Posts Tagged ‘hope’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, January 11, 2018 — The Lesson of Total Defeat and the Cure of a Leper — Never Surrender Hope

January 10, 2018

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 308

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Lepers beg Jesus that they be healed

Reading 1 1 SM 4:1-11

The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.
Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer,
while the Philistines camped at Aphek.
The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel.
After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines,
who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.
When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said,
“Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today
by the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh
that it may go into battle among us
and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there
the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim.
The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.
When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp,
all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.
The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked,
“What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”
On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp,
the Philistines were frightened.
They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”
They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us!
Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?
These are the gods that struck the Egyptians
with various plagues and with pestilence.
Take courage and be manly, Philistines;
otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews,
as they were your slaves.
So fight manfully!”
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 44:10-11, 14-15, 24-25

R. (27b) Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
Yet now you have cast us off and put us in disgrace,
and you go not forth with our armies.
You have let us be driven back by our foes;
those who hated us plundered us at will.
R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
You made us the reproach of our neighbors,
the mockery and the scorn of those around us.
You made us a byword among the nations,
a laughingstock among the peoples.
R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
Why do you hide your face,
forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust,
our bodies are pressed to the earth.
R. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.

Alleluia  SEE MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Jesus heals


Gospel  MK 1:40-45

A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said,
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand,
touched the leper, and said to him,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once.
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything,
but go, show yourself to the priest
and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed;
that will be proof for them.”
The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter.
He spread the report abroad
so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly.
He remained outside in deserted places,
and people kept coming to him from everywhere.

Pope Francis’ Reflection For 1 Samuel 4:1-11 and Mark 1:40-45

Faith makes the difference between victory and defeat, says Pope Francis, and faith is not something we learn in books, but simply a gift — a gift we should ask for.

The Holy Father contrasted the defeat of the Israelites recounted in the First Reading with the victory of the leper recounted in the Gospel.

Taken from Samuel, the First Reading speaks of the Philistines’ conquest: “the slaughter was very great,” and the people lost everything, “[even] their dignity,” the Pope noted.

“What led to this defeat?” he asked. It was because the people “slowly walked away from the Lord, lived in a worldly fashion, and even kept with idols.”

The people went out to the Sanctuary of Shiloh, but, “as if it were a mere cultural habit,” he said. They had lost their filial relationship with God – they did not worship God – and He left them alone.

Even the Ark of the Covenant was viewed more as a magic talisman, Francis said. “In the Ark,” he recalled, “was the Law – the Law that they did not keep and which they had abandoned.” There was no longer “a personal relationship with the Lord – they had forgotten the God who had saved them,” and were defeated.

Thirty thousand Israelites were slain, the Ark was taken by the Philistines, the two sons of Eli, “those criminal priests who exploited people in the Sanctuary of Shiloh,” met their end. It was “a total defeat,” the Pope said. “Thus does a people that has distanced itself from God meet its end.”

Moving mountains

The Gospel of the day, however, speaks of a victory, the Pontiff explained:

“At that time, a leper came to Jesus and begged him on his knees – precisely in a gesture of adoration – and said, ‘Look, you can make me clean.’ He challenged the Lord, saying, ‘I have been defeated in life’ – the leper had suffered defeat, insofar as he could not live life in common with others, he was always cast off – ‘but you [he said to the Lord] can turn this defeat into victory!.’ That is: ‘Look, you can make me clean.’ Before this Jesus had compassion, he stretched out his hand, touched him and said, ‘I desire that you be made clean!’

“So, simply: this fight is over in two minutes and ends in victory; that other lasts all day long, and ends with the defeat. The man had something that drove him to go to Jesus and send up the challenge: he had faith.”

The Apostle John says that the victory over the world is our faith. “Our faith wins, always!”:

“Faith is the victory. Faith: like [that of] this man [who said], ‘If you want to, you can do it.’ The losers of the First Reading prayed to God, bearing the ark, but they had no faith, they had forgotten it. This leper had faith, and when you ask with faith, Jesus himself told us, mountains will move. We are able to move a mountain from one place to another: faith is capable of this. Jesus himself said, ‘Whatever you ask the Father in my name, you will be given. Ask and you shall receive; knock and it shall be opened,’ but with faith – and this, this is our victory.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily with this prayer:

“We ask the Lord that our prayers always have that root of faith, that they be born of faith in Him. The grace of faith: faith is a gift. You do not learn [it] from books. It is a gift that the Lord gives you, but just ask for it: ‘Give me faith!’ ‘I believe, Lord!’, said the man who asked Jesus to heal his son: ‘I ask Lord, that you help my unbelief.’ Prayer with faith … and the man is healed.

“We ask God for the grace to pray with faith, to be sure that everything we ask of Him we will be given, with the confidence that faith gives us – and this is our victory, our faith.”



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Homily from the Abbot of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
It is not easy for us to understand being excluded completely from society, as were lepers in much of the Old Testament and even in the time of Jesus. Perhaps at this time in history, a close approximation to this situation would be someone who has just returned from a countrywiththeebola virus. There can be an enormous fear of being infected and a complete rejection of the person who has beeninanebola area.Thinking aboutebola and the scare that it can cause helps us understand the first reading and the Gospel today. The first reading, from the Book of Leviticus, tells us about how lepers are to be treated. We understand this attempt at quarantine as an effort to protect the community as a whole. Such efforts are not rejection of a person but an honest attempt to deal with the disease the person might spread and which could affect the whole people.The person afflicted with leprosy seeks healing in order to be allowed back into normal society.

Most of us don’t want to be completely shunned by others! We want to belong to society even if we don’t need to be the center of attention. Sotoo the person with leprosy. He or she would want to become part of the community once again but it would be impossible for most of them. For a few, whatever disease afflicted them might disappear and they could be readmitted.In the Gospel, a leper comes to Jesus and is cured. Jesus tells the leper not to tell others. That is impossible. The Gospel tells us that then Jesus begins to remain outside, in deserted places. That is to say, Jesus begins to live as most lepers lived: apart from others and in deserted places. It is almost as if Jesus trades place with the leper after he cures him.Two challenges present themselves to us today. Am I willing to pray for the life of others and to ask God to cure them? Most of us Christians, followers of Jesus, are able to pray for others. But am I willing to offer my own life for the sake of another person? It is not just the healing of the other person, but am I willing to take on the form of a slave, as was Jesus?

Am I willing to become outcast from all others so that another person can be accepted once more within the human community? Am I willing not to seek my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved? This is the teaching of the First Letter to the Corinthians in the second reading today.

To follow Jesus and to ask the healing presence of Jesus is not about doing good without a cost! Instead, I must be willing to give up my life for others, as did our Lord Jesus. There is no life in Christ without being willing to give up my life. There is always a cost to following Jesus. Yet we know that if we give all, He also will give us all in His Kingdom. Praise God forever!


Commentary on Mark 1:40-45 from Living Space

This healing story does not actually belong to that “Day in the life of Jesus” which we reflected on over the past two days.

Lepers were among the most piteous of people in scriptural times. Although little was known of the origin of the sickness, it was clearly known to be contagious and therefore greatly feared. The only solution was to isolate the victim and not allow him/her to approach people. So, apart from the appalling physical disintegration of body and limbs, there was the social ostracism, the contempt and the fear which the victim engendered.

What was probably even more tragic was that many who were branded as lepers were suffering from some other ailment, which may not have been contagious at all – such as ulcers, cancer or other skin diseases (some of them perhaps purely psychosomatic). The signs for diagnosis are given in chapter 13 of the Book of Leviticus and, by our standards today, are rather primitive indeed. The room for a wrong diagnosis was huge. It was a question of being safe rather than sorry.

The leper in the story indicates his great faith and trust in Jesus, a necessary and sufficient condition for healing in the Gospel. “If you wish, you can make me clean,” he says. He knows this because he has undoubtedly seen or heard of what others have experienced.

Jesus is filled with a deep sense of compassion for the man’s plight. Highlighting the emotional feelings of Jesus is a characteristic of Mark’s gospel and is seldom found in Matthew. What Jesus feels is compassion not just pity. In pity we feel sorry for the person; in compassion, we enter into the feelings of the other, we empathize with their experience. And in doing so Jesus does the unthinkable – he reaches out to touch the leper. This must have been a healing act in itself. The leper was by definition untouchable. “I do will it.” says Jesus, “Be made clean.” The man is immediately healed.

But that is not the end of the story because the man has still to be reintegrated into the community – this is the second part of the healing process. He is told to go to the priests to make the customary offering of thanksgiving. They will examine him and then pronounce him fit to re-enter society.

He is also told not to say anything to anyone about it. Jesus wanted no sensationalism. But how could the man refrain from telling everybody about his wonderful experience of coming in contact with the whole-making power of Jesus? He becomes an ardent evangeliser, a spreader of good news – something we are all called to be.

What is the outcome of our experience of knowing Jesus? How come we do not have the enthusiasm of this man? It is worth noting that that experience was the result of his first having been the victim of a terrible cross. It is often in our crosses that grace appears.

Once again, Jesus goes out into the desert to avoid the enthusiastic crowds. Jesus was not interested in having “fans”, only genuine followers. He would not be ready until his full identity was recognised. That would only happen as he hung dying on the cross (Mark 15:39)

Before we leave this story, we may ask who are the lepers in our society today? One very obvious group are those who have contracted contagious diseases like HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases which are becoming ever more widespread. Even though these are of little danger to most people who have no physical contact, the victims are often rejected in fear or disgust or embarrassment by family members, friends, employers, colleagues, even medical people.

There are also people like homosexuals. If many of them are not lepers it is simply because they dare not reveal their orientation. They dare not do so because they are most likely to be “leper-ized” by even family and friends. There are other marginal groups – nomadic groups like Romanies, drug addicts, poor single mothers, the homeless, alcoholics… Indeed, we have many lepers among us. Let us examine our attitudes today and revise them if necessary.


The leper women as shown in the film “Ben Hur”
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
11 JANUARY, 2018, Thursday, 1st Week, Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 SM 4:1-11Mk 1:40-45   ]

When we experience failure at work or in ministry, we tend to blame others for our difficulties.  We try to look for scapegoats for our mistakes.  This was the case of the Israelites.  When they were defeated by the Philistines, “about four thousand of their army were killed on the field”, they began to ask “Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines?”  Instead of looking at themselves, the morale of the soldiers, the moral standards of the officers, their military preparedness, they sought other reasons.

Oftentimes, when we feel guilty about our sins, we can become overly superstitious.  Instead of putting our house in order, we think God is taking revenge on us.   The Israelites came to conclude that it was because the Ark of the Covenant was not there.  Instead of repenting for their sins, they took out the Ark of the Covenant.  They said, “Let us fetch the ark of our God from Shiloh so that it may come among us and rescue us from the power of our enemies.’  So the troops sent to Shiloh and brought away the ark of the Lord of hosts, he who is seated on the cherubs; the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, came with the ark.  When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel gave a great shout so that the earth resounded.”  Religion became a means to satisfy their selfish interests.  Instead of being used by God and allowing Him to work in our lives, we seek to make use of God and to control how He is to fulfill our whims and fancies.

The Israelites’ faith in God was based on a mere superstitious belief in the mechanical action of God through the Ark of the Covenant, when in fact it was but a symbol and a promise of His presence with them.  Unless they were open to His presence and faithful to His covenant, the Ark could not save them. As a result, they were slaughtered by the Philistines.  “So the Philistines joined battle and Israel was defeated, each man fleeing to his tent.  The slaughter was great indeed, and there fell of the Israelites thirty thousand foot soldiers.  The Ark of God was captured too, and the two sons of Eli died, Hophni and Phinehas.”

This is true for many of us.  There are many Catholics who hardly pray or attend Church services regularly and least of all, live an upright life, but they would carry their rosary and wear blessed medals for divine protection.   Some think that if they wear the scapular, they will be protected from all harm and be assured of salvation, regardless what they do.  Such thinking is no better than the way the Israelites made use of the Ark of the Covenant.  When we are not ready to look into the source of our problems, we will end with more dire consequences.  Just blessed medals alone cannot protect us unless we have a faith relationship with God.  Unless we know Jesus, His strength and His power, when it comes to the test of faith, we will falter.  The blessed medals can only protect us provided we believe in the power of the one whom the medal represents.   But this presupposes that we have a living relationship with Jesus or Mary or the saints that are represented in the medals.  What the medal or scapular does for us is to help us to recall the presence of the saints so that we will not be afraid or think that we are alone in our time of difficulty.

What was the real reason for the Israelites’ failure to defeat their enemies?  It was their sinful life that pushed God out of their lives.  The leaders, including the religious leaders, were laxed in their moral life.  As a result, God had abandoned them to themselves.  Earlier on, the Lord said to Samuel, “On that day I will fulfil against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I tell him that I am about to punish his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering for ever.”  (1 Sm 3:12-14)

Holiness of life is essential to the success of our ministry.  This is the key to fruitfulness in ministry and work.  But we also cannot be superstitious in our relationship with God as the Israelites did over the Ark of the Covenant.  We must not treat our prayers like magic or instruments to control God.  Today, we must be like the leper who begged for healing.  We must begin by acknowledging our sins and our need for mercy.  “Yet now you have rejected us, disgraced us; you no longer go forth with our armies. You make us retreat from the foe and our enemies plunder us at will. You make us the taunt of our neighbours, the laughing-stock of all who are near. Among the nations, you make us a byword, among the peoples a thing of derision.  Awake, O Lord, why do you sleep?  Arise, do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face and forget our oppression and misery?”  We must confess our sins humbly, especially in the Sacrament of reconciliation so that we can begin our relationship anew with the Lord.

Most of all, we must listen to the Word of God attentively as Samuel did.  This also explains why the author said, “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.”  (1 Sm 3:1)  They could no longer hear the voice of God.   Indeed, when our lives are not in order, we cannot act in accordance with the will of God.  Without hearing the Word of God, we cannot act according to His word.  If we want to act in union with the Lord, we must seek His will.  This is what the Lord asks of us.   “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”  (Mt 7:24f)

Faith in God’s power is dependent on us hearing the Word of God first.  For this reason, Jesus preached the Word before He healed.  He instructed the disciples, “And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  You received without pay, give without pay.” (Mt 10:7f) He solicited faith in the person before He performed the miracle.   So too, in our healing ministry, the Word of God always precedes the sacramental action.  The Word of God comes before the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  Without faith the action that we perform would be meaningless and lacking in power.  Preaching must always be accompanied by signs.  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. And these signs will accompany those who believe.”  (Mk 16:15f)

We ask the Lord to redeem us because of His love.  This is what the psalmist prayed.  We must place our confidence in His love for us.  The leper approached Jesus humbly and with trust in His love and power.   He was assured that Jesus would not reject him, for lepers were not supposed to come near to the people.  Jesus is ever ready to heal us and empower us, for that is what He said, “A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’  Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.  ‘Of course I want to!’ he said.  ‘Be cured!’  And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured.”   Indeed, Jesus showed forth not just His power but His love by touching the untouchables.  Not only did Jesus heal his body but also his heart which needed much acceptace and human love.

However, like the leper, we must cooperate with His grace.  He was told to see the priest and make an offering.  “Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’”  We must cooperate in prayer and conversion of life.  Many of us are not fruitful in our ministry, nor in our workplace, or even in family life because we are not living a righteous life.   St John Mary Vianney once asked a priest who lamented that his ministry was not fruitful, whether he had prayed, fasted or did penance.  If he had not done all these, then he had no reason to complain.  Let us renew our love for the Lord, beg for His mercy and open our hearts to His healing grace.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, January 8, 2018

January 7, 2018

The Baptism of the Lord
Lectionary: 21

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Reading 1  IS 42:1-4, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

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IS 55:1-11

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of nations,
so shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.


ACTS 10:34-38

Peter proceeded to speak to those gathered
in the house of Cornelius, saying:
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
is acceptable to him.
You know the word that he sent to the Israelites
as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all,
what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.”


1 JN 5:1-9

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

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 29:1-2, 3-4, 3, 9-10

R. (11b) The Lord will bless his people with peace.
Give to the LORD, you sons of God,
give to the LORD glory and praise,
Give to the LORD the glory due his name;
adore the LORD in holy attire.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters,
the LORD, over vast waters.
The voice of the LORD is mighty;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.
The God of glory thunders,
and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
The LORD is enthroned above the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as king forever.
R. The Lord will bless his people with peace.


IS 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.R/ You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

Alleluia CF. JN 1:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
John saw Jesus approaching him, and said:
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Homily from the Abbot
My sisters and brothers in Christ, . The Holy Spirit is our focus today as this Spirit comes down upon Jesus.  Once the Holy Spirit has come upon the Lord Jesus, then the Lord Jesus begins His public ministry.  It is the Spirit that drives Jesus into the desert and the Spirit that He gives to us when He dies. Already in Isaiah 42, the first reading today, we can sense this deep longing for a savior who will have the spirit of God guiding him.
All of us want to be saved when we find ourselves in difficult places of life.  We are invited to meet the Lord Jesus as our Savior.  Isaiah reflects the longing of the people and in time the Savior comes who brings light into the darkness. Jesus can bring light into our darkness if we let Him do that.
It is important that we come to see how we deal with the darkness around us.  What do we do when we feel conflict, when we are aware of our own brokenness, when we are tempted to things not good for us?  Quite often we do nothing until we find ourselves with problems in our lives because of our actions! What do we do when others cause problems in our lives?  What do we do when outside circumstances create difficulties for us?
What do we do when we lose a job, when we don’t have enough money, when life seems impossible?  Looking at how we respond to life tells us about our belief in a Savior. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles today tells us that whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.
Do we even think of God?  Do we ask the help of God?  Do we have a confidence that God will get us through every situation?  We are invited to live in the Spirit as Jesus did and begin to trust completely that God will walk with us and show us the way! The Gospel of Matthew today shows us the baptism of Jesus.
The life of Jesus changes from this point forward in a way that we can see.  Jesus walks with God and begins to relate to others, proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  May we come to rejoice in our own baptism and to know that we are changed.  May we live our lives as people called by the Lord to proclaim His Kingdom.

We can only do this if we are completely open to His help, to a complete conversion, to an awareness that nothing else in life really has meaning outside of the Kingdom.  My sisters and brothers, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

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Baptism of Christ by Brian Jekel
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
This Gospel fragment (Mt 3:13-17) is part of a narrative section of Matthew the Evangelist, the section that introduces the public life of Jesus. After the flight into Egypt, Jesus lives in Nazareth. Now, as an adult, we find him on the banks of the river Jordan. The meeting of the two is part of the concluding section dedicated to John the Baptist.
Anyone who wishes to go deeper into the personality of John and his message (Mt 3:1-12 has already been presented to us in the liturgy of the second Sunday of Advent) needs to keep in mind the whole of chapter 3 of Matthew. Our passage concentrates especially on the acknowledgement of the divinity of Christ at the time of his baptism. God the Father reveals the identity of Jesus.
A division of the text as an aid to its reading: . Matthew 3:13 : setting Matthew 3:14-15 : dialogue John-Jesus Matthew 3: 16-17 : epiphany/theophany .
A moment of silent prayer … that the Word of God may penetrate our hearts and enlighten our lives.
Some questions . ….to help us in our meditation and prayer. . Why does Jesus “appear” after his hidden life in Nazareth? . How does awareness of his identity and mission grow? . Have I, at some time, taken on something new in my life? . Who or which experience has most revealed to me my identity, vocation and mission? e) What does the memory of my baptism mean to me?
Meditation A key to the reading: Together with a historical-chronological reading of the passage, the episode of the baptism of Jesus and his meeting with John before he begins his public life, we need to keep in mind also a symbolical reading, assisted by the Fathers of the East, a symbolism that is the framework of this liturgical season of Christmas and which concludes with the full manifestation of God as man: a synthesis of the manifestation-epiphany of the Son of God in the flesh.
A commentary on the text: Mt 13: 13 The adult Jesus After John “appears” on the scene (13:1), Jesus of Nazareth, where he spent his childhood and early youth (Mt 12:23), goes to the river Jordan. As a good Israelite, he watches the authentic religious movements that spring up among the people. He shows that he approves of the work of John and decides to be baptised with water, not, of course, to receive forgiveness for sins, but to unite himself and share fully in the expectations and hopes of all men and women.
It is not humankind that goes to Him, but He who goes towards humankind, according to the logic of the incarnation. Mt 13:14-15 the dialogue of John with Jesus John’s attempt to prevent the baptism of Jesus is his acknowledgement of the difference between the two and an awareness of the new (the New Covenant) making its appearance.
“The one who follows me… will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire… his winnowing-fan is in his hand… will clear… will gather… will burn…” (vv.11-12). Jesus’ attitude is still one of submitting to God’s saving plan (in this way, do all that righteousness demands), respecting the manner (in humility-kenosis) and the times (the time-kairos).
We also see the difference between the two from their families of origin (priestly for John), from the places (Jerusalem for John, Nazareth for Jesus) from the manner of conception (a proclamation to the father, Zachary, in the old style; a proclamation to the mother, Mary), the parents’ ages (those of John old).
Everything points to the passage from the old to the new. Matthew prepares the readers for the newness of the Christ: “you have heard it said, but I say to you” (Mt 5). Mt 13:16-17 the presentation of God the Father and the Holy Spirit In Matthew’s Gospel we have the solemn “adoration of the Magi” in acknowledgement of the royalty and divinity of Jesus. Luke also adds the acknowledgement of Elisabeth (Lk 1:42-43), of the angels (Lk 2:13-14) of the shepherds (Lk 2:20), and of the old Simeon and Anna (Lk 2:30; 28).
All the Evangelists record the proclamation of the divine identity of Jesus by God the Father and the Holy Spirit present in the form of a dove. Matthew says clearly “This is” not “you are” my Son, the Beloved. . Jesus is divine by nature and also the new Adam, the beginning of a new humanity reconciled with God as well as nature reconciled with God by means of Christ’s immersion in the waters.
The heavens are reopened after being closed for such a long time by sin, and earth is blessed. The descent of Christ into the waters prefigures his descent into hell and the words of the Psalmist come true (Ps 74: 13-14), he crushes the head of the foe. The Baptism not only prefigures, but inaugurates and anticipates Satan’s defeat and the liberation of Adam. However, it will not be easy to recognise the Messiah in his weakness. John himself has some doubts when in prison, and he sends his disciples to ask “are you the one who is to come or have we got to wait for someone else?” (Mt 11:3). .
For those who wish to go deeper into the liturgical and ecumenical aspects . In the tradition of the Eastern churches, the Baptism of Jesus is the most important liturgical feast of the Christmas cycle. On 6 January they celebrate together the baptism, birth, visit of the Magi, the wedding feast of Cana, as one fact. Rather than the historical development of the life of Jesus, they stress his theological-saving relevance.
They do not dwell on the sentimental aspect, but on the historical manifestation of God and his acknowledgement as Lord. Cyril of Jerusalem says that Jesus gives the waters of baptism “the colour of his divinity” (III mystagogic catechesis, 1). . Gregory Naziazen writes that the creation of this world and the creation of the spiritual world, once foes, reunite in friendship, and we humans, united in one choir with the angels, partake of their praises (PG 46,599). The descent into the waters corresponds to the descent into the bowels of the earth symbolised by the birth in a cave.
The destructive waters become waters of salvation for the just. The Old Testament readings of the liturgical Vespers recall the saving waters: the Spirit hovers over the waters at the time of creation (Gn 1), the waters of the Nile save Moses (Ex 2), the waters open for the people of Israel to go through (Ex 14), the waters of Mara become sweet (Ex 15), the waters of the Jordan open before the Arc (Jos 3), the waters of the Jordan heal Naaman the leper (2Kings 5) etc. .
Jesus then at the wedding feast in Cana transforms water into wine (Jn 2) as a sign that the time of salvation has come. At this feast in the eastern liturgy, there is a tradition of blessing water in a spring or river by immersing the cross three times (the triple baptismal immersion). This recalls the prophet Isaiah: let the wilderness and the dry lands exult (Is 35:1-10), come to the water all you who are thirsty (Is 55: 1-13), draw water joyfully (Is 12:3-6).
Psalm 114 (113) . Alleluia! When Israel came out of Egypt, the House of Jacob from a people of foreign speech, Judah became his sanctuary, and Israel his domain. The sea fled at the sight, the Jordan turned back, the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like sheep. Sea, what makes you flee? Jordan, why turn back? Why skip like rams, you mountains? Why like sheep, you hills? Tremble, earth, at the coming of the Lord, at the coming of the God of Jacob, who turns rock into pool, flint into fountain.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
08 JANUARY, 2018, Monday, Baptism of the Lord
08 JANUARY, 2018, Monday, Baptism of the Lord

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 55:1-111 JOHN 5:1-9MARK 1:7-11   ]

“Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come! Buy corn without money, and eat, and, at no cost, wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy?”  Indeed, many are seeking meaning and fulfillment in life.  We know that the things of this earth cannot satisfy us, no matter how much we have.  We might have a luxurious life.  We might have plenty.  Yet, our lives are empty and meaningless.  Money, food, luxury alone and even career cannot give us real happiness in life.

Who, then, can give us fullness of life?   St John wrote, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  (1 Jn 5:11f)  Faith in Christ is the key to the fullness of life.  This faith renders us a share in Christ’s sonship.  “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten by God; and whoever loves the Father that begot him loves the child whom he begets.”   The way to share in Christ’s sonship is through baptism which is given through faith.

Indeed, today, when we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, we are reminded of our own baptism.  The baptism of Jesus is the basis for Christian baptism.  Christ Himself did not need to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins because He was sinless.  Yet, He insisted on John the Baptist baptizing Him for our sake. In being baptized with the waters of the Jordan, rather than being sanctified, Jesus sanctified the waters of the Jordan.  By extension, He sanctified all the waters for the use of baptism.  Through the symbol of water, the Lord saves us from our sins by His death and resurrection, since baptism is a call to being immersed in the water and to rise up a new person.  Baptism is a commitment to die to our old selves and rise to a new life in Christ.

But water is also a symbol not just of death and newness of life, it is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  We are reminded of the Samaritan Woman who asked for the living water.  Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”  (Jn 4:10)  Christ is the living water and the one who will baptize us in the Holy Spirit.  John the Baptist said, “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”  Consequently, the psalmist invites us, “Truly, God is my salvation, I trust, I shall not fear. For the Lord is my strength, my song, he became my saviour. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

Cleansed of our sins and given a new rebirth in the Holy Spirit, we are made sons and daughters of God.  It is the Holy Spirit living in us that makes us children of God.  It is the Holy Spirit living in us that gives us the experience of being sons and daughters of God, loved and empowered by Him.  This was the experience of our Lord.  “No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’”  It was this consciousness of His sonship that propelled Him to begin the mission of proclaiming His Father’s unconditional love and mercy.   St Paul affirmed this fact when he wrote,  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”  (Rom 8:14-17)

Becoming a son and daughter of God entails that we are brought into complete union with Christ through the Sacraments of Initiation, namely, Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation.  It is through the Sacraments of Initiation that we are made truly sons and daughters of God, sharing in the life of Christ. For this reason, St John wrote, “Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God: Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is the truth.”

Baptism is but a necessary gateway to all the sacraments of the Church.  Baptism itself is not sufficient to save us.  It only gives us the grace and the possibility to grow to adult manhood in Christ.  St Paul makes is clear that the gifts He gave us are meant “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.”  (Eph 4:12-14)  After baptism, we must make full use of the means to sanctification provided by the Church of Christ, the other sacraments, the Eucharist, devotions, instructions and service to the community and to the poor.  Through these means, we can grow in our discipleship.

Unfortunately, many of us are born again in baptism but never grow to full maturity!  We do not take our dignity as sons and daughters of God seriously.   St John wrote, “We can be sure that we love God’s children if we love God himself and do what he has commanded us; this is what loving God is – keeping his commandments.”   If we do not live the life of Christ, then we are just children of God in name, not in fact.  A nominal faith in Christ will not save us.  In the commissioning, Jesus told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”  (Mt 28:19f)

The truth is that parents do not instruct their children in the faith, or lesser still, show the way of faith by their examples and their Christian way of life.  This explains why many of our children lose their faith, or their faith never truly grows.  A number of them do not go to church, or for catechism classes and for the sacraments because their parents either do not bring them or discourage them from going. They would wait till it is the time to receive their First Communion or Confirmation, then they might bring them to Church.  Of course, with such half-baked Catholics, many would leave the Church after Confirmation as they do not have a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus, and a relationship with Him.

Prophet Isaiah invites us to “seek the Lord while he is still to be found, call to him while he is still near.”  We are called to nurture ourselves in the Word of God.   God’s word is effective and efficacious if we take the Word of God which we read, “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 the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.”

Through our love for the Word of God and the Eucharist as the Bread of Life, we will be able to nurture ourselves in the faith, strengthen our relationship with the Lord and with His body, the Church.  Because many of us hardly pray the Word of God and meditate on it, we are not directed in our lives by the Spirit of Christ but by the spirit of the world.   In addition, because we do not reinforce ourselves as members of the body of Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, our link with the Church is weak.  Thus, when tempted by the world, we are easily deceived by the world.  Without a love for the Word of God and the Eucharist, we cannot be enlightened in the truth or be more incorporated into the life of Christ.

One sure way we can grow in our faith is to be His witnesses.  The Holy Spirit is given to us not just to build the Body of Christ and our personal faith but also to be His witnesses in the world.  Only by testifying to Christ by our words and deeds, can we draw others to the Lord as we grow in our faith and love for Him. Indeed, baptism is the beginning of mission as was in the case of Jesus.  It was His conscious experience of His sonship and the love of His Father that enabled Him to go about proclaiming the love of His Father.  So too we cannot say that we are baptized and yet not be His witnesses.  The failure to be His witnesses means that our baptism is just a ritual, a nominal faith.  If we really believe that we are God’s children, that God loves us and that Christ is the Son of God, we will not stop sharing Christ with the world and those who are seeking fullness of life.  So let us take to heart the exhortation of Isaiah “See, I have made of you a witness to the peoples, a leader and a master of the nations. See, you will summon a nation you never knew, those unknown will come hurrying to you, for the sake of the Lord your God, of the Holy One of Israel who will glorify you.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Image may contain: one or more people

Book “Holy Spirit” by Edward Leen. Father Leen was a teacher who encouraged everyone to “invite the Holy Spirit into ourselves and our lives.” He encouraged all to seek “The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit”

The “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” if we seek — will reward us with a good conscience — an inner feeling or voice that drives us always toward, love, the good and the right. If we work to develop this indwelling we will be rewarded.
Unfortunately, in today’s secular society, we seem to have fewer who are seeking. So how can they possibly find?
The Gospels tell us to pray, meditate and consume Christ — make him a part of us and us in him.
This is intertwined with the mystery of the Eucharist….
We don’t have to “get it.” But we’ll be a lot happier if we do it!

Man’s Spiritual Dimension Governs All Human Rights

We seem to live today in a world of upheaval.

The Islamic State proclaims a caliphate, and promises heavenly rewards for the killing of those who reject Islam.

Christians are being slaughtered in great numbers.

All around the globe, people argue over human rights.

But where do our “human rights” come from?

China’s Communist government says only the Communist Party can bestow human rights. In the Muslim world, there seems to be a belief that only adherent to the Quran merit human rights. Apparently, murder and beheading of non-Muslims is acceptable to the Profit.

Yet Christians believe that human rights are bestowed by God. Christianity is rooted in the belief that man has an undeniable spiritual dimension. Many Christians believe that the Holy Spirit dwells within each and every human being — and this spirituality can be increased or minimized by the way each of us lives the Gospel.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
Related here on Peace and Freedom:
God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and 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!

Rohingya community expresses sense of relief after meeting Pope — “Life is a suffering for us. Pope Francis said God almighty will shower blessings on us.”

December 4, 2017

Pope Francis gestures during a news conference on board of a plane on December 2, 2017, during a flight back from a seven-day trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh. (AFP)
DHAKA: Eleven-year-old Shawakat Ara could not hold her emotion after meeting Pope Francis on Friday evening. For some time she could not utter a word.
“Pope assured me that everything would be fine and he would fight for our rights,” said Ara, narrating her brief interaction with the pontiff in Dhaka.
With eyes moist and voice quivering, Ara said she felt “emotionally touched when Pope held her hands and put his hand on my head. I felt someone is there to hear and understand my pain.”
Ara was the youngest of the 16-member Rohingya group that was brought in from the refugee camps in Cox Bazar, southern Bangladesh, to meet the Vatican chief.
Narrating her personal tragedy to Arab News, Ara said: “My parents, grandparents, maternal aunts, brothers and sisters were killed by the Burmese military in a shoot-out last year before Eid.
“I witnessed the killing of my parents from the hiding place in my home. My younger brother was also beaten to death. I fled home along with my fellow villagers and after two days of hard journey I took a boat and reached a refugee camp in Bangladesh.
“I have lost my home, my parents. I have nothing to look forward to. I hope the Pope really does something for me and my community.”
Hajjera Khatun, 29, nurtures a similar hope. Last year, when she was fleeing her Imam Para village in Buchi Dong area of Myanmar, she was subjected to gang rape by the Myanmar army when she lost her way in the melee and got separated from her husband. When she regained consciousness, she resumed her journey in a condition so heart-wrenching that the boatman at the Myanmar-Bangladesh border took pity on her and ferried her to the other side of the river without charging any money.
“I narrated my travails to the Pope and all the brutalities I have gone through. He told me God is almighty and He will shower blessings on me,” said Khatun.
Talking to Arab News she added: “Pope told me that when he goes back home he will discuss about my issue and the issue of the community with others.”
On the penultimate day of his Bangladesh trip, Pope Francis met a group of Rohingya refugees and assured them all of support in their fight for rights in Rohingya.
“Pope’s gesture is very important and this will help in galvanizing international political and moral support for the cause of the hapless Muslim community in Myanmar,” said Nezam Uddin, a Rohingya activist, living in Naya Para refugee camp in Cox Bazar in Bangladesh.
“Pope advocated for the rights and dignity of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. This will further put pressure on the Buddhist regime in Myanmar to treat us with respect that we deserve,” Nezam told Arab News.
“Hope something comes out of Pope’s visit. Life is a suffering for us and the world community should take note of that and address our problem,” said Sayadur Rehman, a carpenter living in Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.

Remarks by President Donald Trump at the 2017 Values Voter Summit — “We Don’t Worship Government. We Worship God.”

October 14, 2017

Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C.

10:22 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Tony.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  You know, I’ve been here before.  (Laughter.)  You do know that.  Before the big day on November 8th, I was here.  I want to thank Mark Meadows and all of the folks that have really made this possible.  And, Tony, tremendous guy.

We have some incredible people that we love and that we’re involved with.  So we all know that.  And I’m being followed by Mr. Bennett — you know that, right?  And I’ve been watching him say nice things about me before I knew him.  Those are the ones I like — (laughter) — where they speak well of you before you know them.  Right?

But I really want to thank everybody, and, Tony, for your extraordinary leadership of this organization.  And I want to thank, also, Lawana, for your dedication to the faith community and to our nation.  Work so hard.

It’s great to be back here with so many friends at the 2017 Values Voter Summit, and we know what that means.  (Applause.)  We know what that means.  America is a nation of believers, and together we are strengthened and sustained by the power of prayer.  (Applause.)

Image result for donald trump, values voters, photos

As we gather for this tremendous event, our hearts remain sad and heavy for the victims of the horrific mass murder last week in Las Vegas.  It was an act of pure evil.

But in the wake of such horror, we also witnessed the true character of our nation.  A mother laid on top of her daughter to shield her from gunfire.  A husband died to protect his beloved wife.  Strangers rescued strangers, police officers — and you saw that, all of those incredible police officers, how brave they were, how great they were running into fire.  (Applause.)  And first responders, they rushed right into danger.

Americans defied evil and hatred with courage and love.
The men and women who risked their lives to save their fellow citizens gave proof to the words of this scripture: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  (Applause)

All of America is praying for the wounded and the grieving, and we will be with them today and we will be with them forever.  (Applause.)  Just want to finish by saying that — really, and we understand it was so horrific to watch and so terrible — but to those who lost the ones they love:  We know that we cannot erase your pain, but we promise to never, ever leave your side.  We are one nation, and we all hurt together, we hope together, and we heal together.  (Applause.)

We also stand with the millions of people who have suffered from the massive fires, which are right now raging in California, and the catastrophic hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands.  And I will tell you, I left Texas, and I left Florida, and I left Louisiana, and I went to Puerto Rico, and I met with the president [governor] of the Virgin Islands.

These are people that are incredible people.  They’ve suffered gravely, and we’ll be there.  We’re going to be there.  We have, really — it’s not even a question of a choice.  We don’t even want a choice.  We’re going to be there as Americans, and we love those people and what they’ve gone through.  And they’re all healing, and their states and territories are healing, and they’re healing rapidly.

In the wake of the terrible tragedies of the past several weeks, the American people have responded with goodness and generosity, and bravery.  You’ve seen it.  The heroism of everyday citizens reminds us that the true strength of our nation is found in the hearts and souls of our people.

When America is unified, no force on Earth can break us apart.  (Applause.)  We love our families.  We love our neighbors.  We love our country.  Everyone here today is brought together by the same shared and timeless values.  We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life.  (Applause.)

We believe in strong families and safe communities.  We honor the dignity of work.  (Applause.)  We defend our Constitution.  We protect religious liberty.  (Applause.)  We treasure our freedom.  We are proud of our history.  We support the rule of law and the incredible men and women of law enforcement.  (Applause.)  We celebrate our heroes, and we salute every American who wears the uniform.  (Applause.)

We respect our great American flag.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

And we stand united behind the customs, beliefs and traditions that define who we are as a nation and as a people.

George Washington said that “religion and morality are indispensable” to America’s happiness, really, prosperity and totally to its success.  It is our faith and our values that inspires us to give with charity, to act with courage, and to sacrifice for what we know is right.

The American Founders invoked our Creator four times in the Declaration of Independence — four times.  (Applause.)  How times have changed.  But you know what, now they’re changing back again.  Just remember that.  (Applause.)

Benjamin Franklin reminded his colleagues at the Constitutional Convention to begin by bowing their heads in prayer.

Religious liberty is enshrined in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.  And we all pledge allegiance to — very, very beautifully — “one nation under God.”  (Applause.)

This is America’s heritage, a country that never forgets that we are all — all, every one of us — made by the same God in Heaven.  (Applause.)

When I came to speak with you last year, I made you a promise.  Well, one of the promises I made you was that I’d come back.  See?   (Applause.)  And I don’t even need your vote this year, right?  That’s even nicer.  (Laughter.)

But I pledged that, in a Trump administration, our nation’s religious heritage would be cherished, protected, and defended like you have never seen before.  That’s what’s happening.  That’s what’s happening.  You see it every day.  You’re reading it.

So this morning I am honored and thrilled to return as the first sitting President to address this incredible gathering of friends — so many friends.  (Applause.)  So many friends.  And I’ll ask Tony and all our people that do such a great job in putting this event together — can I take next year off or not?  (Laughter.)  Or do I have to be back?  I don’t know.


THE PRESIDENT:  He’s saying — they’re saying no.  Lawana is saying no.  That’s means no.  (Laughter.)

So I’m here to thank you for your support and to share with you how we are delivering on that promise, defending our shared values, and in so doing, how we are renewing the America we love.

In the last 10 months, we have followed through on one promise after another.  (Applause.)  I didn’t have a schedule, but if I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule.  (Applause.)

Some of those promises are to support and defend the Constitution.  I appointed and confirmed a Supreme Court Justice in the mold of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia, the newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch.  (Applause.)

To protect the unborn, I have reinstated a policy first put in place by President Ronald Reagan, the Mexico City Policy.  (Applause.)  To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony at the White House on our National Day of Prayer — (applause) — which day we made official.  (Applause.)

Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises to so many of you: to prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors or our ministers or rabbis.  These are the people we want to hear from, and they’re not going to be silenced any longer.  (Applause.)

Just last week, based on this executive action, the Department of Justice issued a new guidance to all federal agencies to ensure that no religious group is ever targeted under my administration.  It won’t happen.  (Applause.)

We have also taken action to protect the conscience rights of groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor.  You know what they went through.  (Applause.)  What they went through — they were going through hell.  And then all of the sudden they won.  They said, how did that happen?  (Laughter.)

We want to really point out that the Little Sisters of the Poor and other people of faith, they live by a beautiful calling, and we will not let bureaucrats take away that calling or take away their rights.  (Applause.)

We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  And something I’ve said so much during the last two years, but I’ll say it again as we approach the end of the year.  You know, we’re getting near that beautiful Christmas season that people don’t talk about anymore.  (Laughter.)  They don’t use the word “Christmas” because it’s not politically correct.  You go to department stores, and they’ll say, “Happy New Year” and they’ll say other things.  And it will be red, they’ll have it painted, but they don’t say it.  Well, guess what?  We’re saying “Merry Christmas” again.  (Applause.)

And as a Christmas gift to all of our hardworking families, we hope Congress will pass massive tax cuts for the American people.  (Applause.)  That includes increasing the child tax credit and expanding it to eliminate the marriage penalty.  (Applause.)  Because we know that the American family is the true bedrock of American life.  So true.  (Applause.)  This is such an exciting event because we are really working very hard, and hopefully Congress will come through.

You saw what we did yesterday with respect to healthcare.  It’s step by step by step.  (Applause.)  And that was a very big step yesterday.  Another big step was taken the day before yesterday.  And one by one it’s going to come down, and we’re going to have great healthcare in our country.  We’re going to have great healthcare in our country.  (Applause.)  We’re taking a little different route than we had hoped, because getting Congress — they forgot what their pledges were.  (Laughter.)  So we’re going a little different route.  But you know what?  In the end, it’s going to be just as effective, and maybe it will even be better.  (Applause.)

For too long, politicians have tried to centralize the authority among the hands of a small few in our nation’s capital.  Bureaucrats think they can run your lives, overrule your values, meddle in your faith, and tell you how to live, what to say, and how to pray.  But we know that parents, not bureaucrats, know best how to raise their children and create a thriving society.  (Applause.)

We know that faith and prayer, not federal regulation — and, by the way, we are cutting regulations at a clip that nobody has ever seen before.  Nobody.  (Applause.)  In nine months, we have cut more regulation than any President has cut during their term in office.  So we are doing the job.  (Applause.)  And that is one of the major reasons, in addition to the enthusiasm for manufacturing and business and jobs — and the jobs are coming back.

That’s one of the major reasons — regulation, what we’ve done — that the stock market has just hit an all-time historic high.  (Applause.)  That just on the public markets we’ve made, since Election Day, $5.2 trillion in value.  Think of that:  $5.2 trillion.  (Applause.)  And as you’ve seen, the level of enthusiasm is the highest it’s ever been, and we have a 17-year low in unemployment.  So we’re doing, really, some work.  (Applause.)

We know that it’s the family and the church, not government officials, that know best how to create strong and loving communities.  (Applause.)  And above all else, we know this:  In America, we don’t worship government — we worship God.  (Applause.)  Inspired by that conviction, we are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face.

This afternoon, in a little while, I’ll be giving a speech on Iran, a terrorist nation like few others.  And I think you’re going to find it very interesting.  (Applause.)

Yesterday, things happened with Pakistan, and I have openly said Pakistan took tremendous advantage of our country for many years, but we’re starting to have a real relationship with Pakistan and they’re starting to respect us as a nation again, and so are other nations.  They’re starting to respect the United States of America again, and I appreciate that.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank the leaders of Pakistan for what they’ve been doing.

In this administration, we will call evil by its name.  (Applause.)  We stand with our friends and allies, we forge new partnerships in pursuit of peace, and we take decisive action against those who would threaten our people with harm.  (Applause.)  And we will be decisive — because we know that the first duty of government is to serve its citizens.  We are defending our borders, protecting our workers, and enforcing our laws.  You see it every single day like you haven’t seen it in many, many years — if you’ve seen it at all.  (Applause.)

In protecting America’s interests abroad, we will always support our cherished friend and partner, the State of Israel.  (Applause.)  We will confront the dangers that imperil our nation, our allies, and the world, including the threat of radical Islamic terrorism.  (Applause.)

We have made great strides against ISIS — tremendous strides.  I don’t know if you’ve seen what’s going on, but tremendous strides against ISIS.  They never got hit like this before.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Stand up.  Stand up.  Let me see — he’s a rough guy.  I can see it.

But they’ve been just ruthless and they’ve ruthlessly slaughtered innocent Christians, along with the vicious killing of innocent Muslims and other religious minorities.  And we’ve made their lives very, very difficult — believe me.  (Applause.)
We’ve done more against ISIS in nine months than the previous administration has done during its whole administration — by far, by far.  (Applause.)  And ISIS is now being dealt one defeat after another.  We are confronting rogue regimes from Iran to North Korea, and we are challenging the communist dictatorship of Cuba and the socialist oppression of Venezuela.  And we will not lift the sanctions on these repressive regimes until they restore political and religious freedom for their people.  (Applause.)

All of these bad actors share a common enemy, the one force they cannot stop, the force deep within our souls, and that is the power of hope.  That is why, in addition to our great military might, our enemies truly fear the United States.  Because our people never lose faith, never give in, and always hope for a better tomorrow.

Last week, Melania and I were reminded of this in a powerful way when we traveled to Las Vegas.  We visited a hospital where some of the survivors were recovering from absolutely horrific wounds.  We met a young man named Brady Cook.  He’s 22 and a brand-new police officer.  That night was Brady’s second day in field training — his second day as a policeman, can you believe that?  But when the shooting began, he did not hesitate.  He acted with incredible courage, rushing into the hail of bullets, and he was badly shot in the shoulder.

This is what Brady said: “I didn’t expect it, but it’s what I signed up for.  When stuff goes down, I want to be there to face evil and to protect the good, innocent people that need it.”  And here’s a young guy, great guy — and second day.  I said, Brady, don’t worry about it, it’s going to be easier from here.  (Laughter and applause.)  Brady is a hero, and he can’t wait to get back on the job.

Several weeks before, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, a local furniture storeowner, who’s known in Texas as “Mattress Mack,” decided he had to help.  When the rain began to flood the streets of the city, he sent out his furniture trucks to rescue the stranded.  He brought them back to his stores, and gave them food and a clean, dry place to stay, even if it meant ruining countless dollars’ worth of furniture.

As “Mattress Mack” put it, “My faith defines me, it’s who I am.”  “We can afford [the cost]…what we can’t afford” — we can’t — and he said this very strongly, “what we can’t afford is to cause people to lose hope.”

In Brady and Mack, we see the strength of the American spirit.  This spirit of courage and compassion is all around us, every day.  It is the heartbeat of our great nation.  And despite certain coverage, that beat is stronger than it’s ever been before.  You see right through it.  (Applause.)  That beat is stronger than it’s ever been.

We see this spirit in the men and women who selflessly enlist in our armed forces and, really, who go out and risk their lives for God and for country.  And we see it in the mothers and the fathers who get up at the crack of dawn; they work two jobs and sometimes three jobs.  They sacrifice every day for the furniture and — future of their children.  They have to go out.  They go out.  They work.  The future of their children is everything to them.  They put it before everything.  And they make sure that the future of their children has God involved in it.  So important to them.  (Applause.)

We see it in the church communities that come together to care for one another, to pray for each other, and to stand strong with each other in times of need.

The people who grace our lives, and fill our homes, and build our communities are the true strength of our nation, and the greatest hope for a better tomorrow.

As long as we have pride in our country, confidence in our future, and faith in our God, then America will prevail.

We will defeat every evil, overcome every threat, and meet every single challenge.  We will defend our faith and protect our traditions.  We will find the best in each other and in ourselves.  We will pass on the blessings of liberty, and the glories of God, to our children.  Our values will endure, our nation will thrive, our citizens will flourish, and our freedom will triumph.

Thank you to the Value Voter Summit.  Such an incredible group of people you are.  Thank you to all of the faithful here today.  And thank you to the people of faith all across our nation and all over the world.

May God bless you.  May God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

END                10:51 A.M. EDT

Dan Brown Says Collective Consciousness and AI Will Replace God — Believers Say God Will Always Be There for Us ; Even If Man Turns His Back On God

October 12, 2017

By Douglas Busvine

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Humanity no longer needs God but may with the help of artificial intelligence develop a new form of collective consciousness that fulfils the role of religion, U.S. author Dan Brown said on Thursday.

Brown made the provocative remark at the Frankfurt Book Fair where he was promoting his new novel, “Origin”, the fifth outing for Harvard “symbology” professor Robert Langdon, the protagonist of “The Da Vinci Code”, a book that questioned the history of Christianity.

“Origin” was inspired by the question “Will God survive science?”, said Brown, adding that this had never happened in the history of humanity.

Writer Dan Brown attends a photocall to promote the film "Inferno" in Paris
Writer Dan Brown poses during a photocall to promote the film “Inferno” in Paris, France, October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

“Are we naive today to believe that the gods of the present will survive and be here in a hundred years?” Brown, 53, told a packed news conference.

Set in Spain, “Origin” opens with Langdon arriving at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao for an announcement by a reclusive billionaire futurist that promises to “change the face of science forever”.

Events quickly take an unexpected turn, providing a plot vehicle for Langdon to visit the historic sites of Spain – including Barcelona, capital of the northern region of Catalonia that is now in the grip of a secession crisis.

Brown, who studied art history in Seville, expressed his concern and sympathy for both sides in the political stand-off.

“I love Catalonia. I love Spain. I hope they work it out. It’s a heartbreaking situation, but it’s also a sign of the times,” said Brown, adding the crisis also reflected the tension in society between the ancient and the modern.

Brown, who has sold 200 million books in 56 languages, admitted to not having read a novel in five years. But he investigated deeply and spent a lot of time talking to futurists to come up with the storyline for “Origin”.

He recognised that his views may not be welcomed by clerics, but called for greater harmony between the world’s great religions and those who profess no faith.

“Christianity, Judaism and Islam all share a gospel, loosely, and it’s important that we all realise that,” he said. “Our religions are much more similar than they are different.”

Turning to the future, Brown said technological change and the development of artificial intelligence would transform the concept of the divine.

“We will start to find our spiritual experiences through our interconnections with each other,” he said, forecasting the emergence of “some form of global consciousness that we perceive and that becomes our divine”.

“Our need for that exterior god, that sits up there and judges us … will diminish and eventually disappear.”

(Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


An opposite view…..

Lawlessness abounds and our leaders are calling it good and not evil. Our only hope is in Christ and His coming!

I must admit; I am a news hog. In all likeliness, I watch and read more news than the average person. I know this because my friends have started to ask me for updates on the daily news, so they do not have to cull through all of it. I admit to my insatiable appetite for local, national and world news in order to make this statement: I truly believe we have lost our humanity as a civil society.

This is the saddest realization I have come to. As I watch the news and read news reports, all I see is murder and deceit. There is no longer a love or respect for human life. There are people killing other people for no other reason than they are bored!! Can you imagine that? Someone is BORED and MURDERS another human being to alleviate their boredom. That is the craziest thought and statement ever conceived. The idea that you can or should take another person’s life simply because you have nothing else to do is completely ludicrous and the worse kind of evil.

How could this happen? Where are the parents? What is society teaching our children that they believe murder is a form of entertainment? Think about that! Think about the minds of people who entertain themselves by playing the knockout game, where they come up to an unsuspecting person and coldcock them to knock them out. That is a game today, and it does not matter if the person is elderly or pregnant. It is all “just for fun”.

Where have our young people learned the value of human life? They have learned from our courts, which embraced abortion and dehumanized the baby in the womb in order to allow women to use abortion as a form of birth control. They have learned it from adults who abuse and murder their children. They have learned it from the rioters and looters who cause chaos and mayhem all in the name of protesting violence. They have learned it from radical Islam, who rape young girls, decapitates, crucifies, burns alive and drowns innocent men, women and children; and they can watch it all on the internet. They have learned it from society, which is no longer civil.

It is time to put to rest the idea many people like to believe, “Man is basically good.” There is no bigger lie perpetrated upon the world. It is a lie straight from the father of lies, Satan, who told it to make people believe they did not need God. If man is good, he has no need for a Savior.

I believe society has proven this lie for what it is. Man is basically evil and, without God, is completely without redemption. This should not be a surprise. God knows the wickedness of man and He told us our hearts are wicked: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is not the first time society has come to the point of overwhelming evil. This was the state of the world before the Lord sent the flood. The wickedness of man was the reason God sent the flood. It was not something He did for fun or entertainment. He did it to give man another chance:

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart (Genesis 6:5).

During Noah’s time, man had lost their humanity. There was no kindness or compassion for each other. They were evil in everything they did. God saw Noah and his family and He saw the opportunity to start over: But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8).

It may sound crazy, but I think we have gone beyond the inhumanity displayed before the flood. I believe the heart of God is incredibly grieved, as He sent His Son for our redemption and His Holy Spirit to guide and direct our paths. In spite of all He has done for us, mankind has embraced evil and shunned goodness. We call good evil and evil good, and God’s Word tells us there is a price for this:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21).

It is apparent, we have gotten to this point because man truly believes he is wise, but it is only in his own mind. Think about all the world leaders who have removed God from the lives of the people. There is no room for God in the classroom, so the children learn evil is good and good is evil. There is no room for God is business, so greed and corruption abounds. There is no room for God in the family, so abuse, adultery and molestation have become the norm instead of random acts of violence.

It is time for the world to wake up and realize, outside of Jesus Christ there is no love, grace and mercy. Without Christ, we are a people with absolutely no hope. For outside of Christ, there will be no repentance, no lives will be transformed and evil will abound. That is where we are today, people. Lawless abounds and our leaders are calling it good and not evil. Our only hope is in Christ and His coming!

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:11-13).

I pray you would endure to the end, so you will be saved by the redemptive blood of Christ. Do not look to the world for hope for you will not find it. We have hope everlasting in the promises of God:

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).


~Staff Writer

Calvary Chapel Golden Springs

Bishops in the Philippines Urge Bell-Ringing, Prayers to Protest Bloody Drugs War — “We disagree that a criminal has no more hope of changing his life.”

September 22, 2017

MANILA — Stepping up a campaign against President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, Catholic bishops in the Philippines have called for church bells to be rung for the next 40 nights, and congregations to light candles and pray for the killing to end.

A pastoral letter by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) sent to priests urged Catholics to pray for victims from Saturday until All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, when Filipinos traditionally pay respects to the dead.

More than 3,800 people have been killed in anti-drugs operations in the past 15 months and at least 2,100 murders are suspected of being drug-related, according to police data, though human rights groups believe the numbers are understated.

“The relentless and bloody campaign against drugs that shows no sign of abating impels us, your bishops, to declare: In the name of God, stop the killings!” Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the head of the CBCP, said in the letter.

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Archbishop Socrates Villegas: “In the name of God, stop the killings!”

Such messages are typically read aloud in church or distributed to their congregations.

Many Catholic churches in the capital have already started lighting candles and ringing bells for five minutes each day at 8 p.m..

Thousands of Filipinos rallied against Duterte on Thursday to protest against what they fear is an emerging dictatorship, and several churches held mass against the killings and urged people to renounce violence.

The bishops are among the most influential dissenting voices to come out against the Duterte’s uncompromising strategy.

Having been largely silent on the issue when it first erupted last year, priests have increasingly taken a stand against the anti-drugs campaign.

As bodies started to appear nightly in Manila’s slums, the church stepped up its opposition, denouncing the killings and in some cases, providing sanctuary to witnesses of killings and drug users who feared they could be targeted.

Villegas said the country’s bishops were firmly against drugs, but killing was not the solution and prayer was “the most powerful weapon in our arsenal”.

Rights groups dispute official police accounts that say drug suspects were killed because they violently resisted arrest. Critics accuse police of executing users and small-time dealers and planting evidence, which police reject.

Pablo Virgilio David, bishop in Manila’s Caloocan City, where large numbers of drug-related killings have taken place, urged the authorities to end the killings and let healing begin.

“We disagree that we should treat them like monsters to be eliminated like stray cats and dogs,” he said of drug users and criminals. “We disagree that a criminal has no more hope of changing his life.”

(Editing by Martin Petty & Simon Cameron-Moore)

Pope: Basic Values Give Italy Cause to Hope Despite Woes — Talks About ‘Christianity at Work’

June 10, 2017

ROME — Pope Francis has paid a call on Italy’s president and encouraged Italians to cling to hope despite economic woes, especially the lack of jobs for young people.

Francis spoke of young Italians’ difficulties in finding “stable and dignified work,” saying that fuels “distrust in the future and doesn’t favor the birth of new families and children.” But he said holding to fundamental values of human and family dignity helps preserve hope.

President Sergio Mattarella and schoolchildren visiting from earthquake-devastated towns in central Italy greeted Francis. Francis, in his simple Ford car, had been driven across town from the Vatican midday Saturday morning, right past city buses and drawing waves from surprised tourists.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis paid an official visit on Saturday to the President of Italy, Sergio Matarella at the Quirinale palace in Rome. During his visit he spoke of  “the Church in Italy as being strongly linked to the soul of the country.”


The last time Pope Francis visited the Quirinale, the residence of the President of Italy and of Popes of the past, was back in November 2013 during the Presidency of Giorgio Napolitano, but this time the Holy Father was paying a call on Sergio Mattarella, President of the Republic since 2015.

In the majestic surroundings of this historic palace Pope Francis in a speech to the President spoke about Christian hope in a world of problems and risks.

The Pope said that Italy and the whole of Europe were being called to deal with problems such as international terrorism, “the widespread migratory phenomenon and the serious and persistent social and economic imbalances in many areas of the world.”

As far as the vast and complex migratory phenomenon is concerned, Pope Francis commented that  “it is clear that a few nations cannot bear the full burden, adding, “for this reason, it is indispensable and urgent to develop a comprehensive and intensive international cooperation.”

But the Holy Father also noted that Italy, “through the generous nature of its citizens and the commitment of its institutions was working to transform these challenges into growth opportunities and new opportunities.

Pope Francis in particular highlighted the work being done by Italy to help refugees who land on its shores, and the commitment of volunteers and parishes especially during the earthquakes that hit Central Italy last year, highlighting that this was Christianity at work.

Another issue that the Pope returned to during his address was that of employment and he reiterated his call “for generating and accompanying processes that give rise to new decent working opportunities.”

To those gathered in the Quirinale the Holy Father stressed that “the Church in Italy is a vital reality, strongly linked to the soul of the country…”

In conclusion, Pope Francis said that “in the Catholic Church and in the principles of Christianity…, Italy will always find the best ally for the growth of society, for its concord and for its true progress.”

As Christians Are Killed in The Middle East, Asians Tell Us Never To Give Up Hope — “Christ is Always With Us”

May 29, 2017

My own hope dissipates sometimes, as we read the headlines from around the world. Muslims killing Christians. North Korea threatening nuclear war. The global environment worsening by the day. China still torturing and in denial about human rights.

Yet my own Asian-Christian brothers and sisters re-awaken me every time, with messages of prayerful hope.

I hear my friend Thomas, who converted to Christianity in Kerala, India where he grew up many years ago.

St. Thomas the apostle, also known as Didymus, arrived in the shores of Kerala, India in 52 AD, preaching the gospel. My friend Thomas, heard that same gospel in Kerala in the 1950s, and became a Catholic.

“He ran home,” his wife told me, “And said he found the answer to all our problems. He said the entire family was going to convert. And we did.”

Soon they moved to Ethiopia to live among other Christians and teach. Then they moved to the United Sates and “went to church every day.”

“We never lost hope. Jesus says, ‘Do not be afraid.'”

Others email me their stories, from Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea and elsewhere. The messages from the Gospels are always there: Hope, Charity, Devotion, Prayer, Service to others. And often there is something more: a kind of quite, dignified defiance.

“We will never submit,” one recently wrote to me. “They can’t kill us all. Even if they could; we’d win.”

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom



 (Includes the story of Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan)

“He Leadeth Me” by Fr. Walter Ciszek

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Father Jacques Hamel was killed in his church while saying Mass, July 26, 2016. Martyrs are still with us today.

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Francois Murad, a Catholic priest, was kidnapped and beheaded by jihadist fighters in Syria, June 2013

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Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, the last catholic Bishop of Saigon before the Communists took over, kneeling while praying in prison

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Philippines — Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013

Related: Sanctity of Human Life

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The Sin of Judas Was Not the Betrayal — He has many dreadful sins and we might fall into the same trap…. God never abandons us, but we may abandon Him…

April 13, 2017

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.  Matthew 26:6-16  (Gospel of Pre-Sanctified Liturgy on Holy Wednesday Morning) Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent


Good morning Prayer Team!

The “Passion” of Christ refers to His sufferings.  The first act of the Passion was the betrayal by Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, one of His friends.

The sins of Judas are many.  The first sin was greed.  We read about the greed of Judas in John 12: 3-6:

Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feed of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.  But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (he who was to betray Him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to take what was put into it.

The devil is a real presence in the world.  He seeks to enter into every person who loves Christ, and he tries to exploit our weakest link.  In the case of Judas, it was money.  The devil couldn’t motivate Judas to murder Christ, but he Judas’ motivation of greed so that Judas betrayed Christ to those who would eventually see to it that He was murdered.  In Luke 22:3-6, we read:

Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve, he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them.  And they were glad, and engaged to give him money.  So he agreed, and sought an opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.

The betrayal itself was not an act of violence.  Ironically, it was an act of affection.  Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, a sign of friendship:

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying “The One I shall kiss is the Man; seize Him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said “Hail, Master!” And he kissed Him.  Jesus said to him “Friend, why are you here?”  Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. (Matthew 26:48-50)

Up to this point in the story, the actions of Judas are common to ALL of us.  We all have weaknesses.  And the devil exploits these weaknesses.  He enters into each of us through doubt and distraction, which eventually lead to actions that are destructive for us and those around us. He enters into marriages, into friendships, anywhere there is good, you will find him trying to turn good into bad.   And most of our sins are not sins of violence, but sins of affection gone wrong.  After all, who is it that we sin against the most?  Our families and our friends, the one with whom we are the closest.  And while we may never take up a weapon to hurt someone in physical way, we all use our mouths and our minds as weapons to inflict emotional harm on others.  In some way, we all betray friends, confidences, courtesies and in so doing, we all betray Christ.

The greatest sin of Judas was not greed, giving into the devil or betrayal.  The greatest sin of Judas was his failure to repent.  It was his failure to believe in the Lord’s ability to forgive him and to love him again.

When Judas, His betrayer, saw that He was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.”  They said “What is that to us?  See to it yourself.”  And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed and he went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5)

The door to repentance is open to everyone, no matter what we’ve done.  It was open to the harlots and tax collectors that Jesus forgave and embraced. It was open for Peter, who three times denied Christ.  It was open to the thief on the cross.  That door was even open to Judas.

The elements of Judas’ betrayal are foreshadowed in the fall of mankind.  The first sin of Adam and Eve was greed.  They wanted the one thing that God told them they were not to have, to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They betrayed God in eating from the tree.  And when confronted, they lied, rather than repenting.  Had they repented, would the outcome to the story been different?  What if Judas had repented?

There is an old English adage that says “Still as of old, man by himself is priced.  For 30 pieces of silver, Judas sold himself, not Christ.”  Jesus paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross.  There are two things we must offer in order to collect our reward, salvation:  First, faith, and second, repentance each time we fail to live according to the Faith.  It wasn’t betrayal that doomed Judas and it isn’t betrayal that is going to doom us.  Repentance means changing direction, from the direction that takes us away from Christ, to the direction that takes us toward Him.  Repentance is the key that opens the door to salvation.  It could have for Judas.  It still can for us.

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When Your glorious Disciples were enlightened at the washing of the feet before the Supper, then the impious Judas was darkened by the disease of greed, and delivered You, the Righteous Judge, to lawless judges.  Behold, O love of money, the one, who hanged himself for the sake of money.  Flee from this insatiable desire, which dared such a thing against the Teacher.  O Lord, Who deals righteously with all, glory to You. (Apolytikion of Bridegroom Service on Holy Wednesday Evening and the Service of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)

Repent daily!  Repent today!


+Fr. Stavros

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Judas and Suicide: Can Judas be Forgiven?

by Nancy Ann McLaughlin

Are there “pure” evil persons that God cannot or will not forgive? Remember before you answer that God is all powerful and humans cannot force God to do or not to do anything.

In theory perhaps there are unforgivable persons. But theories are only good so far as they help individuals determine the best course of action for their own lives. For instance the theory that suicide is unforgivable may be in encouraging someone not to commit suicide. But there is a danger to using a theory in an attempt to condemn another person – I would hate it if someone were to judge me or my loved ones in that manner.

Many persons believe in, or have heard of, unforgivable “sins” such as suicide, BUT I suspect that such labels reflect more humankind’s misunderstanding or revulsion regarding such behavior. Thus such actions are apt to be a cultural tradition, norm, or taboo than a God-given decree or attitude towards someone who feels that desperate.

Is Judas’ suicide a moral evil? Many people believe that people like Judas (or Hitler) cannot or will not be forgiven – but that is between those persons and God alone to determine. Others cannot know what actually happened at the moment of each such person’s death. But “in theory” one can look at the possibilities in order to help oneself in one’s own relationship with God.

What is known about Judas Iscariot?

· Judas was one of the chosen apostles (Lk 6:16, Mk 3:19, Mt 10:4, and Jn 6:70-71). Did Jesus see potential in him?

· Judas had a father named Simon (Jn 6:71). He was a person like everyone else with a family.

· As an apostle Judas was both called and sent and was involved in all of the activities of Jesus and the other apostles.

· Judas was entrusted with the group’s money and was tempted with greed (Jn 12:4-6 and Mt 26:14-16).

· Jesus was aware of Judas’ issues and acknowledged that Judas would follow through on them (Mt 26:23-25 and Jn 13:21-30).

· Judas’ actions were seen not just as misguided but as evil by the scripture writers and thus some of the accounts also mention Satan or the d’evil being involved (Lk 22:1-6). But also compare this to Jesus’ response to Peter when Peter encouraged Jesus to take an easier, more glorious route: “Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the Law, [Notice who the responsible people are here – Judas is not mentioned.] and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’” (Mt 15:21-23, NIV).

· Judas betrayed Jesus’ location to the chief priests, teachers of the Law, and the elders of the people, he did this through a kiss (Mt 26:47-49, Mk 14:43-46, Lk 22:47-48, Jn 18:2-3).

· Judas’ motivation appears to have been greed, but there are speculations that Judas was also disappointed that Jesus was not the type of Messiah who would conquer the Romans and take over in general. Some also think that Judas felt Jesus would get out of this confrontation like Judas had seen Jesus avoid similar events before (see John 8:42-58 and 10:25-39).

· Judas’ response to his own actions appear to be remorse and an attempt at restitution and perhaps stop what he, too late, realized was a mistake: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and retuned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself” (Mt 27:3-5). Then the chief priests took the money and bought a burial place for foreigners called the Field of Blood.

· Luke, however, in the Acts of the Apostles, records: “With the reward he got for his wickedness Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out” (Acts 1:18) thus the location is called the Field of Blood.

· The early church obviously was not clear in the details with these somewhat different accounts from the former tax collector’s sources and the doctor’s references. But both accounts attempt to understand the events of Judas’ death in terms of justice for the betrayer and scriptural support (for Matthew see Zech 11:12-13 and for Acts see Pss 69:26 and 109:8, as cited in JBC, 1968, p. 170).

· Judas was labeled as a traitor and betrayer (Lk 6:16, Mk 3:19, Mt 10:4). This implies that many did not forgive him, but could also have been descriptive such as Thomas the doubter, or Peter who denied Jesus.

Would Jesus have forgiven Judas if Judas had not committed suicide? Consider:

Jesus indicated that Pilate was not as much at fault as the Jewish leadership who had handed Jesus over (Jn 19:11).
Jesus forgave his executioners (Lk 23:34).

Jesus invited one of those also being crucified, who was guilty of crime, into heaven (Lk 23:39-43).

One of the first things that Jesus did after the resurrection was invited the disciples to be forgiving – breathing his Spirit upon them, he also wished them peace (Jn 20:19-23).

Jesus forgave Peter who denied him (Jn 21:15-19) and the apostles who had abandoned him.

Is there a serious issue with Judas having committed suicide and therefore God being unable to forgive him? Was Judas ungrateful that God had given him life? Or was Judas more caught up in the horrible greedy decision he made and was not able to forgive himself in his despair? God knows and understands what is happening in the hearts, bodies, and minds of all who commit suicide, and God still loves them as children.

Bottom line? If people choose to believe that God cannot or would not forgive Judas, they might have a problem believing that God would or could forgive themselves too. “The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus look at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God’” (Mk 10:26-27, NIV).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24-hour, toll-free suicide prevention service available to anyone in suicidal crisis. If you need help, please dial: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, February 10, 2017 — Ears to Hear and Eyes To See; Yet … There are 28 Bible verses about deafness — “And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin.”

February 9, 2017

Memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin
Lectionary: 333

Detail of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Eve with the Apple in the Garden (circa 1530).

Reading 1 GN 3:1-8

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.'”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.

When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden
at the breezy time of the day,
the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.

Responsorial Psalm PS 32:1-2, 5, 6, 7

R. (1a) Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
For this shall every faithful man pray to you
in time of stress.
Though deep waters overflow,
they shall not reach him.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.
You are my shelter; from distress you will preserve me;
with glad cries of freedom you will ring me round.
R. Blessed are those whose sins are forgiven.

Alleluia ACTS 16:14B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 7:31-37

Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.
And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.
He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
“He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Homily From The Abbot (From Sunday, September 6, 2015)

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The work of God in our lives is so incredible!  The gifts of the Lord Jesus to those who follow Him are gifts of the Kingdom of God.  Just as God loves us in Christ Jesus and brings healing and wholeness, so we also much touch the lives of one another in the same way.  May our burning sands become pools, and may our thirsty ground become springs of water.

We can know that we don’t have to be frightened.  We can be upset, we can be lazy, we can be against God.  Whatever!  God is still going to seek us out in some way and we will have a choice to believe in Him.  We don’t even know how God will come into our lives.  For those of us who already believe, there are still surprises ahead of us.  God never abandons us.  God never gets us to one point in live and says:  that is enough.  No!  God wants us fully alive and fully in love with Him.  Isaiah tells us:  with divine recompense he comes to save you.

Divine recompense!  Recompense is compensation or reward given for loss or harm suffered or effort made.  Divine recompense is surely mercy upon mercy upon mercy—and yet always trying to entice from us a divine response to His divine love.

The Gospel of Mark today is about the healing of the deaf man who had a speech impediment.  Again this account is put here to show us that God wants us whole and alive.  Perhaps we will never be entirely whole in this life or entirely alive, but God is always there with us, enticing us, drawing us and seeking to gain our attention and our response.  When we do feel small touches of healing and wholeness and life, then at times we are like this deaf man and cannot restrain ourselves from telling others.  Jesus still will not reject us.

We know that if we get preachy, others will lose interest in the path of life.  We know that if we do not live joyful and humanly rewarding lives, others will not want such a path.  Our best preaching is simply living the joy of the presence of Lord in every aspect of our lives and in the way we love others.  Let us draw others to the Lord so that they too will know the Divine recompense.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip


Reflection on Jesus Healing The Deaf and Mute Man
By Martin G. Collins
Church of the Great God
Charlotte, NC  28247-1846
Forerunner, “Bible Study,” November-December 2011

Image may contain: one or more people

Christ maketh the deaf to hear. Published by John Fleetwood, Life of our Blessed Lord and Saviour (c 1870)

Only Mark records Jesus Christ’s healing of the deaf-mute man (Mark 7:31-37), though Matthew refers to it generally (Matthew 15:29-31). After His special journey to the borders of Tyre and Sidon, where He healed the Syro-Phoenician woman’s daughter, Jesus made a circuit of the Decapolis, ten cities to which the Roman conquerors had granted special privileges about a century earlier. He found a tremendous need for healing in that region.

Matthew’s account relates that, when Jesus returned from Tyre and Sidon, throngs of people brought their sick—the lame, blind, deaf, mute, and maimed—to be healed by Him. Of these, Mark perhaps selects the deaf-mute man’s case to record because of associated incidents that had not occurred on any other occasion.

He recounts that the man was deaf and had a speech impediment. Deafness can isolate and exclude the sufferer from society. Evidently, this man was not born deaf because, if he had been, he would have been unable to speak at all. No mention is made of how he lost his hearing; possibly a disease or an accident was responsible.

His difficulty in speaking indicates that he was not completely mute, but after Christ’s touch, he could speak plainly, which may indicate that his handicap cannot be directly traced to a spiritual source of evil (Matthew 9:32).

1. What do the man’s two physical handicaps represent? Mark 7:32.

Comment: His deafness was absolute; he could hear nothing. This greatly limited him, especially in those days when sign language and other communication helps did not exist as prominently as they do today. The poor had no access to speech therapists, and the medical practices of the time offered no hope at all.

His deafness also put him in danger, as people use their hearing more than they realize to avoid harm. Spiritual deafness is no different: When we cannot hear or refuse to hear the Word of God, we endanger ourselves greatly, not hearing the warnings of God’s ministers against the enticement and pull of sin and its curses and penalties. While physical deafness is a very limiting disability, it does not normally lead to death, but spiritual deafness is infinitely worse, leading to eternal death.

The man was almost entirely mute except for a speech impediment that kept him from communicating with others verbally. The word “impediment” in Mark 7:32 does not mean he could not make any sounds but that he had great difficulty in speaking. He could make sounds with his mouth, but they came across as gibberish. Mark’s account states that Jesus “loosed” the man’s tongue, which may indicate that the problem was a birth defect.

Deafness and dumbness are often associated because humans learn to speak by hearing. A person who cannot hear his own voice or the voices of others has difficulty with pronunciation. If a person becomes deaf later in life, he will be able to speak much better than one born deaf or who loses his hearing as a child.

The relationship between the inability to speak and deafness pictures some of sin’s effects. Those who are deaf to the Word of God will have great difficulty speaking properly of spiritual matters. Even the most educated sinner betrays an impediment in his speech as soon as spiritual truths are introduced, but when he opens his ears to receive the truth, his spiritual speech will improve greatly and continually. Just as Jesus physically healed the man to enable him to hear, He must spiritually heal us so that we can understand God’s Word (see John 8:47; I Corinthians 2:9-14).

In one sense, a person who cannot speak could be said to have an advantage over others since, “for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). However, we will be judged by our thoughts as well: “For out of the abundance of the heart [the mind] the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

2. What lessons regarding service does the presenting of the deaf-mute man to Christ teach? Mark 7:32.

Comment: The phrase “they brought to Him” describes others presenting the man to Christ. From this, we can learn several lessons of service. Those who presented the man to Christ were involved in a work everyone should emulate, that is, leading people to Christ as the solution to their needs. This work involves compassion and sacrifice. It is not proselytizing, per se, as it is done most effectively by being a true witness of God’s way of life.

We must have compassion for people needing help, as those who brought the deaf-mute man to Christ had, otherwise they would not have gone out of their way to bring him. In addition, bringing others to Christ shows a willingness to pay the cost, as it is a sacrifice of time, effort, and sometimes money—and often brings criticism and ridicule from the world. It may not be an act that brings prestige in the eyes of the world, but it is wonderful in God’s sight if His name is promoted and glorified.

The men in this scenario simply took a man to Christ for healing. Our work may be as simple as turning a person’s attention to an article or sermon, or in this Internet age, showing him the church’s website to make him aware of spiritual solutions to his problems. While these efforts can lead people to Christ, the most effective way is to be a true witness of God’s way of life by living righteously (Psalm 37:30; Proverbs 10:20-21, 31-32; Revelation 20:4).




Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
10 FEBRUARY, 2017, Friday, 5th Week, Ordinary Time
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 3:1-8; PS 31:1-2,5-7; MARK 7:31-37   ]

How do we treat sinners?  Quite often, we behave like self-righteous people.  We despise them and look down on them.  This was the way the religious leaders regarded sinners during Jesus’ time.  They were treated as outcasts of society and accordingly marginalized.

Yet, we all know that when we sin, we feel ashamed of ourselves.  This was how the first couple felt.  Instead of rejoicing that our cravings have been satisfied or feeling great about ourselves, we feel worse than ever.  We feel ashamed.  This is the worst of all punishments.

In the first instance, we are ashamed before our fellowmen. This is symbolized by the feeling of nakedness. “They realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.”  Indeed, we hate ourselves for doing what is wrong.  We are disgusted with ourselves for not acting rightly even though we know what should be doing.  We are afraid of what people might say or think about us.  If our crime were reported in the papers, we would be too ashamed to meet anyone, especially our relatives and friends.  Some may even commit suicide because of shame.

Secondly, we feel ashamed before God.  This is the reason why people turn away from God and even those whom they have hurt or betrayed.  They have no dignity to look at God or their fellowmen.  This, too, was the reason why Adam and Eve hid from the Lord. Because of shame, many Catholics are not willing to go for the sacrament of reconciliation.  They are afraid the priest might know their sins.  All the excuses we make for not going to a priest for confession are merely due of pride!  We do not want our fellowmen to despise us.  And so we conveniently say we must go to God directly.

But we all need to hear the words of forgiveness.  We need to know that God has forgiven us and our fellowmen as well.  We all seek forgiveness as in the case of King David.   We know our wrongs.  The psalmist says, “Happy the man whose offence is forgiven.  But now I have acknowledged my sins; my guilt I did not hide.”

In the gospel Jesus came to restore the beauty of creation disfigured by sins.   St Mark wrote, “Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well’”   But how did He do it?  He did it with great sensitivity and with respect for the dignity of the sinner.  

Firstly, we note that Jesus did not treat the deaf man as a case but as an individual who needed help.  The man could not hear and therefore could not speak properly. Unlike the other healing miracles, Jesus, recognizing the sensitivity of the situation took him aside.  Secondly, He was aware of his embarrassment; not knowing what others were saying about him, and his inability to articulate himself.  Sensitive to his shame, Jesus took him aside from the crowd to heal him.  “He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle.”

Thirdly, Jesus used spittle to heal him as it was common in the days of old when the people believed in the power of spittle to heal.  Indeed, there is much truth in this.  This explains why when animals are wounded they would lick themselves.  We remember how the dogs licked the wounds of Lazarus in the gospel.  Jesus too would heal him in a sacramental way.  He could have healed without the spittle but He wanted to give the man the experience of being healed.  By touching his tongue with spittle, Jesus mediated the healing grace of God to him.   Truly, we all need the sense of touch in life.  We need to be touched and to hear.  This is part of the human way of being restored.  We need sacramentals because we are human beings with a body and not pure spirit.

Fourthly, we read that Jesus turned to heaven and prayed.  “Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened’”   In other words, healing must come from God alone and not from man.  We do not have the power to heal; only God has the power.  Jesus turned to His heavenly Father to heal so that the people will come to know His Father’s love and mercy.

What we see in this whole process of healing is precisely how we should also heal and reconcile sinners.

Firstly, we must see them as individuals.  No one is the same when it comes to temptation.  We cannot say to someone, “If I can, why can’t you?”  We are just different and we all have different weaknesses because of upbringing and past experiences in life. We are wounded not just by sin but by the consequences of sin that come from ourselves and those who hurt us.

Secondly, sinners feel great shame for their sins.  They must be treated with great compassion and sensitivity to save their dignity.  They are already so embarrassed for what they did.  We should not scold them further or use harsh words on them because we will only make them hate themselves even more.  This is counterproductive.  Instead of making the penitent better, he will commit more sins because he lacks respect and authentic love for himself.  This is important, especially when we discipline our erring children.

Thirdly, the best way to prevent someone from sinning again is to embrace the sinner in love and compassion and not condemnation.  Healing his emotional wounds prevent him from repeating his sins. We must help him to experience the gentle and loving compassion of our Lord through our compassion and the desire to protect them.  This is precisely what Jesus the Good Shepherd did in His relationship with sinners. He was always encouraging, affirming, understanding, forgiving and accepting.

This whole process of healing is beautifully celebrated in the sacrament of reconciliation when the sinner is away from the crowd and in total confidence in the secrecy of the confessional; the penitent is given the opportunity to confess his sins completely without fear of shame to a priest.  And the priest, using the human words of forgiveness on behalf of the Church and in the name of the Holy Trinity, forgives the sins of the sinner.  When we exercise the ministry in this way, then we bring healing and forgiveness to the sinner.

Indeed, Catholics and Christians who reject the sacrament of reconciliation, saying that they should not confess to a priest who is only a human being but only directly to God, are denying that we need a human mediator to hear us out and be affirmed of God’s love and mercy.  Otherwise, there is no need for the incarnation as we can, like the Jews, confess directly to God for our sins to be forgiven.  Of course, it remains true also that this does not preclude that we should confess directly to God as wellThis practice of confession was already something that was being practiced right at the beginning of the Church when St James said, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”  (James 5:16)

The real problem, I believe, is that quite often, some confessors lack compassion and sensitivity and this has put fear into the hearts of penitents, causing them to avoid this beautiful sacrament of healing.  Some confessors unfortunately cause more hurts to penitents by their callousness, as when they lack mercy, sensitivity, patience, compassion and encouragement in hearing the confession of their penitents.  Instead of being healed, they feel that they are sentenced to doom and that God has given up hope on them.  But if the sacrament of reconciliation is celebrated with great sensitivity and compassion, then every penitent can declare with the psalmist, “And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin.”

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

The man’s deafness was absolute; he could hear nothing. This greatly limited him, especially in those days when sign language and other communication helps did not exist as prominently as they do today. The poor had no access to speech therapists, and the medical practices of the time offered no hope at all.

His deafness also put him in danger, as people use their hearing more than they realize to avoid harm. Spiritual deafness is no different: When we cannot hear or refuse to hear the Word of God, we endanger ourselves greatly, not hearing the warnings of God’s ministers against the enticement and pull of sin and its curses and penalties. While physical deafness is a very limiting disability, it does not normally lead to death, but spiritual deafness is infinitely worse, leading to eternal death.

The man was almost entirely mute except for a speech impediment that kept him from communicating with others verbally. The word “impediment” in Mark 7:32 does not mean he could not make any sounds but that he had great difficulty in speaking. He could make sounds with his mouth, but they came across as gibberish. Mark’s account states that Jesus “loosed” the man’s tongue, which may indicate that the problem was a birth defect.

Deafness and dumbness are often associated because humans learn to speak by hearing. A person who cannot hear his own voice or the voices of others has difficulty with pronunciation. If a person becomes deaf later in life, he will be able to speak much better than one born deaf or who loses his hearing as a child.

The relationship between the inability to speak and deafness pictures some of sin’s effects. Those who are deaf to the Word of God will have great difficulty speaking properly of spiritual matters. Even the most educated sinner betrays an impediment in his speech as soon as spiritual truths are introduced, but when he opens his ears to receive the truth, his spiritual speech will improve greatly and continually. Just as Jesus physically healed the man to enable him to hear, He must spiritually heal us so that we can understand God’s Word (see John 8:47; I Corinthians 2:9-14).

Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Deaf-Mute (Part One)

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There are 28 Bible verses about deafness: