Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 17, 2018 — “Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God.”

April 16, 2018

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 274

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Saint Stephen – The First Martyr — Is his often depicted with the book of scrimpture and some stones

Reading 1  ACTS 7:51—8:1A

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it.”When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.Now Saul was consenting to his execution.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 31:3CD-4, 6 AND 7B AND 8A, 17 AND 21AB

R. (6a) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
My trust is in the LORD;
I will rejoice and be glad of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 6:35AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the bread of life, says the Lord;
whoever comes to me will never hunger.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 6:30-35

The crowd said to Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

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Image result for The stoning of St Stephen

Homily For Acts 7:51—8:1a — Stephen Martyred

It takes a miracle of God for us to feel with our stony hearts and hear through our deaf ears (This was said to the Sanhedrin, but the rest of Scripture attributes the same moral deficiencies to us, unfortunately). Just look forward in Acts to see what was required to wake Saul from his sin, the very one who oversaw and approved of the martyring of Stephen in Acts 7.

For this reason, I never take the grace I have received flippantly, for I would remain lost if it had anything to do with my own formerly uncircumcised heart and ears. But there’s another thing in this chapter that is noteworthy for our lives once we’ve come to Christ. If you dare to speak the Word faithfully, and truly, as Stephen did, you will encounter furious teeth gnashers. It’s just the way it is. As Luther said, where the gospel is truly preached, there will be strife.

Think of your life…if absolutely no one is ever upset with you, then you’re not sharing the Word, or it’s watered down beyond the point where it’s hard to recognize what it is. Or, someone is upset with you for something other than the Word. That doesn’t count.

There’s a reason they killed the prophets–as Stephen explained–and the Christ. The gospel is offensive (we’re all rotten) as much as it is sweet (Christ died for that rotteness). The preaching of God’s will for the Christian’s life is sometimes offensive (No, you just can’t continue to hate your enemy, no matter what she did to you). It cuts, like a double edge sword, and if you wield it, someone’s gonna get mad.

But trust in it, for God will not abandon you. It’s my opinion that Stephen never felt the first stone. Instead, he was caught up in the vision of the heaven to which he was about to enter.

Amen.

https://www.enclavepublishing.com/sunday-devotional-acts-751-81/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 APRIL, 2018, Tuesday, 3rd Week of Easter
RESISTING THE HOLY SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 7:51 – 8:1PS 31:3-4,6,8,17,21JOHN 6:30-35 ]

In the first reading, we read how the people of Israel had always been resisting the Holy Spirit.  Stephen came to a point when gentle and persuasive talk could not touch their hearts.  So he went on the offensive and told them off, “You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears.  You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.  Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted?  In the past they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers.”  Indeed, the history of Israel is a history of infidelity to the Covenant.   Instead of submitting to the Word of God as expressed in the laws, they adopted the customs, lifestyle and even the religious traditions of their neighbours.  They were unfaithful to the God of Israel who liberated them from Egypt and made them into the People of God.  In order to save the people, the Lord in His mercy sent prophet after prophet to remind them and their leaders how they should conduct themselves and walk in the ways of the Covenant.

But again and again, they disobeyed the prophets that God sent as His messengers. Not only did they not listen to the prophets, but they persecuted and killed them.  King Jehoiakim killed the prophet Uriah.  (cf Jer 26:20-23)  Amos was rejected by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel who sought to influence Jeroboam, King of Israel to drive Amos back to Judah.  (Amos 7:10-16)  Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, the priest who reprimanded the people for disobedience to the commands of the Lord, was ordered by King Joash to be stoned to death.  (cf 2 Chron 24:20-22)   Elijah too, was pursued by Jezebel for killing her prophets of Baal. (cf 1 Kg 19:1f)   Jesus reminded His contemporaries about their resistance to the Holy Spirit when He told them the parable of the Tenants who killed the servants and the son of the owner of the vineyard.  (cf Lk 20:9-19)

Indeed, the history of Israel is not different from our history. We also resist the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Although we live under the new covenant, many of us are not living the life of Christ.  We disobey the teachings of Christ and fail to live the life of Christ.  We too do not take the Word of God seriously.  We pick and choose what we like and not what the Lord tells us.  When we read what we like and reject what we do not like, we are not believing in the Word of God but in ourselves.  This is what is happening among us Christians.  We seek to interpret the Word of God according to our so-called context.  We make the Word of God approve what we seek to do.  Whether it is with regard to divorce, same-sex union, euthanasia or abortion, we twist and turn the Word of God to suit our preferences.  Instead of hearing the Word of God and taking it for what it really is, we make the Word of God adapt to our sinfulness.

St Paul complimented the Christians for taking the Word of God as it really is.  “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”  (1 Th 2:13)  Writing to the Galatians, St Paul said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”  (Gal 1:6-8)

In contrast, we have Stephen who did not resist the Holy Spirit.  He shared the same Spirit as our Lord Jesus.  He used similar words that Jesus spoke to the Council when He was on trial.  He said, “I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  (cf Mt 24:64)   He was totally receptive to Christ and the Word of God.  He saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  His vision authenticated the Lord’s claim to be the Messiah because He was now assuming full authority seated next to God to be the judge.  This time, Jesus was waiting to welcome the first martyr into heaven.  Of course, this affirmation only confirms the sins of the Jewish leaders in wrongfully putting Jesus to death.  As a consequence, they repeated exactly what their forefathers did.  “At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him.”

What Stephen said was not favourable to their ears and so they sought to silence the truth.  This is what is happening in the world today as well.   People might not kill us for witnessing to Christ but they will seek to oppose us and silence us from speaking the truth about the gospel message of life and love.  In the name of secularization and neutrality, the world seeks to extinguish the Christian message and symbols from society.   It is not easy today to profess our faith and our beliefs without being hostilely attacked by those who disagree with us.  When we seek to express our beliefs, they would stir up others to oppose us on the accusation that we are causing division in society simply because our views do not agree with theirs.   If Christians have to share the common view of society, then there is no reason for us to be Christians because the gospel precisely is meant to help and restore society.

Indeed, life is what the Lord is offering us.  He is the Bread of life.  He said, “He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”  This bread “comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”   Jesus as the Bread of life teaches us the truth through His word.  The bread of life refers foremost to the Word of God.  In the gospel, Jesus said to the Devil, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Mt 4:4)  Jesus makes it clear that the bread that Moses gave was only a foreshadowing of the bread of God.   The true bread of God satisfies not just the physical hunger but the spiritual hunger.  Only this bread can give life to humanity because this bread is nothing less than Himself.

Fullness of life comes from more than just having a full stomach; it is about our relationship with God.  Bread can only give us physical life but Jesus as the Bread of life comes to offer us a new relationship with God through the Word.  Only through Jesus, can we come to the Father and know Him.  Without Jesus revealing to us the Father, we will not be able to have an intimate relationship with God.  Only by knowing and coming to the Father, can our hunger be satisfied and our soul be at rest.   This explains why it is through the Word of God that we come to know the Father in Christ.  To receive the bread of life is to hear the Word of God and like Stephen, obey it.

This is the way in which we receive the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God comes to us through our docility and reception of the Word of God.  St Peter said, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32)  Of course, the full reception of the Holy Spirit includes receiving Jesus sacramentally in the Eucharist, for the bread of life is but the way in which we relate with the entire Jesus, body and spirit.  Only then can we be like St Stephen who lived out the Spirit of Christ in him.   He surrendered his life to his enemies, the same way the Lord surrendered by saying, “’Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.”  (cf Lk 23:34)  Like Jesus, he prayed for the forgiveness of his enemies and murderers.  Only with the Spirit of Christ, can we love our enemies and pray for them.   But it is such witnessing in the Spirit that hearts will be converted, just as Stephen touched the heart of Saul who witnessed the killing.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 12, 2018 — “We must obey God rather than men.” — “He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.”

April 11, 2018

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 270

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Art: Liberation of St. Peter by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

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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Reflection on Acts 5:27-33
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Peter and John were arrested and spent the night in prison. The next day they were brought before the Sanhedrin, the same court which had arraigned Jesus and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified. The high priests Annas and Caiaphas were there, who had both figured in the trial of Jesus. Now Peter who had denied Him that day was being called to account, along with John, for healing a lame man and preaching in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Peter was filled anew with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8), accused his accusers of crucifying Jesus, and proclaimed that the lame man stood before them healed exactly because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Confronting the council with their guilt in rejecting Jesus, he again used the healing as an opportunity to proclaim the much fuller salvation which is found in the Saviour’s name.

The court was astonished at the courage of Peter and John. These two men had not been to any of their Rabbinic schools of theology, and they were laymen who had been observed in the company of Jesus. Yet there standing before them all was the incontrovertible proof of the healed lame man. Peter and John were sent away whilst the court deliberated.

Luke was inspired by the Holy Ghost for the writing of Holy Scripture. We gather from Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3 that he was an excellent and thorough investigative reporter. His research may have included some information from his travelling companion, the Apostle Paul, who had been a student of a well respected member of the council, Gamaliel. Whatever his sources, Luke is able twice over to give us a fly-on-the-wall account of the private deliberations of this court.

The fact of the matter is that Peter and John’s would-be accusers could do nothing. The miracle was undeniable. So they warned Peter and John not to preach any more in the name of Jesus. The Apostles’ response set a precedent in civil and ecclesiastical disobedience: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

We have come a long way from a lame man leaping for joy at his healing, to Jesus’ Apostles leaping for joy with lacerated backs in the midst of persecution. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).

Let us have the like tenacity to say in the face of all opposition, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). There is nothing that anyone can do to halt the advance of the gospel.

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/persecution-the-opening-salvoes-christopher-holdsworth-sermon-on-forgiveness-181508?page=1

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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

12 APRIL, 2018, Thursday, 2nd Week of Easter

COMPROMISING THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:27-33PS 34:2,9,17-20JOHN 3:31-36  ]

It is becoming increasingly difficult to profess our faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Such exalted and triumphalistic claims about Jesus do not sit well with people who do not believe in Jesus.  Some, perceiving that we are putting down their own beliefs about God and life, might even feel insulted.   So there is pressure from society that we must say “all religions are the same” and “all are saved even if they do not believe in God” and that “there is no sin, as there is no right or wrong.”  The unique claim of Jesus as the Saviour of the World and the Son of God is under challenge today.

This coercion to compromise the identity of Jesus was what happened at the beginning of the Church.  The Jewish leaders who put Jesus to death were annoyed at the apostles for preaching in the name of Jesus.  The fact was that they could not deny that the paralyzed man at the temple was healed.  But they were annoyed that the apostles gave the credit to Jesus whom they had crucified.  Preaching in the name of Jesus made them look bad and lose credibility for killing the Anointed One of God.  Hence, “the high priest demanded an explanation.  ‘We gave you a formal warning not to preach in this name, and what have you done?  You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’”

The apostles’ reply was firm and uncompromising. “Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.  We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”  Whilst Christians are called to live in peace and harmony with people of all creeds, or without creed, and races, we cannot compromise our beliefs in Jesus.  We have to say what we know.  Like Jesus who “who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard”, we too must do the same.  We cannot dilute the truth about Jesus.  For the apostles, the fact remains that “it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus” who was “executed by hanging on a tree”.   The implication of being raised from the dead by the Father meant that He is “a leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel.”

Of course, such a reply only “infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.”  That is the price of confessing our faith in Jesus.  Non-believers have no issue if we simply confess that Jesus is one of the prophets, a great teacher or a good man or a faith healer.  However, they would not accept our belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.  This is understandable for those who have no faith in Jesus.  John the Baptist explains thus, “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.”  So we cannot fault those who cannot accept Jesus as their savior and life.  Without the gift of faith, we will not be able to surrender ourselves to Jesus because we think in human and earthly terms.

But does it require us to confess our faith in Jesus in such a way that is politically correct by compromising our belief in Jesus’ identity and mission?  The answer is a definite “No.”  Like the apostles, we must also say, “Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.”  “He who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted.”  This too was the witnessing of John the Baptist.  Unlike the Jewish religious leaders, he had no self-interest.  He was not protecting his turf. Neither was he afraid that his disciples might follow Jesus instead of him.  On the contrary, he knew his role was that of a forerunner and a messenger to prepare the people.

However, those who accept Jesus and can vouch the truth about Him.  John the Baptist said, “though all who do accept his testimony are attesting the truthfulness of God, since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words: God gives him the Spirit without reserve.”   Jesus for us is truly the Word of God because of His death and resurrection.  We believe in Jesus who spoke the Word of God only because of His resurrection.  If Jesus were not raised, then we can doubt what He taught.  But precisely because of His resurrection from the dead, we know that He has come from above and that His testimony is true.  None of us can claim that we came from above.  So unless we came from above, we cannot speak about God whom we have not seen or heard.  Our faith in Jesus therefore is founded on His death and resurrection.  That is why, for the apostles to keep quiet about His death and resurrection would be to deny the full truth of the identity of Jesus and His mission in this world.

Indeed, as John the Baptist remarked, “The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him. Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life.”  If the Father has entrusted everything to the Son, to believe in the Son is to have a share in the life of God.  Jesus as the Son of God leads us to the fullness of life in Him.    Therefore, the fact remains that if we accept Jesus, we will have eternal life in Him.  Conversely, John the Baptist says, “but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him.”  The truth remains that only in Christ, can we know who God is and who we really are.  Without faith in Jesus, our knowledge of God would be compromised and so too our true identity and calling in life.

Of course, this invitation to life remains a choice that each individual must make.  They might not agree or accept the testimony of Christ.  If that were the case, it is their choice.  The Christian confession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the Revealer of the Father is an offer to humanity.  Christ is the gift of God to us and we who have encountered Jesus and find life in Him are called to share Him as a gift to humanity.  The choice is theirs.  There is no imposition.  They are completely free to accept or reject, agree or disagree with our claims for Jesus and life.   So long as we do not compel people to choose Jesus as their savior, we have a right to profess in what we believe and whom we believe.

Those who vehemently oppose what we believe are often reacting to a perceived threat in what we believe.  Like the Jewish leaders, it is most likely that our teachings impact their lives and their selfish interests.  Otherwise, just as we do not object to the claims of other religions because that is what they believe, others need not take offence for us to state our beliefs, our values and our commitments.  Whilst we do not impose our views on others, others should not impose their views on us either.  We are free to accept or reject each other’s views.   Jesus remains an offer to humanity.

So as Catholics, we need to pray for conviction and courage to state what we believe without fear or coercion.  St Peter urges us, “Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,  but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;  yet do it with gentleness and reverence.  Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”  (1 Pt 3:14-16)   We must grow in conviction of our faith and know our faith sufficiently well to defend what we believe.  We must speak the truth calmly and in a sensitive manner.

Finally, let us not be discouraged when we are attacked by non-believers.  The psalmist assures us, “He is happy who seeks refuge in him. The Lord turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal. They call and the Lord hears and rescues them in all their distress. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save. Many are the trials of the just man but from them all the Lord will rescue him.”

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

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 8, 2018 — “We have everything we need.” — “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed!”

April 7, 2018

Second Sunday of Easter
(Or Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Lectionary: 44

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Doubting of Thomas – Carl Heinrich Bloch – 1881

Reading 1 ACTS 4:32-35

The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

R. (1) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just:
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
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. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 21 JN 5:1-6

Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

AlleluiaJN 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 me, but still believe!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Doubting Thomas, ART: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.

Gospel JN 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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Reflection from The Abbot in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed!  Jesus is clear in his words to Saint Thomas.  On the other hand, he accepts the doubts of Thomas, allows Thomas to touch Him and continues to be the friend of Thomas.

There are so many ways in which we could be closer to our Lord Jesus.  We cannot do everything at once.  Like Thomas, we must accept our defects and also acknowledge them before the Lord.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles and the basic teaching is this:  The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and they had everything in common.

We also know that this ideal state did not last for long before some began to withdraw from it or even to misuse it.  There are still religious communities today which try to live this way.  Most of us, however, share our goods with the causes that we find to be good.  Sometimes it is good to reflect that God shares Himself with both the good and the evil.  God gives to all.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint John.  The words that might touch us deeply today are these:  “The love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.”  Today so many people reject any kind of commandment, any kind of imposition from without.  If we ever want to know God, we must be open to allowing Him into our hearts.  God always brings commandments of one type or another.  If there are no commandments, then we are deluding ourselves about God.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint John.  Jesus has just been raised from the dead.  Now Jesus begins to appear to various of his followers.  He appears to His disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit.  This Gospel relates to us that Thomas was not present and would not believe the testimony of those who were.  This Thomas is hard headed.  So are so many of us today.  We find it difficult to accept the testimony of others, especially if we have doubts about what they are saying.  We want to see and touch and decide on our own and not just believe because someone else told me so.  This lack of faith has always been present, both within the Church and outside the Church.

Our Christian faith is handed down by others.  We come to know Christ, normally, from the testimony of others.  We can accept the New Testament writing about Christ, but all of them are the testimony of others.

This first week of the Resurrection, we place our lives and our faith in the hands of others and ask that they may learn and we may learn:  all for the glory of God.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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Around where I live we have a motto: “We have everything we need.”
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What that means is, after you have encountered Jesus Christ, what else are you waiting for?
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Once we believe that our Lord is all loving and all forgiving, what could we possibly need?
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“Jesus came and stood in their [our] midst.”
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Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection fulfills us totally.
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All we have to do is believe!
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The scripture reveals all we’ll ever need. On this site, use these search terms:
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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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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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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 APRIL, 2018, Divine Mercy Sunday
MERCY AND COMPASSION AS THE KEYS TO BUILD COMMUNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 4:32-35Ps 1181 Jn 5:1-6;  Jn 20:19-31]

In the first reading, we read how the early Christian community was “united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common.”  Indeed, “None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need.”  This was how united they were, taking care of each other’s needs and sharing the same love for God, the same vision and values of the gospel.

They were able to love so freely and unconditionally because they had encountered the power of the love of the Risen Christ in His passion, death and resurrection.  If the Lord had conquered hatred and death through His resurrection from the dead, what is there for them to be afraid of since even death is overcome. (cf Rom 8:37-39)

In response to God’s love for them in Christ Jesus, they in turn could love each other the way that God loved them. This is what St John wrote, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God; and whoever loves the Father that begot him loves the child whom he begets.”  It is true in life that we love those whom we love and those whom they love.  So if we love God the Father, then St John says, we should also love His Son.  And if we love His Son, we will also love those whom the Son loves.  And who does He love?  He said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  (Mt 25:40)

As a consequence, the early Christians were living as the first faith community in history. They were deeply in love with God and as a consequence, in love for each other.  Caring for each other, looking after each other’s interests rather than one’s own, sharing all that we have is what will make this world a better place.  Where there is genuine love and sharing, there will be peace and unity.  And what do we all wish for if not a world and a society that is gracious, caring, loving and united.  Such is the dream of every man and woman.  This is the ideal world that we are called to build.

But the ideal world is far from the reality.  The truth remains that we are living in a very wounded world.   Even for those of us who are baptized and the elect, they would fall into sin, often not by choice but out of human weakness.  The Old Adam does not die completely when we are baptized but latent and sleeping in us, waiting to resurrect when we are not conscious of God’s presence in us.   Because of our disoriented will which is not healed completely after baptism, even though our sins are forgiven, we will still be inclined to sin.  Our fears and selfishness will surface.  We will still have to continuously struggle against sin.    That is why love is not sufficient to build a community because our love is imperfect.

Over and above love, we need mercy to build a new community.   This was why in the first Sunday of Easter, we celebrated new life through the love of God expressed in His passion and resurrection.  The second Sunday of Easter we focus on Divine Mercy.   Mercy is more than compassion by caring for the poor and the hungry.   Mercy means compassion and forgiveness for those who fail in Christian charity, honesty and integrity.  This was what Jesus did upon His resurrection.  The disciples were hiding in shame of Jesus and in fear of their enemies.  They were hiding behind closed doors.  But Jesus came to bring them out of their fears by extending His forgiveness and offering them the gift of peace.  Twice, He greeted them, “Peace be with you!”  Peace comes from forgiveness.

Today, many of us are also locked up in our fears, manifested in resentment, anger, coldness of heart, retaliation, backbiting and gossiping.  That is why we are vindictive and revengeful.  We are also imprisoned by our insecurity because we feel our interests are at stake.  We see others as our competitors and even enemies rather than as fellow collaborators or better still, our brothers and sisters who care for us more than they care for themselves.   So how can we break out of the walls that we have erected for ourselves?

The truth is that unless we have encountered His divine mercy, we cannot show mercy the way He showed us.   We need to first receive His divine mercy.   This was what the Lord did for the disciples.  After reconciling them with Himself, He said, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” Without receiving His unconditional mercy for our sins, we cannot forgive those who sin against us.   A case in point was the apostles of our Lord.  We read in the gospel, Thomas was adamant in not believing what the rest of them said about the fact of the resurrection. They did not judge him but showed great tolerance for his incredulity.  This was because they had already encountered Jesus’ mercy.   Indeed, the early Christians could exercise mercy because they were moved by God’s mercy. (cf 1 Pt 1:3f)

How, then, can we receive this divine mercy today?  St John wrote, “Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God; Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is the truth.”   Water is a symbol of baptism, blood a symbol of the Eucharist, and the Spirit of truth and witnessing is given in the Sacrament of reconciliation.

To enter into Divine Mercy, we must be like Jesus who, at His baptism, identified with us sinners even though He was without sin and need not be baptized.  (cf 2 Cor 5:21) But He did it so that He could carry our sins in His body.  (1 Pt 2:24)  Indeed, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”  (1 Pt 2:22f)  That was how Thomas was converted when he saw the wounds of Jesus.  Thomas believed not because He saw the Risen Lord but he was overwhelmed by Christ’s love for him through the wounds that He suffered for them.  He was overcome more by God’s mercy and love than the sight of Jesus.  And his immediate response to the wounds of the Crucified Lord was, “My Lord and my God!”   In Christ crucified, God’s mercy is power in love.

We too must be identified with the sufferings and sinfulness of our fellow brothers and sisters.  We should not be judgmental and unforgiving for their negligence and sins.  We are all human beings and we sin now and then.  We should therefore be empathetic and tolerant of each other’s faults and weaknesses.  This is what a gracious society is all about, not just caring for each other but accepting each other’s human frailties and encouraging each other on the road to holiness of life.

The second way to celebrate the Divine Mercy is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This explains why the Lord, after His resurrection, empowered the apostles to remit sin. “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those who sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”  This is the most powerful form of healing of the human soul, more than any amount of counselling and psychiatric treatment we can have.  The soul will have no peace unless he or she feels that God has forgiven him or her.  The priest, as the representative of Christ, offers that forgiveness in His name and assures us of His unconditional love and mercy.   The priest is called to be the Father of mercy and compassion when he celebrates the sacrament of reconciliation.  He is called to be the image of God’s forgiving love.  Hence, we must not deprive ourselves of this Sacrament of Reconciliation, especially the new baptized.  They should frequent this sacrament so that they can encounter God’s mercy.

Finally, we can experience God’s mercy through the Eucharist.  That was what the early disciples did.  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42)  By celebrating the Eucharist together, we are joined to Christ and His Church, especially through the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  Receiving the Eucharist with thanksgiving and gratitude brings about a change of heart in our lives.  Listening to the Word of God that is preached and shared will ignite us to live like Christ.  This explains why receiving the Eucharist brings about the forgiveness of venial sins through the strengthening of spiritual life.  But equally important is that we need the Christian fellowship to keep us united in mind, soul and heart.  This happens through the sharing of the Word of God and the mutual love of the community.

So let us build the Christian community into a sacrament of love and unity despite our imperfections and sinfulness by exercising mercy and compassion towards each other.  In the creed, we say the Church is Holy because of Christ, but we are sinners becoming and growing to be more like Him.   So let us be signs of God’s mercy and compassion to each other through our compassion for the poor, the sick, the marginalized and for those who have sinned against us.  Through such signs, they may “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this they may have life through his name.”

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

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

February 6, 2018

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 331

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

Reading 1 1 KGS 10:1-10

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

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

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

Alleluia SEE JN 17:17B, 17A

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

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Related image

Gospel MK 7:14-23

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

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

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Commentary on Mark 7:14-23 from Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, January 25, 2018 — Go out to all the world and tell the Good News. — Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature — Do you Evangelize? — What Bill Wilson Believed…

January 24, 2018

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

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Art: Saul on the Road to Damascus by Caravaggio

Reading 1 ACTS 22:3-16

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

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

Responsorial Psalm  PS 117:1BC, 2

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

Alleluia  SEE JN 15:16

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

Gospel MK 16:15-18

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

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

The scales fell from the eyes….

Bill’s Story, p.12, Big Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Do you evangelize?

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

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

The Four Signs are:
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  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life. These people perform selfless service to others…
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”
I find that these are the same four signs we might see in someone recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism — They pray; They study (The Big Book and other resources); They act with generosity by helping and sponsoring others (They do a lot of “service to others”); and they Evangelize (they do “12 Step work” and help others to get and stay sober).
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Related:
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The most frequently spoken line in the Bible may be: “do not be afraid.” So why is everyone complaining about anxiety and depression in our society today?
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Answer: Declining connection to the Gospels and to God.
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Who and what lives inside each of us?
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Our Most frequently viewed articles:
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Book: Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything
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Some “Buzzwords” heard in AA that are also common to the scripture:
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Art: Conversion of St. Paul (Number 2) by Caravaggio. Rarey do we see one artist depict the same bible event over and over.
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ENCOUNTER, ILLUMINATION, AND CONVERSION: ON THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

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

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 21, 2018

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

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Photo: Fetus at 20 weeks

Reading 1 2 SM 5:1-7, 10

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

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

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

AlleluiaSEE 2 TM 1:10

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

Gospel MK 3:22-30

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

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

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Related:

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

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

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

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

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

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Homily for the Feast of the Holy Innocents 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest:

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

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Art: Cranach — Massacre of the Innocents (detail)

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Homily Summary: Every Life is Worth Living

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

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

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

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

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Choices of Readings for Mass

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

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

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

947A – Old Testament

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

947B – New Testament

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

947C – Responsorial Psalm

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

947D – Gospel Acclamation

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

947E – Gospel

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

MASS FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE

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

887 – Old Testament

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

888 – New Testament

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

889 – Responsorial Psalm

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

890 – Gospel Acclamation

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

891 – Gospel

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

Homiletics

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

Intercessions for Life

Additional Resources

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 21, 2018

Reuters

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

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

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

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

 Image result for Pope Francis, in Perus, photos

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

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

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Pope Francis celebrates Mass next to a statue of the Virgin de la Puerta, at Huanchaco beach in Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20, 2018.
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Apocalyptic scenes recorded on cellphones and shared on social media broadened the sense of chaos. Bridges collapsed as rivers breached their banks and cows and pigs turned up on beaches after being carried away by rivers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Bill Trott

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Pope in Peru: When Storms Come, Have Faith in Jesus
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‘The crucified Jesus wants to be close to us,’ Francis said at Mass Saturday. ‘Fill your lives always with the Gospel.’
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HUANCHACO, Peru — In a homily Saturday, Pope Francis spoke about the natural disasters Peru experienced over the last year, praising the way in which Peruvians joined together to help one another during these difficult moments.
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“I know that, in the time of darkness, when you felt the brunt of the [storm], these lands kept moving forward,” the Pope said during Mass near Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20.
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Like the five wise virgins in the parable in the day’s Gospel, the people of Peru were prepared with “the oil needed to go out to help one another, like true brothers and sisters,” he continued. “You had the oil of solidarity and generosity that stirred you to action, and you went out to meet the Lord with countless concrete gestures of support.”
 .
The Mass, which took place in Huanchaco, a beach town outside the city of Trujillo, was part of Pope Francis’ Jan. 18-21 visit to Peru.
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In his homily he referred to the “Niño,” or “Coastal El Niño,” the name given to a weather phenomenon off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, which began in December 2016. The pattern caused warmer-than-usual water temperatures off the coasts of the two countries, which in turn triggered heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
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The excess run-off from the rains caused severe flooding and mudslides, devastating parts of Peru, particularly in the north. Trujillo, Peru’s third-most-populated city, was one of the worst hit after a period of heavy rains last March caused mudslides and flooding, directly affecting around 800,000 people and killing almost 100.
 .
Francis encouraged Peruvians not to lose heart during these times of trials, but to use this Eucharistic celebration as an opportunity to unite their suffering to Christ’s suffering on the cross.
 .
“These times of being ‘buffeted,’” he said, “call into question and challenge our strength of spirit and our deepest convictions. They make us realize how important it is to stand united, not alone, and to be filled with that unity which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
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Pope Francis waves from his pope mobile as arrives to celebrate Mass on Huanchaco Beach, near the city of Trujillo, Peru, Jan. 20, 2018
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Many people are still suffering from the damage caused by “Coastal El Niño,” the Pope noted. And it’s possible these difficulties have caused their faith to waver.
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If this is the case, “we want to unite ourselves to Jesus,” he said, because “[Jesus] knows our pain and our trials; he endured the greatest of sufferings in order to accompany us in our own trials. The crucified Jesus wants to be close to us in every painful situation, to give us a hand and to help lift us up.”
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Like the story of the 10 virgins in the Gospel reading, who were surprised by the bridegroom’s arrival in the middle of the night, the storms of life — both the physical storms as well as other difficulties — can catch us off-guard.
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In the passage, we learn that five of the virgins were prepared with oil for their lamps and five were not. “At the appointed time, each of them showed what they had filled their life with,” Francis noted, and “the same thing happens to us.”
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“There are times when we realize what we have filled our lives with. How important it is to fill our lives with the oil that lets us light our lamps in situations of darkness and to find the paths to move forward!”
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He commended the Peruvians for being well-prepared with the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that “in the midst of darkness, you, together with so many others, were like living candles that lighted up the path with open hands, ready to help soothe the pain and share what you had, from your poverty, with others.”
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“Fill your lives always with the Gospel,” he concluded. “I want to encourage you to be a community that lets itself be anointed by the Lord with the oil of the Spirit. He transforms, renews and strengthens everything.”
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 6, 2018 — The Spirit is the one who testifies and the Spirit is truth — The “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in each of us

January 5, 2018

Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 209

Image result for holy spirit, photos, stained glass window

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

Reading 1  1 JN 5:5-13

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

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

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

Alleluia SEE MK 9:6

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

Gospel MK 1:7-11

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

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

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

or

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

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Genealogy of Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

Image result for Bishop Robert Barron, photos

 (By Bishop Robert Barron)

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

December 4, 2017

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 176

Reading 1  IS 11:1-10

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

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

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

Alleluia

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

Gospel LK 10:21-24

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

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

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Homily Ideas for Isaiah 11: 1-10
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He understands what you’re going through

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

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

God loves to magnify His grace in mysterious ways

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

The Messiah will not be born into privilege

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

 

The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest:

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

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

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

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Lectio Divina Reflection on Luke 10: 21-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

BUILDING A NEW WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

December 3, 2017

Monday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 175

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Reading 1 IS 2:1-5

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

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

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

AlleluiaSEE PS 80:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
Let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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The Centurion said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Gospel MT 8:5-11

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

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Centurion Beseeching Jesus, William Brassey Hole

Commentary on Matthew 8:5-17 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:
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On Suffering — From Suffering With Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

CHRISTIAN HOPE FOR WORLD PEACE

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

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

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

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

But why are there religious conflicts when all religions profess to lead their faithful to God?  This is where each religion must ask whether they are teaching the truth and where this truth comes from?  If it is from man, then we cannot claim to have the absolute truth.  Only through God’s revelation, can man understand the fullness of truth.  Consequently, different religions possess different levels of truth accordingly.  We are not here to pass judgement.   This is what the Church in the Modern world says of other religions.  “Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing ‘ways,’ comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”  (Nostra Aetate, No 2)  Every religion therefore must purify herself in the truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh