Posts Tagged ‘John’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, March 12, 2017 — “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.” — “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

March 11, 2017

Second Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 25

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Transfiguration of Jesus —  Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected

Reading 1 GN 12:1-4A

The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22.

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Reading 2 2 TM 1:8B-10

Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.

Verse Before The Gospel CF. MT 17:5

From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard:
This is my beloved Son, hear him.

Gospel MT 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Homily From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, NM

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The transfiguration of Jesus is one of the great mysteries of our faith.  We are not entirely sure what happened at that point, but we do know that Jesus changed in front of His disciples in a way that they could sense the power of God flowing through Him.  The voice that they hear confirms that this is something from heaven and confirms the role of Jesus and the reality of Jesus as Son of God.

Jesus is the Son and Abram is also a son of God in the first reading, from Genesis.  God promises to Abram that he will become a great nation.  As with so many promises of God, the reality is greater and feels different from what people might have expected.

The second reading, from the Second Letter to Timothy, gives us another insight:  He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.  So often we are tempted to think that we must become holy, but rather it is God who makes us holy.  For sure, we must cooperate.  That is our work.

“All we have to do is cooperate.”

This brings us back to the Gospel from Matthew.  It is almost impossible for us to imagine the effect of the transfiguration on the three Apostles, Peter. James and John.  We can say truly that they were out of their minds!  But out of their minds and into faith in Jesus.

We are invited today to go out of our minds and trust completely in the Lord.  Let us walk these days of Lent so that we may share in the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. Jesus.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip




All three Synoptic Gospels tell the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36). With remarkable agreement, all three place the event shortly after Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and death. Peter’s eagerness to erect tents or booths on the spot suggests it occurred during the Jewish weeklong, fall Feast of Booths.In spite of the texts’ agreement, it is difficult to reconstruct the disciples’ experience, according to Scripture scholars, because the Gospels draw heavily on Old Testament descriptions of the Sinai encounter with God and prophetic visions of the Son of Man. Certainly Peter, James and John had a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity strong enough to strike fear into their hearts. Such an experience defies description, so they drew on familiar religious language to describe it. And certainly Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected—a theme John highlights throughout his Gospel.

Tradition names Mt. Tabor as the site of the revelation. A church first raised there in the fourth century was dedicated on August 6. A feast in honor of the Transfiguration was celebrated in the Eastern Church from about that time. Western observance began in some localities about the eighth century.


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 12:1-4; PS 32:4-5,18-20,22; 2 TIM 1:8-10; MT 17:1-9 ]

All of us have dreams.  The future is born of dreams.  What we are enjoying today is the result of the dreams of our forefathers.  Much progress has been made in the scientific and technological world because people dare to dream the impossible dream.  It is important that we have our own dream.  We live on because of our dreams.  Without dreams, life would be meaningless.  We would just drift through the life, living in the past, without zeal and passion.

Abraham in the first reading was given a great dream for his people.  He heard the Lord telling him, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.”  Upon the reception of this dream, Abraham set out, not knowing clearly where this would lead him to.  All he knew was that God had a big plan for his people.   It was a dream for a better life than what they were already having.  

In the second reading too, we read of the dream of St Paul.  He wrote, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our savior Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.”  St Paul’s dream was to offer life and immortality to all.  In preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, his dream was that all who come to Him will find fullness of life, joy and peace. The Good News that St Paul taught is that the Father loves us in Christ Jesus and we are saved by His death and resurrection.  All that is needed is faith in Him, given through grace.  We are saved not because we are good or because of good works but purely by the grace of God.

In the gospel, the Lord was given a dream, a preview of what was to take place.  He had a vision. “There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him.”  God revealed to Jesus the future glory that had always been His.  This is the glory that is to be shared with us.  When we follow Jesus we too will be transfigured in time to come.  Through this experience, Jesus was affirmed to be the New Law and the final prophet.  He is the new Moses and the new Elijah.

Today, the dream of the universal Church is the New Evangelization, of making the Good News relevant to Catholics and understood by those who are searching for truth, love and life.  We are called to proclaim the Good News, which in today’s terms is to show forth the compassionate face of God in Christ Jesus.  Whereas Pope Emeritus Benedict underscored the love of God in Christ, the thrust of Pope Francis is to concretize this love of God in His mercy.

Indeed, more than ever, in this harsh world today, where competition is tough and we are rewarded for the good work we do and punished mercilessly for the mistakes we make, we need to proclaim the mercy of God.  This is the reason why Pope Francis wants us to go beyond the rigid laws and change the image of the Church as an institution that is cold and without a heart.   Pope Francis wants the world to encounter God’s compassionate love in Christ Jesus who comes to forgive us all our sins, to give us courage and hope, not to condemn us but to save us from perdition.   Accordingly, it is important to go back to the spirit of the laws rather than just insisting on the letter of the laws.

The Good News therefore is directed principally at the poor, those who are spiritually poor and those who are materially poor.  He wants the Church to move out of her comfort zone and to be with the poor.  Many Catholics have stopped coming for mass.  Some have left the Church completely.  Many of us are struggling in our sins, especially those related to lust, greed, envy, pride and anger.  The Church must show herself to be inclusive.  Not everyone can live up to the ideals of the gospel yet.  The Church, being a Church for sinners, should welcome all those who are struggling to live up to the teaching of Christ.  The divorced, people of same sex orientation, the sick and the poor must find a home in the Church.  This is the essence of the Good News, that Jesus loves us all, including the sinners.

But realizing our dreams for the Church and the country is not easy.  When we seek to make changes, inevitably, we are faced with opposition, not so much from without as from within.  This was the same for Abraham, Christ and for Paul. People oppose change for many reasons.  Some oppose it because the vision of their leaders is not their vision.  Some feel threatened because of the change of status quo and their comfort zone is affected.  Others are constrained by their strict dogmatic beliefs and feel that the Church is abandoning her traditions and the truth of the gospel.  Some are not able to feel with those who are marginalized in Church and even at home. Leaders too suffer much opposition from those people who are not happy with our attempts to bring the Church forward because their convenience is compromised.

So what must we do in the face of opposition?  We must not forget the dream before us.  In times of trials and difficulties, we must keep the dream clear in our minds.  Once we lose our dream, we lose hope.  St Paul was always conscious of his dream to be with Christ one day in heaven.  “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:8)  Abraham too, in his long journey to the Promised Land, trusted in God and hoped in Him.   “

We must think of the greater good of the future of humanity, Church and society.  Our forefathers sacrificed much for us.  Without their sacrifices, we will not be where we are today,  As the letter of Hebrews says,  “And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”  (Heb 11:39f)  Abraham was a rich man with many flocks of animals.  He was living a comfortable life.  There was no need for him to venture out because when the call came, he was already 76, past retirement age!

Secondly, we must rely on the power of God’s grace.  St Paul wrote, “With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.”   This was his secret to peace and joy in his ministry.  Pope Francis says that “if there is a problem, I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under a statue that I have in my room. It is a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. And now he sleeps on a mattress of notes! That’s why I sleep well: it is the grace of God.”

We must pray fervently and with faith.  Pope Francis says, “I love the breviary so much and never leave it. Mass every day. The rosary … When I pray, I always take the Bible. And my peace grows. I do not know if this is the secret … My peace is a gift of the Lord.”  Prayer is the only way to find true peace of heart.  The psalmist tells us, “The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.  Our soul is waiting for the Lord.  The Lord is our help and our shield.”

Finally, we must bask ourselves in the love of God as Jesus did.  “He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’”  So too did St Peter, for the experience was so profound that he wanted to keep it with him forever. Thus he suggested, “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Indeed, later on, St Peter again recounted this experience when he wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  (1 Pt 1:16)  This transfiguration experience was both for Jesus and for the apostles so that they could face the future trials ahead of them.  

So let us be a blessing to others and to the world.  The Lord said to Abraham and to us all.  “I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who slight you. All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”   Let us hold our dreams high as Paul did.  He said, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus.”  We already have a foretaste of it.  We have seen for ourselves what the gospel can do for us.  It is not that we have not yet seen it, albeit not in its fullness.   Let us pray for the courage, the wisdom and strength to bring the Church forward and to bring the Good News to all, especially the poor, marginalized, those living in darkness and walking in the valley of death.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Pope John Paul II Homily on The Transfiguration on March 7, 1993  — He sees the transfiguration as a foretaste of our Christian victory over death:

“Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mt 17:1-2)

“Lord, it is good that we are here”

Mt 17:4

We can imagine the three disciples’ astonishment at the vision. They were used to seeing Jesus in the humble aspect of his daily humanity and how great must have been their awe and emotion at seeing the splendor of a transfigured Jesus! Peter’s offer to pitch three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah, expresses his desire to make this moment of grace and uncontainable joy last as long as possible.

“Lord, it is good that we are here”! On Tabor Jesus gave his favorite disciples an anticipation of the glory of the resurrection, a glimpse of heaven on earth, a taste of “paradise”.

While Peter “was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”‘ (Mt 17:5). It is a true manifestation of God, which recalls the “theophanies” experienced by the patriarchs of old, and it is similar to what took place on the banks of the Jordan after the Redeemer’s baptism. As then, here too a trinitarian presence is revealed: the voice of the Father, the person of the incarnate Son and the shining cloud, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, like the dove which rested on Christ when he was baptized by his fore-runner. The Apostles’ emotions change: their joy is replaced by a great fear; they fall prostrate to the ground. “Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid’. And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone” (Mt 17:7-8).

Transfiguration shows goal of our existence.

The mystery of the transfiguration takes place at a very precise moment in Jesus’ preaching, as he begins to confide to the disciples the necessity of his going up “to Jerusalem and suffer greatly. . . and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). Reluctantly they hear the first announcement of the passion and before stressing it again and confirming it, the divine Master wants to give them a proof of his total rootedness in the will of the Father so that they do not waver in the face of the scandal of the cross. In fact, the passion and death will be the way through which the heavenly Father will have his “beloved Son” achieve glory, risen from the dead. From now on this will also be the disciples’ way. No one will come to the light except through the cross, the symbol of the suffering which afflicts human existence. Thus the cross is transformed into an instrument for the expiation of the sins of all humanity. United with his Lord in love, the disciple participates in his redemptive passion. Therefore, in today’s reading St. Paul exhorts Timothy in these words: “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life” (2 Tm 1:8-9). For the believer suffering is nothing but a temporary passage, a transitory condition. Jesus, the Apostle stresses, “has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tm 1:10).

The goal of our existence is therefore as shining as the transfigured countenance of the Messiah: in him is salvation, happiness, glory, unlimited love of God. How, therefore, could we not be prepared to suffer for such a goal? It finds meaning in our effort to conform our weak nature to the demands of goodness. It takes into consideration the physical and spiritual limitations of our person and of our daily social relationships, unfortunately marred by selfishness and sin, which make our spiritual journey taxing.

Finally, the transfiguration offers us prospects for a change which is both fundamental and supernatural, of a victory and proclamation of the passover of Christ, an announcement of the cross and resurrection. It is the transfigured Christ, the Christ whom after his resurrection the Apostles and so many other witnesses of his resurrection will see with their own eyes. They are witnesses of the newness of the world inaugurated by his resurrection and foretold by his transfiguration.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus has given us the means to be victorious in fighting the good fight of faith in fidelity to his word and humble adherence to the cross. Assiduously listening to the Gospel, celebrating the saving mystery in the sacraments and the Eucharistic liturgy, we become capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to Christian newness with a generous, prompt readiness. Not by ourselves, however, but as part of the Body of Christ which is the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation. The Church is the great community of those who believe in Jesus Christ, led by the Pastors he has chosen. In his love for mankind he constituted the Twelve as his witnesses and entrusted to them the task of safe-guarding the faith and continuing his work under the guidance of Peter. The Apostles and their successors gave life to the particular Churches, foremost among which is our Church of Rome, the Diocese of Peter’s Successor.



Homily from the Abbot *(Homily from 2013)

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Lent is about transfiguration!  It is not just our Lord Jesus who becomes transfigured.  Rather, all of us can be transfigured if we want the path that He has shone us by His life, death and Resurrection.

The Book of Genesis today gives us the beginning of the story of Abraham, our faith in faith.  Abraham begins as Abram and hears God speaking to him, calling him to leave his own country and his people.  Abram is to live for God alone.  This never means that Abram will be without other people in his life or that he will not love other people.  It only means that God is first and that Abram will try to do God’s will to the best of his ability.  This is also what God is asking of you and of me today:  leave on an inner journey, go with God, do God’s will not matter how uneasy it may make us.

Saint Paul gives this same advice to Timothy in the second reading today, from the Second Letter to Timothy:  He called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.

The secret of any spiritual life is to seek God’s will and then to try to do that will with as much faithfulness as possible.  We are humans and weak and most of us are not saints, but we can keep on trying to do the will of God.  Lent is a time to strengthen our resolve by becoming more aware of God’s love for us.

The Gospel of Matthew today gives us an account of the transfiguration of Jesus.  No one is really sure what happened to our Lord at the transfiguration.  It is as though the divine nature of our Lord cannot be contained and begins to break through.  Later in Christian spirituality, it comes to be recognized that this divine nature is also ours by adoption and can also begin to manifest itself in us if we  strive to be faithful.

Lent is the time of transfiguration for us!  We plead with the Lord in this time of Lent to transform us, to transfigure us, to help do His will with joy.  At times, we rebel against the Lord and then we plead for His mercy, but always trusting completely in His love and in His will to save us and transform us.  Lord, have mercy on us!  We are sinners and we trust in you!  May your love transform us.


Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 20, 2017 — “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

February 19, 2017

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 341

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Art: Part of The Transfiguration of Christ By Raphael — Showing the young boy consumed with convulsions

Reading 1 SIR 1:1-10

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.

Responsorial Psalm PS 93:1AB, 1CD-2, 5

R. (1a) The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed:
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

Alleluia 2 TM 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

The transfiguration

Raphael (Raffaelo Santi, 1483-1520)

Vatican Museums, Rome (Photograph Calvi)

According to present estimations, there are between 300,000 and 600,000 people in the U.K. who have epilepsy. Of these, over half are under 20 years of age. In the Renaissance, this disease was just as common as it is today, although in those days people made no clear distinction between obsessions, the plague and epilepsy. The Renaissance viewed the human being who fitted harmoniously into the cosmos, as the measure of all things. Therefore people reacted with great irritation to anything that seemed unusual or strange and looked to the heavens to find an explanation for it. In the Christian Middle Ages, as in ancient Greek and Roman times, epilepsy was regarded as the ‘unnatural, mysterious illness which is not of this world.’

The most famous painting of a person with epilepsy is the one by Raphael (Raphaelo Santi, 1483-1520) :

Raphael’s last picture, the ‘Transfiguration of Christ‘, is divided into two parts: the upper part depicts the transfiguration of Christ, the lower part portrays the healing (or rather the scene immediately preceding it) of the boy with an evil spirit (epilepsy). This story comes immediately after the description of the transfiguration in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). The lower part of this painting, which was never completely finished, is based on the following passage in the Bible:
‘…Teacher, I brought my son to you, because he has an evil spirit in him and cannot talk. Whenever the spirit attacks him, it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grits his teeth and becomes stiff all over.’ (Mark 9, 17-18)

The Transfiguration of Christ (detail)

The scene shows the father (wearing a green robe to symbolize hope) bringing his son to the disciples. The painting shows the boy having a seizure: his father has to support him as he cannot stand upright. The boy’s limbs are stiff (tonic) and twisted, his mouth is slightly open, his lips are blue, his eyes are fixed in a squint. It is clear to see that during such a convulsion the ‘demon‘ would throw the victim ‘into the fire or into the water‘ (Mt 17, 14) if he were not under the care of his family.

Jesus heals the boy by driving out the evil spirit. This passage in the Bible led people in the Christian Middle Ages to believe that epilepsy was caused by demons, and this opinion was one of the main reasons why the falling sickness was called ‘morbus daemonicus‘ (the demonic disease) at that time.

Art historians have repeatedly pointed to the symbolism of the themes portrayed in this masterpiece: they believe that Rafael intentionally included the simultaneous depiction of the transfiguration of Christ and the healing of the epileptic boy in one painting. In so doing he consciously created a link between the transfigured Christ and the epileptic boy – a symbolic incongruity between the later crucified and then risen Christ and the epileptic boy who falls to the ground in a seizure, lies there as if dead and then ‘rises’ up again. It is notable that in the painting, the only link between the two parts of the picture is made by the epileptic boy, who is the only person in the lower half of the picture whose face is turned to the transfigured Christ in the upper part of the painting.



Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
20 FEBRUARY, 2017, Monday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10; Ps 92(93):1-2,5; Mk 9:14-29 ]

“The father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith.  Help the little faith I have!’”  This cry of the father is the cry of everyone.  We too feel like him.  We have some faith in God but for most of us our faith is weak.  Certainly, we do not even have faith in God to heal us when we are sick, much less a faith that could move mountains!  In times of trial, we give up faith in God.  We prefer to rely on ourselves, our ingenuity, science and technology to solve our problems.  God is always the last resort when all things fail and there is no further recourse.  But deep down in us all, we do want to increase in faith.  But we are weak.

How, then, can we grow in faith?  Firstly, by contemplating on the magnificent creation of God.  In the first reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus, the wisdom of God is praised through pondering on the wonders of God’s creation.  When the author considered “the sand of the sea and the raindrops, and the days of eternity, who can assess them?  The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?”   No one could do all these but God the creator who alone is all wise.  “He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her, and poured her out on all his works to be with all mankind as his gift, and he conveyed her to those who love him.”

If God is the creator of all, then following Jesus we can trust in His divine providence.  “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?”  (Mt 6:26-30)

If we do not trust Him, who else can we trust when “before all other things wisdom was created, shrewd understanding is everlasting.  For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?  Her resourceful ways, who knows them?”  So the conclusion of Sirach and the psalmist is this, that God is our King, Lord of heaven and earth.  “One only is wise, terrible indeed, seated on his throne, the Lord.”  To Him we submit ourselves.  “The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed; the Lord has robed himself with might, he has girded himself with power.  The world you made firm, not to be moved; your throne has stood firm from of old.  From all eternity, O Lord, you are. Truly your decrees are to be trusted.  Holiness is fitting to your house, O Lord, until the end of time.”

Secondly, to grow in faith, we need the faith of others to inspire us.  Obviously, the child under possession could not exercise his faith.  Likewise, the father of the child was so desperate that he had lost almost all faith except the little he had left.  The disciples were supposed to be channels of God’s grace.  They were supposed to help the little faith of the father of the child.  Instead, they made him lose the little faith he had.  He asked his “disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.”  The reply of Jesus was swift.   In frustration, He remarked, “You faithless generation.  How much longer do I have to be with you?  How much longer do I have to put up with you?  Bring him to me.”   Jesus was clearly disappointed that even His own disciples lacked the faith to deliver the boy from the Evil One. They must have tried to exorcise the boy but their lack of faith was clearly manifested so much so the Devil was not afraid of them.  Like many people who pray without faith, the devil knows that they are weak in faith.  He would not bother about them because their prayers would not work.

Jesus was truly a man who could inspire faith. Even the sight of Him was enough to move people to faith.  In today’s gospel, we read that “the moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him.”   We also read elsewhere, “After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him  and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”  (Mt 14:36)   Even at His death, the centurion remarked, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mt 27:54) He was seen as the visitation of God.  After raising the widow’s son at Nain, we read that “a sense of awe swept over all of them, and they glorified God saying, “a great prophet has appeared among us.  God has visited His people.”  (Lk 7:16)

All of us too are called to inspire people in faith.  Parents have a responsibility to inspire faith in their children.  It is not enough to teach them about God or bring them to church and catechism classes.  More importantly, they must inspire them by their lives of faith, devotion and love for God.  It is not what they say but what they do.  This is of course true for all, whether we are priests, religious, teachers, elders or seniors.  We are called to inspire faith in the lives of those people under our charge or are living or working with us.  Can we say that through our lives, people are inspired to find faith in Christ as well?  The sad reality is that often we put people off and become a scandal to their faith because of our arrogance, insensitivity, discrimination or sinful and worldly lifestyles. Many have left the church because they encountered bad witnessing by Catholics who are rude and selfish.

How, then, can we be the light of faith to others so that they can be inspired to grow in their faith?   If faith is lacking in us, it is because, as Jesus said, “This is the kind, that can only be driven out by prayer.” What is needed is more than just doing things in the name of Jesus or for Jesus.  We need to share the mind and heart of Jesus so that we can pray and act with faith in God like He did.  It was just after the Transfiguration experience when this incident happened.  The people noticed the transformation in Jesus and that explained why they were struck with amazement upon seeing Him.  It was in the intimacy with His Father, that the Lord, was transformed.  Filled with the Father’s love and assurance of His presence, He could confidently come down from the mountain filled with renewed power and strength to deal with the challenges ahead of Him, particularly the imminent passion in Jerusalem.  We, too, if we want to be sure that we can manage the trials and challenges of life at home, at work or in ministry, then we need to pray as much as we work.  Only prayer can strengthen our personal faith in Christ, without which, the work we do will be hollow and not transform anyone.  We will end up quarreling and debating with each other as many church groups do because the members hardly pray together and as individuals.  This was what happened at the scene.  “They saw a large crowd around them and some scribes arguing with them.”  When there is no faith, we can only argue and prove each other wrong.  But if we believe in the power of prayer, then prayer changes us and changes the way we relate with others. With faith, nothing is impossible.  When the man told the Lord, “But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”  Jesus retorted, “If you can? Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.”

So let us increase in our faith through prayer in our relationship with the Lord, through contemplation of His works in our lives and in creation; and through the inspiring faith of our brothers and sisters. It is therefore important that we support each other in faith using the various means and opportunities available to us. Not only by praying individually, but we must also come together to worship as a community of faith; and coming together in smaller groups to share the Word of God and how the Lord is working in our daily life.  Through such fellowship, our faith will grow from strength to strength.  If we walk alone in our faith, we will surely lose it one day because no one can grow in faith by himself.  We need the church and the faith of our brothers and sisters to support us.

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



Lectio Divina from The Carmelites


• The Gospel today informs us that the disciples of Jesus were not able to cast out the devil from the body of a boy. The power of evil was greater than their capacity. Today, also, there are many evils which surpass our capacity to face them: violence, drugs, war, sickness, jobless people, terrorism, etc. We make great efforts in life, but it seems that instead of improving, the world becomes worse. What good is there in struggling? Keeping this question in mind, let us read and meditate on today’s Gospel.
• Mark 9, 14-22: The situation of the people: despair without solution. Coming down from the mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus met many people around the disciples. A parent was in despair, because an evil spirit had taken possession of his son. With great detail, Mark describes the situation of the possessed boy, the anguish of the father, the incapacity of the disciples and the reaction of Jesus. Two things strike us in a particular way: on one side, the confusion and the powerlessness of the people and of the disciples in the face of the phenomenon of possession, and on the other hand, the power of faith in Jesus before which the devil loses all his influence.
The father had asked the disciples to drive out the devil from the boy, but they were not able to do it. Jesus becomes impatient and says: “Faithless generation! How much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me”. Jesus asks information regarding the sickness of the boy. And from the response of the father, Jesus knows that the boy, “from childhood”, was affected by a serious illness which endangered his life. The father asked: “But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us!” The phrase of the father expresses a very real situation of the people: (a) they are faithless; (b) they are not in a condition to solve the problem, but (c) have such good will.
• Mark 9, 23-27: The answer of Jesus: the way of faith. The father answers: Lord, I believe! But help my lack of faith! The response of the father has the central place in this episode. It indicates that this should be the attitude of the disciple, that, in spite of his/her limitations and doubts, he/she wants to be faithful. Seeing that many people were coming, Jesus acted rapidly. He ordered the spirit to get out of the boy and not to return “again ever!” This is a sign of the power of Jesus on evil. It is also a sign that Jesus did not want any popular propaganda.
• Mark 9, 28-29: Deepening this with the disciples. In the house, the disciples want to know why they were not able to drive out the devil. Jesus answers: This is the kind of evil spirit that can be driven out only by prayer! Faith and prayer go together. One does not exist without the other. The disciples had become worse. Before they were capable of driving out the devil (cfr. Mk 6, 7.13). Now, no more. What is lacking? Faith or prayer? Why is it lacking? These are questions which come from the text and enter into our head in a way that we can proceed also to a kind of revision of our life.
• The expulsion of the devils in the Gospel of Mark. During the time of Jesus many persons spoke of Satan and of the expulsion of the devils. People were afraid and, there were some persons who profited and took advantage of the fear of the people. The power of evil had many names: Demon, Devil, Beelzebul, Prince of Demons, Satan, Dragon, Domination, Power, Beast-wild animal, Lucifer, etc. (cfr. Mk 3, 22-23; Mt 4, 1; Rv 12, 9; Rm 8, 38;; Eph 1, 21).
Today also, among us the power of evil has many names. It is enough to consult the dictionary and look for the word Devil or Demon. Today, also, many dishonest people enrich themselves, profiting of the fear which people have of the devil. Now, one of the objectives of the Good News of Jesus is, precisely, to help people to free themselves from this fear. The coming of the Kingdom of God means the coming of a stronger power. The strong man was an image which indicated the power of evil which maintained people imprisoned by fear (Mk 3, 27). The power of fear oppresses persons and makes them lose themselves. He does in such a way that they live in fear and death (cfr. Mk 5, 2).
It is such a strong power that nobody can stop it (Mk 5, 4). The Roman Empire with its “Legion” (cfr. Mk 5, 9), that is, with its armies, was the instrument used to maintain this situation of oppression. But Jesus is the strongest man who overcomes, seizes and drives out the power of evil! In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul gives a list of all the possible powers or demons which could threaten us and he summarizes everything in this way: “I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord!” (Rm 8, 38-39). Nothing of all this! And the first words of Jesus after the Resurrection are: “Do not be afraid! Rejoice! Do not fear! Peace be with you!” (Mk 16, 6; Mt 28, 9-10; Lk 24, 36; Jn 20, 21).
Personal questions
• Have you ever lived an experience of powerlessness before some evil or violence? Was this an experience for you only or also for the community? How did you overcome it?
• Which is the type of evil today which can only be overcome with much prayer?


Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 18, 2017 — The Essential Role of Faith For Man — “Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”

February 17, 2017

Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 340

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The Transfiguration Jesus by James Tissot

Reading 1 HEB 11:1-7

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,
so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.
By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s.
Through this, he was attested to be righteous,
God bearing witness to his gifts,
and through this, though dead, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death,
and he was found no more because God had taken him.
Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him,
for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who seek him.
By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen,
with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household.
Through this, he condemned the world
and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 10-11

R. (see 1) I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

AlleluiaMK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:2-13

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him.”

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Transfiguration of Jesus. Source – Orthodox Metropolitanate Of Singapore And South Asia
Why Peters, James and John were Chosen Witnesses of the Transfiguration
According to the explanation of St. John of Damascus, “the Lord took Peter in order to show that His testimony truly given to him will be affirmed by the testimony of the Father and that one should believe him in His words, that the heavenly Father revealed this testimony to him (Mt. 16:17). He took James as the one who before all the Apostles would die for Christ, to drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism (Acts 12:2). Finally, He took John, as the virgin and purest organ of Theology so that he, after having beheld the eternal glory of the Son of God, has thundered these words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn. 1:1). Besides this on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter who hadn’t yet spread the ideas about the suffering and death of his Teacher and Lord (Mt. 16:22), might mature in the truth of His glory, which forever remains inviolable despite all hostile efforts; James and John, awaiting the opening of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah and pursued the first places in this kingdom (Mk. 10:37), might behold the true majesty of Christ the Savior, surpassing every terrestrial power. The three disciples were under the law (Deut. 19:15) sufficient witnesses of the revelation of the glory of God and, according to the expression of St. Proclus, ‘in spirit personally represented all the others’.”


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
18 FEBRUARY, 2017, Saturday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time


If you have paid attention to the scripture readings, you would wonder why after taking a break from the letter to the Hebrews to focus on the Book of Genesis, we return to  the Letter to the Hebrews.  This is because this chapter sums up the faith of those characters mentioned in the book of Genesis.  Why is faith critical in the Christian Religion?  This is because faith entails trust in God’s love, fidelity to His promises and His omnipotence. “Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who try to find him.”  Without total trust in God, our human ego will become an obstacle for God to work in and through us.   Accordingly, the author declares that “only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.”

And he added, “It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.”  Then he went about to describe the necessary faith in the creation of the world by God who brought all things into existence; the faith of Abel who “offered God a better sacrifice than Cain”; the faith of Enoch who “was taken up and did not have to experience death”; and the faith of Noah who was asked by God to build an Ark outside his house.  All of these who placed their faith in God were counted as righteous before God and were well rewarded.

But then this call to faith in God seems to be in conflict with the visions that God also gives to man, as in today’s story of the transfiguration or the vision given to the unbelieving St Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus.  Hence the question is: does it mean that Jesus and the disciples were dispensed from faith, since faith implies believing without seeing?  On the surface it appears to be this way.  Yet, in truth, faith is presupposed before visions, and greater faith is required after visions.  How is this so?

Faith is a pre-requisite to being receptive to the signs that God gives to us.  Signs are not proofs.  There is no pure naked faith that is not supplied by some signs.  Otherwise we can fall into the danger of fideism, which is to believe without a reasonable basis for doing so.  Credulity is as dangerous as rationalism, the latter which demands that things must be proven beyond doubt before one would believe.  Credulity is not faith, but sloth and irresponsibility.  Rationalism is against faith, because one trusts only in one’s knowledge and wisdom.  One reduces the power and wisdom of God to his limited knowledge and wisdom.  Fideism is against faith because it fails to respect the gift of intellect given to man.

Truly, all the visions found in the Bible and our own visions remain at best signs to point us to a greater mystery, namely, God Himself.  At Jesus’ baptism, and once again at the Transfiguration, faith is required to perceive that what they saw and heard is from God.  It could be their imagination or even a hallucination and mass hypnotism.  So without faith, we can try to explain away any marvelous events that happen in this life.  And when confronted with the totally inexplicable, without faith, we can respond like many atheists do, that we will find the scientific answer one day.  But with faith, like the disciples, we will view these visions or works of wonders as means by which God elicits our response in faith and love.  With faith, we begin to see and hear more than what the person without faith could.

Nevertheless, visions cannot be substituted for faith. Vision presupposes faith, and once perceived, it calls for a greater contemplation on the mystery experience.  We can be sure that for Jesus and the disciples, after the revelation of the Father at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration, they continued to contemplate and draw out the deeper meaning of the vision that took place.  It is significant that Jesus purposely began His public mission after His baptism when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, having experienced in a radical manner, Himself as the Son of the Father and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah.  In the same manner, it was after the Transfiguration that Jesus again resolutely took the road to Jerusalem, the place of His suffering and glory.

In truth, visions invite us to a deeper faith.  More often than not, after encountering a vision, things become even more confused.  That visions invite us to grow in faith can also be glimpsed from the reaction of the disciples.  “As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’”  Indeed, understanding one’s vision takes time.

Vision does not clarify everything all at once, and clearly.  It is only a vehicle to make us deepen our faith further by ongoing study, contemplation and prayer.  One begins to ask more questions and seek clarification. Quite often, understanding the full significance of the vision might take years, if not a lifetime.  And if a vision commands us to act, it is even more daunting, as one is called to act by faith, not by sight.  Only because they asked and inquired further, seeking to understand their vision and grow in faith, did Jesus instruct them that “Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’”  Even then, they could not understand what Jesus told them.  Otherwise, how do we explain the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus when He was arrested by the soldiers, or their disbelief when told of Jesus’ resurrection?   Similarly, Jesus, too, in spite of the Father’s affirmation of His Sonship and mission, had to endure the agony in the garden of Gethsemane and surrender in faith to the Father’s will.

Finally, those who have received visions are expected to have a greater faith by surrendering their lives to God. This was true of Abraham and all the prophets of the Old Testament when, after being called, they were asked to prophesy to the people of God at the risk of death.  So, too, the apostles, after encountering the Lord, were sent out to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth.  One can say that no one receives a vision just for himself or herself, but it is at the service of a mission which requires much faith, perseverance and endurance, because the mission entails suffering and even martyrdom.  Indeed, one can be certain that one has a real vision when the vision inspires him to give his life entirely to God who gave that message to him.  Unless vision is followed by action, that vision is placed in doubt.  In a nutshell, an authentic vision must manifest the fruits and actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his or her life.

How should we be disposed to vision?  A vision cannot be engineered by us.  That would be hallucination, as it lacks objective reality.  Vision, if ever given, is the sheer grace of God at work in us.  We can of course be disposed to vision by being docile to the Lord.  Of course, not all have great visions.  In many ways, all of us have our mini-transfiguration experiences, especially in prayer.  Through our intimacy with God, in listening and dialogue, we can encounter Him speaking to us, directing and through inspiration.  That is what the Father says to us when He told us, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”  Like the Psalmist, if we ponder the wonders of God in our lives, we will encounter the majesty and glory of God.

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



Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Gospel Reading – Mark 9,2-13
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain on their own by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became brilliantly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.
Then Peter spoke to Jesus, ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened.
And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
As they were coming down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
He said to them, ‘Elijah is indeed first coming to set everything right again; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of man that he must suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’
• Today’s Gospel speaks about two facts linked between them: the Transfiguration of Jesus and the question of the return of the Prophet Elijah. At that time people were waiting for the return of the Prophet Elijah.
Today many people are waiting for the return of Jesus and write on the walls of the city: Jesus will return! They are not aware that Jesus has returned already and is present in our life. Some times as a sudden lightening, this presence of Jesus bursts into our life and enlightens it, transfiguring it.
• The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place after the first announcement of the death of Jesus (Mk 8, 27-30). This announcement had disturbed or upset the mind of the disciples, especially of Peter (Mk 8, 31-33). They were among the poor, but their mind was lost in the ideology of government and of the religion of the time (Mk 8, 15). The Cross was an obstacle to believe in Jesus. The Transfiguration of Jesus will help the disciples to overcome the trauma of the Cross.
• In the years 70’s when Mark wrote, the Cross continued to be a great impediment for the Jews, to accept Jesus as Messiah. They said: “The Cross is a scandal!” (1 Co 1, 23). One of the greatest efforts of the first Christians consisted in helping persons to perceive that the cross was neither a scandal, nor madness, but rather the expression of the power and the wisdom of God (1 Co 1, 22-31). Mark contributes to this. He uses the texts and the figure of the Old Testament to describe the Transfiguration. In this way he indicates that Jesus sees the realization of the prophecies and the Cross was a way toward Glory.
• Mark 9, 2-4: Jesus changes appearance. Jesus goes up a high mountain. Luke says that he goes up to pray (Lk 9, 28). Up there, Jesus appears in the glory before Peter, James and John. Together with him appear Moses and Elijah. The high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where in the past, God had manifested his will to the people, handing them the Law. The white clothes remind us of Moses with a radiant face when he spoke with God on the Mountain and received the Law (cfr. Ex 43, 29-35) Elijah and Moses, the two greatest authorities of the Old Testament, speak with Jesus. Moses represents the Law, Elijah, the prophecy. Luke informs on the conversation concerning the “exodus of Jesus”, that is, the Death of Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 9, 31). It is then clear that the Old Testament, both the Law as well as the prophecy, already taught that for the Messiah Servant the way to glory had to go through the Cross!
• Mark 9, 5-6: Peter is pleased, likes this, but he does not understand. Peter is pleased and he wants to keep this pleasant moment on the Mountain. He offers to build three tents. Mark says that Peter was afraid, without knowing what he was saying, and Luke adds that the disciples were sleepy (Lk 9, 32). They were like us: they had difficulty to understand the Cross!
• Mark 9, 7-9: The voice from Heaven clarifies the facts. When Jesus was covered by the glory, a voice came from the cloud and said: This is my Son the Beloved! Listen to him! The expression: “Beloved Son” reminds us of the figure of the Messiah Servant, announced by the prophet Isaiah (cfr. Is 42, 1). The expression: “Listen to him!” reminds us of the prophecy which promised the coming of a new Moses (cf. Dt 18, 15). In Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. The disciples can no longer doubt. Jesus is truly the glorious Messiah whom they desired, but the way to the glory passes through the cross, according to what was announced by the prophecy of the Servant (Is 53, 3-9). The glory of the Transfiguration proves this. Moses and Elijah confirm it. The Father guarantees it. Jesus accepts it. At the end, Mark says that, after the vision, the disciples saw only Jesus and nobody else. From now on, Jesus is the only revelation of God for us! Jesus is alone, the key to understand all of the Old Testament.
• Mark 9, 9-10: To know how to keep silence. Jesus asked the disciples to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead, but the disciples did not understand. In fact, they did not understand the meaning of the cross which links suffering to the resurrection. The Cross of Jesus is the proof that life is stronger than death.
• Mark 9, 11-13: The return of the Prophet Elijah. The Prophet Malachi had announced that Elijah would return to prepare the path for the Messiah (Ml 3, 23-24): this same announcement is found in the Book of Ecclesiasticus/Ben Sira (Si 48, 10). And then, how could Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah had not yet returned? This is why the disciples asked: Why do the Scribes say that before Elijah has to come?” (9, 111). The response of Jesus is clear: “But I tell you Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the Scriptures say about him” (9, 13). Jesus was speaking about John the Baptist who was killed by Herod (Mt 17, 13).
Personal questions
• Has your faith in Jesus given you some moment of transfiguration and of intense joy? How do these moments of joy give you strength in times of difficulty?
• How can we transfigure today, our personal and family life as well as our community life?
Concluding Prayer
All goes well for one who lends generously,
who is honest in all his dealing;
for all time to come he will not stumble,
for all time to come the upright will be remembered. (Ps 112,5-6)

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, October 5, 2015 — Be mindful of the poor — “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”

October 4, 2016

Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 463

An actual photograph of Jesus during the “Sermon on The Mount”…


Reading 1 GAL 2:1-2, 7-14

Brothers and sisters:
After fourteen years I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas,
taking Titus along also.
I went up in accord with a revelation,
and I presented to them the Gospel that I preach to the Gentiles–
but privately to those of repute–
so that I might not be running, or have run, in vain.
On the contrary,
when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Gospel to the uncircumcised,
just as Peter to the circumcised,
for the one who worked in Peter for an apostolate to the circumcised
worked also in me for the Gentiles,
and when they recognized the grace bestowed upon me,
James and Cephas and John,
who were reputed to be pillars,
gave me and Barnabas their right hands in partnership,
that we should go to the Gentiles
and they to the circumcised.
Only, we were to be mindful of the poor,
which is the very thing I was eager to do.And when Cephas came to Antioch,
I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.
For, until some people came from James,
he used to eat with the Gentiles;
but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself,
because he was afraid of the circumcised.
And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him,
with the result that even Barnabas
was carried away by their hypocrisy.
But when I saw that they were not on the right road
in line with the truth of the Gospel,
I said to Cephas in front of all,
“If you, though a Jew,
are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew,
how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Responsorial Psalm PS 117:1BC, 2

R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
Praise the LORD, all you nations,
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world, and tell the Good News.

Alleluia ROM 8:15BC

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You have received a spirit of adoption as sons
through which we cry: Abba! Father!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 11:1-4

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished,
one of his disciples said to him,
“Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name,
your Kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread
and forgive us our sins
for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test.”


Commentary on Luke 11:1-4 From Living Space

It is surely no coincidence that Jesus’ commendation of Mary for spending time listening to Jesus should be followed by a section on prayer.

Luke’s gospel has been called the Gospel of Prayer. It is in his gospel, more than any of the others, that we are told about Jesus praying, especially before the more important moments of his public life, such as at his baptism, the choosing of the Twelve, before Peter’s confession of his Messiahship and in the garden before his Passion.

Today we see Jesus just praying somewhere and we get the impression that it was something he did quite often. We mentioned earlier that it was perfectly natural for Jesus to pray to his Father, if we understand by prayer being in close contact with God.

Sometimes it will be to ask him for help in our lives or in making the right decision, sometimes it will be to thank and praise him, sometimes it will be to pray on behalf of someone else and sometimes it will just to be in his company. We saw this yesterday with Mary of Bethany sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus listening to him. In fact, a lot of our prayer should be in silent listening. Some people talk so much in their prayer that God cannot get a word in! And then they complain he does not answer their prayers!

After seeing him pray on this occasion, Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray.  In reply, he gives them what we know as the Lord’s Prayer. It is not quite the form we are familiar with, which comes from Matthew’s gospel. It is simpler but the basic structure is still the same.

Matthew’s text has seven petitions (we know how he likes the number ‘seven’) but Luke only five.  It is believed that Matthew follows an earlier form which may be closer to Luke’s.

When Jesus taught this to his disciples did he mean that praying meant reciting this formula at regular intervals? In fact, it is (in Matthew’s version) a formula we all know by heart and which we recite regularly during the Eucharist, when we say the Rosary and on many other occasions. But it seems more likely that Jesus intended to do more than just teach them a formula to be recited. It is probably much better to see his words as an answer to their request: “Lord, teach us how to pray.” This is not the same as “Teach us some prayers to say/recite.”

We will get much more out of the Lord’s Prayer if we take each petition separately and see each one as a theme about which we can pray. We can take each petition separately and spend time praying around each one. When we do that seriously and conscientiously we will see that it is a very challenging prayer.

Let us briefly look at the petitions as they are in Luke:


To begin with, let us not get into arguments about God’s gender. We can address God as either Father or Mother; the basic meaning is that God is the source of life, that God is the Creator of every living thing. In addressing God as Father (or Mother) we are acknowledging that we are children, sons and daughters, of God. But if we are children of the one God, then we are brothers and sisters to each other. And there can be no exceptions to this, not even one.

Is this what I mean when I utter the word “Father”? Am I prepared to see every single person on the face of this earth, irrespective of race, nationality, skin colour, class, occupation, age, religion, behaviour… as my brother and sister? If not, I have to stop praying at this first word. We can begin to see now what teaching his disciples to pray meant to Jesus as well as to them and us.

May your name be held holy:

God’s name is already holy and nothing we can do can make it any more so. In this petition we are rather asking that the whole world recognise the holiness of God, that the whole world sing with the angels, “Holy, holy, holy…” God does not need this but we do. And when we sing like this in all sincerity then we are saying that we belong to him and recognise him as Lord. And it is, in fact, another way of expressing the following petition…

Your kingdom come:

We refer frequently in these reflections to the Kingdom. It is that world where God’s reign prevails in people’s hearts and minds and relationships. A world where people have submitted gladly to that reign and experience the truth and love and beauty of God in their lives and in the way they react with the people around them. It produces a world of freedom, peace and justice for all.

In praying this petition, though, we are not just asking God to bring it about while we sit back and wait. We are also committing ourselves to be partners with God in bringing it about. Our co-operation in this work is of vital importance. To be a Christian, to be a disciple of Jesus is essentially to be involved in this task of making the Kingdom a reality. And it has to begin right now; it is not just to be left to a future existence. (In Matthew’s version we pray: ‘Your kingdom come on earth…’)Like many of these petitions, it is a prayer that God’s will be carried through our involvement. Again it is a really challenging prayer.

Give us each day our daily bread:

A prayer that we will be always provided with what we need for our daily living. There is a highly dangerous word buried in the petition. That word is “us”. To whom does “us” refer? My family? my friends? my work companions? my village, town, city, country, nationality, race? Surely it refers to all God’s children without exception.

If that is the case, then we are praying that every single person be supplied with their daily needs. But that cannot happen unless we all get involved. The petition is not simply passing the buck to God. The feeding of our brothers and sisters is the responsibility of all. Yet millions are hungry, other millions suffer from malnutrition as well as being deprived of many of the other essentials of dignified living. Clearly, we are not doing all we could to see that all of “us” have “our” daily bread. So again this is a very dangerous prayer.

It is even more dangerous when we say it in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the sacrament or sign of a community that takes care of all its members and of others in need. It is the sacrament of breaking bread with brothers and sisters. If we leave the Eucharistic table and do nothing about this then our sign has been a sham.

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is in debt to us:

How easily we say this again and again! Yet it is a very frightening thing to do: to put God’s forgiving us conditional on our forgiving others. Forgiveness and reconciliation must be part and parcel of Christian living and we all know that at times it can be very difficult. Yet, as we see in the book of Jonah (read during Cycle I at this time), our God is so ready to forgive. To be like him, to be “perfect” is to have that same readiness to forgive. Our deepest urge should be not to condemn and punish but to rehabilitate and restore to life.

Do not put us to the test:

We are surrounded by forces which can draw us away from God and all that is true, good and beautiful. We pray that we will not succumb permanently to anything of the sort. We need constantly God’s liberating hand to lift us up as he lifted the drowning Peter. This is the one petition where we depend totally on God’s help.

The Lord’s Prayer is beautiful. It is challenging. It needs to be taken slowly and meditatively so that we have time to enter deeply into each petition. Perhaps as we pray we can stop at just one petition which at this time is particularly meaningful to us and leave the others for another time. It is primarily not a formula to be recited but themes for prayer. Any one petition is enough to last a long time.



 (Toward a Better Understanding of the Lord’s Prayer)

Bishop Robert Barron says, “Jesus Christ was either the most important person ever to walk on the face of the earth or he was a liar and a fraud.”
Robert Barron
So there’s our choice.
And for me I would have to deny all the apostles and all the followers of Jesus throughout the history of man to not believe in Jesus.
I would have to say that Michelangelo was insane, Thomas Aquinas was a fool, and all the saints, and popes, and all the followers ever were just flat wrong.
I would have to declare, if I choose not to follow Christ, that I am smarter and better informed that John the Baptist, John the Apostle, and the Apostle Thomas who traveled all the way to what is now India to spread the Word of God after Jesus Rose From The Dead.
I can’t do that.
Jesus’ impact on man, on mankind, is so profound that he cannot be denied — even in this “all knowing” Internet and technology Age.
Jesus is not just the main thing. He is the only thing.
Jesus is our  Raison d’être.
I can either be a follower with conviction or face conviction and hell after the Court of Real Justice in Heaven!
No. I have faced conviction and hell already.
I choose life and conviction to Jesus and His Father — with the help and intercession of the Holy Spirit.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom


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

Thomas Merton

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.

“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he thought maybe he wanted to be a good Catholic.

Lax stopped him in his tracks.

“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”

Merton was dumbfounded.

“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.

Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”…

Thomas Merton knew his friend was right.

Merton, of course, would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century.

His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself — and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.

But the words Lax spoke ring down through the decades to all of us today. Because they speak so simply and profoundly to our calling as Catholic Christians.


Thomas Merton said: You should want to be a saint.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. Every one can do just enough to get by. It’s not hard.

But many of us are challenged to do more….


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
05 OCTOBER 2016, Wednesday, 27th Week of Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  GAL 2:1-2, 7-14; LUKE 11:1-4  ]

It is quite common for us to disagree with those in authority, be they religious, government or corporate leaders.  When that happens, many do not know how to handle such conflicts.  More often than not, they play to the gallery by publishing their grievances and their one-sided myopic views in the mass media.  Some go to the extent of attacking the leaders personally, using nasty, intimidating and offensive words.  Such approaches will only further widen the conflict and instead of solving the problem, make it even more difficult to resolve.  In some instances, they cause the authorities to react by being defensive, and if the situation becomes critical, become offensive as well.

In the first reading we had precisely such a problem.  There was a growing tension in the primitive Church when the gospel was preached to the gentiles.  Initially, when the early Church comprised mostly Jewish converts to Christianity, the faith and culture were still homogeneous.  Although Christians, the Jewish converts practically continued to observe the Jewish practices that they were accustomed to.  We cannot expect them to put away their Jewish culture when their faith and culture were so intertwined.  Furthermore, such practices were deeply ingrained in their DNA for more two thousand years.  To give up the Jewish practices practically meant to deny their Jewish heritage.  So the Jewish converts remained Jewish in their values and culture, even though their faith was in Christ.  The full implications of their faith in Christ were still not worked out.

On the other hand, with the conversion of St Paul, he had brought the gospel beyond Palestine to the Greek world where many were non-Jews. It was difficult for them to accept the cultural practices of the Jews.  They were converted to Christ, not to Judaism.  Thus, they did not see the necessity of embracing the Jewish culture and practices.  For them, faith in Christ was all that mattered, not the Jewish practices. Observance of the Jewish laws could not save them for they were justified in Christ.  It was by His passion, death and resurrection that they were reconciled with God.

This, then, was the crux of the tension.  The leaders of the Church therefore had the unenviable task of trying to reconcile these two groups of people within the one Church.  What was made more difficult was that the Jewish group considered the Gentiles as outcasts, unclean and therefore sinners in the ritual sense.  To be associated with the Gentiles, especially having common meals with them, would tantamount to contamination.  In the understanding of the Jews, only the Chosen People were loved by God, whilst the rest lived under condemnation.

We can therefore appreciate the dilemma of Peter.   He was in favour of accepting the Gentiles into the Church, especially after God revealed to him in a vision that all were clean, and after seeing how Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit even when they were not yet baptized.  This is because God has not favourites.  (cf Acts 10)  However, under pressure from certain friends of James, he stopped having meals with them “and kept away from them altogether for fear of the group that insisted on circumcision.” Whilst Peter had no qualms eating with the Gentile Christians, he was also aware that his action could cause the other group to break away as well.

Conversely, Paul was also annoyed that Peter was not firm in his position with respect to the position of the Gentile converts.  He felt that by his action, he was giving the wrong signal to the rest of the Christian Church.  He was betraying the gospel, which was given to all of humanity, regardless of race, language or culture.  Accordingly, he was very firm with Peter for vacillating in his principle.  He rationalized with him that since he ate with the Gentiles, then he should not impose Jewish practices on the Gentiles. “In spite of being a Jew, you live like the pagans and not like the Jews, so you have no right to make the pagans copy Jewish ways.”   It was necessary therefore for Peter to make a clear stand with respect to the Gentile converts.

Faith in Christ transcends culture even though faith needs to be expressed through a culture.  But the principles of faith come from the gospel, not from the culture.  Since Christ died for all, it is necessary for us to accept that all of us are brothers and sisters in Christ since we share in His sonship.  What keeps us together is charity and compassion.  That is what the apostles asked of us. “The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor, as indeed I was anxious to do.”   The early Church gave great emphasis not so much on the laws and rituals but to the works of charity for the poor.  When we have compassion for the poor, it includes not just the materially or financially poor but those who are suffering from privation, marginalization, discrimination and oppression.

But throughout this whole conflict that Paul had with the Jewish Christian leaders, Paul was never disrespectful.  He was certainly unsettled and exasperated. He was firm in his principle but he spoke in a measured tone.  Right from the outset, he made it clear that his position was not against the principle upheld by the apostles in Jerusalem.  He affirmed that the apostles firstly recognized that he had been given a divine revelation directly from Christ.  “The same person whose action had made Peter the apostle of the circumcised had given me a similar mission to the pagans.”  Although Paul received the revelation, he wanted to be sure that what he was preaching was not something alien to the Christian faith. “I went there as the result of a revelation, and privately I laid before the leading men the good News as I proclaim it among the pagans; I did so for fear the course I was adopting or had already adopted would not be allowed.”  He sought communion and unity of doctrines with the apostles.

Secondly, he made it clear that they recognized that he had been “commissioned to preach the Good news to the uncircumcised just as Peter had been commissioned to preach it to the circumcised.  So, James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me as a sign of partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised.”   So what Paul did was in total agreement with the leaders.  They did not differ in matters of principles with regard to the spread of the Good News.  However, with respect to Peter’s lack of decisiveness in upholding this principle, Paul felt the need to be firm with him.  So in no uncertain terms, he had to tell Peter that as a leader he had to show the way.

Accordingly, in our relationship with others, Jesus reminds us that we have one Father.  In teaching us the Lord’s Prayer, we are reminded that there is only one God who is the Father of us all.  Therefore regardless of race, language or religion, we must affirm this in our relationship with others.  This is what it entails in keeping the name of God holy.  Only when we live truly as His sons and daughters in unity, respecting and loving each other, can we claim ourselves as His sons and daughters.  Praying the Lord’s Prayer is more than asking for favours from God but acknowledging His Fatherhood over us.  As our Father, He will provide us all our needs on one hand.  On the other hand, we as brothers and sisters must take care of each other so that others will know that we are from the same Father and the same family of God.

In conclusion, we are called to maintain the foundational principle of God’s fatherhood over all of us and to live accordingly.  This also demands proper respect for those whom God has appointed to be His representative on earth.   Respect must always be rendered to those who have been given this authority.   When there is disagreement, we must engage in respectful dialogue and in Christian charity to preserve unity in the Church.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh


From our Archives:

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (On The lord’s Prayer)
16 FEBRUARY 2016, Tuesday, 1st Week of Lent

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Isa 55:10-11; Mt 6:7-15

During the season of Lent, one of the most important spiritual exercises is prayer.  But we must pray effectively and rightly or else prayer becomes another mere performance or just a thoughtless rambling as Jesus says, “In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard.  Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

How then should we pray?  In the first place, let us be clear that God desires to answer our prayers.  He is a God who wants our happiness above all things.  The responsorial psalm testifies that God wants to hear our prayers.  “I sought the Lord and he answered me; from all my terrors he set me free. Look towards him and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed. This poor man called, the Lord heard him and rescued him from all his distress. The Lord turns his face against the wicked to destroy their remembrance from the earth. The Lord turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal. They call and the Lord hears and rescues them in all their distress. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save.”

However, if our prayers are to be answered, we need to pray according to the mind of God and not ours.  Effective prayer is always made through Christ in the Spirit.   This means that our prayers must be made always in union with the mind and heart of Jesus in the same Spirit.  Consequently, if we were to pray rightly, what better prayer could we pray if not always the prayer that Jesus has taught us.  The Lord’s Prayer is more than just a formula prayer but it is the prayer of Jesus Himself; His attitude and the key elements of an authentic prayer are found in this perfect prayer.  This accounts for why the Lord’s Prayer is called the pattern of all prayers.

In the first place, the disposition of anyone who prays must be that God is His heavenly Father.  For this reason, there is no need to harass God as if he were an angry deity or someone calculative or indifferent to our needs.  God is addressed as ‘Father’ to remind us that He cares more for our needs than we could ever imagine.  That is why Jesus said, “Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Every father cares for his children and provides the needs of his children even before they could ask him. So, too, is our heavenly Father.

Secondly, we pray that His name be kept holy.  This is a prayer that will reflect the holiness of God.  The child is the expression of the father.  So when we pray that His name be kept holy, we are asking that the way we live our lives may reflect the Father’s love and compassion for all.  Otherwise, if we live a life of sin and selfishness, we will discredit the image of our heavenly Father.  Indeed, the real enemies of our faith are not non-Catholics but our nominal and lapsed Catholics because they live contradictory lives and are counter-witnesses to our faith in Christ.  But when we live holy lives, then God is known and loved through us.   In living a life of holiness, we free ourselves from sin and misery.

Thirdly, every prayer, in the final analysis, must always be aligned with the mind of God.  Asking that His will be done is to recognize the wisdom and providence of God.  Whether it is Jesus or Mary, their secret is always to do the will of our heavenly Father.   Both Mary and Jesus in their lives sought to do the will of God and not theirs.   So too, if we truly believe that God is our Father and that He loves us, we should desire only what He wills for us.  Like children, we need to trust and surrender our lives into the hands of our heavenly Father who knows what is best for each one of us.  Mary tells us to do whatever He tells us!

Fourthly, in prayer, we should ask what is basic for us in life.  We must not be greedy because no one, not even God, can satisfy our greed.  Thus the Lord’s Prayer simply invites us to ask for our daily bread, what we need and for today.  Again, God wants us to know that as our Father, He will look after us.  If we ask for what we need, the Lord will supply.  The problem is that we are asking more than what we need; and we want to have more so that our security is found in ourselves and the world’s goods, not in God our heavenly Father.   Asking for our daily needs will help us to live a life of contentment and detachment in freedom.

Fifthly, the most important petition that can give us true peace and happiness is the gift of forgiveness of our sins and the sins of others.  This seems to be the most important petition because among all the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer, He elaborated on this petition. “And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us.”   He added, “Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.”   What we need most in life is forgiveness of ourselves and of others who have offended us.   This is necessary if we were to find true healing of mind and soul.  Many people want to seek God’s forgiveness, but they are unwilling to forgive themselves for their past mistakes; or they cannot forgive those who have hurt them.  They carry with them the history of their past, their hurts and pain which do them no good except to burden them down.   What they must do, as Jesus exhorts us, is to forgive others and ourselves.

Finally, we need to avoid the occasion of sin.  We must always pray, “And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one.”   The only way to overcome sin is to run away from sin.  The truth is not that the Evil One tempts us to sin but we tempt the Evil One to tempt us to sin by giving Him the occasions.   Knowing how weak we are, we should not allow ourselves to be in those situations when we know we will fall into sin, whether it is smoking, drinking, gambling, pornography or the sin of lust.   Asking God to deliver us from sin implies that we must cooperate with His grace by avoiding the opportunities for the Devil to tempt us.

Indeed, if only we pray in this way, according to the mind of God and the Spirit of Christ, we can be certain that our prayers would be heard and His Kingdom will indeed come to our lives.  Praying that His kingdom come means that if we find happiness it is because God rules our lives and we live by His Spirit.   Putting on the heart and mind of Christ, we will find peace and joy like Jesus, even when we suffer for doing what is right and good.   This is the same promise made by the prophet when the Lord says, “As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.”   Since the Lord’s Prayer itself is the Word of God par excellence, as it is spoken by Jesus and not simply by any prophet, then all the more, how efficacious and powerful this prayer could be for us who pray it with conviction.

Finally, the Lord’s Prayer is not just the prayer of our Lord but in truth, all the fundamental attitudes and principles of this prayer are found all over the bible.  All these petitions contained in the Lord’s Prayer are found in the psalms particularly, especially when the psalmist prays for God’s deliverance and assistance, for the grace to walk in the right path, for forgiveness and for their daily needs.   Indeed, the Lord’s Prayer for the Church is the pattern of all prayers and the basic model for all Christian prayers.  In whatever spontaneous prayer we formulate; it must somehow contain some if not all the petitions contained therein and express the attitudes of surrender, trust and obedience to His will and His divine providence.   Any person who cultivates the same attitudes in prayer follows the way Jesus prays, and will find peace and security in His life.  “May His will be done and His kingdom come.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Reflection on The Lord’s Prayer by John Piper

We are asking God to bring about these three things: cause your name to be hallowed; cause your kingdom to come; cause your will to be done as it’s done by the angels in heaven.


The second three petitions are:

  • give us this day our daily bread
  • forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors
  • lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

You can see the difference — and feel the difference — between these two halves. The first three petitions are about God’s name, God’s kingdom,God’swill. The last three are about our food, our forgiveness, our holiness. The first three call our attention to God’s greatness. And the last three call attention to our needs. The two halves have a very different feel. The first half feels majestic and lofty. The last half feels mundane and lowly.


In other words, there is a correspondence between the content of this prayer and the content of our lives. The big and the little. The glorious and the common. The majestic and the mundane. The lofty and the lowly.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” I take that to mean that the world and the human soul are iridescent with wonders linked to eternity. And yet our humdrum, ordinary, mundane experiences of this world keep us from seeing the wonders and from soaring the way we dream from time to time. Even we believers who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God — even we say, “We have this treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Our spirit is alive with God’s Spirit, but our bodies are dead because of sin (Romans 8:10).


That’s the way life is. And that’s the way this prayer is — iridescent with eternity and woven into ordinary life.

  • Verse 9: Father, cause your great and holy name to be honored and reverenced and esteemed and treasured above all things everywhere in the world (including my heart).
  • Verse 10: And cause you glorious, sovereign, kingly rule to hold sway without obstruction everywhere in the world (including my heart).
  • Verse 10: And cause your all-wise, all-good, all-just, all-holy will to be done all over this world the way the angels do it perfectly and joyfully in heaven — and make it happen in me.

That’s the breathtaking part of the prayer. And when we pray it, we are caught up into great things, glorious things, global things, eternal things. God wants this to happen. He wants your life to be enlarged like that. Enriched like that. Expanded and ennobled and soaring like that.


But then we pray,

  • Verse 11: Father, I am not asking for the bounty of riches. I am asking for bread. Just enough to give me life. I want to live. I want to be healthy, and to have a body and a mind that work. Would you give me what I need for my body and mind?
  • Verse 12: And, Father, I am a sinner and need to be forgiven everyday. I can’t live and flourish with guilt. I will die if I have to bear my guilt every day. I have no desire to hold any grudge. I know I don’t deserve forgiveness, and so I have no right to withhold it from anyone. I let go of all the offenses against me. Please, have mercy upon me and forgive me and let me live in the freedom of your love. And, of course, we know now what Jesus knew when he said this. He knew he would also say of his death: “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). When we pray for forgiveness, we expect it not merely because God is our Father, but because our Father gave his Son to die in our place.
  • Verse 13: And Father, I don’t want to go on sinning. I’m thankful for forgiveness, but, Father, I don’t want to sin. Please, don’t lead me into the entanglements of overpowering temptation. Deliver me from evil. Guard me from Satan and from all his works and all his ways. Grant me to walk in holiness.

That’s the earthy part of the prayer. The mundane, daily, nitty-gritty struggle of the Christian life. We need food and forgiveness and protection from evil.


And I think these two halves correspond to the two things said about God in the way Jesus tells us to address him at the beginning in verse 9: “Our Father — in heaven.” First, God is a father to us. And second, he is infinitely above us and over all — in heaven. His fatherhood corresponds to his readiness to meet our earthly needs. His heavenliness corresponds to his supreme right to be given worship and allegiance and obedience.

For example, in Matthew 6:32, Jesus tells us not to be anxious about food and drink and clothing because “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” In other words, Jesus wants us to feel the fatherhood of God as an expression of his readiness to meet our most basic needs.

And then consider Matthew 5:34, where Jesus says, “Do not take an oath . . . by heaven, for it is the throne of God.” In other words, when you think of heaven, think of God’s throne, his kingly majesty and power and authority.


So when Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:9 to pray, “Our Father in heaven,” he is telling us that the prayer-hearing God is majestic and merciful. He is high, and also dwells with the contrite (Isaiah 57:15). He is a king, and he is a father. He is holy, and he humbles himself. He is far above us, and ready to come to us. He has plans for the whole earth and for the universe, and wants us to care about these great plans and pray about them; and he has plans for your personal life at the most practical level and wants you to pray about that.

So on October 5 last year, I wrote in my journal:

My heart’s desire is to be used by God for
the hallowing of his name and
the coming of his kingdom and
the doing of his will.
To that end I pray for
Health — give me daily bread;
Hope — forgive my debts; and
Holiness — deliver me from evil.

In other words, it seems to me that the great designs of God are first and mainly about God. His name being hallowed, his will being done, his kingdom coming. And the rest of the prayer is how I can be fitted to serve those great designs. My bread, my forgiveness, my deliverance — my health, my hope, my holiness — are for the purpose of being part of God’s great purposes to glorify his name and exalt his rule and complete his will.


But there was one more exegetical insight that came as I pondered and prayed this prayer again and again during the leave of absence. There is something unique about the first petition, “Hallowed be your name.” It’s not just one of three. In this petition, we hear the one specific subjective response of the human heart that God expects us to give — the hallowing, reverencing, honoring, esteeming, admiring, valuing, treasuring of God’s name above all things. None of the other five requests tells us to pray for a specific human response of the heart.

If you combine this fact with the fact that this petition comes first, and that the “name” of God (“hallowed be your name”) is more equivalent to the being of God than is his kingdom or his will, my conclusion is that this petition is the main point of the prayer and all the others are meant to serve this one.


In other words, the structure of the prayer is not merely that the last three petitions serve the first three, but that the last five serve the first.

So on October 9 last year, I wrote in my journal:

My ONE Great Passion!

Nothing is more clear and unshakeable to me than that the purpose of the universe is for the hallowing of God’s name.
His kingdom comes for THAT.
His will is done for THAT.
Humans have bread-sustained life for THAT.
Sins are forgiven for THAT.
Temptation is escaped for THAT.

And then on the next day, October 10, I wrote:

Lord grant that I would, in all my weaknesses and limitations, remain close to the one clear, grand theme of my life: Your magnificence.


Here is the sum of the matter.

Sooner or later life almost overwhelms you with pressures and problems — physical problems (give us daily bread), relational and mental problems (forgive us our debts), moral problems (lead us not into temptation). And what I want you to see is this. You have a Father. He is a thousand times better as a Father than the best human father. His fatherhood means he cares about every one of those problems, and he beckons you to talk to him about them in prayer, and to come to him for help. He knows what you need (Matthew 6:32).

That’s the way we usually attack our problems. And so we should. We attack them directly. I have this financial problem, or this relational problem, or this bad habit problem. Father, help me. That is right and good.

But Jesus offers us more in this prayer. There is more — not less than that, but more. There is an indirect attack on our problems. There is a remedy — not a complete deliverance from all problems in this life, but a powerful remedy — in the first three petitions of the Lord’s prayer, especially the first one.


God made you be a part of hallowing his name, extending his kingdom, and seeing his will done on the earth the way the angels do it in heaven. In other words, he made you for something magnificent and for something mundane. He made you for something spectacular and for something simple. He loves both. He honors both. But what we fail to see often is that when we lose our grip on the greatness of God and his name and his kingdom and his global will, we lose our divine equilibrium in life, and we are far more easily overwhelmed by the problems of the mundane.

In other words, I am pleading with you not to lose your grip on the supremacy and centrality of hallowing the name of God in your life. I am urging you from the Lord’s prayer that you go to God for bread, and for healing of relationships, and for the overcoming of besetting sins, and for the doing of God’s will, and for the seeking of God’s kingdom — all of it, all the time for the sake of knowing and hallowing, reverencing, honoring, valuing, treasuring God’s name (God’s being, God himself) above all things.


Keep your feet on the ground. That’s why the second three petitions are there. But let  your heart rise into the magnificence of God’s global will, God’s kingdom, and most of all God’s holy name — his being, his perfections.

You may not see it clearly now, but I testify from the Scriptures and from experience, there is more deliverance, more healing, more joy in the hallowing of his name than perhaps you ever dreamed. Let’s pray all year in the fullness of this prayer.

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 6, 2016 — The Importance of Staying Teachable

July 5, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 385

A disciple (Latin discipulus, from discere, to learn) is a follower, someone who learns from a teacher and assimilates that teaching into his own life.

Reading 1 HOS 10:1-3, 7-8, 12

Israel is a luxuriant vine
whose fruit matches its growth.
The more abundant his fruit,
the more altars he built;
The more productive his land,
the more sacred pillars he set up.
Their heart is false,
now they pay for their guilt;
God shall break down their altars
and destroy their sacred pillars.
If they would say,
“We have no king”—
Since they do not fear the LORD,
what can the king do for them?The king of Samaria shall disappear,
like foam upon the waters.
The high places of Aven shall be destroyed,
the sin of Israel;
thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars.
Then they shall cry out to the mountains, “Cover us!”
and to the hills, “Fall upon us!”“Sow for yourselves justice,
reap the fruit of piety;
break up for yourselves a new field,
for it is time to seek the LORD,
till he come and rain down justice upon you.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 105:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (4b) Seek always the face of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
R. Seek always the face of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. Seek always the face of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. Seek always the face of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia MK 1:15

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

Gospel MT 10:1-7

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

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

Jesus Is The Leader That Empowers Others — We Can Become Empowered Also…
From God’s Career Guide

Matthew 9:35–10:1 is a story about Jesus sending out his disciples to evangelize the world. It begins with Jesus acting alone and ministering to the crowds and ends with him empowering his disciples to do the very same thing. What Jesus does in the middle verses of the passage serves as a model for empowering others to lead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be the leader who empowers others to lead.



Commentary on Matthew 10:1-7 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lectio Divina from the Carmelites


The second great Discourse: The Discourse of the Mission begins in charter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew.  Matthew organizes his Gospel as a new edition of the Law of God or like a new “Pentateuch” with its five books.  For this reason his Gospel presents five great discourses or teachings of Jesus followed by a narrative part, in which he describes the way in which Jesus puts into practice what he had taught in the discourses.  The following is the outline:
Introduction: the birth and preparation of the Messiah (Mt 1 to 4)
a) Sermon on the Mountain: the entrance door into the Kingdom (Mt 5 to 7)
Narrative Mt 8 and 9
b) Discourse of the Mission: how to announce and diffuse the Kingdom (Mt 10)
Narrative Mt 11 and 12
c) Discourse of the Parables: The mystery of the Kingdom present in life (Mt 13)
Narrative Mt 14 to 17
d) Discourse of the Community: the new way of living together in the Kingdom (Mt    18)
Narrative 19 to 23
e) Discourse of the future coming of the Kingdom: the utopia which sustains hope (Mt 24 and 25)
Conclusion: Passion, death and Resurrection (Mt 26 to 28)
• Today’s Gospel presents to us the beginning of the Discourse of the Mission, in which the accent is placed on three aspects: (a) the call of the disciples (Mt 10, 1); (b) the list of the names of the twelve Apostles who will be the recipients of the Discourse on the Mission (Mt 10, 2-4); (c) the sending out of the twelve (Mt 10, 5-7).
• Matthew 10, 1: The call of the twelve disciples. Matthew had already spoken about the call of the disciples (Mt 4, 18-22; 9, 9).  Here, at the beginning of the Discourse of the Mission, he presents a summary: “He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to drive them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and all kinds of illness”. The task or the mission of the disciple is to follow Jesus, the Master, forming community with him and carrying out the same mission of Jesus: to drive out the unclean spirits, to cure all sorts of diseases and all orts of illness.
In Mark’s Gospel they receive the same two-fold mission, formulated with other words: Jesus constituted the group of Twelve, to remain with him and to send them out to preach and cast out devils” (Mc 3, 14-15). 1) To be with him, that is to form a community, in which Jesus is the center.  2) To preach and to be able to cast out the devils, that is, to announce the Good News and to conquer the force of evil which destroys the life of the people and alienates persons.  Luke says that Jesus prayed the whole night, and the following day he called the disciples.  He prayed to God so as to know whom to choose (Lk 6, 12-13).
• Matthew 10, 2-4: The list of the names of the Twelve Apostles. A good number of these names come from the Old Testament.  For example, Simon is the name of one of the sons of the Patriarch Jacob (Gn 29, 33). James is the same as Giacomo (Gn 25, 26). Judas is the name of the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Matthew also had the name of Levi (Mk 2, 14), who was the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Of the Twelve Apostles seven have a name which comes from the time of the Patriarchs.  Two are called Simon; two are called James; two are called Judas, one Levi!
Only one has a Greek name: Philip. This reveals the desire of people to start again the history from the beginning! Perhaps it is good to think in the names which are given today to the children when they are born.  Because each one of us is called by God by his/her name.
• Matthew 10, 5-7: The sending out or the mission of the twelve apostles toward the lost sheep of Israel.  After having given the list of the names of the twelve, Jesus sends them out with the following recommendation: “Do not make your way to gentile territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town, go instead to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”.
In this one phrase there is a three-fold insistence in showing that the preference of the mission is for the House of Israel: (1) Do not go among the gentiles, (2) do not enter into the towns of the Samaritans, (3) rather go to the lost sheep of Israel. Here appears a response to the doubt of the first Christians concerning opening up to pagans. Paul, who strongly affirmed the openness to the gentiles, agrees in saying that the Good News of Jesus should first be announced to the Jews and, then to the gentiles (Rm 9, 1 a 11, 36; cf. At 1, 8; 11, 3; 13, 46; 15,1. 5.23-29). But then, in the same Gospel of Matthew, in the conversation of Jesus with the Canaanite woman, the openness to the gentiles will take place (Mt 15, 21-29).
• The sending out of the Apostles toward all peoples. After the Resurrection of Jesus, there are several episodes on the sending out of the Apostles not only toward the Jews, but toward all peoples. In Matthew: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything which I have commanded.  And I will be with you until the end of time” (Mt 28, 19-20). In Mark: “Go to the entire world, proclaim the Good News to all creatures. Those who will believe and will be baptized will be saved; those who will not believe will be condemned” (Mk 15-16). In Luke: “So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this (Lk 24, 46-48; Ac 1, 8) John summarizes all in one phrase: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you!”  (Jn 20, 21).
Personal questions
• Have you ever thought sometime about the meaning of your name? Have you asked your parents why they gave you the name that you have? Do you like your name?
• Jesus calls the disciples. His call has a two-fold purpose: to form a community and to go on mission.  How do I live in my life this two-fold purpose?
Concluding Prayer
Seek Yahweh and his strength,
tirelessly seek his presence!
Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders,
the judgements he has spoken. (Ps 105,4-5)
Bishop Goh Tells Us To Constantly Seek The face of The Lord
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
06 JULY 2016, Wednesday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HOS 10:1-3. 7-8. 12; MT 10:1-7  ]

We are called like the apostles by Christ to share in His ministry.   We are all different, like those chosen to be His apostles.  God calls us in different ways to spread the Good News.  He said, “And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”  The Good News is essentially a gospel of mercy and compassion.  And as Pope Francis tells us, a gospel of joy.  It is good news and joy because we are given the power to heal and to deliver the people from evil.   “Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.”

However, it is important to take note that we are reminded to begin with our own house.  “These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’”  Why did Jesus tell His apostles to focus on the House of Israel?  It is not because He did not come for the Gentiles.  It was simply a question of strategy.   Israel was chosen to be a sign for others. But they could not go out on mission unless they themselves had received the Good News.

Indeed, there is a need to be focused in the way we do mission.  There is a need to be formed ourselves before we can be ready to go out to the world.  The great mistake of us Catholics is that many of us have not yet been touched by the Good News radically before we begin serving or reaching out.  Most of us who are active Church members in ministry are not yet discipled but we are already serving.  As a result, we become disillusioned in ministry when we meet with difficulties and challenges.  Some of us get hurt easily or burnt out by the demands of the ministry.  How can we go out to the battleground when we are untrained and unskilled?   We cannot go out to the world unless we are empowered and strengthened. The Church is called to be a sign for the world. But no evangelization can take place unless we are well grounded in our faith and in our personal relationship with the Lord.

Thus the advice of the Lord is timely.  He said, “Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”  This house refers to the need to minister to our own Catholics, especially the leaders.  It also refers to our own individual relationship with Him.  We must avoid the temptation of Israel to be self-sufficient and get carried away by our wealth and success. “Israel was a luxuriant vine yielding plenty of fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; the richer his land became, the richer he made the sacred stones.”  They abandoned God, their king.  They wanted to rule their own lives without God.  The prophet warned them of the disaster and punishment ahead.  “Their divided heart; very well, they must pay for it; the Lord is going to break their altars down and destroy their sacred stones.”  We too can be too focused on our success. We could be that apostle who betrayed Jesus if we do not take care of ourselves. To avoid such a disaster we must take care of our house.   Charity begins at home even if it does not end there.

We are exhorted to follow the psalmist’s invitation, “Constantly seek the face of the Lord.  Consider the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.” To seek His face in prayer is to recall our privilege of being chosen and His power that is given to us to heal and deliver those in need from their bondages.   To serve the Lord and be given the gifts is a great privilege.  At the same time, we are reminded to “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, the judgements he spoke.”  Indeed, in gratitude for His love and His work in and through us, we cannot but be filled with joy and confidence.  Finally to seek His face is to pursue a life of integrity.  We must seek to put our own lives and our priorities in order.  We need to be holy if we want to serve the Lord.   “Sow integrity for yourselves, reap a harvest of kindness, break up your fallow ground.”  Indeed, deep and fervent prayer, especially intercessory prayer, is needed to be fruitful in ministry.  The prophet encourages us, “It is time to go seeking the Lord until he comes to rain salvation on you.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, January 22, 2016 — Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

January 21, 2016

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Lectionary: 315

If we kill millions of unborn human children each year — how can we say we are for “human rights”? And as we continue to kill these unprotected — will we soon be killing the elderly that are not protected too?

Reading 1 1 SM 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel
and went in search of David and his men
in the direction of the wild goat crags.
When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he found a cave,
which he entered to relieve himself.
David and his men were occupying the inmost recesses of the cave.David’s servants said to him,
“This is the day of which the LORD said to you,
‘I will deliver your enemy into your grasp;
do with him as you see fit.’”
So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s mantle.
Afterward, however, David regretted that he had cut off
an end of Saul’s mantle.
He said to his men,
“The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master,
the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him,
for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
With these words David restrained his men
and would not permit them to attack Saul.
Saul then left the cave and went on his way.
David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul,
“My lord the king!”
When Saul looked back, David bowed to the ground in homage and asked Saul:
“Why do you listen to those who say,
‘David is trying to harm you’?
You see for yourself today that the LORD just now delivered you
into my grasp in the cave.
I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead.
I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my lord,
for he is the LORD’s anointed and a father to me.’
Look here at this end of your mantle which I hold.
Since I cut off an end of your mantle and did not kill you,
see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion.
I have done you no wrong,
though you are hunting me down to take my life.
The LORD will judge between me and you,
and the LORD will exact justice from you in my case.
I shall not touch you.
The old proverb says, ‘From the wicked comes forth wickedness.’
So I will take no action against you.
Against whom are you on campaign, O king of Israel?
Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog, or a single flea!
The LORD will be the judge; he will decide between me and you.
May he see this, and take my part,
and grant me justice beyond your reach!”
When David finished saying these things to Saul, Saul answered,
“Is that your voice, my son David?”
And Saul wept aloud.
Saul then said to David: “You are in the right rather than I;
you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.
Great is the generosity you showed me today,
when the LORD delivered me into your grasp
and you did not kill me.
For if a man meets his enemy, does he send him away unharmed?
May the LORD reward you generously for what you have done this day.
And now, I know that you shall surely be king
and that sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 57:2, 3-4, 6 AND 11

R. (2a) Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Have mercy on me, O God; have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
In the shadow of your wings I take refuge,
till harm pass by.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
I call to God the Most High,
to God, my benefactor.
May he send from heaven and save me;
may he make those a reproach who trample upon me;
may God send his mercy and his faithfulness.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
above all the earth be your glory!
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the skies.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.

Alleluia2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 3:13-19

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus (Jude), Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

The over 56 million abortions since the 1973 decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton reflect with heartbreaking magnitude what Pope Francis means by a “throwaway culture.” However, we have great trust in God’s providence. We are reminded time and again in Scripture to seek the Lord’s help, and as people of faith, we believe that our prayers are heard.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 373, designates January 22 as a particular day of prayer and penance, called the “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”: “In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.”

A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.

Pope Saint John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 100*
As individuals, we are called to observe this day through the penitential practices of prayer, fasting and/or giving alms. Another way to take part is through participating in special events to observe the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Call your local diocese or parish to find out what events might be taking place in your area.
Merciful Transformation in God — What is grace?

CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island CatholicThomas Aquinas tells us, “Although man is inclined to an ultimate end by nature, yet he cannot attain that end by nature, but only by grace and this because of the exalted character of the end.”

What is this purpose? It is the direct knowledge of God as he is in himself in heaven. Why is this man’s purpose? It is because he has intelligence. Why is grace necessary for this purpose? Man cannot arrive at the infinite by his own power. There is simply no means. The human will and the human soul are not able to attain heaven just by willing it.

In fact, all creation is motivated by the “desire” to return to the unity of God from which the panoply of the created order took its origin. The universe was created from unity into the diversity of all things, and the primary moving force for all those different marvelous things from the electron to supernovas is to return to the unity of God. The love of God in the Holy Spirit is the foundational force and energy which drives the movements of nature. The Holy Spirit is a creator: “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest.”

Yet, without man, who has a spiritual soul and a physical body, the universe would be frustrated in this design. This is because man by his spiritual life is also called to have God as one with whom he can enjoy the communion of friendship here on earth and the blessedness of the direct knowledge of heaven. Man is called to know as God knows and to love as God loves. But he must receive the ability to carry out in action this destiny from God himself. He does not possess it by nature.

Some people think that grace is only needed for human life to avoid sin or be converted from sin. This is true. But before sin, and indeed in heaven where there is no sin, grace is still needed. Before the first sin, Adam and Eve enjoyed an intense intimacy with God and understood themselves and all creation as a result of a gift from God. They needed mercy then because they could not desire heaven without a gift from God. This was despite the fact that there was no sin. No finite creature can arrive at the infinite by his own power.

Adam and Eve were created with the ability to experience communion with God and to arrive at heaven because they were created in what we now call sanctifying grace. St. Peter says in his second epistle, “He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature” (1:4). How does one participate in divine nature as opposed to human nature? As a gift from God, and in redemption He also gives us a plus added to our souls. This plus is a quality which from God’s point of view is infinite, but from our point of view it is finite and created by which we are elevated to a friendship with God. Grace is not just God overlooking sin. It is also not just a help to nature which allows us to do something we could do on our own more easily. It is a true kind of being, a divine being, which not only frees those who receive it from sin, but also make them like God.

Interior Change

The Catholic doctrine of grace thus emphasizes a true interior change in the engraced soul by which the engraced person is elevated to experience a loving conversation with the Trinity and to acquire a supernatural point of view toward the world. Man is not, of course, corrupted and changed into God. The engraced person remains a created being. However, the very nature of his soul receives a quality of life which is divine and allows him to get beyond the vagaries of time to see them from the new perspective of eternity. This can only be the result of divine mercy. In the original creation of Adam and Eve this was a stupendous sign of the love of God.


In the condition of original sin God gives an even greater mercy than the original creation of Adam and Eve in grace. To remedy the Fall, God gives His only-Begotten Son, the Word made flesh, to the world so that by His atoning death on the cross He could bring grace back to a wounded human race. This new grace is caused by the grace of Christ (which He himself does not merit as man) in which human nature is now united to God in person. In light of this union, Christ’s human nature becomes the means by which we return to grace. The grace of the union of nature to the person of the Word, called the hypostatic union, is unique to Christ. Yet, in light of it, sanctifying grace is brought back to the world. The grace of Adam and the grace of Christ are the same. They both sanctify, but the grace of Christ also heals.

Art: Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Our spiritual nature comes from God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sanctifying grace: “Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love” (No. 2000). By this gift, the soul is truly made holy. Though man still has a tendency to sin, this tendency is not efficacious and is certainly not identified with the act of sin. Moreover, because grace is the very life of God in the essence of the soul, man can grow in communion of life with God just as he can grow in communion of life with other human beings.

The presence of this divine indwelling presence in the soul gives the engraced person a completely different perspective on the world. But to experience this — and indeed to persevere to death in the friendship with God this engenders — is not something a person can get or keep by his own power. He must continually pray to God for his aid in doing this. This aid consists in God inspiring the person by enlightening the mind and strengthening the will. This is not an interior quality like sanctifying grace but an exterior aid given constantly by God if the person asks for it. This is called actual grace because by it God inspires the person to live his constant union, and in the case of us who live as redeemed from sin to avoid sin.

The Catechism defines it this way: Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification” (No. 2000, emphasis in original). Examples of the desire for this grace are the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer such as: “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from evil”; and the scriptural verses which begin most of the hours in the Liturgy of the Hours: “God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.”

Art: John and Peter racing to the tomb on Easter morning – By Burnard

Finally, not only does the Lord sanctify the person by a true sharing in his life, but He also chooses to allow one person to cooperate in the sanctification of another. This is called charismatic grace. This grace, unlike sanctifying grace, is not a quality in the soul and can be possessed without holiness. It may even be active in people in the state of mortal sin, for God is not stymied in giving his gifts by the weakness of His instruments. Examples of ordinary charisms would be the infallibility of the pope and the ability of the priest to consecrate at Mass and forgive sins. Extraordinary charisms are given by God in the times when they are needed and normally are connected to proving the truth of teaching. These are things like preaching, healing, the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues.

The Catechism explains: “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning ‘favor,’ ‘gratuitous gift,’ ‘benefit.’ Whatever their character — sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues — charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church” (No. 2003, emphasis in original).

The marvelous and extensive mercy of God demonstrates that the love of God is both like and unlike human love. It is like human love in the sense that it is approval of a good and recognition of a similarity in being between the lover and the beloved. The lover rests in another as pleasing. It is unlike human love because the love of God creates the good and the similarity in what He loves. In the case of all creation, this good is primarily the goodness of existence and action. In the case of man, this likeness goes further. God elevates us to be like Him in knowledge and love and so to be His children. As St. Augustine preached, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

Father Brian Thomas Becket Mullady, O.P., received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) from the Angelicum University in Rome. He is an author, professor, retreat master and preacher and has hosted several series on the EWTN television network.


Father Brian Mullady is also the author of “Christian Social Order.”

Many in all parts of the world these days are pushing away “established religions” for something, new, attractive and (they hope) better.

Yesterday, I noticed the man in the car behind me sucking on some kind of hose. Further down the road the police pulled him over and gave him a citation.

All around us we can see beheadings, atrocities and all sorts of disorder.

What has given society order, justice and a place we want to live in for the past two thousand years?

Fr. Mallady answers that question.

Thomas Aquinas said that all men seek the future because over time they realize nothing in this world brings them to fulfillment.

Mallady agrees, drawing from Catholic doctrine that says no person can fully realize their potential until they give themselves to others fully as a disinterested gift.

This is also the key teaching of many 12-Step Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Robert Curtis, a life-professed Lay Dominican, gives this quick run-down on Fr. Mallady’s “Christian Social Order.” —

The social doctrine, formed over 19-plus centuries, details the foundation of human life and nature, giving us guidance to form our consciences.

Fr. Mullady states that it is natural for human beings to live in societies. The fundamental nature of society is to foster the common good. The common good, however, is rooted in natural law, i.e. the law of the nature of things, and is not subject, by reason, to mere whim. This means, according to Church teaching, that an objective truth lay at the heart of social interaction.

Fr. Mullady traces the decline of objective truth in its various manifestations from the Enlightenment through the modernist period through to our present day. As an example, he writes, “The beginning of the 20th century also saw the full implications of the denial of personal responsibility which was heralded by Sigmund Freud in his discovery of neurosis. Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis sounded the death knell for the responsibility of the personal conscience in moral actions since it basically attributed moral behavior to a series of unconscious forces which ranged from repressed sexuality to the death wish.”

This problem literally surrounds us, in education, work, and especially in the news, and, as we can see, Fr. Mullady has named names.

One of our biggest problems today is that this denial of personal responsibility is partly responsible for radical change in the view of the human person as a unique individual to the mechanistic view that the human being is but a cog in a machine. With that, we have collectivism, or the centralizing of control over economics (i.e. over-regulation) and social action (i.e. welfare, healthcare, etc.). We can see this in all facets of our society. Because the Church teaches that the human person is created in the image of God – imago dei – and that all dignity is derived from Him, this modernist and post-modernist view is directly contrary.

Fr. Mullady also points out that the denial of personal responsibility has led us to a wrongful view of the conscience. A mechanistic view means that our consciences are formed merely by necessity, expediency, and what is useful. Absolute truth fades away and the whole society shudders. Abortion becomes the norm. Those of us who do believe, find our consciences bound to the truth which the Church teaches. Our natural freedom has allowed us the free-choice to follow the truth and avoid the free-for-all.

One really interesting find in Fr. Mullady’s book is the foundation of the idea of inalienable rights as illustrated in the Declaration of Independence. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine wrote a work called De Laicis in which he posited that power in government comes from the people and its authority is only actual if agreed upon by the people. This work was quoted in a book by a proponent of the divine right of kings as an argument. The passage from Bellarmine was underlined in the book and found in Thomas Jefferson’s personal library.

Fr. Mullady further discusses right and rights as part of the social order and then he turns Church teaching toward the actual practice in a magnificent defense of marriage.

A great and clear read.

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
22 JANUARY 2016, Friday, 2nd Week in Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 SM 24:3-21; Ps 56:2-4, 6, 11; Mk 3:13-19

In the gospel, we read how “Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted.”  It was time for Him to form a community of disciples and collaborators for the mission.  He knew that He could not accomplish this mission all by Himself.  Thus, in order to grow the community and ensure that the mission would continue even after His death, He chose the twelve apostles.  As leaders too, we need collaborators.  Leaders cannot achieve much when they work alone, because we are limited in many ways.  The question is, how do we choose our collaborators?  What criteria should we use for selecting people to help us achieve our goals?

Right from the outset, before we can even think of choosing our collaborators, the leader must be clear about himself and what he wants to offer to his people.  He cannot be a leader unless he has a clear vision and a powerful message and mission.  Jesus was a visionary.  He wanted to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.   He wanted to bring all men into one big family of God.  His message was simple; that God loves us and has reconciled us to Himself. This love and mercy of God would be demonstrated by the miracles of healing, exorcism and most of all, forgiveness.  As leaders, we too must first ask ourselves and clarify for ourselves what is our vision for humanity, and the message that we want to put across; and how this message must be proclaimed more than just by word but by actions.  Without an inspiring vision and a strong message, we would not be able to find any collaborators, for no one is going to waste their time on us.

Secondly, the leader must be willing to empower and delegate.  Finding collaborators is not the same as servants who will carry out our orders and be at our beck and call.  Collaborators are different from servants, as Jesus said in the gospel, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”  (Jn 15:15)  Indeed, the gospel underscores this difference by saying that “they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils.”  Indeed, Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”  (Jn 15:16)  Collaborators therefore share in the authority and power of Christ to do what He did.

Once the leader is clear about his vision and message, he could then go about finding his collaborators.  In the gospel, Jesus shows us that the most important criterion is not whether they are educated, intelligent, influential, rich or powerful.  Indeed, the motley crowd that He chose to be His apostles included fishermen, tax-collectors, revolutionaries and physicians. They were people of diverse personalities. Thus, let us not be too impressed by externals, remembering that “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  (1 Sm 16:7)  So what are the most important attributes that we should be looking for in a potential collaborator, besides skills and talents?

Firstly, our collaborator must share in our vision, mission and message.  If he or she is not aligned with our vision, nor excited with our mission and message, we cannot make much progress.  Indeed, very often, failure in Church today is caused by a lack of alignment.  Bishops must align themselves with the Holy Father.  Clergy and religious must align themselves with the local bishop.  The laity must align themselves with the parish priest.   Only in this way, sharing in the same vision, mission and message, can we accomplish the task of building the community of Christ’s disciples. In truth, what is happening in our churches is that we are working against each other.  Instead of helping us, our collaborators often work against us. The team players we select must therefore be people who are convinced and excited about the leader’s vision and message.  The disciples of Jesus were indeed enthusiastic about Jesus’ message and vision for humanity.  That was why they left everything to follow Him.

Secondly, our collaborators must be loyal to us.  In the gospel, the text ended with a tone of sadness, for the evangelist recorded that Judas Iscariot was “the man who was to betray him.”   Indeed, a leader cannot succeed when his team members are working against him, betraying his confidence.  A good leader must find those who are loyal to him and can help him to accomplish the mission.  The disciples were ready to die for Jesus and suffer with Him because they were convicted of His mission.  That was the loyalty and fortitude they displayed. St Peter said to the Lord, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”  (Lk 22:33)

David’s absolute loyalty to King Saul was evident although Saul tried to kill him. “David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”?  Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you.’”  He even called Saul, his father.  “O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand.  Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind.  I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life.  May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you.”

Thirdly, our collaborators must have respect for us if we as leaders are to accomplish our tasks.  When our collaborators or subordinates have no regard for us, they will not listen to whatever we say, much less carry out our instructions.  David held King Saul with deep respect in spite of Saul’s insecurities and wrong judgment of him.  He did not take things into his own hands.  David knew that Saul was the Lord’s anointed and therefore, regardless of what decision Saul made, he had to respect legitimate authority. This explains why at the ordination, the Bishop asks the Ordinand, “Will you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?”   The answer of course is “yes.”   Unfortunately when this promise is merely a lip service and not from the heart, that collaborator will not work with him but for himself.  But David was so respectful of Saul that he even felt remorse for cutting a piece of the royal robe from Saul as it was tantamount to disrespect for his office. “Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak.  He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’  David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.”

Fourthly, our collaborators must be people who are magnanimous, sincere and forgiving.  This was the case of David when even Saul acknowledged that he had what it takes to be a good king and shepherd.  Saul said to David, “You are a more upright man than I, for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil.  Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested?  May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today.  Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.”  When our collaborators lack forgiveness, generosity and sincerity in their hearts, they will not be able to command others.  Those who are vindictive, insecure and violent, like King Saul, will only destroy what we seek to build and create enemies.  Good leaders must be like David, ever ready to let go, forgive, to seek dialogue, peace and reconciliation.

Finally, a good collaborator must be a team player.  Indeed, Jesus deliberately chose a diverse group of apostles because He needed the different skills and talents for the mission.  But because team members come with different skills, talents and temperament, the greatest challenge of a leader is to foster unity and alignment among themselves.  Helping and getting the members of the team to work in unison with each other for the common good and for the greater good, remains the most daunting task of a leader.  Often our team members work for themselves and allow their ego to get the better of them.  Such competition and egoistic outlook bring about division.  Thus, in looking for a good collaborator, we look for one who is humble, gracious, receptive and able to work as a team.

How, then, can leaders ensure that their team members remain cohesive, united and aligned at all times?  The key is for the leader to be with them, sharing his vision, message and mission.  This was what Jesus did.  Before He sent them out, He first called them to be with Him, to be His companions, so that as a leader, He will know their strengths and weaknesses; and conversely, the disciples will know His heart and mind intimately.  Leaders therefore must always be with their collaborators, sharing with them their vision and mission so that as the gatekeeper of the vision, this passion for the mission will stay alive.  Spending time with each other, building communion, being together in prayer, in play and in work is important to build communion, trust, fraternal love and support for each other. Only then can we become a potent force in bringing about transformation in society.   Hence, success is dependent on whether we have a good leader with vision and passion, and a good team of collaborators to carry out the mission.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, November 30, 2015 — “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

November 29, 2015

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle
Lectionary: 684

Art: St Andrew the Apostle by El Greco, circa 1610

Reading 1 ROM 10:9-18

Brothers and sisters:
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified,
and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
The Scripture says,
No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
There is no distinction between Jew and Greek;
the same Lord is Lord of all,
enriching all who call upon him.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone to preach?
And how can people preach unless they are sent?
As it is written,
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!
But not everyone has heeded the good news;
for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed what was heard from us?
Thus faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.
But I ask, did they not hear?
Certainly they did; forTheir voice has gone forth to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (10) The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. (John 6:63) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. The judgments of the Lord are true, and all of them are just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

AlleluiaMT 4:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come after me, says the Lord,
and I will make you fishers of men.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 4:18-22

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers,
Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers,
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John.
They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father
and followed him.

Commentary on Matthew 8:5-11 From Living Space

The Gospel describes an unexpected level of faith in a Gentile which even amazes Jesus: “When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him: ‘In no one in Israel have I found such faith… I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven’.”

The Kingdom which Jesus comes to proclaim is for all peoples everywhere. It is the central message of Christmas. This is not just a time for celebration and for parties. The birth of the Prince of Peace in the poverty of the stable is a challenge to us to carry on his work among God’s children everywhere. Jesus has not failed; it is we who have done so little to carry on what he began. Advent is a time for us to reflect on the real meaning of God coming to live and work among us and on the responsibility of his followers to carry on the work of making the Kingdom a reality for all.




Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

30 NOVEMBER 2015, Monday, St Andrew, Apostle



Many people today are living meaningless and empty lives.  They have no direction and no purpose in life.  Those who live according to the world often find this life full of misery and unhappiness.  Even those who are successful and live seemingly good loving lives also find life quite meaningless because, somehow, their spirits are not quenched. Others are so overwhelmed by suffering, failure, loneliness and brokenness that life does not seem worth living.  Indeed, people without faith are seeking for something more in their lives, something that the world cannot fulfill.

Such people are looking for a savior.  These people, including ill-instructed Catholics, are so desperate in their search for happiness that they would engage in all kinds of religious activities, even in the occult, hoping to find meaning, purpose and happiness.  Many are so confused, they would even embrace New Age beliefs and practices; anything that gives them a solution, regardless of whether these are from Christian sources or otherwise.

How then can we be saved? St Paul declares, “If your lips confess that Jesus is Lord and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”  St Peter also reiterated the same truth, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12)  Again St Paul affirms, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”(1 Tim 2:5So to find salvation, we must confess that Jesus is Lord.  But why do we believe that He is Lord?  Because God raised Him from the dead!

However, it is not enough to confess with our lips or even believe in our head that Jesus is Lord. What truly saves us is that we believe in our hearts.  Only then can we be made righteous, that is, find security, peace and joy.  St Paul explains further, “By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved.” When we believe from the depths of our being that Jesus is Lord, with the resurrection as the basis for this faith, we are affirming the Lordship of Christ over all creation.  For this reason, St Paul says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(Phil 2:9-11)

Consequently, we can now surrender our entire life to the Lord since He is our source of Life and Love.  We can turn to Him without fear that we will be overwhelmed by sin or death.  “When scripture says: those who believe in me will have no cause for shame, it makes no distinction between Jew and Greek: all belong to the same Lord who is rich enough, however many ask his help, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Yet, the fact remains that many do not know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord.  Hence, St Paul remarked, “But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him.”  Therefore, it is our duty as believers in Christ to announce to them that Christ is our Lord and Saviour.  Like Andrew and the Apostles, we are sent forth to share the Good News about Jesus Christ with everyone.  Otherwise, “they will not believe in him unless they have heard of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says: The footsteps of those who bring good news are a welcome sound.”

It is within this context that the gospel challenges us to be the Good News messengers so that they too will be able to find life and be saved.  This call to be His apostles of the Good News is addressed to all regardless, as seen in the varied choice of the Twelve.  No one can disclaim this call to be His apostle.  One does not have to be theologically trained to be His proclaimer.  This call is addressed to all of us wherever we are and whoever we are.  We can be homemakers, workers in factories, executives in our offices, mending the nets or in the Church.  It does not matter what we do.  We can share what Christ has done for us in our lives and what He means to us.  This is what the Good News is all about, that God loves us and has forgiven us in Christ Jesus.

And what is also important is that this call is urgent. It must be done immediately since it is the Lord who calls.  When the evangelist described how the apostles responded without delay to the call, “And they left their nets at once and followed him” and “At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him”, he wants to underscore the all-important truth that because Jesus is Lord and therefore God, we must render unconditional and total obedience without questioning and procrastinating.  Jesus, being the Lord of our lives and the name above all names, calls for total commitment since God is the absolute in our life.  As the responsorial psalm says, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life. The law of the Lord is perfect -refreshing the soul; the decree of the Lord is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the command of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eye.”  We also recall the words of St Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”(Jn 6:68)

But why are there many who are still not responding or not responding fully by submitting themselves to the Lordship of Christ even though they profess themselves as Christians?  This was the same question posed by St Paul; “Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News. As Isaiah says: Lord, how many believed what we proclaimed? So faith comes from what is preached, and what is preached comes from the word of Christ. Let me put this question “is it possible that they did not hear? Indeed they did; in the words of the psalm, their voice has gone out through all the earth, and the message to the ends of the world.”

Why is that so? More often than not, it could be because we are poor messengers of the Good News, rather than that they refuse to accept Christ.  If many people do not believe in Christ today, it is because they have not truly heard about Him or seen Him.  To hear does not mean simply an external hearing, rather it is a hearing that brings about personal conviction.  Consequently, today, people are waiting for a preacher who does not simply proclaim the Good News but becomes the Good News himself.  They are looking for witnesses, not teachers. This is what St Paul is urging us all.  We must be both proclaimers of the Good News by our conviction and by our lives.

To proclaim the Good News in such a way that it can be heard presupposes that first and foremost, as believers, we must believe from our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead.  In other words, we must have a personal and living relationship with Jesus.  Unless, we have this personal relationship with Jesus who is as real to us as our friends are, then we cannot say that we have preached the word of Christ, since such proclamation is hollow.  Only an intimate personal relationship with the Lord will empower us to speak from the depth of our experience and conviction, otherwise they would be mere words.  It is not enough to proclaim Christ as if He were a datum of knowledge that we have studied or from some books that we have read.  He is the Living Lord, risen and alive in our midst, not someone who has gone down in history.

However, even if we believe Jesus from our heart, this is not sufficient.  A real proclamation of Christ with conviction must be verified in our lives.  This is what St Paul meant when he says that if our lips confess that Jesus is Lord, we would be saved.  To confess that Jesus is Lord is not simply a mere verbal confession but it is to live our lives in such a way that we confess with our whole being that Christ is the Lord of our lives, Lord of our ways, Lord of our wills and Lord of everything.  Unless we subordinate our lives and live in such a way that our lives are faithful to the gospel and teachings of Christ, we cannot be said to have confessed that Jesus is Lord.  Jesus must be seen to be truly Lord and not only a verbal confession.

Only when we have done this, can the Good News be heard.  Indeed, the real challenge in evangelizationtoday is not that people have not heard the Good News, for the Good News has in effect reached to the ends of the world.  Rather, it is because the Good News is not credible today since it is not lived.  People do not see the change and transformation in us.  Because they doubt us, they also doubt the Christ we confess and proclaim.

Today, let us pray that we will be able to be like St Andrew and the rest of the apostles.  If the early Christians and the early apostles were truly proclaimers of the Good News, it was because they did so by their lives and not so much by their preaching.  In fact, I am sure that not all of them were great preachers in the ordinary sense that they were great rhetoric orators.  But they were certainly true proclaimers of the Good News by showing their deep faith and trust in Jesus in leaving their occupations, their careers, their security and even their loved ones, for the sake of the Gospel.  Not all of us are called to leave our homes and be missionaries, but all are certainly called to live our lives in such a way that render true testimony to what and who we believe in.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh




St. Andrew the Apostle: 11 things to know and share

By Jimmy Akin

Monday is the feast of St. Andrew. Here are 11 things to know and share . . .

St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.
The feast of St. Andrew is November 30th.

1) Who was St. Andrew?
He was the brother of St. Peter, who was also known as Simon bar-Jonah.
He and Andrew shared the same father, so the latter would have been known as Andrew bar-Jonah.
Andrew is regularly mentioned after Simon Peter, which suggests that he was Peter’s younger brother.
Like his brother Peter, and their partners James and John, Andrew was initially a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee.

2) What is significant about his name?

The name Andrew (Greek, Andreas) is related to the Greek word for “man” (Aner, or, in the genitive, Andros). It originally meant something like “Manly,” expressing the parents’ hopes for their baby boy.
It is interesting that Andrew’s name is of Greek origin, not Aramaic. Pope Benedict XVI commented:
The first striking characteristic of Andrew is his name: It is not Hebrew, as might have been expected, but Greek, indicative of a certain cultural openness in his family that cannot be ignored. We are in Galilee, where the Greek language and culture are quite present [General Audience, June 14, 2006].
The fact that their father—Jonah (or Jonas)—gave his elder son (Simon) an Aramaic name and his younger son (Andrew) a Greek name reflects the mixed Jewish-Gentile environment of Galilee.

3) How close was Andrew to Jesus?
In the synoptic Gospels and Acts, the twelve apostles are always listed in three group of four individuals. The first of these groups indicates those who were the closest to Jesus. It includes the two pairs of brothers: (1) Peter and Andrew, the sons of Jonah, and (2) James and John, the sons of Zebedee.
Andrew was thus one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four.
This is reflected in the fact that, several times, Peter, James, and John seem to have privileged access to Jesus, while Andrew is not present.
For example, Peter, James, and John were those present for the Transfiguration, but Andrew was not present. They were the closest three, while Andrew was a distant fourth.
This is ironic.

4) Why is it ironic that Andrew would be more distant?
Because he was one of the first followers of Jesus. In fact, he discovered Jesus before his brother Peter did.
Indeed, he was one of the two initial disciples of John the Baptist who encountered Jesus at the beginning of John’s Gospel.
Because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others, he is called the Protoklete or “First Called” apostle.

Pope Benedict comments:

He was truly a man of faith and hope; and one day he heard John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus as: “the Lamb of God” (Jn 1: 36); so he was stirred, and with another unnamed disciple followed Jesus, the one whom John had called “the Lamb of God”. The Evangelist says that “they saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day…” (Jn 1: 37-39).
Thus, Andrew enjoyed precious moments of intimacy with Jesus. The account continues with one important annotation: “One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus” (Jn 1: 40-43), straightaway showing an unusual apostolic spirit.
Andrew, then, was the first of the Apostles to be called to follow Jesus. Exactly for this reason the liturgy of the Byzantine Church honours him with the nickname: “Protokletos” [protoclete], which means, precisely, “the first called”.

5) What do the Gospels reveal to us about St. Andrew?

There are three notable incidents. The first occurs when Jesus performs the multiplication of loaves. Pope Benedict notes:
The Gospel traditions mention Andrew’s name in particular on another three occasions that tell us something more about this man. The first is that of the multiplication of the loaves in Galilee. On that occasion, it was Andrew who pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy who had with him five barley loaves and two fish: not much, he remarked, for the multitudes who had gathered in that place (cf. Jn 6: 8-9).
In this case, it is worth highlighting Andrew’s realism. He noticed the boy, that is, he had already asked the question: “but what good is that for so many?” (ibid.), and recognized the insufficiency of his minimal resources. Jesus, however, knew how to make them sufficient for the multitude of people who had come to hear him.

6) When else does Andrew come to the forefront?

A second instance is when he and the other core disciples question Jesus about his statement that the beautiful stones of the temple will be torn down.

Pope Benedict notes:
The second occasion was at Jerusalem. As he left the city, a disciple drew Jesus’ attention to the sight of the massive walls that supported the Temple. The Teacher’s response was surprising: he said that of those walls not one stone would be left upon another. Then Andrew, together with Peter, James and John, questioned him: “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign when these things are all to be accomplished?” (Mk 13: 1-4).

In answer to this question Jesus gave an important discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem and on the end of the world, in which he asked his disciples to be wise in interpreting the signs of the times and to be constantly on their guard.
From this event we can deduce that we should not be afraid to ask Jesus questions but at the same time that we must be ready to accept even the surprising and difficult teachings that he offers us.

7) Is there a third instance in which the Gospels reveal St. Andrew’s importance?

In a third instance, St. Andrew—with his Greek name—serves as a bridge between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus. Pope Benedict explains:
Lastly, a third initiative of Andrew is recorded in the Gospels: the scene is still Jerusalem, shortly before the Passion. For the Feast of the Passover, John recounts, some Greeks had come to the city, probably proselytes or God-fearing men who had come up to worship the God of Israel at the Passover Feast. Andrew and Philip, the two Apostles with Greek names, served as interpreters and mediators of this small group of Greeks with Jesus.

The Lord’s answer to their question – as so often in John’s Gospel – appears enigmatic, but precisely in this way proves full of meaning. Jesus said to the two disciples and, through them, to the Greek world: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. I solemnly assure you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (12: 23-24).
Jesus wants to say: Yes, my meeting with the Greeks will take place, but not as a simple, brief conversation between myself and a few others, motivated above all by curiosity. The hour of my glorification will come with my death, which can be compared with the falling into the earth of a grain of wheat. My death on the Cross will bring forth great fruitfulness: in the Resurrection the “dead grain of wheat” – a symbol of myself crucified – will become the bread of life for the world; it will be a light for the peoples and cultures.
Yes, the encounter with the Greek soul, with the Greek world, will be achieved in that profundity to which the grain of wheat refers, which attracts to itself the forces of heaven and earth and becomes bread.
In other words, Jesus was prophesying about the Church of the Greeks, the Church of the pagans, the Church of the world, as a fruit of his Pasch.

9) What happened to Andrew in later years?

Pope Benedict noted:
Some very ancient traditions not only see Andrew, who communicated these words to the Greeks, as the interpreter of some Greeks at the meeting with Jesus recalled here, but consider him the Apostle to the Greeks in the years subsequent to Pentecost. They enable us to know that for the rest of his life he was the preacher and interpreter of Jesus for the Greek world.
Peter, his brother, travelled from Jerusalem through Antioch and reached Rome to exercise his universal mission; Andrew, instead, was the Apostle of the Greek world. So it is that in life and in death they appear as true brothers — a brotherhood that is symbolically expressed in the special reciprocal relations of the See of Rome and of Constantinople, which are truly Sister Churches.

10) How has the sisterhood of Rome and Constantinople manifested?

Pope Benedict noted:

To emphasize this relationship, my Predecessor Pope Paul VI, in 1964, returned the important relic of St Andrew, which until then had been kept in the Vatican Basilica, to the Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of the city of Patras in Greece, where tradition has it that the Apostle was crucified.
A more recent example occurred when the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, visited Pope Francis on the occasion of his election to the pontificate.
As the successor of St. Peter, Francis noted the role of Patriarch Bartholomew as the successor of St. Andrew and referred to him as “my brother, Andrew,” casting the two of them in the roles of the original brother apostles.
He stated:
Before all else, I express my heartfelt thanks for what my brother Andrew [Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaios I] has said to us. Many thanks! Many thanks!

11) How did St. Andrew die?
Pope Benedict noted:

A later tradition, as has been mentioned, tells of Andrew’s death at Patras [in Greece], where he too suffered the torture of crucifixion.
At that supreme moment, however, like his brother Peter, he asked to be nailed to a cross different from the Cross of Jesus.
In his case it was a diagonal or X-shaped cross, which has thus come to be known as “St Andrew’s cross”.
This is what the Apostle is claimed to have said on that occasion, according to an ancient story (which dates back to the beginning of the sixth century), entitled The Passion of Andrew:
“Hail, O Cross, inaugurated by the Body of Christ and adorned with his limbs as though they were precious pearls. Before the Lord mounted you, you inspired an earthly fear. Now, instead, endowed with heavenly love, you are accepted as a gift.

“Believers know of the great joy that you possess, and of the multitude of gifts you have prepared. I come to you, therefore, confident and joyful, so that you too may receive me exultant as a disciple of the One who was hung upon you…. O blessed Cross, clothed in the majesty and beauty of the Lord’s limbs!… Take me, carry me far from men, and restore me to my Teacher, so that, through you, the one who redeemed me by you, may receive me. Hail, O Cross; yes, hail indeed!”.
Here, as can be seen, is a very profound Christian spirituality. It does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.
Here we have a very important lesson to learn: Our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ, if a reflection of his light illuminates them.
Read more:

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, September 28, 2015 — Jesus is our model of humility in service.

September 27, 2015

Monday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 455

Reading 1 ZEC 8:1-8

This word of the LORD of hosts came:

Thus says the LORD of hosts:

I am intensely jealous for Zion,
stirred to jealous wrath for her.
Thus says the LORD:
I will return to Zion,
and I will dwell within Jerusalem;
Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city,
and the mountain of the LORD of hosts,
the holy mountain.

Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women,
each with staff in hand because of old age,
shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem.
The city shall be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Even if this should seem impossible
in the eyes of the remnant of this people,
shall it in those days be impossible in my eyes also,
says the LORD of hosts?
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Lo, I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun,
and from the land of the setting sun.
I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem.
They shall be my people, and I will be their God,
with faithfulness and justice.

Responsorial PsalmPS 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 AND 22-23

R. (17) The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.
The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence.
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion;
and his praise, in Jerusalem,
When the peoples gather together,
and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
R. The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.

AlleluiaMK 10:45

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 9:46-50

An argument arose among the disciples
about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them,
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is the greatest.”Then John said in reply,
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him,
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

Commentary on Luke 9:46-50 From Living Space

Following on Jesus once again telling his disciples that he was going to be “handed over” to suffering and death, we were told in our previous reading that they did not understand what he meant. It did not make sense to them.

Now, almost as an indication of how far they were from Jesus’ thinking, they began arguing among themselves which one among them should be seen as the greatest. Why should they be arguing about this? Was it because, whatever difficulties they had in accepting what Jesus had said about his future, they were wondering what was going to happen after Jesus had been taken away from them? If they were to remain together as a group, which of them would be in charge?

Perhaps Peter was already beginning to think that he should be the one. Perhaps some of the others felt it should be one of them.

But Jesus, who, of course, was not present during these sensitive discussions, was well aware of what was going on. He took a child and put it in their midst. “Whoever receives a child like this in my name, receives me. And whoever receives me, receives him who sent me. For the one that is least among you all is the greatest.”

It is interesting that the greatness is to be seen in the child rather than in the one who receives it. The child represents all who are vulnerable and weak and powerless. To “receive” such persons is to treat them with the utmost dignity and respect and to accept them and lift them up.

In Jesus’ eyes, such little people are truly great because, to those who have eyes to see, they are the ones in whom we can especially meet Jesus and love and serve him. St Francis of Assisi, who kissed the leper (a particularly daring thing to do in his time), or Mother Teresa, tenderly picking up a decaying, barely living body off the street knew this well. To find Jesus in such a person is to make direct contact with God himself.

Jesus himself will reach the peak of his own greatness when he hangs dying and helpless on the cross. This is the lesson the disciples will learn to see and accept in time. We have to keep working on it too because it does not come easily to any of us.

The second part of today’s gospel points to another area where the disciples have to change their outlook. John, the brother of James, who both come across in the Synoptics as somewhat hotheaded (they had the nickname “sons of thunder”), tells Jesus they saw someone driving out devils in Jesus’ name. They had told the man to stop because he was “not one of us”. (Was there an element of jealousy also? In Mark 9:14ff, we are told that the disciples failed to drive out an evil spirit from a boy.)

Here we have something of the arrogance of the insider, of the elitist. John and his companions felt that the exorcism of evil spirits in the name of Jesus was something only they were allowed to do. Jesus did not agree. “Leave him alone,” he told them. And he enunciates a principle for them to follow: “Whoever is not against us is for us.”

It is a constant temptation among more devout religious people to set themselves apart from “the others”. It can happen to bishops or priests or religious. It can happen in a parish to members of the parish council or some parish group – a prayer group, charismatics, the liturgy committee or whatever.

We can find ourselves developing a two-tier community of “us” and “them”. We can find ourselves looking down on those who come in late for Mass and hang around the back door or who only come occasionally or maybe even only turn up at Christmas.

Even more, we can be tempted to set ourselves apart from non-Catholic and non-Christian groups. We can fail to see God working in all kinds of people, religious and non-religious, atheists, agnostics and people who apparently do not believe in anything.

Of course, as Christians, we do have a distinctive understanding of life and its meaning coming from the teaching and life of Jesus and it should not be compromised. But, at the same time, we do not have a monopoly of the truth. No one has. The full Truth is beyond all of us. We are all searching. Still less do we have a monopoly on good works. God can and does use any person to build the Kingdom. And it is our responsibility to work hand in hand with such people. Ultimately, our aim is not to promote our Church but God’s work and God’s plan for the whole world.



What floods into our mind here?
Jesus is again using a child, a young boy or girl, as an example of utter acceptance and dependence upon God. The Gospel seems to harken back to. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
When the disciples start wondering “which of them was the greatest” — their pride and self-seeking has taken over — even as they remain in the presence of  the Savior!
Just yesterday at his Vatican Mass, Pope Francis warned against “the  danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives.”
Yesterday’s reading (1 Tm 6:11-16)  spoke about “without stain or reproach” ….  “our Lord Jesus Christ”  …. “the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light.”
So the disciples, being human, slip into pride and self-seeking even while in the presence of Jesus. Do we do this? Sure, if we are not careful, we do this all the time. “Look at the tremendous house I have built,” we tend to say, forgetting where our skills and abilities come from.
Yesterday it was Lazarus that needed loving service. Today it is a little child.
Jesus seems to be saying, “Your reward will come in heaven: here on earth don’t ask who is best, just reach out to others and pour out yourself to others in loving service.”
Peace and Freedom
Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
The text enlightens us. If previously Luke had presented the convergence of the men around Jesus to recognize him in faith, to attend to listen to him and to be present to his cures, now, a new stage is opened in his public itinerary. The person of Jesus does not monopolize the attention of the crowds any more but he is presented as the one who slowly is being drawn away from his own to go toward the Father. Such an itinerary foresees his journey to Jerusalem. And while he is about to undertake that journey, Jesus reveals to them the destiny that is awaiting him (9, 22). Then he is transfigured before them to indicate the starting point of his “Exodus” toward Jerusalem.
But immediately after the light that he experiences in the transfiguration, Jesus once again announces his Passion leaving the disciples uncertain and disturbed. The words of Jesus on the event of his Passion, “The Son of man is going to be delivered into the power of men”, but they did not understand (9, 45) and they were afraid to ask him (9, 45).
Jesus takes a child. The enigma of Jesus being delivered broke out a great dispute among the disciples to decide to whom the first place would belong. Without being asked his opinion, Jesus, who being God knew how to read hearts, intervenes with a symbolical gesture. To begin he takes a child and places him at his side. Such a gesture is an indication of election, of privilege that is extended at the moment that one becomes a Christian (10, 21-22). .
So that this gesture will be understood, not uncertain, Jesus gives a word of explanation: the “greatness” of the child is not stressed but his inclination to “acceptance”. The Lord considers “great” anyone who like a child knows how to accept God and his messengers. Salvation presents two aspects: the election on the part of God which is symbolized by the gesture of Jesus who accepts the child: and the acceptance of the one who has sent him, the Father of Jesus (the Son) and of every man. The child embodies Jesus, and both together in their smallness and suffering, realize God’s presence (Bovon).
But the two aspects of salvation are indicative also of faith: in the gift of election the passive element emerges; in service, the active one; two pillars of the Christian existence. To accept God or Christ in faith has the consequence of total acceptance of the little ones on the part of the believer or of the community. “To be great” about which the disciples were discussing is not a reality of something beyond, but it refers to the present moment and is expressed in the ‘diaconia’ of service.
Lived love and faith carry out two functions: we are accepted by Christ (takes the child); but also we have the particular gift of receiving him (“anyone who accepts the child, accepts him, the Father”, v. 48). A brief dialogue follows between Jesus and John (vv. 49-50). This last disciple is considered among the intimate ones of Jesus. The exorcist who does not belong to those who are intimate with Jesus is entrusted the same role that is given to the disciples. He is an exorcist who, on the one side is external to the group, but on the other, he is inside the group because he has understood the Christological origin of divine force that guides him (“in your name”). The teaching of Jesus is clear: a Christian group should not place obstacles to the missionary activity of other groups.
There are no Christians who are “greater” than others, but one is “great” in being and in becoming Christians. And then missionary activity has to be in the service of God and not to increase one’s own fame or renown. That clause on the power of the name of Jesus is of crucial importance: it is a reference to the liberty of the Holy Spirit, whose presence is certainly within the Church, but it can extend beyond the instituted or official ministries.
Personal questions
You, as a believer, baptized, how do you live success and suffering?
What type of “greatness” do you live in your service to life, to persons? Are you capable of transforming competition into cooperation?
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
28 SEPTEMBER 2015, Monday, 26th Week in Ordinary Time


Some of us may find it disappointing that the Twelve were no better than us, because they too were fighting for status.  Their motives for serving the Lord before the Resurrection were certainly less than selfless and pure.  In their minds, they imagined that serving the Lord would also bring them power and glory, since Jesus as the Messiah would liberate Israel from their political enemies.  Perhaps we are no better than them, even for all the claims that we love Jesus above all things; for the stark truth is that we love Jesus as much as ourselves.   And like the disciples, we all want to be loved, known and be regarded as important people, which presumably entails that we have power.

But what we find unacceptable is their total lack of sensitivity to the feelings of Jesus.  He must have been rather saddened because in spite of all the great things He had done, sending them out on a mission, giving them the same power to heal and to cast out devils, followed by the miraculous multiplication of the loaves for five thousand, and culminating in the revelation to Peter on His identity as the Christ – yet the disciples did not consider that He was pensive about His imminent death in Jerusalem.  In spite of Jesus’ prophecies regarding His crucifixion, His disciples showed no concern or sympathy for Him.  If at all, Peter remonstrated against Him for making such a prophecy, and it was because Peter had a vested interest.  They were fighting and seeking to be greater than the others, oblivious to Jesus’ state of His mind and soul.

The truth is that the disciples failed to recognize that greatness in God’s understanding does not translate to power and glory.   Power in the world is associated with might and strength.  This is what Jesus wants to debunk by His death and crucifixion.  In the eyes of God, power is service and lowliness.  To underscore the kind of power which can change their lives and the world, Jesus used the example of children to symbolize those who are truly great in the eyes of God. “He took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.’”  Only humble and selfless service can transform lives.

The consequence of desiring to be great is that we become competitive and jealous.  We see others as our enemies and are overwhelmed by the sin of pride, envy and greed.  We seek to destroy our competitors so that we can portray ourselves as honorable and great in the eyes of the world.  When there is competition, there will be jealousy and protectionism.  When the sin of envy lives in us, it will be manifested in different ways.   As we read in the gospel, they were initially provoking each other into jealousy by comparing themselves with each other.  But as a group too, they were jealous that others were doing the same work they were doing.  They could not accept that others outside of their circle were also performing miracles in the name of Jesus.  They wanted to limit the powers given to them by Jesus only to themselves and did not want others to share in that power, as their position, status, popularity and security would be challenged.  They were too blinded by their pride, thinking that they were special as members of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.  They did not go beyond their narrow confines of looking beyond their interests to that of the spread of the gospel.  Instead of recognizing others as partners sent by God to help them in their mission, they tried to stop them.

Indeed, because of jealousy, we too often hinder others from serving in our community and in the Church.  In the office, we see each one trying to outdo each other, not for the sake of the organization, but for promotion and self-interest.  Instead of having people in the same organization working together to ensure that the company grows in strength, members within the organization seek to destroy, ridicule and put down each other even when they are doing well.  This kind of jealousy happens even within the Church, unfortunately.  The sin of envy lives in us, and we often fail to nurture new leaders because the existing leaders are unable to let go of their authority and power. Members are often jealous of each other because some are given more important positions.  Sometimes, we see rivalry among Church organizations vying for more members and recognition. It is ironical that we fail to affirm each other among ourselves as Christians.  Jesus makes it clear when He declared, “You must not stop him: anyone who is not against you is for you.”

How then can we overcome jealousy?  We are called to recognize ourselves as children, that is, those who are insignificant in the world.  By placing a child next to Himself, He wanted to remind the disciples that we are not entitled to any rights, positions or privileges in this world.  We should therefore not aspire for such rights.  Whatever we have are blessings from the Lord, whether these are our talents, social status, wealth or prestige.  In seating the child next to Him, Jesus was dramatizing that only those who are humble of heart are truly the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, because these people do not forget their humble beginnings even when they become successful.  He who is humble will be compassionate towards the weak and the underprivileged, and he will never become overly proud of his achievements.  Those who recognize their undeserved blessings tend to share their time and resources with others generously, returning to the Lord and His people what they have received.

Of course, there are other reasons why greatness is associated with children, as with for their docility, faith and sincerity.  To become children in order to enter the Kingdom of God entails that we adopt the attitudes of children, not the attitudes of childishness but childlikeness.  Like them, we are called to trust in God just as children trust in their parents, to be docile and always willing to learn and to grow.  Most of all, children speak their minds from the depths of their hearts and do not feel the need to bend over backwards to please others.  If you want to know the truth, ask the children and they will tell you exactly as it is, whilst we adults try to protect ourselves, especially when we have to be politically correct when broaching sensitive issues.  By being docile to the Holy Spirit, we come to know ourselves and discover our imperfect motives in serving Him.  By our faith in Him, we will not succumb under pressure of any kind simply because in sincerity, we continue to serve the Lord with whatever resources He has given us, leaving success in His hands rather than ours.  Through the exercise of such virtues, we will be able to remain humble and forgiving even towards those who are jealous of us, feeling with and for them, rather than getting angry and becoming intolerant of their human weaknesses and insecurity.

Jesus is our model of humility in service.  He emptied Himself of His divinity and assumed our humanity, taking the position of a slave to serve us until death (Phil 2:7-8).   By stooping so low in the Incarnation and the crucifixion as dramatized in the washing of feet at the Last Supper, Jesus behaved exactly like a servant.   Indeed, He came not to be served, but to serve (Mt 20:28).

In the first reading too, we see the true meaning of jealousy, the kind that is permitted by God.  The prophet tells us, “The Lord of hosts says this. I am burning with jealousy for Zion, with great anger for her sake”.  Our God is a jealous God not because He is insecure like us when we fear losing our positions or someone whom we love.   God is jealous of us not because He fears that He might lose us and therefore He is in deficit, but because He fears that if we lose Him, we will end up losing everything.  If God sought to bring the remnants back to Jerusalem, it was because He wanted to restore them to their glory.  The jealousy of God is unlike ours, as it is defined by pure love, concern matched by faithfulness and integrity.  Hence, His jealousy for us makes Him watchful of us, because of His concern for our well-being.   So jealous is He for us that He would not even spare His own Son to save us all.

Therefore if we find ourselves jealous of others, we must imitate God’s jealousy and transform our jealousy to one of love and protection of others’ interests.  We must love them more than we love ourselves and desire their good rather than ours.  On the other hand, if ever we are victims of prejudice and slander because of envy, we can take heart that God is with us.   And that so long as He is with us, He will ensure that we will triumph eventually, because whatever we are doing is for His glory.  This is what the psalmist invites us.  He said, “The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.  The nations shall revere your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory when the Lord has rebuilt Zion and appeared in his glory; when he has regarded the prayer of the destitute and not despised their prayer.”


Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 25, 2015 — “Clothe yourselves with humility” Because “God opposes the proud”

April 24, 2015

Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist
Lectionary: 555

Reading 1 1 Pt 5:5b-14

Clothe yourselves with humility
in your dealings with one another, for:God opposes the proud
but bestows favor on the humble.
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,
that he may exalt you in due time.
Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.Be sober and vigilant.
Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion
looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, steadfast in faith,
knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world
undergo the same sufferings.
The God of all grace
who called you to his eternal glory through Christ Jesus
will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you
after you have suffered a little.
To him be dominion forever. Amen.I write you this briefly through Silvanus,
whom I consider a faithful brother,
exhorting you and testifying that this is the true grace of God.
Remain firm in it.
The chosen one at Babylon sends you greeting, as does Mark, my son.
Greet one another with a loving kiss.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Responsorial Psalm PS 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17

R. (2) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
The favors of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
The heavens proclaim your wonders, O LORD,
and your faithfulness, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can rank with the LORD?
Who is like the LORD among the sons of God?
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
and through your justice they are exalted.
R. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Gospel 1 Cor 1:23a-24b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We proclaim Christ crucified;
he is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Art: St Mark the Evangelist Icon from the royal gates of the central iconostasis of the Kazan Cathedral in St.-Petersburgh, 1804.

Gospel Mk 16:15-20

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
Commentary from Living Space

Ironically, the Gospel reading is from a passage at the end of Mark’s gospel, a section that is thought to be an added supplement to his original text. It is believed that Mark’s gospel ends with verse 8 of chapter 16 where we read: “So they [the women] went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.”   This seems to have been regarded as too abrupt an ending so brief summaries borrowed from other sources were added on, including, the appearance to Mary Magdalene (John), the appearance to two disciples “on their way to the country”, a clear reference to the disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke), the appearance of the Risen Jesus to the eleven apostles (Matthew, Luke and John), and Jesus taken up to heaven (Luke, Acts).

The reading is taken from the appearance to the Eleven where Jesus gives them the mandate to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and where there is a promise that believers will be able to work wonders – expelling evil spirits, speaking in strange tongues, be protected from harmful elements and bring healing to the sick. The reading ends with a brief description of the Ascension when the Risen Jesus goes back to his Father’s right-hand side.

Mark, of course, through his gospel has spelt out the challenge for followers of Christ to imitate him in the living out of their discipleship and fulfilling the missionary command to establish the Kingdom where God’s will is being done on earth.



Homily Ideas
So what is the message, the charge that Jesus gives his disciples as he takes physical leave of them? The message is phrased differently in the Acts and in the Gospels:But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news  to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:15-18)

These are the last words of Jesus as recorded differently in the Acts and in Matthew and Mark. All of them are in agreement that (a) Jesus gave his disciples a mission, a task to engage them till he returns in glory, and (b) he assured them of divine assistance in the carrying out of this mission.

The mission is to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus to the ends of the earth, to go into all nations of the world and proclaim the good news  to the whole creation.. The universal reach of this mission is very clear. The message of Jesus is meant to be good news in the ears of all humankind irrespective of nationality or culture.



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
April 25, 2015, Saturday, St Mark, Evangelist

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  1 PT 5:5-14; Mk 16:15-20

Like the evangelist, this feast invites us to “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”  No Christian must ever think that the work of evangelization is unimportant or irrelevant today, especially in the light of the recognition that God’s grace can reach out in ways unknown to us through non-Christian religions.  This fact does not diminish the truth that Jesus is Lord, the revealer of the Father and the revealed as established by His resurrection.  He is the Saviour of the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life.  St Peter declared, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) St Paul reiterated the universality of Christ as our Saviour when he wrote, “This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself, as a ransom for all.”  (1 Tim 2:4-5)  The words of the gospel remains true when Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptised is saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.”  Faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation.

However, baptism is not the same as proselytizing.  It is not a matter of making converts.  Baptism is more than just a ritual cleansing and external admission to the Church.  It is to embrace Christ as our Lord and Savior, accepting the gospel of repentance for our sins on account of the Good News that God has forgiven us our sins and set us free unconditionally.  More than that, the proclamation of the Good News is more than just mere words alone but in deeds.  The work of evangelization is more than just going around sharing the Word of God; it must be accompanied by actions and deeds.  The gospel reminds us that we must confirm “the word by the signs that accompany it.”  In some instances, the signs must precede the Word even.

In the final analysis, the proclamation of the Gospel is the sharing of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh.  It is to bring people into a personal encounter with Jesus as the Risen Lord and the Saviour of their lives.  Proclamation is of a person, Jesus who is the Christ.  It is for this reason that we must make Jesus alive in our lives and incarnated in our midst.  Christianity is not the propagation of an ideology or some kind of ethical values and social programs.  It is to reveal to the world that Jesus is Lord and that He is the compassion of the Father in person, the embodiment of the reign of God.

What are these signs that the believer and the evangelizer must produce to establish that Jesus is truly the Lord of all creation?  “These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.”  Concretely, it means that we are called to liberate humanity from being held in bondage by the Evil One, especially from their sins.

The disciples of Christ proclaimed the gospel by healing the sick, whether physical, emotional or psychological.   As Christians, we are called to proclaim the love and mercy of God through forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.  There are many people today who are deprived of the love of God.  Many are wounded in relationships and sick in the heart and mind.  Many are living lives of loneliness and rejection.  Christians are called to reach out to such people so that they come into contact with the love and mercy of God.  This is the promise of Christ when He said, “they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.”

However, the proclamation of the Gospel is never an easy task.  We must be ready to accept persecution from within and without.  St Peter reminds us that this is “because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things.”  We will face opposition when we try to speak the truth about Jesus.  Just trying to live the gospel life will bring about hostility, especially when the selfish interests of others are challenged.

But today, the scripture readings ask us to remain firm in the proclamation of the gospel.  In the face of difficulties, Jesus assures us, “they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison.”   Indeed, God will protect us, as St Peter wrote, “Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things.”  Indeed, we must realize that being Christians require us to share the same rejection and suffering that our Lord Jesus went through for the sake of us sinners.  We take consolation that we are not alone in our sufferings but that Jesus and His Church are with us.  We do not suffer alone.   Many priests, bishops and Christians are suffering for their faith all over the world.  We just have to think how much our Holy Father is suffering today from the persecution of the world, all trying to discredit him.  Let us take consolation that even if we suffer, St Peter said, “You will have to suffer only for a little while: The God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.”   Suffering is temporal and passing.  We must continue to trust in God and that Christ is all powerful and victorious.  Just as He overcomes sin and death, we too will triumph in Him. Indeed, we read that Jesus “was taken up to heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place.”  Christ the Exalted One will see us through to the end.

In the meantime, we must remain humble as the servants of the gospel.  We should not be too unduly worried or anxious about the effectiveness of the gospel.  What we must do is to surrender our mission to the Father as Jesus did on the cross.  After all that we have done, we must realize that the work of conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We must depend entirely on the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about conversion of heart.  One must never think that conversion is a matter of using the right techniques or a display of showmanship and eloquence.  It is solely His work and we are only His servants.  Indeed, the gospel makes it clear that if the gospel was preached to all nations, it was because “while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.”

We must never allow our ego and impatience to deter us from being servants of the gospel.  in the face of failure in their mission, so many Christians give up easily.  That is why we must, as St Peter warns us, to be alert of the temptations of the evil one.  He wrote, “Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat.”  So we must be watchful and not to be too anxious about success. Rather, we should be concerned about doing the will of God.  As Blessed Mother Teresa reminded us, we are called to be faithful, not successful. Let us learn perseverance from the examples of the Christians who suffered persecution for Christ.

Most of all, we must take courage and be in solidarity with our fellow Christians.  We must avoid infighting among ourselves.  We should desire to serve God alone and all for His glory.  It does not matter who gets the credit.  What is important is that God’s kingdom is served. The sad reality is that we allow the Devil to sow the work of division among ourselves, workers in the vineyard of the Lord.  Instead of supporting each other and affirming each other in this daunting task of serving the Lord and extending the Good News, we allow the Devil to use us to harm each other by words, deeds and manipulation because of our ego, ambition and selfish interests.

As collaborators in the work of the gospel, let us work together in communion and in love, encouraging each other the same way St Peter encouraged the early Christians in communion and love, saying, “I write these few words to you through Silvanus, who is a brother I know I can trust, to encourage you never to let go this true grace of God to which I bear witness.  Your sister in Babylon, who is with you among the chosen, sends you greetings; so does my son, Mark.”  The mission of the Church must be accomplished in communion, otherwise we contradict the very gospel we are proclaiming, which is communion with the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit, and our communion with each other.





Who Was Saint Mark?

Most of what we know about Mark comes directly from the New Testament. He is usually identified with the Mark of Acts 12:12. (When Peter escaped from prison, he went to the home of Mark’s mother.)

Paul and Barnabas took him along on the first missionary journey, but for some reason Mark returned alone to Jerusalem. It is evident, from Paul’s refusal to let Mark accompany him on the second journey despite Barnabas’s insistence, that Mark had displeased Paul. Because Paul later asks Mark to visit him in prison, we may assume the trouble did not last long.

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus’ rejection by humanity while being God’s triumphant envoy. Probably written for Gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark’s Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a “scandal”: a crucified Messiah.

Evidently a friend of Mark (Peter called him “my son”), Peter is only one of the Gospel sources, others being the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish roots) and the Church at Antioch (largely Gentile).

Like one other Gospel writer, Luke, Mark was not one of the 12 apostles. We cannot be certain whether he knew Jesus personally. Some scholars feel that the evangelist is speaking of himself when describing the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane: “Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked” (Mark 14:51-52).

Others hold Mark to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Venice, famous for the Piazza San Marco, claims Mark as its patron saint; the large basilica there is believed to contain his remains.

A winged lion is Mark’s symbol. The lion derives from Mark’s description of John the Baptist as a “voice of one crying out in the desert” (Mark 1:3), which artists compared to a roaring lion. The wings come from the application of Ezekiel’s vision of four winged creatures (Ezekiel, chapter one) to the evangelists.

Comment:Mark fulfilled in his life what every Christian is called to do: proclaim to all people the Good News that is the source of salvation. In particular, Mark’s way was by writing. Others may proclaim the Good News by music, drama, poetry or by teaching children around a family table.
Quote:There is very little in Mark that is not in the other Gospels—only four passages. One is: “…This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).
See also:
Jose leonardo-san marcos.jpg
Saint Mark, The Lion
Suggest related reading:

(And be obedient to God and the Doctor!)


Related Part I:


Catholic Church Teaching on Human Life and Suicide:

“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.

Many people have said to us that the four signs of a “dynamic Catholic” are also the characteristics of many Christians of all denominations and people in recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Matthew Kelly found during years of study that “Dynamic Catholics” and dynamic Christians generally have four key things in common:


  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).


  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.


  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life.


  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”


Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 9, 2015 — Jesus Asks Them, “What are you afraid of?”

April 8, 2015

Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 264

Art: Jesus Walks in the Portico of Solomon (Jésus se promène dans le portique de Salomon) By James Tissot

Reading 1 Acts 3:11-26

As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John,
all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.
Now I know, brothers and sisters,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment
and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus,
whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth
of his holy prophets from of old.
For Moses said:A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people.
“Moreover, all the prophets who spoke,
from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.
You are the children of the prophets
and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors
when he said to Abraham,
In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you
by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 8:2ab and 5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
R. Alleluia.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
R. Alleluia.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Ps 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 24:35-48

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”
First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
Jesus teaches us to trust in God and remain at peace. All the way back to the Old Testament we see stories of men and women just like us learning to trust in God and stop flying into fits of anxiety, fear, anger and the like. The faith of the followers of Moses is tested over and over again. But when they need food, manna arrives. When they need to escape from the enemy, the sea is parted. They complain most of the way but God always “has their back” and prevents their most terrible imagined disasters.
Here, in today’s reading, Jesus Himself says “Why are you troubled?” and “Peace be with you.” In Monday’s  readings, Mary Magdalene meets an angel who says, “Do not be afraid” and then sees someone she thinks is the gardener and he too says “Do not be afraid.”
Christians live in the faith that teaches  peace — and Jesus is the teacher. When we are filled with anxiety, fear, anger and the more destructive emotions  — we need to take a time out to remember that God is always with us — and His Son constantly reminds us “Do not be afraid.”
We have come to believe that “Do not be afraid” is one of the most often repeated messages in the Bible.
If we live in a constant state of fear, we pray that someone will remind us: “You of so little faith….”
The antidote to fear is faith.

Commentary on Luke 24:35-48 from Living Space

We pick up from yesterday’s story of the disciples going to Emmaus. Back in Jerusalem they share their experience of the risen Jesus with their comrades who have also heard that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter.

Suddenly Jesus himself appears in their midst. The fact that he comes suddenly, although the doors were locked, indicates that his presence is now of a different kind.

He wishes them peace. It is the ordinary Jewish greeting of ‘Shalom’ but one which has special meaning in this Easter context. Before his Passion Jesus had told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world do I give it to you…” (John 14:27). The peace of the Risen Jesus is fully of messianic blessings.

In spite of what they had heard, they are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. “What are you afraid of?” Jesus asks them. He shows them his pierced hands and feet. The Greeks mocked at the idea of bodily resurrection but Luke emphasises the physical reality of Christ’s risen body, that is, the wholeness of the person of the risen Jesus.

He invites them to come and touch him. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. As he shows them the wounds in his hands and feet their fear turns to a mixture of joy and utter astonishment. They can’t believe their eyes. Jesus has to ask them to give him something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat and Jesus is no ghost, he is no disembodied soul. There is also an emphasis that death is not an escape from the body but that the whole person goes into the next life.

Jesus then goes on to explain, as he did with the Emmaus disciples, how all that had happened to him was fully in harmony with and the fulfilment of the Law, the prophets and psalms. Mentioning the three constituent parts of the Old Testament Jesus indicates that the Messiah was foretold through the whole of the Hebrew scriptures.

And out of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection comes the mission to proclaim reconciliation with God through Jesus to the whole word. “You are witnesses to this.” It is their mission to carry on the establishment of the Kingdom throughout the world. Or, as it is put here, “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sin, would be preached in the [Messiah’s] name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem”.

The Kingdom is being realised when people go through that process of radical conversion and change of life (‘repentance’ metanoia) which brings about a deep reconciliation of each one with God, with all those around them and with themselves, when all divisions fall away, when fear and hostility are replaced with a caring love for each other.

If we have not yet done so, let us become part of that great enterprise today.



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore


09 April 2015, Wednesday within the Octave of Easter

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  ACTS 3:11-26; LK 24:35-48

Emmanuel Kant once says:  Percept without concept is blind.  Indeed, many of us have experiences in life but because we are not aware of them, these experiences are not revelatory of God’s love to us.  We are blind to the many ways that God wants to reveal Himself to us and ourselves to ourselves through these experiences.  Thus, it is important that we should never go through life without interpreting the experiences of our daily life. This was indeed the case for the early Christians.  The fundamental experience of the Christians of course is their encounter with the Risen Jesus. However, it was necessary for the early Christians to draw out the implications of this Jesus who had been crucified but is now seen to be alive.  And their conclusion at the end of their reflection is this: Jesus is the Messiah predestined to suffer, die and rise again; and He is our Saviour who takes away the sin of the world.  This is the earliest interpretation of Jesus after His resurrection.  But how did they come to confess in Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour?Firstly, this confession is based on the fact of their encounter with the Risen Lord.  The Risen Christ whom they encountered is somehow in continuity with the Jesus of Nazareth.  For indeed, the message of the gospel is that they encountered the Risen Christ as essentially identical with the Jesus of Nazareth that they walked with.  This is brought out by the deliberate graphic and physical representation of Christ showing His hands and feet and eating the grilled fish.  In other words, the Christ that they encountered was not a ghost but truly alive in the fullest sense of the term.  This is again brought out in the first reading when the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple was cured.  Peter said, “Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you staring at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or holiness?”  This miracle was attributed to the work of the Risen Christ by the Apostles who were merely instruments. “It is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”

Now if Jesus is alive, the next question that needs to be asked is, how did Jesus come back to life?  The answer of course is that God had raised Jesus from the dead.  It is important to note here that it is not Jesus who rose from the dead but rather the work is attributed to the Father.  This is important because in claiming that the Father raised Jesus from the dead, it means therefore that God has identified Himself with Jesus, with His cause, His work, His life, passion and death.  In raising Jesus from the dead, the Father is giving His signature to all that Jesus did and taught.  Hence Jesus is vindicated against all those who saw Him as a criminal. Now if Jesus is vindicated by God as His personal messenger, then necessarily, Jesus must be the Christ because He is the anointed one of God.  He represents the Father in person, His unconditional love for humankind.

Now if Jesus is the personal expression of God, who has for all eternity desired that humankind be reconciled to Him, then Jesus must have been for all eternity destined to die for us.  Of course, this question of predestination must be understood correctly as God’s overall providence rather than a fatalistic interpretation.  “This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me, in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.” When that is seen, we can understand why Jesus is interpreted as fulfilling the Old Testament scriptures and that His suffering and death were inevitable due to man’s sins.

The third step of their reflection was to claim that in Jesus we find our salvation.  He is the one who takes away our sins.  “So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.” But it is important to ask what they really meant when they said that Jesus takes away our sins.

Firstly, we must not interpret sin primarily in a moral sense but in a theological sense.  In other words, sin is not so much the things we do wrong but sin is alienation between God and man; and between man and man.  Sin is to be dead to life and to love.  Consequently to claim that Jesus is the one who takes away our sins, it is not so much saying that His bloody death saves us.  Rather it is what His death symbolizes – His whole life of love, service and self-emptying.  This means that for the Christians, the only way to live the resurrected life, now and here after, is to confess His name, which is to live the kind of life that Jesus lived since this same earthly life of Jesus was vindicated as the authentic life-style by the Father’s act of raising Jesus from the dead.

Secondly, to confess the name of Jesus would also imply that we allow the Spirit of Jesus to work in us.  His Spirit however becomes ours only when we live a life of intimate relationship with Him.   Thus by living His life and sharing in His Spirit, we live the life of God, a life in union with Him and with others.  This is how sin, understood as alienation, is overcome.  Through living the life of self-emptying love we share in the life of Christ and this is possible only when His Spirit dwells in us, working in us.

Thus, we can understand why the earliest Palestinian Christians came to confess the significance of the Risen Jesus as the Christ destined to suffer for our sins and save us.  Of course, we know that this is only the first step in assimilating the full significance of Christ’s resurrection.  Two more steps would be necessary in this Christological reflection when Jesus is next confessed as the exalted Lord by the Jewish-Hellenistic Christians; and then finally as Lord and God by the Hellenistic Christians.  These last two stages would take the Church almost another 80 years to arrive at the fullness of the confession of Jesus’ divinity.  The gradual discovery and declaration of Jesus as the Son of God took a long process as the early Christians meditated on the meaning of the Christ-Event, that is, His life, passion, death and resurrection.

If that is so, then today, we need to ask ourselves in the light of our own experiences, in our struggles and in the ambiguities of life and especially in our faith relationship with Jesus, who Jesus is really to us.  We cannot merely repeat the confession of the Palestinian Christians because that was their way of speaking about the significance of the Risen Jesus to them.  We need to find our own formulation in confessing who Jesus is for us, what He can do for us and how He can be of relevance to our life.  How then would we confess Jesus in our own terms that are truly expressive of our faith in Him?

Perhaps, our faith has not yet come to the full fruition of the reflections of the early Christians; but we need not worry too much.  Faith like that of the early Christians needs to grow and mature.  What we need to do is to be sincere and at least recognize what level of faith we have in Jesus.  Only then can we progress further and hopefully come to understand the full person of Jesus whom we proclaim as the Risen Christ, our Lord and God who comes in human form.  For this reason too, the Church has extended Easter into a 50-day season so that we can continue to penetrate into the profundity of this Easter celebration.

Through the celebration of the Eucharist, especially in the reading of the Word of God, preaching of the apostles and the breaking of bread, we will come to understand the significance of the paschal mystery and also encounter Him like the disciples at Emmaus did.   Indeed, at every Eucharistic celebration, we have the reading of the Word, proclamation of the gospel and the reception of Holy Communion.  These are the means to encounter the Risen Christ both in our minds and in our hearts.


Meditation: Aren’t we like the apostles?  We wont believe unless we can see with our own eyes.  The gospels attest to the reality of the resurrection.  Jesus goes to great lengths to assure his disciples that he is no mere ghost or illusion.  He shows them the marks of his crucifixion and he explains how the scriptures foretold his death and rising.  Jerome, an early church bible scholar, comments: “As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them.


Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

The centrality of the gospel is the cross; but fortunately it does not stop there.  Through the cross Jesus defeated our enemies — death and Satan and won pardon for our sins.  His cross is the door to heaven and the key to paradise.  The way to glory is through the cross.  When the disciples saw the risen Lord they disbelieved for joy!  How can death lead to life, the cross to victory?  Jesus shows us the way and gives us the power to overcome sin, despair, and death.  Just as the first disciples were commissioned to bring the good news of salvation to all the nations, so, we, too, are called to be witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to all who live on the face of the earth.  Do you witness to the joy of the gospel to those around you?

“Lord Jesus, open our minds to understand the scriptures that we may fully comprehend the truth of your word.  Anoint us with power and boldness to be your witnesses to all the nations.”