thrown in the net?
• The kindness of Jesus. How is your kindness in the small things of life?
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Concluding Prayer
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Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good,
for his faithful love endures for ever.
Let those who fear Yahweh say,
‘His faithful love endures for ever.’ (Ps 118)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 APRIL, 2017, Friday within Easter Octave
BEING HEALED AS A PREREQUISITE FOR THE MISSION OF LOVE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:1-12; JN 21:1-14 ]

In the first reading, St Peter, when being interrogated before the Jewish leaders, said, “that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence today.” We cannot but wonder where Peter got such enthusiasm, courage and joy to proclaim the Good News.  Even when under threat and intimidation from the authorities, St Peter saw it as an opportunity to witness to Christ.

What about us?  Why is it that many of us do not have that great enthusiasm and urgency to proclaim Christ and be His witnesses?  Some of us lose the zeal to live out the Catholic Faith only a few years after our baptism.  Catholics who have been active in Church ministry also lose their interest and commitment after some time.  How have we become jaded so quickly, losing our sense of mission and apostolic zeal?

This is because we have been hurt. To live an authentic Christian life surely involves many sacrifices.  Quite often, we are misunderstood and unappreciated.  People say all kinds of things about us.  As humans we tend to react by withdrawing our services and our love.  Perhaps, we had a tiff or row with the priest in charge, or some fellow Catholics.  As a result, we become angry and resentful.   Indeed, most of us are broken in many ways and we need healing.  We are like Peter who was feeling depressed and guilty for denying Jesus in His hour of need, but also hurt that Jesus was innocently crucified, and disillusioned at His death.  Indeed, as we have read in last Sunday’s gospel story of the empty tomb, when Peter went into the tomb, he was silent.  He could not understand the significance of the empty tomb. The stone of unbelief had not yet been rolled away from him.  When one is wallowing and indulging in self-pity, weighed down by sin and guilt, one cannot see beyond oneself.  Consequently, today, the liturgy invites us to recognize the need for healing in our lives.

What, then, are the stages in the healing process?

Firstly, in such a situation, it is only natural to seek an escape route.  Peter wanted to get away from it all. Being so demoralized and losing all hope, he went back to doing what he had always been good at, namely, fishing.  So too, when we are discouraged, we want to go back to our familiar background and situation.   Yet, going back to his fishing was but an occasion for personal reflection.  It is said that fishing is truly a meditative hobby.  It gives us time to mull over our lives in a relaxed environment. Peter needed time to go through the tragic events that happened.  We too, when we are broken and feeling hopeless, we need to withdraw and be alone with God and ourselves to reflect over our lives.

What is notable in this healing process is the support that his friends gave to him.  John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, already recognized Jesus as the Risen Lord.  Yet, he knew that Peter needed support and so when asked, he went with the other disciples and followed Peter to the sea.  Perhaps, this tells us that friends can play a great part in the healing process.  Whilst such support can help, without Christ, one will continue to remain lost. It is important to note that it was dark when they went fishing. We read “they went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.”  Night is a symbol of being lost and broken.  Their efforts did not bear any fruit because they were in darkness.  Without Christ, we are all in darkness and hence lost.  Hence, we do not bear fruit.

But the good news is that Christ has come to reach out to us in our darkness.  Hence, the gospel tells us “it was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”  In St John’s understanding, Jesus is the light of the world.  He had come to show us the way to life.  Once again, we must realize that for John, the scene of Jesus standing on the shore is a symbol of stability.  Jesus was standing on safe ground whereas the disciples were in the sea, which is a symbol of uncertainty because of the storms of life and where Satan lurks.   It is interesting to consider how Jesus helped Peter to heal himself.  Jesus began the process of healing by inviting them for reconciliation.  He called out to them, “Have you caught anything, friends?”   Note how He called them friends and even enlightened them as to where they could find the fish.  Jesus was not resentful that they had betrayed Him.  He took the initiative to reach out to them.

But for Peter to encounter the Lord, he needed to be freed from his fears.  He could not see Jesus if not for John, the disciple Jesus loved, who prompted him by saying, “It is the Lord!” Again, if John could notice Jesus so quickly, it was because he was without any guilty baggage.  When he saw the catch, he was immediately reminded of an earlier incident in the life of Peter at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he called Peter to be one of His disciples.  Hence, we read that “Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water.” The significance of this jumping down the water was actually a kind of baptism.  St Peter needed to be washed clean of his guilt and sins. And thus, with a little help from John, he took the plunge of faith in Christ’s forgiveness.  It is good to note that we did not read of the other disciples doing the same.

The next stage of reconciliation was the breakfast scene. Of course to have a meal is truly a sign of friendship.  So once again, Jesus allowed the disciples to know that they had been forgiven by inviting them to a meal with Him.  And so Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’”  What was the significance of the charcoal fire, the bread and the fish?  The charcoal fire would have reminded Peter of how he had denied Jesus that night at the charcoal fire in the presence of a maidservant.   It was a most humiliating moment when he cried for not having had the courage to admit that he was a disciple of the Lord. In contrast now, Peter showed that he was now more than a disciple, for we are told that “Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken.”

What about the bread and the fish?  The fact that Jesus invited them saying, “Come and have breakfast”, implies that they were now reconciled with Him.  Of course, it was also to remind them of the paschal meal and the multiplication of loaves earlier on in His ministry.  So, like the loaves being multiplied and how He gave Himself in the Eucharist, the disciples were now called to increase the membership of the people of God by feeding them the bread of life just as Jesus did.

What can we surmise and learn from all these?  It gives us the process for inner healing.  The healing process requires the healing of memories so that the healing of the heart can take place.  This healing takes place by returning us to our past, especially our psychological pains.  The necessity of reenacting the past is necessary so that the wounds can be reopened for healing.  The truth is that suppressing our guilt and our hurts will not liberate us.  Only what is exposed can be healed.

In the case of Peter, Jesus led him to remember his past by first and foremost helping him to recall his first encounter with Him through the miraculous catch of fish.  So inner healing begins with the recalling of God’s prior love and mercy. Next, Jesus helped Peter to recall his sins and relive his psychological pain by going back to his moments of failure when he denied Him. In tomorrow’s gospel, we read how Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to redeem himself by overriding his threefold denial with a threefold affirmation of love. So the steps of healing are to recall God’s mercy and love, followed by confession of sins and forgiveness.  With freedom, the Lord is then encountered.

Finally, what must be noted is that the end process of healing and reconciliation is always the call to mission.  In the first reading, we read how St Peter, having been healed of his pains and past, was so elated to be given the great joy of proclaiming Jesus as the universal saviour.   Because he himself was crippled by his sins and his past and now set free by faith, he could now also heal others through the same power that he was given.  His own experience told him that Jesus is the cornerstone.  He is the one who can deliver us from our sinful situation and even the past that continues to weigh us down. Hence, he declared, “This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’” Truly, Peter was a wounded healer.

Consequently, if find ourselves unable to reach out to others or go beyond ourselves, it is because of our brokenness.  Many of us, especially in ministry and in Church involvements, often become jaded because of hurtful experiences, especially from within our Catholic community.  As a result, we lose our zeal and desire to proclaim the gospel.  When such a situation exists, when we find ourselves lacking a sense of mission, it could be that our sins and pains prevent us from seeing Jesus as the Good News in our lives.  This means that we need to pray for healing.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 — “He is Risen!” The women are the first to believe

April 15, 2017

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Eugène Burnand: Peter and John Running to the Tomb

Art: Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugene Burnaud

The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Day
Lectionary: 42

Reading 1 ACTS 10:34A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R. (24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 COL 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Or 1 COR 5:6B-8

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sequence — Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

Alleluia CF. 1 COR 5:7B-8A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed;
let us feast with joy in the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel JN 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

OrMT 28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

OrLK 24:13-35

At an afternoon or evening Mass.

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

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Image result for angel speaks to mary magdalene at tomb, art
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Christ and Mary at the Tomb, by Joseph Brickey
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From The Abbot in the Desert

Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Christ is risen, alleluia!  “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.  This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Christ is truly risen!  You and I must be witnesses also to these facts:  Jesus lived among us and was killed and really died.  God raised him from the dead!  Jesus is God and Lord of all.

The Acts of the Apostles, from where the first reading is taken, challenges us on this Easter Day:  Be witnesses to the Lord.  The second reading, from the Letter to the Colossians, tells us “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.”  We humans, even after we believe and are baptized, still find ourselves sinning.  We don’t always seek the things that are above.  The hold of pleasure, of power and of money seems to draw us away from seeking that which is above.

Yet, God continues to seek us out in mercy and love.  This is why the Father sent the Son and why the Holy Spirit constantly is drawing us back to God.  We celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus because Jesus died for us and was raised for us.  We die in our sins but Jesus is always raising us.  Christ is risen.  Alleluia.

The Gospel, from John at this Mass, tells us again the confusion, the surprise, the challenge to faith of those first believers.  In the Gospels, it is the women who are faithful.  They are the ones who stay with Jesus at the Cross and they are the ones who go to the tomb.  The women are the first to believe.  The women are those who recognize the Lord.

Still, in this Gospel of John, we see Peter and John running to the tomb after getting word from Mary of Magdala.  John runs more quickly but does not go in.  He waits for Peter.  Peter goes in and sees various things in the tomb.  That is all that is said about Peter.  John goes is and believes.

We are invited to follow these women and these apostles and allow their witness to draw us to faith.  Christ is risen!  Our own faith is received from others, either directly from people in our lives, or from reading that which has been written by others.  Wherever we are in our faith, may this day of the Resurrection of Jesus become more real for us and draw us into the mystery of God’s love for us.  Christ is risen.  Alleluia.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/

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The Risen Christ Greets Mary at the Tomb — By Rembrandt

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 APRIL, 2017, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection
ENTERING INTO THE JOY OF THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 10:34.37-43; PS 117:1-2,16-17,22-23; COL 3:1-4 OR 1 COR 5:6-8; JN 20:1-9]

In the responsorial psalm, we pray, “This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.”  Do we really mean what we say?  Can we share that same joy of the Israelites when they were set free from Egypt, or with the early Christians when they encountered the Risen Lord?  If we are to share their joy, we must enter into their experience to be able to truly rejoice with them.  If we cannot, it is because we have no real experience of liberation and deliverance.  Isn’t this true in any event in life?  If we are not part of the story, the history, we cannot feel with those who are rejoicing or mourning.  When we see a tragedy, we will feel with the people who are suffering.  Otherwise, it is just an event.  

So, if we are to connect with the sentiments of the Israelites we must know their context.  They were in slavery, suffering harsh treatment from the Pharaoh.  Through the intervention of Moses and the miracles worked through him by the Lord, they were eventually delivered from the power of the Egyptians.  They were set free from slavery, walked across the waters of the Red Sea dry-shod, and given new life and new purpose.  This was the context of the psalm when they sang the song of thanksgiving and rejoicing. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.  The Lord’s right hand has triumphed; his right hand raised me up.  I shall not die, I shall live and recount his deeds.”  It was an unimaginable experience of being liberated and redeemed from the slavery of the Egyptians and the powerful Egyptian army.

In the same vein, we must seek to understand the joy of the Church in celebrating Easter, the feast of the resurrection.  Those outside the Church will never understand what is so great about Easter.  For them, Easter is just another day.  This is because they think our faith in the resurrection of Jesus is a myth.  Even among Catholics and Christians, what excitement do we have when we think of Easter?  Are we overjoyed, like the early disciples when the Lord rose from the dead?  Perhaps not as well.   Again, we do not have the context.  We might have the doctrines but we do not have the experience.  We have not seen the Risen Lord.  We have not even seen the Jesus of Nazareth in His ministry, not even His passion and death.  What we do not see, we do not feel.  So, how can we ever rejoice as they did?

Again, we must recapture the context of their experience of the Crucified Lord.  St Peter said, “God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.”   For the disciples, Jesus was truly a man of God and the anointed One.  They saw His miracles and they were inspired by His teaching.  They were edified by His life and inspired by His love and compassion for others.  His tragic death was totally shocking.  So we can imagine how distraught they were, thinking that Jesus, their political liberator, was killed by the Romans.  All their hopes about the establishment of the kingdom of God as preached by the Lord were crushed.   What was a great hope became a shattered dream!  They were totally disillusioned.

But when they heard that the Lord was risen, it was yet another unthinkable experience.  Again, we can imagine the excitement of the disciples of Jesus.  It began with Mary Magdalene who was in tears after discovering the loss of Jesus’ body.   After which, Peter ran to the tomb with John and the body was not found.  But it was too good to be true that Jesus had been raised.  We read that “till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”  Indeed, it took them some time before they could grasp the fact of the resurrection.  It was too far-fetched and amazing.

Perhaps this is so for most of us as well.   We say that the Lord is risen.  Is this what we are celebrating? Is it true?  Do we really believe?  Are we happy?  Do we feel liberated? Or are we just repeating what others are saying.  If we are, then the signs can tell.  We would be excited about Easter.  We would be ready to announce Jesus as our Risen Lord to the world.  The truth is that, like the women, we are silent because we have not yet seen the Risen Lord.  Our encounter with Him is not a personal encounter.  For many of us, it is just a testimony, part of the scriptures, but “of him, we have not seen!”

In the case of the apostles, upon encountering the Risen Lord, they could not resist telling the whole world about Christ.  “Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.”  They had a first-hand encounter of the Risen Lord. Hence, their testimony was convincing because they knew the Risen Lord was the same Jesus of Nazareth, now risen and transfigured.  It was not a concocted story but a personal encounter with Him.   Indeed, they underscored the fact that they ate and drank with Him.  He was not a ghost.  Only a body can eat.  Spirits do not.

Their witnessing of Christ was not just the fact that He was raised.  More importantly, they also drew out the implications of a criminal condemned to death for claiming to be king, and now raised from the dead by the power of God.  If the Father had vindicated Jesus in the resurrection, He was at the same time, putting His divine seal on all that Jesus had said and done.  This means that the words of Jesus were identical with the Father.  As such, to reject Jesus is to reject the Father.  The conclusion therefore is that Jesus is the one who was appointed by the Father.  St Peter said, “he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead.”

So, how then can we enter into this Easter Experience?  Since we do not have the privilege of encountering the Risen Lord as the early disciples did, our access to Him is via the testimony of the Church.  In the gospel, we read that like John, we must defer to the judgment of the Church, represented by St Peter as the head.  Although John reached the tomb first, he was not the one who announced the resurrection.  It was the task of Peter as the head of the apostolic college.

By believing in their testimony, we too can enter into that experience.  Without faith, we cannot see the Risen Lord.   Faith is the key to entering into the Easter experience.  We must be ready to let go of the intellectual and cultural prejudices of the Jewish leaders. Even Mary Magdalene was not able to see the Lord initially because she was looking for Jesus of Nazareth.  She did not yet have the faith to see the Risen Lord.  We too can allow our limited knowledge and study, ego and pride to prevent us from being open to the reality of the Risen Lord simply because we cannot explain how it was possible.  Intellectuals often cannot encounter Him because they want to reduce God to their own level of understanding instead of admitting that the mysteries of God can only be revealed by God Himself.  Indeed, in conducting retreats, I always find that those who use too much of their intellect often have great difficulty experiencing the power of God at work in their lives.  Only when they humbled themselves before God, was the Lord then able to work in their lives and reveal His love to them through a miracle, a healing, a vision or receiving the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, it is because our sins hinder us from being receptive to God’s grace.  When we are angry, bitter, resentful and proud, we cannot see the Risen Lord.  Our sins will blind us from the light of the Risen Christ.  This is why St Paul urges us, to “celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”   The yeast of sin darkens our intellect and causes us to look inwards instead of outwards.  Our intellectual pride finds excuses and justifications to reject Christ, lest in accepting Him, we have to give up our sins and the life of slavery to the Evil One.

Following the surrender of our sins, especially of pride, we must follow the way of St John who loved the Lord.  We read that “the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.”  Real believing does not come from physical seeing but the seeing of the eyes of love.  Intimacy causes one to believe without physical sight.  Indeed, when there is love, no proof is needed.  We take the word of one whom we love for granted without the need to verify.  But when there is no love, we will doubt whatever the person says.   So too, our faith in the Risen Christ is strengthened by love that comes from prayer.

Finally, the experience of the Risen Lord is real when we experience a true liberation from fear, anxiety and sin, which comes from living in Christ.  St Paul wrote, “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.”   Now, we no longer live for this earth and this life alone but we live for the fullness of life in love and service which is our share in Christ’s resurrection.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From Last Year:

Updated March 27, 2016 8:16 a.m. ET

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VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis tempered his Easter Sunday message of Christian hope with a denunciation of “blind” terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere, as well as expressing dismay that people fleeing war or poverty are being denied welcome as European countries squabble over the refugee crisis.

Tens of thousands of people patiently endured long lines, backpack inspections and metal-detecting checks Sunday to enter St. Peter’s Square. Under a brilliant sun, they listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
To their delight, Francis completed a whirl through the square, made colorful with sprays of tulips and other spring flowers, in his open-topped pope-mobile after celebrating Mass on the steps of the basilica. He leaned over barriers to shake hands, as the vehicle ventured past the Vatican’s confines, with his bodyguards jogging alongside on the boulevard.

For years, Islamist extremists in social media have listed the Vatican and Rome as potential targets due to hosting the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church and several basilicas. Despite the threats, Francis has kept to his habit of trying to be in close physical contact with ordinary people.

Francis said, for the faithful, Jesus who rose after death by crucifixion “triumphed over evil and sin.” He expressed hope that “will draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence.”

At the end of Mass, he chatted briefly with the former king and queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paola, who attended the ceremony.

In his speech, Francis cited recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Iraq.

He called the message of Easter “a message of life for all humanity.”

Easter “invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice,” he said.

As he has done repeatedly, Francis lamented that “all too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.”

Some European countries have erected barbed-wire fences and other barriers to keep out those who continue to arrive on Greek and Italian shores after risky sea voyages on smugglers’ boats. Another strategy has been for some European countries to express a preference for accepting Christian refugees over Muslim ones – which would effectively rule out the vast majority of Syrian refugees.

Most recently, a host of countries along Europe’s main migrant route north of Greece to central Europe have simply closed their borders to refugees, stranding thousands of refugee families at different border points.

Francis also decried the destruction and “contempt for humanitarian law” in Syria, millions of whose people have fled to Europe or to refugee camps closer to their homeland.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 MARCH 2016, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Vigil)
DEEPENING OUR FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gen 22:1-18; Ps 15:5, 8-11; Ex 14:15–15; Ex 15 canticle; Isa 54:5-14; Ps 29:2,4-6,11-13; Rom 6:3-11; Ps 117:1-2,16-17,22-23; Lk 24:1-12 ]

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen.  He is risen indeed!   Do you believe this confession of faith of the early Christians?  Indeed, for us Christians, it is nothing great to believe that Jesus died on Good Friday because even pagans and the world believe.  Few have questioned the crucifixion and the death of Jesus on the cross.   But not many believe that He rose from the dead and is alive.  This is not surprising, considering that even the disciples of Jesus initially could not believe that Jesus had risen.  In the gospel, the proclamation of the resurrection of our Lord was met either with disbelief, skepticism and reservation.  When the women told the apostles their story, it “seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.”  St Peter, as the head of the college of apostles, ran to the tomb, he “bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.”

If they who knew the Lord on earth, worked with Him, talked with Him and yet disbelieved, why should we be surprised that many cannot accept the resurrection of Christ.   Many of our Catholics are not too sure of Jesus’ resurrection because their faith in the resurrection is an intellectual assent to a doctrine but not a conviction of the heart.   St Paul tells us in 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 one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Rom 10:9f)

Faith in the resurrection cannot be simply an idea, a notion or a doctrine, but it must be faith from the heart.  This explains why the Empty Tomb means nothing much.  It is not a basis for faith.  St Paul proclaimed the resurrection of our Lord without the story of the Empty Tomb.  This shows that faith in the Empty Tomb is not necessary for faith in the resurrection of the Lord.  The early Christians got on very well without the story of the Empty Tomb.  The fact of the empty tomb only declares that the body was not there.  But faith must add to the fact by saying, He is risen.  Faith interprets the missing body as the Lord has been raised from the dead.  Only because of a prior faith in the resurrection could the early Christians use the story of the Empty Tomb meaningfully, not to prove the resurrection but to substantiate their claims of the Risen Lord.  The empty tomb is at most an indicator that the Lord’s body was not there and therefore it was plausible that one of the reasons was that He had risen.  Of course skeptics, as we read in the gospel, suggested that the body was stolen or even claimed that Jesus was taken down from the cross half-dead and then resuscitated and then proclaimed as risen!

How can we know that our faith in the Risen Lord is not an empty faith?  We have not seen the Risen Lord like some of the apostles or the women of Jerusalem did.  What then is the basis of our claim that Jesus is truly risen from the dead?   How can we be so sure of our claims?

Firstly, faith in the resurrection is more than a matter of saying, “Alleluia, Jesus is Lord or Jesus is Risen!” The proof of our faith in the resurrection is that we have overcome the fear of death ourselves.  Death is always the last enemy of man.  Death cripples us from living our life fully.  The fear of death hinders us from giving our lives, our possessions and things to the poor.   When we fear death, we dare not live adventurously and fully.   The fear of death prevents us from doing many things in life, whether it is the death of our loved ones or ourselves.

The fear of death of course is that instrument by which the Evil One leads us to commit sin.  We sin only because of fear of death.  St Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)  Because of sin, we become indifferent to God and our fellowmen.  We no longer feel the presence of God and lose our goal and final destiny in life.  Because of sin, we no longer feel for others and we are blind to the truth.  Because of sin, we live for ourselves and as we live for ourselves, life becomes empty and meaningless, leading to nihilism.

Hence, the proof of our faith in the resurrection is that we are ready to enter into the tomb with Him and rise to a new life, as St Paul says.   “If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.”   Only when we have decided that sin causes us to be more miserable and makes us slaves like the Israelites in Egypt, then we will be ready to give up our sins.

Secondly, faith in the resurrection means that we are ready to witness for Jesus as the women did.  Even though the women’s testimony was met with disbelief and skepticism, it did not stop them from announcing the Good News that Jesus is risen.   What about us?  Are we ready to confess the resurrection with our lips as Paul urges us?  Are we ready to stand up for Jesus even when the world ridicules our faith and cast aspersions on us?  In the face of critics and opposition to our belief in Christ and the gospel, are we ready to take risks in defending Jesus and our faith in Him, that He is risen and He is our Lord and saviour of the world?   Abraham, the Father of faith, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, for God.  He was ready to take risks when the Lord called him out of the land of Ur to the Promised Land.

If we find our faith still weak and not sufficient to confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus is risen, what must we do?

We need to follow the example of Abraham our father in faith in surrendering ourselves to the promises of God.  Abraham trusted in God fully and did what he was told to do, even to the point of sacrificing his only son.   He knew that obedience to the will of God is the sure way of finding life.  Thus, again and again, in obedience to the will of God, he surrendered his entire self to Him.  We too must follow him and be ready to say “yes” at all times to His holy will in all things.  With Abraham, we can trust in divine providence, knowing that because He is still with us in our midst, He will provide us with what is necessary to arrive at our goal and to accomplish His divine plan of which we are all participants in our own ways.

Secondly, to strengthen our faith, we need to rely on the testimonies of those who have seen the Lord.  In the early Church, the early Christians relied on the testimonies of the apostles when they claimed that they saw the risen Lord.  Testimonies are important in strengthening faith.  We still have such testimonies in our day when people witness to the power of God at work in their lives, much like the works of wonders the Lord worked when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.  Indeed, the miracles that the Lord worked during the time of the Israelites are still being worked today because the Lord we believe in is a living God, not a God of history but in history.  In truth, many of us lack faith in the resurrected Lord because, like the Israelites, we have been forgetful of the many events when God showed forth the power of His arm and His divine mercy in our lives.  The angels told the women, “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?”  When we recall the love of God in sacrificing His only Son for our salvation, we should be moved to repentance and love.   So great and merciful is our God that He who spared the only son of Abraham, Isaac, did not spare His own begotten Son because of His great love for us.

Thirdly, to strengthen our faith in the Risen Lord, we need to develop a personal relationship with Him.   Faith in God and in Christ, in the final analysis, is based on a personal relationship, not an intellectual assent to a doctrine.  If the women and John could look at the empty tomb and come to the conclusion in faith that “he is not here, he is risen”; it was because they loved the Lord intensely.  They had intimacy with the Lord and knew Him from their hearts.  The rest, including Peter, operated from the level of the head and could only arrive at amazement or puzzlement at what happened.  Logical love for the Lord will not bring about deep faith because God has “hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent” and revealed them to mere children.  (Mt 11:25)

So today, let us renew and deepen our faith in the resurrection of our Lord.  Let us remove that stone of sin, of pride and blindness to the truth from the tomb so that the rays of the Risen Lord can shine upon us and set us free from fear, from sin and from eternal death.  In faith, relying on the testimonies of the early Church, let us say with joy, Alleluia!  He is Risen indeed!

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Easter Homily
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The story is told of a child who began to read the Gospels. Like billions before her. She quickly became charmed by Jesus. Suddenly, she ran out of her room crying hysterically. She ran into the arms of her alarmed mother. She cried: “They killed him. They killed him.” Her mother comforted her and then whispered to her, “now go back and finish the story.”

Unlike that child, we know the rest of the story. Our hearts rejoice as we hear how the story finished — not with defeat and death, but with victory and new life. “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Similar good news is proclaimed in our first reading: “… They put [Jesus] to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised up on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” No wonder the Church exults in the opening words of the Easter Proclamation which we heard last night during the Easter Vigil: “Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ our King, is risen!”

The Easter Good News is, in fact, the core or center of the Gospel: Jesus Christ has died and now lives! His “love to the end” in the end has triumphed. In my homilies during the first two days of the Easter Triduum — on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, — I repeatedly used that phrase: “love to the end.” I pointed out that each of the celebrations during the Easter Triduum, from Holy Thursday through Easter Day, has a particular emphasis, but that all of them together form one prolonged celebration of the central mystery of our faith: the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. As you and I have been reliving Christ’s Dying and Rising in these days of the Easter Triduum, we see so clearly revealed before us the love Christ has for each of us — for each member of the human family, a love forever faithful and enduring, truly “love to the end;” not only to the end of Christ’s earthly life, but love continuing on, because today we proclaim that Christ is the Risen Lord, and, therefore, His love remains to the end of time into eternity.

Christ’s “love to the end” in the end has triumphed. Because He has triumphed over sin and death, He gives us newness of life. This celebration of Easter pulsates with this gift: a radical newness! Nothing is the same again! Sin will never have the final victory nor will human death! As we pray over and over throughout the Easter season and indeed throughout the year: “Dying, You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life, Lord Jesus, come in glory!”

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is made visible for us through symbols. We see before us in the sanctuary the newly blessed Paschal Candle, whose flame symbolizes Christ the Light. Yes, Christ is our Light, going before us to lead us in our pilgrimage through life, dispelling the darkness of sin and death, warming us in our loneliness and difficulties, guiding us in our uncertainty and fears.

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is likewise made visible through the symbol of water. Soon, you will be sprinkled with water, which I blessed last night during the Easter Vigil. This water symbolizes Christ our Life, who strengthens us to live daily according to His Gospel and the teachings of the Church His Body of which we are members.

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is also made visible in the reality of the Eucharist, both sacrament and sacrifice, the Eucharist we celebrate with such faith and joy today, whereby in our midst the dying and rising of Christ is made present, whereby Christ’s Real Presence continues among us in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Eucharist, Christ’s “love to the end” is revealed in a unique way and He remains to be our nourishment on the journey that ends at our Father’s House.

We are observing the Holy Year of the Great Jubilee, recalling in a special way the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s Birth in Bethlehem. He was born in order to become, by His dying and rising, the One Saviour of the world, our Saviour! Today, as we renew our commitment to live in close union with the Risen Lord Jesus, let us ask the Lord to deepen His life within us and to make us His witnesses of Easter joy and hope. Let us promise our Risen Saviour and Lord that we will follow Him, our Light and our Life, everyday and invite others to come to Him by the witness of our lives — our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends — everyone we meet! With Christ the Risen One, let us make all things new — with the joy and hope He gives! With Christ the Risen One, Let us be Easter People! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

By Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington and Northern Virginia

Arlington Catholic Herald

Source http://catholicherald.com/stories/Bishop-Loverdes-Easter-Sunday-Homily,4794

Pope Francis on Holy Thursday: Find Joy in the “Little Things” — Visits Mafia Prison — Washes prisoner’s feet

April 14, 2017

April 13, 2017

At mafia prison, Francis says Holy Thursday is not ‘folklore’

Pope Francis washes the feet of some inmates of the Paliano detention center, south of Rome, Thursday, April 13, 2017. Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a maximum security prison on Holy Thursday in a pre-Easter ritual meant to show his willingness to serve society’s most marginal and give them hope. Francis urged the prisoners to help one another out and similarly “be the servant of others.” (Credit: L’Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP.)

Vatican Radio—Pope Francis on Thursday presided over the Chrism Mass, during which the sacred oils used for the Sacraments and Ordinations were blessed.

In his homily for the Mass, the Holy Father spoke about the “joy of the Gospel.” He explored three “icons” of the good news: the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana, the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun, and the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart.

Please find below the official English translation of the pope’s homily:

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Holy Thursday Chrism Mass

April 13, 2017

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4:18). Jesus, anointed by the Spirit, brings good news to the poor. Everything he proclaims, and we priests too proclaim, is good news. News full of the joy of the Gospel—the joy of those anointed in their sins with the oil of forgiveness and anointed in their charism with the oil of mission, in order to anoint others in turn.

As we all know, it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared.

Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person. When he preaches— briefly, if possible!—he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer. Like every other missionary disciple, the priest makes the message joyful by his whole being. For as we all know, it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…

The phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel.” Yet those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy.

The good news is the precious pearl of which we read in the Gospel. It is not a thing but a mission. This is evident to anyone who has experienced the “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” No. 10).

The good news is born of Anointing. Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth and the joy of the Spirit renews that Anointing in the little synagogue of that town: the Spirit descends and is poured out upon him, “anointing him with the oil of gladness” (cf. Ps 45:8).

Good news. A single word—Gospel—that, even as it is spoken, becomes truth, brimming with joy and mercy. We should never attempt to separate these three graces of the Gospel: its truth, which is non-negotiable; its mercy, which is unconditional and offered to all sinners; and its joy, which is personal and open to everyone.

The truth of the good news can never be merely abstract, incapable of taking concrete shape in people’s lives because they feel more comfortable seeing it printed in books.

The mercy of the good news can never be a false commiseration, one that leaves sinners in their misery without holding out a hand to lift them up and help them take a step in the direction of change.

This message can never be gloomy or indifferent, for it expresses a joy that is completely personal. It is “the joy of the Father, who desires that none of his little ones be lost” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” No. 237). It is the joy of Jesus, who sees that the poor have the good news preached to them, and that the little ones go out to preach the message in turn (ibid., 5) The joys of the Gospel are special joys. I say “joys” in the plural, for they are many and varied, depending on how the Spirit chooses to communicate them, in every age, to every person and in every culture. They need to be poured into new wineskins, the ones the Lord speaks of in expressing the newness of his message. I would like to share with you, dear priests, dear brothers, three images or icons of those new wineskins in which the good news is kept fresh, without turning sour but being poured out in abundance.

A first icon of the good news would be the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:6). In one way, they clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary. The Gospel tells us that the servants “filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7). I can imagine one of those servants looking to Mary to see if that was enough, and Mary signaling to add one more pail-full. Mary is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy. She is “the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” No. 286), Our Lady of Prompt Succour, who, after conceiving in her immaculate womb the Word of life, goes out to visit and assist her cousin Elizabeth. Her “contagious fullness” helps us overcome the temptation of fear, the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy. This cannot be, for “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (ibid., 1)

A second icon of the good news is the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun (cf. Jn 4:5-30). It speaks to us of something crucial: the importance of concrete situations. The Lord, the Source of Living Water, had no means of drawing the water to quench his thirst. So the Samaritan woman drew the water with her jug, and with her ladle she sated the Lord’s thirst. She sated it even more by concretely confessing her sins. By mercifully shaking the vessel of that Samaritan women’s soul, the Holy Spirit overflowed upon all the people of that small town, who asked the Lord to stay with them.

The Lord gave us another new vessel or wineskin full of this “inclusive concreteness” in that Samaritan soul who was Mother Teresa. He called to her and told her: “I am thirsty”. He said: “My child, come, take me to the hovels of the poor. Come, be my light. I cannot do this alone. They do not know me, and that is why they do not love me. Bring me to them.” Mother Teresa, starting with one concrete person, thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all.

The third icon of the good news is the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced Heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself. From him we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way. Evangelization cannot be presumptuous. The integrity of the truth cannot be rigid. The Spirit proclaims and teaches “the whole truth” (cf. Jn 16:3), and he is not afraid to do this one sip at a time. The Spirit tells us in every situation what we need to say to our enemies (cf. Mt 10:19), and at those times he illumines our every small step forward. This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.

Dear priests, as we contemplate and drink from these three new wineskins, may the good news find in us that “contagious fullness” which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the “inclusive concreteness” of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the “utter meekness” whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.

http://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/04/13/pope-francis-chrism-mass-find-joy-little-things

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In a maximum security prison for mafia informers on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates, telling them that it is a gesture meant to be a reminder of God’s love for humanity: “Until the end, giving his life for each one of us.” He insisted the ceremony is not “folklore,” but a remembrance of what Jesus himself did.

At mafia prison, Francis says Holy Thursday is not ‘folklore’

By Inés San Martín

April 13, 2017

ROME – Celebrating the traditional Holy Thursday foot-washing ritual at a prison used to house Mafia turncoats, Pope Francis said the Maundy Thursday ceremony is not “folklore,” but a gesture intended to remember what Jesus himself did.

“God loves like this: Until the end, giving his life for each one of us,” Francis said in his homily. “It’s not easy, because all of us are sinners, we have limits, flaws. Yes, we all know how to love, but not like God loves, without looking at the consequences, until the end.”

The pontiff also said that when he was arriving at the maximum security Palino prison in Rome, there were those who kept screaming: “The pope is coming, the boss of the Church.” Yet, he said, “the boss is Jesus.”

Pope Francis waves as he arrives at the Paliano detention center, south of Rome, to celebrate the “Missa in Coena Domini” and wash the feet of some inmates, Thursday, April 13, 2017. (Credit: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini.)

To make evident how great his love is, the pontiff said, “He who was the boss, who was God, washed the feet of his disciples.”

“God is grand, good, and loves us as we are,” Francis said off-the-cuff during his homily. “This is not a folklore ceremony. We are remembering what Jesus did.”

The inmates of Paliano prison are known as “collaborators of justice,” meaning members and associates of organized crime groups who are cooperating with Italy’s anti-mafia forces in exchange for reduced sentences.

During the Mass, known as the Lord’s Last Supper, Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates. The Vatican released very little information on who they are, as the visit has been described as “strictly private.”

The Vatican did say, however, three of them were women, one a Muslim who’s converting to Catholicism and will be baptized in June. One of them is Argentinian, another from Albania, and the rest Italian. Two have been sentenced to life in prison, and the rest will be released between 2019 and 2073.

The Paliano prison is located some 45 miles from Rome, in the diocese of Palestrina.

There are 70 inmates currently in the prison, and Francis greeted all of them, including those living in a special ward for tuberculosis-infected inmates.

Prisoners prepared crosses made with wood from olive trees, traditional cakes as gifts and offered the pope zucchini, cucumbers and other goods from the prison’s organic garden.

RELATED: On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis presses his anti-mafia fight

This is the third time the Argentine pontiff has celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass at a prison, picking up on a tradition he developed when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

During the first year of his pontificate, he headed this ceremony at the juvenile detention center “Casal del Marmo.” In 2014, Pope Francis held the Holy Thursday Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.

Pope Francis is presented with gifts at the Paliano detention center, south of Rome, Thursday, April 13, 2017. (Credit: L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

In 2015 he once again went to a prison on the outskirts of Rome, Rebibbia, where he washed the feet of 12 inmates, men and women, from Nigeria, Congo, Ecuador, Brazil, and Italy – as well as one toddler.

Last year, he visited a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a city just north of Rome, where he washed the feet of refugees, who included Muslims, Hindus, and Coptic Orthodox Christians.

Beyond the Maundy Thursday tradition, Pope Francis has made several appeals intended to shine a light over the conditions prisoners live in, visiting jails in most of his foreign trips, including in the United Sates, where he visited a detention facility in Philadelphia.

During the Holy Year of Mercy, one of the final major events was a Mass celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica with over 1,000 inmates from all over the world.

In an interview published on Thursday, Pope Francis explained where his emphasis on reaching out to inmates comes from: “The Gospel passage on the universal judgment says: ‘I was a prisoner and you visited me,’” Francis told the Italian newspaper La Reppublica. “This is Jesus’ mandate for all of us, but especially the bishop who is father of everyone.”

Talking about prisoners, the pope said “Some say: ‘They are guilty,’” the pope said. “I respond with Jesus’ words: ‘Whoever is not guilty, throw the first stone.’ Let’s look inside ourselves and we will come to see our own guilt. And then the heart will become more human.”

The pontiff opened the most solemn period of the Church’s liturgical calendar by celebrating the Chrism Mass on Thursday morning in St. Peter’s Basilica.

On Friday, he will participate in the liturgy marking the Lord’s Passion in St. Peter’s Basilica. This is one of the few occasions in which the pope does not deliver a homily. Later in the day he’ll lead the torch-lit Way of the Cross at Rome’s Colosseum.

On Saturday night he’ll lead the Easter vigil at the basilica, and on Sunday, out in St. Peter’s Square, he’ll lead the Easter Mass and deliver the Urbi et Orbi blessing, to the city of Rome and to the world.

https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2017/04/13/mafia-prison-francis-says-holy-thursday-not-folklore/

Image result for pope francis, Colosseum, photos, 2017

Pope Francis presides at the Way of the Cross outside the ancient Colosseum in Rome March 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-GOOD-FRIDAY March 25, 2016.

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, Apil 7, 2017 — In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

April 6, 2017

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 255

Image may contain: ocean, text and water

Reading 1 JER 20:10-13

I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
“Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.”
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!

Responsorial Psalm  PS 18:2-3A, 3BC-4, 5-6, 7

R. (see 7) In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
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. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
The breakers of death surged round about me,
the destroying floods overwhelmed me;
The cords of the nether world enmeshed me,
the snares of death overtook me.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
In my distress I called upon the LORD
and cried out to my God;
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.
R. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.

Verse Before The GospelSEE JN 6:63C, 68C

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.

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Rembrandt’s Images of Jesus

Gospel JN 10:31-42

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
The Jews answered him,
“We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God.”
Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.

He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
“John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true.”
And many there began to believe in him.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 APRIL, 2017, Friday, 5th Week of Lent
DEALING WITH REJECTION AND OPPOSITION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JER 20:10-13; JN 10:31-42]Like Jeremiah, we often feel grossly misunderstood, especially when we seek the good of others.  We feel unappreciated and at times persecuted for doing what is right.  Quite often, we feel that we have been taken for granted.  Like Jeremiah, we have people, even our friends disparaging us.  “’Terror from every side!’ Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall!”  Jesus in the gospel too felt the same way.  For the good works He did, they tried to stone Him.  We feel so wronged for suffering such injustices.   So what do we do?

Firstly, we cannot take things into our own hands.  In other words, we do not retaliate.  That was not the way of Jeremiah or our Lord.  Instead of taking revenge, Jeremiah chose to surrender his cause to the Lord.  “Let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you.”   Indeed, if we were to react to our enemies’ onslaught, we might lose objectivity because we are hurt. All of us have our own interests to protect, consciously or unconsciously.   We might not admit it, but more often than not, our ego is bruised.  That is why it is best to leave judgement to the Lord.  When God judges, He judges with total objectivity.  Jeremiah says, “But you, Lord of hosts, you who probe with justice, who scrutinize the loins and heart.”   God knows our hearts and our intentions, so His judgement is just and at the same time tampered with compassion.  Jesus too defended His actions by appealing to the Father to speak for Him.

Secondly, we must have confidence in God that He will deliver us.  Jeremiah said, “But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.”  In the responsorial psalm, the psalmist prayed, “In my anguish I called to the Lord, and he heard my voice. I love you, Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour. My God is the rock where I take refuge; my shield, my mighty help, my stronghold. The Lord is worthy of all praise, when I call I am saved from my foes.”  Truly, God is our refuge and strength.   We can be sure that God will come to our rescue when we cry to Him.  At times, we might feel that He is not with us but we are called to surrender our lives to Him as Jesus did on the cross.  It was this total confidence in the justice of His Father that even at His last breath, He could forgive His enemies and commend everything into the hands of His Father.

Thirdly, when we have opposing forces, like Jeremiah, it calls for humility to search ourselves.  When Jeremiah was under intense opposition by the false prophets and leaders, he initially began to doubt whether he really heard the voice of God, and wondered if he could be a false prophet.  “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.” (Jer 20:7f) As a consequence, he began to contemplate stopping his prophesying.  But much as he wanted to stop being a nuisance to his countrymen, he could not, because “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jer 20:9)  We too must, before we respond to those who disagree with us, search ourselves and purify our motives and thoughts.  Opposition does not always work against our interests, but they help to strengthen our position because we are forced to re-examine our beliefs and convictions.  So we should thank our enemies for helping us to sharpen our views and the things we want to do.   Whether we like it or not, our enemies are our best critics even if they are harsh and merciless towards us.

Fourthly, the most effective way to deal with our enemies and their criticisms is not through argument but by our good works.  This was what Jesus did when confronted by His enemies.  Jesus said to them, “I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?” Can we say with Jesus in all honesty that what we say and do are truly good works and not for our personal interests?  Can we vindicate ourselves by referring to the good works we do and the life we live?  If we have only words to show but not fruits, then we cannot withstand the criticisms of our enemies.  Jesus could say that His good works indeed come from the Father because He acted on behalf of the Father.   He said, “If I am not doing my Father’s work, there is no need to believe me, at least believe in the work I do; then you will know for sure that the Father is in me and I am the Father.”   Furthermore, His works were confirmed by John the Baptist.  Indeed, we read that “Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.”   So Jesus had three witnesses, His good works, the Father and John the Baptist.

Fifthly, to defeat our opponents, we must always refer to the Word of God to substantiate our claims.  “Is it not written in your Law: ‘I said, you are gods?’ So the Law used the word gods of those to whom the word of God was addressed, and scripture cannot be rejected.”  Jesus exposed their fallacy when the Jews replied, “We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.”   In truth, the scriptures did say “You are “gods; you are all sons of the Most High.” (Ps 82:6)   “God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods” (Ps 82:1) In other words, in the bible, those who acted in the place of God included the rulers and the judges.  They were not gods in the absolute sense but in a derived meaning because they acted as representatives of God.  (cf Ex 21:6; 22:8f; Dt 1:17)  So Jesus said, “Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because he says, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  Of course Jesus knew that He was more than anyone else, one with God in mind, heart and in being.   He knew He was sent by the Father because He knew His Father intimately.

However, we must not be foolhardy when we deal with our enemies.  Jesus was very much aware that it was not yet the right time to go headlong with His enemies.  He still had work to do and the time was not yet opportune.  We too must know when to fight and when to withdraw.   We must not act rashly out of pride and anger.  We will only destroy ourselves and what we seek to do.  As it is said, we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.   So let us, in the face of opposition, tread carefully, and think through before we act.  This was the case of Jesus.  We read that when “they wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.”  Jesus withdrew not because of fear but rather He needed to rethink how best to accomplish the mission the Father gave to Him.   He was not reckless or reactive.

What is also enlightening is the comment of the evangelist that “He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising.”   To reassess His mission and to renew His passion for His Father, He went back to that place and time when He had His first experience of the Father’s love.  It was at His baptism in Jordan that He heard the voice of the Father affirming His true identity and His mission of proclaiming the Good News to the poor.  The Father reaffirmed Him of His love and endorsed His mission again at the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor.  So too, when we have lost courage, confidence and steam in what we believe to be our calling, then we too must come to the Lord in prayer and find consolation and renewed strength.  We need to rediscover that moment when we felt the Lord calling us to do His work and to accomplish His plan.   We need to be recharged all the time and find new fervour and zeal in our mission.  Let us therefore follow Jesus during this time of Lent by drawing new energy from the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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Commentary on John 10:31-42 From Living Space

Once again Jesus’ enemies want to stone him because they continue to accuse him of blasphemy. “You, a man, are making yourself God.” It is clear they have no doubt about the meaning of his words. Jesus points to the Scriptures which has God saying of some people “You are gods”. Jesus is here referring to the people called ‘judges’ in Israel. Since they were judges of their people, taking on themselves something which belongs only to God, they were called “gods” (cf. Deut 1:17; Exod 21:6; Ps 82:6).

If people inspired by the word from God could be called ‘gods’ can Jesus whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blaspheme because he says, “I am the Son of God”? And, if they will not accept a verbal claim, Jesus appeals to what he has been doing. “Even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do.” To anyone with an open mind it is clear that God is working in Jesus. “You will know for sure that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again, they tried to seize him but he escaped from their power. His time had not yet come. That time would not be decided by them.

On the other hand, while Jesus was being attacked by the leaders of the Jews, many of the ordinary people continued to seek him out. Jesus had gone back across the Jordan (a safer place) to the spot where John the Baptist had baptised and given such strong testimony to Jesus. Many people came looking for him there. They could see, as the Pharisees could not, a clear distinction between Jesus and John: “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true. And many there came to believe in him.” There are many who reject Christ and his message today but let us pray that we may have open minds to believe the many signs by which God reveals his love to us each day.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1056g/

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Christ with mocking soldier by Carl Bloch

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Commentary on Jer 20:10-13

Jeremiah, the prophet, God’s spokesman, is attacked and denounced on all sides by his own people.

“Terror on every side!” is the mocking call of Jeremiah’s critics, satirising his constantly gloomy predictions. “Let us denounce him!” – in the way that he constantly denounces the behaviour of others.

Even his friends abandon him. “All those who were on good terms with me watched for my downfall.” They are waiting for him to make some fatal mistake. “Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we shall get the better of him.” Jesus was treated in exactly the same way by Pharisees and Scribes constantly trying to catch him out in violation of the Law. They ‘plant’ a cripple in a synagogue on a Sabbath day to see if he will heal him. They ask him if it is right or not to give taxes to Caesar – where a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer will be equally incriminating.

But Jeremiah has confidence in his God and his attackers will not prevail. “The Lord is at my side… my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure…” For his God is a God of justice and truth. A God who is on the side of the needy. “Praise Yahweh, for he has delivered the soul of one in need.”

The needy one, ebion, or the poor, anaw, is used in a religious sense: ill-treated by people but confident in God, looking to Yahweh for support. By Jeremiah’s time, the term ‘poor/needy’ had become virtually synonymous with ‘righteous’, someone whose total trust and dependence is on God.

Ultimately, Jeremiah knows, Truth and Justice will prevail no matter what some people try to do. It is a belief that we need to remember ourselves. It is a belief we see realised in Jesus. They could kill his body but not his Spirit.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1056r/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• We are close to Holy Week, during which we commemorate and update the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Beginning with the fourth week of Lent, the texts of the Gospel of every day are texts taken almost exclusively from the Gospel of John, two chapters which stress the dramatic tension between the progressive revelation, on the one side, which Jesus makes of the mystery of the Father which fills him completely, and on the other side, the progressive closing up of the Jews who always become more impenetrable to the message of Jesus. The tragic aspect of this closing up is that they claim it is in fidelity to God. They refuse Jesus in the name of God.
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• This way in which John presents the conflict between Jesus and the religious authority is not only something which has taken place in the far past. It is also a mirror which reflects what happens today. In the name of God, some persons transform themselves into bombs and kill other persons. In the name of God, we, members of the three religions of the God of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims, mutually condemn one another, fight among ourselves, throughout history. Ecumenism is difficult among us, and at the same time it is necessary. In the name of God, many horrible things have been committed and we continue to commit them every day. Lent is an important period of time to stop and to ask ourselves: Which is the image of God which I have within me?
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• John 10, 31-33: The Jews want to stone Jesus. The Jews prepare stone to kill Jesus and Jesus asks: “I have shown you many good works from my Father, for which of these are you stoning me?” The answer: “We are stoning you, not for doing a good work, but for blasphemy; though you are only man, you claim to be God”. They want to kill Jesus because he blasphemes. The law ordered that such persons should be stoned.
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• John 10, 34-36: The Bible calls all sons of God. They want to kill Jesus because he says he is God. Jesus responds in the name of the law of God itself. “Is it not perhaps written in your Law: I said you are gods? Now, if the Law has called gods those to whom the Word of God was addressed (and Scripture cannot be set aside), to those whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world, and you say: You blaspheme, because I have said: I am the Son of God?”
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• Strangely, Jesus says “your law”. He could have said: “our Law”. Why does he speak in this way? Here appears again the tragic division between Jews and Christians, brothers, sons of the same father Abraham, who became irreconcilable enemies to the point that the Christians say “your law”, as if it were not our law.
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• John 10, 37-38: At least believe in the works. Jesus again speaks of the works that he does and which are the revelation of the Father. If I do not do the works of the Father, there is no need to believe in me. But if I do them, even if you do not believe in me, at least believe in the works I do, so that you will believe that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. These are the same words that he said at the Last Supper (Jn 14, 10-11).
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• John 10, 39-42: Once again they want to kill him, but he flees from their clutches. There was no sign of conversion. They continue to say that Jesus blasphemes and insist in killing him. There is no future for Jesus. His death has been decided, but as yet his hour has not arrived. Jesus goes out and crosses the Jordan going toward the place where John had baptized. In this way he indicates the continuity of his mission with the mission of John. He helped people to become aware of how God acts in history. The people recognize in Jesus the one whom John had announced.
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Personal questions
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• The Jews condemn Jesus in the name of God, in the name of the image that they have of God. Sometimes, have I condemned someone in the name of God and then I have discovered that I was mistaken?
• Jesus calls himself “Son of God”. When in the Creed I say that Jesus is the Son of God, which is the content that I give to my profession of faith?
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Concluding Prayer
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Yahweh is my rock and my fortress,
my deliverer is my God.
I take refuge in him, my rock, my shield,
my saving strength, my stronghold,
my place of refuge. (Ps 18,2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 MARCH 2016, Friday, 5th Week of Lent
SEARCHING FOR GOD’S WILL IN OUR MINISTRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Jer 20:10-13; Jn 10:31-42

Doing God’s work is one of the most challenging tasks in life, especially when it is concerned with prophetic work.  This is because people are challenged by what we teach or do.  People are happy so long as what we do does not hinder what they are doing as well.  But if they see us as obstacles to their ambition, goals or success, whether in business or for power, they will seek to destroy us.  This was the case of Jeremiah who was a threat to the status quo of the king and his officials.  So too was the case of Jesus because His teaching too challenged the status quo of the Jewish leaders.

Consequently, it is a mistake to think that doing Church work or being involved in the work of evangelization is fun and always full of joy.   If we are seeking for fun and pleasure, then we are doing for ourselves, not for God.   Service to God and His people is a very demanding task which calls for much sacrifice, not just in terms of time and resources but even in personal freedom.  In truth, many Catholics are not ready to suffer for the ministry.  When they meet with trials and difficulties, they get disillusion and resign.  This clearly shows that they are not working for God but for themselves.  Service to God, whether voluntary or paid, is not a matter of whether we like our job or not, but it is a matter of doing God’s will.  So if God wills that we do a certain job, even if we do not like it, we are to obey His will.  And if God wants us to suffer for Him in doing good even when we are providing a free service, then we must accept such trials in the spirit of Christ.   We do not simply give up because the going is tough!  Did Jesus or Jeremiah give up their prophetic tasks simply because they were opposed on all sides?  Nay, they remained in their posts even when threatened with death.

In the face of challenges and opposition, what should we do?  How can we remain firm like the Lord?  Firstly, we need to discern and decipher exactly whether what we are doing is the Lord’s will.  When Jeremiah was opposed, he began to have self-doubt as to whether what others said of him could be true.  Jeremiah said: “I hear so many disparaging me, ‘Terror from every side!’ Denounce him! Let us denounce him! All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge!’”  Could he be deceived or misled?  Could he be a false prophet and heard God’s voice wrongly?  So Jeremiah took time to search the depths of his heart and the voice of God that He heard calling him so deeply to speak to His people the message that he received from God.

Secondly, we need to be clear of our identity and calling.  Jesus knew Himself, His identity, His relationship with God and what He had been called to do.  This explains why Jesus was able to remain firm when opposed by the Jews and refused to take back His claims when they threatened to stone Him to death as prescribed by the Law of Moses for those who blasphemed.  Jesus knew that He came from the Father and that He did everything in union with the Father.  He defended Himself saying, “If I am not doing my Father’s work, there is no need to believe me, at least believe in the work I do; then you will know for sure that the Father is in me and I am the Father.”

Thirdly, Jesus vindicated Himself by His works.  When “the Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’” We can doubt a person’s words but we cannot doubt His works because every tree must be judged by its fruits.  So too with Jesus!  He did not ask that they believe in His words but what proved His message was from God was the works that He performed, the works of God which was mercy, compassion and love seen in the healing miracles and works of mercy, compassion and liberation.

Fourthly, Jesus justified Himself as one being sent.  He did not come from Himself but He was sent by the Father.  When the Jews accused Him of claiming to be God, He said, “’Is it not written in your Law: I said, you are gods? So the Law used the word gods of those to whom the word of God was addressed, and scripture cannot be rejected. Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because he says, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  Indeed, Jesus knew that He was sent by the Father and was consecrated for a mission.  The mission of Jesus was to represent the Father’s love and mercy.   To be called the son of God was not exceptionally strange because quoting from Psalm 82:6, the Israelite leaders and judges were called gods. (cf Ex 4:16; 7:1).  They were seen as agents of God’s revelation and His divine will.  Following this scriptural basis, the claims of Jesus could not be considered blasphemy.  In fact, Jesus was claiming that He was one with His Father in mind and heart.

How many of us can stand firm with Jesus and when challenged refer to our opponents to the works we do?  Can we say that we always walk the talk?  Unless, we are true to ourselves and live blameless lives, we cannot speak with that confidence to others or tell them what to do.   In the final analysis, instead of taking things into our own hands, after all that is said and done, like Jeremiah, we must turn to the Lord for courage and strength.   Let us surrender judgement and justice to God.  Jeremiah said, “But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.”   Instead of taking actions against our enemies, let the Lord who is our commander and fighter seek justice for us.  For as Jeremiah said, “But you, Lord of hosts, you who probe with justice, who scrutinise the loins and heart, let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you.”

We must wait for the time to strike by seeking out God’s timing, not ours.  We read that when they wanted to arrest the Lord, “He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising.”   Jesus did not fight head-on with His enemies because He knew He still had much work to do.  “They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them.”  He ran away not because He was a coward but because He needed time to finish what He had to do.  He went away in order to return another day to fight the battle that would bring ultimate victory.  Jesus did not allow His ego to take the better of Him.  Rather, His thought was always the accomplishment of the Father’s will and His divine plan. So there was an opportunity for that.

It will be good also for us to learn from Jesus, to return to our Galilee or Transfiguration experience.  We read that whilst withdrawing from the heat of the opposition, He went to renew and refresh Himself in the Father’s love by returning to that place where He was baptized.   It was necessary for Jesus to recall the Father’s promise of His love for Him when He was baptized and the mission given to Him at His baptism.  We too must always return to that moment of our calling, that event in which we experienced the love of Christ and how we heard Him calling us to serve Him.  Constant withdrawal and remembrance of His love for us will help us to stay focused, especially in times of doubt and trials.   Like the disciples of John, we must not forget our own God-experience.  We read that “Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.” So in our frustrations and in those moments we feel so tired, alone and disillusioned in our ministry, let us withdraw to that place and event when we felt the Lord so intimately.

Always in prayer and quiet reflection do we, like Jesus and Jeremiah, find strength to regain our energy and focus so that we can finish the job that the Lord has entrusted us.  With the psalmist, we pray, “          I love you, Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour. My God is the rock where I take refuge; my shield, my mighty help, my stronghold. The Lord is worthy of all praise, when I call I am saved from my foes.  In my anguish I called to the Lord, and he heard my voice.”  With praise and thanksgiving and trust, we should join Jeremiah in trusting Him.  “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” — Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 24, 2017

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Lectionary: 545

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Annunciation By Filippo Lippi 1449–59

Reading 1 IS 7:10-14; 8:10

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”

Responsorial PsalmPS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11

R. (8a and 9a) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Your justice I kept not hid within my heart;
your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of;
I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth
in the vast assembly.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2 HEB 10:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats
take away sins.
For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.'”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 1:14B

The Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us;
and we saw his glory.

Gospel LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

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Annunciation, By Fra Angelico, 1438
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE PERFECT SACRIFICE OF LOVE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 7:10-14,8-10; PS 39:7-11; HEB 10:4-10; LK 1:26-38]

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord each year falls between the Lenten and Easter season.  At first thought, it might seem to be rather inappropriate to celebrate this solemnity within the Lenten season.  Yet this feast that we are celebrating is so intimately linked with the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is because both the feasts of the Annunciation and that of the passion and death of the Lord celebrate the sacrificial offering of God.

Indeed, the feast of the Annunciation celebrates that moment when the second person of the Trinity who was eternally with the Father before the creation of the world took human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.   The moment Mary consented to God’s will, God the Son became man in Jesus Christ.  For Jesus, it was an act of self-emptying.  As the letter of St Paul to the Philippians says, Christ Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:6-8)   Indeed, Jesus offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, for twice, He emptied Himself; first, of His divinity, and then of His humanity on the cross by His death.  By so doing, Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father, for His “will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.”

But not only are we celebrating the perfect sacrifice of Christ, we are also celebrating the perfect sacrifice of the love of the Father.  For the Father to give Himself in His Son, it was also an act of perfect self-emptying.  The Father did not reserve the Son to Himself but gave Him up for us all.  St Paul wrote, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?”  (Rom 8:32)  Such was the generosity of God.  Again, St John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  (Jn 3:16)  Together with Jesus, the Father sacrificed Himself for the love of humanity.  In both instances, it was an act of self-emptying.

The scripture readings of today make it clear that the perfect sacrifice is to offer oneself to God.  The letter of Hebrews says,  “Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and that is what Christ said, on coming into the world: You wanted no sacrifice or obligation, prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then you said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’”  God does not need all our external sacrifices.  The psalmist says, “You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear.  You do not ask for holocaust and victim. Instead, here am I.”  All other sacrifices we offer are but an expression of the giving of oneself, but they are just a giving of a small part of what we have.  Few of us could be like the widow who gave all she had to the Temple treasury.

So what we are called to imitate in today’s celebration is the total giving of God the Father in Christ Jesus.  Mary for us is that perfect exemplar of what it means to give oneself totally to God in faith and trust.  The sacrifice of God is matched by the sacrifice of Mary.  God wants to give Himself completely to humanity by assuming our human flesh.  But He needs our cooperation.  Mary was asked to cooperate with God to bring forth the savior. In spite of all her fears, anxieties and lack of clarity on her future, she said “yes” to God without hesitation.  “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” By so doing, she was giving up her body and soul to God in obedience to His divine will.

Doing God’s will is more than just saying a single “yes”. This first answer required Mary to confirm to God’s will at every moment of her life.  This is true of every vocation, whether it is marriage, priesthood or a commitment we make to someone, like assuming an office.  Saying ‘yes’ is not so difficult but living out the ‘yes’ at every moment of the day and of the year is very daunting and challenging.  To say that we offer ourselves to our spouse or to the Church or to society is much easier said than done.  It calls for a total and daily dying to self.  Saying ‘yes’ is a lifelong commitment.  Jesus reminds us, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 16:24f)  And that was what Mary did from the moment of the annunciation.  She gave herself each moment to the developments that followed, from the time of Joseph’s discovery of her pregnancy to the birth of Jesus, in His public ministry when He was misunderstood, till His death on the cross at Calvary.  At every moment, Mary said, “Thy will be done.”

Today, we are called to do likewise and follow Mary in giving ourselves to the Lord by doing His holy will.  The author of Hebrews reiterates this truth.  “You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will.”  This means that we must be ready to say ‘yes’ to God in whatever we do.  We must not be like King Ahaz who insisted to do things his way in spite of the warning of the prophet Isaiah.  In his fear and anxiety that his kingdom would fall to the combined forces of Israel and Syria, he made an alliance with Assyria.  Even though he was offered a sign to confirm that it would not be so, he refused out of arrogance.  Hence, the Lord said, “Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying the patience with men without trying the patience of my God, too? The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’.”

Doing His will is of course impossible without faith.  We all face many challenges in life each day.  I am sure we are often at our wits end, trying to resolve our financial woes, the incorrigible ways of our loved ones at home, the politics in the office, the scandals that we see in our organization, etc.  That is why we need faith in order to do the will of God.  Mary shows us what faith in God is all about.  It was this faith that gave her the confidence to believe in the impossible.  The angel assured her, “”The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people call barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.”  Faith means to allow God’s grace to work on us in our lives.

As we celebrate the solemnity of the Annunciation, let us contemplate on their obedience to God’s will and the offering of themselves to the service of God and the plan of God’s salvation. We can do this most effectively by contemplating on the lives of Mary and Jesus as both are so intertwined.  There are two well-tested devotions in the Church that have inspired lives and moved hearts to be in union with the Lord and with Mary.  Firstly, we have the devotion to the Stations of the Cross.  This is a powerful devotion, for as we contemplate on His love for us on the cross, our hearts will be moved to love Him and to love our fellowmen, especially our enemies, as He did.  The other devotion of course is the Holy Rosary.  St John Paul II even wrote an apostolic letter encouraging us to contemplate on Christ and our Blessed mother by praying the rosary.  To make the contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice and that of Mary complete, He wisely added in the Luminous Mysteries.  Only by contemplating on the face of our Lord and the life of Mary, could we find strength also to offer ourselves completely to the Lord, doing His will at every moment in our lives.  So, together with Jesus and Mary especially during this season of Lent, let us renew our commitment to the Heavenly Father. “In the scroll of the book it stands written that I should do your will. My God, I delight in your law in the depth of my heart.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Rejoice!

This is a really strange greeting from God to his creature; it seems hard to explain and perhaps even senseless. And yet, for centuries it resonated in the pages of Sacred Scripture and thus also on the lips of the Hebrew people. Rejoice, be glad, exult! Many times the prophets had repeated this gentle breath of God and had shouted the silent beat of his heart for his people, his remnant. I read this in Joel: “Land, do not be afraid; be glad, rejoice, for Yahweh has done great things… (2: 21-23); in Zephaniah: “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! Yahweh has repealed your sentence” (3: 14); in Zechariah: “Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion, for now I am coming to live among you – Yahweh declares!” (2, 14).

I read and listen to it, today, I say it also in my heart, in my life; a joy is announced to me, a new happiness, never before experienced. I rediscover the great things that the Lord has done for me; I experience the freedom that comes from his pardon: I am no longer sentenced, but graced forever; I live the experience of the presence of the Lord next to me, in me. Yes, He has come to dwell in our midst; He is once more setting up his tent in the land of my heart, of my existence. Lord, as the Psalm says, you rejoice in your creatures (Ps 104: 31); and I too rejoice in you, thanks to you, my joy is in you (Ps 104: 34).

● The Lord is with you

These simple and enlightened words pronounced by the angel to Mary, liberate an all-powerful force; I realise that these words alone would suffice to save my life, to lift me up again from whatever fall or humiliation, to bring me back when I go astray. The fact that He, my Lord, is with me, keeps me alive, gives me courage and trust to go on being. If I am, it is because He is with me. Who knows but that the experience of Isaac told in Scripture might not be valid for me, the most beautiful thing imaginable that could happen to a person who believes in and loves God, when one day Abimelech came to Isaac with his men to tell him: “It became clear to us that Yahweh was with you” (Gen 26: 28) and then asked to become friends and form an alliance.

Would that the same thing might be said of me; would that I could show that the Lord is truly with me, in my life, in my desires, in my affections, in my choices and actions; would that others might meet Him through me. Perhaps for this, it is necessary for me to absorb more the presence of God, for me to eat and drink of Him.

Let me go to the school of Scripture, to read and re-read some passages where the voice of the Lord tells me again and again of this truth and, while He speaks, to be transformed, ever more in-dwelt. “Remain for the present in that country; I shall be with you and bless you” (Gen 26: 3). “To Joshua son of Nun, Yahweh gave this order: Be strong and stand firm, for you are to be the one to bring the Israelites into the country which I have promised them on oath, and I myself shall be with you” (Dt 31: 23). “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, because I am with you to save you and rescue you” (Jer 15: 20). “The angel of Yahweh appeared to him and said: Yahweh is with you, valiant warrior!” (Judges 6: 12). “Yahweh appeared to him the same night and said: I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I shall bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Gen 26: 24). “Be sure, I am with you; I shall keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this country, for I shall never desert you until I have done what I have promised you” (Gen 28: 15). “Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be alarmed, for I am your God. I give you strength, truly I help you, truly I hold you firm with my saving right hand” (Is 41: 10)

● Do not be afraid

The Bible is packed with this pronouncement full of kindness; like a river of mercy, these words are found throughout the sacred books, from Genesis to the Apocalypse. It is the Father who repeats to his children not to be afraid, because He is with them, he will not abandon them, he will not forget them, He will not leave them in the hands of their enemies. It is like a declaration of love from God to humanity, to each one of us; it is a pledge of fidelity that is relayed from hand to hand, from heart to heart, and finally comes down to us. Abraham heard these words and after him his son Isaac, then the patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon and, with them, Jeremiah and all the prophets. No one is excluded from this embrace of salvation that the Father offers his children, even those furthest from him, most rebellious against him. Mary knows how to listen to these words and knows how to believe full of faith, in an attitude of absolute surrender; She listens and believes, welcomes and lives for us too. She is the strong and courageous woman who opens herself to the coming of God, letting go of all fears, incredulity and a closed spirit. She repeats these same words of God in our lives and invites us to believe like her.

● You enjoy God’s favour

“Lord, if I enjoy favour in your sight…”. This is the prayer that time and time again comes out of the lips and hearts of those who seek refuge in the Lord; the Scriptures tell us about such people, we come across them in our crossroads when we know not where to go, when we feel hounded by solitude or by temptation, when we experience abandonment, betrayals, heavy defeats of our own existence. When we no longer have anyone and we fail to find even ourselves, then we too, like them, find ourselves praying by repeating these same words: “Lord, if I enjoy favour in your sight…”. Who knows how often we have repeated these words, even alone and in silence. But today, here, in this simple passage of the Gospel, we are forestalled, we are welcomed in anticipation; we need no longer plead, because we have already found everything that we always sought and much more. We have received freely, we are overwhelmed and now we can overflow.

● Nothing is impossible to God

I have nearly come to the end of this strong journey of grace and liberation; I now come across a word that shakes me in my depths. My faith is being sifted; the Lord is testing me, scrutinising me, testing my heart. What the angel says here in front of Mary, had already been proclaimed many times in the Old Testament; now the time has come for the fulfilment, now all the impossible things come to pass. God becomes man; the Lord becomes friend, brother; the distant is very close. And I, even I, small and poor as I am, am given to share in the immensity of this gift, this grace; I am told that in my life too the impossible becomes possible. I only have to believe, to give my consent. But this means that I have to allow myself to be shattered by the power of God; to surrender to Him, who will transform me, free me and renew me. Not even this is impossible. Yes, I can be reborn today, here and now, by the grace of the voice that has spoken to me, that has reached me even to the very depths of my heart. I seek and transcribe the passages of Scripture that repeat this truth. And as I write them, as I re-read them and say them slowly, devouring every word, and what they say takes place in me… Genesis 18: 14; Job 42: 2; Jeremiah 32: 17; Jeremiah 32: 27; Zechariah 8: 6; Matthew 19: 26; Luke 18: 27.

● Here I am

Now I cannot escape, nor can I avoid the conclusion. I knew from the beginning that here, in this word, so small and yet so full, so final, that God was waiting for me. The appointment of love, of the covenant between Him and me had been fixed precisely on this word, just a gentle voice, just a kiss. I am unsettled by the richness of the presence I feel in this “Here I am!”; I need not make much effort to recall the number of times that God first pronounced and repeated these words to me. He is the ‘Here I am’ made man, absolutely faithful, unforgettable. I only need to tune into him, only find his footprints in the sand of my poverty, of my desert; I only need to welcome his infinite love that never ceases to seek me, to stay close to me, to walk with me wherever I go. The ‘Here I am’ has already been pronounced and realised, it is already real. How many before me and how many today have experienced this! I am not alone. I still remain silent, listening before I reply…

“Here I am!” (Is 65: 1) God repeats; Mary replies, “Here I am, I am the servant of the Lord”; and Christ says, “I come to do your will” (Ps 39: 8)…

A TIME OF PRAYER: PSALM 138

Ref. Father, into your hands I commend my life.

Yahweh, you examine me and know me,
you know when I sit, when I rise,
you understand my thoughts from afar.
You watch when I walk or lie down,
you know every detail of my conduct.
A word is not yet on my tongue before you,
Yahweh, know all about it.
You fence me in, behind and in front,
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such amazing knowledge is beyond me,
a height to which I cannot attain.
Where shall I go to escape your spirit?
Where shall I flee from your presence?
If I scale the heavens you are there,
if I lie flat in Sheol, there you are.

You created my inmost self,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
For so many marvels I thank you;
a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders.
You knew me through and through,
How hard for me to grasp your thoughts,
how many, God, there are!
If I count them, they are more than the grains of sand;
if I come to an end, I am still with you.
God, examine me and know my heart,
test me and know my concerns.
Make sure that I am not on my way to ruin,
and guide me on the road of eternity.

CLOSING PRAYER

Father, you came down to me, you have come to me, you have touched my heart, you have spoken to me and promised joy, presence and salvation. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, who overshadows me, I, together with Mary, have been able to say to you yes, the ‘Here I am’ of my life for you. Now there remains only the force of your promise, of your truth: “You are to conceive and bear Jesus”. Lord, here is the womb of my life, of my being, of all that I am and have, open before you. I place all things in you, in your heart. Enter, come, come down again, I beg you, and make me fruitful, make me one who gives birth to Christ in this world. May the overflowing love I receive from you find its fullness and truth in touching the brothers and sisters that you place beside me. May our meeting, Father, be open, a gift to all. May Jesus be the Saviour. Amen.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-annunciation-lord

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 20, 2017 — Saint Joseph Shows Us How To Be Father, Husband, Worker

March 19, 2017

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 543

On The Road to Bethlehem by Joseph Brickey

Reading 1  2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16

The LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David,
‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.'”

Responsorial Psalm PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 AND 29

R. (37) The son of David will live for ever.
The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness,
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.

Reading 2 ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22

Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.
That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.

Verse Before The Gospel PS 84:5

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord;
they never cease to praise you.

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Joseph, Mary and Jesus — “Flight into Egypt”

Gospel MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

Or LK 2:41-51A

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them.

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We must remember that Jesus knew in detail the whole course his earthly life would take from his conception onwards (cf. note on Lk 2:52). This is shown by what he says in reply to his parents. Mary and Joseph realized that his reply contained a deeper meaning which they did not grasp. They grew to understand it as the life of their Child unfolded. Mary’s and Joseph’s faith and their reverencetowards the Child led them not to ask any further questions but to reflect on Jesus’ words and behavior in this instance, as they had done so on other occasions.

The Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in just three words: “erat subditus illis”, he was obedient to them. “Jesus obeys, and he obeys Joseph and Mary. God has come to the world to obey, and to obey creatures. Admittedly they were very perfect creatures — Holy Mary, our mother, greater than whom God alone; and that most chaste man Joseph. But they are only creatures, and yet Jesus, who is God, obeyed them. We have to love God so as to love his will and desire to respond to his calls. They come to us through the duties of our ordinary life — duties of state, profession, work, family, social life, our own and other people’s difficulties, friendship, eagerness to do what is right and just” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 17).

Jesus lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working at the same trade as St Joseph and earning his living by the sweat of his brow. “His hidden years are not without significance, nor were they simply a preparation for the years which were to come after–those of his public life. Since 1928 I have understood clearly that God wants our Lord’s whole life to be an example for Christians. I saw this with special reference to his hidden life, the years he spent working side by side with ordinary men. Our Lord wants many people to ratify their vocation during years of quiet, unspectacular living. Obeying God’s will always means leaving our selfishness behind, but there is no reason why it should entail cutting ourselves off from the normal life of ordinary people who share the same status, work and social position with us.

“I dream–and the dream has come true–of multitudes of God’s children, sanctifying themselves as ordinary citizens, sharing the ambitions and endeavors of their colleagues and friends. I want to shout to them about this divine truth: If you are there in the middle of ordinary life, it doesn’t mean Christ has forgotten about you or hasn’t called you. He has invited you to stay among the activities and concerns of the world. He wants you to know that your human vocation, your professsion, your talents, are not omitted from his divine plans. He has sanctified them and made them a most acceptable offering to his Father” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 20).

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Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”.  Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

See also:

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Author Devin Schadt wrote “Joseph’s Way — The Calling To Fatherly Greatness” to help all men with relationships, parenting and living as a Christian husband.

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Devin Schadt talks to us about how we can translate The Word — and the lessons of Jesus and the saints —  into the best kind of a Christian life; especially for fathers.
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Today’s scripture readings reminded me of this passage in Schadt’s book, “Joseph’s Way” — “Both Adam and the New Adam establish the pace for the dynamism of love, or absence thereof. The former established the paradigm of neglect, selfishness and lust while the latter set the paradigm of responsibility, of self giving, of complete self-donation.”
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How do we, each of us, become the rock? How do we keep the keys to heaven? (Matthew 16:18-19). How do we become “the cornerstone” even if we were once sinful and felt rejected? (Psalm 118:22). How do we “pour ourselves out” (Isaiah 58:10) and become people of self-donation?
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Over and over again, Christ urges us to “go the extra mile,” (Matthew 5:41) and He tells us that through faith and prayer, He will always meet our needs — giving us what we need when we need it to complete our mission for Him.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Related:

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From 2016:

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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FAITH IN THE UNFOLDING OF gOD’S PLAN IN OUR LIVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 7:4-5;12-14,16; ROM 4:13;16-18,22; MT 1:16,18-21,24 OR LK 2:41-51]

Many of us live in anxiety and fear of tomorrow.  We worry about our job, our health and our loved ones.  We worry about the education of our children, whether they will do well in their studies.  We are always worried that we do not have enough money to sustain us and our loved ones.  Such fears and concerns are normal and understandable.  But when we look at our life many years down the road, we would come to realize that most of these fears are quite unnecessary. In fact, our health would have been better, our lives more joyful and happier had we not been so anxious. Anxiety causes us to have high blood pressure and hypertension, and sometimes insomnia.  Worse still, it leads us to vices, like gambling, cheating and drinking.

This is because we trust only in ourselves.  Weaklings as we are, our lives are always fragile.  We cannot guarantee or predict what will happen tomorrow.  We are not in full control of our lives.  But we want to be in charge.  We do not want to live in faith.  Because we take things into our own hands instead of relying on God’s grace, we often end up messing the plans of God as Abraham did when he was impatient waiting for the promised son.  He did not live by faith and took Hagar a slave to conceive a son for him.  This lack of trust in God’s plan caused more problems for humanity later.  This is also true for ourselves.

What we need is to have faith in God’s fidelity to us. All the three readings unveil to us the marvellous and irrevocable plan of God. No matter what we human beings do to contradict the plan of God, His plan would unfold all the same.  God is faithful to His promises.  This is the centrality of today’s scripture readings so beautifully expressed by the psalmist.  “I will sing forever of your love, O Lord; through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.  Of this I am sure, that your love lasts forever, that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I will establish your dynasty forever and set up your throne through all ages.”

We see first and foremost God’s fidelity to Abraham when He called him to move out of his comfort zone of Ur, the land of the Chaldeans, and to journey to an unknown land that God would show Him. There was no guarantee but it was just a promise that he would be “the father of many nations” and “his descendants will be as many as the stars.”  Based on that promise, he set out to a foreign land fraught with dangers from weather and enemies. Certainly, Abraham would have wondered many times when the promise of God would be fulfilled.  In truth, he did not see it in his life time completely, except for the birth of Isaac. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised.”  On hindsight, we see that God fulfilled His promises beyond our imagination.  He is the Father of faith and hence of many generations.  Through him, the great religions were born, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  We are all his children in faith.

In the first reading, we see the promise of a nation fulfilled. Then the Davidic dynasty was established.  Under the reign of King David, the nation flourished. All the Twelve tribes were united under one Israel.  But God went further in promising King David that his kingdom would last forever.  Through the prophet Nathan, God said, “I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established forever.”

When David heard these words, we can be sure that he did not fully grasp the meaning.  At most, he would have thought that his son and descendants would continue to perpetuate the dynasty he had started.  Even that is not realistic.  Did he really believe that his kingdom will last forever when history has shown that kingdoms rise and fall regardless how powerful and great they are?  Even great powers like Assyria, Babylon and Persia; Greece and Rome in the ancient days had fallen.  In our times, countries like Spain, Portugal and Britain were once powerful countries, but their influence is much less today.  All earthly kingdoms have come and gone.

Yet, we see once again the fidelity of God to His plan for humanity. God is faithful to His promises. What we cannot conceive, God could do. God had planned that His Son would come from the line of David and establish forever the sovereignty of God.  From hindsight, the prophecy of Nathan now makes sense, when God said to David, “It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure forever. I will be a father to him and he a son to me.”  Although it was true that the king in the Old Testament was considered a son of God, yet the full understanding of the Fatherhood of God is realized only with the birth of Christ, His son. When Christ was on earth, His message was simply the kingdom of God.  Christ, by His death and resurrection, established the kingdom of the Father forever and ever.

What does it mean for us when we celebrate the feast of St Joseph? We must imitate him in his receptivity to the plan of God. The idea of him being a foster father was never in the mind of Joseph. All he wanted was a normal family.  He was certainly like the rest of us.  But God had other plans for him.  God said to him, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.”  When God revealed His plan to Joseph, he could have revolted or insisted on going his own way.  He could have said, “No, I want to have a normal married life.” But he was receptive and obedient to God’s will.

How many of us are receptive to the unexpected changes in our life and adapt accordingly?  Many of us are afraid of change.  We want the comfortable and secure life we are used to having.  Whether at work, at home or in church, we resist change. We want to do things the same old ways but at the same time, we give lip service to progress. When called upon the Lord to undertake certain tasks and responsibilities, we shy away because it means changing the routine and status quo.  How many of us would be like Joseph, who upon hearing the voice of God,  woke up and took the risk of accepting Mary to be his wife?   Many of us do not live a fruitful and meaningful life because we are like a frog that will not come out of our well.  We must learn to adapt and take risks in responding to the call of God and the unimaginable will happen.

Secondly, we are called to imitate the faith of Joseph in cooperating with God’s plan.  “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.”. We can be sure that he could not understand how Mary could conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It seemed too farfetched.  He would also have wondered what all these would entail.  But he trusted in the Lord. He believed that God would be faithful to His promise.  This is the same faith of Abraham.  We might never know exactly how the plan of God would evolve.  What is important is that like Joseph, our task is to cooperate with the plan of God.  We need to walk by faith, not by sight. God in His own time will bring about the maturity of His plan for us.  This was the case of Abraham as St Paul wrote, “I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.”   We must do all we can whilst leaving God to determine how events will unfold.  Faith does not mean doing nothing; it requires us to cooperate with Him.

Thirdly, having faith in God means to live in hope. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him’.”   Without hope, we will give up.  But hope must be sustained by faith.  If we continue to live on in spite of the trials and difficulties facing us, it is because we have hope that we will be able to overcome them.

Conversely, only faith can help us to persevere in hope. This is what St Paul tells us. “The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith.” Truly, “what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the Father of all of us.” In this way, the promise of God to unfold His plans in our lives will also be realized in any one of us who has faith like our forefathers. Let us therefore walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

So today, as we celebrate the feast of St Joseph, let us in faith walk confidently in the ways of the Lord.  Let us not be too worried about the future.  We too pray with the psalmist, “You are my father, my God, the rock who saves me.”  And God assures us, “I will keep my love for him always; with him my covenant shall last.”  He is reliable and although things may not work out the way we think, we can be sure that it will work out in ways beyond our imagination.  With St Paul we say, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”  (Rom 11:33)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From 2016:

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 MARCH 2016, Saturday, St Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M.
ST JOSEPH PATRON OF HOLY WORKS OF MERCY AND SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2SAM 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; PS 88:2-5, 27,29; ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22; MATT 1:16, 18-21, 24 ]Today, we celebrate the solemnity of St Joseph, the spouse of our Blessed Mother Mary and the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It must not have been easy for Joseph to assume this role.  St Joseph was a common man who desired what everyone hopes for in life.   He was an ordinary carpenter and he hoped to settle down and raise a family.  Everything seemed to be going well with St Joseph as Mary was betrothed to him in marriage. He must have thought that his life and future were all cut out for him.   Mary certainly must have been known to him and his relatives as a decent God-fearing girl. He would have looked forward to the day of his marriage. Yet, the truth is that man proposes, God disposes.  Our plans are not always His plans.  God had chosen Mary to be the mother of the Saviour and she would conceive Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was told to Mary by the angel Gabriel.If we were Joseph and were told that our future wife is pregnant in the power of the Holy Spirit, how would we react and what would we do?  Would we believe her?  Would we think that she was either lying, gone berserk or even been unfaithful to us?  We would be totally lost and devastated at such news.   So we can imagine what St Joseph must have gone through when Mary broke the news to him.  It was too good to be true on one hand and too sad to be true on the other; but on both counts it went against logic.  No one would believe them, even if St Joseph were to give Mary the benefit of the doubt.   We can be sure that St Joseph went through days of torment and sleepless nights.  Utmost in the mind of St Joseph was how to explain this situation and secondarily how to protect Mary.

This predicament that St Joseph had to go through was not made easier because he was known to be a just man.  This is to say, he was God-fearing and law abiding.  He would not do anything against the Law of Moses.   He was obedient to the commandments.  He was a man of justice and of integrity.  He was known to be a diligent, hardworking and responsible worker.  So how could he be just and yet merciful to Mary?   This is the crux of today’s celebration when we contemplate on St Joseph as the patron of works of mercy and as spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

How can one be just and yet merciful?  Very often, justice and mercy seem to be in conflict.  Being merciful implies that we bend the laws whereas justice is based on rights and fairness, reward and punishment.   So there is always this tension within us of wanting to be just to all and yet at times compassion implies that we let an offender go free without being punished for the sufferings and wrongs he has caused to others. Truly, very often we are caught in such dilemma, more so when that person who commits an offence or sin is someone we know personally and love dearly.  On one hand, we are able to feel with that person and empathize with him or her.  On the other hand, justice must be done, especially in a case of a criminal offence.   Either way, we are paralyzed in our decision.  Either way, our heart will be broken.

How did St Joseph resolve this conundrum? The apparent conflict between justice and mercy can only be resolved by faith in God’s mercy and grace.  It is faith in the mercy and grace of God that saves us.  God saves us not because of our good works but because of His mercy.  Indeed, this is what the Church wants the world to know, that God is merciful and compassionate.  The jubilee year of mercy is to underscore the mercy of God and His forgiving love.  Whilst we must seek to be just, yet mercy is greater than justice, forgiveness better than revenge.  St Joseph in this sense was made to realize that we are justified by faith, not good works.  It is not good works or the law that saves us but the mercy of God.  Recognizing that God’s justice is His mercy, he was careful not to allow his fidelity to the laws to make him harsh.   Even though He initially thought that Mary could have been unfaithful, Joseph wanted to do what was just and yet merciful.  He did not take revenge, nor was he presumptuous in condemning Mary of a sin she did not commit and of which her pregnancy could not be explained.

This requires us to have faith in the transforming power of God’s grace.   Just as Mary accepted in faith the angel’s message, Joseph was asked to trust in God’s plan.  Although it was difficult to accept or to believe, he submitted to God’s plan in faith.  St Joseph was a man of deep faith.  He knew that God was faithful. Joseph knew from scripture that God is always with the just man.  He just knew that somehow God would come to his aid and see him through all his trials.  He also knew that God’s grace can transform sinners as well.  Hence, we must not give up on sinners.  There are no incorrigible sinners or hopeless people.   So when we have faith in His grace, we know He works both in just and unjust people.

This faith comes about through understanding in deep prayer and intimacy with God.  We know from scriptures that Joseph was a quiet man, but a man of deep faith and contemplation.  He was always attentive to the voice of God.  So God spoke to him in a dream and revealed to him His plan for our salvation.  Although his mind was made up, he was not wilful or too proud to listen.  So it was his contemplative spirit that enabled him to hear the Word of God so clearly that the gospel says, “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.

The ability to accept the will of God is aided by a better understanding of the fulfillment of God’s plan.  When St Joseph was informed by the angel in a dream of how the plan of God was being fulfilled, he understood and gave his full cooperation to the plan of God.   Understanding the beauty of God’s plan and His divine providence enabled him to surrender even when things were not clear to him.  God has a plan for sinners too.  He makes all things good if they cooperate with His grace.  In other words, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  This does not mean that we be rash in believing what people say.  Walking by faith means to walk in trust, but it also requires us to be responsible in clarifying and verifying whether the voice we hear is truly the Word of God and His will.  This was what Mary did when asked to be the mother of the Lord.  Unlike Zechariah, she was not lacking faith but she needed the angel to help her confirm the message she had heard.  So too, if we were to take the leap of faith, it would come through prayer and study in the process of discernment.

Today as we celebrate the Solemnity of St Joseph we are asked to imitate His example of justice in mercy. Being just itself is an act of mercy.  As Christians we need to observe the very basic foundation of mercy which is justice. We need to be fair to our workers and those under us.  We must ensure that they are reasonably paid and we must be compassionate to them in times of sickness and family problems. Justice and impartiality in our actions and treatment of our workers or family members is the most basic justice.  We must be careful not to pass judgement on people based on hearsay without verification or investigation.  This is where we as Church must avoid gossiping, slandering, and false accusations.

But we must also go beyond justice to compassion and forgiveness.  In the Church we are all sinners.  We must be ready to forgive and let go.  At times we do not understand, but like St Joseph, we must hand over judgment to God and not take it upon ourselves.  St Joseph could not explain the situation, but not for once did he judge Mary or make any accusation against her.  He just noted the fact that she was indeed pregnant, but as to who caused the pregnancy, he made no judgment.  All he wanted to do was to see how to resolve this matter without scandal and without causing hurt to anyone.  That is why when we speak of compassion, this does not mean that we are exempted from doing the right thing.  We do what is permitted within the laws and yet, at the same time, we must be careful not to judge the intentions of the heart.  We must leave judgment and vengeance to the Lord.   With Jesus, we say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they were doing.”

This presupposes we have contemplated on God’s mercy.  Unless we are first and foremost recipients of God’s mercy, we cannot show mercy to others.  His mercy is only given to those in need of His mercy.  Proud and self-righteous people do not need mercy because they trust only in themselves and their good works.   To be like St Joseph who is just and merciful, we must be aware of our sins and failures.   If there is a lack of contrition and self-awareness on our part, we will not be able to receive or be moved by His mercy.  Reflection on one’s misery and wretchedness should make us realize that we are not in a position to judge others because there is a plank in our eyes.  We should instead see our sins in our fellowmen so that their sins would evoke our gratitude for God’s mercy and sorrow for them instead of anger and condemnation.

But being sorry for our sins is not yet redemption as we will fall into despair like St Peter or, worse still, into scrupulosity.  Such fear of God will not make us holy but only robs the joy of the gospel from our lives.  If there is no joy in us we have nothing to share with others.  A further consideration of God’s patience and mercy for us is critical to transform us to be like St Joseph – just and yet not judgmental; kind and merciful towards others.  Only faith in His unconditional love and mercy can heal our wounds and assuage our fears.  Without experiencing mercy from God either for our sins or remembering those times when He came to our aid in hopeless and difficult situations, we will never be able to appreciate the power and mercy of God; and as a result lack power to proclaim and share His mercy with others.

Beyond forgiveness and compassion for the sins and weaknesses of our brothers and sisters, we mustalso reach out to those in need, in distress and in pain.  This is what we are invited to do today if we love St Joseph who is the protector of our Blessed Mother, defender of widows and orphans and the dying.  Like St Joseph, we must be ready to assist and to help the universal Church.  We are called to help the People of God and the world.  We must come to the aid of widows, orphans and those in trouble.  St Joseph could be all these to us only because he had gone through all these pains in his life and identified with those who were and had been in such situations.  We too can be like St Joseph, a man of mercy and compassion, provided we are also able to identify with the sufferings and pains of our fellowmen and most of all, with the heart of God.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, March 19, 2017 — “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” — “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” — “The One Thing”

March 18, 2017

Third Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 28

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Samaritan Woman at the Well by Angelika Kauffmann , 17–18th century

Reading 1 EX 17:3-7

In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the LORD,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?”

Responsorial Psalm PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 ROM 5:1-2, 5-8

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith
to this grace in which we stand,
and we boast in hope of the glory of God.

And hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Verse Before The Gospel CF. JN 4:42, 15

Lord, you are truly the Savior of the world;
give me living water, that I may never thirst again.

Gospel JN 4:5-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

Jesus said to her,
“Go call your husband and come back.”
The woman answered and said to him,
“I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her,
“You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’
For you have had five husbands,
and the one you have now is not your husband.
What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned,
and were amazed that he was talking with a woman,
but still no one said, “What are you looking for?”
or “Why are you talking with her?”
The woman left her water jar
and went into the town and said to the people,
“Come see a man who told me everything I have done.
Could he possibly be the Christ?”
They went out of the town and came to him.
Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.”
But he said to them,
“I have food to eat of which you do not know.”
So the disciples said to one another,
“Could someone have brought him something to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“My food is to do the will of the one who sent me
and to finish his work.
Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’?
I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest.
The reaper is already receiving payment
and gathering crops for eternal life,
so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together.
For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’
I sent you to reap what you have not worked for;
others have done the work,
and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him
because of the word of the woman who testified,
“He told me everything I have done.”
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

OrJN 4:5-15, 19B-26, 39A, 40-42

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep;
where then can you get this living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob,
who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself
with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her,
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty
or have to keep coming here to draw water.

“I can see that you are a prophet.
Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain;
but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her,
“Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You people worship what you do not understand;
we worship what we understand,
because salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and is now here,
when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth;
and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship him
must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him,
“I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ;
when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her,
“I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him.
When the Samaritans came to him,
they invited him to stay with them;
and he stayed there two days.
Many more began to believe in him because of his word,
and they said to the woman,
“We no longer believe because of your word;
for we have heard for ourselves,
and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

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Jacob’s Well in Samaria – The History of the Samaritans

Jacob’s Well still exists in the ancient land of Samaria. Samaria was the land between Judaea and Galilee. In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered this area and hauled most of the Israelites into captivity. According to Assyrian records, new inhabitants were brought in from the east, forming a new population. This mixture of indigenous Israelites with imported Assyrians is thought to be the beginning of the Samaritan people.

Later in the 6th century BC, when the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple, the new population of Samaritans in the north wasn’t invited to participate. They were considered “half-breeds,” with an impure mix of Judaism and “outside” religious customs.
So, after being snubbed, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim in Samaria about 330 BC. This became their holy mountain, and they changed some passages in the Hebrew Scriptures to reflect that. Simply, Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along ever since.
But, Jesus was a unique Jewish rabbi. It seems he made a point of travelling through the region from time to time, especially when he travelled between Galilee and Jerusalem. His message was for everyone — including these so-called, “outcasts.”

Jacob’s Well in Samaria – The Samaritan Woman at the Well

Today, Jacob’s Well in Samaria lies within the monastery complex of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Nablus, a part of the Palestinian West Bank. Jacob’s Well is also about 250 feet from the archaeological ruins of ancient Shechem. Shechem has a long history in the Hebrew Scriptures, and was the first capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

On one occasion in the Gospels, Jesus had a conversation with a Samaritan woman by a well – Jacob’s Well. This well was already a sacred site at the time of Jesus, since Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, and his family and livestock drank from it.

The Gospel of John tells us:

So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:4-15)

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Woman at the Well by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Then Jesus revealed things to the woman that he couldn’t have known. How she had many husbands and was now living with a man that she wasn’t married to. He lovingly confronted her about her past, and she acknowledged her wrongdoing. The Samaritan woman repented of her past and told her townspeople that she had met the Messiah. Over the next two days, Jesus stayed with them and many believed what he had to say.

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According to Christian Orthodox tradition, the Samaritan woman’s story at Jacob’s Well was so powerful that many became followers of Jesus, including her five sisters and two sons. The disciples heard of her experience with Jesus and came to baptize her, giving her the name “Photini,” meaning, “enlightened one.” Thus, the name of the Greek Orthodox Church in Nablus is “St. Photini the Samaritan.” Deep inside this church is the ancient site of Jacob’s Well in Samaria, which has been venerated by Christian pilgrims since the early 4th century AD.

https://www.drivethruhistory.com/jacob-well-in-samaria/

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

We ask so much of God!  So often our prayers are about what we need, what we want, what others need and what others want.  We are humans and most often focused only on our own world.  Today Jesus invites us to open our eyes and see the salvation of God all around us.  If we see salvation, we might prepare our hearts to walk with Jesus through death to resurrection.

The first reading today is from the Book of Exodus.  The Jewish people have begun their walk to the Promised Land.  Now they feel the lack of water and begin to complain.  Now it is water they lack, later it is food.  Still later they want a different leader.  The complaint does not matter!  Always it is something!  But water is important and we find this longing for water here in the first reading and then much more so in the Gospel from Saint John.

The second reading brings in another element:  God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.  The Letter to the Romans from which today’s small passage comes, reflects on the deep love of God for His people.  God loves us so much that He sends His own Son—even to die for us while we are still sinners.  For so many people today, such a sacrifice appears useless or even at times something that should be taken for granted.  We live in a society where we expect to be the center and to be taken care of.  How can we convey the immense value of Jesus giving His life for us?

Jesus shows us a way in the Gospel of John today.  He is gentle and courteous and draws the interest of the Samaritan woman in many ways.  First Jesus asks her for water.  Then later Jesus offers her water.  Slowly she comes to understand that this man there with her might be the Messiah.  This one of the very few places in all of Scripture where Jesus says completely directly:  “I am he, the one speaking with you.”

Each of us, right now, must become aware that this is Jesus speaking not only directly to the Samaritan woman, but to each one of us.  Jesus tells each one of us:  “I am the Messiah, the one who is speaking to you.”

So many of us look and look for the Messiah!  In so many ways we look for ways of salvation.  Yet, when the Messiah is right there with us and tells us:  “I am the Messiah,” we seem to ignore Him.  We want something or someone else.

Jesus, let me know You!  May I come to know you as the fulfilling of all that I have ever wanted!  Let me see Your face and I shall be saved.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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FULFILLMENT IN LIFE THROUGH THE LOVE OF THE SPIRIT IN OUR HEARTS GIVEN TO THOSE WHO HAVE FAITH IN CHRIST


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 17:3-7; ROM 5:1-2, 5-8; JN 4:5-42 ]

Thirst is an experience we all can identify with.  When we are thirsty, we feel restless, uncomfortable, tired, weary, irritable and unable to focus on what we are doing.  Perhaps, for this reason, today’s scripture readings use the symbol of thirst to express these feelings of ours which extend beyond simply physical thirst.  Indeed, we are all seeking something in life that can fulfill us.   Such a need can be as tormenting, as the need for water.

Firstly, for many people, their thirst is for material things, like the Israelites in the first reading.  Like them, we are always grumbling that our material life is not comfortable enough. The word ‘enough’ simply does not exist in our vocabulary because we have a well that cannot seem to be filled.  Once something is given, we immediately seek something else.  That is the trouble with human beings.  Look at the Israelites. Once their thirst was quenched, they complained about the lack of bread, and then after being satisfied, they complained that they had no meat.  So you see, no amount of material goods can satisfy the physical needs of a person.  Such satisfaction will not turn into a spring of fulfillment but only emptiness and frustration.

Of course, for some people, it is not physical needs that they are looking for.  This group of people have gone beyond the survival level.  They are seeking emotional needs, like the Samaritan woman.  We are told that she had five husbands. She must have gone through quite a number of broken relationships.  She must have been a broken and bitter lady.  So you can imagine how surprised she must have been when Jesus, a Jew at that,  took interest in her and initiated a conversation with her. To know that somebody is concerned for her and interested about her life, as she remarked at the end of today’s gospel, “he told me all that I have ever done” certainly uplifted her.

Yet, in the final analysis, our physical and emotional needs, while certainly important, cannot give us the fulfillment that we are really seeking.  Even if our body is well looked after because we have attended to our physical needs; and even if our human spirit is satisfied because we have healthy relationships with people; yet our divine spirit is starved because the Spirit of God is missing in our lives.  God, it must be said, is irreplaceable.  No human person can rest so long as his divine spirit is not in touch with the Spirit of God.  For this reason, we need more than simply water and human relationships to satisfy us.  We need living water, which is the Spirit of God, to nurture and strengthen us.  This living water is Jesus Himself, who comes to give us His Spirit.  This is what St John and Paul speak about.  On this basis, we could say with Paul that “this hope is not deceptive because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.”

But the fact is that many of us do not feel the love of God present in our hearts – the kind of experience that Paul speaks about.  In fact, we are just like the Israelites who in their emptiness and thirst questioned:  “Is the Lord with us, or not?”  Many of us too are asking the same question;  ‘Is God real?  Where is He?  If He is real, why don’t I experience Him and why doesn’t He seem to care?’ Yes, questions like that imply that somehow we are distant from God.  Is there anything we can do to improve our relationship with Jesus, our living water, the source of life?

Yes, only one thing is necessary.  We need to give faith a chance.  St Paul wrote to the Romans that it is “by faith we are judged righteous and at peace with God, since it is by faith and through Jesus that we have entered this state of grace.”  Faith, then, is the pre-requisite for entering into a deep experience of God’s love and grace which is the experience of being loved even in our sinfulness, nothingness and brokenness.  This is the kind of love Paul meant.  Hence, he says “what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.”  Only such an experience of His overflowing love will buttress our hope in Him, a hope, Paul reassures us, that is not deceptive.

If faith is the answer to such an experience, necessarily we must ask exactly the nature of faith that is required of us.  Is faith simply a blind surrender and trust?  Nay, faith is a surrender based on a real and personal knowledge that what we hope for is well founded in truth.  Of course, faith entails trust and surrender as well.  But faith is not founded on falsehood. That would be fideism and superstitious.  Rather, faith is founded on the promises of God which are true.  Thus, Jesus tells the Samaritan that true worship, that is, a true experience of God, is not based on whether we worship at the right or wrong mountain but whether we worship in spirit and in truth.

Concretely, to worship in spirit and in truth implies two things.  Faith requires a sharing of the same spirit of Jesus, which is the sharing of the same mind and heart.  So, to worship in spirit and in truth presupposes that firstly, our minds must be converted.  It requires an open mind.  It is said that education is to replace an empty mind with an open mind.  Precisely, Jesus comes as prophet to fill our mind, but we need an open mind to listen to Him.  The Samaritan woman was open to what Jesus had to say and could recognize that He was a prophet.  If we truly want to have the mind of Jesus, we too must listen attentively to His word that is read and proclaimed.  Reception of the Word is therefore one aspect of being given the living water of the Spirit from Jesus.

Of course, listening is not sufficient.  We can listen and yet not be converted.  We need to open our hearts as well.  We must be careful not to reduce our relationship with God to an intellectual enterprise.  Rather, the words of Jesus must help us to open our hearts to Him so that He can reveal to us who we truly are.  This was the case of the Samaritan woman.  Because she was open to Jesus, she was able to have a real relationship with Him.  She came to know herself more truly and thus was liberated from her bondage to her broken life.  We too must learn to relate with Jesus in prayer in a personal manner.  Our relationship with God is not with someone impersonal but someone who is real to us.  In speaking to Him about ourselves, we too will be released from all those bondages that imprison us from becoming the person God meant us to be.

In this way, we will come to experience Jesus not only as a prophet or a teacher but our Messiah and saviour. This was what happened to the Samaritan woman.  At the end of the conversation, the faith of the woman progressed from recognizing Jesus as a prophet to that of the Messiah.  Unless, we see Jesus as the Anointed One, the Messiah of God who died for us even in our sinful state, we cannot really come to affirm that God is love in Jesus.  But if we do, then we will experience that unmerited love in our hearts which cannot but touch the very core of our beings.  This is what Paul meant when he speaks about the love of God being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  True experience of God is the experience of the unlimited and unconditional love of God for us even in our unworthiness.  This is what ultimately transformed Paul and it will be for us as well.

But all this can happen only when we, as Paul tells us, by faith enter into this state of grace, that is a relationship with the Lord.  Thus, today, we must be like the Samaritans who begged Jesus to stay with them.  And He obliged their request by staying an extra two days with them.  And because they were open in their minds and in their hearts, they were nurtured with the living water as Jesus shared His mind and heart with them.  At the end of it all, the conclusion of the Samaritans was this:  “Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.”  Yes, unless we can say that we have faith in Jesus, not because of what others have told us about Him but because we have seen and experienced His truth and love, and therefore His Spirit in us, we cannot claim to have a true faith in Jesus.  Only this kind of faith will truly justify us, make us wholesome and restore us to fullness of life.

Let us therefore, on this third week of Lent, deepen our prayer life and our relationship with God.  Let us make use of the Lenten works, be it fasting, prayer or penance, to come to a deeper realization of our sinfulness so that the love of God can become clearer and more real to us.  The day we experience both our sinfulness and unworthiness; and also the love of God for us in Jesus, we will find that the promise of Jesus is true – the promise that a spring of love will well up in us to eternal life, a life of God.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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A Few Mentions of The Holy Spirit in Scripture
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Bible Verses and Scriptures About the Holy Spirit – Read what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit. Find biblical answers to common questions about the Holy Ghost, such as “what is the Holy Ghost?” “what does it mean to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?”, and many more.Use our Bible verses by topic page to quickly find scriptures about popular topics.Judges 3:10-14

10 The Spirit of the LORD came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died. 12 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. 13 Getting the Ammonites and Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms. 14 The Israelites were subject to Eglon king of Moab for eighteen years.

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Matthew 12:31-33
31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
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Luke 24:45-49
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
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John 3:6-8
6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
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Romans 8:2-6
2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
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2 Corinthians 5:16-18
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
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1 Chronicles 12:18-20
18 Then the Spirit came on Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: “We are yours, David! We are with you, son of Jesse! Success, success to you, and success to those who help you, for your God will help you.” So David received them and made them leaders of his raiding bands. 19 Some of the tribe of Manasseh defected to David when he went with the Philistines to fight against Saul. (He and his men did not help the Philistines because, after consultation, their rulers sent him away. They said, “It will cost us our heads if he deserts to his master Saul.”) 20 When David went to Ziklag, these were the men of Manasseh who defected to him: Adnah, Jozabad, Jediael, Michael, Jozabad, Elihu and Zillethai, leaders of units of a thousand in Manasseh.
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Psalm 52:1-3
1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? 2 You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. 3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
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Micah 3:8-10
8 But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin. 9 Hear this, you leaders of Jacob, you rulers of Israel, who despise justice and distort all that is right; 10 who build Zion with bloodshed, and Jerusalem with wickedness.
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Acts 2:1-5
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
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Luke 24:45-47
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
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1 John 2:19-27
19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life. 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
 http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/holy-spirit-bible-verses/

Coming Into Contact With God — All We Have To Do Is Cooperate — A Spiritual Reflection of the Lenten Season

March 10, 2017

What can give satisfaction to all our cravings for human sympathy, understanding and love? In life, what gives man total equanimity?

Sadly, in human life, no matter how much money, how many cars, how much sex, and how varied and large the supply of intoxicants some of us can consume, many of us still lack something.

We search and search but still find the world wanting.

Along my own path of searching and discovery, I encountered an older man going through life with such equanimity, such a child-like joy at every life encounter and each and every moment of every day that I felt a powerful attraction toward him. Despite strokes, heart attacks and just about every malady of old age, he seemed totally unworried and unafraid.

Yet all around us we saw young, strong, intelligent and promising men and women devoid of any redeeming values at all. Their lives looked vacuous and lost — and not worth having.

It took years for me to realize that what I had experienced was very much the same as the experience felt by many in the scriptures.

“The savior exercised a magnetic attraction over men who, at the time of coming into contact with him, were walking in the ways of sin. This is truly extraordinary.” (p. 47)

And the followers of the savior traveled the world, two by two, seeking only the opportunity to share what they had learned. Saint Thomas made it to India and others after him reached Japan, Korea and every corner of the world.

I was told that, “we are driven to Jesus as to the one creature among all creatures that can give satisfaction to all our cravings for human sympathy, understanding and love.” (p. 46)

“But as soon as that contact with him is established, a new experience begins for us. The disappearance of the dissatisfaction with life, which we have felt, is followed by the emergence of different longings, greater ambitions and loftier aspirations…. The desires of our hearts are enlarged and he is able to satisfy these new desires as he did for those that prepared the way for him.”

The “Holy Spirit in us gives some of the sacred humanity of Jesus, which, in spite of our sinfulness and the shrinking fear that comes of it, we can feel God as a friend to us.”

“It is the role and mission of the Holy Spirit to establish those relations between God and man.”

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The quotes are from “Holy Spirit” by Father Edward Leen, available from Amazon. The book invites us to live the teachings of Jesus in our daily lives. The rewards are eternal.

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