Posts Tagged ‘indwelling of the Holy Spirit’

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

June 10, 2018

The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer for Today:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, June 6, 2018 — Suffering indicates neither dishonor nor failure

June 6, 2018

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

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Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 355

Reading 1 2 TM 1:1-3, 6-12

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

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

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

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

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

Alleluia  JN 11:25A, 26

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

Gospel  MK 12:18-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

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

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Do not be afraid:

Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meditation for June 1 — I pray that I may be gradually transformed from the old life to the new life.

June 1, 2018

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Meditation For The Day: June 1

You were born with a spark of the Divine within you. It had been all
but smothered by the life you were living. That celestial fire has to be
tended and fed so that it will grow eventually into a real desire to live
the right way. By trying to do the will of God, you grow more and
more in the new way of life. By thinking of God, praying to Him, and
having communion with Him, you gradually grow more like Him. The
way of your transformation from the material to the spiritual is the
way of Divine Companionship.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may tend the spark of the Divine within me so that it will
grow. I pray that I may be gradually transformed from the old life to
the new life.

— From the book “24 Hours a Day”

http://www.recoveryreadings.com/dailyrecoveryreadingsJune1.html

Related:

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Holy Trinity Sunday: God Is Love — The mystery of the Holy Trinity simplified — God’s simplicity — Are we seeking ‘Oneness’? — Am I a beacon of love?

May 27, 2018

Fr Matthew Jarvis delights in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, The Triune God who, as a beacon of Love, draws us ever further into glory.

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‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Or more literally: ‘into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ That’s also what the original Creed says: ‘I believe into God the Father… and into the Son… and into the Holy Spirit.’ We are on a journey into God, a journey into the dynamic life of the Holy Trinity. It’s a journey into love.

‘I love you.’ Three of the simplest words in the world, but we use them to express an inexhaustible mystery in our human relationships. 

‘God is love.’ Again, three simple words but they open up the infinite mystery of the Trinity.

‘The Lord is God indeed,’ we read in Moses today, ‘he and no other.’ Reason finds no problem in thinking of God as the Absolute, the One, but we need revelation to teach us about the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is Three and God is One; both are true mysteries, and they are connected. To appreciate why we cannot fully comprehend the mystery of the Holy Trinity (God’s personal threeness), it helps to remember that we really cannot grasp the mystery of the Divine Simplicity (God’s substantial oneness) either.

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The doctrine of divine simplicity states that God is not complex (made up of parts) in any way. Father, Son and Spirit are not parts of God, but One God. Easier said than understood! G. K. Chesterton recounts the story: ‘A lady I knew picked up a book of selections from St Thomas [Aquinas], with a commentary; and began hopefully to read a section with the innocent heading, The Simplicity of God. She then laid the book down with a sigh and said: “Well, if that’s His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like.”’

But God is not complex. The Platonists understood that simplicity is found at both the highest and lowest realities, both in the mere potentiality of ‘pure matter’ and in the luminous glory of the One. Is this what a modern American writer, variously cited as Ralph Waldo Emerson or Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, is also saying? ‘I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.’

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God’s simplicity is not like pure matter, because God is pure Actuality, white-hot Light, total and unconditional Love. This actuality envelops and drives everything, as its source and goal, the Alpha and Omega. I’m deliberately mixing philosophical language with Scriptural images, because both reason and revelation should guide us on our journey into the mystery of the Triune God.

Our journey into God’s simplicity will not take us back again to square one, empty-handed, but instead we will discover that a fullness has sent us out and a fullness will receive us home, transformed. There is a fullness in the simplicity that encloses complexity, like there is a fullness in the God whose eternity encloses time and is not enclosed by it. So, our journey into the Trinity is an attraction to the divine simplicity, not a stagnation in human simple-mindedness.

After all, there is a lovely simplicity in genius that differs from simple-mindedness. Often a beautiful object is found to have a simple rationale, despite its manifold appearance, whether it’s the mathematical iteration of the ‘Hofstadter butterfly’ or the musical unfurling of a Bach fugue.

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We cannot draw the Trinity or compose its theme-tune, but there’s a decent medieval attempt in the simple yet profound pictogram called the Scutum Fidei (Shield of Faith) that summarises: the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father.

The Trinity does not undermine the simplicity of God, because there’s nothing simpler nor stronger than persons united in love. The unity of God is a perfect communion of persons. And then St Paul pronounces God’s extraordinary invitation to us: receive the Spirit of God, let God dwell within you and make you his child, his heir, and take you into his glory.

The Light is too bright for our eyes right now; it’s too pure and simple, but it beckons us, a beacon of Love, drawing us ever further into glory – into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Spirit.

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Deut 4:32-34, 39-40  |  Rom 8:14-17  |  Matt 28:16-20

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of the ‘scutum Fidei’ depicted in a window in the church of St Denis in Hanover, MA.

https://www.english.op.org/torch/journeying-into-love

Related:

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 13, 2018 — Love one another — Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him — Consecrated in truth

May 12, 2018

“God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”  If we love one another….  That is the constant theme:  love one another.  How do we know that we love one another?  We know that we love one another because He has given us His Spirit. 

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 60

Reading 1  ACTS 1:15-17, 20A, 20C-26

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers
—there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place —.
He said, “My brothers,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
He was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.“For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
May another take his office.“Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
So they proposed two, Judas called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the eleven apostles.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20

R. (19a) The Lord has set his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord has set his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord has set his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the LORD, all you his angels,
you mighty in strength, who do his bidding.
R. The Lord has set his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 JN 4:11-16

Beloved, if God so loved us,
we also must love one another.
No one has ever seen God.
Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.
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This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us,
that he has given us of his Spirit.
Moreover, we have seen and testify
that the Father sent his Son as savior of the world.
Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God,
God remains in him and he in God.
We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.

God is love, and whoever remains in love
remains in God and God in him.

Alleluia  CF. JN 14:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord.
I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel   JN 17:11B-19

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one just as we are one.
When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me,
and I guarded them, and none of them was lost
except the son of destruction,
in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you.
I speak this in the world
so that they may share my joy completely.
I gave them your word, and the world hated them,
because they do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
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From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Lord has ascended and now prepares to send the Holy Spirit upon us with power.  We must have hearts that are open to receive this power of the Holy Spirit.  We must have hearts that believe deeply in Jesus Christ and in his Holy Church.  We want to be transformed more completely so that God’s glory may be seen on earth.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles.  The followers of Jesus are now replacing the Judas who betrayed Jesus.  There is a sense that the group of Twelve Apostles must remain as a group of twelve and so Judas who betrayed Jesus must be replaced.  Later this sense of the group of twelves transforms itself into the bishops of the Church.  Then it is no longer just twelve, but all who share the same burden as the twelve:  that of being shepherds of the various parts of the Church.

The second reading today is from the First Letter of Saint John.  It should not surprise us at all that this section of the First Letter of Saint John is about loving one another.  Saint John tells us:  “If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”  If we love one another….  That is the constant theme:  love one another.  How do we know that we love one another?  We know that we love one another because He has given us His Spirit.  This is why we await the great celebration of Pentecost.  We want to celebrate once more that Jesus has given us His Spirit and in that Spirit we have the power to love one another.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint John.  Saint John tells us today:  “May they be one just as we are one.”  That is so strong that we can hardly believe it.  The Father and the Son are ONE.  Jesus wants us to be one with one another.  It sounds so wonderful, but when we look at other people, we are never sure that we want to be one with them.  Our human reality pushes up against divinity and often we choose our human reality instead of choosing divinity!

Only the Spirit of God can transform us and truly make us one.  Only when we choose to live in the Spirit can we choose to live in truth.  Only be asking the Spirit to be in our lives and to guide our lives can we truly be followers of the Lord Jesus.  We want to live in truth and we can only do that when we call on the Spirit to transform us totally in this life.  Come, Holy Spirit!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Consecrated in the truth

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By Fr. John Abberton
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To be consecrated means to be “set apart” for a holy purpose. To sanctify also means, “To make holy”. A consecrated thing or person is made holy by God. When we are consecrated: given over to God, we have holiness bestowed on us. We belong to God; we are God’s property. Since we are beings with free will, we must also cooperate with God by choice. We are sanctified by God, but not against our will. We are given holiness but we must also choose it. Holiness is not a cold, clinical approach to life. It is a discipline but it is the discipline of love. The holiest amongst us is the most loving. It needs to be said, as well, that this is not about appearances or exhibitionism: those who truly love know when to speak and when to be silent.

A musical instrument best serves its purpose when it is tuned by the one who plays it in relation to the other instruments in the band or orchestra. The instrument must be pliable, responsive and reliable. The strings must be in good shape, the wood of good quality the metal clean. A concert violinist, for example, may have more than one violin. He will know how to get the very best out of each one. He will handle each violin in such a way that he will respect the strengths and weaknesses of each instrument.

We belong to Jesus Christ.

To be consecrated to the Truth means several things:To begin with;

1. We must try to know enough about ourselves to understand how we may be of use in the world.
2. We must know that there is more to learn.
3. We must know where to look, or who to ask, for the answers we need about ourselves.
4. We must be able to listen and learn without being overcome by fear or prejudice of any kind.

We must be humble. Humility is openness to the Truth. It is close to docility, which means the ability to listen and learn. It is not easy to be humble, but without humility the other Christian virtues will not flourish. Humility is the soil where God plants the most beautiful things in His garden. We need to guard and develop the virtue of humility. It helps to know a few facts about ourselves. I have taken the following from a little book called, “Victory Over Vice” by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

“ From a material point of view, we are worth so little. The content of a human body is equivalent to as much iron as there is in a nail, as much sugar as there is in two lumps, as much oil as there is in seven bars of soap, as much phosphorus as there is in 2,200 matches, and as much magnesium as it takes to develop one photograph. In all, the human body, chemically speaking, is worth just a few dollars” (Page 49)

Of course, we are worth much more than that to our Creator. Our true worth is based on God who made us. It is only correct to say, “I am nothing” or “I am worthless” if I mean “nothing” or “worthless” without God. The respect we must have for ourselves comes from our respect for the one who made us. Remember we are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. This means that we are not allowed to treat ourselves like rubbish, otherwise we would have to treat each other as rubbish. But without God, we are rubbish, worth no more than a few dollars. Pride is a kind of insanity. What am I compared to God? I am less than a speck of dust, yet, God loves this speck of dust and Christ shed His blood for it. This means that I must treat other specks of dust – you – like gold dust, but only because of Christ.

To be consecrated in the truth means that we both belong to the truth and that we are committed to the truth. To accept this calling; to be instruments of the Truth, means that we are seeking God’s Will.

The question of how we come to know God’s Will does not have a simple answer. Not because God is complicated, but because we are. Jesus tells us that the Truth is love.

In the message of October 22 1990 he says;

“The Truth is LOVE. I am the Truth. Be witnesses for the Truth – receive the Holy Spirit of Truth.”

When we cannot love properly it may be because we are not open to the truth.

Read more:

http://www.tlig.org/en/spirituality/pilgrimages/meteora/met5/

 

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 MAY, 2018, Sunday, 7th Week of Easter (World Social Communications Sunday)
COMMUNICATING THE GOOD NEWS TO THE WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Acts 1:15-26PS 1031 Jn 4:11–16Jn 17:11-19]

Today, we celebrate World Communications Sunday.  Next week, we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost.  To prepare the Church to be witnesses of the gospel to the world, the liturgy of today gives us the prerequisites to be an apostle of our Lord and what it takes to proclaim the Good News.  Indeed, it is becoming more and more difficult to proclaim the gospel of Christ, much less of Christ as the Universal Saviour of humanity.  We face opposition from the world denying our claim and belief that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  This is not surprising because the Lord warned the disciples already.  Jesus prayed to His Father, “I passed your word on to them, and the world hated them, because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world.  I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”

In a world of secularism, materialism, individualism and relativism, it is difficult for anyone to claim that he or she has the truth.  The world is either agnostic or relativistic to the question of truth.  No wonder fake things or half-truth news are being circulated in the world, causing division and disunity. All lies cause misunderstanding and division in society and in the world.  That is why even whilst we celebrate the advancement of science and technology in communications, whether in transport, digital or social communications, we are aware that havoc is wrecked in these areas because of distorted truths being passed around.

Indeed, if we are to proclaim Jesus as the Way to the Truth and to Life, we must first be consecrated in the truth.  This is the priestly prayer of Jesus to the Father.  “Consecrate them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world, and for their sake I consecrate myself so that they too may be consecrated in truth.”  Without being set apart in the truth, we cannot announce the Good News of freedom in love and truth.

Accordingly, the first condition of apostleship, as we read in Acts, is stipulated as one who was in the company of Jesus.  “We must therefore choose someone who has been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us, someone who was with us right from the time when John was baptising until the day when he was taken up from us – and he can act with us as a witness to his resurrection.”  This is obvious.  Unless we have walked with Jesus, we cannot be a witness to Him.  That was why the first words of Jesus to His potential disciples were, “Come and see.”  (Jn 1:3946)   Walking with Jesus, being with Jesus, listening to Him and watching Him is the precondition for witnessing.  A witness is one who testifies to what he has seen and heard.

The second criterion of apostleship is the recognition of Jesus as Lord and God.  St John wrote, “We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.” Faith in Jesus as the personal presence of God is fundamental to Christian Faith.  Jesus for us is nothing less than the Son of God.  Only Jesus who knows the Father can reveal to us who God really is.  “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”  (Jn 1:18)  Our faith in God is based on Jesus’ personal testimony.  But this presupposes that we have faith in Him as the Son of God.

Thirdly, we must encounter God’s love and mercy before we can announce Jesus as the Good News.  Because Jesus is the expression of God, we who see Jesus can appreciate God’s unconditional love and mercy for usthrough His ministry to the poor, the sick, the possessed, the outcasts, the marginalized and sinners.  Most of all, by His death and resurrection, we are certain of God’s immense love for us.  This must be the basis of our desire to tell others about Jesus.  St John wrote, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

Fourthly, to be able to love like Jesus, we cannot do it simply by imitating Him without the Holy Spirit.  Without His grace and His love in us, through the Holy Spirit, we cannot do what He did.  “We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  This is why the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and at our baptism concludes the whole process of Christian initiation.   A person is a full Christian when he receives the Sacrament of Baptism, the Eucharist and Confirmation. Only when confirmed in his or her faith and filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord and our Father, can the baptized Christian be a real witness to Christ in the power of the same Spirit.

Once we have the pre-requisites, we must proclaim the truth about Jesus.  Truth is not so much an ideology.  Truth is an event, an experience.  This was what Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote in “God is Love” when he said, “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life’ (3:16).”  (God is Love, 1)

That is why the proclamation of the gospel is not about words or doctrines primarily but about a person, Jesus Christ, who had worked wonders in our lives through His works of mercy and compassion and taught us about the Father’s love and forgiveness.  The gospel is not a book but a person, Jesus, the Son of God who came to give us life to the fullest if we share in His life, love and live out the gospel.  So it is Good News, not bad news.  It is not about observing commandments, obeying some rules or performing some rituals.  It is about the true meaning of love.  This, precisely, is the exhortation of St John when he wrote, “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.”   The best witness of the Good News is to lead someone to Jesus and to fall in love with Him by encountering His love, mercy, wisdom and truth through the Word of God.

Concretely, for us to witness to Jesus is to live a life of love and mercy.  We begin with our inner circle, our loved ones, parents, siblings and friends.  But charity must not stop here.  We must reach out to the Christian community, society and the world at large.  To be an apostle of Christ does not mean that we have to travel to the ends of the world but to witness His love and mercy according to the situation we are in.  Of course, today with social and digital communication, we can share what Jesus has done for us even with those staying at the other end of the world.  Space and time is no longer a constraint in communicating the Good News about this wonderful man whom we call Jesus, the Son of God.

Indeed, the Good News that we are called to share is to bring others into the joy we have because of Jesus in our lives.  It is the joy of intimacy with the Lord in relationship, and the joy of being with the family of God, the body of Christ.  Joy is attractive and appealing.  This was what the Lord said, “But now I am coming to you and while still in the world I say these things to share my joy with them to the full.”  What is the joy that Jesus shared with us?  It is the joy of being in fellowship with His Father in the Spirit.  Sharing in the Trinitarian life of communion and love is what makes us joyful.   With the love and joy of God in our hearts, this love is poured out into others, and together as we share the joy of Christ, our love abounds.

Finally, we must live in such a way that we give glory to the name of God.  Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us. While I was with them, I kept those you had given me true to your name.”  If we call ourselves sons and daughters of God, we must live like Him and our lives must reflect the image and the person of God in all that we say and do.  This is what it means to be true to His name and to become like Him.  Indeed, if we do not live out our lives as true sons and daughters of God, then the tragedy of life is that we might end up like Judas who was lost.  He too walked with Jesus and counted among the apostles and shared in their ministry.  But he betrayed the Lord because of greed, pride and self-centeredness.  We too must never walk alone in the faith.  We must walk with our fellow Catholics so that, one with each other and one with Jesus, we can overcome all trials and temptations of life and the hostilities of the world.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, May 8, 2018: “What must I do to be saved?”

May 7, 2018

“Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

While in prison, Paul and Silas are set free by what appears to be an earthquake… The jailer, fearing for his life, asks them, “What must I do to be saved?”

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Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 292

Reading 1 ACTS 16:22-34

The crowd in Philippi joined in the attack on Paul and Silas,
and the magistrates had them stripped
and ordered them to be beaten with rods.
After inflicting many blows on them,
they threw them into prison
and instructed the jailer to guard them securely.
When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell
and secured their feet to a stake.
About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying
and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened,
there was suddenly such a severe earthquake
that the foundations of the jail shook;
all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open,
he drew his sword and was about to kill himself,
thinking that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
“Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”
He asked for a light and rushed in and,
trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas.
Then he brought them out and said,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus
and you and your household will be saved.”
So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house.
He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds;
then he and all his family were baptized at once.
He brought them up into his house and provided a meal
and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3, 7C-8

R. (7c) Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple,
and give thanks to your name.
R. Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Because of your kindness and your truth,
you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE JN 16:7, 13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord;
he will guide you to all truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Now I am going to the one who sent me,
and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.
But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
sin, because they do not believe in me;
righteousness, because I am going to the Father
and you will no longer see me;
condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
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Paul sees his own physical suffering and spiritual renewal—”though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16)—as a presentation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
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It would be good for each of us the remember this thought every day! Our outer self is wasting away — our inner self is being renewed day by day.
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This is the saving nature of our Christian faith. For us, this should be our goal if not the fact of our lives. Who else has a faith filled with so mush hope? Our goal is not the riches of this earth. Our goal is eternity.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related reading:
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The Purpose of Paul’s Suffering: To Mediate Christ’s Resurrection Life
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Commentary on John 16:5-11 from Living Space

The disciples are sad because Jesus is going to leave them. He now reassures them that, contrary to what they must be thinking at this moment, it is better for him to go. If Jesus does not go away, then the Spirit, the Paraclete, will not come.

As long as Jesus is with his disciples in his present form, he is actually very limited in his presence. It is fine as long as they are all together but what would happen if they were to be scattered in various places to do his work? And what of the many more disciples in distant places who would never have an opportunity to be in direct contact with Jesus?

It is through the Spirit of Jesus, the risen and ascended Jesus, that he can continue to be with his people at all times and in any place on earth. Yes, it is better that Jesus should go and come back through the Spirit.

And the Spirit “will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, about who was in the right, and about judgment”. That is, the Spirit will reveal the wrongness of the world, that world of the purely secular, in not putting its trust in the Way of Jesus.

The world’s sin is primarily one of unbelief, an unreadiness to open its mind to the vision of life that Jesus gives. The Spirit will clearly show the rightness of Jesus in his claims to come from God and to being the Word of God to the world. The Spirit will reveal the meaning of Christ’s death as the condemnation of all that is evil in the world, above all in its denial of love as the centre of living.

The New American Bible expresses it thus:

These verses illustrate the forensic character of the Paraclete’s role: in the forum of the disciples’ conscience he prosecutes the world. He leads believers to see (a) that the basic sin was and is refusal to believe in Jesus; (b) that, although Jesus was found guilty and apparently died in disgrace, in reality righteousness has triumphed, for Jesus has returned to his Father; (c) finally, that it is “the ruler of this world”, Satan, who has been condemned through Jesus’ death.

On which side am I? On that of the Spirit or that of the world?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1063g/

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Reflection from Charles Spurgeon

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We do not know where or what we might have been if God’s gracious protection had not been like a wall of fire round about us, as it is even now, for still doth the Lord deliver all those who put their trust in him. I want you, dear brothers and sisters, to believe with unquestioning confidence that God is delivering you just now.

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You know that he has delivered you, be quite as sure that he is delivering you at this moment.

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”Oh!” says one, “I am shut up in the dungeon of despair.” Yes; but your Lord has a key that can open the door, and so let you out. “Ay; but I am in great want.”

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But he knows all about it, and he has his basket in his hand full of good things with which he is going to supply all your needs. “Oh!” says another, “but I am sinking in the flood.”

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But he is throwing the life-belt over you. “Oh, but I am fainting!” But he is putting a bottle of sweet perfume to your nose to refresh your spirit.God is near thee, to revive and cheer your fainting soul.

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Perhaps someone says, “I find faith concerning the past and concerning the ultimate future tolerably easy; but it is faith for the next hour or two I cannot so readily exercise.”

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At certain times, it is found that trial is peculiarly present, but one cannot always realize that God is “a very present help in trouble;” yet it is true. He has delivered, and he does deliver.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• John 16, 5-7: The sadness of the Disciples. Jesus begins with a rhetorical question that makes evident the sadness of the disciples, at this time evident in the heart of the disciples because of the detachment from Jesus: «Now I am going to the One who sent me; not one of you asks, where are you going?” It is clear that for the disciples the detachment from the life-style lived with Jesus implies suffering.

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And Jesus urges saying: “Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this” (v. 6). Thus Saint Augustine explains such a sentiment of abandonment of the disciples: “they were afraid to think of losing the visible presence of Christ… they were grieved, saddened in their human affection, at the thought that their eyes would no longer be consoled in seeing him”. (Comment of the Gospel of John, XCIV, 4). Jesus tries to dispel this sadness, due to the fact that they will not have his presence, revealing to them his departure.

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We can say that if he does not leave them, the Paraclete will not be able to join them; if he dies and therefore, returns to the Father, he will be able to send him to the disciples. His departure and the detachment of the disciples is the previous condition for the coming of the Paraclete: “because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you…” (v. 7).

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• John 16, 8-11: The Mission of the Paraclete. Jesus continues to describe the mission of the Paraclete. The term “Paraclete” means “advocate”, that is, support, assistant. Here the Paraclete is presented as the accuser in a process that is carried out before God and in which the accused is the world which has made itself guilty for condemning Jesus: «He will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right and about judgment” (v. 8). The Greek verb elègken means that he will make an inquiry, he will question, will test: he will bring out to light a reality, and will furnish the proof of the guilt.

The object of the confutation is sin: he will give the world the proof of the sin that it has committed regarding Jesus and will manifest it. Of which sin is there a question here?; that of unbelief (Jn 5, 44ff; 6, 36; 8, 21.24.26; 10, 31ss). Besides, for the world to have thought that Jesus was a sinner (Jn 9, 24; 18, 30) is an inexcusable sin (Jn 15, 21ff).

In the second place he will “refute” the world “concerning justice”, On the juridical level, the notion of justice which adheres more to the text, is the one which implies a declaration of guilt or of innocence in a judgment. In our context this is the only time that the term “justice” appears in the Gospel of John, elsewhere there is the term “just”. In John 16, 8 justice is linked to all that Jesus has affirmed about himself, that is, the reason why he is going to the Father.

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Such a discourse concerns his glorification: Jesus goes to the Father, he is about to disappear in him and therefore, the disciples will not longer be able to see him; he is about to entrust and to submerge himself completely in the will of the Father. The glorification of Jesus confirms his divine filiation or son ship and the approbation of the Father regarding the mission which Jesus has accomplished.

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Therefore, the Spirit will show directly the justice of Christ (Jn 14, 26; 15, 26) protecting the disciples and the ecclesial community.

The world that believed to have judged Jesus condemning him is condemned by the “prince of this world”, because it is responsible for his crucifixion (13, 2.27). Jesus in dying on the Cross is exalted (12, 31) and he has triumphed over Satan. Now the Spirit will give witness to all about the significance of the death of Jesus which coincides with the fall of Satan (Jn 12, 32; 14, 30; 16, 33).

Personal questions

• Is the fear, consternation of the disciples in losing Jesus also ours?

• Do you allow yourself to be led by the Spirit, the Paraclete who gives you the certainty of the error of the world and helps you to adhere to Jesus, and, therefore, he introduces you into the truth about yourself?

Concluding Prayer

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,
for you have listened to the cry I uttered.
In the presence of angels I sing to you,
I bow down before your holy Temple. (Sal 138,1-2)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-165-11

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 MAY, 2018, Tuesday, 6th Week of Easter
FAITH IN THE RISEN LORD THROUGH THE CONVICTING POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AS THE KEY TO HOPE IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 16:22-34JN 16:5-11 ]

One of the most difficult topics to speak about is death.  Many people, especially the Chinese, consider the topic a taboo as it might bring bad luck.  Of course, there are also many of us who might not mind speculating about death generally and academically.  But most would find it difficult to talk about their own death with their loved ones.  Yet we all know that death is a fact of life.  We cannot avoid the reality.  Certainly it is a painful confrontation because all departures are painful.  This was the same situation of the disciples.  They too were not willing to confront the imminent death of their master.  Jesus had already told them, “I am going to the one who sent me.”  Yet, not one of them asked, “Where are you going?”  Why?  Because they were sad at heart!  They had become so attached to Jesus that His departure would leave a big hole in their lives.

But Jesus knew that He must broach this issue.  It would be better to talk about His departure rather than to pretend that He was going away.  Indeed, many a time in my pastoral ministry to the sick, I cannot but feel sorry that the dying patient and the loved ones have never spoken about death to each other.  They would prefer to deny that death was near even when it is so obvious.  This is unfortunate because they would miss the great opportunity to speak to each other about what is deepest in their hearts.  So the pain would be even greater when it is time for them to leave each other because they would leave each other physically without any real assurance of hope, love and solidarity.  That is why Jesus would not hide the fearful silence of His disciples.  He brought it to the open.

But why do we not have the same courage like Jesus to speak about our own physical separation from our loved ones?  Because, unlike Jesus, we do not know who we really are; and what is our real destiny in life.  Although we profess our faith in the resurrection, we do not really truly believe in our hearts.  Because if we do, then there is nothing to fear since death is but our union with God and that we do not really die but simply live in a new way.  Not only will we have a new life and a life that is fulfilled with God, but we will also remain in communion with our loved ones in a new way.  Death is not the end of our relationship with our loved ones but it will remain and be stronger in a new way as we will live with them in our spirits.

Indeed, that was the conviction of Jesus.  He had no doubt that He was returning to His Father, the origin of life and love.  He was conscious that He came from Him and that He belonged to Him.  Only in union with the Father is He complete.  But He was also aware that His going was not a real departure, as He would come again in a new and personal way to His disciples.  He would come again in His Spirit, which would transcend all barriers.  In fact, He would be even closer to them because He would live in them.

Today, we are called upon to imitate the apostles, Paul and Silas.  We read of their courage and hope even when they were imprisoned, flogged and humiliated.  Yet, we can see the high spirits of the apostles as they were praying and singing God’s praises in joy. What was the basis for their confidence even in the face of sufferings?  Simply this:  they were so conscious of the real presence of the Risen Lord in their lives and the Holy Spirit within them.  That is why they did not feel the need to escape even when the doors of the jail were opened and the chains fell from them.  They stayed behind instead.  And thus when the prison warden wanted to kill himself out of hopelessness, Paul and Silas told him that he and his household could be saved if only they became believers in the Lord Jesus.  In other words, if they too confessed and believed that Jesus is truly Lord, alive and present, then they would always find strength, hope and courage in the face of tribulations.

How then can we have the same conscious presence of the Risen Lord in us today?

We must be like the apostles who prayed and sang praises to God.  We must in a special way pray for the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised us in the gospel that He would send to us.  The Holy Spirit is none other than the Advocate, His own Spirit that would live in us.  When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, then Jesus said, He will convict, convince and enlighten us as to who He really is.  He will convict us firstly of our sin, which is the failure to recognize Jesus as the Risen Lord, the expression of the Father’s love for us and consequently by rejecting Him, we reject the gospel message as well.  Secondly, the Holy Spirit will convince us who He really is, that He is one with the Father and thus identical with God Himself.  Such a belief is only possible from within our hearts and not just in our minds.  Finally, the Holy Spirit will force us to confront ourselves.  In other words, He will judge us by allowing us to judge ourselves.  For in rejecting the prince of this world, Jesus said, we are already condemned.  This is because to reject Jesus as the Good News of God in person, is to reject life itself.

Let us then, as we prepare for the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, make ourselves more docile to the Holy Spirit through prayer and praises so that when He comes, the glory of the Risen Lord will fill us, bringing us joy, courage, hope, love and peace.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 7, 2018 — The Holy Spirit as the Agent of Conversion

May 6, 2018

“The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father will testify to me…”

Image result for Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, bible, art, photos

Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 291

Reading 1  ACTS 16:11-15

We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace,
and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi,
a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.
We spent some time in that city.
On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river
where we thought there would be a place of prayer.
We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there.
One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth,
from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened,
and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention
to what Paul was saying.
After she and her household had been baptized,
she offered us an invitation,
“If you consider me a believer in the Lord,
come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.

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

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

Alleluia  JN 15:26B, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord,
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 15:26—16:4A

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.”I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.
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Reflection on Lydia By Matthew McDonald 

As the apostle Paul was on his travels, he went into the city on the Sabbath to find a place of prayer, no doubt directed by the Holy Spirit on were to sit. As Paul sat down, along came Lydia, by a Divine appointment. Notice, she was also at the place of prayer, because she was a religious worshipper and follower of God. As she listened, her religion turned into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for the Lord opened her heart to respond to the preaching of the gospel. Not only did she give her life to Jesus Christ, but she was also baptised, and then she invited Paul and his companions to her house for fellowship.

Related image

“I knew this had to be a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God. She listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”

Lydia was a very successful business woman, who had excellent administration skills. Not only did she sell quality clothes, but she purchased products for her stock. It is also very interesting to note that the Bible calls her, a woman, specifically by name.

Lydia was the hinge which opened the door for the gospel in Asia. From there, the gospel spread like wild fire by way of all the cloth industry and silk routes which brought caravans carrying royal robes, which were made exclusively from purple cloth.

God is calling men and woman, young and old, from all walks of life. We may never know how much God can use us for His glory and who we can reach and touch with the powerful message of the gospel. We can be the hinge which opens the door for the gospel to be spread into our place of work, our work trade. Just as Lydia listened and let faith arise in her heart, so as we start to talk about Jesus to whosoever we meet may God allow their hearts to be receptive to the message of the gospel. May we be obedient enough to go where God wants us to go, at His Divinely appointed time and sit beside, stand beside or even walk beside someone and tell them about Jesus.

My friend, Lydia was a worshipper of God, but now she could worship God in Spirit and in truth. Now, she did not have a religion, but a relationship with the Living God. She then opened up not only her heart to the gospel, but also her home. All the business associates which she knew before she received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour were now Divine appointments to sit down with and share the gospel with. If God called a business woman in the professional fabric trade to reach Asia with the gospel of Jesus Christ, then what can God use you to do for Him?

May we be like Paul, ready to be at the right place, at the right time, ready to share the gospel message, given by a Divine appointment from God. If we would do so, then who knows what part in God’s end-time harvest of souls we may be play. We need only to be ready and willing.

https://peebles.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/acts-1614-one-of-those-listening-was-a-woman-named-lydia-a-dealer-in-purple-cloth-from-the-city-of-thyatira-who-was-a-worshipper-of-god-the-lord-opened-her-heart-to-respond-to-pauls-message/

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Homily Ideas for ACTS 16:11-15
By J.D. Davis
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Have you ever had an experience where you knew God was calling you to do something, but it didn’t come out the way you thought it would? When you answered the call of God, you were excited and energized about the possibility of service. You couldn’t wait to get where you were going or do what you needed to do. But it was so unlike what you expected. I have had that happen to me, and I would ask God, “Are you sure this is what I am supposed to be doing?”

Sometimes our heart is willing to serve God, but our circumstances cause us to draw back or limit our service. A similar situation confronted Paul on one of his missionary journeys. I want you to know that when you serve God, when you go where He sends you and do what He tells you, you never know what the results might be.

Inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing an unrecognized religion into the city. This may explain why there was a Jewish prayer meeting being held outside the city, on the riverbank.

Having been trained by the Jews to be a leader among Jews, Paul would have been well acquainted with their views of women. The rabbis were known to say, “It is better that the words of the Law be burned that be delivered to a woman.”

The fact that Paul was willing to speak to these women indicates he no longer held that view. But the lack of a synagogue, no influence in the city, a prohibition against religion, and a prayer meeting at a riverbank does not seem to be the formula for a powerful revival.

What you and I may see as dangerous or hostile may be an opportunity for the kingdom of God. In the words of Esther, “Who knows but that I have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Here is my problem: I am too quick to allow the circumstances of my life to define my level of service to God. If things get hard, I look for a way out. I look for a way to diminish my dedication to the task. If people don’t respond immediately, I look for a new plan or gimmick.

If Paul had done that, he would have bailed on Phillipi. But Paul understood that service for God is always about our faithfulness to God, not the results. The reason I want to bail on bad situations is because I do not see the profitability of it. But that is faulty theology. Such an approach says that God only does what it profitable, like He is a business that only cares about the bottom line. It also means God is limited in power, so He will only use it in prime locations.

We talk about building and growing churches, as if it is something that we can do. That is something only God can do. God wants a relationship with you, and part of that relationship is commitment, dedication, and faithfulness.

You may be in a place like Paul. You look at the things around you and ask, “Am I in the right place, God? Am I doing what you want me to?” The circumstances may be overwhelming. Don’t be too quick to throw in the towel. As we are about to find out, just one convert can make all the difference.

There’s more and “J.D.” is well worth reading:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-lydia-model-service-hospitality-acts-16

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Commentary on John 15:26 from Living Space

We continue reading the discourse of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper.

Today he promises that the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth will come, sent both by the Father and by Jesus the Son. As we saw earlier, Paraclete (Gkparakletes, paraklhths) means a person who stands by one and gives support. It can be applied to a defence lawyer in a court of law. So the word is sometimes translated ‘Advocate’. It can be anyone who gives comfort, good advice or moral support. Various forms of the word are used about eight times in a short and beautiful passage at the opening of St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:3-7).

Here the Spirit that God bestows through Jesus on his disciples will be one who will comfort and strengthen them in the sometimes difficult days ahead and will guide them in their fuller understanding of what Jesus has taught them. The Spirit will confirm all that Jesus has said and done.

The disciples too are, with the help of the same Spirit, to give witness to all that Jesus has said and done.

And again he warns them that they will need all the help they can get from the support of the Spirit. “They will expel you from synagogues and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.” A prophecy which was very soon to be fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled down to our own day.

And people will do this because they do not really know the Father or Jesus. If they did, they too would believe and would recognise the presence of Jesus in the Christian community and its message.

So, as has been mentioned several times already, we are not to be surprised if we find ourselves – as Christians – the object of attack, of slander, of abuse, of misunderstandings, of contempt. St Ignatius of Loyola is said to have prayed that the members of the order which he founded would always be persecuted. It was a sign that they were doing their job. It is a strange paradox but the message of Christian love and forgiveness, the message of peace and justice is found by many to be very threatening and must be attacked.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 MAY, 2018, Monday, 6th Week of Easter
HOLY SPIRIT AS THE AGENT OF CONVERSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 16:11-15PS 149:1-6,9JOHN 15:26-16:4 ]

We are called to witness to Christ and the gospel.  But this call to witness to Christ explicitly is increasingly difficult in today’s world.  We are faced with the challenge of promoting religious harmony on the one hand, whilst grappling with the growing number of secularists who claim that they do not profess any particular religion but believe in the Sacred, and those who are professed humanists, agnostics and atheists on the other.  Countries in the first world promote secularism.   And they are seeking to export their ideology to the rest of the world through trade and technology.  Of course, the rise of secularism is also due to the quarrels and divisions among religions; and not least, the loss of credibility of religious leaders due to scandals.   At the other end of the spectrum, we have many countries that are still deeply religious but often discriminate minority religions.  Many are subtly, if not overtly, persecuted or marginalized because of their faith.

The rise in secularism is further complicated or reinforced by the ideology and dictatorship of relativism and individualism.  The former champions a contradictory ideology claiming that relativism is the absolute way to see life.  Everything, according to the relativists, is relative except relativism, which is absolute.  There is no truth or rather, no one can find the truth because truth is seen from different perspectives.  Hence, there is no objective truth but it is pure subjectivity. So there is no right or wrong. The ideology of relativism is strengthened by an individualistic mentality.  In those days, our parents and forefathers would sacrifice their happiness for the sake of their children and children’s children.   Nowadays, people only live for themselves and for today.  The future is not our business because we will be dead and gone.  Let the people of tomorrow handle their own problems.

The challenge in witnessing to Christ is also made more difficult because of two other factors. With advancement in technology and mass media, especially digital and social media, news travel fast, almost in an instant.  But technology is a double-edged sword.  We can harness it for good or for evil.  Some use social media to spread fake news or distort the message.   Instead of using it to spread goodwill, some will use it to cause division, sow hatred and even cause civil wars.  Because religious views and doctrines are easily accessible, those who do not agree with the doctrines or morality preached and taught would often speak out against them.  They extract the message out of context and circulate it, causing misunderstandings, dismay and anger.  Of course, when used positively, mass media and technology are powerful means to spread the Good News.  But it behooves preachers and teachers to be more sensitive and careful in what they say.

The other factor in witnessing to Christ is global migration where society is no more homogenous.  When society is cosmopolitan, there is a need to find common space among the different religions and cultures. When society is homogenous, it is easier to unite the people because all have a shared religion, culture, belief and values.   Seeing it positively, it is a great opportunity to share our faith with each other and our cultures too, so that in the process we are enriched in our own faith and in our cultures.   But there is also the danger of aggressive competition leading to oppression, persecution and discrimination.

There is still another obstacle in the proclamation of the gospel.  This could come from government policies.  Most democratic governments will formulate policies to reflect the common will of the people, as one of the most important tasks of the government is to preserve harmony, ensure law and order so that everyone can live in peace.  In a cosmopolitan country, it appears that a secular government is the way to manage the differences among all religions. By adopting secularist policies, there is an apparent neutrality of the government towards all religions.  But unwittingly, it also renders support to secularism as well, since religions are taken out of public life.  So such policies, whilst not favouring people of faith, does inadvertently favour people who are without faith.  In truth, secularism is another form of “religion”, if we see religion as a way of life and belief.   On the other hand, countries that do not have a secular government tend to oppress those of minority religions where there is a dominant religion or where atheism is considered the professed “religion” of the nation.

So what do we do in the light of the heightened sensitive situation we are in?  Evangelization can no longer be conducted as in the first or second millennium.  We need to find new ways to overcome these challenges in sharing the gospel with everyone. 

Right from the outset, we must accept the fact that we will always be misunderstood at some time and by some people.   Persecution is inevitable in some countries because there is a state religion or state atheism.  Misunderstanding and criticism of our doctrines, beliefs and practices are even more unavoidable.  But should we be surprised?   “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you.”  (Jn 15:18f)

Indeed, the reason why Christians are persecuted or misunderstood is because those who are not believers do not share in our religious experience or encounter with the Risen Lord. For such people, we need to forgive them for their ignorance.  As Jesus said to His disciples, “They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God. They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself.” The prophecy of Jesus came true during the time of the early Church when the Jewish leaders were arresting the Jewish Christians whom they considered as adopting an outlawed religion that was deviant, subversive and divisive. (cf 1 Tim 1:12-14)  So we should not blame those who misunderstand us and cannot accept our beliefs and doctrines simply because they have not enjoyed the same encounter we have had with the Risen Lord.  Those who sincerely object to our beliefs are doing so in ignorance and we should not fault them but to pray for them and enlighten them.

But there are those who persecute us because of sin, that is, because they want to protect their interests, their positions in society, money and power.  Some persecute us because we preach a morality that offends them or compromises their economic interests in promoting unhealthy entertainment and a promiscuous lifestyle.   Again, Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.   It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’”  (Jn 15:2225)

So, as Christians, we must exercise patience in dealing with opposition and persecution.  We must also exercise greater sensitivity in the way we proclaim the gospel and avoid giving ammunition for others to distort our message of truth and love.  But it does not mean that we need to compromise what we believe in.  As St Peter exhorts us,  “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;  yet do it with gentleness and reverence.  Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”  (1 Pt 3:15f)  We must also proclaim the truth with charity!

In the final analysis, we must remember that conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  This was true for the conversion of Lydia, “a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying.”  Without the Holy Spirit opening her heart, she would not have had the gift of faith.  This is why the Lord said, “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.”

More importantly, we must sing praises to God for what He has done for us through testimony in songs, words and deeds.  We must sing the Lord’s praises through works of charity and love.  These are means to help people to open their hearts to the love of God.  It is preferable that we steer away from doctrinal arguments because it presupposes faith and experience.  As the Lord said,  “you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.”  Unless we have been companions of Jesus, seen and heard Him, we cannot have faith or be His witnesses.

Only with matured believers of all faith who are lovers of God and men, can we can then dialogue in charity and truth.  Inter-religious dialogue must make progress beyond cordial friendship to the sharing of religious experiences and how our doctrines are expressive of what we experience and what we believe.  By humble sharing of our faith, we can actually enrich each other’s faith, making us re-examine our beliefs and practices.  Indeed, at the end of the day, our desire is that all peoples will come to know God more and more and love Him in our brothers and sisters, so that we all become one family of God.  We should not envy people of other faiths but rejoice that they too have found God and to give praise to Him, for God indeed works in many ways unknown to us.  Even though we believe that Christ is the image of the invisible God (cf Heb 1:1-3a), yet  we also hold that salvation “holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.  (GS 22)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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https://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 29, 2018 — “I am the vine, you are the branches.” — Are we bearing fruit under His guidance?

April 29, 2018

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Jesus is the True Fruit of the Vine (Russian Icon)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 53

Reading 1 ACTS 9:26-31

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples,
but they were all afraid of him,
not believing that he was a disciple.
Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles,
and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord,
and that he had spoken to him,
and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.
He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem,
and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.
He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists,
but they tried to kill him.
And when the brothers learned of this,
they took him down to Caesarea
and sent him on his way to Tarsus.The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.
It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

Responsorial Psalm PS 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32

R. (26a) I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD.
The lowly shall eat their fill;
they who seek the LORD shall praise him:
“May your hearts live forever!”
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
all the families of the nations
shall bow down before him.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
To him alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth;
before him shall bend
all who go down into the dust.
R. .
or: I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people
R. Alleluia.
And to him my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve him.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice he has shown.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 JN 3:18-24

Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.

Alleluia  JN 15:4A, 5B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord.
Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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No automatic alt text available.

Gospel JN 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
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First thoughts from Peace and Freedom
.
As  is often the case, these reading together offer a lot for us to think about.
.
In Acts 9:26-31 we hear more about the difficult days of the disciples after they started to evangelize without Christ. Saul tells them about his “scales fell from my eyes” experience on the Tarsus road but they are afraid of him. After all, he never saw Jesus himself and once supported Roman rule — he persecuted Christians. The follows of Christ also note that people wanted to kill them when they evangelized. That’s often still true today, 2,000 years later!
.
1 JN 3:18-24, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,” reminds us that we have to live our faith. We cannot just talk about it or keep it secret inside of us. Christianity is not a secret society — even though some want to kill us. And how can we do this? “For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.” God gives us the strength.
.
We have a sort of contract with God. He is always there for us but we are asked to “keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
.
“If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) springs to mind. That’s in harmony with the idea that we have to DO — not just talk.
.
Image may contain: night and text
.
The last line of 1 JN 3:18-24 reminds us of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.
.
Finally, the gospel reminds us that we are inter-connected to each other and to God — like a twisting, growing, living vine. Why is this a good deal?
.
Because:
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
This reminds us of “Ask and it will be given to you; Knock and the door will open.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
.
Related:
.
.
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Image result for Monastery of Christ in the Desert, photos
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Reflection From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert
.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Today we are invited to remain in Christ as branches in a vine.  We do this by recognizing that God is at work in everyone and by striving to keep His commands and to do what is pleasing to God.  Always the Christian life sounds easy and yet is a challenge for us all.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles.  In the Easter Season we read the whole of the Acts of the Apostles.  The Sunday readings give us important portions of the Acts of the Apostles.  Saint Paul, formerly Saul, was converted directly by the Lord Jesus.  Almost everyone was afraid of him because of his previous persecutions of Christians.  It was not easy to come to trust that he was not now simply trying another way to find Christians to put them to death.  Finally Barnabas believes in him and is able to convince others to accept him.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint John.  The teaching today is very simple:  we must believe in Jesus and we must love one another.  The simple teaching is always difficult to live.  Belief in Jesus keeps drawing us deeper and deeper into the mystery of God—or we abandon Jesus entirely.  Today many people want to believe in Jesus only as a good man and a good teacher.  But it is clear:  we must accept Jesus as God or reject Him.  And if we accept Jesus as God, then we must love everyone, especially those who mistreat us the most.  This is how Jesus lived, even pardoning those who put Him to death.

The Gospel is from Saint John and teaches us that we must cling to Jesus the way that a vine is attached to a branch.  Our lives must grow from Jesus.  We are part of Him and must live in Him and all the force of our lives must come from Him.  The only way to be disconnected from Jesus is to be broken off from Him.  We can break ourselves off from Him by choosing to no longer be with him.  Sin clearly does not break us off from Him when we choose to repent.  So repentance must always be at the heart of our life with Jesus.

On this fifth Sunday of Easter, we are invited to trust those who choose the Lord, even if we know that in the past such people may have been against the Lord.  We are invited to deepen our belief in the Lord Jesus and always to be faithful in loving one another.  We are invited to cling to the Lord, no matter how we fail or sin.  Christ has risen from the dead in order to draw us to Himself.  Let us sing alleluia and give thanks to the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sky, outdoor and water

From Fear to Faith a painting by artist Howard Lyon.

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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29 APRIL, 2018, Sunday, 5th Week of Easter

BEARING FRUITS IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 9:26-31Ps 22:26-28,30-321 John 3:18-24John 15:1-8 ]

In the first reading, we read of the radical conversion of St Paul from being a persecutor of the Church to proclaimer of the gospel.  Immediately after his conversion, he continued to preach at Damascus until his life was at risk because the Jews threatened to kill him.  Hence, his followers sought to save him by sending him to Jerusalem for safety.  But one cannot keep someone who has encountered Christ so radically from speaking about his conversion experience.  So St Paul, being the passionate person that he was, “started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord.”  Again, after his debate with the Hellenists, “they became determined to kill him.”

The most visible sign that we have a real conversion experience is when there is a radical change of life, from one without faith or lacking in faith to one of deep faith; from one of lukewarm faith to one of zealous faith.  Indeed, evangelical zeal is the sign of one having encountered the Lord because when we have encountered the Good News in person, we cannot keep it to ourselves.  The joy and newfound life in us will naturally flow out of us to others.  When we are liberated and joyful and full of love, we want to reach out to others.  The lack of evangelical witness simply means that our faith in Christ is at most an intellectual faith, but we have no real relationship with the Lord.

How, then, do we witness to the Lord?  Firstly, we must have an utter conviction of Jesus as Lord.  St John wrote, “His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to.”  To believe in the name of His Son means that we know who Jesus is, that He is the Son of the Father, truly God and truly man.  It is to accept all that Jesus has taught us, and to declare Him to be the Lord.  As St Peter declared, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”  We are called to proclaim the name of Jesus as our Lord and savior.

Secondly, we are called to love one another.  Christian love for the Lord must be concretely manifested in our love for our fellowmen.  To recognize that Jesus is Lord is to share in His passion for the salvation of our fellowmen.   Like Him too, we must recognize everyone as our brothers and sisters.  The letter to the Hebrews says, “For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.” (Heb 2:11)  That is why St John reminds us, “My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk,  but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are the children of the truth.”   With the love that He has given to us, we are called to share that love with others.

Thirdly, to be His witness means that we are called to bear the fruits of the Spirit.  Jesus said, “It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.”  These fruits are not just the fruits of evangelization and charity, but it is the way we live out our lives in the way we conduct ourselves in our relationship with God and our fellowmen.  It is a call to live the life of the Spirit of Jesus in our very being.  St Paul speaks of these fruits in his letter to the Galatians. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22 cf 2 Pt 1:5-8)

So how can we bear fruits in our Christian life and discipleship?  Firstly, the gospel makes it clear that we must be one with the vine.  “As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.”  Christians, to be fruitful, must be in communion with the Lord who is the vine as we are His branches.  When the branches are connected with the vine, we will share in His Spirit and through and in Christ, He will bear fruits in us.

To be in communion with the Lord means that we make ourselves the dwelling place of God.  Jesus said, “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.”  This is possible only when we are reading and praying the scriptures.  Jesus said earlier on, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”  (Jn 14:23)  Being in contact with the Word of God is where we are guided to walk in the Spirit.  “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:16f)

In a special way, to be in communion with the Lord we must celebrate the Eucharist and receive Him in Holy Communion.  Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.”  (Jn 6:56f)  Being in communion with the Lord through the Eucharist enables us to live in Him and Him in us.

However, the Eucharist also speaks of our communion with the Body of Christ.  Jesus is not just the vine but the branches as well.  We form the body of Christ with Jesus as our head.   By celebrating the Eucharist together, we affirm our oneness with Christ and with each other.  It is important therefore that we gather as God’s family round the table of the Word and the bread of life so that we can strengthen our bond with the Lord and with each other.  The Eucharist is the antidote to individualism and isolation.

This communion with each other is expressed in fraternal support and love for each other.  Alone, the journey of faith is very difficult but we are not called to be alone.  We are called to be in the body of Christ so that we can be supported by the Christian community.  That was how the early Christians supported St Paul when he was converted.  Without their support and encouragement, St Paul would never have made it on his own.  Even if he tried, he would have been killed by his enemies.  But there were good Christians like Barnabas who connected him with the community and introduced him to the rest so that they could give him the support.  When “they were all afraid of him: they could not believe he was really a disciple. Barnabas, however, took charge of him, introduced him to the apostles.”

We too must give support to each other in our faith.  Like Barnabas, the best way to introduce someone to Jesus is to introduce him or her to someone who has a deep faith in the Lord expressed in his or her life of charity and goodness.  The reason why many of us do not have a deep faith in Christ and remain nominal Catholics is because we are alienated, without any spiritual and fraternal support.  We must help each other to immerse in Christian fellowship so that we can be edified and supported by the faith of others.

Finally, to bear fruits, we must continually be pruned by the Lord.  Jesus said to His disciples:  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more.  You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you.”  Faith is an ongoing journey, just as in human relationship.  It takes years to be purified in love and understanding.  So too in our relationship with God. Through the Word of God, through the Christian community, through service and the trials of the apostolate, we will be more and more purified in loving God and our fellowmen more sincerely, unconditionally and freely.  If we do that, then we will be more and more fruitful each day, for this is the promise of the Lord, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it.”

That is why, if we have walked this way of the Spirit, we should be at peace with ourselves. “Only by this can we be certain that we are the children of the truth and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence, whatever accusations it may raise against us, because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything.”   Having done all we could, we must surrender everything to the Lord.  It is God who is our judge in the end.   And we know that God will judge us mercifully because He understands how much we struggle to be faithful to Him in spite of our inadequacies and human frailties.   When we are true to ourselves as much as we can, and true to God, then St John assures us,  “if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience, we need not be afraid in God’s presence,”   So let us commend all our efforts of evangelization and service to God and not be too scrupulous and condemn ourselves for not doing more.  ”

Nevertheless, there is a warning for those who are complacent in their faith. Jesus said, “Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.”   When we do not live the life of the Spirit, when we do not connect ourselves with the Lord, we will wither and dry up in our faith as in any relationship that is not nurtured and kept alive.  Left to ourselves, we become ignorant and anxious.  We will destroy our peace and happiness.  But when we give Jesus to others, by sharing our faith and our life, we too will grow in union with Jesus and with others.  So let us follow the early Christians by building ourselves up, “living in the fear of the Lord, and filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit.”

 

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 29, 2018 — We can’t just talk, we have to do — Our reward at first is, “Ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.”

April 28, 2018

ifth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 53

Reading 1 ACTS 9:26-31

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples,
but they were all afraid of him,
not believing that he was a disciple.
Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles,
and he reported to them how he had seen the Lord,
and that he had spoken to him,
and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.
He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem,
and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.
He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists,
but they tried to kill him.
And when the brothers learned of this,
they took him down to Caesarea
and sent him on his way to Tarsus.The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace.
It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit it grew in numbers.

Responsorial Psalm PS 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32

R. (26a) I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the LORD.
The lowly shall eat their fill;
they who seek the LORD shall praise him:
“May your hearts live forever!”
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
all the families of the nations
shall bow down before him.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
To him alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth;
before him shall bend
all who go down into the dust.
R. .
or: I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people
R. Alleluia.
And to him my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve him.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice he has shown.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 JN 3:18-24

Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God
and receive from him whatever we ask,
because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
And his commandment is this:
we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ,
and love one another just as he commanded us.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.

Alleluia  JN 15:4A, 5B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Remain in me as I remain in you, says the Lord.
Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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No automatic alt text available.

Gospel JN 15:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.
You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.
Anyone who does not remain in me
will be thrown out like a branch and wither;
people will gather them and throw them into a fire
and they will be burned.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
By this is my Father glorified,
that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”
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*****************************************
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Fist thoughts from Peace and Freedom
.
As  is often the case, these reading together offer a lot for us to think about.
.
In Acts 9:26-31 we hear more about the difficult days of the disciples after they started to evangelize without Christ. Saul tells them about his “scales fell from my eyes” experience on the Tarsus road but they are afraid of him. After all, he never saw Jesus himself and once supported Roman rule — he persecuted Christians. The follows of Christ also note that people wanted to kill them when they evangelized. That’s often still true today, 2,000 years later!
.
1 JN 3:18-24, “Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,” reminds us that we have to live our faith. We cannot just talk about it or keep it secret inside of us. Christianity is not a secret society — even though some want to kill us. And how can we do this? “For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.” God gives us the strength.
.
We have a sort of contract with God. He is always there for us but we are asked to “keep his commandments and do what pleases him.”
.
“If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15) springs to mind. That’s in harmony with the idea that we have to DO — not just talk.
.
Image may contain: night and text
.
The last line of 1 JN 3:18-24 reminds us of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
.
Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them,
and the way we know that he remains in us
is from the Spirit he gave us.
.
Finally, the gospel reminds us that we are inter-connected to each other and to God — like a twisting, growing, living vine. Why is this a good deal?
.
Because:
If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.
This reminds us of “Ask and it will be given to you; Knock and the door will open.” (Matthew 7:7-8)
.
Related:
.
.
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Image result for Monastery of Christ in the Desert, photos
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Reflection From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Today we are invited to remain in Christ as branches in a vine.  We do this by recognizing that God is at work in everyone and by striving to keep His commands and to do what is pleasing to God.  Always the Christian life sounds easy and yet is a challenge for us all.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles.  In the Easter Season we read the whole of the Acts of the Apostles.  The Sunday readings give us important portions of the Acts of the Apostles.  Saint Paul, formerly Saul, was converted directly by the Lord Jesus.  Almost everyone was afraid of him because of his previous persecutions of Christians.  It was not easy to come to trust that he was not now simply trying another way to find Christians to put them to death.  Finally Barnabas believes in him and is able to convince others to accept him.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint John.  The teaching today is very simple:  we must believe in Jesus and we must love one another.  The simple teaching is always difficult to live.  Belief in Jesus keeps drawing us deeper and deeper into the mystery of God—or we abandon Jesus entirely.  Today many people want to believe in Jesus only as a good man and a good teacher.  But it is clear:  we must accept Jesus as God or reject Him.  And if we accept Jesus as God, then we must love everyone, especially those who mistreat us the most.  This is how Jesus lived, even pardoning those who put Him to death.

The Gospel is from Saint John and teaches us that we must cling to Jesus the way that a vine is attached to a branch.  Our lives must grow from Jesus.  We are part of Him and must live in Him and all the force of our lives must come from Him.  The only way to be disconnected from Jesus is to be broken off from Him.  We can break ourselves off from Him by choosing to no longer be with him.  Sin clearly does not break us off from Him when we choose to repent.  So repentance must always be at the heart of our life with Jesus.

On this fifth Sunday of Easter, we are invited to trust those who choose the Lord, even if we know that in the past such people may have been against the Lord.  We are invited to deepen our belief in the Lord Jesus and always to be faithful in loving one another.  We are invited to cling to the Lord, no matter how we fail or sin.  Christ has risen from the dead in order to draw us to Himself.  Let us sing alleluia and give thanks to the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sky, outdoor and water

From Fear to Faith a painting by artist Howard Lyon.

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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NOT YET POSTED

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 22, 2018 — “That we may be called the children of God.”

April 21, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 50

Image result for A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, bible, art, photos

Reading 1 ACTS 4:8-12

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said:
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
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Photo of Cornerstone Church - Portland, OR, United States

Responsorial Psalm  PS 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

R. (22) The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his kindness endures forever.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia. 

Reading 2  1 JN 3:1-2

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

Alleluia  JN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Related image
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A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep

Gospel JN 10:11-18

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”
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Image result for church in the desert
Monastery of Christ in the Desert,
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Reflection by The Abbot
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Saint John gives us these words of Jesus:  “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.”  God is seeking us out, just as a shepherd seeks out his sheep.  God wants us to be with him, just as the shepherd wants his sheep with him.  This Sunday we are invited and challenged to give our lives completely to the Lord.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles.  We could pay attention to just this one sentence:  “There is no salvation through anyone else.”  So often we want to work our own salvation.  Too often we have an idea of what our salvation might mean.  Today we are invited to recognize that God saves us in many, many ways.  God always invites us to share His life.  We are invited to let God be Saviour rather than constantly seeking to save ourselves.

Once we come to recognize Jesus as true Savior, we cannot stop talking about Him to others.  We want to share His presence in our lives.  We want others to recognize that there is nothing worthwhile in this whole world other than the presence of Jesus.  And, for many of us, we do not want to appear to be fanatics in the process.  Nevertheless, like the early disciples of Jesus, we will look fanatic whenever we speak about our belief in the Lord Jesus.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint John.  Saint John tells us:  “When it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  We shall see HIM as HE is.  This life is about seeking God and seeing only glimpses of the Lord Jesus.  Some seem to have more glimpses than others, but God always gives each of us what we need to continue in the seeking of God.  In the life of the world to come, we shall see Him as He is.

More importantly, Jesus will also see us as we are, with all of our brokenness, our sinfulness, our failures, our sins and all that we might want to hide from Him.  He will still say to us:  Come, you blessed of my Father.  Enter the Kingdom.

We come back to the Gospel of John.  Jesus lays down His life for us.  Jesus gives His live over to death in order that we can life forever.  We are invited to accept that salvation.  Even if we do not fully understand the Lord Jesus or His salvation, we are invited to accept Him and ask Him to save us.

Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, save us and draw us to yourself.  Be our shepherd and guide us in this life so that we may all be with you forever in the life of the world to come.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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The Cornerstone by Ray Pritchard
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“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Psalm 118:22).

The image comes from the ancient quarries where highly-trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used in construction. No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line. For that reason, builders inspected many stones, rejecting each one until they found the one they wanted. Rejected stones might be used in other parts of the building, but they would never become the cornerstone or the capstone (the first and last stones put in place).

When Peter preached to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8–12, he quoted Psalm 118:22 to show that Jesus is the rejected stone whom God made to be the cornerstone of salvation. They (the Jewish leaders) rejected him, but God not only accepted him but put him in the position of highest honor.

Peter pressed the point home with this powerful conclusion: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These words are utterly exclusive. There is no other hope, no other way, and no other name than the name of Jesus. If we would be saved, we must come God’s way or we won’t come at all.

Do not be like the builders who rejected God’s Stone of salvation! Do not reject Jesus Christ. Do not stumble over this rejected stone. The very stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. May God open your eyes to see Jesus as he really is—the Cornerstone of eternal salvation.

Taken from “Rejected Stone” by Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).

http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/the-stone-that-the-builders-rejected-became-the-cornerstone.html

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

Today’s readings always remind me of, “Unless you CHANGE and become like little children.” ( Matthew 18:3 )

Indeed: we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd story. We must be docile, humble, teachable.

But most of us are proud, ego-centric, money grubbers. Even more reason God tells us to CHANGE and become better followers….

Unless You Become Like Little Children — God wants us to plunge into the unknown joyfully — reliant upon Him for strength and power and salvation.

Instead many people today are filled with fear and anxiety.

But there’s no need for that if we TRULY BELIEVE  in an all loving, all forgiving Father waiting to give us eternal life.

He tells us: “Do not e afraid.” He says this to the apostles while he is walking on water. He says it to Mary when she come to the tomb three days after the crucifixion. In fact, “Do not be afraid” is one of the more oft repeated lines in scripture.

So why are we afraid? Because we refuse to belive.

Finally, if we live long enough, most of us get to be both the stone rejected and the cornerstone! You get to my age you’ll know what I mean…

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 APRIL, 2018, Sunday, 4th Week of Easter
EXAMINING THE CAUSE FOR FAILURE IN LEADERSHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:8-121 JOHN 3:1-2JOHN 10:11-18 ]

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday.  All of us are called to be shepherds after the heart of Christ.  We exercise the office of shepherd as civil leaders, corporate leaders, teachers, priests, church leaders or even as parents.  Regardless how old or young we are, we will always be exercising some form of leadership.  We are not just being led but we also lead according to our capacity.

We all know how it is to be in leadership.   We can never please everyone.  It is extremely challenging to unite people with different personalities, interests, views and perspectives to work together.  No matter what we do, there will be people who oppose us, slander us and resist whatever we try to do for the greater good of the community.   But this is the trial and test of leadership as well.   Jesus as our cornerstone has been rejected by His own people as well.  Both the Acts of the Apostles and the responsorial psalm reiterate the same thing about the stone rejected by the builders.  So leaders should not be surprised when they are rejected as well.   But it is also important to examine the reasons why there are people who oppose us in leadership.

We can of course blame the sheep.  Most of us are into this blame game whenever things go wrong.  Instead of looking at the issues objectively, we look for scapegoats to blame for our failures, unhappiness and frustrations.  Instead of looking into ourselves, our tendency is to assign the fault to other people or the structures.  This could be the case for us as leaders.  We conclude that our failures and disappointments are all because they did not listen to our voice.  Instead they chose their own way.  They are self-willed and they chose to go astray.  The problem is with them and not with us.  We feel that they do not know us and cannot feel with us in our struggles. Most of all, they do not appreciate how much we have done for them.

But adopting the blame game will not solve the pain and frustrations we face as leaders!  We will only become more bitter and resentful.  So instead of picking at the faults of those sheep under our care, it would be more worthwhile that we look into ourselves and understand why our sheep are not hearing our voice and therefore not following us.  At the end of the day, there is a communication breakdown.  It might not just be at the information level, but at the level of the heart.  Can we truly say with Jesus when He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep”?  I think it would be fair to say that we do not really know our sheep and they do not know us.  This is the reason for the miscommunication and lack of communication between leaders and the led.

Why don’t our sheep have confidence in us?  The reason is simply because they do not trust that we can lead them to greener pastures, or worse still, that we do not have their interests at heart.  So trust and confidence is not just a matter of competency and ability in leadership, but more than that, whether we really care for them.  In fact, our sheep can forgive us for the lack of leadership skills, but they cannot forgive us if we are self-serving, putting our interests and convenience before theirs.

What could cause the lack of trust and confidence?  It could be due to the lack of transparency.  They do not know what we are doing.  We do not take time to explain to them our vision, mission, our plans and concerns.  They are just receiving commands and orders from us.  They feel that we are making use of them like pawns for our ambition.  This is true even for parents.  Our children do not do what we tell them because they do not understand our concerns, our struggles, and our constraints, especially when they ask for favors or money. They are afraid to tell us the truth or share their problems and struggles for fear of rejection or being marginalized and falling out of favour with us.  They don’t see us as caring for them and that we are laying down our lives for them.

They do not know us perhaps because we do not let them know us.  We do not spend time with the sheep, like the shepherd who lives with them.  They feel that we regard them as a flock of sheep, as a mass rather than as individuals with different strengths and weaknesses, needs and difficulties.  We do not really know our sheep because we live in our ivory tower.  In a word, we are not in touch with their pains and dreams and aspirations.  We do not know them by name, that is, personally, and therefore cannot share their sufferings, hopes and expectations.

Accordingly, for effectiveness in leadership, the leader must take pains to explain to their members and share with them his vision and challenges so that they can better appreciate the limitations and the anxieties of their leaders.  Indeed, this was the case of Jesus the Good Shepherd.  The bible tells us that the shepherd always lives among his sheep, day and night.  He is often alone with his sheep.  He will talk to them, play with them, always leading and protecting them.  That is how the sheep come to recognize the voice of their shepherd.  Jesus always takes pains to share with His apostles and disciples His vision of life, God and creation.  He even prepared them for His eventual death and resurrection.  If there is a lack of trust, it boils down to the lack of communication and sharing.

Secondly, the lack of trust in leaders has to do with the way we exercise leadership.  Quite often, we exercise our leadership using an authoritarian style, where we rely heavily on the exercise of institutional authority, a style of command that is top down.  As a consequence, those under our charge see us as dictatorial, uncompromising, ambitious, insensitive and arrogant.  They feel we are judgmental and exacting, especially when they make mistakes. We lack compassion and understanding.  Instead of being forgiving and encouraging, we put them down. Such an approach will only hurt our sheep.  Instead of using the staff to guide them, to lead and correct them, we use the staff as a rod to beat them and punish them.  Without gentleness and meekness in leadership, we will destroy and wound them further and deeper.  Harshness and arrogance are not the ways Jesus dealt with His disciples.  It is always one of humble servanthood.  Compassionate leadership is the only way to gain trust and respect from our sheep.

Thirdly, they do not feel that we genuinely care for them as persons with feelings and needs.  We care more for our projects and ambitions.  Like the bad shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34, we only use them for our interests and to achieve our goals.  We take their wool to receive honour, recognition and respect for what we do.  We drink their milk, making use of them for our benefit.  So they feel used by us.  They do not see that we are more interested in their well-being and their happiness than the success of our projects.  Some of them are lost, but we do not take the trouble to seek them out.  Others are wounded but we do not have time to heal them.  Some are sick but we do not take the trouble to nurse them.  Some are hungry, overworked and tired but we do not feed them, give them formation and love.

Once we treat them like workers instead of brothers and sisters, we begin to regard them as our propertyto do as we like with them.  But that is against the truth that we share the same Heavenly Father, as St John tells us in the second reading.  We are all children of God. Indeed, although I have been using the term “our sheep” I must qualify this, for strictly speaking, those under our care, whether our children, employees or members, do not belong to us and they are not our sheep!  But they are the sheep of God since Jesus is the only Good Shepherd.  They are our sheep insofar as we are exercising shepherding on behalf of God.  If they were our sheep in the narrow sense, then we can do with them as we will, since they are our property.   But precisely as St John says, we are all children of God; we as leaders are accountable to God our Good Shepherd in the way we manage His sheep.

To gain confidence from those we lead, leaders are expected to walk the talk.  We are called to lead.  This means we must be ahead of our sheep.  To walk ahead is to show the way and walk the way.  We are called to be exemplars of the values that we hold.  In the final analysis, it is the lack of of integrity and fidelity to our calling that cause leaders to lose their credibility and hence, the distrust of our followers.  So long as we do not practice what we preach, do what we tell them to do, we cannot expect to command their respect and trust.  Using our office to coerce them to do what we want will only breed anger and resentment and even hatred.  If Jesus is our Good Shepherd, it is because He lived what He preached.  It was His fidelity to His Father unto death that earns Him our trust.  He walked before us before He asked us to follow after Him.  That is why He said, ‘The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will.”

In the light of our failure as leaders, or even when we, like Jesus, have truly been grossly misunderstood and rejected, let us come to the Good Shepherd for healing.  Not only do members need healing, but even more so leaders, because we bear the burdens of those under our care.   Unless we seek healing, we will only allow our wounds to hurt others, for indirectly and often unconsciously, our pain, anger, resentment, the sense of betrayal and injustice will lead us to be negative towards them, regard them as our enemies and even take revenge on them subtly.  Leaders are wounded healers.  This presupposes that they are healed before they can tend to the wounds of others.  Otherwise, we only expose our raw wounds, turning them away.  We cannot heal others unless we ourselves are constantly seeking healing from the Lord.  As parents and leaders, we need to turn to the Good Shepherd for healing.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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