Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 16, 2018 — “They have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear”

August 15, 2018

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant — Sometimes its just better to let people off the hook…

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Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 416

Reading 1 EZ 12:1-12

The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house;
they have eyes to see but do not see,
and ears to hear but do not hear,
for they are a rebellious house.
Now, son of man, during the day while they are looking on,
prepare your baggage as though for exile,
and again while they are looking on,
migrate from where you live to another place;
perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house.
You shall bring out your baggage like an exile in the daytime
while they are looking on;
in the evening, again while they are looking on,
you shall go out like one of those driven into exile;
while they look on, dig a hole in the wall and pass through it;
while they look on, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness;
cover your face that you may not see the land,
for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.

I did as I was told.
During the day I brought out my baggage
as though it were that of an exile,
and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand
and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness,
shouldering my burden.

Then, in the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, did not the house of Israel, that rebellious house,
ask you what you were doing?
Tell them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
This oracle concerns Jerusalem
and the whole house of Israel within it.
I am a sign for you:
as I have done, so shall it be done to them;
as captives they shall go into exile.
The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden
and set out in darkness,
going through a hole he has dug out in the wall,
and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone.

Responsorial Psalm PS 78:56-57, 58-59, 61-62

R. (see 7b) Do not forget the works of the Lord!

They tempted and rebelled against God the Most High,
and kept not his decrees.
They turned back and were faithless like their fathers;
they recoiled like a treacherous bow.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
They angered him with their high places
and with their idols roused his jealousy.
God heard and was enraged
and utterly rejected Israel.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
And he surrendered his strength into captivity,
his glory in the hands of the foe.
He abandoned his people to the sword
and was enraged against his inheritance.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Alleluia PS 119:135

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant
and teach me your statutes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 18:21–19:1

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

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The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
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Reflection By Jack Kelley
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Most people have read the first part of Matthew 18. It outlines a procedure for taking to task a believer who has sinned against you. Many an aggressive stance has been justified with this passage. But in my time as a pastor and counselor, I was surprised at how few of those applying the procedure had read the rest of the chapter. While chapter breaks are not inspired, and Peter’s question to the Lord about forgiveness (vs. 21) could have been asked at another time, it does appear next in sequence to the procedure for righting a wrong.

How many petty disputes could be dropped if put into the context of this parable? How would they rate in a comparison to what the Lord has forgiven in us? Do we, having been forgiven so much, refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters even a little? And if so, what are the real consequences?

The Rest Of The Story

We’ve often discussed the nature of parables; how they’re heavenly stories put into an earthly context and how the major characters always symbolize others. In the case of this parable the King is the Lord, you and I are His servants, the debts we owe represent our sins, and the jailer is Satan.

As to the debts owed, two denominations of money are mentioned, the 10,000 talents the servant owed the king and the 100 denarii the servant was owed by a fellow servant. Let’s take the easy one first. Almost everyone agrees that a denarius was equivalent to one day’s wages. If 100 days equaled about 1/3 of a working year then repaying that size debt would require about 4 months of an average person’s income.

Since a talent was both a measure of weight (about 85 lbs. or 34 kg.) and of money, its value is much more difficult to define, but the most frequent description I found in my research is that it would have approximated 15 times an average person’s annual income. If so, then a debt of 10,000 talents would require 150,000 years of an average person’s income to re-pay.

And that’s the first point. The King had forgiven a debt the servant couldn’t have repaid in a thousand lifetimes, and did so simply because he was asked to. The servant on the other hand demanded full and immediate payment from a friend for a much, much smaller sum. Now 4 months wages is a debt worth collecting, and forgiving an amount that size would be a major sacrifice for most people. But the issue is not the legitimacy or even the size of the debt, it’s the comparative value. Shouldn’t being released from the burden of a debt so large he could never repay it have made the servant even a little more forgiving toward his brother?

The servant’s demand for payment demonstrated his lack of gratitude for what the King had done for him, and that’s what aroused the King’s anger. Summoning the Jailer, the King ordered his servant punished until he repaid all he owed.

If The Shoe Fits …

Our debt of sin against the Lord is similarly impossible to repay, but in the Lord’s case He can’t simply overlook it. His requirement for justice demands the debt be paid in full. Knowing we could never pay it, He sent His Son to pay it for us. This freed Him to completely and unconditionally forgive us just because we ask Him to. Don’t forget, from the Lord’s point of view we were all murderers, adulterers, blasphemers and thieves when He forgave us (Ephe 2:1-5). These are all crimes punishable by death. We’ve been forgiven so much, isn’t even a significant sacrifice justifiable under the circumstances? What offense would be too large to forgive in others when compared with what the Lord has forgiven in us?

Our unwillingness to forgive legitimate sins others commit against us demonstrates our ingratitude for what the Lord has done for us. It’s the result of the typical human double standard wherein we demand justice from others while expecting mercy for ourselves. This ingratitude is itself a sin and like all unconfessed sin can cause us to miss out on blessings we might have otherwise received.  It also leaves us open to attack by our enemy which may even subject us to torment.  That’s why, in the parable, the jailer represents Satan.

Union And Fellowship

Like the servant and the King our relationship with the Lord consists of 2 components, union and fellowship.  Union comes with salvation and is unconditional and eternal.   The servant didn’t stop being a servant to the King because of his behavior, and neither do we ever stop being the children of our Lord because of ours.  When He went to the cross, Jesus took all our sins with Him and because of His death we have been forgiven for every one of them (Colossians 2:13-14).

But fellowship is conditional and temporal. It concerns the relationship we cultivate with the Lord in the here and now.  Because of his behavior the servant had caused a rift in his relationship with the King.  He could only restore himself to the King’s good graces and repair the rift by repaying the debt. Our refusal to forgive others can like wise cause a rift in our relationship with the Lord.  We can only restore ourselves to the Lord’s good graces and repair the rift by forgiving those who have sinned against us (Matt. 6:14-15).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Please note that John was writing to forgiven sinners, members of the church, advising us to confess and be forgiven even after we’ve been saved. We sin every day and His mercies are new every morning.  God forgives us whenever we ask, every time we ask. Asking is how we stay in fellowship with Him.

You Always Get What You Ask For

In summary, God’s Nature demands justice and fair play. Refusing to forgive others when we’ve been forgiven is a sin that causes a rift in our relationship with Him that only we can mend. Forgiving the one who sinned against us restores us to fellowship with the Lord and allows Him to forget there ever was a problem.   Selah 1-18-04

https://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/parables/the-parable-of-the-unmerciful-servant/

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The Meaning

Jesus sums up the meaning of this parable in Matthew 18:35: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Based on Jesus’ final comment, we know that the theme of this parable is forgiveness. We also know that because Jesus tells this parable in a response to Peter’s question about forgiveness:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus had just given instructions for dealing with sin in the Church: confront your brother or sister in love with a goal of leading them to repentance and restoration. Peter speaks up and asks the question that everyone else was probably thinking, “What about repeat offenders? How many times are we required to go through this process of confrontation, repentance, and restoration before we give up on someone?” He suggests that perhaps seven times is the right answer. Why seven?

According to Pharisaical tradition, no one should ever be forgiven more than three times. After all, God Himself would only forgive someone three times before His patience ran out (Amos 1:3Proverbs 30:21, and Job 33:29-30), and who are we to second guess God? Their logic might sound very pious, but in reality they were simply twisting the Scriptures to give themselves an excuse to hate their neighbor.

Peter probably thought that he was being quite gracious by doubling the Pharisees’ maximum of three times and adding an extra one in for good measure, but Jesus burst his bubble by countering with an inconceivably high number. Jesus wasn’t setting a hard and fast rule either, but rather He was using hyperbole to say that there is no limit to the number of times we must forgive someone. On another occasion, Jesus even added that we must forgive someone who sins against us seven times a day (Luke 17:4). No doubt Peter was dumbfounded by this news, so Jesus told this parable to help Peter see things from God’s perspective:

  1. A king wants to settle accounts with his servants and finds that one of them has racked up a debt of 10,000 talents.
    • A talent is a not a currency denomination, but rather a unit of measure weighing between 70 and 90 pounds.
    • The text doesn’t say whether this was a talent of silver or gold, but it was an unimaginable sum of money either way. In fact, it was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wages. For comparison, the total revenue in a given year in Idumaea, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee was only 960 talents.
    • The number 10,000 was the largest number in the Greek language, so Jesus was basically saying that this servant had accrued an insurmountable debt. It was like saying that the man owed a gazillion dollars. Only the most wicked and vile of servants could possibly violate his master’s trust in such a flagrant manner.
  2. Clearly the servant lacks the means to pay back such a massive debt, so the king decides to sell him, his family, and all his possessions to try and recover some of his losses. The servant begs the king for another chance and promises to pay back the debt. The king takes pity on the servant and cancels the entire debt.
    • The king has every right to sell the servant.
    • The servant’s promise is ridiculous because there’s no way that he can come up with a gazillion dollars even if he worked for one thousand years.
    • By canceling the servant’s debt, the king is forced to absorb the loss.
  3. The servant finds one of his fellow servants who owes him one hundred denarii. He starts choking the fellow servant and demands his money. The fellow servant begs for another chance and promises to pay back the debt. The servant refuses and has his fellow servant thrown into prison until the debt is paid.
    • A denarius was a small Roman silver coin, and it was the usual daily wage for a day laborer. This debt is substantial, worth about 100 days’ wages, but it’s microscopic compared to 10,000 talents.
    • Although the debt is substantial, it was possible for the servant to pay it back.
    • With the fellow servant locked up in prison, he lost his ability to work and pay back the debt. This was effectively a life sentence, an excessive punishment compared to the size of the debt.
  4. The other servants witnessed the first servant’s extreme cruelty. They were outraged and reported the injustice to the king. The king was furious and handed the servant over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back his entire debt.
    • The king said, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” This is where we see the parallel to our own lives.

To summarize, each of us has sinned against God, and we owe an infinite and unpayble debt. It would be just of God to throw us in Hell for eternity as punishment. Yet if we will humble ourselves, admit that we deserve Hell for sinning against Him, and beg for His forgiveness, then God will show us mercy by canceling our debt. In doing so, God assumes responsibility for our debt, which is why Jesus had to pay the fine in His life’s blood. To show God our gratitude for His mercy toward us, we should likewise be merciful toward others.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, God repeats the command to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32Colossians 3:13, and Matthew 5:7), and He also reiterates the warning that He will punish those who do not forgive others (James 2:13 and Matthew 6:14-15). Why does God threaten us with punishment if we don’t forgive others? Does He mean that He might revoke our salvation if we refuse to forgive someone?

No, because the very idea of an unforgiving Christian is an impossibility. No one who truly understands God’s holiness, their own sinfulness, and the price that Jesus paid for them, could possibly hold a grudge against someone else. God is simply saying that if we refuse to forgive others, then we are not truly saved and therefore still under judgement.

Furthermore, any sin that our neighbor commits against us is also an offense against God, and since God is the highest authority of all, then any offense against Him is infinitely greater than the wrong done to us. If God is willing to forgive the greater offense, then surely we can forgive the lesser offense. If we are unwilling to forgive, then we are dishonoring God by implying that the greater wrong was done to us.

Of course it’s easy enough to say that Christians must forgive others, but it’s extremely difficult to live it out. In fact, the depth of forgiveness that Jesus demands of us is not humanly possible. That’s why the apostles cried out to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5) They knew that they couldn’t show that level of forgiveness on their own, so they asked Jesus to help them.

Thankfully, the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes patience and meekness (Galatians 5:22-23), two qualities that are essential for cultivating a forgiving heart. That’s why you hear amazing testimonies about how a Christian mother was able to forgive her son’s murderer or how another Christian woman was able to forgive the men who raped her.

Where People Go Wrong

Most people are confused about what it means to forgive someone. Here are some common misconceptions:

  1. The other person has to apologize first before I can forgive them.
  2. I have to tell the other person what they did wrong before I can forgive them.
  3. Forgiveness means that I have to actually say to the other person, “I forgive you.”
  4. Forgiveness means that I have to continue to associate with the other person.
  5. Forgiveness means that I have to forget what the other person did.
  6. Forgiveness means that I can’t press charges.

These six statements are all myths. The truth is that forgiving someone simply means letting go of your natural desire for revenge. That’s something you can do even if the other person doesn’t apologize, even if they don’t hear you say that you have forgiven them, and even if they don’t even realize that they have sinned against you.

However, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to continue to associate with the other person. In cases of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, it’s very unlikely that you will ever forget what the other person did to you, and you may need to cease all contact with your abuser for the sake of your own mental health. Also, you don’t want to put yourself back in a harmful situation with someone who has violated your trust. You can give up your desire to harm them in retaliation, but you still have to protect yourself.

Also, keep in mind that reporting a crime to the police and providing eyewitness testimony in court is not the same thing as revenge. Revenge is when you as an individual act as judge, jury, and executioner rather than working through the criminal justice system. God says that vengeance belongs to Him alone (Romans 12:19), and we should not usurp His authority through private justice. Instead, God has instituted government for that purpose (Romans 13:4). If we as a society agree that capital punishment is a reasonable penalty for convicted murderers, then it’s not vindictive to insist that the death penalty be enforced by the state.

https://trulygod.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/parable-of-the-unforgiving-servant/

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Morning Prayer for Sunday, August 12, 2018 — Praying for Others

August 12, 2018

There are many ways to love one’s neighbor, but intercessory prayer—praying on behalf of other people—has got to be one of the most powerful.

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The moment a thing seems wrong to you or a person’s actions to be not what you think they should be, at that moment begins your obligation and responsibility to pray for those wrongs to be righted or that person to be changed. What is wrong in your surroundings or in the people you know? Think about these things and make these matters your responsibility. Not to interfere or be a busybody, but to pray that a change may come through your influence. You may see lives altered and evils banished in time. You can become a force for good wherever you are.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be a co-worker with God. I pray that I may help people by my example.

Related:

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Prayer is the most potent force known to humanity. Because we have been made partakers in Jesus’ victory over sin and death (1 John 4:4), we have the authority as sons and daughters of God to pray for others, pushing back the darkness of sin and oppression. In prayer, we have a weapon that has divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

That kind of weaponry—the power of prayer—issomething God invites us to use as we seek not only personal transformation but the transformation of the world as well. An intercessor is one who takes up a “burden” that goes far beyond his or her own needs and intentions.

And those who take up the call to intercession come to learn in a deeper way that the sufferings of the present time cannot compare to the joy that will come as God’s purposes unfold. They learn to trust in the Lord, because they have experienced in prayer how infinitely compassionate God is. Intercessors participate in God’s magnificent plan to raise humanity to share in divine life. This insight moves them to engage in a spiritual battle against the forces that seek to destroy God’s plans.

The Letter of James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16), and there is no one more righteous than Jesus—the most powerful intercessor whoever walked the earth. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, rightly declared, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22).

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The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that because Jesus’ priesthood is eternal, “he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). Imagine that: right now, Jesus is in heaven interceding for you, even as he intercedes for the entire world. He also invites us all to join in his priestly intercession so that a might flood of prayer will ascend to the Father’s throne.

So ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to pray in union with the mind of God. Take to heart St. Paul’s words, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes… for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). And above all, ask God to give you confidence that he hears your prayers and longs to answer the deep needs of those around you.

https://christlife.org/blog/the-power-of-intercessory-prayer

Seven Steps for Intercessory Prayer

  1. Since it is the prayer of the righteous that is powerful and effective (James 5:16), examine your conscience before you pray, and repent of any sin or harsh feelings you may have against other people.
  2. Spend a few minutes in silence, to quiet your mind and come into God’s presence.
  3. During this time, ask the Lord to give you a sense of the things God wants you to pray for. Put aside your own agenda, concerns, and desires and unite yourself to Jesus’ heart. You may want to write down the things that God places on your hearts.
  4. Briefly reflect on what you wrote down. What do you think God is leading you to pray for?
  5. Pray for the things on God’s heart—for those who have no faith; for those who have fallen away from Jesus; for renewal and unity in all the Christian churches; for respect for all life; for all the lost, abandoned, or forgotten children of the world; for those under the power of addictions or bound by depression, anxiety, or bitterness; and for prisoners and service men and women. And, of course, pray for your own intentions and those of your loved ones.
  6. As you pray, take confidence in God’s power to overcome any obstacle. Stand firm in faith, and wait to see God work in power.
  7. In your prayer journal, keep a record of what you prayed for, and of the ways God answered those prayers. Thank him and praise for all the ways he has worked through your prayer.

Jesus promised: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). One of the most powerful ways we can pray as intercessors is together with others. Consider forming an intercessory prayer team.

Morning Prayer for Thursday, August 9, 2018 — Please God Change Me — Peter Didn’t Think He Was “The Rock’ To Build Upon

August 9, 2018

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Ask God in daily prayer to give you the strength to change. When you ask God to change you, you must at the same time fully trust Him. If you do not fully trust Him, God may answer your prayer as a rescuer does that of a drowning person who is putting up too much of a struggle. The rescuer must first render the person still more helpless, until he or she is wholly at the rescuer’s mercy. Just so must we be wholly at God’s mercy before we can be rescued.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be daily willing to be changed. I pray that I may put myself wholly at the mercy of God.

Related:

  (“Upon this rock I will build my Church.”)

God has faith in us!

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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9 AUGUST, 2018, Thursday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time

WHICH WAY IS GOD’S WAY?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JER 31:31-34MT 16:13-23 ]

“But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan!  You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’”  Indeed, we are living in very difficult, challenging and confusing times.  The world has changed much because of relativism, technological advancement, globalization and migration that have also brought about the corollary encounter and often clashes among religions and cultures.  Which religion is right or wrong?  Which religion has the truth?  Which philosophy of life is the right one?  With the uncertainty of the truth that religion and philosophy can offer, there are also implications on morality.

Because of the change of lifestyle, cultural and moral values have also evolved.  There are so many traditional values on family life and the dignity of life that have been called into question.  With both parents working to meet a rising standard of living and the costs of living, couples are more independent of each other.  The family is no longer as closely knit as in the olden days when our fathers would go to work and come back in the evening to be with the family.  Today, the family unit is falling apart, because married couples are spending less and less time with each other and their children.   There are a growing number of divorces.   Many have great distrust in heterosexual relationships.  Instead they think that same sex relationships work better. Marriage and the family are being redefined as two persons coming together or three persons living together.  Abortion is the easy way out of responsibility in sexual life.  Euthanasia is the way to escape from commitment to our elderly.

Indeed, should the Church compromise her doctrines to suit the reality of modern times?  Do we remain faithful to the truths of the gospel and the constant teaching of the Church and preserve the purity of our doctrines?  Or do we adapt and change to accommodate the challenges of living up to the doctrines of the gospel and the Church lest we distance ourselves from the larger group of people who find our doctrines intolerable and impossible?  The danger of compromise is always there, like that of Peter who could not accept Jesus’ prophecy of His passion.  “Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him.  ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord,’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’”

Indeed, like Peter, we are unable to accept the ways of God.  By so doing, aren’t we no better than the Israelites who broke the Covenant of Moses?  Although we might have the New Covenant, it also became ineffective because we are not faithful to it.  This was what the prophet said, “See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, but not a covenant like the one I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.  They broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master.” 

The crux of the question is, “How then do we know what God’s ways are?”  For some Protestant Christians, the key is to acquire the faith of St Peter.  This is how they interpret the declaration of Jesus when He said to Peter, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.  And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”  In this interpretation, the rock does not stand for St Peter and his successors but the faith of Peter when he declared, “You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.”  With this faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God, we can be sure of what we believe and whom we believe by accepting all that Christ has taught us in the scriptures.  Faith in Christ and in the Word of God is all that is necessary to keep us in the truth and find life.

This is also because with our baptism, many Protestant Christians believe that the Spirit of Christ lives in all the baptized.  As members of His Church, we all know Christ intimately, personally, and we no longer need the teaching authority of Church since as Jeremiah prophesied, “This is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel when those days arrive – it is the Lord who speaks.  Deep within them I will plant my law, writing it on their hearts.  Then I will be their God and they shall be my people.  There will be no further need for neighbour to try to teach neighbour, or brother to say to brother, ‘Learn to know the Lord!’ No, they will all know me, the least no less than the greatest – it is the Lord who speaks – since I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind.”

Yet, if we hold this view, then it is difficult to sustain the unity of the Church, which must be unity in truth and in love.  There can be no unity in fellowship unless there is unity in beliefs.  The fact is that we all interpret the Word of God differently and all claim that they have the Holy Spirit to guide them.  If we all differ in opinions and interpretations, then no one knows the exact truth.  This leads to relativism.  As a result, the Church can no longer be called the the “pillar and ground of truth” (cf 1 Tim 3:15) or the body of Christ (cf 1 Cor 12:12-27) or the Temple of God and the Holy Spirit (cf 1 Cor 3:16) or a spiritual fellowship (cf 2 Cor 13:14). Indeed, how then can the Church be called a People of God, holy, one and apostolic in faith?

Obviously, personal faith, whilst necessary to walk in the way of the Lord, is not enough unless it is also a communal faith, the faith of the Church.  The faith is imparted to us by the Church and therefore we are baptized in the faith of the Church.   That is why we need the teaching Church.  That is why the Lord entrusted to Peter the authority to rule when He said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.  And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.” The keys to binding and loosing refer to the authority of the Church under the leadership of St Peter and the Apostolic College, which is succeeded by the Pope and the College of Bishops.

To walk the truth and way of Christ requires more than reason alone.  We need the revelation of God.  Faith is not just reasoned but based on revelation.  This was what the Lord said to Peter, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man!  Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  If it was merely based on reason then we can agree or disagree based on logic.  But faith in Christ as the Son of God requires more than mere reason; faith in God’s revelation is in Christ.  In all humility, we must recognize that there are many things in life we do not understand.  This is where we submit in faith to Christ who continues to govern, teach and sanctify the Church through the governing, teaching and sanctifying authority of the Pope and the bishops.  The magisterium is needed to preserve unity in truth through discipleship and order.   Unity is the basis for stability and continuity in doctrines, morals and in the institutions, especially the sacraments.

But in fact, the infallibility of the teaching Church is also very much influenced by the infallibility of the believing Church.  The authority of the teaching Church does not work independently from the People of God.  On the contrary, the Church recognizes the Sensus Fidei of the People of God.  That is why the Magisterium must consult the People of God in defining doctrines.  Often, it is the faith of the people that helps the Magisterium to discern the truth of the gospel.  That is why the Church is always asked to pray, especially for the Holy Father and the bishops, because they are the ones who teach authoritatively.  All the more, they need the grace of God, the spirit of discernment, the spirit of truth, the spirit of courage so that they can teach the Word of God without fear or favour.  The teaching Church is not exempted from acquiring a deeper personal faith in the Lord.  Such personal faith when strengthened will help them to be in tune with Christ, His Spirit and the Word of God.   With the psalmist, we pray, “A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your Holy Spirit.”

But for us to help the Church leaders to discern, as individuals and as the believing Church, the laity and priests must enlighten the Magisterium by articulating their faith in Christ and their interpretation of the Word of God through their intuitive faith and the study of scriptures. The laity must articulate their views to be heard by the Church.  That is why Pope Francis is ensuring that there is greater representation of laity in the Pontifical Councils and in the offices of the Church.  In this way, both the teaching and believing Church help each other to discern the way forward that is inspired by a common spirit.  The sign that we are the Church of Christ is when we preserve ourselves as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

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

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Morning Prayer for Tuesday, August 7, 2018 — God’s spirit is always with you, His hand is on your shoulder — Anthony Hopkins on his Great Gift

August 7, 2018

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Never doubt that God’s spirit is always with you, wherever you are, to keep you on the right path. God’s keeping power is never at fault, only your realization of it. You must try to believe in God’s nearness and availability of His grace. It is not a question of whether God can provide a shelter from the storm, but of whether or not you seek the security of that shelter. Every fear, worry, or doubt is disloyalty to God. You must endeavor to trust God wholly. Practice saying: “All is going to be well.” Say it to yourself until you feel it deeply.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may feel deeply that all is well. I pray that nothing will be able to move me from that deep conviction.

Related:

Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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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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Sir Anthony Hopkins

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Each human being has a spark of God within him. Curing addiction can awaken this spark and create a spiritual experience — and a better person!

Morning Prayer for Monday, August 6, 2018 — Daily Communion With God

August 6, 2018

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Refilling with the spirit is something you need every day. For this refilling with the spirit, you need these times of quiet communion, away, alone, without noise, without activity. You need this dwelling apart, this shutting yourself away in the very secret place of your being, away alone with your Maker. From these times of communion you come forth with new power. This refilling is the best preparation for effective work. When you are spiritually filled, there is no work too hard for you.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be daily refilled with the right spirit. I pray that I may be full of the joy of true living.

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Morning Prayer for Saturday, August 4, 2018 — Seeking conscious contact with God

August 4, 2018

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“And this is life eternal, that they may know Thee.” It is the flow of life eternal through spirit, mind, and body that cleanses, heals, restores, and renews. Seek conscious contact with God more and more each day. Make God an abiding presence during the day. Be conscious of His spirit helping you. All that is done without God’s spirit is passing. All that is done with God’s spirit is life eternal.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be in the stream of eternal life. I pray that I may be cleansed and healed by the Eternal Spirit.

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Morning Prayer for Thursday, July 26, 2018 — Renewing the Power of the Holy Spirit In Us

July 26, 2018

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“Hallowed be Thy Name.” What does that mean to us? Here “name” is used in the sense of “spirit.” The words mean praise to God for His spirit in the world, making us better. We should be especially grateful for God’s spirit, which gives us the strength to overcome all that is base in our lives. His spirit is powerful. It can help us to live a conquering, abundant life. So we praise and thank Him for His spirit in our lives and in the lives of others.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be grateful for God’s spirit in me. I pray that I may try to live in accordance with it.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 JULY, 2018, Thursday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time
JADED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JER 2:1-3,7-8,12-13MT 13:10-17 ]

Are you jaded with life?  Indeed, many of us are.  That is why we find life such a drudgery, a chore, something to endure, tolerate and we live each day hoping that the day will be over soon.  Indeed, when we look at ourselves, we are not much different from the Israelites, their leaders, priests and prophets.  They started well but over time, they had lost their steam.  Religion and politics were institutionalized.  Everything was carried out perfunctorily without any personal conviction or passion for God or for others.  They had lost their zeal in serving God and His people.  It was simply an iron rice bowl to keep themselves surviving.

This is true especially when it comes to our work or profession.  We start well when we embark on our first job.  We are so grateful that we are able to find employment instead of idling around doing nothing at home and worrying about our finances.  We work hard and we prove ourselves.   But over time, we too slacken in our work.  We have been in the office for so many years and have received so many long service award medals.  We are so comfortable where we are that we do not want any change.  We are simply just watching over our interests and no longer at the service of others.

This is equally true even for those in priestly and religious vocations as well. They were inspired by their love for Christ and the Church to offer themselves for the priesthood or religious life, to serve Christ and His people.  They started with great enthusiasm and passion but after years of service, they too have lost their zeal.  They are now minimalists.  They find their parishioners a nuisance and not good news to them when they come to look for help.  Instead of seeing such occasions as opportunities to reach out to them, they become a burden to us.

Greater still is the relationship between husbands and wives.  When they were courting, they were so loving and caring of each other, making time to listen to each other and finding ways to make the other person feel loved and understood.  But now, the tender love and passion for each other is gone.  They no longer have time for each other to share their joys and sorrows.  Being together now is about attending to the household chores and daily tasks.  They are so busy with their own work that they take each other for granted. This often leads to misunderstanding, quarrels, disagreements, fights and sometimes even divorce.

This was precisely the complaint that God had against Israel.  “I remember the affection of your youth, the love of your bridal days: you followed me through the wilderness, through a land unsown.”  God had loved Israel as His son and His bride.  The Lord had revealed His love for them in so many ways, especially by delivering them from Egypt with might and power, by providing for their needs in the desert for forty years and delivering the Promised Land to them.

Then like the rest of us, they abused their privileges. The Lord said, “I brought you a fertile country to enjoy its produce and good things; but sooner had you entered than you defiled my land, and made heritage detestable.”  Instead of worshipping the true God that led them out of Israel, they worshipped Baal, the god of fertility.  They failed to keep the covenanted laws that promote justice and right relationships with each other and with strangers.  The kings as shepherds of His people were not looking after the sheep of the Lord.  The prophets, instead of speaking the truth from God, were saying things to please the people so that they would be popular.  Indeed, “The priests have never asked, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who administer the Law have no knowledge of me. The shepherds have rebelled against me; the prophets have prophesied in the name of Baal, following things with no power in them.”

What are the causes that lead us to boredom, to lose interest, that leave us drained, worn out and dissipated?  Firstly, it is due to our forgetfulness.  This is always the problem in life.  We forget who we were and how much we had to suffer before.  We forget that we were nobody and were it not for the help of the people around us and the grace of God, we would not be where we are today.   Forgetfulness leads to ingratitude because we take things for granted.  We think we have earned them ourselves.  Hence, we become arrogant and self-centered.

The antidote to forgetfulness is therefore to remember with gratitude all our blessings in life.  The Church invites us to always give thanks and praise to God for the great things He has done for us in our morning and evening prayers.  Most of all, the Church invites us to celebrate the Eucharist daily, which is a time to remember His love for us in His passion and resurrection, and for us to give thanks to Him for His unconditional love and mercy.  Doing this in remembrance of Him is what will empower us to do the same in serving our fellowmen without conditions, washing their feet like humble servants of the Lord.

Secondly, listlessness is due to the routine of life.  When we do things like a robot without feelings, without passion and without having a clear motive and vision of what we are doing, then we are just doing things but not involved in a mission.  This is the danger for husbands and wives because they manage their household like a routine.  They no longer take time to appreciate each other, consider what they are doing, and whether they can improve their family life more and more.  How is it that we seek to improve our work and businesses, but we do not have the same enthusiasm in building up our families?

Listlessness is overcome by creativity.  We must learn to be creative like our Lord.  He did not simply do what the religious leaders did, hoping that people would come to the temple.  Instead, He reached out often to the poor, the grassroots and those in need of encountering God’s good news.  When He was no longer welcomed in the synagogue, He took His preaching to the plains, mountains and the market place.  Many of our Church organizations lack creativity.  Often, when it comes to preaching and teaching our young people, or in communicating with them, we are out of touch.  More people will read what is secular news but not what is Catholic news.  It seems the world speaks more directly to the people than the Church. We are losing contact with the people.

Thirdly, if we are jaded, it is because of complacency.  When we are doing the same things repeatedly, it means that we are complacent.  Many of us are quite contented where we are.  We do not want change and we resist change.  We just want to protect our turf.  That is why for such people, the Lord said, “You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing.”  Yes, if there are people who are not keen to listen to God it is because they do not desire any conversion in their lives.  They have lost their zeal, mission and love for the Lord.  Whatever you initiate or propose, such people, especially if they are holding offices, will thumb down our proposals and squash any new initiatives.

However, if we look at Jesus, He was always proactive.  He knew that things could not remain the same in the way the Good News of God is proclaimed to the people.  He knew that the way to reach out of the people was by drawing close to them instead of isolating all the presumed sinners like the scribes and Pharisees did.  Jesus would eat and sit with tax-collectors and sinners and even reach out to prostitutes.  He would be with the poor, the uneducated and give them the chance to grow and prove themselves.  Instead of using theological jargon to talk to the people God, He used parables so that the hearers would be able to identify themselves in the stories and so opened their hearts to welcome Him.

Finally, if we are jaded, it is because of our sins.  It is because we are in sin that we no longer desire to hear the truth. Isaiah said, “they have shut their eyes for fear they shall see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me.”  Sins blind and cripple us from seeing our lives with the wisdom of God instead of the deception of the world.  Sin makes us slaves of our addictions and fearful of God and of the world.  We become insecure, burdened by guilt and paralyzed by our sins.

Consequently, today, we are invited to turn away from the sins that hold us.  We are called instead to return to the Lord.  The Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah, “they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, only to dig cisterns for themselves, leaky cisterns that hold no water.”    Indeed, if we want to renew our life again, we must ground our life in Christ.  The good news is that if we are sincere in searching for Him, we will find our path to a life of joy and passion regardless of whatever state of life we are in.   “Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear!” Indeed, if we want to be healed of our sight and deafness, we must come to the Lord, as the psalmist proclaims is the source of life.   “Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven; your truth to the skies. O Lord, how precious is your love.   In you is the source of life and in your light we see light.

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

Morning Prayer for Tuesday, July 24, 2018 — Practice the Presence of God (Especially when you feel powerless)

July 24, 2018

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Keep as close as you can to the Higher Power. Try to think, act, and live as though you were always in God’s presence. Keeping close to a Power greater than yourself is the solution to most of the earth’s problems. Try to practice the presence of God in the things you think and do. That is the secret of personal power. It is the thing which influences the lives of others for good. Abide in the Lord and rejoice in His love. Keep close to the Divine Spirit in the universe. Keep God close behind your thoughts.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may keep close to the Mind of God. I pray that I may live with Him in my heart and mind.

Note from Peace and Freedom: The electric power went off where I live yesterday due to a terrific thunderstorm. I reached out for candles and two books to fill the darkness, as I often do when “powerless.”

The books are Practice the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence and This Tremendous Lover by M. Eugene Boylan.

The back of Boylan’s book has a note  that says the book is often called “the modern Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.”

A few pages into This Tremendous Lover the reader is confronted with this:

The essence of human nature consists in two points, animality and rationality.
Man thus is in a unique position in the universe, for he shares in some
way the natures of all creatures. His body is material like the rest of the
universe; he feeds and grows as an individual, and multiplies as a race
like the plants; he perceives with his senses and experiences sense
desires like the brute animals; and he even has a share in the angels’
nature, for he is a rational being, endowed with intellect and will. In a
word, he can know and he can love; in this, he even resembles God.
But this very complexity of his nature can lead to difficulty, for the animal
nature in man has its own knowledge and desires, which may be opposed
to, and even anticipate, the decisions of the higher intellectual nature
which should rule his actions. And further, this complexity could mean
that man’s corporal life should come to an end; he is not by nature
immortal…

 

Morning Prayer for Sunday, July 22, 2018 — God’s power grants us a future of unlimited power to do good works

July 22, 2018

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“And greater works than these shall ye do.” Each individual has the ability to do good works through the power of God’s spirit. This is the wonder of the world, the miracle of the earth that God’s power goes out to bless the human race through the agency of so many people who are actuated by His grace. We need not be held back by doubt, despondency, and fear. A wonderful future can lie before any person who depends on God’s power, a future of unlimited power to do good works.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may not limit myself by doubting. I pray that I may have confidence that I can be effective for good.

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Morning Prayer for Saturday, July 21, 2018 — Faith Can Move Mountains

July 21, 2018
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“Faith can move mountains.” That expression means that faith can change any situation in the field of personal relationships. If you trust Him, God shows you the way to “move mountains.” If you are humble enough to know that you can do little by yourself to change a situation, if you have enough faith to ask God to give you the power you need, and if you are grateful enough for the grace He gives you, you can “move mountains.” Situations will be changed for the better by your presence.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may have enough faith to make me really effective. I pray that I may learn to depend less on myself and more on God.

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Jesus heals the blind man at Jericho, saying, “Your faith has saved you…”
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Art from the catacombs — “If I could only touch the hem of his cloak…”
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Lowering the paralytic through the roof by James Tissot
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Jesus and the centurion: “Lord I am not worthy….”