Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit’

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

December 4, 2017

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 176

Reading 1  IS 11:1-10

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

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

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

Alleluia

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

Gospel LK 10:21-24

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

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

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

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

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

God loves to magnify His grace in mysterious ways

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

The Messiah will not be born into privilege

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

 

The Messiah will have God’s Spirit in unlimited measure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest:

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

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

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

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Lectio Divina Reflection on Luke 10: 21-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

BUILDING A NEW WORLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 4, 2017 — “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain…”

December 3, 2017

Monday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 175

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Reading 1 IS 2:1-5

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

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

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

AlleluiaSEE PS 80:4

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

Gospel MT 8:5-11

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

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Centurion Beseeching Jesus, William Brassey Hole

Commentary on Matthew 8:5-17 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On Suffering — From Suffering With Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

CHRISTIAN HOPE FOR WORLD PEACE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

October 28, 2017

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 148

“To live is to strive to love.”

“For I am compassionate.”

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Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

Reading 1 EX 22:20-26

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

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

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

Reading 2 1 THES 1:5C-10

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

Alleluia JN 14:23

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

Gospel MT 22:34-40

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

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 12, 2017

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

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Jesus Casts a Devil Out of the Mute Man

Reading 1 JL 1:13-15; 2:1-2

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

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

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

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

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

Alleluia JN 12:31B-32

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

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Gospel LK 11:15-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on Luke 11:15-26 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 4, 2017

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

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

Reading 1 NEH 8:1-4A, 5-6, 7B-12

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

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

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

Alleluia MK 1:15

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

Gospel LK 10:1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 28, 2017 — John the Baptist’s Death Doesn’t Slow the Time of Christ

September 27, 2017

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 452

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

John the Baptist appears before Herod

Reading 1 HG 1:1-8

On the first day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius,
The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai
to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak:

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
This people says:
“The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”
(Then this word of the LORD came through Haggai, the prophet:)
Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses,
while this house lies in ruins?

Now thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
You have sown much, but have brought in little;
you have eaten, but have not been satisfied;
You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated;
have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed;
And whoever earned wages
earned them for a bag with holes in it.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
Go up into the hill country;
bring timber, and build the house
That I may take pleasure in it
and receive my glory, says the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Alleluia JN 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for Elijah has appeared, photos, pictures, bible

“Elijah has appeared”

Gospel LK 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.

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Homily By Fr. Steve Grunow
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In the year 587 BC the temple of Solomon was razed to the ground by the armies of the Babylonian Empire. This event was not mourned by the Israelites as merely the destruction of an important civic monument, but as a sign, that the God of Israel had abandoned his people.

For years, the Israelites languished in exile, beset by the fear that God had given up on them. The prophets reminded the Israelites of their many refusals of God, and this cast a pall over them. They could not deny their infidelity to the covenant. Had they driven God away? Would God ever return? If God didn’t come back to his people, would they ever get to go home?

This week the Church has selected readings from Old Testament Books of Ezra and Haggai. Both men spoke the Lord’s word of truth around the year 520 BC, during a time when the Israelites had returned from a long exile and had begun the difficult task of rebuilding the temple. The temple was not, as I said just a civic center, it was a house for God to dwell in. From this house, God reigned over Israel as their king and offered the people communion with his divine presence. The rebuilding of the temple was an act of faith that God had not abandoned his people and the covenant had been restored.

There were many obstacles to this project of rebuilding, and political intrigues brought everything to a standstill, money ran out, and it took the intervention of a foreign king to get things going again. Ezra and Haggai acted to organize and encourage the Israelites to rebuild the temple and to get on with the mission God had given them. Their long exile had ended. God had brought them home. God had not abandoned them. The Israelites were not to live in nostalgia or in regret, but to be the people God had created them to be: a light to the nations, witnesses to the world of the living, divine presence of the one, true God.

The lesson in all this is not just historical, but immediate to the mission of the Church right now. The Church is the continuation of the story of Israel. The stories in the Old Testament are reference points for understanding what the Church is and what the Church is supposed to be doing.

The mission of the Church is too often blocked by nostalgia, mitigated by practical concerns that are construed as insurmountable obstacles, fear holds us back, too many times we prefer to argue about the mission rather than doing it. The Church’s mission is that of Israel- to be a light in a dark world, to be an invitation to the world to bask in the divine life and presence of the one, true God Jesus Christ. In the temple of the Church’s worship, God in Christ offers communion with all who would come to him in faith and humility. We build up that temple through lives of virtue and works of mercy. Christ’s faithful are the missionaries of the temple of the Church, the Lord sends us from the temple of the Church out into the world so as to invite people to come in.

Today’s Gospel testifies that Herod (the son of Herod the King who tried to murder the infant Lord Jesus and killed the children of Bethlehem) is both curious and fearful of Christ, wondering if an even greater prophet than John the Baptist (whom he had killed) had been sent to the Israelites.

John had proclaimed that the Lord God was coming to Israel to set things right that had gone terribly wrong. God would drive out the family of Herod who had usurped the kingdom of God and purify the temple that the Herod had gilded as a monument to his own glory. The family of Herod hoped that with John’s death, none of his prophecies would come to fulfillment.

News of the signs and wonders worked by Christ troubles Herod because it seems that John’s death didn’t stop what he had set in motion and his prophecies would come true.

Thus, Herod wants to see Christ. Why? The Gospel of Luke will testify later that it is because he wants to see if the Lord Jesus can perform miracles for him, provide him with an experience of faith-based entertainment. He doesn’t seek the Lord Jesus so that he can be liberated from his sacrilege and blasphemy, but so that he can be entertained! He thinks of Christ as a kind of celebrity whom he can use for his own benefit!

The desire for Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit but even that gift can be distorted and destroyed by sin. Had Herod opened himself up to the authentic potential of the gift of Christ, he would have been freed from the debauchery that imprisoned him.   But that would have meant Herod would have to let Christ be himself- Lord and Savior. Herod would have to repent of the terrible things that he had done. Faith based entertainment was easier.

The reduction of our relationship with Christ to superficiality and worship to entertainment is a perennial temptation for us all. Herod’s tragic refusal of Christ displays where that temptation leads. It is not enough to be interested in the Lord Jesus, even fascinated by him. Instead, we must be willing to be changed by him.

SODOMA-Il-Head-of-Christ-Painting-

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 25th Week, Ordinary Time
REBUILDING THE HOUSE OF THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [HAG 1:1-8PS 149:1-69LK 9:7-9 ]

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, King Cyrus of Persia granted permission to 50,000 Jews exiled in Babylon to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city.  Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest, they tried to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem.  During the second year of their return, they managed to lay the foundation of the temple.  The altar was reestablished but the work of rebuilding the temple was slow because they faced opposition from the Samaritans.  As a result they were unable to finish their work as their enemies hindered the reconstruction.   For the next 15 years, no further work was done on the Temple.  The people felt disheartened and discouraged.  They became spiritually apathetic and gave up on the project.

It was within this context that God dispatched two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people to put more effort, time and resources into the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem.  Haggai challenged the people to keep their focus right.  He asked them, “Is this a time for you to live in your panelled houses, when this House lies in ruins?”  Indeed, how could the people live in luxury whilst the Temple of the Lord was in ruins?  Instead of rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, they were only interested in rebuilding their homes.   Their own houses were adorned with beautiful cedars while the Temple was lying in ruins.  This was inexcusable because the Temple was supposed to be the center and focal point of their relationship with God.

As a consequence, the Lord warned the people for not putting God as the center of their lives and their priority.   “Reflect carefully how things have gone for you.  You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm.  The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes.”   Because God was not the center of their lives, as seen in their priorities in allocating their resources and time, what they did were not successful.  Their hard work did not produce the fruits that they expected.  No matter how much they ate or earned, they could not have their fill.  This was because the foundation of their lives was missing.

This is true for us even today.  How many of us put God as the center of our lives?  Is God the most important consideration in all that we do or say?  Is He the foundation of our life?   Have we taken seriously what the Lord said, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  (Mk 12:29f)   If God were the center of our lives, then we would give Him preference above all other things.  But the truth is that other things and people take precedence over the Lord.  We give priority and importance to our loved ones, spouse and children.   We take care of our own material needs and comfort before thinking of our Lord.  We pay lip service to our love for God.  We claim that He is the most important person in our lives, but we hardly spend time to worship Him, pray to Him or listen to Him.   He seems to be the last person in our lives.   We come to Him only when we are in need or in trouble.  Otherwise, God is far from our hearts.

Even in giving an external place to God, many of us fail to show that respect and consideration.  Many of our churches are in ruins and in a sorry state, but many of our Catholics do not care about the church, the House of God, even though they are living in luxurious houses. They contribute little of their money to build the church but spend millions on their homes.  They spend much money decorating their house but they do not give prominence to the altar in their homes.

When we do not put God as the center of our lives, then this is where all our problems begin.  By failing to teach our children to honour God as the foundation of everything, they begin to worship their studies, their achievements, their jobs and careers.  They put their enjoyment, pleasures and interests before their spiritual life.  When God is out of the picture and worldly values take over, they can never be truly successful in life.   They might be doing well materially, have a great career and possess many things of this world, but their lives are empty.  There is division in the family, because of the lack of Christian values being promoted by their parents. They do not speak about forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, understanding and generosity.   Instead, they speak of their rights and having things their own way.

When God is not the center of our lives and the gospel has no place in our relationships and family life, the world’s values will take over.  For this reason, as the prophet says, we too will be like the Jews who lost the blessings from God because they were living self-centered and worldly lives.  They showed little interest in the vision of God for the world.  When God has no influence in our lives, at home or at work, then we can expect to lose the blessings of God in all that we do.  However hard we work, we will have less because greed and selfishness will destroy whatever we have gained.  When God is not the center of our lives, even with all our material wealth, we will find life rather empty and unfulfilling.  Caring for our physical needs whilst neglecting our relationship with God will ruin our happiness in life.

However, if we put God as the center of our lives, then we can expect to receive His blessings.  With God, we learn how to appreciate all things in perspective.  We come to value things as means for love and service and not as ends in themselves.  We will put relationships above achievements and success.  Unless we put God’s work and His Kingdom as the highest priority in our lives, we will not be able to enjoy life properly.  That is why the Lord taught us, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.   Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”  (Mt 6:31-34)  What we set as our priority manifests how much we love God, not so much in words but in actions.

We must take a page from Herod.  He did not put God as the center of his life.  Instead, he put Herodias as the center of his life.  Caught in his adulterous relationship with Herodias, he lost his focus in life and ended up doing things against his wishes, like killing John the Baptist.  For that, he was haunted by his conscience for killing a holy man of God.  Thus, when he heard “about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled.”  Then “some people was saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.”   The mention of John the Baptist unsettled him.   “But Herod said, ‘John?  I beheaded him.  So who is this I hear such reports about?’  And he was anxious to see Jesus.”

If we do not want to live with a guilty conscience and with doubts about Jesus, then we must search for Jesus and come to know Him.  We must make Jesus the goal of our life.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Instead of hearing rumours about who Jesus was, we are called to find out ourselves.  How can this be done unless we rebuild the House of God in our hearts?    The Lord said, “So go to the hill country, fetch wood, and rebuild the House: I shall then take pleasure in it, and be glorified there, says the Lord.”   In other words, let us put Him first in our hearts once again.  Let all we have be used for the glory of God, whether it be used to build a physical House of God, or the spiritual house of God or for the extension of His kingdom on earth.  All that we have must be returned to the Lord and be used for His glory, His mission and for the salvation of humanity.  In this way, we will be blessed in and through Him for we will find true peace, joy and love.  He will then provide us our deepest needs, that which will truly make us happy and fulfilled in life.

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 Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Luke 9: 7-9 From Living Space

Today we have a short interlude which is leading to some very special revelations.

Herod the tetrarch (his father Herod the Great’s kingdom had been divided among four sons) is hearing stories about what Jesus is doing. ‘Tetrarch’ means the ruler of the fourth part of a kingdom. This one, Herod Antipas, was one of several sons; the kingdom was divided among four of them. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. Although not strictly speaking a ‘king’ he is called that in Matthew and Mark following popular usage.

Herod is puzzled because he is being told that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead. At the same time others are saying that Elijah, whose expected return would signal the arrival of the Messiah, or some of the former biblical prophets has reappeared. Herod has recently beheaded John the Baptist and the superstitious king is filled with a mixture of fear and curiosity. He “kept trying to see Jesus”.

Luke does not actually record the death of John and, in this short passage, he prepares the reader for the later meeting of Herod with Jesus (23:8-12). So Herod’s wish will be partially fulfilled at a later date though under very unexpected circumstances and in a way that Herod will find very unsatisfactory. He is hoping that Jesus, like some circus dog, will do some ‘tricks’ or ‘miracles’ for him. [In the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Herod asks Jesus to walk across his swimming pool.]

Herod’s desire was almost entirely one of curiosity, it was the desire of the hedonist and the seeker of novelty. To see Jesus, in the full Gospel sense, is something totally other. It can only happen to those who have the eyes of faith and who can see in the person of Jesus the presence and power of God. We may recall the request of some “Greeks” who told Philip they wanted to see Jesus and the reply that Jesus gave about the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying (John 12:20-26). We have not seen Jesus if we do not know him in his suffering and dying as his way to new life.

Let us ask to see Jesus today, a seeing that leads to a total acceptance of his way of life and following him all the way, through the cross and beyond to a life that never ends.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2255g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• Today’s Gospel presents a reaction from Herod listening to the preaching of Jesus. Herod does not know how to place himself before Jesus He had killed John the Baptist and now he wants to see Jesus close to him. It is always threatening.
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• Luke 9, 7-8: Who is Jesus? The text begins with the exposition of the opinion of the people and of Herod on Jesus. Some associated Jesus to John the Baptist and to Elijah. Others identified him with a Prophet, that is, with a person who speaks in the name of God, who has the courage to denounce injustices of those in power and who knows how to give hope to the little ones. He is the Prophet announced in the Old Testament like a new Moses (Dt 18, 15). These are the same opinions that Jesus received from the disciples when he asked them: “Who do people say I am?” (Lk 9, 18). Persons tried to understand Jesus starting from things that they knew, thought and expected. They tried to set him against the background of the familiar criteria of the Old Testament with its prophecies and hopes, and of the Tradition of the Ancients with their laws. But these were insufficient criteria; Jesus could not enter into them, he was much bigger!
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• Luke 9, 9: Herod wants to see Jesus. But Herod said: “John, I beheaded him; so who is this of whom I hear such things?” “And he was anxious to see him”. Herod, a superstitious man without scruples, recognizes that he was the murderer of John the Baptist. Now, he wants to see Jesus. Luke suggests thus that the threats begin to appear on the horizon of the preaching of Jesus. Herod had no fear to kill John. He will not be afraid to kill Jesus. On the other side, Jesus does no fear Herod. When they tell him that Herod wanted to take him to kill him, he sent someone to tell him: “You may go and give that fox this message: Look, today and tomorrow I drive out devils and heal, and on the third day I attain my end.” (Lk 13, 32). Herod has no power over Jesus. When at the hour of the passion, Pilate sends Jesus to be judged by Herod, Jesus does not respond anything (Lk 23, 9). Herod does not deserve a response.
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• From father to son. Some times the three Herods, who lived during that time are confused, then the three appear in the New Testament with the same name: a) Herod, called the Great, governed over the whole of Palestine from 37 before Christ. He appears at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2, 1). He kills the new-born babies of Bethlehem (Mt 2, 16). b) Herod, called Antipas, governed in Galilee from the year 4 to 39 after Christ. He appears at the death of Jesus (Lk 23, 7). He killed John the Baptist (Mk 6, 14-29). c) Herod, called Agrippa, governed all over Palestine from the year 41 to 44 after Christ. He appears in the Acts of the Apostles (Ac 12, 1.20). He killed the Apostle James (Ac 12, 2).
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When Jesus was about four years old, King Herod, the one who killed the new-born babies of Bethlehem died (Mt 2, 16). His territory was divided among his sons, Archelaus, would govern Judea. He was less intelligent than his father, but more violent. When he assumed the power, approximately 3000 persons were massacred on the square of the Temple! The Gospel of Matthew says that Mary and Joseph, when they learnt that Archelaus had taken over the government of Galilee, were afraid and returned on the road and went to Nazareth, in Galilee, which was governed by another son of Herod, called Herod Antipas (Lk 3, 1). This Antipas governed over 40 years. During the thirty-three years of Jesus there was no change of government in Galilee.
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Herod, the Great, the father of Herod Antipas, had constructed the city of Caesarea Maritime, inaugurated in the year 15 before Christ. It was the new port to get out the products of the region. They had to compete with the large port of Tyron in the North and, thus, help to develop trade and business in Samaria and in Galilee. Because of this, from the time of Herod the Great, the agricultural production in Galilee began to orientate itself no longer according to the needs of the families, as before, but according to the demands of the market. This process of change in the economy continued during all the time of the government of Herod Antipas, another forty years, and found in him an efficient organizer. All these governors were ‘servants of power’. In fact, the one who commanded in Palestine, from the year 63 before Christ, was Rome, the Empire.
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Personal questions
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• It is well always to ask ourselves: Who is Jesus for me?
• Herod wants to see Jesus. His was a superstitious and morbid curiosity. Others want to see Jesus because they seek a sense for their life. And I, what motivation do I have which moves me to see and encounter Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Each morning fill us with your faithful love,
we shall sing and be happy all our days;
let our joy be as long as the time that you afflicted us,
the years when we experienced disaster. (Ps 90,14-15)
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 28, 2017 — “How St. Augustine Found Me”

August 27, 2017

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 425

Image result for Saint Augustine, art, pictures

Saint Augustine by Antonio Rodríguez

Reading 1  1 THES 1:1-5, 8B-10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father,
knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen.
For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
In every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead, Jesus,
who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia!
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 23:13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(First published on Monday August 26 2013)
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Where do you stand in your faith?  Is your faith more like that of the scribes and Pharisees or that of the early Christians in Thessalonica?   The answer to this question determines our happiness in this life and hereafter for the warning of Jesus is this, “Alas for you … you hypocrites!  You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”

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What then is wrong with the so called faith of the scribes and Pharisees?  Their faith was merely an intellectual and legalistic faith.   Perhaps, it would not even be right to call it faith!  More correctly, their faith was a religion in so far as one uses religion to fulfill one’s selfish interests.  In the first place, their faith in God was based on merit.  They did not believe in grace.  They believed one can earn his place in the eyes of God.  The corollary of this is that even when they obeyed the laws of God or when they performed good works, it was done more out of selfish interests than out of pure love for God and for others, since such works were done simply to accumulate merits.   For those who were less authentic, good works were not motivated by love but by egoism or at most, by fear of rejection.

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This explains why they sought ways to circumvent the laws by rationalizing them or finding loopholes in the laws so that they could break them without being faulted.  Religion then became like a game of rules.  Observe the rules and you will be saved.  The spirit of the laws is forgotten.

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Conversely, one can observe the laws so strictly without taking into the peculiar circumstances that it becomes ludicrous and even unjust.  This is how civil lawyers try to get their clients out of trouble.  So long as they can circumvent the letter of the law, they are not guilty.  That is why, at times, one wonders how just the laws are as it depends on whether one engages a good legal counsel to fight the case. A good lawyer can often go round the law to get us out of trouble.  So it is not just a matter of whether one is guilty or innocent, but about having someone present our case convincingly before the judge who is obliged to judge based on the facts presented within the limits of the laws.

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Jesus exposed their insincerity in the way they fulfilled the Laws. He cited the ludicrous attempts of the Jews to avoid any obligation to their promises made to God by splitting hairs over when a promise would be considered valid.  When Moses gave them the Laws, it was meant to help them to live a life of love and harmony. If observing the law makes us less loving, then the purpose of the law is defeated.  Laws are not observed for laws’ sake but for the service of love.   Otherwise, such observance of the law is mere hypocrisy.

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If Jesus’ words appeared to be harsh, it was not spoken in anger but in compassion for them, for as religious leaders, not only were they misleading their flock, but they would also miss out on the life of the kingdom.  We must not be misled into thinking that Jesus’ reprimand of the scribes and Pharisees lacked love.  On the contrary, at the end of the same chapter of the gospel we read Jesus lamenting, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Mt 23:37-39)

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For Jesus, everything is done in the name of love and for love.

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Similarly, we have the exemplary and lively faith of the Thessalonians.  These Christians knew little about their faith, for we will read later how they misunderstood the second coming of Christ.  However, they were people docile to the Spirit, open to the Word of God and sincere in living out the gospel life.  St Paul was full of admiration for them when he wrote how he constantly thanked God for how they “have shown (their) faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The faith of the Thessalonians was not simply an intellectual faith, but a faith that acts.  In the first place, St Paul commended them, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.” In other words, they surrendered in obedience to the preaching of the apostles and accepted their words as from God in faith.  This was demonstrated in the way they broke with idolatry, the worship of false gods.  They might not be schooled in theology and scriptures, but in their simplicity, they accepted the teaching of the apostles as the Word of God.

Secondly, this faith in God was demonstrated in right living, as St Paul praised them saying, “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction” and how “When you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   In other words, they became servants of God and of each other in animated charity.   Theirs was not simply faith in God but for this faith to be real and true it must issue in love.  This was what they did.  They put their faith into action by works of charity.

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Thirdly, this faith was a faith that lived in hope, for they were waiting in hope for the coming of Jesus to save them from retribution.  The early Christians were so full of faith that in their simplicity, they thought that the Second Coming was near.  They were willing to abandon everything for the hope that was before them.  Faith, therefore, is the basis of hope.  Without faith, hope would be weak and be reduced to mere wishful thinking.  A firm hope must be rooted in faith and our faith is not in oneself but in God who alone can restore the world and redeem us.  Because of the surety of the hope before them, they could continue to love and give themselves to others even when they had to suffer for Christ.

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What about us?  Is our faith animated by charity and strengthened by hope?  Or do we give up easily and become disillusioned in times of difficulties and trials?  We must evaluate our faith seriously today.  Has my faith in God grown each day?  Do I trust in God more and more in living out my vocation in life?  Is this faith expressed in a growing charity manifested in generosity, kindness and compassion both for the poor, the marginalized and for members of the community?  Is our faith lived beyond this world and do we have a persevering hope in Jesus, especially in those moments when we face crises in our faith or in our struggles to be faithful in carrying our daily cross after Jesus?  Most of all, have we become more sensitive to sin in our lives so that we can grow in holiness and charity?

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As St Paul said, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen.”  Indeed, the key to a real living faith is to know that we are loved by the Lord and chosen by Him.  Only when we have experienced His love can we then in turn be empowered to love and continue to hope in Him, especially when trials come into our lives.   Yes, only this kind of faith can save us.  We can love God more and more when we know that He loves us because faith is the foundation of love and also the basis for the augmentation of love.  When we open ourselves to someone in faith, love will soon develop.  As we love, we learn to trust a person even more.  So faith and love accompanies each other and strengthens each other.  A legalistic faith will only make us self-righteous and unable to love freely from our hearts.  Let us pray that the faith of the Thessalonians will also be ours as we open our lives to Him in faith.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter, but will not be strong enough.” (Luke 13:24)

Part of this process is understanding who we are as human beings — all the good we can do and all the mistakes we can make!

But we don’t stop there. Throughout our lives, Jesus expects us to get better and better. Our journey may be a tough one — but He promises all the support and help he can give, plus the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” inside of us as we encounter tougher and tougher challenges.

Related:

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From Bishop Robert Barron — “Strive to enter through the narrow gate”

To gain eternal life is to participate to the fullest degree possible in the very life of God. It is to walk the path of love, surrendering to grace and allowing this grace to flow through you to the wider world. Is this an easy task? No. The Gospel of Luke tells reminds us that the gate is narrow precisely because it is in the very shape of Jesus Himself, and entrance through the gate involves conformity to his state of being. The path of love is traveled by taking up one’s cross every day.

http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/the-narrow-gate/5249/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 AUGUST, 2017, Monday
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A LIVING COMMUNITY OF FAITH IN THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TH 1:1-58-10PS 149:1-69MT 23:13-22 ]

The first reading presents to us a primitive Church that was very much alive in the faith, life-giving and fulfilling.  In contrast, the gospel presents to us a religion that is sterile and not life-giving.   These two illustrations show us what living faith entails and what causes a religion to lose favor with the people. Consequently, we must reflect on the struggles between those who have been institutionalized over a period of time and those who are still in their infancy.   

Firstly, St Paul praised his fellow Christians for breaking away from idolatry “when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   They became aware that there was only one God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   He is whom we are called to place our absolute trust.  Only this God is to be worshipped and served.  In Jesus, they came to know who God is.   In contrast, while the religious leaders during the time of Jesus claimed to love and serve God, they were worshipping themselves.  The real focus was not the worship of God but it was about their glory, status and appearing good before others.   Religion was made use for their own benefits.

Secondly, Paul commended the Thessalonians for observing “the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction.”  They were living out the Christian life of which Paul was a shining example of what it meant to worship the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul was conscious that he was setting himself to be a model of how Christian life should be lived.    They in turn were serious in living the life of the gospel and the life of Christ.  It was not just a nominal faith, like that which many of us subscribe to. This precisely was the case of the religious leaders.  They were finding fault with others who could not observe the laws.  Although they observed the laws meticulously, it was done more out of guilt and pride than out of love.  They knew that the poor could never observe the laws adequately.  Theirs was a religion for the rich and the elite.

Thirdly, their faith was not an abstract faith but with consequences in terms of relationship with others.  Paul said that we “constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Their faith was translated into works of love and charity.  They cared for and loved each other and reached out to those who were in need.  Faith was not a private affair or simply an escape into mystification but manifesting God through their lives of love and service.   But for the religious leaders, faith was simply about observance of the ritual laws.  It was not about their brothers and sisters.  There was no love for those who were sinners.  They were ever ready to condemn those who failed in their weaknesses to observe the laws.   In truth, the religious leaders were selective in choosing those laws that made them superior to the rest.  But they were not primarily concerned with whether what they were doing were really done out of love and compassion for their fellowmen.  

What is our analysis of the faith of the early Christians and that of the Jewish people? In the same way, we can also compare the vibrant and evangelistic fervor of the early Christians with that of our institutionalized churches today.  It is true that even today, new-found Christian evangelical communities tend to be more alive, adaptive and creative.  But those that have been established over the years, particularly, the traditional Churches like the Catholic and the reformed Churches, tend to be much more protective of their traditions. Indeed, this seems to be the sociological development of any community or organization.  The founders and the pioneers of the movements tend to be prophetic, zealous and filled with the spirit.  But over the years, the members of that movement or organization that carries the spirit of the founder would tend to become ritualistic, routine and mechanical.

What is the cause?  It is the absence of the Spirit at work in our lives.   St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, saying, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.”   Indeed, the early Christians felt strongly the presence of God in their lives.  They encountered the love of God in Jesus Christ.  They were deeply grateful for encountering the Good News and to be chosen as Jesus’ adopted brothers and sisters.   And because they believed wholeheartedly the Good News, they in turn became people who acted under the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the early Church, we read of the use of their charisms and the working of miracles that testify to the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord at work in their lives.

Unfortunately for us today, many of us are born into the faith.  We were brought up in a Catholic ambiance.   We breathe the faith the moment we were born because of our parents’ faith and religious upbringing.   Many of us through habit and custom, inherited the faith and practise them without questioning.   At times we can experience, like our parents, the love and mercy of God.   But if our parents are not faith-filled, then our experience of God is going to be rather shallow and weak.  We will only end up doing all the Catholic practices such as attending mass and abstinence, but there is no real personal relationship with the Lord as there are no family prayers, no sharing of the Word of God, no personal testimony of how God is at work in our lives.   It is reduced to mere observance of the commandments of the Church, going for boring masses and listening to uninspiring homilies that do not speak to our needs.  In such a situation, we lose the zeal and the fire of our forefathers’ faith in Christ.

This is what the Lord is warning those of us who are supposedly to be leaders in faith, whether we are religious or lay.  “You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”   If we ourselves have not encountered God like the Jewish leaders, how can we ever help people to experience the love and mercy of God?  Instead of leading people closer to God, we lead them further away from Him.  If we have not learnt the meaning of prayer and who God is, how can we ever instruct others to pray rightly.   If we do not have faith in God and the Bible as the Word of God, how can we teach?  The truth is that the blind is leading the blind.

We will be like the religious leaders, using our knowledge of the doctrines and the laws to find loopholes so that we can circumvent from having to observe the laws.  They were not interested in observing the laws but finding ways and means to bypass the laws and feel justified before God and men.  Such people twist and turn the gospel, as many do today, to justify their rationale for subscribing to teachings that are contrary to the bible.  Of course we can always rationalize for all that we want to do.  We can make the bible fit our ways rather than fit our ways to the Word of God.   Unlike the early Christians, we do not take the Word of God as God’s words.  “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13)

Indeed, as Jesus sighed, “You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.”   Instead of helping people to become more Christ-like by converting them to Catholicism, we form them to become bigoted, legalistic, judgmental.  Then there is also the irony of bringing new converts to the faith every year when there are many more who have left the Church without us batting our eyelids, because their faith is weak and they are ill-formed in the faith?

So let us renew our love for the Lord.  This is what the psalmist is inviting us, Sing a new song to the Lord, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let the praise of God be on their lips: this honour is for all his faithful.”   Only in praising God and worshipping Him in faith and love, can we find the strength to live out our faith in hope and confidence.

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

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How St. Augustine came into My Own Life

Troubled in the middle of the night, I went to an  Adoration Chapel to pray. After an our or so, I paced around and noticed a bookshelf. I pulled out “Confessions” by St. Augustine and opened it at random to this page and read:

But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. Which that I might pour forth wholly, in its natural expressions, I rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the business of weeping; so I retired so far that even his presence could not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived something of it; for something I suppose I had spoken, wherein the tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen up. He then remained where we were sitting, most extremely astonished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry for ever? Remember not our former iniquities, for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, “to-morrow, and tomorrow?” Why not now? why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, I shut the volume, and with a calmed countenance made it known to Alypius. And what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus showed me. He asked to see what I had read: I showed him; and he looked even further than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This followed, him that is weak in the faith, receive; which he applied to himself, and disclosed to me. And by this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, and most corresponding to his character, wherein he did always very far differ from me, for the better, without any turbulent delay he joined me. Thence we go in to my mother; we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate in order how it took place; she leaps for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee, Who are able to do above that which we ask or think; for she perceived that Thou hadst given her more for me, than she was wont to beg by her pitiful and most sorrowful groanings. For thou convertedst me unto Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world, standing in that rule of faith, where Thou hadst showed me unto her in a vision, so many years before. And Thou didst convert her mourning into joy, much more plentiful than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer way than she erst required, by having grandchildren of my body.

 

St. Augustine found me and encouraged me to read. Since that encounter I have read and studied many of the great “Christian Classics.”

John Francis Carey

Related:

The Ladder of St. Augustine
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

All common things, each day’s events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.

The low desire, the base design,
That makes another’s virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;

The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will;

All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.

Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern — unseen before —
A path to higher destinies,

Nor deem the irrevocable Past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 23, 2017 — “For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved.”

July 22, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 106

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Reading 1  WIS 12:13, 16-19

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
For your might is the source of justice;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16

R. (5a) Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship you, O LORD,
and glorify your name.
For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds;
you alone are God.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me, and have pity on me;
give your strength to your servant.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Reading 2  ROM 8:26-27

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

Alleluia  CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:24-43

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

He proposed another parable to them.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”

He spoke to them another parable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

OrMT 13:24-30

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Letter to the Romans tells us in the second reading today:  “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  That is pretty strong!  Because our world is so messed up, we are often confused about what is right and what is wrong—so we don’t know how to pray as we ought.

The first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us that God is all powerful and because of that, God can love and judge and deal with us with leniency and mercy and forgiveness.  Those who are powerful can be generous!  This can remind us that our own personal power should always reflect in mercy, generosity and forgiveness.

The Letters to the Romans reminds us that our prayers are very often just our own prayers and not the will of God.  Instead, we can allow the Spirit to pray within us so that the prayer is God’s prayer.  It is easy to do this.  All we need say is “O God, may I do your will and pray for what you want.”

The Gospel from Saint Matthew today, in the longer version, gives us three parables.  The shorter version gives us only one parable and without its explanation by the Lord.  All three parables are about the kingdom of God.  We can understand from these parables that it is difficult in this life to separate the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds.  We can see that the Kingdom is a small seed that can grow enormously.  And we can understand that if we live the Kingdom, it becomes like leaven in bread in our lives and in the lives of others.

The teaching today is that we must be slow to judge others, slow to think that we understand the Kingdom and how it is present and slow to presume that we know the ways of God.  Rather, we must look at others as possible Kingdom bearers, we must be still before the mystery of God so that we can begin to be aware of the Kingdom and we must look for God in all that happens to us and to others.

When Jesus tells us parables, it is because He wants us to look at life in ways that are different from our normal ways.  We should never think that we are the wheat and that others are the weeds!  Rather we need to pay attention to the weeds of our lives and be aware of the wheat in the lives of others.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like a small seed that can grow into a large tree, we should be aware of the gifts of others and aware that we are still small.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like leaven, we should strive to be aware of how others are leaven already and that we can become leaven.

Let us be aware of God’s love for others and reflect God’s love for others in our own lives through mercy and forgiveness.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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23 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

EMBRACING IMPERFECTIONS IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ WIS 12:13,16-19PS 85:5-6,9-10,15-16ROM 8:26-27MT 13:24-43 OR MT 13:24-30]

The Church is supposed to be the budding of the Kingdom of God.  All of us are called to holiness of life.  The early Christians called themselves saints of God.  Indeed, the Church is called to be different from the rest of the world.  We are called to be the sacrament of Jesus in the world, the sacrament of love and unity.  Unfortunately, many who join the Church fail to realize that although the Church aspires to be the community of saints, we are still pilgrims on earth.  The Church is both a community of saints and sinners.  We have not yet arrived but are on the way to the fullness of life in the heavenly kingdom.

As such, the Church, being a pilgrim church on the way to perfection, must learn to accommodate the sinfulness of her members and the imperfections of community life and the institution at large.  Failure to realize this reality will cause much disillusionment, disappointment, anger and resentment against the Church.  Indeed, many Catholics labour under the false notion that all Catholics are perfect, holy, loving, considerate, kind, giving, gentle, compassionate, forgiving, etc.   And when they find that their brothers and sisters, and most of all, the Church leaders, laity or clergy or religious are not manifesting the compassion and love of our Lord, they are easily scandalized. They are shocked that Catholics are not behaving in the way Christ asks of us in the gospel.  As a result, many leave the Church and join other churches or other religions, or give up on God completely.

The irony of such a reaction is that all other Catholics seem not to be good enough, except themselves.  Often, such people who are judgmental, intolerant of others’ weaknesses, whims and fancies, dissatisfied with the institutions, condemning everyone else except themselves, fall into the sin of presumption.  We are quick at passing sweeping judgements on the actions of others without trying to understand the person, his struggles, his constraints, circumstances and limitations.  The truth is that no one is perfect and we cannot expect others to live up to our standards when we ourselves have failed miserably as Catholics, if not in the particular area we are not pleased about, surely in other areas of our life.

St Paul and James warned us about the foolishness of pronouncing  judgement on others instead of leaving the judgement to God.  (Cf. 1 Cor 4:3-5; Jms 4:11f)  In fact, if we are not careful, we can become the enemy itself who would be sowing darnel among the wheat.  When we judge, condemn and criticize others destructively, we are destroying them and also the community.  Instead of promoting unity through compassion, understanding and patient meditation, we circulate on social media the sins and imperfections of others and the community or the organization.  This is tantamount to helping the Evil One to sow seeds of division in the community.  We should be sowing good seeds; not making the situation worse than it already is.

Today, we take the cue from the scripture readings as to how we should see the imperfections of community, whether at church, in our homes or in our offices.  Unless we integrate such stark realities in our lives, we will end up destroyed by the evils that we hate.  Those of us who cannot accept the sins and imperfections of the members of the community will end up frustrated, resentful and even vindictive.  This is particularly true when we belong to a religious order, or any closely knit Catholic cell group or organization.  By embracing both the strength and weaknesses of the individuals and the organization, we can grow as individuals and as a community to be more like Christ.  We must remember that grace is also at work in disgrace.

For this reason, Jesus told the disciples the parable of the Darnel and the Wheat.  This was what the servants said to the master.  “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from? Do you want us to go and weed it out?”  This is unfortunately the impatience reflected in every Christian community.  As the bishop, I receive countless letters of complaint against priests and fellow Catholics; even from non-Catholics.  All express anger, disappointment and disenchantment with what is happening in the Church, the conduct of both the lay faithful and the Church leaders.  They write to me, expecting and even demanding that I exercise my juridical authority to immediately weed out such people from the Church.  They hope that I will shame them publicly, make them lose face and discredit them.  Most are not seeking to help those who are wayward in their Catholic way of life but to see them punished, humiliated and excommunicated.  There is so much lack of charity, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance among Catholics.

Clearly the gospel tells us that we should allow good and evil to co-exist.  We should not be in a hurry to weed out all those who fail and have shortcomings.  The master said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”  In other words, we must allow sin and grace to co-exist.  If we are intolerant and impatient, not only might we lose all the sinners but we might even hamper the growth of those who are seeking holiness of life.

The truth is that we all grow through our weaknesses and our strengths.  It is through our interaction with others that we learn to discover more about ourselves, our likes, attitudes, fears, inadequacies and our charisms and potentials as well.  Only through difficult situation are we challenged to our limits.  This is just like the trees in the forest.  They all strive against each other to seek sunlight.  Even the creepers in the forest know how to find their way to the top.  So we must take fellow Catholics as spiritual benefactors, helping us to purify our faith and our love for God and for humanity.  Instead of seeing them as obstacles to our faith, we must see them as persons allowed by God to test us in generosity, in forgiveness, in mercy and in patience.  Instead of marginalizing them, we must be ready to continue to reach out to them in humility and love in spite of their hostility towards us.

In the first reading, we read how God manifests His mercy and love for all.  Although He is a God of justice, He cares for all and is just to all.  “There is no God, other than you, who cares for everything, to whom you might have to prove that you never judged unjustly.  Your justice has its source in strength, your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.” This is how God has taught us to exercise love and mercy.  The author says, “By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men, and you have given your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.”  So we must not give up on others because they fail in their Christian life.  Rather, recognizing our own failures and imperfections, we must also grant them the same mercy and compassion that God has for us in our sinfulness.

Most of all, we must pray in our weakness.  This is what St Paul urges the Christian community.  “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.”  Only prayer can change lives.  Only prayer can give us the patience, the magnanimity and power to forgive those who have hurt us or failed us.  When we face such nasty parishioners or uninspiring priests in our lives, rather than condemning them, we must pray for them earnestly. We have no right to correct them if we have not yet prayed for them.

If we follow this principle, then indeed, in its own time, the Kingdom of God will flourish. This is the promise of Jesus in the parable of the mustard seed and the dough. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.”  Indeed, with perseverance we will see the full flowering of the tree.  So let us be good dough doing our little part and our best to contribute to the growth of the community and our personal life.  Instead of seeking to marginalize and exclude those who are not living a good Christian life, we must show mercy and compassion.  No one should be excluded from the Church, the divorced, those with same-sex attraction, the addicts, etc.  We must welcome them to the Church and help them to experience the unconditional love and mercy of Jesus through us.  God will heal them through us.  We only need to be docile to the Lord and allow Him to make use of us.

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

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Why let the bad mix with the good?

“…if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest…” (Matthew 13:29-30).

I read our Gospel today, and I remember the spicy surprise that met a Jesuit who transplanted sprigs of basil beside some sili. After a few weeks, the basil was not just basil anymore. It had acquired a peppery flavor and required a new name: ba-sili.

Scientifically, this incident provides too small a sample size for any conclusion, but our Scripture today prompts me to ask, “Should we let the weeds grow with the wheat?” What if the weeds change the wheat? Why let the bad mix with the good?

One might attack this differently and counter, “What if the wheat changes the weeds?” Maybe the good can influence the bad and make everyone better. But for this possibility, should we be willing to risk the bad just turning everything worse? Why let the bad mix with good?

Five chapters after our Gospel today, Jesus will say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea… If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (see Matthew 18:6-9). In the body that is our community, if a member leads others to sin, should he or she not be cut off? Why sacrifice the saint for the sinner? Why let the bad continue to mix with good?

Why should we let the weeds grow with the wheat? To answer this, let us look at the two other parables in the longer version of our Gospel today.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, Jesus says. It is the smallest of seeds, but it becomes the largest of plants. The dramatic change in size is what we usually focus on in this parable, and so we miss an important detail about the mustard bush: “the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (Matthew 13:32). It is not just the doves and the pigeons and the other gentle and beautiful birds that come. One can imagine crows and ravens – aggressive and not as aesthetically pleasing avian creatures – coming and dwelling as well. Jesus makes no distinctions. All are welcome. And when birds of paradise perch with vultures – as when wolves and lambs feed together in Isaiah’s vision – then the kingdom of God is in our midst.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? Because that is how God envisions his kingdom.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour. Scholars say that three measures equals 50 pounds. That is a lot of flour! Again, the contrast between the pinch of yeast and the mountain of flour makes us miss an important detail: the woman kneading the yeast in. She wrestles with the dough. (Can you imagine yourself elbows deep in 50 pounds of flour and the I-don’t-know-how-many liters of water needed to make it dough?) There can be bread enough for a banquet only because there is a woman who painstakingly labors.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? The saint and the sinner come together in the kingdom of God, and our Lord, the Master Baker, continues to work on them because this is how he prepares a feast.

That the weeds are allowed to grow with the wheat – this is Good News for us! Many times, we are not the purest and finest wheat. Many times, we are the weeds strangling those around us, competing for what we think are limited resources when in truth, God’s mercy abounds. God allows us weeds to grow without making distinctions as we sprout out of the ground. God works on us and kneads his grace into us.

If this is how God deals with us, then it should also be how we deal with others around us. Have we let weeds into our lives? Or have we cultivated friendships only with those we know do not come with thorns and only with those we know will bear good fruit? Do we continue to gently massage even just the pinch of yeast we possess into our relationships with others so that we can all slowly rise together? Or overwhelmed, have we just given up on people?

The time for the harvest will come, when stubborn weeds who refuse God’s grace will be pulled up and burned. But the pulling up and the burning will not be our task. That will belong to God. Who is this God? Read again Wisdom 12:13-19, our First Reading today, and get to know him as the master of might who judges with clemency and governs with lenience. Encounter him as the father who gives his children good ground for hope because he allows us to repent. Learn to trust him as the teacher who by his own deeds imparts the important lesson that “those who are just must be kind.”

From 2014

Homily from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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Those who are just must be kind. This small kernel of wisdom from the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today, is a wonderful teaching about God as well. Far too often there have been images of God as being just–but as a stern taskmaster who really intends to put most people into hell. Instead, this small gem of a teaching speaks of kindness. Justice and kindness are linked, not justice and sternness or justice and meanness.

Of course we know from the teachings of our Lord Jesus that God is love and that God loves all that has been created in Him. God loves us, even with our sinfulness. God invites us to share eternal life and to leave our sinfulness aside, knowing that to leave that sinfulness aside will cost us our whole lifetime.

We can hear this teaching clearly in the Gospel today, where there are many images for us to ponder. One of them is that the wheat and the weeds are always together and we need to leave the sorting out to the Lord. Did not create everything good? Then where did the evil come from? We don’t need to answer that question. We need only to keep striving to live in the good and to do good and to speak good and all shall be well. That we fail to live completely in the good, that we fail to do good always and that we fail to speak the good is part of our human condition. Every day we need to start afresh, living the joy and the love of our Lord Jesus, no matter what our previous failings.

When we are completely worn out and see only the evil in ourselves and our failures. The second reading today can help us: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. The same is true when we do not do the good which is possible because it seems impossible in the moment. The Spirit is there and will take our hands and help us do what we can.

The challenge of living a truly Christian life is a very simple challenge: trust completely even when it seems hopeless. Trust always and in every situation. Call to the Lord when we fail and when we fall. Keep asking the Lord to help us. All of this is so simple and even small children realize its truth.

For sure there is a punishment for those who cause others to sin and there is a sorting out of the weeds and the evils at the end of time. We are all guilty and so we belong to that category as well. We need not fear. God love is a consuming fire and will purify us with love if we only call out to Him. Let us practice calling on the Lord today and always.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/07/23/1720615/why-let-bad-mix-good

 

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 13, 2017 — “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say … the Spirit of your Father [will be] speaking through you.” — Plus: History of The Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous

July 13, 2017

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
Lectionary: 387

Reading 1  GN 46:1-7, 28-30

Israel set out with all that was his.
When he arrived at Beer-sheba,
he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
There God, speaking to Israel in a vision by night, called,
“Jacob! Jacob!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
Then he said: “I am God, the God of your father.
Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt with you;
I will also bring you back here, after Joseph has closed your eyes.”

So Jacob departed from Beer-sheba,
and the sons of Israel
put their father and their wives and children
on the wagons that Pharaoh had sent for his transport.
They took with them their livestock
and the possessions they had acquired in the land of Canaan.
Thus Jacob and all his descendants migrated to Egypt.
His sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters
all his descendants—he took with him to Egypt.

Israel had sent Judah ahead to Joseph,
so that he might meet him in Goshen.
On his arrival in the region of Goshen,
Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot
and rode to meet his father Israel in Goshen.
As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck
and wept a long time in his arms.
And Israel said to Joseph, “At last I can die,
now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Alleluia  JN 16:13A, 14:26D

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you to all truth
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 10:16-23

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

14 JULY, 2017, Friday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time

LIVING OUT OUR FAITH IN A SECULAR WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 46:1-728-30Ps 36:3-4,18-19,27-28,39-40Mt 10:16-23  ]

Being an authentic Christian living in a very secularized world is one of the most challenging demands of Christian life.  As Jesus warned His disciples in the gospel,  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”  (Jn 15:18f)   So we must be ready as Christians and brace ourselves for a collision between the values of the world and our Christian values.  This is inevitable.  Indeed, even our loved ones will misunderstand us. Jesus warned us that “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.”  If as a Christian we feel there is no tension between the world and our faith, we are obviously not living out our Christian discipleship.  After all, Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’” (Jn 15:20) If our Lord was persecuted, why should we be exempted?

And the reason Jesus gave is because the values of the gospel are not of this world.  “I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.”  (Jn 17:14-17)  Our values come from Christ who is the Word of God in person.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (cf Jn 14:6)

So how do we remain firm in our faith and yet live in this paradoxical and confused world with so many divergent voices, ideologies and self-centered interests?  In the gospel, Jesus urged us to be discerning and not be rash.  He said, “Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”  Like the wise serpent, we must be tactful and learn how to strategize.  We need to be patient and study the situation before we seek to deal with the challenges.  Jesus advised us, “If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another.”  In other words, don’t be a daredevil.  Foolhardiness and hot-headedness will cause more problems.  We must learn how to wait and see how things develop.

But we must also be gentle as a dove.  We do not deal with our opponents by using harsh words or taking up arms and using violence.  St Paul reminds us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:21)  This was what the Lord taught us “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, ‘Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’”  (Mt 5:38-f)  Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.’  (1 Pt 2:12)   This was said of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah as well.   “He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street, a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.”  (Isa 42:2f)

But this does not mean that we keep quiet on the truth that must be spoken.  This is not what Jesus is saying.  He is not asking us to be silent.  On the contrary, He asked us to speak out when the time comes, regardless of who is our opponent. “Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans.”  This is the time when we are called to witness to Christ.  St Paul advised us, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”  (1 Pt 3:15)  It is in truth spoken with charity that will triumph in the end.

After having spoken and if the truth is not accepted, St Peter said, “But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.”  (1 Pt 3:14)  So we should not be discouraged as Jesus asked us to flee and come back to fight another day.  There are things that cannot be changed overnight.  There are opinions and trends that cannot be transformed in a short while.  We must be patient and leave the change in God’s time.  We are not the ones who will change and transform hearts but it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We just need to do our part and be His vehicle of truth and mercy.  That is why He told the disciples, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking on you.”  Let the Holy Spirit speak to their hearts.

However, it would be quite wrong to say that the world has nothing but falsehood.  Everyone seeks true happiness, joy, meaning and love in life.  The values of the gospel are universal values.  But the means to attain them differ between religions and ideologies.  Some contain more truths than others.  Some are misguided or lived under illusion.  So even in our attempts to enlighten all in the truth, we must be respectful of opinions and views that differ from ours.  Our task is to listen, to engage in dialogue and mutual understanding.  It must not be seen as Christianity versus the world.  Rather, Christianity is for the world because we read “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”  (Jn 3:16f)

So we must cooperate with the world and stress on what we have in common and accept our differences in certain moral positions such as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex union, divorces and death penalty.   We should continue to engage in dialogue. It does not mean that we need to be silent on these issues but there is a larger picture of the concrete situations confronting society and the world.  We cannot impose our values on the world.  We can only propose.  This takes time and patience.  The psalmist says, “Then turn away from evil and do good and you shall have a home for ever; for the Lord loves justice and will never forsake his friends.”

Indeed, this was how Jacob in the first reading dealt with the vicissitudes of life.  Faced with famine in his homeland, he was forced to migrate to Egypt where his son Joseph could promise them a better life.   But he knew that God’s promise would be fulfilled.  He did not forget the promise of God.  This was confirmed in the vision he received from the Lord. “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.  I myself will go down to Egypt with you.  I myself will bring you back again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”  God’s plan for the full possession of the Promised Land and the establishment of the Kingdom would take another 800 years or more for God’s promises to be realized.  But God’s plan would not be derailed by men.

But Jacob was also shrewd.  He did not want his people to lose their culture and values.  And thus he asked to be settled at Goshen, in the north-eastern part of Egypt.  (cf Gn 46:28-34) In this way, he had the best of both worlds.  He received the generosity of the Pharaoh and yet keep apart from them because of their prejudice against shepherds.  He was wise enough to make a compromise.  He might not have seen the full realization of God’s promise, but he was contented to see the small victories, as in seeing his people well looked after by Joseph.  In this way, his people continued to multiply and grow from strength to strength.

So in faith, we too must live our faith.  Not everything can be realized in our times.  We only need to do our part and leave the rest to God to unfold His plans.  We just enjoy whatever anticipated joys or achievements we have in our times.  The best is yet to come. Like Jacob, we must not insist on our ways.   Like him, we must be willing to trust God and wait for the promise to be fulfilled.  This is what the psalmist says, “If you trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live in the land and be secure.  If you find your delight in the Lord, he will grant your heart’s desire. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord, their stronghold in time of distress.  The Lord helps them and delivers them and saves them: for their refuge is in him.”  This is the assurance of the Lord Himself, “You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  He will not abandon us.  Knowing that He is with us in this journey should give us the courage to persevere right to the end.

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

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History of The Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous

Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous)

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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Suscipe  (From Latin, To Receive) (St. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer)

This is to recall to mind the blessings of creation and redemption, and the special favors I have received.

I will ponder with great affection how much God our Lord has done for me, and how much He has given me of what He possesses, and finally, how much, as far as He can, the same Lord desires to give Himself to me according to His divine decrees.

Then I will reflect upon myself, and consider, according to all reason and justice, what I ought to offer the Divine Majesty, that is, all I possess and myself with it. Thus, as one would do who is moved by great feeling, I will make this offering of myself:

Take, Lord, and Receive

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

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Charles Eugene de Foucauld (1858-1916) took Jean Pierre de Caussade’s  “Self Abandonment”  philosophy and boiled it down into one simple prayer seen below:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do. I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, a Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

Image may contain: one or more people and text
Book: Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751) was a French Jesuit priest and writer known for the work called “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence.”
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Jean Pierre de Caussade was a member of the “Society of Jesus” or the Jesuits, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. AA historians say when the priest, Eddie Dowling read the first edition of the Big Book, he traveled to New York to find Bull Wilson. When he did locate “Bill W” — he asked, “How did you get all this Ignatian teaching into your book?”
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Bill W answered: “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
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From 2015:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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WHEN FILIAL PIETY TO GOD RENDS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR LOVED ONES
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: GN 46:1-728-30MT 10:16-23
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In today’s gospel, Jesus warns the Twelve that the proclamation of the Good News could ironically bring family division.  He said, “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.”  This, perhaps, is the most painful part of discipleship.
We do not mind following Christ, but when the cost of discipleship entails rejection at home or a rift with our loved ones or even persecution, this is more than we can bear.Indeed, the forewarning of Jesus is as real for us today as it was with the disciples.
We can be certain that when St Matthew wrote his gospel, Christianity, which was then winning converts, must have also resulted in much friction in family life, especially when many of these converts were formerly practicing Judaism.  With the Jewish Christians expelled from the synagogues in AD 70, they were then persecuted by their fellow Jews. Those who accepted Christ would surely have faced rejection by family members and also ostracism from their community.  Such was the price of faith in Christ.Such, too, is the price of faith even in our day, where society is supposedly more secular, relativistic and open.  Many of our Christian converts tell of how their relationships were impacted by their conversion to Christianity, as their loved ones found it hard to accept their conversion.
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The truth is that faith in Christ is more than just attending church services and practicing some rituals; it is a whole Copernican revolution in the way we see God, people, ourselves and the values of life.  So whether we like it or not, if our faith in God is different from that of our loved ones, there is bound to be tension, depending on how accommodating they are to our beliefs and we to theirs.  Bickering over practices of faith and differences in values are not uncommon.  In some cases, the spouses even forbid their partners to attend church services, pray or read the bible.  And even though the non-Catholic partner promised that their children would be baptized, many of them renege on their promises and even disallow their children from learning or practicing the faith.
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This form of division exists even among practicing and devout Catholics.
Many parents object strongly to their children wanting to join the religious life or the priesthood.  Some threaten to disown them, even though they are avowed Catholics!   At times, it could be because of a love relationship.  To give up our loved ones for the sake of the gospel is perhaps the greatest of all sacrifices.  It breaks not just one’s own heart but that of our beloved.  So we can imagine how much Jesus’ mother had to go through in offering her only son to us and how much more our heavenly Father had to empty Himself to give up His only Son for our redemption!
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But if one thinks that family division ends here, it does not.
The Church is our bigger family.  When we have to speak out against our superiors, parish priest or leaders in our church organizations because of perceived wrongs, injustices or scandals, this also hurts us deeply.  We do not want to be the cause of division, but by failing to speak the truth, we would be doing the community a greater harm in the long run.  But being truthful may make us unpopular and even ridiculed and persecuted.  So the gospel also brings division in the Christian community; the Word of God being “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joins and marrows” (Heb 4:12).By extension, we can also include our workplace as our family.  When there are disagreements with regard to values in business ethics, living out our faith could result in us being marginalized, and rifts and misunderstandings with our colleagues and bosses may ensue. 

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So when faith threatens to drive a wedge between our loved ones and our faith, what should we do?  We do not want to lose our faith, but neither do we want to lose our loved ones and status in life. This was the same challenge for Jacob in today’s first reading.  He was uncomfortable about moving to Egypt for fear of abandoning his religious and cultural traditions and being unfaithful to his ancestors and to God.  On the other hand, he yearned to be with Joseph, his lost son whom he had not seen for many years.  He would never be able to die in peace without being reconciled with his son.  This is true for all of us, parents and children.  To die without being reconciled with our loved ones would be the greatest regret in life.  So like him, we are in a conundrum.  Should we choose God or choose man?

The scripture readings today are very assuring.

God is merciful and all understanding.

God recognized the need of Jacob, the pain in his heart.  In His divine providence, He permitted him to go to Egypt but He also assured him that the promises made to his forefathers would stay and that he would return to the Promised Land once again.  In the same way too, God is merciful and kind to us.  We must be patient when our loved ones disagree with us and object to our beliefs.  We must give them time to come to terms with our faith and our hearts’ desire.  Such things cannot be forced and our loved ones must be given time to adapt and to accept.  We must learn patience and practice compassion towards their resistance.

Secondly, we must learn to act wisely and prudently.  Instead of reacting to their hostilities, we must exercise tact in dealing with them.  Isn’t that what Jesus urges us?  He said, “’Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”  So, like serpents, we must be wise and prudent.  Like doves, we must be gentle and harmless.  If we react, we would only create greater disharmony.

And if the heat gets too strong for us, it is better, as Jesus advises us, to flee:  “If they persecute you in one town, take refuge in the next; and if they persecute you in that, take refuge in another.”  We need not ‘take the bull by its horns’ in every situation.  Sometimes, as the proverb tells us, it is better to run and fight another day.  Hence, if our loved ones become too violent and hostile, let us stay cool and wait for grace to take over.  God is greater than their resistance.  He will settle the conflict for us.

Of course, this requires that we trust in the Lord totally. God knows better than we do.  Instead of taking things into our own hands, let the grace of divine providence work its way through our history and our lives.  Only Christ and the grace of God can change them, as Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, you will have gone the round of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

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So today in our trials, especially when we are at variance with our loved ones with regard to our faith, let us follow Jacob and bring our fears and anxieties to the Lord.  God will speak to us in prayer or in a vision as He did to Jacob and give us the direction as to what we should do.  Yes, Jesus encourages us to trust in His heavenly Father no matter what happens.  Pray to the Holy Spirit, for He says, “when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking on you.”

Finally, let us remember that even if conflicts and persecutions cannot be avoided, let these be occasions for us to witness to the gospel of love and compassion by our lives of non-violence and forgivenesstowards those who hate us for seeking to live the gospel life of truth and love.  As Jesus said, “You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans.”  We are reminded of the words of St Peter, “But even if you do suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.  Have no fear of them, nor be troubled but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord.” ( 1 Pt 3:14)

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 12, 2017 — The Apostles Were Just Like Us

July 11, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 385

Image result for matthew was a tax collector, art, photos

“Matthew the tax collector”

Art: “The Calling of Matthew” by  Caravaggio

Reading 1  GN 41:55-57; 42:5-7A, 17-24A

When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt
and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread,
Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph
and do whatever he told them.
When the famine had spread throughout the land,
Joseph opened all the cities that had grain
and rationed it to the Egyptians,
since the famine had gripped the land of Egypt.
In fact, all the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain,
for famine had gripped the whole world.

The sons of Israel were among those
who came to procure rations.

It was Joseph, as governor of the country,
who dispensed the rations to all the people.
When Joseph’s brothers came and knelt down before him
with their faces to the ground,
he recognized them as soon as he saw them.
But Joseph concealed his own identity from them
and spoke sternly to them.

With that, he locked them up in the guardhouse for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to his brothers:
“Do this, and you shall live; for I am a God-fearing man.
If you have been honest,
only one of your brothers need be confined in this prison,
while the rest of you may go
and take home provisions for your starving families.
But you must come back to me with your youngest brother.
Your words will thus be verified, and you will not die.”
To this they agreed.
To one another, however, they said:
“Alas, we are being punished because of our brother.
We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us,
yet we paid no heed;
that is why this anguish has now come upon us.”
Reuben broke in,
“Did I not tell you not to do wrong to the boy?
But you would not listen!
Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”
The brothers did not know, of course,
that Joseph understood what they said,
since he spoke with them through an interpreter.
But turning away from them, he wept.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 33:2-3, 10-11, 18-19

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Alleluia  MK 1:15

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

Gospel MT 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
The names of the Twelve Apostles are these:
first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew,
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus;
Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot
who betrayed Jesus.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

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Jesus Is The Leader That Empowers Others — We Can Become Empowered Also…
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From God’s Career Guide
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Matthew 9:35–10:1 is a story about Jesus sending out his disciples to evangelize the world. It begins with Jesus acting alone and ministering to the crowds and ends with him empowering his disciples to do the very same thing. What Jesus does in the middle verses of the passage serves as a model for empowering others to lead.

 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (emphasis added)

Woven into the story are the steps Jesus took in empowering his disciples.

“Jesus went…he saw…he had compassion.”

Jesus took the initiative and “went through all the towns and villages, teaching…preaching…healing.” He was an active, self-motivated, and life-changing leader. Jesus saw the crowds. He cared about them and was moved to take action. Jesus accepted responsibility for helping those who needed him.

Seek out the problems and opportunities in your sphere of influence. Be proactive. Go to where things are happening, and spend time with your coworkers and customers.

The first step toward empowering others to lead is to be an engaged and influential leader yourself.

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority.”

After going to his people, seeing their needs, and being moved to take action, Jesus turned to his disciples. He could have solved the people’s problems himself, but he chose to empower his disciples to help.

Jesus was a leader who raised up other leaders, and this is the key to the passage.

Jesus called his disciples to him. He would be their equipper, not someone else. He gave his disciples the authority to act in his behalf.

Jesus did not equip everyone. He only equipped the few who were ready. He called the few and then empowered them to follow his example.

The best leaders equip others by teaching the teachable and sending them out to become leaders themselves.

If God has blessed you with the ability to lead, use your gift to empower others. Remember Ephesians 4:12 which says God gives you his gifts “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (NKJV).

Be the leader who empowers others to lead.

Source http://godscareerguide.com/the-leader-who-empowers-others/

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Commentary on Matthew 10:1-7 From Living Space

We begin today the second of the five discourses of Jesus which are a unique feature of Matthew’s gospel. It consists of instructions to Jesus’ disciples on how they are to conduct their missionary work and the reactions they can expect in carrying it out.

It begins by the summoning of the inner circle of twelve disciples. Matthew presumes we already know about their formal selection, which he does not recount. (Mark and Luke clearly distinguish the selection from the later missioning.) These twelve disciples are now called apostles.

The two words are distinct in meaning and we should not confuse them. A disciple (Latin discipulus, from discere, to learn) is a follower, someone who learns from a teacher and assimilates that teaching into his own life. An apostle (Greek, apostolos, ‘apostolos from apostello, ‘apostellw) is someone who is sent out on a mission, someone who is deputed to disseminate the teaching of the master to others. In the New Testament a distinction is made between the two. All the gospels, for instance, speak of the Twelve Apostles and Luke mentions 72 Disciples.

However, that does not mean the two roles are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, all of us who are called to be disciples are also expected to be apostles, actively sharing our faith with others. It is very easy for us to see ourselves, ‘ordinary’ Catholics, as disciples and to regard priests and religious as doing the apostolic work of the Church. That would be very wrong. Every one of us called to be a disciple is eo ipso, in virtue of Baptism and Confirmation, also called to be an apostle.

Applied to the twelve men (yes, they were all men – and thereby hang many disputes!) the word ‘apostle’ does have a special sense. They would become, so to speak, the pillars or foundations on which the new Church would be built, with Peter as their leader. They would have the special role of handing on and interpreting the tradition they had received from Jesus, a role which in turn they handed on to what we now call the bishops, with the pope, as leader and spokesperson.

Later on, Paul would be added to their number and Matthias would be chosen to replace the renegade Judas. In fact, it is interesting to see the mixed bunch of people that Jesus chose. We know next to nothing about most of them but they were for the most part simple people, some of them definitely uneducated and perhaps even illiterate. Judas may well have been the most qualified among them. And yet we see the extraordinary results they produced and the unstoppable movement they set in motion. The only explanation is that it was ultimately the work of God through the Holy Spirit.

The first instructions they are given are to confine their activities to their own people. They are not to go to pagans at this stage or even to the Samaritans. As the heirs to the covenant and as God’s people, the Jews are to be the first to be invited to follow the Messiah and experience his saving power. And their proclamation is the same one that Jesus gave at the outset of his public preaching: “The Kingdom of Heaven [i.e. of God] is at hand.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2144g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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The second great Discourse: The Discourse of the Mission begins in charter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew.  Matthew organizes his Gospel as a new edition of the Law of God or like a new “Pentateuch” with its five books.  For this reason his Gospel presents five great discourses or teachings of Jesus followed by a narrative part, in which he describes the way in which Jesus puts into practice what he had taught in the discourses.  The following is the outline:
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Introduction: the birth and preparation of the Messiah (Mt 1 to 4)
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a) Sermon on the Mountain: the entrance door into the Kingdom (Mt 5 to 7)
Narrative Mt 8 and 9
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b) Discourse of the Mission: how to announce and diffuse the Kingdom (Mt 10)
Narrative Mt 11 and 12
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c) Discourse of the Parables: The mystery of the Kingdom present in life (Mt 13)
Narrative Mt 14 to 17
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d) Discourse of the Community: the new way of living together in the Kingdom (Mt    18)
Narrative 19 to 23
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e) Discourse of the future coming of the Kingdom: the utopia which sustains hope (Mt 24 and 25)
Conclusion: Passion, death and Resurrection (Mt 26 to 28)
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• Today’s Gospel presents to us the beginning of the Discourse of the Mission, in which the accent is placed on three aspects: (a) the call of the disciples (Mt 10, 1); (b) the list of the names of the twelve Apostles who will be the recipients of the Discourse on the Mission (Mt 10, 2-4); (c) the sending out of the twelve (Mt 10, 5-7).
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• Matthew 10, 1: The call of the twelve disciples. Matthew had already spoken about the call of the disciples (Mt 4, 18-22; 9, 9).  Here, at the beginning of the Discourse of the Mission, he presents a summary: “He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to drive them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and all kinds of illness”. The task or the mission of the disciple is to follow Jesus, the Master, forming community with him and carrying out the same mission of Jesus: to drive out the unclean spirits, to cure all sorts of diseases and all orts of illness.
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In Mark’s Gospel they receive the same two-fold mission, formulated with other words: Jesus constituted the group of Twelve, to remain with him and to send them out to preach and cast out devils” (Mc 3, 14-15). 1) To be with him, that is to form a community, in which Jesus is the center.  2) To preach and to be able to cast out the devils, that is, to announce the Good News and to conquer the force of evil which destroys the life of the people and alienates persons.  Luke says that Jesus prayed the whole night, and the following day he called the disciples.  He prayed to God so as to know whom to choose (Lk 6, 12-13).
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• Matthew 10, 2-4: The list of the names of the Twelve Apostles. A good number of these names come from the Old Testament.  For example, Simon is the name of one of the sons of the Patriarch Jacob (Gn 29, 33). James is the same as Giacomo (Gn 25, 26). Judas is the name of the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Matthew also had the name of Levi (Mk 2, 14), who was the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Of the Twelve Apostles seven have a name which comes from the time of the Patriarchs.  Two are called Simon; two are called James; two are called Judas, one Levi!
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Only one has a Greek name: Philip. This reveals the desire of people to start again the history from the beginning! Perhaps it is good to think in the names which are given today to the children when they are born.  Because each one of us is called by God by his/her name.
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• Matthew 10, 5-7: The sending out or the mission of the twelve apostles toward the lost sheep of Israel.  After having given the list of the names of the twelve, Jesus sends them out with the following recommendation: “Do not make your way to gentile territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town, go instead to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”.
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In this one phrase there is a three-fold insistence in showing that the preference of the mission is for the House of Israel: (1) Do not go among the gentiles, (2) do not enter into the towns of the Samaritans, (3) rather go to the lost sheep of Israel. Here appears a response to the doubt of the first Christians concerning opening up to pagans. Paul, who strongly affirmed the openness to the gentiles, agrees in saying that the Good News of Jesus should first be announced to the Jews and, then to the gentiles (Rm 9, 1 a 11, 36; cf. At 1, 8; 11, 3; 13, 46; 15,1. 5.23-29). But then, in the same Gospel of Matthew, in the conversation of Jesus with the Canaanite woman, the openness to the gentiles will take place (Mt 15, 21-29).
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• The sending out of the Apostles toward all peoples. After the Resurrection of Jesus, there are several episodes on the sending out of the Apostles not only toward the Jews, but toward all peoples. In Matthew: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything which I have commanded.  And I will be with you until the end of time” (Mt 28, 19-20). In Mark: “Go to the entire world, proclaim the Good News to all creatures. Those who will believe and will be baptized will be saved; those who will not believe will be condemned” (Mk 15-16). In Luke: “So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this (Lk 24, 46-48; Ac 1, 8) John summarizes all in one phrase: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you!”  (Jn 20, 21).
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Personal questions
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• Have you ever thought sometime about the meaning of your name? Have you asked your parents why they gave you the name that you have? Do you like your name?
• Jesus calls the disciples. His call has a two-fold purpose: to form a community and to go on mission.  How do I live in my life this two-fold purpose?
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Concluding Prayer
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Seek Yahweh and his strength,
tirelessly seek his presence!
Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders,
the judgements he has spoken. (Ps 105,4-5)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JULY, 2017, Wednesday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time
SENT TO THE LOST SHEEP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 41:55-5742:5-717-24Ps 32:2-3,10-11,18-19Mt 10:1-7  ]

In the gospel today, the Lord sent out the twelve with the following instruction, “Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”  This specific command from the Lord seems contrary to our understanding of the Church’s mission to evangelize the whole world.   Why did Jesus tell the apostles to confine themselves to the lost sheep of Israel rather than to go out of Palestine to proclaim the Good News to all?  Does not the Lord also care for the Gentiles?

Undoubtedly, the gospel is for all and not for the Jews.  God wants all peoples to be saved.  However, the gospel cannot be proclaimed to the whole world unless some are chosen for the task.  Israel, as the chosen race of God, had been given this task of spreading the Good News to all nations.  Israel had been blessed by God, not for her sake but for the sake of humanity.  For the same reason, in the first reading, we read of the divine providence and intervention of God to save Joseph from his enemies.  He became the economic leader of Egypt.  The Lord wanted to prepare Joseph for the birth of Israel when he would invite his family to make their home in Egypt for 400 years.  It was in Egypt that the people grew in strength and in number till it was time for them to move out of Egypt and found their own country and kingdom.

In the same way too, what the Church needs today in the work of evangelization is to look within and not just without.  The irony of the Church is that we are so keen in making new converts to the faith, baptizing and confirming candidates, forgetting the need for discipleship and mentoring for those who are already baptized.  We should not be surprised therefore if more souls are lost from within the Church than the number being brought into the Church.  Our nets are broken because the fishes are swimming out whilst we are too busy catching new fishes.  What is critical therefore is to look within and make use of what we already have for the work of evangelization, rather than focus on bringing in new admissions into the Church only.   If we cannot retain our members, it shows that we are weak.

Indeed, we have many lost sheep today.  Who are these that could be considered as lost?  They are those who have left the Church completely because they are disillusioned with the Church.  Some have lost faith completely in God because God was not felt or experienced. But the majority are nominal Catholics or seasonal Catholics who come to Church occasionally and in a perfunctory manner.  We have many of these.  Indeed, statistics in most churches show that only around 10% of our church members are active in their faith or in ministries.  And out of these, many are there out of goodwill, but they lack real formation and depth in their faith.

Hence, the work of evangelization cannot be fruitful if the majority of our members are indifferent and laid back Catholics.  Not only are they not witnesses of the gospel but in fact they are counter-witnesses.  There is no neutrality in the faith. By not being a witness, we are telling others implicitly that there is nothing great about Jesus and that He makes no difference in our lives.  The Church therefore cannot grow so long as we do not give more focus in forming and strengthening the faith of our existing Catholics, both intellectually and personally; and also to reach out to those who have left the faith for various reasons.  Many of them have left more out of emotional than doctrinal reasons.  This explains why Jesus told the disciples to go to the lost sheep of Israel first.   As Church, if we want to be evangelistic and missionary minded, then we must form our Catholics well and disciple them.

How can this be done?  Firstly, we need to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom anew.  Jesus said to the apostles, “and as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”   How can we proclaim that the Kingdom is near if not through miracles, healing, liberation and good deeds?   We cannot proclaim the Kingdom by words alone but by actions.  Accordingly, Jesus gave them the authority and power as well.  He did not appoint us as His apostles and ambassadors without also empowering us to do so.  “Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  If our own Catholics do not experience the Good News in terms of the power and mercy of God in their own lives, there is no Good News to proclaim.

Secondly, we need authority.  This authority is more than just being given the power or the office. This is institutional authority.  Whilst important, institutional authority must be accompanied by personal authority.  If our witnessing is lacking power, it is because we do not speak with authority either by our words and less by our lives.  No one will listen to us if we are hardly convinced of what we say and, worse still, when we do not walk the talk.  What is needed to transform the world are not preachers or even teachers but witnesses, people who are so filled with God’s love and mercy by their words and works.

Thirdly, we need intense formation.  It is significant that the Lord only chose the Twelve to be with Him for three years.  He did not spend all His time with the crowd or seeking to make His name known in Palestine and beyond.  Although He did reach out to the crowd, He spent more time with His apostles than with others.  The Twelve were always gathered around Him, listening to Him and watching how He lived, prayed and related with His Father and with others.  There was mentorship and learning from the Lord.

This is the greatest negligence of the Catholic Church.  We do not underscore the importance of ongoing formation.  The only formation we give emphasis to is the Catechumenate.  The truth is that faith is an ongoing process.  Not everything can be learnt or grasped even if we have faithfully gone through the whole RCIA.  Formation of faith in one’s spiritual life, whether personal or intellectual, never stops because it is ongoing.  Even as bishop, I am still learning, reflecting, praying and studying about our faith.  Catholics must be reminded again and again that ongoing formation in faith, whether done formally in a classroom setting or informally through the sharing of the Word with fellow Catholics, is indispensable for a deepening of one’s faith in Christ.

More than just formation, we also need good mentors who teach through inspiration and guidance.  Do we have good mentors around to disciple the new comers in the faith or in our ministry or the young?  Again, this is another failure on our part.  Older priests are not mentoring younger priests, parents not mentoring children, etc.  We need to train and form mentors for those who are still weak in the faith.  We need to empower our mentors.  The lack of witnesses and teachers make the rest of the Church weak.

Today, we must realize that we are called in our own ways to be agents of transformation in society, beginning with our own family, society and office.  Like the apostles, we are all diverse and different.  But it is because of our differences that we are one in mission, collaborating with each other, according to our charisms and unique gifts for the service of Christ and His Church.   Let us go back to the lost sheep of Israel, the lost Catholics who have either left the Church or are ignorant about their faith.  These people are our first priority.  Unless we renew our own faith personally and those of our Catholics, we cannot be the salt and light of the world.  Following the exhortation of Pope Francis, we must begin on the path of interior conversion; and Pope Emeritus who, during the Year of Faith, invited us to rediscover, re-appropriate and renew our faith.  Like Joseph who sought to help his brothers to repent of their sins, we too must bring back the lost sheep of our Church.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh