Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

Vatican urged not to sign ‘devil’s pact’ with China

April 14, 2018

‘IMMORAL’: China follows ‘Xi Jinping Thought,’ a Chung Hua University professor told a Taipei forum, while a researcher said China still persecutes because of religion

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer
Taipei Times

Academics attending a forum in Taipei yesterday urged the Pope not to choose a “devil’s pact” with the “modern theocratic government” that is China.

A “modern theocracy” has already formed in China, Chung Hua University Department of Public Administration associate professor Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元) told the forum hosted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses so-called “Xi Jinping Thought” (習近平思想) to command the psychology of Chinese and anyone who might challenge the party-state’s authority is kept under strict control, he said.

According to China’s newly amended Regulations on Religious Affairs (宗教事務條例), any religious groups unwilling to register would receive “unsystematic” treatment, he said.

The standard for the CCP’s so-called “Sinicization of religion” would be set by the CCP, he said.

By making a “devil’s deal” with the CCP, Pope Francis would be betraying the Catholics and advocates of religious freedom who have been persecuted by the CCP, he added.

The key to religious persecution by the CCP today does not lie in a dispute between theism and atheism, but rather in the CCP’s view of faith groups as potentially hostile forces, said Wu Renhua (吳仁華), a visiting academic at Soochow University’s Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights who also attended the forum.

If these believers were to become political opposition groups, it would have a considerable impact on the CCP regime, he said, adding that the CCP has therefore always persecuted religious groups since its founding.

Catholics aside, the number of Christians in China has in recent years increased to more than 100 million, Wu said, adding that this has made them key targets of CCP attacks.

If the Vatican gives up on a free Taiwan and establishes diplomatic relations with China, the church would be making a “foolish” move, Wu said.

Moreover, such a move would not be in line with the interests of Chinese Catholics, but would be an abandonment of their sense of morality, Wu said.

The Vatican would be making an immoral decision, he added.

China-Vatican relations are at times real and at times fake, Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen (董立文) said.

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Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen, right, speaks at a forum organized by the Cross-Strait Policy Association in Taipei

It is true that the Vatican wants to establish diplomatic relations with China because it cannot overlook the potential number of believers in China, Tung said.

However, the two states have been unable to establish diplomatic relations because the CCP fears religious freedom, he said.

The CCP was originally atheist, but in recent years it has loosened its grip and allowed religious belief while still maintaining a high level of control over the staffing, organization and property of religious groups, Tung said.

However, after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took office, he further clamped down on religion, Tung said.

Citing observations made by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Tung said the CCP was not soft in its curtailment of religious belief last year.

The CCP’s persecution of church members included arrests, house arrests and limitations on the participation of underaged people in churches, he said, adding that there were more than 100 victims last year.

It also forcibly removed crosses, forced churches to relocate and cut off churches’ power and water supply, Tung said, adding that more than 100 churches were affected.

If the Roman Curia wants to establish diplomatic relations with China, it must submit to the CCP, Tung said.

“If it does, how will Catholics around the world view the Vatican?” Tung asked.


Who Made Xi Jinping Pope?

A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006.
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006. PHOTO: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.

Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.

Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table.

As this newspaper reported Feb. 1, the pope “has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government.” This means the pope will no longer have full control over his bishops. The power will go instead to atheist bureaucrats determined to suppress religion, with the pope’s role in appointing bishops reduced to a veto over their selection. The pope got almost nothing in return from his Chinese counterparts, and he is also being mocked. News reports allege that at least two of the seven excommunicated bishops selected by China have had relationships with women and even fathered children.

This appalls Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was born in Shanghai in 1932 and was bishop of Hong Kong from 2002-09. He has plenty of firsthand experience tussling with Chinese communists. He has negotiated the release of priests and bishops imprisoned in China, while raising funds abroad for the families of the persecuted. He was also under constant surveillance for his role in Hong Kong’s democracy movement. Few understand the true nature of a communist regime as well as he does.

Late last year, the cardinal told me of the Vatican’s effort to compel two good and faithful bishops to retire to make way for men chosen by Beijing. “Imagine what the communists think?” he asked. “They must be laughing at us.” Last month Cardinal Zen flew to Rome to make a personal appeal to the pope. He was ignored.

The pope’s dealings with similar regimes, notably Cuba and Venezuela, do not inspire confidence. Perhaps he dreams of becoming the first pope to celebrate Mass in Tiananmen Square. That would make for a powerful image. But the hard-liners in Beijing are not naive. They are very conscious of the church’s role in communism’s fall, especially in Poland.

Because the Vatican wants a deal more than Beijing does, the Holy See has negotiated from a weak position. “If the Holy Father gives up enough, they will take it, but the communists will offer nothing of substance in return,” Cardinal Zen says. If there is a deal, it will no doubt be the first of many surrenders. Perhaps the churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan will be next.

Do the pope and his diplomats really think Mr. Xi is merely going through the motions when he imprisons priests and bishops? Consider that China is in the midst of a military buildup, a multitrillion-dollar economic expansion across Asia and Africa, and a revival of aggressive communist ideology at home. No one should expect a resurgent China to honor a deal with the Vatican.

The proposed deal also needlessly deepens pre-existing divisions. Catholics in China currently belong to either the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association—a government-controlled church—or the underground church. The deal requires all underground bishops to join the government church, though not necessarily with their current title, or resign. It also forces all the priests and faithful in the underground church to join the CPCA. Anyone who doesn’t comply could face arrest for illegal activity, all while being declared disobedient by the Vatican.

Knowing that the Holy Father was on their side helped millions of Chinese Catholics—including Cardinal Zen—through their darkest days. But now they have to wonder about the Holy See’s judgment. Perhaps the only real hope for the Catholic faithful in China is that an aggressive and emboldened Beijing will insist on further capitulations. Maybe that would finally get the pope to walk from a deal.

Mr. Simon is an executive with Next Digital in Hong Kong.


A crane winching a large red cross from one Guantou’s three domes

A crane winches a large red cross from one of three domes on the Guantou church in Wenzhou



The Challenge of Easter

April 3, 2018

Whether you’re a believer or not, there is no way to ignore the radical claim of the Resurrection

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Easter has resisted the commercialization and commodification that have distorted the celebration of Christmas. Pictured, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. PHOTO: BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

When was the last time you felt stressed out by Easter? So much Easter shopping to do, so many Easter cards to write, so many Easter gatherings to attend. Not to mention the endless stream of Easter commercials on television and online, the nearly unavoidable Easter-themed movies and all those tacky Easter sweaters that you’re forced to wear every spring. And don’t forget the travails of setting up the annual Easter tree and stringing Easter lights on your house.

Every year you lament how overly commercialized Easter has become. Can the holiday get any more money-oriented? You feel that way every year, don’t you?

Of course you don’t.

That is because Easter has stubbornly resisted the kind of commercialization, commodification and general crassification that long ago swallowed up the celebration of Christmas, at least in the U.S. Here’s a confession: It’s reached the point where I have begun to, yes, dread the Christmas season, and it can be fairly stated that I now dislike Christmas. By that I mean the commercial complex that has grown up around the holiday. (The Feast of the Nativity is another story. That I love.)

So how has Easter—with some notable exceptions, like ever-expanding Easter baskets with more and more expensive gifts for the kids—maintained its relative religious purity?

Mainly, I would say, because of its subversive religious message: Christ is risen.

That is quite a statement. And it’s one that non-Christians can readily grasp, even if they don’t believe it. Jesus of Nazareth, the man whose followers claim that he healed the sick, stilled storms, raised people from the dead and made the poor the center of his ministry, was crucified under the orders of Pontius Pilate and died an agonizing death in Jerusalem. Then, as his followers believe—myself included—after three days in the tomb, he rose from the dead.

If you don’t believe in the Resurrection, you can go on living your life while perhaps admiring Jesus the man, appreciating his example and even putting into practice some of his teachings. At the same time, you can set aside those teachings that you disagree with or that make you uncomfortable—say, forgiving your enemies, praying for your persecutors, living simply or helping the poor. You can set them aside because he’s just another teacher. A great one, to be sure, but just one of many.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, however, everything changes. In that case, you cannot set aside any of his teachings. Because a person who rises from the grave, who demonstrates his power over death and who has definitively proven his divine authority needs to be listened to. What that person says demands a response.

In short, the Resurrection makes a claim on you.

This is unlike Christmas. To be clear, Christians believe that, at the first Christmas, God became human. This is the meaning of what theologians call the “Incarnation.” God took on flesh, a concept as bizarre then as now.

But the Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.

Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead.

Yet the Easter story, essential as it is for Christian belief, can be a confusing one, even for believers. To begin with, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection can seem confounding, even contradictory. They are mysterious in the extreme.

In the Gospel of John, for example, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, one of the few disciples who did not desert him at the Crucifixion. (The fidelity of the women disciples—in contrast to all but one of the men—is an undervalued aspect of the narratives of the death and resurrection of Jesus.) Mary arrives at the place of Jesus’ burial early in the morning, peers into the empty tomb and eventually sees someone. It is the Risen Christ.

But she thinks he is the gardener. “Sir,” she says, “if you carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.” When he speaks her name, “Mariam” (the Greek texts preserve her original Aramaic name), she realizes who it is.

What is going on? How could Mary not recognize the person that she has been following for so long? In later stories, Jesus seems similarly hard to recognize. In the Gospel of Luke, when two disciples encounter him as they are walking to the town of Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, they don’t recognize him at all.

How is this possible?

Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015.
Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015. PHOTO: NURPHOTO//ZUMA PRESS

More confusion: In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears as an almost ghostly figure, apparently able to walk through walls; in other accounts, he is decidedly corporeal. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says explicitly, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he appears to the unfairly named Doubting Thomas (for who wouldn’t doubt?), he says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.”

Ghostly and yet physical, recognizable but unrecognizable. Which is it? How could Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have presented the details of such an important story with such seeming contradictions? The agnostic or atheist will point to this as proof that it never happened. I would suggest that it’s quite the opposite.

Most likely, the narratives reflect the struggle of the eyewitnesses and, later, the evangelists to understand and communicate what had been experienced. After all, no one had ever encountered what theologians call the “glorified body,” the appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection. So they struggled to explain it. It was him, but more. It was his body, but something else. It was like this, but not like this.

If the Gospel writers were intent on getting their stories straight and providing airtight narratives with no inconsistencies, each would have made sure to agree with the others, so as not to give rise to any confusion. Instead, the Gospel writers, composing their accounts at different times and for different communities, simply reported what they had been told. And what they had been told was beyond telling.

But it was him. One of the most astonishing insights about Easter is that this is the same man who was crucified. Sometimes people speak, inadvertently, as if Jesus of Nazareth died on Good Friday and a new person, the Risen Christ, appeared on Easter Sunday. But as the Jesuit priest and New Testament scholar Stanley Marrow has written, for him to have risen as anything other than the Jesus the disciples knew would strip the Resurrection of all meaning.

As Father Marrow wrote, “Showing them ‘his hands and his side,’ which bore the marks of the crucifixion and the pierce of the lance, was not a mere theatrical gesture, but the necessary credentials of the identity of the risen Lord, who stood before them, with the crucified Jesus whom they knew.”

That has implications for all Christians. For one thing, it means that Jesus carries upon himself the visible marks of his human life. In other words, he remembers his suffering. So when one prays to Jesus, one prays to someone who knows, in the most intimate way possible, what it means to live a human life. One also prays to someone who is not only God but man. Who understands you.

This is the mystery of Jesus’ two “natures”: human and divine. The divine one suffered human pain, and the human one is now raised from the dead.

But this was true before the Resurrection.

As mysterious as it is, Christians believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at all times—fully human when healing someone from an illness, fully divine when sawing a plank of wood in his workshop. So his teachings are not simply divinely inspired but flow from his human experience.

To take a homey example, during the time of Jesus’ adolescence and young adulthood, Nazareth was a poor village of no more than 400 people, as archaeology has revealed. The backwater hamlet was, quite literally, a joke. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” says the Apostle Nathanael when he first hears about the messiah’s hometown.

Jesus worked there as a tekton, a Greek word usually translated as carpenter but also as craftsman, woodworker or even day laborer. It was a job considered below the status of a peasant, since a tekton did not even have the benefit of a plot of land.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes.

But a mere 4 miles from Nazareth was the bustling city of Sepphoris, then being rebuilt by King Herod. Sepphoris had a population of 30,000 and included a Greek amphitheater that seated 3,000, a fortress, courts, a royal bank and so on. Most contemporary scholars believe that the poor carpenter from Nazareth almost certainly visited this cosmopolitan city, called the “ornament of all Galilee” by the Jewish historian Josephus. There Jesus would have seen beautiful buildings and houses decorated with mosaics and frescoes (the ruins of which one can still see today).

What did Jesus think when he walked back from the wealthy city to his poor hometown? How could his heart not have been moved by how the poor were forced to live in Nazareth? How could he have seen Mary and Joseph at their backbreaking chores and not have been grieved by the glaring disparities in wealth?

When Jesus witnessed injustices—the shunning of certain of the sick, the mistreatment of the powerless and gross material inequalities—he was inspired to preach against them not simply out of divine inspiration but because his human heart was, as the Gospels often say, “moved with pity.”

When we listen to Jesus, then, we are listening not only to a God who cares for the poor but a human being who knew the poor and who was poor himself.

A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015.
A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015.PHOTO: ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS

What difference does Easter make in the life of the Christian? The message of Easter is, all at once, easy to understand, radical, subversive and life-changing. Easter means that nothing is impossible with God. Moreover, that life triumphs over death. Love triumphs over hatred. Hope triumphs over despair. And that suffering is not the last word.

Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is an odd thing to read in a secular newspaper. But I’m merely stating a central Christian belief. And if he is Lord, and if you’re a Christian, then what he says has a claim on you. His teachings are invitations, to be sure, but they are also commands: Love your neighbors. Forgive. Care for the poor and the marginalized. Live a simple life. Put the needs of others before your own.

Jesus’ message still has the power to make us feel uncomfortable, as it did in first-century Palestine. It was just as much of a challenge to pray for your enemies in antiquity. It was no easier to hear Jesus’ judgment against the excesses of the wealthy during a time of degrading poverty for so many. It was just as subversive a message to be asked to pray for your persecutors as it is now.

By walking out of the tomb on Easter, Jesus declared something life-changing, something subversive and something that cannot be overcome by commercialism. It is a message that refuses to be tamed. The Resurrection says not only that Christ has the power of life over death, but something more subversive.

The Resurrection says, “Listen.”

Father Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of several books, including “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” and, most recently, “Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship With Jesus.”

Appeared in the March 26, 2016, print edition.

Re-posted this year. Suggested by a friend.

EDITORIAL – Beyond Easter — Each of us has the power to “reset”

April 1, 2018


(The Philippine Star) – April 1, 2018 – 12:00am
 Image result for suffering of the christ, film, movies, Passion of Christ, mel gibson, photos

After the long Holy Week break, Christians are reenergized and, it is hoped, renewed spiritually. The faithful in this predominantly Catholic country as usual combined religious devotion with relaxation during the week, and today celebrate the miracle of the risen Jesus Christ.

Through the passion, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ fulfilled the promised redemption from sin of the descendants of Adam and Eve. Redemption also heralds change for the better, which is a good commitment to make for the faithful on this special day. The nation can certainly use positive changes.

Non-Filipinos have wondered why Asia’s bastion of the Roman Catholic faith, where politicians like to present themselves as prayerful, devout churchgoers, continues to grapple with endemic corruption and one of the highest homicide rates in the world. In many parts of the country, murder has become the ultimate tool for eliminating political rivals and keeping a clan’s stranglehold on power.

Murder is also used to silence media critics and left-leaning militants, with the failure to solve the crimes breeding impunity. Tough anti-corruption laws and a code of conduct and ethical standards for public servants are brazenly violated. The few who control power and wealth have resisted meaningful reforms that would deprive them of their entitlements even if it would make economic growth inclusive and promote national prosperity. Social injustice pushes victims to insurgent movements, which also employ lethal violence to advance their causes.

Today families gather to celebrate the risen Christ, the greatest miracle of the faith. The Christian faithful have just gone through one of the holiest periods of the year, with Easter heralding a fresh start. Commitments to change for the better must be sustained beyond Easter Sunday.

A joyous, blessed Easter to all!


Image: Simon of Cyrene assist Jesus with his cross — From the film, The Passion of the Christ.

Good Friday Message from Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Homilist to Pope Francis — In each of us, to varying degrees, is a “heart of darkness”

March 30, 2018

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Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Homilist to Pope Francis

ROME – Even as sinful people in a society filled with violence and increasing secularism, we have hope because Christ’s cross perdures, the papal preacher said at the Vatican’s Good Friday Service.

“The cross, then, does not ‘stand’ against the world but for the world: to give meaning to all the suffering that has been, that is, and that will be in human history,” Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., said April 14.

He gave the homily during the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion presided over by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Basilica. Cantalamessa also gave the homilies at Mass at the chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Fridays throughout Lent.

Today, we are constantly hearing about death and violence, he said. “Why then are we here to recall the death of a man who lived 2,000 years ago?

“The reason is that this death has changed forever the very face of death and given it a new meaning,” he said.

Cantalamessa preached: “The cross is the living proclamation that the final victory does not belong to the one who triumphs over others but to the one who triumphs over self; not to the one who causes suffering but to the one who is suffering.”

RELATED: Pope’s preacher today once again fills a singular slot

He explained how the Carthusian monks have adopted a coat of arms that hangs at the entrance to their monastery. It has a globe of the earth with a cross above it, and written across it: “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis,” or “The cross stands firm as the world turns.”

He described a painting by Salvador Dali, called “Christ of St. John of the Cross.” It depicts Christ on the cross as if you are looking from above. Beneath him are clouds, and below that, water.

In a way, the water beneath Christ in this image, instead of earth, is a symbol of the lack of firm foundation of values in our current society, he explained. But even though we live in this very “liquid society,” there is still hope, because “the cross of Christ stands.”

“This is what the liturgy for Good Friday has us repeat every year with the words of the poet Venanzio Fortunato: ‘O crux, ave spes unica,’ ‘Hail, O Cross, our only hope.’”

The point of Christ’s Passion, however, is not an analysis of society, he said. “Christ did not come to explain things, but to change human beings.”

In each of us, to varying degrees, is a “heart of darkness,” he said. In the Bible, it is called “a heart of stone.”

“A heart of stone is a heart that is closed to God’s will and to the suffering of brothers and sisters, a heart of someone who accumulates unlimited sums of money and remains indifferent to the desperation of the person who does not have a glass of water to give to his or her own child; it is also the heart of someone who lets himself or herself be completely dominated by impure passion and is ready to kill for that passion or to lead a double life,” he said.

He explained that even as practicing Christians we have these hearts of stone when we live fundamentally for ourselves and not for the Lord.

Quoting God’s words through the prophet Ezekiel, Cantalamessa said: “I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.”

He went on to explain how in Scripture we are told that at the moment of Christ’s death, “The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.”

This description, using apocalyptic language and signs, indicates “what should happen in the heart of a person who reads and meditates on the Passion of Christ.

“The heart of flesh, promised by God through the prophets, is now present in the world: it is the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, the heart we venerate as the “Sacred Heart,’” he said.

We believe that though he was slain, because Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, his heart has also “been raised from the dead; it is alive like the rest of his body.”

And when we receive the Eucharist, we “firmly believe” that the very heart of Christ has come to “beat inside of us” as well, he explained.

“As we are about to gaze upon the cross, let us say from the bottom of our hearts, like the tax collector in the temple, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ and then we too, like he did, will return home ‘justified’.”

Pope washes feet of 12 prisoners on Holy Thursday — There is no good reason to kill your fellow man — We are here to love each other

March 30, 2018


By washing feet outside the Vatican, Pope Francis continued in a Holy Thursday tradition he started five years ago

Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve inmates in a Rome prison on Thursday, telling them that jail sentences must be “open to hope” and condemning the death penalty as “not Christian or human”.

The 81-year-old Argentinian pontiff continued in a Holy Thursday tradition he started five years ago of taking the washing of the feet ritual away from the Vatican and out to the margins of society, this time to the Regina Coeli prison.

Celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, the first of the Easter Triduum services, the Pope said that Jesus’ decision to wash his disciples feet showed that leadership is service, and lamented that Christ’s example was ignored by so many in positions of power.

“Those who lead must serve,” Francis said during his homily. “If so many kings, emperors, heads of state had understood this teaching of Jesus and done this instead of giving orders to be cruel, to kill people, how many wars would not have happened!”

His central message for the prisoners was not to give up hope; that however bad their situation, there is the possibility of forgiveness; and that even though society has discarded them, Jesus tells them: “You are important to me.”

Explaining that Jesus “takes a risk on each of us” the Pope explained: “Know this: Jesus is called Jesus, he is not called Pontius Pilate,” in reference to the Roman prefect who sentenced Christ to death but first “washes his hands” of the matter. “Jesus can not wash his hands”, the Pope said. “He only knows how to risk.”

After the homily, the Pope got on his knees to wash the feet of twelve male prisoners, including two Muslims and a Buddhist. He has in the past washed the feet of non-Christians; he has also washed the feet of women and changed the liturgical rules to allow the latter to participate in the ritual.

“I am a sinner but come as Christ’s ambassador,” the Pope told the prisoners. “When I wash your feet, remember that Jesus never abandons you and he never tires of forgiving you.”

Pope Maundy Thursday Mass prison

Later, in off the cuff remarks at the end of Mass, the Pope said that every prison sentence must be “open to hope”, otherwise it is not human, and for inmates to be able to return to society. And he once again condemned the death penalty, something he has done repeatedly throughout his pontificate.

Saying that he would be having a cataract operation next year to improve his eyesight, Francis added it was important to have a “cataract operation on our souls” in order to “renew our gaze”.

The Regina Coeli is Rome’s oldest and best known prison, just a stone’s throw from the Vatican and housing 900 male inmates, the majority of whom are foreigners. Originally built in the 17th century as a convent it was converted into a prison in the 19th century. Other Popes have paid visits there before including a famous one by John XXIII on Boxing Day 1958 when he told them: “You could not leave to see me, so I have come to see you.”

Throughout his pontificate – and also when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires –  Francis has paid special attention to prisoners, often visiting detention centres and spending Sunday afternoons speaking to inmates.

On Thursday, during the sign of peace, he urged those present to use it as a moment for reconciliation and to think of “those who do not love us” and the people “we would like to take revenge on”.

Pic 1: Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate during Holy Thursday Mass March 29 at Regina Coeli prison in Rome. The pope celebrated Mass and washed the feet of 12 inmates at the prison. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) 

See also:

Pope, in Holy Thursday prison visit, says death penalty not Christian



 (Also contains the 2012 message)

Pope washes prisoners’ feet in exercise of humility for Holy Thursday — Commemorates Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the apostles [Video]

March 29, 2018

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Pope Francis washes the feet of inmates during his visit to the Regina Coeli detention center in Rome, Thursday, March 29, 2018, where he celebrated the “Missa in Coena Domini”. Pope Francis visit to a prison on Holy Thursday to wash the feet of some inmates, stresses in a pre-Easter ritual that a pope must serve society’s marginalized and give them hope. (Vatican Media via AP)

ROME (AFP) – Pope Francis washed prisoners’ feet at a Rome jail on Thursday, including two Muslims, an Orthodox Christian and a Buddhist, once again choosing to celebrate Holy Thursday among Italy’s incarcerated.

“Everyone always has the opportunity to change life and one cannot judge,” said Francis to the prisoners of the city’s all-male Regina Coeli prison.

It is the fourth time in the pope’s five year papacy that he has celebrated the Holy Mass in an Italian jail.

“For me, visiting the sick, going into prison, making the prisoner feel that he can have hope of rehabilitation, that is the preaching of the Church,” said Francis in a recent book of interviews.

This year, the twelve inmates washed by Francis hailed from Italy, the Philippines, Morocco, Colombia, Moldova, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.


The rite, performed yearly on Maundy or Holy Thursday, commemorates Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the apostles .

In Christian tradition, Jesus is said to have washed their feet ahead of the meal in a gesture of humility.

“I am a sinner like you but today I represent Jesus… God never abandons us, never tires of forgiving us,” Francis said to the inmates.

The ceremony is part of the run-up to Easter Sunday.

Since his election in 2013, the pope has moved the feet washing ceremony outside the walls of the Vatican and into centres for vulnerable people or those on society’s margins.

In his first year he visited a youth detention centre where he performed the ritual on a group of young inmates including two Muslims — the first Catholic leader ever to do so.

In 2014 he washed the feet of elderly and disabled people, in 2015 he did so in a prison, and in 2016 he chose a migrant reception centre.

Last year the pope went to Paliano jail outside Rome where he washed the feet of former mafiosi in a prison known for housing inmates who have informed on old mobster allies.


Pope Francis at Mass of the Lord’s Supper: ‘Jesus risks himself in service’

Pope Francis tells the inmates at Regina Coeli prison present for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper that Jesus risks himself by serving others because he loves so much.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

Pope Francis, speaking off the cuff during his homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Regina Coeli prison, contextualized the Gospel passage from John in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet.

Jesus does what a slave does

He explains that this was a task done by slaves. After having dirtied their feet on the dusty roads, people would return home. As soon as they entered their house, a slave would provide the “service” of washing their feet. “Jesus wants to do this service to give us an example of how we must serve one another,” Pope Francis says.

Those who command must serve

The Pope then brought up the passage where two disciples “who wanted to climb the corporate ladder” asked Jesus to give them the most important places. After looking at them with love like he always did, Jesus told them they didn’t know what they were asking. He described what those in positions of power do: “command and make others serve them.” In thinking of times past, Pope Francis says that there have been many kings and cruel people who have made slaves of other people. But Jesus says it must not be this way with us. “The one who commands must serve,” the Pope reminds us. “Jesus overturns the historical cultural habits of that time, but also of our own day.” If only the kings and emperors of the past had understood Jesus’ teaching and had served instead of commanding and killing, “so many wars would never have happened,” Pope Francis observes.

Jesus serves today in me

Turning to those present, Pope Francis told them that Jesus tells those discarded by society that they are important. “Jesus serves us today, here in Regina Coeli.” Jesus risks himself for each person. Jesus does not know how to wash his hands of people. He knows how to risk for his name is Jesus, not Pontius Pilate. In going after the lost sheep, Jesus risks being wounded, Pope Francis asserts.

“I am a sinner like you. But I represent Jesus today,” Pope Francis confessed. He then invited the prisoners to think of the fact, as their feet were being washed by him,  that “Jesus took a risk with this man, a sinner, to come to me to tell me that he loves me. This is service. This is Jesus. Before giving us himself in his body and blood, Jesus risked himself for each one of us—risked himself in service—because he loves us so much.”

Ptayer and Meditation for Tuesday, March 27, 2018 — My reward is with the LORD — I will be with you only a little while longer — Betrayal and Denial

March 26, 2018

Tuesday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 258

Image may contain: one or more people

Art: Rembrandt van Rijn – Peter Denounces Jesus

Reading 1 IS 49:1-6

Hear me, O islands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 71:1-2, 3-4A, 5AB-6AB, 15 AND 17

R. (see 15ab) I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel  JN 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
I will be with you only a little while longer.”

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
27 MARCH, 2018, Tuesday of Holy Week

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISAIAH 49:1–6PS 71:1-6,15,17JOHN 13:21-38]

This life is full of mysteries.  There are many things that are inexplicable in life.  Nothing is certain.  We get angry with God because we are carrying some sicknesses and suffering the consequences of the sins of others.  We wonder why we are so unfortunate in life to be born into the family when our parents do not really care for us.   We regret that our life is what it is today.  We also do not understand how our life has unfolded.  Sometimes, we wish our life was different.  But then decisions have been made and we cannot turn back the clock.  In a word, we do not understand the plan of God for us.

So, what do we do?  We try to change the plan of God.  We do not accept the plan that God has for us.  In the first reading, the prophet made it clear, “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name. He made my mouth a sharp sword, and hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.”  Indeed, can we accept the plan of God for us in our lives?  What if we were chosen to be the Prophet Jeremiah?  Would we be ready to prophesy for the Lord even unto death, facing detractions, slander and opposition?  Would we risk being popular and accepted by the people at the expense of being true to our calling in life?  Even Jeremiah complained, “Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.”  (Jer 20:7; cf Jer 20:14-18)

This was true in the case of Judas.  Scholars have suggested different motives for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  One of them was the greed for money.  But others have posited that he could have been disappointed with Jesus because he expected Jesus to fulfil his expectation of Him being a political messiah who would overthrow the Romans.  But Jesus was not acting as he thought He should.  Hence, he wanted to force Jesus to act by having His enemies confront Him.  Or perhaps, he had given up hope in Jesus as the Messiah.  In a word, he did not understand the mission of Jesus and the plan of God.   He wanted things his way and when he could not make Jesus do what he thought should be the case, he dumped Him.

On the other hand, Jesus remained on course although He was also troubled at the prospect of His passion and death, and most of all, “troubled in spirit” because one of His Twelve was going to betray Him.  He knew that Judas was up to no good and that he would betray Him.  He did not stop him from doing what he had intended to do.  Instead, He sought to give him a last chance at winning him over by an act of love.  So, instead of retaliating, the Lord “dipped the piece of bread and gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.”  It was an appeal to Judas to come to his senses.  How many of us can continue to love our enemies, knowing that they are hurting us, betraying us, saying all kinds of untruths behind our back, and cheating us?  Would we still be able to offer a hand of friendship and kindness to them?  Or do we just write them off completely from our lives.  Jesus did not.  He was faithful, as the gospel said, to His Father and to us until the end.  “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1)

What about us?  Will we stay faithful to the plan of God for us? Will we carry the crosses of life courageously and faithfully to the end?  Indeed, like the disciples, we might not understand fully the plan of God for us.  We do not understand why we have to carry so much responsibilities, deal with so many problems, challenges and demands, as if the whole world is on our shoulders.

In such situations, will we muster enough faith not to walk by sight but to trust in Him?  This is what we are called to do.   When we feel that nothing seems to be going on right in our lives, then we must surrender our lives into His hands as Jesus did on the cross, crying with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46)  This is what the Lord told the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, “You are my servant (Israel) in whom I shall be glorified.”  Jesus too came to this realization that if His death was needed to glorify God, then He would say “Yes” to His holy will.  “Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon.”

Indeed, in the mysterious plan of God, the death of Jesus would bring about His glory and Jesus in turn would be glorified by Him.  Humanly speaking, such thoughts defy human logic.  When we are suffering, we feel rather defeated.  Even Jesus felt that way, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  It is certainly not easy to believe that the way of God for us is the way to happiness in life.  We resist and we seek to change His plan.  Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was tempted to do so but gave in to His Father’s will.  “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42)   Even the devil thought that having influenced Judas to betray the Lord to His enemies, His death would be the end of His mission.  Little did he know that the death of Jesus would be the death of all deaths and by His death, the sting of death will be removed, resulting in victory over death and sin.

Hence, in our trials and sufferings, when we feel like giving upknow that God is on our side.   The truth is as the Suffering Servant remarked, “While I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain, I have exhausted myself for nothing’;  and all the while my cause was with the Lord,  my reward with my God. I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.”  Indeed, our tragedy and sufferings in the eyes of the world might seem to be God’s punishment but that is His wisdom of saving us.  “For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.  Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself; like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.”  (Wisdom 3:4-6)  This is the testimony of the psalmist when he declared, “My lips will tell of your help.  In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, free me: pay heed to me and save me. Be a rock where I can take refuge, a mighty stronghold to save me; for you are my rock, my stronghold.  Free me from the hand of the wicked.”  God will show forth His power and reveal His plan to us in due time.

Today, we are called to make a decision for Christ.  Will we be like Judas and Peter?  Or will we take the path of the Suffering Servant and our Lord?  In the face of trials, even Peter and the disciples betrayed the Lord.  Jesus knew how weak they were, more than they knew themselves.  “Peter said to him, ‘Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ ‘Lay down your life for me?’ answered Jesus. ‘I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’”  We too often speak like Peter.  I will follow you!  But in the face of trials and sufferings, like Peter and the rest, we will flee from our Lord.  Peter was the first to condemn our Lord because when he was asked whether he knew the Lord, he made it clear that Jesus was of no significance to him and therefore did not deserve to be known.

The denial of Peter and the apostles must have hurt our Lord deeply.  So is our denial of Him when we live lives contradictory to the gospel values.  In so doing, we deny our Lord.  Let us once again surrender ourselves to the wisdom of God’s mysterious plan for us by cooperating with Him as the Suffering Servant and our Lord did.  We too have been chosen since we were in the womb of our mothers for a higher purpose in life, which is “ to gather Israel to him” and be “the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  Together with Jesus, let us embrace the plan of God for us, even when we do not understand.  Walk by faith!

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Commentary on John 13:21-33, 36-38 From Living Space

A sad moment in the Gospel: double betrayal.

First, that of Judas. Judas is no outsider but one of the inner circle of the Twelve.

Jesus announces solemnly: “One of you is going to hand me over.” The statement comes like a bombshell. For all their weaknesses, they cannot imagine any one of them planning such a thing. Peter asks the Beloved Disciple, who is closest to Jesus (in every sense of the word) to find out who it is. “It is the one to whom I hand the piece of bread after dipping it in the dish,” says Jesus.

Jesus hands over the morsel, a symbol of sharing. It is probably part of the bitter herb, dipped in salt water which was a feature of the Passover meal. Jesus hands it over to the one who will hand him over to those who wish to be rid of him. This is an act of friendship which makes the coming betrayal doubly treacherous. The bitterness of the morsel is also significant.

In that very moment Judas knows he has made his fateful decision as Jesus tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  None of the other disciples realised the significance of the words.

As soon as he has left, it is no wonder that the evangelist comments: “Night had fallen.” Yes indeed. It was a moment of utter darkness. This is a gospel which constantly contrasts light and darkness. Yet at that very moment which sets the whole passion experience in motion, Jesus speaks of his being glorified and of God also being glorified.

To do this, Jesus is going to leave his disciples. He will leave them in death but he will also leave them to return to the glory of his Father.

Peter, well-meaning but weak, swears that he will go all the way with Jesus, even to death. It is the second betrayal. Worse in some ways. At least Judas made no wild promises. What will save Peter will be the depth of his repentance and later conversion.

We too have betrayed Jesus and those around us so many times. We have broken bread with Jesus in the Eucharist and then turned our back on him by the way we treat those around us. We have promised at confession with his help never to sin again and then gone and done what we have just confessed.

Let us pray that we, like Peter, may weep bitterly for all the wrongs we have done and all the good left undone.



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
22 MARCH 2016, Tuesday of Holy Week

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 49:1-6; PS 71: 1-6, 15 & 17; JN 13:21-33. 36-38 ]

Were you troubled when you read the opening words of today’s gospel when St John wrote, “Jesus was troubled in spirit”?  For the evangelist to describe Jesus in those words, he must have seen the normally calm Jesus emotionally affected by the attitude of Judas and His disciples.  He must have been so deeply troubled that He needed to ventilate His frustrations and fears to His apostles saying, “I tell you most solemnly, one of you will betray me.”

But why was Jesus so distressed? Of course we should be able to empathize and sympathize with Jesus who saw through how His closest friends and disciples would eventually betray Him, especially Judas.  To suffer the betrayal of our loved ones is the most difficult thing to accept, especially when that person is your spouse, your best friend or someone whom you love and have helped a lot.  This explains why adultery wrecks not just a marriage but triggers deep emotional upheaval and even depression in the one betrayed, sometimes causing the person a total loss of confidence in love, friendship and marriage.

As a human, Jesus would have suffered what we go through in any betrayal. Still, what was the real cause of the distress of Jesus as a consequence of the betrayal?  Was it the fear of a cruel death ahead of Him?  Or was it more the fear for Judas and the Eleven, that their betrayal of Him is more a betrayal of themselves?

In the final analysis, when we betray someone, we betray ourselves, our values, our dignity and our integrity.  This was what happened to Judas and Peter.  Judas ended up committing suicide as he could not forgive himself for being so foolish as to hand over his master to his enemies.   He lost confidence in himself and despised not just his action but his very being.  Peter too, in some ways was also representative of the other apostles when he denied his association with Jesus.  Peter out-rightly denied he knew Jesus whilst the others fled and abandoned Jesus at the hour when He most needed them.  Peter was so remorseful for what he did that the moment he became conscious of his act, he wept.  But thanks to the grace of God, he was humble enough to repent and he received forgiveness and healing from the Lord.

There is a fundamental difference between the two betrayals.   The first betrayal was grounded in pride, ambition and greed.  Judas betrayed Jesus with malice and full consent.  His act was cold and calculated.  It was premeditated, for Jesus told Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly”.  Where Judas deliberately betrayed his Master, Peter however, in a moment of weakness, denied him with an oath. He was ruled by cowardice and weakness.  Peter, like the rest of the apostles, was sincere in loving and defending Jesus but was too timid in the face of threats against his own life.   He hoped that he would never be the one who would betray Jesus and hence he nudged John to ask Jesus who would be the one.  A further indication that there was no intention whatsoever of Peter abandoning Jesus was his self-assured confidence when he said, “Why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  But Jesus who knew Peter so well, cautioned him, “I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.” So it was out of cowardice and weakness that he denied Jesus, to his great disappointment.  That was how the others, other than Judas, also felt as they in bewilderment “looked at one another, wondering which he meant.”  In their hearts, none of them ever thought that they would also betray their master.

Even the effects of the betrayal were different.  Judas, a man so proud and insistent on his will, could not accept Jesus’ unconditional forgiveness.  He fell into the snare of the devil, which made him believe that his sinful action could never be forgiven by Jesus and definitely not by his fellow apostles. So he never asked for forgiveness.  Instead, so disgusted was he with himself that in despair he was led into believing that by taking his own life, he would win Jesus’ forgiveness.  He could not appreciate that Jesus loved him unconditionally.  The cure for his self-rejection was not suicide but repentance.

Peter, on the other hand, was taken over by love, for when he saw Jesus who looked at him, he went out and wept bitterly.  He was truly contrite and remorseful for his weakness.   His tears were tears of sorrow and contrition, unlike that of Judas’, which were tears of despair.   In Peter’s deep regret for what he did, he must have remembered Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness and so he found the courage to meet Jesus again when He rose from the dead.   And the tears washed away his guilt and sin.

By resolving to turn to the Lord, he eventually became an apostle of love to the world, fulfilling the vocation that was given to the suffering servant.   We too are called to be that apostle of the Good News of God’s love and mercy.  Like Peter and the apostles, we are weak and unworthy to proclaim Jesus to the world.  But what is to be underscored is that God is our strength.

But will we betray him?  The answer is “yes” because of our human weakness.  But we have the sacrament of reconciliation and the assurance of God’s forgiveness given to us through the one eternal sacrifice of Christ, which means that He always forgives us.   We are all sinners and will always remain so.  At some time or another, we will fail the Lord and betray Him by our words and actions.  What is asked of us is our sincerity and humility to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and for healing.  God knows us better than we know ourselves; that we will fail, notwithstanding our good intentions.  We will falter but we will not be crushed by our sins and failures.  God will continue to supply us the grace we need.  All we need to do is to return to the Lord.  We must imitate Peter in repentance.  We must weep tears of sorrow.  He knew that the Lord would never reject him.

This is what the Psalmist wants to remind us, that salvation is the work of God in us, not our strength. Together with the psalmist we must pray, “In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, and deliver me; incline your ear to me, and save me. Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for you are my rock and my fortress. O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked. For you are my hope, O Lord; my trust, O God, from my youth. On you I depend from birth; from my mother’s womb you are my strength.”

Of course we must also be on guard against the subtle temptations of the Evil One.  Just as he managed to disarm Judas, so too, we must be on the alert!  We must turn to the Lord and beg for His grace and mercy to walk in the path He has shown to us.  We must ask for the grace to feel horror for our sins and the tears to wipe out our guilt.

And having been forgiven ourselves, we must also celebrate this forgiveness we have received by forgiving those who have betrayed us as well.  Like Peter, those who betrayed us also did it mostly out of cowardice, ignorance and fear.  Just as Jesus loves us and chooses to heal us of our lack of integrity and self-respect through forgiveness, we too must release those who have hurt us by forgiving them so that they can forgive themselves as well.  In so doing we identify ourselves with Jesus and become the channels of God’s healing grace through our innocent suffering.  Yes, let us pray for healing and reconciliation in our estranged relationships so that when Easter comes, we will all be made a new creation and become participants of the new life of freedom and joy in the Risen Lord.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Philippines: Cardinal Tagle hits ‘violent, cocky kings’

March 26, 2018


Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle blessing the palm fronds during a mass at the Manila Cathedral. Edd Gumban

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) – March 26, 2018 – 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — As Christians celebrated Palm Sunday, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle slammed leaders who set bad examples to their followers.

Without naming names, the head of the country’s Catholic hierarchy scored what he branded as modern-day “kings” who are boastful and violent, in a mass he celebrated at the Manila Cathedral.

“In our world today, kings, who are full of cockiness and devoid of humility, are lording over,” Tagle lamented in his homily yesterday.


“Today, many follow the kings  who use violence, arms and intimidation but are without any understanding and oneness with the weak,” Tagle stressed.

He urged these leaders to instead emulate the example of humility in leadership set by Jesus Christ.

“Our king does not rely on violence, in arms, in swords, in bullets and guns. Our king trusts in God alone,” Tagle stressed.

“The serene dignity and silence of the person, who trusts in God and who is in full solidarity with sinful humanity, that is true authority. That is our true king. That is the king that will save the world,” Tagle explained.

He said Jesus Christ could have chosen not to be crucified and to escape the penalty imposed by Pontius Pilate, but opted not to use his power.

“In truth, Pilate has no chance against Christ. But our king need not to defend himself. His personality shows he has full trust in God and love for us. That is the true king. That is dignity. That is power,” he added.

Tagle led the celebration of Palm Sunday to kick off the final week of the Lenten season.

Apart from his message of humility, Tagle also called on the Catholic faithful to take this Holy Week as an opportunity to do charity and help people in need.

He specifically urged Catholics to support the Church’s annual fundraising program, Alay Kapwa Telethon 2018 of the Caritas Manila and Radio Veritas set today.

“I call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to participate in Alay Kapwa 2018 and to be generous in sharing their blessings this season of Lent,” he appealed.

He stressed that charity is essential in today’s Catholic life, especially after the numerous calamities happening throughout the year.

“With the increasing number and magnitude of disasters and calamities being responded by Caritas Damayan, our Alay Kapwa funds immediately get depleted,” he added.

Donors may call 925-7931 to 39, 563-9311 or 562-0020 to 25 during the telethon to be held from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It will be open throughout the live broadcast over Radio Veritas 846 and also via live streaming at

Last year, Alay Kapwa Telethon proceeds were used in extending Caritas relief operations for the victims of the Surigao earthquake, Typhoons Urduja and Vinta, Marawi’s rehabilitation and recovery, and various natural and man-made disasters.

Tagle made the appeal as he led the celebration of Palm Sunday, which marks the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem aboard a donkey while he was being welcomed by people waving palm fronds.

Thousands attended the masses at the Manila Cathedral carrying palm branches to have them blessed by the priests.

The Lenten season ends next Sunday with the Easter celebration, which also marks the conclusion of Holy Week.

Leni: Reflect on values

For her part, Vice President Leni Robredo urged Filipinos to slow down and reflect on deeply rooted values.

“Lent is the time to slow down and reflect what is really of value to us,” said Robredo after the launching of the Albay Provincial Library Gender and Development Section at the Albay Provincial Library and Information Center last Friday.

“Sometimes due to the frenzy of our daily work, we forget the most important things,” she said.

Robredo added that Lent is not just a holiday but a time to take stock of things, and a time to ask for forgiveness and renewal.

“Even for non-Catholics, it is a time to go back and return to those things that really matter,” she said.

Meanwhile, parish priest Ramon Navarro at Santiago, Isabela, echoed Tagle and Robredo, saying Lent is a “celebration of the great mystery of salvation.”

“It is the central feast of the Church and that is the foundation, actually, of our faith. All other beliefs or other feasts find their meaning and efficacy in this mystery,” Navarro added.

The priest also reminded the Catholic faithful that they have sinned and that Jesus Christ redeemed the world through his suffering and resurrection.

Navarro asked for intense prayer and conversion, encouraging Catholics to do acts of charity. – With Celso Amo, Kurt Adrian dela Peña



Palm Sunday Message From Pope Francis: Nothing can stifle the joy of the Gospel

March 25, 2018

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square March 25, 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square March 25, 2018. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

.- Jesus was the first target of “fake news” spread by those who wanted spin and twist his message for their own benefit, Pope Francis said Palm Sunday, but stressed that despite the pride and skepticism of some, nothing can dampen the joy of Christ’s message or his Resurrection.

On the cross, Jesus died “crying out his love for each of us: young and old, saints and sinners, the people of his times and of our own,” the Pope said March 25.

“We have been saved by his cross,” and despite the coldness and skepticism of some, “no one can repress the joy of the Gospel; no one, in any situation whatsoever, is far from the Father’s merciful gaze.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present for his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square. He began the liturgy at the obelisk in the center of the square, where he blessed the palms and olives to be used in the celebration. He then processed to the main altar and began Mass.

Palm Sunday also coincided with the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day, which this year holds the theme “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

It also marked the end of the March 19-24 pre-synodal meeting in Rome, which gathered some 300 youth from around the world and drew participation from an additional 15,000 on social media. The event served as a precursor for the October synod of bishops on “Young people, faith and the discernment of vocation.”

At the end of Sunday’s liturgy, young people presented Pope Francis with their conclusions, which were complied into a 16-page final document based on discussions held throughout the week.

In his homily, Pope Francis said the account of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem evokes a range of different and at times contradictory sentiments, including love and hatred, self-sacrifice and indifference; the joy of those who welcome Jesus and the bitterness of those who want him crucified.

The sense of love and joy conveyed in the passage is reminiscent of all those “living on the edges” of society or who have been “left behind and overlooked,” but who have also been touched, healed or forgiven by God in some way.

In contrast, this joy, Francis said, is a source of “scandal” for those who consider themselves faithful to the law and its precepts, and it is “unbearable for those hardened against pain, suffering and misery.”

“How hard it is for the comfortable and the self-righteous to understand the joy and the celebration of God’s mercy! How hard it is for those who trust only in themselves, and look down on others, to share in this joy.”

The cry of those who shout “crucify him!” the pope said, is the voice “armed with disparagement, slander and false witness. It is the voice of those who twist reality and invent stories for their own benefit, without concern for the good name of other.”

Francis said people with this attitude have no problem “spinning facts” and making Jesus look like a criminal. As a result “hope is demolished, dreams are killed, joy is suppressed; the heart is shielded and charity grows cold.”

However, faced people who have this attitude, the best remedy, the pope said, “is to look at Christ’s cross and let ourselves be challenged by his final cry,” which Jesus made as he died for each and every person.

Looking to the cross means to challenge and question oneself about one’s actions and choices, including the sensitivity to those who are experiencing difficulty, the pope said, asking: “Where is our heart focused? Does Jesus Christ continue to be a source of joy and praise in our heart, or does its priorities and concerns make us ashamed to look at sinners, the least and forgotten?”

Speaking directly to the young people present, Pope Francis said that like the Pharisees who told Jesus to “rebuke your disciples,” there are also people who try to silence and exclude the youth.

“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive,” he said.

However, pointing to Jesus’ response that “if these were silent, the very stones would cry out,” Francis told youth not to give into the pressure to stay quiet, because “you have it in you to shout.”

“It is up to you not to keep quiet,” he said, and “even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?”

After Mass Pope Francis led pilgrims in praying the Angelus, asking that Mary would help each person to live Holy Week well. “From her we learn the interior silence, the gaze of the heart and loving faith to follow Jesus on the path of the cross, which leads to the joyful light of the Resurrection.”

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“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you to opt for Sunday’s ‘Hosanna!’, so as not to fall into Friday’s ‘Crucify him!'”

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, January 21, 2018 — “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way [He spared them.]”

January 20, 2018

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 68

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Fishers of Men by Simon Dewey.

Reading 1 JON 3:1-5, 10

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying:
“Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you.”
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD’S bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed, ”
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.

Responsorial Psalm PS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (4a) Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice
and teaches the humble his way.
R. Teach me your ways, O Lord.

Reading 11  1 COR 7:29-31

I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

Alleluia MK 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  MK 1:14-20

After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
“This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”As he passed by the Sea of Galilee,
he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea;
they were fishermen.
Jesus said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
He walked along a little farther
and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They too were in a boat mending their nets.
Then he called them.
So they left their father Zebedee in the boat
along with the hired men and followed him..******************************************.From The Abbot —  Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Repent! Here we are in Ordinary Time and it sounds like Lent! The beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ begins with Jesus calling His followers to repent. Repent in this context means to change the direction of one’s life. And we see with clarity where Jesus is pointing us: Believe in the Gospel!

The first reading today is the story of Jonah preaching repentance in the city of Nineveh. The preaching of Jonah was completely successful and the whole city repented including the rulers. Although Jonah did not want the city to repent but rather wanted it destroyed, we see that the people respond to Jonah’s preaching and God “repented” of the evil which He had planned.

We need to hold this in our hearts: the people repented and God also repented. Both were willing to change the direction of their intentions. We don’t normally think of God repenting but surely the repentance of God is part of the Gospel that Jesus is proclaiming. God’s only intention is our salvation and our good. Whenever God is presented as angry in the Scriptures, it is because God loves us and the hope is that God’s anger will bring us to repentance and then God Himself will repent. This probably is not the way that we think of God but we need to listen to God’s Scriptures and discover again God’s love for us.

The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians. We are told in this small section that the world is passing away and that our actions must change. We must put all of our energy into seeking God and the ways of God.

Then we come to the Gospel of Saint Mark again. Jesus preaching the Gospel! So often we only think of the Gospel as the preaching about Jesus Christ. Even in the Old Testament we find the word “gospel” in the Greek translation and is usually translated as “good news.” What is the good news that Jesus preaches? It is this: believe that God loves us and sends His Son for our salvation! As always, if we won’t accept this Good News, nevertheless it is true. Our challenge is always to accept the Gospel given to us in Christ Jesus and to be so moved by it that we ourselves draw others to know the love and mercy of God.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
21 JANUARY, 2018, Sunday

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JONAH 3:1-5101 COR 7:29-31MK 1:14-20 ]

The heart of Jesus’ proclamation in His ministry is the Good News from God. He said, “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

What is the Good News that Jesus has come to preach that demands our repentance?  The Good News clearly does not consist of words but a person.  Jesus has come to proclaim not some doctrines or some timeless truths about God, life and the world.  He did not come to teach us theology, catechism or a philosophy of life.  Rather as the gospel says, Jesus began His ministry by proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.

What is this kingdom of God that is close at hand?  The kingdom is not a place or a territory like the earthly kingdom.  The kingdom is not a noun but a verb.  This kingdom is nothing else but the reign of God’s love.  So Jesus is saying that God’s love is now present and because His love is here, we are saved.   We are now called to believe in this central message of Jesus that God loves us.  Our salvation is so near the moment, we say “yes” to this Good News.  The reign of God’s love of course is not an idea or simply a hope but concretely manifested in Jesus’ ministry.  In His preaching and healings we see the power of God’s rule over Satan and the Evil one.  The exorcisms performed by Jesus affirm that God’s love rules in our lives.

Most of all, in the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, we see the reign of God’s love over the sinfulness of man.  Even when man rejected Jesus and betrayed His love, Jesus, the unconditional love of God in person, continued to suffer for us.  In His suffering on the cross, there was no sign of resentment against His Father or against His enemies and His friends who betrayed Him.  On the contrary, His love for His Father empowered Him to surrender His life and His work into the hands of the Father; whereas His love for us allowed Him to surrender His physical life to His enemies.  At the cross, rather than uttering words of hatred, He interceded on behalf of His enemies and pleaded to the Father, asking for their forgiveness.

The full content of the Good News of course is seen in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.   By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed His triumph over evil and over sin.  The last word is not sin, suffering and death but love and life.  By raising Jesus from the dead, God also vindicated and confirmed that Jesus is truly the Son of God and therefore the embodiment of His love and forgiveness for us.  Finally, in the sending of the Holy Spirit, God’s love is now poured into our hearts and His love now reigns in us.   To anyone who accepts Jesus, he or she too is made the son and daughter of God, sharing in His dignity of sonship, His sufferings and also His glory.

This, in a nutshell, is what the Good News is all about.  Such is the Good News that Jesus has proclaimed to us.  In the face of the Good News, what should our response be?  We must repent.  But the call to repentance does not sound like good news.  In fact, we fear repentance.  Many of us do not wish to repent.  We prefer to continue our old way of life.  Repentance is a bad word because it means giving up what we like to do.  At most, like the Ninevites, we may repent out of fear for the consequences of our sins, not because we truly wish to give up our sins.

Even then, some of us might feel that we do not have any sins.  It means therefore that they do not need the Good News. Hence, it is important to distinguish the preaching of Jonah and that of Jesus.  The preaching of Jonah was a preaching of repentance from sins.  The emphasis was a moral repentance.  In other words, for Jonah, and indeed the rest of the prophets in the Old Testament until that of John the Baptist, repentance simply meant to turn away from sin so that we will not face the consequences of our sins.  To repent was to turn back and reform one’s life. It meant to observe the commandments that they had received.

However, for Jesus, repentance is not so much turning away from sins.  Rather, repentance is turning to the Lord.  By turning to the Lord, one indirectly turns away from sin.  The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia”, which means not simply a change of mind but to put on the mind of Christ, or rather, to put on Christ. It means to reorient one’s attitude to God in the face of His coming kingdom.  In other words, repentance is more than just giving up sins and our old way of life.

Rather, it is to actively take up the life of Jesus since Jesus is the kingdom of God in person.  It is to believe that Jesus is the Good News in person and that He has come to show us the way to receive God in our lives.  That is why, for us Christians, repentance is simply to believe that Jesus is the Good News of God’s love.  It is to cling to that love given to us gratuitously in Christ Jesus by the free and sovereign initiative of God.

Once we recognize Jesus as the love of God in person, then repentance ultimately is to commit ourselves to the person of Jesus.  It is a personal relationship with Him whereby Jesus becomes our master, the one from whom we take our direction in life.  However, Jesus is more than a guru or a wise teacher; He is also our Lord and God.  Hence, commitment to Jesus is a commitment to Him and His person and all that He stands for.  Repentance is to follow Jesus all the way to the cross and to the resurrection because we believe that just as He conquered sin and death through the cross, we too must follow the same path.

Of course, to commit ourselves to Jesus is ultimately to live the life of the kingdom, here and now, which is to live a life with God. In this sense, repentance secondarily means conversion of life, for if we believe that Jesus is the love of God, we would then be able to take Jesus at His Word and recognize that He is the one who will free us from bondage of sin and has the key to the fullness of life and love.   When we come to know Jesus as a person, then we want to come for mass daily, read the Word of God so that we can find strength and encouragement.  We would want to love and serve selflessly and humbly like Jesus because we know through Jesus that this is the way to life.

The Good News is that when we commit ourselves to Jesus, then we no longer have to live in fear.  For with Jesus, we know that happiness is not dependent on what we have but how we live our life.  Indeed, like St Paul in the second reading, we are exhorted to live in the spirit of detachment from the world.  This does not mean that we condemn the world.  No, St Paul is not condemning sex or marriage or the pleasures and joys of life.

Rather, it is important that we see all these things in perspective.  We must not treat this world, its structures and relationships as ultimate.  We must realize that this life is short.  Such thought should not make us conclude that this being the case, we should just eat and drink and be merry because we will then be no more.  On the contrary, our lives continue even after this world.  Life is not destroyed but only transformed.  That is to say, we must not live as if we have only this world to live.  We are passing through.  Hence, it is important that we do all we can to share in the life of Jesus which is a life of service and love in humility.

And because life is short, we want to live the best kind of life that is possible, which is the life of God.  We want to make sure that we will complete this life without regret by living a life of love and service.  In the same vein, because time is short, it also helps us to be aware that suffering in this life is temporary.  We should not be too preoccupied and discouraged when we suffer in life, for all these things will pass.  At any rate, God will give us the strength and grace to overcome them if we turn to Him.  For God, nothing is impossible.

Hence, we who are believers of the Good News should be the happiest people on earth.  We know our purpose in life and how we can arrive at the fullness of life at the end of our history.  Most of all, we also know how to get there.  God has shown us the way in Jesus and given us the Holy Spirit present in the Church, in her teachers and in the sacraments to help us and strengthen us in our journey to fullness of life.

Yes, repentance brings freedom and joy to the Christian.  It is not to be seen as something against us where much effort is required.  Repentance is to accept the incredible offer of freedom and joy in believing in Jesus.   When we take hold of the Good News and respond to the love of God in Jesus, we will be set free.   Like the apostles, we must be ready to surrender all our agenda and follow Him.  The question is, whether you will make yourself available to Jesus like the apostles who dropped everything to follow Him.  Until we respond like the apostles, the Good News cannot happen in us.

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