Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 17, 2018 — “For we walk by faith, not by sight”

June 16, 2018

We need to spend some time with the Lord, listening to His words, and wondering what the words mean.  When we do this, we begin to understand Jesus and the Kingdom.

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I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree … Ezekiel

Sounds like: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 92

Reading 1 EZ 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. (cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

Reading 2 2 COR 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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People used to talk a lot about extrasensory perception or ESP, also called sixth sense or second sight. That’s the powerful feeling about where to go, what to do and how to proceed.
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Christians would be more comfortable talking about the Holy Spirit — a God centered type of guidance system informed by scripture, prayer and even God Himself.
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After all, ESP could be fueled by heroin or cocaine… or lust, selfishness, greed or maybe anger.
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God wants us to choose the right path.
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“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
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There will be an accounting. And to reach a life that will “pass muster,” we start as small as a mustard seed and try to grow in the way of the Lord.
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This takes work and prayer and dedication.
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Our choice is to pick God’s Way or the Highway.
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But remember, the Highway is full of disorder even if we manage to avoid the worst of it — the opiates, prostitutes and the rest.
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God’s way, even with the required work, is still easier than the Highway — especially when it’s time to give our accounting!
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Reflection By The Abbot, Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Parables!  Jesus is often speaking to us in parables.  Often we don’t spend enough time thinking about the parables, about the images that He gives us.  We need to spend some time with the Lord, listening to His words, and wondering what the words mean.  When we do this, we begin to understand Jesus and the Kingdom.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel.  We have many images in this reading.  However, the message is clear:  “All the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”  The message is simple:  God is God and we humans are not God and cannot control our world or anything in it.  We have the appearance of control, but the world spins out of control when we humans no longer respect God nor respect the ways of God for us.  This has happened over and over in human history and we humans seem incapable of learning the lesson:  follow the Lord and life is very good!  Abandon the Lord and life becomes unbearable.

The second reading is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  The small passage that we read today repeats the lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel:  “We walk by faith, not by sight.”  When we walk by faith, we listen to the Word of God and strive to form our lives by that Word.  If we walk by sight, we no longer believe in the Lord because the present world tells us that God is not necessary, is only a foolish thought of humans, and that life is much better without God.

Once again we are confronted with the truth:  With God there is mercy!  Without God, all becomes useless and without meaning.  The only meaning without God is the human being.  The human being is always fickle, always seeking its own good, always looking for please and wealth and power.  As our world continues to abandon God, we can expect worse things yet to happen.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint Mark and brings us back to parables and images.  What is the Kingdom of God like, Jesus asks?  Well, it is something that we cannot control.  It is like planting a field and not understanding why the plants grow.  The Kingdom of God is all around us and is within us—but we have a choice to recognize it or to ignore it.  Whether we recognize the Kingdom or ignore the Kingdom, the process of the Kingdom is still at work:  time is given to us to give ourselves to God.

The Kingdom of God is very small and that is why so many cannot see it.  Small.  Not small in size but small in its beginnings within us and within our communities.  Yet it can grow and become so powerful.  God never forces Himself upon us.  We can always invite God to grow within us and within our communities.

When we see the grass grow or when we see a tree grow, we can think of the Kingdom of God!  When we see birds fly in the air, we can think of the Kingdom of God.  God is always at work and always loving us.  May we open our eyes and our hearts to Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Morning Prayer for Friday, June 15, 2018 — “I pray that I may develop the feeling of being led by God.”

June 15, 2018

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Meditation For The Day

There is beauty in a God-guided life. There is wonder in the
feeling of being led by God. Try to realize God’s bounty and
goodness more and more. God is planning for you. Wonderful are
His ways – they are beyond your knowledge. But God’s leading
will enter your consciousness more and more and bring you ever
more peace and joy. Your life is being planned and blessed by
God. You may count all material things as losses if they
prevent your winning your way to the consciousness of God’s
guidance.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may earn the rewards of God’s power and peace.
I pray that I may develop the feeling of being led by God.

http://www.recoveryreadings.com/dailyrecoveryreadingsJune15.html

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How do people keep their faith in prison?

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SINGULAR-MINDEDNESS IN SEEKING FULLNESS OF LIFE IN RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS

From Bishop William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1KGS 19:911-16MT 5:27-32  ]

The gospel text today might sound rather harsh and exacting. What does Jesus really mean when He said, “If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” and “if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away”?  Does He really expect us to do such a thing as to maim ourselves?

On the contrary, Jesus wants us to have the fullness of life.  What does this fullness of life entail?  Life consists of relationships.  We will find meaning in life only when there is relationship, a relationship that is right and proper both with God and with our neighbours.  Indeed, this is the only goal in life that is worth our sacrifice.  Wealth and status cannot give us life. Only love and authentic relationship can give us life.

It is within this context that we can understand why Jesus spoke against adultery.  He went even further to say that “everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”   In the understanding of Jesus, adultery, which is infidelity in relationship, is the worst sin because it hurts not only the sinner but others as well.  We all know so well that because of adultery, many sins arise.  We have lies, anger, hatred and even violence. We have so many broken families and dysfunctional children today because of infidelity.  Appropriately, adultery is often used in scriptures to portray man’s relationship with God as well.  The truth is that infidelity in human relationship also affects our relationship with God.  After all, love of God is intrinsically tied down to the love of man.

Consequently, since relationship is critical for happiness in life, the demand of Jesus is that we cut away anything that will hinder us from living the full gospel life.   We must do everything within our power to avoid the occasion of sin.  Just as we need to amputate a certain part of the body in order to save a person, all the more, we must be ready to part with anything that can cause us to break our relationship with God, the author of life and love, because we fail to love our fellowmen correctly.  What is the use of having something at the expense of a greater thing?

And the truth is that everything begins from the heart, including evil desires.  The heart is the place not only of the emotions, but the mind, will, thought, and intentions as well.  The heart sums up the being of the human person. But in truth too, the heart desires evil things only because of what the heart sees, both physically and intellectually.  The heart, which is the will, desires an object.

That is why the sin of adultery must first be dealt with in the heart.   But quite often it all begins with the eyes, for the eyes cause us to desire a certain good and the hands cause us to act.  The eyes will send the message to the intellect and the head will tell the heart to desire it.  The heart in turn commands the intellect to tell the body to act.  This is true for lust.  Consequently, even if we do not act, the thought is sufficient to indicate the intention of the heart.  Given the opportunity to act, the action will follow.  This explains why even if one lusts after a woman in the heart, one has already committed adultery in principle.

Yes, we are all called to the apostolate of love.  In demanding that we cut off anything that prevents us from love and life, Jesus is also telling us that life cannot wait.  It requires a radical decision and commitment.  Life cannot be lived half-heartedly.  We cannot postpone living or postpone loving.  It is either a decision to live now or never.  We must make a radical commitment to life.   To delay is to say to ourselves that we do not want to live.  But that would be a contradiction.

Perhaps, love is too difficult for us.  Relationship is always difficult.  Love has to be purified.  Quite often in relationships, we feel like giving up.  At times, we fail.  This was the case of Elijah in the first reading.  He apparently was zealous for the House of Israel, but he was fleeing because the Queen wanted to take his life for slaying her 400 prophets.  On the surface, it seemed that this was the reason why he ran away.  God asked him three times “’What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord of hosts, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’”

But the real reason was that he was angry with God for not working wonders as He did earlier to protect him from his enemies.  He had a secret and hidden resentment against God, because he was disappointed with the way God acted. He wanted God to make Himself present in theophany to prove His might and power.  But the Lord refused to make Himself present in the wind, earthquake or fire.  Instead, He came in a gentle breeze. It would appear that Elijah was fleeing because his enemies wanted to kill him, when In truth his real enemy was himself.

We, too, must never be discouraged in our struggles in relationship.  We must not be too harsh towards ourselves, especially in overcoming the sin of lust or in purifying our relationship with our spouse or our friends.   When Jesus asked us to check the motives, He was not simply concerned about the act itself but what goes on in our hearts.  What is even more important is to search our hearts.  Through mistakes that we make, we will learn and find the strength and wisdom to overcome our lack of love for our spouse and partners.  Just as God told Elijah who ran away from his enemies, the Lord is also saying to us, “Go, go back the same way to the wilderness of Damascus.”  In other words, let us never give up fighting the battle to purify our love for our spouse and friends.

Indeed, the high ideals of married life are difficult for the modern generation.  But to those who understand the truth and necessity of the unity and indissolubility of marriage, Jesus will give us the grace and power to follow His way of holiness in their state of life. He does not abandon us even when we forsake him. The Holy Spirit will help us to overcome all things.   What we need to do is to follow Elijah, to spend time in contemplation of His love and His word, so that in the silence of our hearts, God will give us His assurance of love and grace.

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

https://www.catholic.sg/15-june-2018-friday-10th-week-ordinary-time/

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The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder

St. Augustine in the 4th Century basically lamented in his “Confessions” that everything he did was infected by self-advancement.  He would, he confessed, express his selfless love for God or those close to him, but secretly, in his deeper self-examination, he saw his desire for selfish gain.  Every act of giving was suspect.  Perhaps it was his pride or his desire for recognition as a holy man, or the idea that he could impress God with his purity of purpose.  He was, he confessed, trapped within his own ego.  So am I.  So are you.

To be “insane” is to be seriously out of touch with reality.  The insane person has fixed upon a state of private reality so intransigent that change is impossible. After all, why would one fight against reality? To an insane person, it is you, not he or she who fails to understand the world as it is.

Augustine was not insane however for the very reason that he was aware of his spiritual illness and need for healing grace.  He could self-observe, and in a sense, conduct a form of ancient rational cognitive therapy.  He looked at the evidence with objectivity to challenge his subjective convictions.  He then shifted to a mental framework that more closely aligned with the evidence.

That evidence was that he had no sufficient power of himself to be restored to right thinking.  By grace, he began to question his private assessments of the state of his soul in the light of Scripture. What did God say about Augustine, and how attentively was Augustine listening?

Augustine, by God’s grace, was able to look into the twisted state of his own soul.  He wrote of the problem:    “The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.” And he wrote of the solution:  “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Just when I think I am being especially holy, a tinge of my pride or a sweet sense of superiority almost instantly infiltrates my awareness.  Most of the time, I’m oblivious to this ego-contamination, but sometimes,  I privately savor the feeling of my achieved holiness but do not challenge it as evil.  Much more rarely, as just this morning, I am fully conscious that my “holy” thoughts are sick with this incurable ego virus.  My reaction is one of frustration, hopelessness, and sadness that I am in this savage spiritual state.  Is there any way out?

The way out is the Way of God.   The way of holiness is to move past the fascination with the creation [ourselves included] into the splendor of the Creator.  The way out is to seek fervently not only the beauty of truth but the Source of All Truth.  The way out is to be attentive to the presence of God in all His manifestations.  The wonderful nature of God is that He loves us, and draws us to Himself.  This drawing near process is a conversion from illusion towards awareness and healing.  Time is short and precious.   We need to take God’s invitation to sanity seriously and act upon it now.

Holiness and conversion are not instantaneous.  We live in a process of being converted and being made holy.  Each day is a step to be taken towards the outstretched arms of Christ.  But what is critical is to be in a daily relationship.  To be connected is to take life from the Source of Life.  To be disconnected is to die a spiritual death.  “I am the vine; you are the branches.” To connect with the invisible God who speaks without words is such a challenge, but the experience of intimacy is real, convincing, and transforming.  This way of Jesus to “turn things upside down” whether tables in the temple or theological concepts is why he has my attention.  Like the people of his physical time on earth, I’m led to say:  “He’s different. He teaches with authority, not like our religious leaders.”  He is continuously moving us out of the false safety of our rules and into the adventure of real connection with Abba-God. “They were amazed at His teaching.”

This connection is called prayer, and it takes several forms, depending on the mental and emotional posture assumed, whether one primarily of praise and worship, or supplication, or quiet receptivity.  In one sense, it is not a conversation at all, though it may often be.  One important aspect of prayer is being present mindfully with God in everything.  It is at some level of consciousness to be aware that God is to be encountered in every person, place, and event, even those most trivial and ordinary.  It is to be aware that the presence of God renders all things sacred, and that whenever evil enters a relationship or event, the sacred has been defiled by the sacrilegious.  It is to take pleasure in God and sorrow in sin.

Pope John Paul II said this of prayer in his book “The Way to Christ:”

“We have to learn to pray: as it were learning this art ever anew from the lips of the Divine Master himself, like the first disciples: ‘Lord, teach us to pray!’ (Lk 11:1).”[25]

This model is the “Lord’s Prayer,” from the Gospel of Matthew, 6:5-15:

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9“This, then, is how you should pray:

“ ‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11Give us today our daily bread.

12And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13And lead us not into temptation,a

but deliver us from the evil one.b ’

14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

This is not a mechanical prayer to be repeated mindlessly word for word. It is offered as a guideline for how our prayers are to conform to the principles that rule heaven and earth.  The model reminds us that we must humble ourselves before our Creator, and unburden ourselves of the grudges and ill-will that stand between us and God or between us and other imperfect humans.   With this mindset, we are more likely to find intimacy with God, which is the whole purpose of prayer.

Prayer too is like the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Those steps could as rightly be called the 12 steps of Sinners Anonymous, for we addictively ingest sin like addicts ingest drugs. We are no different in our spirits or in our need for a “Higher Power.”  Those steps, reduced to a few words, might be:

I’m helpless to find peace and or a way out of this human misery.  I need you, and I surrender to you, not even knowing who you are or why you care, but I’m desperate, and you’re my last hope.  I can’t do this on my own.  Restore me to sanity and life, and maybe, by your grace, I can be a messenger of hope one day for others.

In closing, we return to the words of Augustine as he came to his senses, and over the course of his life, saw the grace of God leading him to recovery:

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder,” and “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Source:https://the-daily-peanut.com/2018/04/15/ego-contamination/

Morning Prayer for Thursday, June 14, 2018 — Get out of the desert…. Seeking Peace of Mind.

June 14, 2018

When people put up a show and live a life of pretense, we don’t want them as friends.

Get out of the desert…. Seeking Peace of Mind.

It is not your circumstances that need altering so much as
yourself. After you have changed, conditions will naturally
change. Spare no effort to become all that God would have you
become. Follow every good leading of your conscience. Take each
day with no backward look. Face the day’s problems with God, and
seek God’s help and guidance as to what you should do in every
situation that may arise. Never look back. Never leave until
tomorrow the thing that you are guided to do today.

Prayer For The Day

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I pray that God will help me to become all that He would have me
be. I pray that I may face today’s problem as with good grace.

http://www.recoveryreadings.com/dailyrecoveryreadingsJune14.html

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

14 JUNE, 2018, Thursday, 10th Week, Ordinary Time

GOD’S POWER TRANSFORMS US FROM WITHIN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Kings 18:41-46Ps 65:10-13Matthew 5:20-26  ]

How are you feeling? Some of you might be in the desert, like the Israelites facing a long drought.  Some of us are unhappy with our life.  We are not happy where we are and what we are, whether with our marriage or our work.  We find life meaningless and empty. Some of us live in fear and anxiety about the future and as a result, are greedy like King Ahab.  Others are unhappy with people around us, not just with our enemies but even with our friends and loved ones.   We are always fighting with people whom we see as obstructing our will to do what we want and how we live.   Very often, we tend to blame people.  We pick on others.  We look for scapegoats for our failures and mistakes in life instead of recognizing that it is our fault as well.  This was the case of the people of Israel.  They were unfaithful to the covenant.  Instead of looking at themselves, they looked for other causes.

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Sunrise Photograph – Dawn In The Desert by Saija Lehtonen
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When we live superficially and lack authenticity in the way we live our lives, especially in relationships, we will be exposed eventually.  That is what Jesus is warning us in today’s gospel, “Come to terms with our opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.”  This is the price for our folly and lack of integrity.  Our friends will see how fake we are.  When they come to realize how inward-looking and self-centered we are and that we are doing things only to win their attention, they will dump us.  We want genuine people who are not necessarily perfect but are honest with themselves, are striving to improve themselves and willing to admit their mistakes. 

When people put up a show and live a life of pretense, we don’t want them as friends.

Rather, Jesus asks us to look deep within us.  He warns us against behaving like the Pharisees and the scribes who lived superficially by impressing to get attention, glory and honour.  They fulfilled the laws only to feel justified before men and God.  There was much pride and self-righteousness in the way they conducted themselves.  That is why Jesus invites us to live deeply.  He says, “If your virtue goes not deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

So we must come to terms with ourselves, our brokenness and our goodness.   We must learn to connect with ourselves.  Hence, we must ask ourselves the reasons for our misery and emptiness.  What is causing us to be so full of anger, vindictiveness, hatred, intolerance and unforgiveness?  Even anger for Jesus is but the sign of a deeper issue affecting us and causing us to hurt others and in the process, hurt ourselves.  Jesus said, “You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother, ‘Fool’ he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him ‘Renegade’ he will answer for it in hell fire.”

Happiness in life requires us to live deeply.   To live deeply means to live a life of God.  How can one live deeply?  Firstly, we must remove our sins, especially of anger and revenge.  When we are angry, we cannot look at things objectively.  Our sins cause us to be blind.  This is why the Lord asks us to forgive our brothers and sisters.  When we are not at peace with ourselves and with others, we act out of our wounds and pain.  Indeed, most of us react to situations rather than act.  The fact that we are reacting means that we are not dealing with the events and challenges objectively.  We need to heal the pains that come from old wounds, especially those traumatic events in our lives inflicted on us, especially by our loved ones, parents, siblings and relatives.  Anger is the cause of misery.

Secondly, to live deeply requires that we live our faith deeply, not just a superficial faith or ritualistic faithbut authentically.  This is to say that we must believe deeply in our hearts what we believe in.  The trouble is that many of us do not truly believe in what we have been taught.  We only pay lip service to the Word of God and the doctrines of the Church.  We are not completely sold on the teachings of the Church because we tend to listen more to the world’s views than the Church’s views.  Our faith in Christ and in the Bible is superficial.  We are more concerned with external practices and obligations, believing that if we observe some of the rules, we can count ourselves as good Catholics.  The truth is that we are not saved by good works but by Christ’s forgiving love and mercy on the cross.  Unless we come to understand this truth, we will always see religion as a set of practices rather as an invitation to love and live like Christ who shows us the way to fullness of life.

The fruits of our salvation are demonstrated in a virtuous life transformed in Christ.  Indeed, Jesus makes it clear that “If your virtue goes not deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”  It is more than just performing some pious exercises.  Rather, it is to allow the saving work of Christ to show its effects in our lives by allowing His Spirit to work in and through us.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.”  (Gal 5:22f25ff)

Thirdly, to live deeply means going beyond the letter of the law to the Spirit.   This is the intention of Jesus with regard to the teaching on anger.  On the surface, we think anger is quite acceptable because many of us get angry easily.  He saw it as a deeper issue.  He is against all forms of anger as it would lead to shouting, verbal abuse, violence and even killing. So, it is more than just breaking the law.  If we do not reconcile, we will be led to greater evil.  The separation will cause greater misunderstanding and make us lose our peace of mind.  It prevents us from worshipping God totally and blocks our hearts from entering the love of God.  When we are not in union with God, then other issues will arise.  That is why the Lord advises us accordingly, “So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering.”

In the same vein, offering worship to God is not just an external performance of sacrifices.  Love of God and love of our fellowmen go together.  Jesus makes it clear that these two commandments are inseparable, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:37-40)  John is even more explicit.  “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. ‘The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.”  (1 Jn 4:20f)

Consequently, today, we are called to follow Elijah  in developing a personal relationship with the Lord rooted in faith and trust.  It was his faith in the Lord and His power that enabled him to pray with expectation that the Lord would fulfil what he asked of Him.  His fervent prayer brought about the rain.  And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’ And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.”  The Lord too wants to send down His blessings on us.  But we must surrender to Him in prayer.   We must cultivate a personal faith in the Lord Jesus.  Only then, can we live our lives authentically, in the power of the Spirit, in truth and in love.  Just as the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, so too, His hand would also be on us if we seek Him with all our hearts, turn away from sin, live in truth and love, and in integrity, and not follow the bad example of King Ahab whose insincerity caused him and his family to suffer.

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

St Anthony: Ministry to the poor, broken, lost — Making our lives a song of praise to God — Service to others

June 13, 2018

St Anthony is seen to be the patron for lost items only because he, like Jesus, came for the lost souls.

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13 JUNE, 2018, Wednesday, St Anthony of Padua

FINDING THE LOST SOULS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Isa 61:1-3Ps 89:2-527292 Cor 1:18-22Lk 10:1-9  ]

Most of us turn to St Anthony only when we lose our things.  He is often seen as the patron for lost things.  Indeed, we have many testimonies of people, including myself, praying to St Anthony when we cannot find our things either because we misplaced them or lost them.  But if our devotion to St Anthony is confined to this alone, we are not giving full appreciation to this feast that we are celebrating.  St Anthony is seen to be the patron for lost items only because he, like Jesus, came for the lost souls.   St Anthony was consumed with the desire to save souls.   So more than just turning to him in prayer when we lose our things, we should first and foremost turn to him to save our souls and those souls who are lost.  Finding lost souls is far more important to finding our lost things.  If we are to have a true devotion to St Anthony, we must also seek to find the lost souls and not just our lost things.  What can we learn from this great saint in finding lost souls?

Firstly, if we are to find lost souls, we must first lose ourselves in Him.  Indeed, St Anthony who came from a rich family left everything to join the Augustinian order in Lisbon.  We must be ready to give up our riches and worldly pursuits for Jesus and for the joy of bringing Jesus to people.  But we cannot do that unless we are people of prayer and filled with the Holy Spirit.  We read that because of an illness which prevented him from fulfilling his desire to be a missionary in Morocco, he sailed to Sicily and landed in Italy.  There he founded a small hermitage where he spent his time in prayer, reading the scriptures and doing menial tasks. It was at this place that he deepened his prayer life, his knowledge of the scriptures and of his understanding of God.  Through a time of solitude and a life of simplicity, he came to discover the truth of the Word of God and the deeper meaning of the gospel.

Secondly, we need people to inspire us to offer our lives for the salvation of others.  We need good models and mentors.  If today we lack zealous Catholics who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the salvation of others, it is because we lack good role models.  Fortunately, St Anthony had good role models that inspired him to give up his life for Jesus and for the mission.  We read that what truly inspired him to join the Franciscans when he was already an Augustinian monk was because one day, he saw a procession of five bodies of Franciscans who were martyred for Christ.  This inspired him to do more for the Lord and to give his life entirely to Him as the Franciscans did.  As a consequence, he joined the Franciscan Order. He hoped to follow the Franciscans who died whilst preaching in Morocco, Africa.  He too wanted to spread the gospel.

Thirdly, He must have heard the Lord saying to His disciples, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”  He felt the urgency of the call of the Lord to proclaim the gospel to all of humanity.  “Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road.” Like the Suffering Servant, he felt the call to spread the good news and to be a blessing to those who were poor, broken and lost.  “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison; to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord, a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all those who mourn and to give them for ashes a garland; for mourning robe the oil of gladness, for despondency, praise.”

How, then, can we bring in lost souls for Christ?  Firstly, our lives must be one of praise to God.  We must sing praises to God not only with our lips but with our lives.  St Anthony lived a humble life in poverty like the poor Franciscans in those days.  With the psalmist, we say, “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord; through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth. Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever, that your truth is firmly established as the heavens.”  There is no better way than making our lives a song of praise to God in all that we say and do.

Secondly, St Anthony was a man who was clear about the gospel of what is right and wrong.  He was firmly established in the gospel.  Like St Paul in the second reading, he was one who could say, “I swear by God’s truth, there is no Yes and No about what we say to you. The Son of God, the Christ Jesus that we proclaimed among you – I mean Silvanus and Timothy and I – was never Yes and No: with him it was always Yes, and however many the promises God made, the Yes to them all is in him.”   The real problem why we lack the zeal to spread the gospel is because of relativism.  Today, we lack clarity and conviction of what we believe and not just who we believe.  We are not convinced of the gospel and especially of Christ as our saviour, much less what He has taught us in the scriptures.  St Anthony read the scriptures and made the Word of God his own. 

Thirdly, he was a man who was sincere in reaching out to sinners and heretics.  He wanted to bring sinners into realization of the need for repentance.  He was an outstanding preacher and the first Franciscan theologian. Whilst his sermons were preached with gentleness and compassion, he did not mince his words when it came to reprimanding the wicked, the complacent clergy and those who practiced injustice.  As St Paul urged Timothy, “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” (2 Tim 4:2-4)

Fourthly, he preached in the power of the Spirit.  Indeed, the years spent in prayer, contemplation of the sacred Scripture and serving Him in poverty, chastity, and obedience disposed St Anthony to allow the Holy Spirit to use his talents. Because of his availability to the Holy Spirit, St Anthony’s sermons were impactful to those who heard him preach, as the Spirit led him without preparation.  The people knew it was the Spirit that gave him the power to preach in such an anointed manner.  This was the same experience of St Paul when he wrote, “That is why it is ‘through him’ that we answer Amen to the praise of God. Remember it is God himself who assures us all, and you, of our standing in Christ, and has anointed us, marking us with his seal and giving us the pledge, the Spirit, that we carry in our hearts.” 

Finally, he surrendered his life and mission into the hands of God, believing that God knows what is best.  He did not impose his plans on God.  In fact, in his life, he was always receptive to God’s will for him.  He did not insist on doing what he wanted but he was always open to changes in his life.  His desire was to go to Morocco to convert the Muslims but he became sick and had to go to Italy to recuperate.  Instead of becoming a missionary, he became a contemplative and a hermit.  He accepted God’s plan for him that he was not wanted to evangelize the Moors.  And then when he was called to preach against the Albigensians and correct their heresies, he was ever ready to do so.  He went wherever the Lord sent him.  Isn’t this was what the Lord asks of us in the gospel?   He told His disciples, “Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”’

Truly, God was faithful to St Anthony and the Church made him a patron for lost things because he lost himself in God.  God said to David, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: I will establish your dynasty for ever and set up your throne through all ages. He will say to me: ‘You are my father, my God, the rock who saves me.’ I will keep my love for him always; with him my covenant shall last.”  So too, God remained faithful to St Anthony because he did not become an obstacle for God’s power to work in and through him.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Rrlated:
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Meditation For The Day

If you are honestly trying to live the way you believe God
wants you to live, you can get guidance from God in times of
quiet communion with Him, provided your thoughts are directed
toward God’s will and all good things. The attitude of
“Thy will, not mine, be done’ leads to clear guidance. Act on
this guidance and you will be led to better things. Your
impulses seem to become less your own and more the leading of
God’s spirit acting through your thoughts. Obeyed, they will
bring you the answers to your prayers.

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From: Twenty-Four Hours a Day

Are we growing in faith? Not afraid to take risks to be a disciple of Christ? Prayer for Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11, 2018
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Monday, June 11, 2018
A CHURCH COMING OUT OF HERSELF TO THE PERIPHERIES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 11:21-2613:1-3Mt 10:7-13 ]

The persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem resulted in the Church of Jerusalem going out of herself to other cities.  If not for the persecution, the Christian Church would not have grown because it would have been domesticated and reduced to another sect of Judaism.  So divine providence used such events for the spread of the gospel.   One of the cities that the Jewish Christians went to announce the Good News was Antioch. “A great number believed and were converted to the Lord. The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace.”

Barnabas, whose feast we celebrate today, played a key role in the spread of the gospel to all the nations.  Indeed, without Barnabas, Paul, who was then called Saul, might have been left as an unknown figure as many did not quite trust a former persecutor of the Church.  Barnabas might not have been the chosen apostle to the Gentiles, but he was certainly instrumental in rehabilitating Saul in the Christian community, giving him credibility and confidence.  It was his initiative to bring Paul to help him in his ministry.  “Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a number of people.”  Without his graciousness and encouragement, Saul would not have entered the Church to assume leadership.

Barnabas, whose name means encouragement, was truly an encouraging person towards all those who were growing in faith.  He was not afraid to take risks, as in soliciting Paul for help. He encouraged Paul to work with him in instructing the Christians at Antioch.  “He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.”  Barnabas was a true example of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  He patiently formed the early Christians in faith.  “He urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; and a large number of people were won over to the Lord.” He was aware that just because one is converted to the Lord does not mean that he would stay faithful to Him unless he continues to grow in the faith through study, reading the Word of God and sharing the faith with each other.

What is significant is that the community that Barnabas formed was not a conclave of Christians where they were only concerned about themselves.   A sign of a true, living and loving Christian community is when they reach out and proclaim Christ to others, and form new communities.  This is the danger of many so-called Christian communities. They become exclusive elite club members, absorbed in themselves and admitting only those who are good.  This is the saddest part of the Catholic Church because we are at most parochial-minded, even if we are considered “good Catholics.”  We are not reaching out to each other in the parish, much less to non-Christians.  A look at the statistics of our conversion rate will show that we are a maintenance Church.  With 383,000 Catholics or more, we have slightly over a thousand adult baptisms a year.  We are not a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.  We are quite contented to take care of our own parishes instead of growing new parishes and building new churches and new communities.  We rarely build new churches, for after so many years, we are only 32 parishes.  This clearly indicates that we are not growing fast enough to establish new communities.

In the early Church we see Barnabas and Paul being sent out as missionaries.  “One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”  They were receptive to the Holy Spirit prompting them to share the Good News with people elsewhere.  Indeed, the Church must be missionary-minded, always finding new ways to establish new communities.  We must avoid being a complacent Church that is inward-looking and protectionist.  We must be ready to welcome new people into the Church and in our ministries.  “Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rath­er than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 49)

Pope Francis challenged the Church to go forth.  “All of us are called to take part in this new missionary ’going forth’.  Each Christian and every community must dis­cern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 20) What are these peripheries?  It is not just a geographical periphery but also existential periphery.  We must be bold and creative. “Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’. I invite every­one to be bold and creative in this task of re­thinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communi­ties.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 33)  This is what the gospel is inviting us to do when the Lord said to His disciples, “As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.”

We must open our doors to the world. Jesus instructed His disciples, “Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.”  There is no coercion on our part but just offering the gift of the Good News.  Indeed, Pope Francis is insistent that “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One con­crete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if some­one, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacra­ments be closed for simply any reason.” (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 47)

This requires us to trust in Jesus and rely on Him alone.  Jesus told the disciples, “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.”  This mission cannot be accomplished without the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit, “One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”  Like the apostles, we are sent by a praying, spirit-filled and anointed community, regardless whether we are priests, religious, missionaries or laity involved in the mission.  We too must pray and discern how the Spirit is asking the Church today to renew herself and to go out to offer everyone the life of Christ

So let us without fear join the psalmist in singing “a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel.”   Let us go forth as Church, out of our comfort zones, to the existential periphery to announce the gospel of the Lord.  The Lord reminds us, “You have received without charge, give without charge.”  “An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the out­cast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 24)

Let us be generous in our contribution and support, whether in financial resources or time, to those whom we have sent out as missionaries to proclaim the gospel, those who labour in our diocese and beyond. It is not enough to send them out without supporting them with our prayers and resources.  “The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a com­munity of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 24)

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

Heavenly Father,

Pour forth your Holy Spirit to inspire me with these words from Holy Scripture.

Stir in my soul the desire to renew my faith and deepen my relationship with your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ so that I might truly believe in and live the Good News.

Open my heart to hear the Gospel and grant me the confidence to proclaim the Good News to others.

Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my everyday life through my words and actions.

In moments of hesitation, remind me:

If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel?

If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed?

If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?

God, our Father, I pray that through the Holy Spirit I might hear the call of the New Evangelization to deepen my faith, grow in confidence to proclaim the Gospel and boldly witness to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayer-for-the-new-evangelization.cfm

Book:

Bishop Goh reminds us to be “Dynamic Catholics.”

  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others
  4. EVANGELIZE

Related:

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Book: Holy Spirit by Fr. Edward Leen

“We are all created for intimacy with God, which is a sharing in His life.” — Prayer for Sunday, June 10, 2018

June 10, 2018

The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

Sunday, June 10, 2018

SHARING IN GOD’S LIFE THROUGH HIS WISDOM AND HIS WILL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 3:9-152 COR 4:13-5:1MK 3:20-35 ]

Of all questions we have in life, only two are really important: namely, where did we come from? And what is our purpose in life?   These two questions are answered clearly in the opening chapter of Genesis.  Firstly, we all come from God, whom we acknowledge as our creator.  Secondly, we are all created for intimacy with God, which is a sharing in His life.  This invitation to intimacy with God is anthropomorphically portrayed in the dialogal relationship between God and Adam in the garden of Eden.  Yes, such is  the privilege of man.

But what does it mean to share in His life?  Concretely, this necessarily entails a sharing of His mind and will; or if you like, His knowledge and love; or His wisdom and compassion.   In other words, when we share in the knowledge and wisdom of God, we will also come to share in His will, which is His love.  Hence, knowing and willing in unity with God is to share in God’s being and life.  Conversely, the failure to share in His knowledge results in man’s will being at variance with His will.

Indeed, the mistake of our first Parents is our mistake as well.  It is an existential and historical fact that man is not interested in sharing in God’s knowledge and thus is always fighting against God’s will.   Like Adam and Eve, we do not seek to grow in the knowledge of God through our intimacy with Him.  Instead, we seek consort with the serpent, listening to him and trusting in his wisdom, which is that of the world’s.  Like our first parents, we are fooled into believing that the knowledge of the world symbolized in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,  is the way to life.  Indeed, if God forbade Adam And Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, it was because they would think like the world and become more ignorant instead.  By seeking to understand life not through the wisdom of God but their own ways, Adam and Eve were relying on their own human knowledge and self-will.

The truth is that the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God.  The ways of the world cannot lead us to see beyond the immediate and the superficial.  Indeed, this is what Paul is cautioning us.  For those who are unspiritual, they can only see the visible and tangible things which are temporal and passing.  But for those who are spiritual, they possess the eyes of God and see the eternal, the invisible, things beyond the apparent.  Indeed, the foolishness of Adam and Eve is illustrative of such worldly ignorance.

But what is the root of such ignorance? It originates from pride.  It is pride that leads us to have a false and exaggerated understanding of ourselves.  It is pride that caused the downfall of our first parents.  Such deep pride is symbolically portrayed in two ways.  Firstly, they did not trust in God’s wisdom and therefore disobeyed His will.  Secondly, in their embarassment in their nakedness before God.  Pride prevented them from being open to God and surrendering themselves to Him.  Now they had to hide themselves, their real selves before God. This loss of authenticity, inner conviction and fidelity to oneself is underscored by our first parents’ refusal to acknowledge their ignorance and faults.  Instead of taking responsibility for their lack of discernment and trust, they tried to justify themselves.  Adam blamed Eve; and Eve pushed the blame to the serpent.  Since then, man has always been exonerating himself and putting on masks to run away from reality, living in self-deception.

The scripture readings today invite us to put our trust in the wisdom and plan of God for us in our lives.   Instead of relying on ourselves and our own limited understanding of what is truly good for us, we are called to be open to the greater wisdom of God and to surrender our lives to Him.  This wisdom of God is expressed in His will for us.  In the words of Jesus, doing the will of God is sharing in the wisdom of God.

Thus, for those who trust in His wisdom, they become truly the sons and daughers of God.  For what could be more intimate in any relationship than a sharing of heart and mind.  It is no wonder that Jesus declared that those who had this spiritual relationship with Him, sharing in His vision and life, were His family members.  Doing God’s will is the sure sign that we share in His wisdom and love; and therefore share in His life. This entitles us to be recognized as truly sharing in God’s image and likeness.

Conversely, those who do not do the will of God, even though they might be physically related to Jesus, are far from the kingdom of God. Such was the irony of the relatives of Jesus.  We are told that they were convinced that Jesus was out of His mind.  They were closed to Jesus.  Some even accused Him of having an unclean spirit in Him.  This is a danger we can well afford to pay attention to if we do not want to fall into the same category of Jesus’ relatives.  Not to be open to Him tantamounts to rejecting the Holy Spirit who is the wisdom of God.  And such a sin cannot be forgiven since God cannot force us to accept His invitation if we are closed to the truth.  Hence, for such a person, he or she cannot share in the life of God.

The consequences of living a life apart from the life of God are far-reaching. In the first place, one cannot find real satisfaction and contentment in life.  This lack of contentment arises from our inner division. There is now a constant struggle between good and evil; wisdom and falsehood within us.  Torn between the good and bad spirits, one cannot expect to find peace and calmness.  Such interior division will then be manifested in our lack of orientation in life.  We lose our center, become impatient, selfish and angry towards others.  This is the divided kingdom that Jesus was speaking about in today’s gospel. Such kingdom is destined to fall.   Is there a way out?

There are two ways that we can go about it.  The first way is the hard way.  But we will also arrive at the kingdom of God.  In this way, one struggles to do the will of God.  Of course, this is often an uphill task.  We will have to go through the agony in the garden with Jesus.  For it is in the garden that we try to streamline our will with God’s will. This struggle is necessary and almost inevitable.  But as St Paul tells us in the second reading, it is a necessary stage of growing in faith.   Nevertheless this interior struggle will result in the destruction of the outer man of ours so that the inner man is renewed day by day. As we wrestle within ourselves, surrendering our fears to the Lord, we will come to realize that this tent which we had mistaken for a palace would be folded up.

When that happens we have arrived at the stage of wisdom.  This is the stage when we, as Paul says, become a house which is not only built up by God but also His dwelling place, since God lives in us.  Such a person already lives a resurrected life in this present life.  He becomes truly a happy person since he sees his whole life as a life of thanksgiving and glory to God in all that he does according to how God had planned for him.  He can therefore live without much undue anxiety. Instead he lives in peace, love and contentment and self-surrender.

But one need not go through such a difficult path to attain the wisdom of God.  There is an easier way – the way of love.  It is the way of intimacy.  In love and intimacy, one comes to a real understanding of the person.  Love brings about an understanding of both the heart and mind.  Such intimacy creates trust and faith.  Truly, if many of us find it difficult to do the will of God, it is simply the lack of understanding of His plan and trust in His wisdom because of the lack of intimacy with the Lord.  For this reason, we must go back to the original plan of creation, which is to have a constant dialogue with the Lord.

Indeed, it was Paul’s personal relationship with Jesus that enabled him to trust in Him.  It was his intimacy with Jesus that gave him the faith to trust and surrender himself to Jesus and God’s providence.  For Paul, his experience of the risen Lord was enough to convince him that God’s wisdom is beyond man’s imagination; and that death and suffering cannot triumph over the plan of God.  His wisdom is found even in the cross.  If that was so for Jesus, it must also be for us.

Yes, we too are called to surrender ourselves to the plan of God.  We are called to have a real intimacy with Jesus so that we can see life through His perspective.  This is the paradigm shift that is required for us to see the wisdom of God’s plan for us so that doing His will is not a burden but rather a most liberating and life-giving thing to do. This is the kind of faith which Jesus exhorts us to cultivate in today’s gospel.  With such a faith no one and nothing can break us.   We will always stand tall no matter in good times or in bad times, for we know God’s wisdom and love is expressed in His will.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer for Today:
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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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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 10, 2018 — “We look not to what is seen but to what is unseen.” — We know that if our earthly dwelling will be destroyed

June 9, 2018

“If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”

“For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

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Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 89

Reading 1 GN 3:9-15

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me—
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (7bc) With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
I trust in the LORD;
my soul trusts in his word.
More than sentinels wait for the dawn,
let Israel wait for the LORD.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption
and he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities.
R. With the Lord there is mercy, and fullness of redemption.

Reading 2  2 COR 4:13—5:1

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore we speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.
Therefore, we are not discouraged;
rather, although our outer self is wasting away,
our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this momentary light affliction
is producing for us an eternal weight of glory
beyond all comparison,
as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen;
for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.
For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent,
should be destroyed,
we have a building from God,
a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.

AlleluiaJN 12:31B-32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Now the ruler of the world will be driven out, says the Lord;
and when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  MK 3:20-35

Jesus came home with his disciples.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said,
“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 the 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.”

His mother and his brothers arrived.
Standing outside they sent word to him and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”

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Reflection From The Abbot
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

These are strong readings today!  Sin comes into the world by not listening to God but listening to another.  Sin creates conflict in the world and it will never end until we choose to follow the Lord Jesus.  It is the Lord Jesus who can remake us in the image of God and restore to us the loving relationship with God.  The devil is never as powerful as the Lord Jesus and His Spirit.  It is Jesus Himself who invites us to follow him and to be His family.

The Book of Genesis, from which is taken the first reading today, sets forth the experience of sin that began our later experiences of sin.  Sin is contagious is so many ways.  So often we blame sin on others instead of accepting our own responsibilities.  The author of this passage from Genesis sees that in the future there will be a battle between sin and the offspring of the woman.  This passage is sin as a prediction that salvation will come finally—and through the offspring of the woman.

The second reading comes from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  Today this letter tells us: “the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence.”  God will place us with Christ Jesus, but must first remake us in His image, which we have lost through sin.  This life, for all of us, is a matter of allowing God to remake us.  We have to be patient.  We might think that we are ready to see God now, but for most of us, there is a recognition that we are not yet so full of love that we can simply come into the presence of the Lord.

Just as in Genesis, so also in this Second Letter to the Corinthians, we see that there is an awareness of the spiritual combat which must take place in our world and in each of us personally so that we are truly ready to “see the Lord as He is” and come to be like Him.  For many people today, life is simply about enjoying as much as we can get.  For us who follow Christ, life is about becoming as much as possible like Christ so that we reflect the glory of the Father.

The Gospel of Saint Mark today is a delight because it shows the family of Jesus believing that Jesus has truly lost His mind.  And it shows us Jesus completely frustrated with what had happened in the temple.  Jesus was the House of God to be a house of prayer, not a business enterprise.

We can understand that the family of Jesus does not understand Him.  Jesus is so different!  Jesus is completely caught up in doing the work of His Father and pays no attention to anything else.  This looks like insanity to any normal person.  Jesus is not getting enough to eat. He probably is not getting enough sleep.  He seems obsessed with healing people.  All in all, his family decides that Jesus has lost His mind.

So Jesus irritates and bothers his family.  With the Scribes and Pharisees, it is worse.  Jesus seems to have an understanding of the Law that is completely different from theirs.  They want to challenge Jesus but recognize how popular Jesus is among the ordinary people.  They think that Jesus is possessed by the devil but again fear saying anything like that.

For us, all of this is a call to follow the Lord, not matter what our families or other religious people think about us.  We are challenged to do the works of God, to recognize that the fight between good and evil is still going on in our own time.  We must also recognize that it is God who is at work and so we can trust that we are being remade in the image of God.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/2018/06/10th-sunday-ordinary-time-cycle-b-2018/

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Book: Spiritual Combat — A Treatise on Peace of Soul

Prayers for Saturday, June 9, 2018 — Immaculate Heart of Mary

June 9, 2018

Grant, Lord God, that we, your servants, may rejoice in unfailing health of mind and body, and, through the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, may we be set free from present sorrow and come to enjoy eternal happiness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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Pius XII instituted today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944).

Guardian of virgins, and holy father Joseph

To whose faithful custody Christ Jesus , Innocence

Itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were committed;

I pray insistently and beseech you by these dear pledges, Jesus and Mary,

that being preserved from all uncleanness, I may

With spotless mind,

Pure heart, and chaste body, ever most chastely

serve Jesus and mary all the days of my life.

Amen.

(Prayer to St. Joseph from the Laudate App)

Related:

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The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century

Related:

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See also:

TRUST, OBEDIENCE, & CHASTITY: A REFLECTION ON ST. JOSEPH

Source:https://sarah-coffey.com/2018/03/20/trust-obedience-chastity-a-reflection-on-st-joseph/

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, June 6, 2018 — Suffering indicates neither dishonor nor failure

June 6, 2018

Stir into flame the gift of God that you have…God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. He is not God of the dead but of the living… Have Faith in the resurrection and you will never die…

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Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 355

Reading 1 2 TM 1:1-3, 6-12

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the Gospel,
for which I was appointed preacher and Apostle and teacher.
On this account I am suffering these things;
but I am not ashamed,
for I know him in whom I have believed
and am confident that he is able to guard
what has been entrusted to me until that day.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 123:1B-2AB, 2CDEF

R. (1b) To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes.
To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven.
Behold, as the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes.
As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes.

Alleluia  JN 11:25A, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MK 12:18-27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection,
came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers.
The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants.
So the second brother married her and died, leaving no descendants,
and the third likewise.
And the seven left no descendants.
Last of all the woman also died.
At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled
because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
When they rise from the dead,
they neither marry nor are given in marriage,
but they are like the angels in heaven.
As for the dead being raised,
have you not read in the Book of Moses,
in the passage about the bush, how God told him,
I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob?

He is not God of the dead but of the living.
You are greatly misled.”
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Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:1-14

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We often expect wisdom and special insight from those preparing to die, so our lives might be richer for what we learn from their perspective. Examples from modern literature may come to mind (recent bestsellers such as The Last LectureTuesdays with Morrie, and the novel Gilead), but they have ancient forerunners. Think of testaments, literature in which an about-to-die leader offers reflections on a life lived and advice to family or friends who will live on. Examples include Genesis 49:1-28, 1 Kings 2:1-9, Acts 21:17-38, several extrabiblical writings (such as the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs), and the letter we call Second Timothy.
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Following the letter’s salutation, a thanksgiving introduces themes of continuity and succession. The mention of Paul’s “ancestors,” Timothy’s “sincere faith” with roots in his grandmother and mother, and Timothy’s need to “rekindle” God’s gift — these all encourage Timothy to understand his identity and his obligations by considering those who have gone before him (see also 2 Timothy 3:14-15). The letter construes Christian faith and ministry entirely in communal and familial settings, extended through time. This makes Timothy anything but an independent agent peddling new insights. His faith’s roots in the past make it reliable, proven. Timothy’s job, for the sake of the future, involves more preservation than innovation.

Right out of the gate, Second Timothy presents itself as a conservative letter, understanding “conservative” in the most literal sense of the word. It imagines “the faith” as something to be guarded (see 2 Timothy 1:14), lest it become corrupted or diluted. This makes the letter especially attractive to some contemporary Christians, while others get worried. Wise preachers will avoid using a single sermon to adjudicate those battles or to speak about tradition and change in abstract terms. Additional options for a sermon include these:

  • The letter tells Timothy his faith and calling aren’t ancillary to his identity; they are part of who he is. Consider, then, exploring with a congregation how our beliefs and ministry are meaningfully connected to our personal and corporate identities, rooted in particular yet shared heritages.
  • Taken as a whole, Second Timothy expresses great concern about false teachers and rival doctrines (some of these appear, based on 1 Timothy 6:20-21, to have involved ideas taken from gnostic thought). It worries about other teachings possibly leading Christians astray or making them cantankerous, thereby wounding the ministry of the gospel. Consider, then, asking questions about what kinds of perceived threats make you and your congregation determined to secure yourselves against “outside” or “foreign” influences. What influences must really be resisted? What do we resist only because we are scared or think we ourselves are under attack?

Confidence beyond Shame and Suffering (1:8-14)

Next, the letter exhorts Timothy to remain faithful, proceeding with numerous clusters of exhortations through 2:13. The first set of exhortations comes in 1:8-14, which instructs Timothy to emulate Paul in enduring suffering and shame (for the letter describes Paul as incarcerated here and elsewhere). Suffering indicates neither dishonor nor failure when the gospel is involved, because the gospel is all about God’s power to bring life from death (2 Timothy 1:10). That power, enacted in Christ Jesus, reconfigures our perspectives on the anguish and humiliation that supposedly must accompany suffering. Suffering cannot nullify God’s grace, which was “revealed” (phaneroo) or made known in the “appearing” (epiphaneia) of Christ Jesus. This leads Paul to express confidence in Jesus’ (or God’s?) ability to guard what Paul has entrusted to Jesus, meaning, perhaps, Paul’s very own self. Correspondingly, and mirroring that activity, Timothy must faithfully guard the apostolic teaching entrusted to him.

The language about Christ abolishing death (2 Timothy 1:10) strikes many hearers as powerful, good news. A sermon might devote itself to exploring how the defeat of death and the promise of immortality are expressions or consequences of God’s grace.

Read more:

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1834

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Related:

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Do not be afraid:

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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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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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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06 JUNE, 2018, Wednesday, 9th Week, Ordinary Time

FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [2 Tim 1:1-36-12Ps 123:1-2Mark 12:18-27  ]

We can appreciate the question of the Sadducees to Jesus if we understand the context of their doubts about the resurrection.  Faith in the resurrection was a historical development.  In the early years of the Israelites’ faith, there was no teaching on the resurrection.  The Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, which every Jew subscribes to as the most important part of their sacred scriptures, does not speak about the resurrection.  It was believed that in death, we would all enter Sheol, a place of non-existence, both for the good and bad alike.  It was later on during the time of the prophets, Daniel and Ezekiel, and the wisdom books such as Job and Wisdom, that faith in life after death gradually emerged.  In the later part of the Old Testament, especially towards the inter-testamental period and by the time of the Maccabean era (170 B.C.), belief in the afterlife became more explicit.  Nevertheless, the Jews were divided over this doctrine, as seen in the time of Jesus, with the Sadducees denying the doctrine of the resurrection, and the Pharisees upholding it.

It is within this context that the reality of the resurrection was challenged.  So, all those who were skeptical about the resurrection would see the argument of the Sadducees concerning the case of the man whose brothers had to marry his widow in order to raise up children for him.  If she were to marry all the seven brothers who died, then the logical question was, “when they rise again, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven?”

In fact, this question is not only relevant to those who challenge the reality of the resurrection but also for those who believe in the resurrection.  There are many naïve Catholics who similarly ask me, “Would my husband still recognize me as his wife in heaven?  And suppose I remarry after his death, would I then have two husbands in heaven?”, or, “Will I see my parents and friends or my dogs and cats in heaven?”  Such questions, sincere and innocent though they may be, belie the fact that many do not understand the true meaning of the resurrection.

The resurrection of the body is not a resuscitation.  In the next life, our body would be transfigured.  The body would possess a glorified matter with the soul. Whilst it remains a body, it would be an incorruptible body.  As St Paul says, “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.”  (1 Cor 15:42-44)  So at the resurrection we will have a spiritual body filled with the glory of God.

Accordingly, in the next life, we will share the life and love of God so totally that we will love each other as God loves us, individually, personally and yet inclusively.  That is why the Lord said to them, “Is not the reason why you go wrong, that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, men and woman do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven.”   Heaven is a communion of saints.  We will still recognize each other but we will love without possessiveness.  We will love all others as much as we love our spouses when they were on earth.  Regardless whether they were our loved ones on earth or not, in heaven, we will have so much capacity to love that our love includes all.  Isn’t this the kind of love that priests and religious are supposed to live already in this life?  We are called to love everyone, rich and poor, friends and strangers, male and female, without discrimination or exclusivity.  We are called to share the love of God with everyone because all are our brothers and sisters.   We love others as much as God loves each one of us.

Of course, this cannot be understood or accepted through human logic alone.  This is the mistake of the Sadducees and all those who deny the resurrection.  They want to rationalize and prove the resurrection through reason.  Indeed, Jesus did try to offer them an argument based on scriptures to indicate the truth of the resurrection. “Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the Bush, how God spoke to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is God, not of the dead but of the living. You are very much mistaken.”  And this is what systematic theology also seeks to do when proving the resurrection.  We will use the scripture texts and illustrate the gradual belief in the doctrine of the resurrection from the time of Abraham till the period before Christ.

However, this is insufficient because without a proleptic experience of the resurrection, such reasoning remains a theory and a hypothesis.  This is why our faith in the resurrection is not dependent on reason but on our personal encounter with the Risen Lord.  Only an encounter with the Risen Lord can cause us to believe in the resurrection.  This was true of the apostles and particularly St Paul who was a great persecutor of the Church until his encounter with the Lord. He wrote, that Christ “appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”  (1 Cor 15:5-9)

Indeed, in the final analysis, faith in the resurrection requires a personal encounter with the Risen Lord, without which, it remains an empty doctrine and lacks the power to change lives.  With the resurrection, we can “proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”  (1 Cor 1:23-25)

The resurrection is the basis for the proclamation of the gospel.  After encountering the Risen Lord, Jesus commanded them, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:19f)   Indeed, the Lord repeatedly told the disciples when they saw Him, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers.”  (Mt 28:10)

This explains why St Paul too could encourage Timothy, the young bishop to proclaim the faith without fear or favour.  He reminded him, “never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.”  We should not be afraid to witness for Christ like the apostles who preached with boldness after the resurrection because “this grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.”  Faith in His death and resurrection is the power of God that we are called to rely on. St Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”  (Phil 3:10f)

So what must we do?  St Paul told Timothy, “I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control.”  The Risen Lord has given us His Spirit at Pentecost. This same Spirit that empowered Jesus in His ministry will empower us as well.

So we must renew the Holy Spirit in our lives.  That is why He ordered the disciples “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This is what you have heard from me;  for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4f)  With the Holy Spirit in us, we know with confidence that the Lord is also with us.  We can say with St Paul, “It is only on account of this that I am experiencing fresh hardships here now; but I have not lost confidence, because I know who it is that I have put my trust in, and I have no doubt at all that he is able to take care of all that I have entrusted to him until that Day.”

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

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, June 2, 2018 — Do you know what is of heavenly origin?

June 1, 2018

Tissot, The Chief Priests Take Counsel Together
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. Mark 11:18

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Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 352

Reading 1 JUDE 17, 20B-25

Beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand
by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in the love of God
and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
that leads to eternal life.
On those who waver, have mercy;
save others by snatching them out of the fire;
on others have mercy with fear,
abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.To the one who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you unblemished and exultant,
in the presence of his glory,
to the only God, our savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord
be glory, majesty, power, and authority
from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia  SEE COL 3:16A, 17C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly;
giving thanks to God the Father through him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  MK 11:27-33

Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem.
As he was walking in the temple area,
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
approached him and said to him,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
Or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question.
Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.
Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”–
they feared the crowd,
for they all thought John really was a prophet.
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
Then Jesus said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 JUNE, 2018, Saturday, 8th Week, Ordinary Time
PERSONAL AUTHORITY OF LEADERS COMES FROM FAITH THAT WORKS ITSELF THROUGH LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JUDE 17:20-25;  MK 11:27-33 ]

In the gospel today, the authority of Jesus was questioned by the Jewish leaders.  Without mincing their words, they said to him, “What authority have you for acting like this?  Or who gave you the authority to do these things?”  The response given by Jesus might appear to be paradoxical but in fact it forced the Jewish leaders to admit their fear and prejudice against Him.

By citing the example of John the Baptist, who was popularly acknowledged as a great prophet by all the common people and could not be disputed by the Jewish leaders lest they incurred the wrath of the people, it underscores the fact that if John the Baptist had won such respect from the people, it was because of his lifestyle and preaching.  We know that John the Baptist lived a life of poverty in the desert, having only wild locusts and honey for his food.  He preached the baptism of repentance with such forcefulness and conviction that many who heard him could see the power of God at work in him and recognized his words as coming from God Himself.

The implication is that Jesus too based His authority not so much on the institutional office given to Him, as was the case of the Jewish leaders, but on the authority that came from His way of life, His identification with the Father and His works.  In John’s gospel, He said, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:11)  So Jesus was telling the Jewish leaders that His authority could be verified by the works that He had done.

Truly, in any discernment of authenticity, we must verify the fruits of the work of the person.  When something is from God or from the Holy Spirit, it will surely bear good fruit.  Not just fruits, but lasting fruits of the Spirit.  Jesus in the gospel taught us that we should judge the tree by its fruits.  So even if we have personal prejudices against a person, let the enduring fruits of his work substantiate his claims that his mission comes from God.  Conversely, if we are not producing good and lasting fruits, then we must be weary of the origin of our work, whether it comes from God or from the human spirit, or worse still, the evil spirit under the guise of the good spirit.

What does it mean for us as priests and lay leaders?  It is not enough to rest our authority on the office, be it by ordination or by appointment.   Institutional authority alone cannot command respect from those whom we serve.  We need to complement our institutional authority with personal authority that comes from a life of faith and love of God.  This is what St Jude said to the Christians.  He exhorted them saying, “You must use your holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.”  Indeed, a true Christian leader, clerical or lay, must act from the authority given to him by Jesus through faith in Him as the Risen Lord, and bathe in His love and mercy, so that he would never become too proud, arrogant or self-reliant, but always surrendering his life and ministry to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, this faith in God’s love and mercy must result in a genuine concern for our brothers and sisters in faith.  It is out of love for them that St Jude urged the Christians to act thus, “when there are some who have doubts, reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out; but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.”  A good leader therefore is one who cares for the faith and salvation of his or her fellow brothers and sisters.  Like the Good Shepherd, lay leaders must show fruits of genuine pastoral care for those who are weak in their faith, those who are on the way to perdition and those who are living in sin.   When we are sincere in reaching out to such wounded and stray Christians, they will eventually respond to us as they know we are truly concerned about their well being and not just an attempt at proselytizing.

All of us in a certain sense therefore have the authority to proclaim the gospel even if we do not have institutional authority.  By our very lives, we can bring Jesus to others and convict them of their sin and pride.  Through our good examples of faith and love, we can win the hearts of those who are searching for God.  And as the psalmist tells us, many people are thirsting for God and waiting to see His power and glory.  If we show kindness to such people and they perceive the kindness as coming from God, they will be brought to conversion.

Finally, if we are skeptical about those leaders placed over us or those who claim to be working for God, then we must be sincere in evaluating the genuineness of their authority.  Before we reject their claims that their work is from God, we must be objective in examining their works and their fruits.  We cannot dismiss a person simply because we are not inclined to him or her.  Worse still, quite often, the real motives for our rejection of such leaders are due to our jealousy and insecurity.  Our pride and envy of their success make us envious, and we try to discredit their works.  So we must pray that we do not work against God unwittingly, especially when we can see that a certain project or church group is helping people to live a life of holiness and charity with evangelical zeal.

The last line of today’s first reading sums up the final criteria in our discernment of genuine authority and the works of God, namely, that in all things, we can say confidently, “Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy.  To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever.  Amen.”  In other words, whether as leaders or followers, we must give glory to God for He is the One who is the source of all authority and power.   When anyone begins to think consciously or unconsciously that he or she is the one responsible for the success of the works undertaken, then that person is being deceived by Evil One.  The moment success gets into our head, we are headed for a downfall.  So let us follow Jesus in affirming that our authority and power comes from His Father and that whatever we do, we want to do it in union with Him, doing only His will and His alone.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Homily Ideas for Mark 11: 27-33 “By What Authority”?
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Don’t forget, Jesus was an outcast and “the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him.” (Matthew 27: 41)

In Mark’s account in Chapter 11, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Jesus over the issue of authority. They had every right to do so. They were the duly appointed leaders of the nation of Israel. But even though they had this authority, they did not understand that the authority of Jesus was much greater than theirs. They wanted to question Jesus‘ authority for teaching the people things which were contrary to what they were teaching them, and for doing miracles on the Sabbath day, which they thought ought not to be done on that day. They believed that Jesus was a false prophet. They did not understand, spiritually, how it is God who raises up men to have and to exercise true spiritual authority among the assembled people of God. They did not understand that this man who was standing in front of them was the Lord of Glory; their Master, their Messiah, and their King; the One through whom the world was made. They just saw Him as a man who was a troublemaker; a man who needed to be brought into line with their own false teaching and authority.

This passage is very important to all believers in Jesus Christ, or all who are considering believing in Him. For it teaches us that we have a very reasonable faith which is based on the authority of God Himself. These verses teach us that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, have no responsibility to submit to the authority of men who would put us into spiritual bondage to themselves.

Any pastor or spiritual leader in the visible Church of Jesus Christ who cannot recognize the difference between an appointment to an office that men appoint other men to; and the particular graces and gifts which God alone gives to establish good spiritual authority in the lives of God‘s people, may come to make great mistakes in the exercise of their authority. There is an authority which God gives and conveys, that enables a man to be raised up to do God‘s good work in promoting the gospel and Christ‘s kingdom; and there is an authority which men give to men, or which men take to themselves, which shuts other men up to themselves rather than to God. Men who are spiritually blind in this regard, may find themselves attempting to put other people around them under their own spiritual authority, rather than establishing the people who attend their church under God‘s true authority. They may actually find themselves trying to take away the true spiritual freedom which God has called all believers to, by attempting to do these things. Indeed, they may actually find themselves opposing the true work of God. So, this afternoon I would like to set before you the Lord Jesus‘ response to the question, ―By what authority are you doing these things?‖ His response was 1st of all – To ask His own question of them. (Verses 27-30) It was 2ndly – To know their reasonings. (Verses 31 and 32) And then 3rdly – It was to refuse to give them the answer to their question. (Verse 33).

From Pastor Paul Rendall

http://www.reformedbaptistoftama.com/sermons/Se
rmons%20on%20Mark’s%20Gospel/pdf/Mark%20
11%3B%2027-33%20%20By%20What%20Authority.pdf

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 MAY 2016, Saturday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time
WITNESSING IN THE MARKET PLACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jude 17:20-25; Ps 62:2-6; Mk 11:27-33  ]

In this age of secularization, the gospel has to be brought to the market place where the people are.  We cannot expect people to come to our churches to look for Christ.  A few might come out of desperation.  But the world seems to be more appealing and attractive.  They speak louder and there are more choices.  Our young people are out there, seduced by the world of music, entertainment, arts, pleasure, fun and excitement.  They are glued to their mobile devices, always on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  So if we want to capture them for Jesus, the Church, as the Holy Father, Pope Francis says, must go out to the frontlines of the battle where the sick and wounded people are, not stay in the comfort of our offices, waiting for them to come and seek us out for help.

Yet, there is so much danger when we try to bring the gospel to the market place.  In a world that is so secularized, in order to befriend them, we have to become in many instances, like them, and sometimes unfortunately even one of them.  This gradual process of desacralization has taken place since Vatican II.  Priests and religious tend to become more secularized in their dressing and lifestyle.   No longer do we try to be different from the rest of the world in dressing and sometimes we even adopt the lifestyles of the world.  At times, we wonder what it means to be “holy” today when the original meaning of being holy is to be set apart and to be different.   The question is:  can the world tell that we are different from others, not necessarily in dressing but in values and lifestyle?   Perhaps, for this reason also there is a great fall in the number of priestly and religious vocations as our life does not seem to be much different from that of the laity.  And why give up so much to be a priest or a religious when as a lay person one can spread the gospel anyway.

At the heart of it all is the loss of urgency in the work of evangelization.  With the doctrine that explicit faith in Christ and baptism is no longer necessary for salvation, many Catholics do not see why we should bother to bring people to Christ since they can be saved by and in their own faith tradition.  Unlike in the 15th and 16th Centuries where missionaries came from Europe with the conviction of saving souls for Christ, there is this implicit belief among many Catholics today that we should let those who already have their religion remain as they are.  As for those without religion, so long as they live a good life, it is sufficient. Indeed, today, faith in Christ has weakened tremendously that missionary zeal has been lost to a great extent, not just among the laity but even priests and religious.  Even for those who have become priests and religious, many joined not so much because they are passionate about spreading the gospel message but simply because it is a good life, with comfortable living, a life of bachelorhood, and opportunities to engage in some good works now and then.

Surely, most of us would not think that those who are not baptized would be condemned to hell but that God in His own way would save them.  As the Constitution of the Church in the Modern Word says, “Pressing upon the Christian to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, he will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope.  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)  The Constitution of the Church reiterates this teaching when it says, “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.” (LG 16)

In the light of such challenges, how do we defend the need for the spread of the gospel and how do we continue to witness to Christ in a very secularized, multicultural and multi-religious world?  Once again, we need to find the authority to do what we are doing.  This was the question posed to the Lord in the gospel when the Jewish religious leaders asked, “What authority have you for acting like this?  Or who gave you the authority to do these things?”  The truth is that the Jewish leaders were not interested to know the answer.   They were simply trying to disprove Jesus, to discredit Him so that their authority would be not eroded from the eyes of the people.  They were both envious and intimidated by Jesus, whom they saw as someone who was a threat to their status quo and the institution.  Instead, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy by countering their question with another question of authority.  Indeed, they were not sincere in seeking for the truth but were afraid of the truth.

Similarly, in the work of evangelization, we ourselves need to be clear about our own conviction of Jesus if we were to present Him as the Saviour of the world.  Is our faith found in Him alone? As St Jude says, “Glory be to him who can keep you from falling and bring you safe to his glorious presence, innocent and happy.  To God, the only God, who saves us through Jesus Christ our Lord, be the glory, majesty, authority and power, which he had before time began, now and for ever.  Amen.” Otherwise, the situation is precarious when we try to witness to Christ in the world.  Instead of changing the world, the world changes us instead.  This was the situation of the Christian community during the time of St Jude.  They were faced with the danger of religious leaders teaching heresies and apostasy as many drifted away from the faith and turned away from the Lord.  This was because of the weak foundation of their faith; the bad examples and lifestyles of the Christians and faith in the life that was to come.  Like them, many of our Catholics today are so secularized that they live only for this world.  Many of our Catholic parents are so weak in the knowledge of their faith and are such poor examples of Christian life, so much so we should not expect their children and children’s children to be fervent in their faith except for the grace and mercy of Christ.

It is for this reason that St Jude gave us guidelines to remain firm in our witness even whilst we witness in the market place.  He wrote, “Remember, my dear friends, what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told you to expect. You must use your holy faith as your foundation and build on that, praying in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves within the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you eternal life.”  As Catholics, we need to strengthen the foundation of our faith through the ongoing study of doctrines and the Sacred Scriptures.  Unfortunately, many of us not only do not update ourselves in the teachings of the Church but we do not read the Word of God regularly, and be nourished by the Word of life.  When we do not build up our faith, we are potential victims for the Evil One, as the world would confuse us and we will eventually lose the faith.

Secondly, St Jude urges us to pray in the Holy Spirit.  We must never forget the importance of prayer and a personal relationship with the Lord, which is made possible when we pray in the Holy Spirit and live and walk in the Spirit.  With the psalmist, we must thirst for Him, the living water, to quench our spiritual thirst.  “So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.  For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”   Only in the Holy Spirit, can we witness with faith and love.

Thirdly, St Jude reminds us of the hope of the Lord’s return.  We do not live only for this life but for eternal life.  This life is short and in the blink of an eye, we will be no more.  So let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we will not join our forefathers.  Our time will come and therefore we must live fully in this life with a view of fullness of life eternal after death with Jesus Christ forever.

Only when we are rooted in the truth, filled with the Holy Spirit and living in the ambience of God’s love, are we ready to witness to Christ by strengthening our fellow Catholics who are weak in their faith, as St Jude says, “when there are some who have doubts, reassure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out.”   To those outside the faith, we must be watchful that in trying to reach out to them, we do not lose our identity and our values and faith in Christ.  He said, “but there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice.”  Let us not betray Christ by our conduct, life, words and deeds.

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

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Bishop Goh reminds us to be “Dynamic Catholics.”

  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others
  4. EVANGELIZE

Related:

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Book: Holy Spirit by Fr. Edward Leen