Posts Tagged ‘jn 3:22-30’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 12, 2019 — “He must increase; I must decrease.”

January 11, 2019

Here John shows the essence of humility, which has many forms. In what ways do I exemplify humility?

Image result for Jesus and his disciples in Judea,, art, pictures

Detail of “The Charge to Peter” by James Tissot.

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Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 JN 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.
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Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1-2, 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 MT 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JANUARY, 2019, Saturday after the Epiphany

THE JOY OF RECONCILING MAN WITH GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 JOHN 5:14-21PSALM 149:1-69JOHN 3:22-30 ]

Christmas celebrates the gift of God to us in the person of Jesus.  In assuming our humanity, Jesus reveals to us our identity as children of God.  Indeed, God became man so that man could become god.  However, many of us fail to recognize our dignity as children of God and as a consequence do not live as one.   This is because of sin.  Indeed, our sins prevent us from being conscious of our identity as sons and daughters of God.

St John in the first reading warns us of the danger of sin.  “Every kind of wrong-doing is sin, but not all sin is deadly.”  The truth is that a man begins by committing small sins.  If such things spring from his wounded nature and the manifestation of his human weakness, it is a venial sin.  Such sins are normally committed because of temptations and the weakness of the will to resist sin.   Such sins can be forgiven through prayers and the reception of the sacraments.  This is why, St John says, “If anybody sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner – not those who commit a deadly sin; for there is a sin that is death, and I will not say that you must pray about that.”

However, the sins that really destroy us are those deliberate sins which we purposefully seek to commit, knowing full well that it is a sin.  When such sins are planned and a person chooses to go against God’s will and hurt his neighbours, it is a serious sin leading to death.  Hence, we call them mortal sins.  St Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:23)  The truth is that one begins with a small sin and then we become more daring and commit bigger sins because our hearts and minds are clouded by our sins and selfishness.  After some time, what is sinful and serious is no longer felt in our conscience.  We become dead to sin and as the consequence of sin, we hurt ourselves more and more by hurting others.

Once we commit a serious sin, unless we repent and turn to God in contrition, it will lead to a repetition of our sins.  This is what the Lord warns us.  That is why a sin of lust will lead to another and more serious sin of lust. Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Mt 5:27f)  An act of anger will lead to revenge and eventually killing.  “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Mt 5:21f)

Prayers will help a person to grow in holiness and be attuned to the will of God.  “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”   St John is saying that Christ will hear our prayers if we pray in accordance with His will.  Indeed, all prayers are directed towards finding and doing the will of God.  Many of us think that prayer is to change the mind of God.  Rather, prayer is to align ourselves with His holy will, which is always best for us.  That is why, if our prayers are to be answered, we need to be obedient to His will.  Indeed, we must ask whatever the Lord wants of us.  Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  (Jn 14:13f) To ask in the name of Jesus is to ask everything for His sake and for the glory of His name.  Therefore, there is nothing more effective in growing in holiness than through prayers and intimacy with the Lord.

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Prayers will help us to know Jesus.  Knowledge of Jesus is the key to overcoming our sins because using our will is not sufficient because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  St Paul struggled with sin himself.  “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Rom 7:21-25)  Indeed, through our own strength alone, we cannot be delivered from sin except in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus’ love and mercy helps us to conquer sin, not out of fear of punishment but out of love for the Lord.

This is what St John meant when he wrote that if we are baptized, we will not sin.  “We know that anyone who has been begotten by God does not sin, because the begotten Son of God protects him, and the Evil One does not touch him.”  It does not mean that Christians can no longer sin.  What St John meant is that we do not sin deliberately because of God’s spirit in us.  But we will still sin out of weakness.  However, we do not fall into despair but continue to trust in the mercy of God, knowing that He has won victory over sin.  “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One. We know, too, that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.”   This is what baptism is all about.  We have Jesus in the gospel baptizing in the river Jordan.  To be baptized is to ask for forgiveness of our sins and most of all, to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus so that we can share in His sonship.

Today, like John the Baptist, we are called to direct sinners to the Lord.  Today, it is very difficult to convince people of the truth because of relativism.  We are bombarded with all kinds of philosophy and reasoning.  There is so much information and so many viewpoints on any issue that many of us are more confused than ever after reading all the different views.  We no longer know what is right or wrong anymore.  When reasoning and all arguments fail, the sure way to get people to accept Jesus is to lead them to Him.  If they know Jesus and if they fall in love with Him, then they will be able to see everything from the perspective of our Lord in the scriptures.  So instead of seeking to reason out with those who are disagreeable, although, it still might be necessary at times to defend our faith, yet, the better approach is through the testimony of our lives and our faith. Only through a life of holiness and faith in our Lord, can we convince others to come to Him so that He can be the Lord of their lives.

For this reason, we must pray for sinners even as we seek to reach out to them in compassion and love.  Our Lady, in all her apparitions, constantly urged us to repent and pray for sinners.  If words cannot change them, then prayers will change their hearts through God’s grace.  It is not enough just to pray for physical health and material needs.  If the body is important, how much more important is the soul because that soul is destined for eternal life.  We need to pray for the salvation of souls so that united with the Lord, they are saved for eternity, not just for this world.  If God answers prayers for material and physical needs, more so, He will hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners.

Indeed, like John the Baptist, great is our joy when we bring a sinner to Jesus to be reconciled with God.  “The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete.”  In bringing sinners back to God, we also save our own souls.  St James wrote, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  (Jms 5:19f)  Indeed, like John the Baptist, we must be conscious of our role as mediator to Jesus.  Once that is done, we should move aside and not be an obstacle for others to come to know the Lord.  With John the Baptist, we say, “I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him. He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

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

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Reflection from Lectio Divina

Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus, after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created His own movement. He baptized  people  in the Jordan River when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

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• Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification,” that is, concerning the value of baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus.

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• John’s  response to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. He uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God. If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3:27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3:28). c) In the end, he uses a comparison taken from the wedding feast.

At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride, John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds. At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in Him the voice of their bridegroom! And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must increase, I must decrease!” This statement is also the program for anyone  who follows Jesus.

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• At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19:3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cf. Mt 3:1-2; 4:17). There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important.

The four Gospels are concerned about transmitting the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, John’s response, “He must increase but I must decrease” was valid not only for the disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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Homily By Pastor Mark Driscoll

How odd would it be if you attended a wedding in which the star of the show was one of the groomsmen? Imagine if he demanded to be at the center of the photos, stood in front of the pastor for the ceremony, cut the cake, and had the first dance.

That would be incredibly awkward and wrong. Why? Because that is not his place.

Humility literally means, “to know your place.” Being humble requires knowing and accepting your place. None of us can say we are humble, but we should seek to say that we are pursuing humility by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus started His ministry, John the Baptizer’s ministry began and got off to a rocket-ship launch. Before long, some of the people and leaders following John left him and started following Jesus instead. Some of John’s leaders were a bit miffed, so they brought their concerns to John. John’s response is amazing. In humility, he says that Jesus is the groom, the Church is the bride, and he was just the groomsman there to help – he’s not the star of the show.

The phenomenon of people leaving one ministry for another is nothing new. When someone transitions, some people immediately think it’s a bad thing and start to blame others. Sometimes the leader, ministry, or person leaving is tagged as bad.

John reveals that sometimes it is good for a person to transition from one ministry to another. Jesus and John the Baptizer were both good leaders with good ministries, and the people moving to Jesus’ ministry from John’s were seemingly good people. John rightly saw this as a good thing.

At the end of the day, people belong to God, not to the human leaders in a ministry. Sometimes, God moves people from one ministry to another because they are needed. This is precisely what John is saying – that the people were being sent by God to help Jesus, which is a good thing. This is a healthy model for handling transition in a godly way.

Are you more prone to encourage or criticize other ministries? If God calls you to move from one ministry to another, how can you do that in a healthy and godly way?

https://markdriscoll.org/he-must-increase-i-must-decrease/

Related:

More later….

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Bishops Describe Retreat With Father Raniero Cantalamessa

By Carol Zimmermann 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the weeklong retreat for U.S. Catholic bishops emphasized quiet reflection, several bishops spoke out on social media during the retreat and after it wrapped up Jan. 8 with positive reaction about it and to give shoutouts to the retreat leader, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has preached to popes and top officials of the Roman Curia for nearly 40 years.

One bishop said listening to Father Cantalamessa was akin to being in the presence of the early Christian theologians. “Clear, intensely filled with the Holy Spirit, and all for the Kingdom of God,” Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Boulette of San Antonio said in a tweet. “Let us continue to pray for one another, our church and our world. A blessing to be here!”

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the papal household, delivers the homily to U.S. bishops during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mundelein Seminary during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, tweeted that the retreat leader was a “true instrument of the Lord” and that the Holy Spirit was at work during the retreat.

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie, Pennsylvania, described Father Cantalamessa’s talks and homilies as “powerful and engaging.”

He tweeted that he was glad they had time to reflect and pray about their role as shepherds, stressing: “We must start there to be able to offer healing. I am taking this very seriously but feeling positive.”

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Mark W. O’Connell said it was a “truly blessed experience” to be on retreat with Father Cantalamessa and fellow U.S. bishops.

“The Holy Spirit was powerfully present, and I was quite moved,” he tweeted. He also thanked the pope for giving the bishops this gift.

Pope Francis suggested the bishops hold the retreat and offered the services of the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household since 1980. The time of prayer Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago was planned largely in response to last summer’s revelations of allegations of sex abuse that reached the highest levels of the U.S. church.

In a Jan. 8 column for Angelus News, the archdiocesan news outlet of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the bishops’ retreat leader focused “our attention on the vocation and responsibility of bishops in this moment in the church.”

“We are praying together as a visible sign of our unity as bishops and our communion with the Holy Father. There is a collegial spirit here and a firm commitment to address the causes of the abuse crisis we face and continue the work of renewing the church,” he added.

The archbishop said Father Cantalamessa asked them to “trust more in the Holy Spirit. We need to have confidence that we are always living in God’s loving presence.”

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services listens to the homily during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote a few blog posts about the retreat with some reflection about the retreat leader’s message.

 

He said they heard about the need to emphasize in their preaching the fundamental belief in Jesus before delving into his message and teachings.

He also said Father Cantalamessa emphasized the need to root out “love of money” and all that it implies, including material possessions, honor or power.

“If this pursuit for ‘money’ needs to be rooted out from our Christian lives, then we need to embrace a true spirit of detachment,” the bishop wrote, adding that he would add more to that topic in the days ahead.

The theme of the U.S. bishops’ retreat was “the mission of the apostles and of their successors” drawing from Mark 3:14, which says Jesus “appointed 12 — whom he also named apostles — that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach.”

Reflections from the retreat do not seem to be about the crisis in particular, maybe for a reason.

In an email to Catholic News Service weeks before the retreat, Father Cantalamessa said he would “not talk about pedophilia and will not give advice about eventual solutions; that is not my task and I would not have the competence to do so.”

“The Holy Father asked for my availability to lead a series of spiritual exercises for the episcopal conference so that the bishops, far from their daily commitments, in a climate of prayer and silence and in a personal encounter with the Lord, can receive the strength and light of the Holy Spirit to find the right solutions for the problems that afflict the U.S. church today,” he added.

In a Jan. 9 column for the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said the pope’s intention for the retreat went beyond “this particular moment or challenge facing us bishops.”

“We are not leaving this retreat with all the answers to the important questions facing the church in these days,” he wrote, but he said the bishops now have a renewed sense of the importance of taking their cues from “Christ’s spirit rather than our own efforts.”

Another blessing from the week, he said, was being drawn closer to each other and to the pope.

“I have no doubt that just as the early church relied on Peter’s unique ministry to meet the challenges of the day, so we will draw strength and insight from our unity with his successor,” he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

Source:https://cnstopstories.com/2019/01/10/bishops-describe-their-retreat-as-inspiring-spirit-filled/

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 9, 2016 — “He must increase; I must decrease.” — How Are We Doing on Humility? — “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.”

January 8, 2016

Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 JN 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.

Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1-2, 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.

AlleluiaMT 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”
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Are We Answering The Call To Humility?
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As St. Therese put it, not every flower can be a rose. Some are wildflowers or daisies or violets.
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“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Isaiah 66:2

It’s been brought to my attention lately that I have a great deal to learn where humility is concerned. As painful as it is, the joyful irony is that only a God of infinite love and mercy would bother to teach this lesson.

Here’s what I suspect: much of what I think are the evidences of humility in my life are really something else entirely. There’s an ongoing skirmish between a desire for holiness (tainted with pride), discouragement over failings (tainted with pride) and goals of using my talents in the best way possible ~ for God’s glory of course. (Also tainted with pride.) Ugh.

The discouragement part is quite seductive actually, because it can give the appearance of sorrowful humility when it is often wounded pride. Humility does not mean I must dislike myself. To speak ill of myself, to mentally berate myself over my flaws and mistakes is not evidence of humility. It is evidence of pride. It just means I’ve not lived up to my expectation of myself, or worse, my delusion of grandeur. If I fail to live up to my standard of perfection I fear that I will be less esteemed by others. So I scold myself, feel sorry for myself, and cover my pride by declaring what a weak sinner I am, wailing “dear Jesus, please forgive me!”

In this way, I can feel superior to those wretched souls that don’t even have the decency to say they’ve done wrong and ask for pardon. You see, I’m less sorry for the particular sin, less sorry that I have offended my Lord than I am for having revealed the humiliating truth that I am not nearly as grand as I’d like to think I am.

Hiding within this discouragement is the unspoken craving for distinction ~ I must conquer my failings and defects in order to achieve the reputation I seek. This is what tarnishes the desire for holiness and turns the focus on me rather than on Jesus. In my secret heart – in hidden thoughts I never utter out loud – I fear that what Almighty God has ordained for me and my life is too modest, too common, too bland for my taste, and I try to persuade Him for more glory for myself while claiming to seek only His. I want what Iwant, and I beg Him to want it as well.

I must ask myself if I truly am willing to take the place God has ordained for me today without yearning for something “better” or more. As St. Therese put it, not every flower can be a rose. Some are wildflowers or daisies or violets. I realize how much of my heart wants to be a rose and nothing else, because I fear that otherwise, I will not be special to Him at all. I fear He will not even see me as He walks past and will instead reach only for the stunning red rose, smile approvingly at it, and step on my tiny plain petals as He goes away. I fear being forgotten, dismissed and rejected.

Why is it not enough that He made me in His image, shed His blood for my salvation, and loves me just as I am? It’s not enough because I don’t actually believe Him; not entirely. There remains a troubled place in my heart where I don’t believe Him when He says, “Child, you are Mine,” for I think to myself, “Why? I’m not a rose. I’m just a wildflower. I can’t believe you even notice me at all.” My longing to be loved is mixed with fear and ego until it becomes a strange form of arrogance. I don’t take God at His word; I call Him a liar. And I push Him away in anger, and then run after Him to plead with Him to see my virtues, begging Him to love me. This interior storm develops over and over again in my heart, and it will never be quieted without humility.

To be humble is to be emptied ~ emptied of myself. It isn’t wallowing in my wretchedness; it is bathing in His mercy. Pride dwells on all my offenses and festers like an infected sore. Humility wastes no time in carrying all offenses to Jesus with confidence to receive forgiveness and start again.

Humility is being content to be who, where and what God asks of me today, and nothing more. I make my whole self – body, mind and heart – an empty vessel to be filled by Him as He sees fit. Whether rose or wildflower, noticed or unseen, praised or ignored, it must make no difference. Nothing I could ever do or be can compare to who He is. The glory is all His. “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” Isaiah 64:6

I am small, ordinary, and quite sinful, yes. All that is true. But I am also His! He has said so and it is true. Everything He has is mine. It’s outrageous but it’s true! He loves me forever, and for me just to turn my eyes toward His face brings Him delight. “For the Lord takes delight in His people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4 I am His child and He will not reject me. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1John 3:1

It’s actually a relief to know that I am not fooling God. He knows this fearful, perverted “humility” lives in my heart, preventing me from realizing the peace of true humility. He will take care of it if I let Him; even in this I have to let go, trust Him to keep His word and wait. My progress toward holiness follows my cooperation, not my command. It will not be accomplished on my schedule; I cannot rush or cajole Him into action. Learning to wait is part of learning humility. I have no one to impress – I only have One to love.

St. Therese helps me understand, “the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy…if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.” (Story of a Soul)

A heart that is humble rests confidently in His mercy and love, and has no fear of being little or unnoticed, nor any need for adulation. He may be walking with the red rose in His hand, smelling its sweet fragrance, but He will also lie down on the grass that is covered in a bed of small wildflowers, and He will rest His head on their simple beauty, enjoying their soft comfort. I can think of nothing sweeter than to be that wild flower that’s pressed close to His heart as He lies down to rest. That is all my soul really longs for.

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Jennifer Hartline is a Catholic Army wife and stay-at-home mother of three precious kids who writes frequently on topics of Catholic faith and daily living. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.

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Saint John Paul II accepting his suffering, his cross
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Related:
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The Importance of Humility in Recovery from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

Humility is a personal quality that can be undervalued in the modern world. The modern focus is on individual empowerment and assertiveness. Most people will admit that humility is praiseworthy, but it tends to be associated with weakness. This misunderstanding about humility means that people fail to recognize how much it could benefit their lives.

Individuals who have escaped an addiction to alcohol or drugs will need to develop at least some degree of humility. If they fail to do so, they will be faced with a barrier to progress. The good news is that once people do begin to practice being humble, they will discover that it can bring substantial joy to their life. At this point, it can become a habit.

Humility Defined

Humility can mean different things to different people, but in basic terms it refers to modesty and respectfulness. It is the opposite of arrogance, a personality trait that brings people into conflict with others. Being humble means that an individual is able to accept their own limitations and weaknesses. It also means that they have a realistic understanding of their own strengths.

Humility and Assertiveness

It is a common misconception that assertiveness is the opposite of humility. That is because people associate being humble with being meek or being a doormat. There is also a view that being assertive requires the individual to act arrogantly. The reality is that it is possible to be assertive and humble at the same time. People can stand up for their rights while remaining respectful and aware of their own imperfections.

Humility and Spirituality

Humility is viewed as a great virtue by most religious traditions. In Christianity, humility is seen as a necessary step for submission to God. A similar view of humility is held in Islam. In fact, the word Islam can be defined as humbly submitting to God. In Buddhism, this attribute is viewed as a key element that people need to develop if they hope to achieve Nirvana. It is sometimes claimed that if a religion is not making the individual humble, they must be doing something wrong.

Arrogance and Addiction

Addicts tend to suffer from low self-esteem. They use arrogance as a defense mechanism to hide their inner self-loathing. This arrogance can be one of the things that keep them trapped in addiction. It makes it possible for the addict to be lying in the gutter yet still looking down their noses at everyone else.

Arrogance makes it difficult for people to learn anything new, because they think they already have all the answers. They fear that admitting to not knowing something will make them look stupid. Arrogance is often combined with ignorance. Until the addict is able to get beyond these defense mechanisms, they will remain stuck in their misery. The perfect way to combat arrogance is to learn humility.

Humility and the Twelve Steps

Humility is a key ingredient of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. In fact Step 7 of the program states, humbly ask Him to remove our shortcomings. A closer look at the 12 Steps shows that they all require some degree of humility. This is the first of the steps: we admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable. There is no room for arrogance if people hope to escape from addiction.

The Benefits of Humility in Recovery

These are some of the ways that humility can benefit people in recovery:

* Humility means that people are not afraid to ask questions. People who ask questions may feel stupid for a few moments, but people who never ask questions will always remain stupid.

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* Humble people find it easy to pick up new knowledge. They are always learning new and useful things. This is because they do not arrogantly assume they already have all the answers. When people recover from an addiction, they have many things to learn if they want to be able to build a successful recovery. Ignorance is no longer a luxury that they can afford; it can be fatal. In AA, they encourage people to develop a beginner’s attitude by reminding them that our best thinking got us drunk.

Read more:

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* If people hope to follow a spiritual path in recovery, then they will find that developing humility will be a key ingredient. It is impossible to develop a more spiritual way of living without this humble attitude.

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* People with this attitude are far less likely to relapse. They won’t become overconfident or begin to take their sobriety for granted. They will cherish their life away from addiction.

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*Humble individuals are never short of friends. They are just so easy to be around that people cherish their company. The fact that they are so modest and respectful means that they rarely come into conflict with anybody.

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* People with this type of attitude are likely to have less stress in their life. Those who are arrogant tend to rub people the wrong way and cause problems for themselves.

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* Humility means that the individual is able to be of great service to others. It is well documented that helping other people in recovery is a great way for the individual to strengthen their own recovery.

http://alcoholrehab.com/addiction-recovery/the-importance-of-humility-in-recovery/

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DONATELLO (Real name: Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi)
Artist
(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
St John the Baptist (detail)
1438
Painted wood
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donatello

John 3:22-30 From Living Space

We are nearing the end of our Christmas celebrations.  And we see the third and last of the three great manifestations by which were made known to us that our God had come among us in a very special way.  (However, the sign that Jesus gave in Cana is also a special manifestation of God’s presence in Jesus.)

The first of these manifestations was through the story of the birth of Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem.  The first people privileged to experience this manifestation were the shepherds, representing the poor, the sinful, and the social outcasts on whom Luke’s Gospel is especially focused.

The second manifestation, the Epiphany, celebrated last Sunday, reflects Matthew’s emphasis that Jesus was born not only for his own people but for people of every country and every race everywhere.

The third and final manifestation of God’s presence among us through Jesus is found in all the four gospels. While the first two manifestations are linked with the birth of Jesus, this one comes at a much later date, at the moment when Jesus is about to begin his public life.

Why baptise Jesus?

We might very well wonder, along with John the Baptist, why Jesus needed to be baptised.  “It is I who need baptism from you,” John said to Jesus, “and yet you come to me!”   All those  others being baptised in the Jordan by John were doing so as a sign of repentance for their sins and as an expression of their desire to turn around their lives. How could Jesus, the Son of God, be part of this?

The first answer to this is that Jesus in so doing was expressing his total solidarity with the human race, of which he was a member.  He identified with them, not as a sinner but as a fellow human being. The expression of that solidarity is a much higher priority for him than any social status he might lose by being seen in the close company of confessed sinners.  It was a risk he would constantly take because the needs of the sinner were more important to him than his reputation with the self-righteous.  It will have its final dramatic expression as Jesus dies on a cross, executed with and like two convicted criminals.  For Jesus, there was never such a thing as ‘face’, being valued purely on external appearance.

A ‘missioning’ experience

However, in order to understand what is happening at the River Jordan, we have to go far beyond seeing Jesus’ baptism as a matter of dealing with sinfulness.

What is being really emphasised here is the positive element of Jesus being totally accepted and confirmed by his Father.  What is happening here is that Jesus, as he stands there in the River Jordan, is being ‘missioned’ by his Father for the work he is just about to begin.  He is here getting the total endorsement of his Father for that work.

As he steps out of the water, the heavens open and the Spirit of God comes down on Jesus to fill  him with all God’s fullness.  “This is my Son, the Beloved [agapetos, ’agaphtos, the object of God’s agape, ’agaph, his outpouring love]; in him I am deeply pleased.”

This, we might say, is Jesus’ Pentecost experience.  It is really what the baptism in the Jordan is about.  And it is only something which those with eyes of faith can see.  We might also add that it is what our Baptism is really about.

Baptism and anointing

In the Second Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter in his sermon to Cornelius, the first Gentile to be baptised by the Apostles, says of Jesus that “God had anointed him with the Holy  Spirit and power”.

In this case, the anointing is by water rather than by oil.  That anointing, of course, implies that Jesus is being made King and Lord. The title ‘Christ’ [Greek, Christos,  cristos] which we give him means ‘The Anointed One’ and corresponds to the Hebrew  word we write as ‘Messiah’.  Finally, we said earlier that this scene is also a ‘missioning’  ceremony for Jesus as he embarks on his public life.

‘My servant’

All this is beautifully described in the passage from Isaiah which is the First Reading for today’s feast.  The opening words echo Matthew’s description of the baptism scene: “My servant in whom soul  delights… I have endowed him with my spirit.”

The mission that will be Jesus’ is then spelt out in some beautiful phrases over which we could reflect with great profit.

* He does not cry out or shout aloud

* He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.

* He brings true justice … nor will he be crushed until true justice is established on earth…

* I have called you to serve the cause of right…

* I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations: to open the eyes of the blind; to free captives from prison; and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.

Those final phrases will be quoted by Jesus himself as the proclamation of his mission in the synagogue of his home town, Nazareth (Luke 4:18-10).

All of this is contained in this simple but majestic scene with  John the Baptist in the River Jordan.  It is, as was said, a great manifestation of God’s presence among us through the Person of Jesus our King and Lord.

Our own baptism

As a final reflection it would be useful for us today to reflect on the meaning of our own baptism and how it relates with that of Jesus.

We often hear a very simplistic description of the effects of the Sacrament of Baptism as “taking away original sin and making us children of God”.  Many, especially those baptised as infants, may tend to see it as a one-off ceremony imposed on them by parents which binds them to a way of life in which they have no further say.

People have even been heard to say, “Oh! I wish I hadn’t been born a Catholic!”  There is absolutely no reason why people, after honest reflection, cannot not renounce their Catholic faith in favour of a way of life which gave more meaning to them.  However, if we truly understand the full meaning of our Baptism this is not likely to happen.

Baptism is not, as is true of all the sacraments, an isolated ritual.  It takes place in the context of our whole life.  Whether we are baptised as children or as adults, what primarily is happening is that we become incorporated, em-bodied, into the Christian community.

We become – not passively, but actively – members of the  Body of Christ.  It can never be something imposed on us against our will. That is why, for adults, there is now a long process of initiation leading up to Baptism and, hopefully a further process of community support after the Baptism has taken place.

It is why adult Baptism is now celebrated in the presence of the whole parish community and at the Easter Vigil.  ‘Original sin’ is taken away not so much by some spiritual sleight of hand or by the mumbling of some magic formula,  Rather, if one becomes truly incorporated into a living Christian community, the sinful influences that pervade our world become reversed by our exposure to the vision of Jesus and the lived experience of a community based on love, justice and sharing.

A social event

Baptist does not and cannot produce its effects in a social vacuum. That is why the Church will not baptise those who have no likelihood of experiencing Christian community.

Then, of course, like Jesus, our baptism brings with it a serious obligation to share our faith with others both by word and example.  It involves much more than simply ‘saving our souls’ and ‘leading sinless lives’.

We are called to be living witnesses of the Gospel, to be the salt of the earth, to be a city on a hill, a candle radiating light in the surrounding darkness.  We are called, in short, to be united with the others in our Christian community in the building up of God’s Kingdom.  (One wonders how often this is the reality when one sees so many Catholics acting like total strangers to each other at a Sunday parish Eucharist!)

All those words of Isaiah, quoted above and applied to Jesus, are to be applied to each one of us as well.  Our baptism is not simply some past event recorded in some dusty parish register; it is a living reality which is to be constantly deepened and enriched.

Let God our Father be able to say of us as he said of Jesus: “This is my Beloved; in this one I am very well pleased.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/c0112g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 JANUARY 2016, Saturday after Epiphany
REAL JOY OF A TRUE SERVANT OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 JOHN 5:14-21; PSALM 149:1-6, 9; JOHN 3:22-30

What is the basis of your joy in life?  For those of us who have already been enlightened, we know that it is not money, power or status that can give us happiness in life.   Indeed, it is only in service, especially to the poor and our fellow brothers and sisters, that we find meaning, purpose and fulfilment in life.  It is a joy that the world cannot give.

Yet, the old sin of Adam does not leave us so easily.   This is also true in the area of service to the poor, the church or to humanity.   Though our intentions are good and noble in wanting to serve humanity, yet, the Old Sin of Adam, especially of pride and insecurity, does not leave us in peace.  More often than not, unconsciously we seek, perhaps not material things like money, recognition and power.  This explains why even those who have given up their lives to serve God and humanity are also very unhappy, priests and religious included.  Why is joy lacking in service to God and our fellowmen when we thought that service and charity should bring us joy and freedom?

This is because unconsciously, although we think that we are serving God freely, we are not that free.  Our ego, masked desire for power and control, our pride expressed in the need for success, to be appreciated and recognized are still very much deeply seated in our hearts.  This explains why members often fight for positions, power and authority within the Church and in NGOs as well.  They seek the limelight and want to be recognized for how gracious and generous they are.   Some are rather insecure, and want people to know that they have power, especially when they work closely with the priests and religious.  They need to let people know that they have special access to them and wield influence over the priests and have power over the members.

Consequently, they often labour with the view to see success and tangible rewards.  They are worried about what people think of them.  Their focus is more on themselves rather than the good of everyone.   As a result, such a competitive spirit breeds insecurity, jealousy and envy.  They only want things to happen their way.  There is no collaboration and often it is a dictatorial way of working, with lots of manipulation of members to get their support.  To make matters worse, they destroy the credibility of other people or groups by gossiping.

This was exactly what happened with the disciples of John the Baptist.  They were envious that many were going to Jesus for baptism instead of coming to John the Baptist.  They felt threatened and insecure by the fact that others were joining Jesus.   And like our parishioners, they will bring such matters to the ears of their leaders as John’s disciples did, “Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptising now; and everyone is going to him.”   The advice of St John is important.  He said, “Children, be on your guard against false gods.” Truly, we must be alert, for these false gods continue to tempt us in new ways, often so subtle without our conscious knowledge of our motivation.

Today, we have the shinning and exemplary leadership of St John the Baptist.  He showed himself to be a true leader and a disciple of our Lord.  His focus was clear.   He knew his mission in life.  He came to accomplish his mission and then exit the scene.   He did not intend to relish in the limelight of his mission.   His job was not to promote himself but to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah.  He was contented to be only a friend of the bridegroom and not be the bride.   He was ever ready to hand over the baton to Christ when He arrived.   John the Baptist never felt threatened by the Lord.  He was ready to bow out of the stage.  In fact, he was so delighted and happy that Jesus came because it meant his job was done.

This requires great humility, which itself is a condition for self-awareness.   St John the Baptist knew himself.   He did not entertain any illusive grandeur of himself and what he could do.  He knew what was expected of him.  He knew that all power and positions come from God.  It is not for us to decide but simply to take our lot in life as He destined for us.   His immediate reply from his heart to those who were envious or would like him to be envious of Jesus was, “A man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven.”   That was why, John the Baptist never vied with Jesus for power or popularity.  He was conscious of his role in life.  The last thing he sought for was power, status or recognition.  On the contrary, he said with great joy, “This same joy I feel, and now it is complete. He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

So what was the secret of the joy of St John the Baptist? 

Firstly, it was simply to be the friend of Jesus, the bridegroom.  All that St John the Baptist wanted was to be with Jesus, to be in intimacy with Him.   He was contended to play the second fiddle, for he did not aspire to be His bride but only His friend.

Truly, if we have Jesus in our hearts and if we have intimacy with Him, this is all we need.  The joy of being with Jesus in prayer, contemplation and basking in His love brings more than enough joy to satisfy us.  To have Jesus in our hearts is to share in His sonship and in His relationship and communion with the Father.  People seek for things, fame and power in life only because they are insecure.  They need people’s recognition and praises to make them feel that they are good enough to be loved.   This explains why the world today is so bereft of the presence of God. Facebook and blogging have become their new gods, fulfilling their desperate need for praise, affirmation and appreciation!   It all boils down to low self-esteem and pride.  But for those of us who have found a true friend in life, we realize that all these pursuit of power, office, positions and recognition are a social burden rather than a help to us.  Those in love do not need much to be happy, only the company of each other.

What more if this person is our Lord! What great joy would one have because only Christ, the bridegroom, can fill us with a joy and love that the world cannot give?  With Jesus, we are no more insecure.  He accepts us for what we are!  He loves us even when we are sinners.  We do not need to buy or win His love.  We do not need to prove ourselves so that He would love us more since He has already loved us completely without reservation.  Nothing can make Him love us more. So with Jesus, we are complete!  Basking in His love is more than enough.

As the friend of Jesus, St John only wanted to please Jesus, to make Him known and loved, to share in the joy of our Lord.   He was always so happy to know that Jesus was loved and recognized as the messiah.   He was delighted to fade out from the scene so that more and more of his disciples could follow Jesus.  With sincerity, he encouraged his disciples, John and Andrew, to follow Jesus.

So the ultimate question we need to examine ourselves is this, “Can you sincerely and truly be happy without recognition, power and glory when we serve the Lord and His people?”   This is the crux and the litmus test of our sincerity to serve God and His people solely, for Him alone and not for ourselves.   If we could be happy without position and equally feel loved, then we know that we are working for God not for self.  When one is totally disinterested in power and honour, one is truly working for God.

Our real joy must simply be to be loved by Christ and loving Him in return in the way He wants us to love Him, in the way He chooses us to serve Him.  In other words, whatever will make our Lord truly happy, we will do because we seek to do His will and do everything for His greater glory, not ours.  Our joy is to see the Lord loved and be known

That is why John the Baptist could say, “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”  Is this our attitude in service as well?  Is our happiness dependent on whether we are seen to be responsible for the growth of the organization we serve, or are we happy to see the organization grow, regardless who sowed the seed or watered the plant?   Do we work in such a way that we prepare for our departure and for the renewal of leadership?  Are we already actively and consciously seeking for new ones to take over from us even whilst we are in service?  Let us do what we are called to be.  Once the work is done, let us be content to be in the background and bask in the love and intimacy of the Lord.  Let our joy be found in Him alone and in loving His people.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 10, 2015 — “He must increase; I must decrease”

January 9, 2015

Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 Jn 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols..

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Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1-2, 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 Mt 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Jn 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”
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Van Gogh’s Bible
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.
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Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created his own movement. He baptized the persons in the Jordan River, when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine, by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
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Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification”, that is, concerning the value of Baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus.
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The response of John to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. And he uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God.
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If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3, 27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3, 28). c) And at the end he uses a comparison, taken from the wedding feast. At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride. John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds.
.At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in him the voice of their bridegroom!. And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must grow greater, I must grow less!” This phrase is also the program for any person who follows Jesus..At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19, 3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cfr. Mt 3, 1-2; 4, 17).

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There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important. The four Gospel are concerned about giving the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, the response of John, He must grow greater and I must grow less” was valid not only for the Disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

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Personal questions

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“He must grow greater, I must grow less”. This is John’s program. Is this also my program?

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What is important is that the bride finds the bridegroom. We are only spokespersons, nothing more. And, am I this?

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Concluding prayer

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They shall dance in praise of his name, play to him on tambourines and harp! For Yahweh loves his people, he will crown the humble with salvation. (Ps 149,3-4)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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St John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist, By Donatello (b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze) St John the Baptist (detail) 1438 Painted wood Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

http://smecsundaymorningforum.org/2013/12/04/st-john-
the-baptist-art-for-a-advent-2/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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KNOWING OUR PLACE IN GOD’S PLAN 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 JN 5:14-21; JN 3:22-30
http://www.universalis.com/20150110/mass.htm 

“Now some of John’s disciples had opened a discussion with a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said, “Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptising now; and everyone is going to him.”  We can imagine how most of us would react if someone comes and gossips to us that there are some people challenging our status quo and are competing with us for attention and popularity.  Those of us who are in authority sometimes feel threatened by our subordinates who have become more popular than us and upstage us in what we do.  Most of us would feel jealous, angry or reactive to such perceived threats.  Our first reaction would be to curb and curtail their growing influence and popularity.  Such a response of course stems from fear of our security and the need for recognition and love of the world.  This is a normal human reaction.  Even King Herod felt the same way and sought to kill the baby Jesus, the Infant King of the Jews, for fear of losing his crown.

Yet, in the case of St John the Baptist, we have a positive reaction rather than a negative one.  There was certainly no apparent fear of competition.  John the Baptist showed himself to be truly a man of God who was so self-assured.  He did not need any approval of men, not even kings and nobilities or those in power.  He reprimanded without mincing his words when Herod committed adultery.  He scolded the religious leaders as “brood of vipers” and exhorted the soldiers to practise justice.  Such a man who had no fear of other men certainly did not feel threatened by Jesus’ baptizing at the river Jordan.

What is the secret of St John the Baptist’s magnanimity and calm response?  One must be a man of God!  His focus was never on himself but on God and the extension of His kingdom.  His only desire was to serve God and never himself.  As long as God and His kingdom were proclaimed and conversion took place, he was contented.  This man did not seek power, for God was His only power.  He did not seek to live a life of luxury since his palace was the desert.  A man who wanted nothing for himself has nothing to lose but everything to gain.  St John the Baptist was the freest man in this world.

This explains why he was more than happy to let go of his prophetic office.  He was a man who knew his place in the history of God’s plan.  His role was that of precursor.  He was absolutely aware of himself and true to himself.  He had no desire to be what he was not.  He could have easily passed himself off as the Messiah, since the people after all thought he was the one.  Instead, he made it clear in no uncertain terms that he was not the one.  He put to rest speculations on his identity when he said, “A man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can bear me out: I said: I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him.”

Indeed, St John the Baptist was contented just to be the precursor. He did not view Jesus as a threat but only sought to verify that He was truly the Messiah whose way he was to prepare. Once that was assured, he was ready to depart from the scene and let the Messiah take over the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. His conscience was clear and he was at peace.  His greatest joy was not to be in the limelight but to prepare the way for the Messiah to come and be ready to welcome Christ, like the bride her bridegroom, when He came.   Again, he said, “The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete. He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”   Such was the joy of John the Baptist to know that the bridegroom whom he had been preparing the people for was in their midst.  Knowing that meant that he was also ready to go and let Christ assume His office.

Today, we have much to learn from the example of John the Baptist.  Firstly, we must resign ourselves to the plan of God for us.  Each one of us has been given a role in the history of salvation.  We must discern the calling of God for us.  Our task on this earth is to fulfill what we have been called to do.  There is no question of competing with others over positions and honour.  It is God who allots to each one of us according to the gifts of the Spirit for the good of His Church.  If we only seek to do His will, like John the Baptist, we will find integrity in life, peace and joy.  Otherwise, we will forever be uneasy, restless and jumping from one interest to another without finding ground.

Secondly, if we are envious of others who are appointed over us, or fearful of promising leaders in our midst, we must learn to let go.  Leaders must not cling to their position.  Truly, the first task of a leader is to identify and groom a successor to take over from him.  We must not be afraid that there are others who are more capable and talented than us.  If we truly seek the greater glory of God, then we would desire to find the best person to do the job.  Like John the Baptist, we must be gracious enough that when such a person comes, we are ready to give up our position and not continue to hang on to power.   When God appoints, we must respect His choice.  St John made it clear that “a man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven.”  Envy will only lead us to misery and resentment.  What man proposes, God disposes. We must respect God’s election and trust in His divine wisdom.  As the Lord said to the prophet Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (1 Sm 16:7)

Thirdly, if we rid ourselves of our egotism and fear, we will realize that the greatest joy of life is not in holding office.  It is a burden in fact, because it demands sacrifices and responsibilities.  Those who desire to hold office are often insecure and use their position of authority to feed their ego.  If we need titles, positions and status to make us feel good about ourselves, our lives will be forever at the mercy of people as we will always be worried about what they say and think about us.  What we should glory in is the fact that we are the children of God, adopted sons and daughters of God, the bride of Christ.  This realization of our identity is even more satisfying than any office we hold, since the gift of sonship is a privilege not earned.  Once we come to know our identity and the joy of being loved by God then we do not need any worldly honour.  Just knowing that we are loved by God will give us the joy, peace and security that the world cannot give, and no one on earth can satisfy.

Indeed, the responsorial psalm celebrates God’s love for us.   The psalmist rejoices and prays, “The Lord takes delight in his people. Sing a new song to the Lord, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel rejoice in its Maker, let Zion’s sons exult in their king.”  St John reminds us of our dignity as children of God when he wrote, “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One. We know, too, that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, this is eternal life. Children, be on your guard against false gods.”   This consciousness that we are loved, not for what we do but for who we are, heals us of our fears and insecurity.  Fear is the cause of all sins.   It leads to other sins.   Being loved for our sake is the antidote to all sins. St John says our sins can be overcome if we recognize our dignity as those born of God.

As a result of our sonship too, we find true security as His children.  Experience of sonship is the basis of confidence in prayer, as St John remarked, “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”   We can live in perfect confidence in the Lord who will protect us from all harm and danger.  If we experience God as Abba Father in the way Jesus did, then we need not worry about our daily needs but rest assured that our heavenly Father will look after us.

Finally, like John the Baptist, we are happy as long as Christ is known and loved. It does not matter who brings them to Christ. Hence, no one is a threat to us.  All we desire is that our beloved is known and loved by the whole world.  The only ones who are a threat to us are those anti-Christs who work for the Evil One consciously or unconsciously and are used by him. So together we must take heed of St John’s exhortation in our fight against the Evil One. For these reasons, those who are leaders or those serving the Lord must consciously examine themselves and check their motives for serving the Lord.  We must free ourselves from vanity and ask ourselves sincerely whether we are leading people to Christ or to ourselves, and whether what we do is really in the interest of the Church or for ourselves.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/10th-january-2015-saturday-after-epiphany/#sthash.u0Ed9Dpd.dpuf

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 11, 2014 — “He must increase; I must decrease.” — Plus Teaching on “Deadly Sin”

January 10, 2014

St. John the Baptist, By Donatello (b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze) St John the Baptist (detail) 1438 Painted wood Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

Saturday after Epiphany Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 jn 5:14-21

Beloved: We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.
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We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin; but the one begotten by God he protects, and the Evil One cannot touch him. We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One. We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment to know the one who is true. And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Children, be on your guard against idols.

Responsorial Psalm ps 149:1-2, 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.

Gospel jn 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created his own movement. He baptized the persons in the Jordan River, when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine, by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God. • Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification”, that is, concerning the value of Baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus..The response of John to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. And he uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God. If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3, 27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3, 28). c) And at the end he uses a comparison, taken from the wedding feast. At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride. John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds. .

At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in him the voice of their bridegroom!. And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must grow greater, I must grow less!” This phrase is also the program for any person who follows Jesus.

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At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19, 3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cfr. Mt 3, 1-2; 4, 17). There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important. The four Gospel are concerned about giving the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, the response of John, He must grow greater and I must grow less” was valid not only for the Disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

4) Personal questions

“He must grow greater, I must grow less”. This is John’s program. Is this also my program? • What is important is that the bride finds the bridegroom. We are only spokespersons, nothing more. And, am I this?

Concluding prayer

They shall dance in praise of his name, play to him on tambourines and harp! For Yahweh loves his people, he will crown the humble with salvation. (Ps 149,3-4)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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St John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist, By Donatello (b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze) St John the Baptist (detail) 1438 Painted wood Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

http://smecsundaymorningforum.org/2013/12/04/st-john-
the-baptist-art-for-a-advent-2/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Today, we conclude the season of Epiphany with St John the Baptist confirming Jesus as the Saviour of the World and affirming that he was only the forerunner of Christ and nothing more.  He said, “I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him. The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete.”  In the gospel, St John also declares, “We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, this is eternal life.”

Today, all of us are called to be like St John the Baptist, leading others to Christ.  Indeed, many of us have taken this commission to make Christ known seriously.  We try to witness to Christ both by our words and deeds.  More explicitly, some of us are involved in Church organizations, working for the growth of the Christian community, or in non-governmental organizations that work for the good of humanity.  So directly or indirectly, we are called to make Christ known through our witnessing and involvement in the lives of our fellow Christians and fellowmen.

Yet, in all these apparent good works we do, the question that we are challenged to reflect sincerely for ourselves is whether beneath the veneer of all these good that we claim to be doing for the Church or for our community and for the glory of God, are we consciously or unconsciously seeking for influence, recognition, praise, acceptance and a sense of worthiness from those whom we serve, or even for sordid gains?

In reality, our motives for serving God are never as pure and selfless as we would want to believe.  We all serve God for many reasons, although for most of us, we are not so devious as to consciously use God for our personal gain. But unconsciously what we do often spring from our insecurities and the need for love and acceptance; and sometimes for material benefits as well, because of greed.

As a consequence we feel threatened when our fellow confreres, members, or other leaders seem to be more popular and loved than us.  We fall into the sin of envy.   We find ourselves even more insecure when our fellow colleagues are doing so much better than us, especially when their ministry is bearing fruits.  What does an envious person do if not to engage in slander, backbiting, gossip, detractions etc to discredit his competitor’s work, or worse still, to destroy his reputation and character?  Envy and jealousy will lead a person to do all these things because he feels intimidated by others.   Indeed, pride and envy are two of the seven capital sins that St John wrote about in his letter, and they can be deadly spiritually, emotionally and physically.  “Every kind of wrong-doing is sin, but not all sin is deadly.”

That is why some refuse to step down from their positions even when they are no longer effective in their ministry, or unable to perform their work in spite of the fact that there are other capable members who can take over their portfolio.  Instead of being a service to God and His Church, they become obstacles to progress and renewal for their group.  By their refusal to recognize that there will come a time one must hand over his office to someone else, they hinder the growth of that organization or movement.  Of course, they always think that no one can replace them, whether real or due to their inflated assessment of themselves.

In this context we have much to learn from St John the Baptist.  He was utterly honest with himself, and he knew himself.  As he said without any apology and publicly too, “You yourselves can bear me out: I said: I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him.”  He could easily have made use of the people’s wrong perception that he was the Christ that they were waiting for.  But he did not pretend to be what he was not.  He might have been able to cheat the people, but he cannot cheat himself and definitely not God!  He did not feel envious of Jesus when his disciples told him, “Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptising now; and everyone is going to him.”

As he rightly said, “A man can lay claim only to what is given him from heaven.”  Our calling in life is determined by God.  All that we have, our talents, wealth, resources, opportunities etc, are given by God.  We cannot claim them as if we had acquired them by mere human effort alone.  Whether we are married, or single; parents or children; leaders or members; priests or lay, bosses or workers, all these are given to us by God for a purpose, namely, for our well-being and for the good of God’s people.  Only by being faithful to our vocation, can we find peace and happiness through a life of integrity.  John the Baptist sought to fulfill his role as appointed by God, which is to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  Having completed his task, he was ready to go, as he reiterated, “He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

Thus, instead of being envious with Jesus or compete with Him for popularity and attention, he was more than happy to leave the scene.  He knew his time had come for him to depart.  Indeed, what greater joy for him than to diminish himself before the Messiah.  John the Baptist did not have any difficulty stepping out of the limelight and allowing Jesus to shine as the Light of the World.

What about us?  Do we find it difficult to step down from our positions when our time is up?  Do we continue to hang on to our office for fear that when we are no more in authority, we would not receive the attention and the adulation we are used to?  Can we accept the plan of God for us?   Are we open to a new calling in life other than the one we have been so familiar with and perhaps even good at it?  John the Baptist was entirely docile to the Lord.  One thing was clear in his mind, which was to do everything for God’s ultimate glory.

And so it does not matter who baptizes, or who preaches the Word of God, so long as the Word of God is preached effectively and efficaciously.  It does not matter who leads the Church or serves the organization, so long as the gospel is preached.  Indeed, the different charisms of others should never pose a threat to us.  Rather, it shows the richness of the diversity of God’s gifts given to His Church.  All of us are called to serve and attend to the bridegroom in different ways.  There is no competition but only a common vision and mission to serve Jesus the Lord. Hence, it is not important who assumes a particular position or office in the Church.  What is important is that the right and the best person as chosen by God should take that place.

To vie for positions in the Church is totally against the gospel.  After all, in the bible, everything is founded on the graciousness of the election of God, not of men.  God judges the heart; we see only the externals of a person.  Israel was an insignificant race but chosen to be God’s special people.  So too, as gentiles, we were no people, yet God chose us in baptism!  This explains why in the Church, the ordination to the priesthood is a calling not in terms of merit or competency.  One cannot demand to be ordained simply because he has all the functional capacity of a priest.  Or course, those who are truly chosen by God will be given the graces and the charisms to conduct their ministry.

Are we ready to act in this manner and be happy with what God wants of us instead of being ambitious and competitive even when doing God’s work?  We all belong to one Church, which is the Church of Christ.   We have a common Lord and a common vision.  Why do we fight among ourselves and divide the Church, causing scandal to both believers and unbelievers?  Why do we take things into our own hands instead of trusting in those people appointed by the Lord?  By fighting among ourselves, we show a lack of love for the Church.  If we love the Church, we will do everything not to hurt the Church even more.   If we love the Church, we will respect those who are legitimately placed over us.  Don’t we believe that God knows what He is doing and that He will always protect His Church? If we love Christ and His Church, then St John assures us, “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”

http://www.csctr.net/11-january-2014-saturday-after-the-epiphany/

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