Posts Tagged ‘John’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, September 18, 2017 — The Humility of the Centurion

September 17, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 443

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing

Reading 1 1 TM 2:1-8

Beloved:
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.

For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.

This was the testimony at the proper time.
For this I was appointed preacher and Apostle
(I am speaking the truth, I am not lying),
teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,
lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 28:2, 7, 8-9

R. (6) Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.
Hear the sound of my pleading, when I cry to you,
lifting up my hands toward your holy shrine.
R. Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.
The LORD is my strength and my shield.
In him my heart trusts, and I find help;
then my heart exults, and with my song I give him thanks.
R. Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.
The LORD is the strength of his people,
the saving refuge of his anointed.
Save your people, and bless your inheritance;
feed them, and carry them forever!
R. Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.

Alleluia  JN 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 7:1-10

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people,
he entered Capernaum.
A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, Go, and he goes;
and to another, Come here, and he comes;
and to my slave, Do this, and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.

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Homily For 1  TM 2:1-8 Steven J. Cole
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How concerned am I with people around me who are perishing without Jesus Christ? Do I care more about my own comfort and financial gain than I do about people dying without the Savior? Do I go on about my business day after day, week after week, without any burden for those who need to know Christ as Savior?

You say, “Well, after all, what can I do? I’m just one person, and there are billions who don’t know Christ.”

For starters, you can commit yourself to prayer. You can meet with others to pray for those who are lost and perishing without the Savior.

You say, “Prayer? Come on, I thought you were talking about a way I could really get involved. You know, a way I could do something that would really make a difference.”

That’s precisely what I’m talking about. Prayer is doing something. Prayer will make a tremendous difference. The amazing fact is that the sovereign God has chosen to work in response to the prayers of His people.

As Paul begins to tell Timothy how to conduct oneself in the local church (3:15), he puts prayer as the first priority (2:1, “First of all”). But Paul is not just talking about the need for prayer in general. He is talking about the need for prayer as it relates to the salvation of the lost. He repeats some words and ideas in 2:1-8 that show what he is driving at: “all men” (2:1); “all” (2:2); “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved” (2:3, 4); “mediator … between God and men” (2:5); “a ransom for all, the testimony” (2:6); “preacher and … teacher of the Gentiles” (2:7). Paul is talking about men—people—and not just about a certain few, but about all men. And he is talking about the Savior. His concern is that all would be saved. What he is telling us is that,

Prayer that all people may be reached with the gospel should pervade the life of the church.

We should have such a burden for those who are perishing without Christ that we’re driven to entreat God, who is the Savior, that all people might be reached with the good news that there is a Mediator who gave Himself as the ransom for their sins.

Does such prayer pervade our church? Does such prayer pervade your life? Does such prayer pervade my life? I confess that I fall far short here. I would guess that many of you do too. It’s easy to get like those Chinese fishermen, so busy with our own interests that we’re indifferent to those who are “drowning” nearby. Your prayer life (what you pray and how much) reveals the intensity of your concern. Allow God’s Spirit to speak to you through this portion of His Word.

1. Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s plan (2:1-2, 8).

Prayer is not a nicety, but a necessity. God is sovereign, yet His sovereign plan includes the prayers of His people. If we are involved with God’s plan for the world, then we will be praying in line with His plan. We can see four facets of God’s plan in these verses:

A. GOD’S PLAN INVOLVES ALL KINDS OF PRAYER FOR ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE.

In verse 1 Paul uses four different words for prayer. The words are not altogether distinct in meaning, but there are nuances of difference that reveal different needs that require prayer:

“Entreaties” = prayer stemming from a sense of need. Sensing our lack and God’s sufficiency, our impotence and God’s omnipotence, should move us to pray.

“Prayers” = a general term for prayer to God. One commentator suggests that the word here refers to requests for needs that are always present, in contrast to specific and special needs (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary [Baker], p. 92). This would include prayer for more wisdom, godliness, repentance, revival, etc.

“Petitions” = means to converse freely; it pictures someone who can go into the presence of the king and talk freely with him on your behalf. It is used of the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit and of Christ on our behalf (Rom. 8:27, 34Heb. 7:25). It points to the fact that we can go freely before God at any time or in any place to talk with Him on behalf of others.

“Thanksgivings” = this points to the fact that we must express not only our petitions, but our gratitude to God for His gracious answers.

The point of all these words is that we have different needs at different times. But at all times we need God and, therefore, we need to pray.

Not only do we need all kinds of prayer, but also we need to pray for all kinds of people. We have already noted Paul’s emphasis on “all men” (2:1, 2, 4, 6; in these verses Paul uses the Greek anthropos, a generic word for “people”). No person is too far gone, too lost in sin, whom God’s grace cannot reach. Nor is there any person so high and mighty, in a position of governmental authority, who does not need God’s grace. All people are sinners who need to know God as Savior. Maybe you cannot speak to the person about God; but you can always speak to God about that person.

Paul here singles out for prayers those in positions of authority in government. In his case, this included the cruel maniac, Nero, who later executed both Peter and Paul, who lit his gardens in the evenings with Christians covered with pitch, burned as human torches. And yet Paul does not call Christians to political revolution, but to prayer. Prayer is God’s means for removing tyrants and establishing peace. Thus the plan of God involves all kinds of prayer for all kinds of people.

B. GOD’S PLAN INVOLVES THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL SO THAT ALL MAY BE SAVED.

That, I take it, is Paul’s train of thought between 2:2 and 2:3 & 4. We should pray that those in authority would govern so that we might enjoy a tranquil and quiet life. But the purpose for such a life is not that we might be comfortable and happy, but so that we can grow in “godliness and dignity” with a view toward the maximum spread of the gospel. Both words, “godliness and dignity,” point to the outward manifestation of Christian virtues. Paul is concerned here with the testimony of God’s people. Under persecution, some professing Christians cave in. In times of peace, there is more opportunity for their good deeds to be seen. So the idea is that we should pray for political peace so that we can live in observable godliness so that lost people will be saved.

C. GOD’S PLAN REQUIRES HOLINESS AND HARMONY AMONG HIS PEOPLE.

We are to live in “godliness,” which means being reverent or devout. We are to live in “dignity” (a quality required of church leaders, 1 Tim. 3:4, 8, 11) which has the nuance of commanding respect. A person with these qualities takes God seriously. He doesn’t joke about the things of God. In verse 8 Paul says that men should be “without wrath and dissension.” We are to work out anger and relational problems in private so that we can pray without hypocrisy in public. We can’t pray and work together for God’s plan in the world unless we are walking in holiness and harmony as God’s people.

D. GOD’S PLAN DESIGNATES MEN AS TAKING THE LEADERSHIP IN PRAYER.

God wants “men” (the Greek word in 2:8 means “males,” men in contrast to women) to take the leadership in the prayer life of the church. In 1 Corinthians 11:13 Paul indicates that women may pray in public as long as they are obviously in submission to men (“heads covered”). But both there and here he makes it plain that men are to take the leadership in the church, including this matter of prayer. The same applies to the home: Men, you need to take the initiative in prayer!

Note briefly the posture of prayer. In Paul’s day one posture was to stand and lift their hands toward God. If you study the various postures for prayer mentioned in the Bible, you’ll find standing, kneeling, and falling prostrate; sitting is only mentioned once, to my knowledge (2 Sam. 7:18). You’ll find the hands lifted heavenward and spread out, but never folded. You will find the head both bowed and lifted up with the eyes looking heavenward (so far as I know the eyes are never closed; see Hendriksen, pp. 103-104). We shouldn’t become legalistic about it, but I will suggest that our casual posture in prayer may indicate a casual attitude toward God. In public, Paul and his friends knelt down on the beach and prayed (Acts 21:5).

We’ve seen that prayer that all people may be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s plan.

2. Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s pleasure (2:3-4).

Note the words, “good” (beautiful, pleasant), “acceptable,” and “desire.” God’s desire is for the salvation of all men. The Lord told Ezekiel (33:11), “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” When Christians pray for civil rulers so that there is peace, it allows for the gospel to be preached and men to be saved, which is good and acceptable in the sight of God, who desires the salvation of all people.

I can’t answer the theological conundrum, “If God desires that all be saved, why doesn’t He save all?” The Bible is clear that God has sovereignly foreordained some to eternal life, while passing by others. Scripture often sets together in the same context the seeming contradiction that God is sovereign and yet men are responsible to repent and believe (Rom. 9:15-18; 10:13). Jesus, who was going up to Jerusalem to die for our sins according to the predetermined plan of God (Acts 2:23Luke 13:33), lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34; see Luke 10:22 for contrast). In our text, Paul’s concern was to counter the Jew who said that God wishes to destroy sinners and the spiritually proud who said that salvation is only for the elite, by saying, “No! God desires to save all men.”

I once heard a man who has a deep burden for the lost tell of how he was praying for the conversion of his neighbor, a man named Ray. Every morning this man would pray fervently for Ray’s salvation. On many mornings, he said he would have to wipe the tears from the pages of his Bible as he pled with God for Ray to come to Christ. Then one morning he got the frightening thought, “What if Ray isn’t one of the elect?” So he said he prayed, “Lord, if Ray isn’t on the list, then You put him there! Make up a new list, if you have to, but bring Ray to know You!” Eventually, Ray did trust in the Savior.

Maybe his theology wasn’t precisely correct. But don’t get hung up on the theology and miss the obvious application of verse 4: Is my heart in tune with God’s heart? Do I desire the salvation of all people? Does my prayer life for the people I know who are without Christ reflect God’s pleasure to save all people?

3. Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s provision (2:5-6).

I could easily preach several messages on these important verses. They contain much crucial truth in succinct form, and may have been an early creed. There is one God, the fundamental tenet of Judaism: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4). Christians do not believe in three Gods, but in one God who exists in three persons. Although there are many different types of men, there is only one true God for all men, and He has provided only one way of salvation for all.

That one way of salvation involves a mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. In order for God to be reconciled to sinful man, man had to pay for his sin. The price was death, because the wages of sin is death. But God provided a representative man to be the substitute for all other men through His death. He became the ransom, the one who paid the price to release us from bondage to sin and judgment. This ransom is sufficient for all who will receive it.

By calling Jesus a man, Paul is not denying His deity, of course. We saw that he affirmed Christ’s deity in 1:13, 15-17; he will do so again in 3:16. A bridge must be firmly anchored to both sides if it is to be usable. As mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, undiminished deity and perfect humanity united without mixture or confusion in one person forever. He was the testimony of God, revealed to man at the proper time. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him. All who come find abundant pardon through His grace. Thus, prayer that all people may be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s provision in His Son.

Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s plan, pleasure, and provision.

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-6-priority-prayer-1-timothy-21-8

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This Roman soldier approached Jesus with full confidence that He could heal the servant over a distance. Yet we get upset with God because we think He doesn’t hear our prayers. Now, I don’t intend to go into a rant about how we lack faith and that’s why our prayers don’t get answered. In fact, what I want to say has nothing to do with prayer at all. We lack a relationship with and knowledge of who God really is.

This soldier, who was not by any means a Jew, knew more about Jesus’ character than the majority of the Israelite population that has been waiting for Jesus’ arrival for centuries! The 12 disciples were still just figuring out if this guy (Jesus) was for real or not and a Roman soldier just comes up expecting Jesus to heal this servant in bed back home. While everyone else is standing around bewildered at the miracles Jesus is performing, the Roman approaches Him and practically demands that the servant be healed. This is a full confidence in the providence of the Lord and it does not come from our own gumption. It comes from a secure trust in God. People wonder why we don’t see many healings like this in today’s world; it’s because we don’t believe anymore. We don’t care to know who God is because we have created our own gods. We don’t “need” Him, or so we think.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly might be tired of reading this but I am going to say it again because it is crucial: why aren’t we seeing and doing more of this? In John 14 Jesus is giving His farewell speech to His disciples and He drops this bomb on all of us: (John 14:2-3)

 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

http://thethoughtsofasimpleman.com/the-faith-of-a-roman/

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Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Christ heals the Centurion’s dying servant from afar, without seeing or touching him; Christ has the supernatural knowledge and power to heal any illness simply by willing it. Re-read the Gospel and ask yourself, “How does Christ do this?”

2) Men don’t like to admit when they are in trouble and don’t like to ask for help. As the Centurion shows, Christ will help those who approach Him in humility. Humbly complete and Examination of Conscience, pray for Christ’s help to overcome your sins and go to Confession.

3) Many Catholic men have a lukewarm or cold faith. What does Christ think about your faith; does He “marvel” at it? Pray that He send the Holy Spirit to give you a faith like the Centurion’s.

http://www.newemangelization.com/page/69/?ref=driverlayer.com

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Article by Jon Bloom

Jesus, the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), once marveled at the faith he found in a man. And it’s the only instance that the gospels record such a response from Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13Luke 7:1-10). Who was this man? A rabbi? No. A disciple? Nope. A Roman soldier.

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Jesus had walked down from the brow of the low mountain outside of Capernaum, his adopted home (Matthew 4:12-16). He had just delivered what would become the most famous sermon in history.

When he entered the town, he was met by a small delegation of Jewish elders. They had an urgent request. There was this Roman centurion whose servant was so sick that he was expected to die shortly. The centurion had asked these elders to go to Jesus on his behalf to see if Jesus might be willing to heal his servant.

Now, this was very unusual. Jewish leaders were not in the habit of being fond of Roman soldiers.

Feeling the obvious oddness of the request, one of the elders quickly added, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”

This was also unusual. Roman soldiers were not in the habit of being fond of Jews.

Jesus discerned the Father’s hand in this and so he set off with them to the centurion’s home. He had also just preached a couple hours earlier on the importance of loving one’s enemies. This was something to encourage.

As they neared the house another group of friends intercepted them. There was a brief huddled conference with the elders. There were hushed earnest voices. The elders seemed confused and concerned. Some observers thought the servant must have died.

Then a representative of the intercepting group stepped over to Jesus and said respectfully, “Teacher, I have a message for you from my Roman friend. He says,

Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, “Go” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’”

Jesus’ expression turned thoughtful. He pondered the words, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” and “I too am a man under authority with soldiers under me.” He nodded his head slightly and there was just a hint of a chuckle. This man was a Roman soldier, a representative of Israel’s enemy. And yet he understood what even these Jewish elders didn’t yet grasp. It was a marvel.

He looked back at the friend and then to the elders. Then he turned and scanned his eyes over his disciples and the small crowd of people who had followed him down the mountain. Then he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).

See more:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-centurion-faith-that-made-jesus-marvel

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 SEPTEMBER 2016, Monday, 24th Week of Ordinary Time
ARE YOU A PAGAN CATHOLIC?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 Cor 11:17 – 33Ps 39:7-1017Lk 7:1 – 10 ]

In the gospel, we cannot but be inspired by the faith of the Centurion.  He is a true model of a believer in God and in Christ.   The Church even asks us all to repeat his words to the Lord at every Eucharistic celebration, “I am not worthy to have you under my roof but give the word and let my servant be cured.”  Besides this centurion, it is quite significant that the bible gives us a few examples of other centurions who could inspire us in our faith life.  We have the conversion of the Roman Centurion Cornelius who received the Holy Spirit even before he was baptized.  (cf Acts 10)  Then we have the confession of faith of the centurion at the foot of the cross.  “Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mt 27:54)

What is the reason for the gospel giving us so many examples of centurions who were supposedly pagan and enemies of the Jews yet very much Christian at heart?  The answer is clear.  This is to provide a scandalous contrast between so called pagans, whom we think are not saved, and ourselves, so called believers and baptized Christians when in truth our hearts and minds are pagan, unconverted, selfish and inward looking.  And there are many of these baptized pagans in our Christian communities!

Let us examine how the Centurion showed himself to be a real Catholic and Christian at heart. 

Firstly, he was a true Christian because we read that he was a man of great compassion and love, especially for those who were suffering.  He had “a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant.” He was only a servant; yet he treated him the way he would have treated his own son.  For him, the servant was not a worker or a machine or a slave.  The servant was a human being with feelings and needs like everyone, for food, lodging, respect, love, security, acceptance and good health.  The centurion regarded him as a human being worthy of being loved as his own.  Such was the great love of the centurion, like the way our Heavenly Father loves us and calls us all His children.  (cf 1 Jn 3:1f)

Secondly, he was a true Catholic because his love was all embracing.  Although a Roman soldier, he had deep love for the Jews as well.  He did not behave like a conqueror and the Jews as prisoners or subjects. His love extended beyond the confines of his household, his own country, to all.  He regarded all of them well.  He even built for them a synagogue when he was not a Jew or a believer!  Such was his all-embracing love for all, regardless of race, language or religion.  His love was universal and this is what it means to be Catholic!

Thirdly, he was a man filled with the Holy Spirit because he exhibited the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The gifts of humility, faith, hope, tolerance, kindness, generosity and love were found in him.  He was truly humble.  He sincerely felt that he was not good enough to have Jesus come to his house.  This was what he said to Jesus, “for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself.”  He did not feel that he was worthy to even approach Jesus directly.  His love for his servant was so great that he did not mind lowering himself to ask his friends to approach Jesus for help.

He was a man of great sensitivity and respect for others.  He was very conscious of the rituals and customs of the Jews.  Instead of doing what he liked in his position of authority and power, He was sensitive to Jesus and considerate of the culture and sentiments of the Jews.  He did not wish to oblige Jesus to enter into his house because he was fully aware that Jews could not enter the house of pagans.

Most of all, he was a man of great faith in the Lord. He told the Lord, “For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.”  Thus, the centurion was saying to Jesus, because of the divine authority vested on you, just say the word and it would be done.  The evangelist remarked, “When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this’. And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.”

In the light of what we have said about this centurion, we can appreciate why he endeared himself not only to the Jews and the synagogue leaders but especially to Jesus.  Even though he was not a believer, or a Christian, or a Jew, yet his life reflected one who knew God and had deep faith in Him.  Indeed, he puts us all so-called believers of Christ to shame.  We do not possess his virtues of humility, faith and display the kind of unselfish, inclusive love and compassion he had for others.  Many of us behave like the early Christians during the time of St Paul in the first reading.  We behave like pagan Christians because what we believe and celebrate is not how we live. We are a contradiction and a counter witness to the Lord.

In what ways are we betraying the Lord today, just like Judas at the Last Supper? The words of the institution should challenge us to examine ourselves in the way we live out the Eucharist that we celebrate.  “For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed  …”  In what ways are we guilty of making a mockery of our faith, especially in the Holy Eucharist, which is the summit of our faith in Christ, celebrating His passion, death and resurrection.

Firstly, on the ecclesial dimension, if we are true believers of the Lord and true worshippers of the Eucharist as the Real Presence of our Lord, His body and blood, then all the more, we should have special reverence for members of His body the Church.   Jesus is the Head and we are His mystical body.  There can be no head without the body and there can be no body without the head because Christ and man are one.  So if, like the early Church, we live a life that has no thought for our fellow brothers and sisters, then we are not truly worshipping our Lord in the Eucharist.  Our brothers and sisters, baptized or otherwise, are our brothers and sisters in the Lord because they are children of God.  So if we truly love the Lord in the Eucharist, then we must revere the Lord in the members of His body, the Church.   Each human being is as sacred as the Eucharist we worship.

The love for the Eucharist is always very much related to our compassion and love, especially for the poor and the marginalized.  We cannot worship the Eucharist apart from the community and apart from love.  This was what St Paul was reprimanding the early Christians, especially those were rich and better off.   Those who were labourers had to work late, and by the time they came for the Eucharistic meal, there was no more food left.  Those who were rich did not bother to wait for the rest to turn up before breaking bread, or even leave some food for them.  This could be the case for us as well when in our policies or decisions we do not take into consideration those who are not as fortunate as others.

Compassion and love also means sensitivity.  Like the Centurion, we need to be sensitive to each other’s culture and sentiments. In each community and more so today, we need to live with each other and embrace each other’s culture.  But this has to be done in a sensitive manner, taking into consideration the feelings of others.  There are different levels of sensitivity where it pertains to religious preferences, culture, social status, intellectual capacity, language, etc.  So we must be careful that we do not impose our culture and preferences on others; or be intolerant of them, especially those who are in the minority.   Those in the minority must equally be sensitive to the larger interests of the community and hence be discreet in promoting their own culture and religious inclinations.  At the end of the day, we need to exercise tolerance, patience and accommodate each other as no community is perfect.

Christians must always remember that we are a community.Parochial-mindedness is always a threat to the unity of the Church at every level.  Church organizations often operate as if they are independent of the entire parish.  They are only concerned about their members’ interests and the name of their organization.  They do not work with other organizations and together with the parish as one body with many parts.  Such factionalism is still prevalent in our churches.  This is also true on the archdiocesan level where parishes function independently of the archdiocese and do not support archdiocesan programs and organizations which are meant to serve the larger interests of the entire Christian family, regardless whether it is youth, family, schools, media, migrants, administration.

Indeed, if we truly want to be Christian and live out the exemplary faith of the Centurion, we need to take the Eucharist seriously; not just as a perfunctory ritual we go through.  Such an attitude towards the Eucharist cannot save us.  We are called to conduct our lives in accordance with the example the Lord has set for us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 12, 2017 — Even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured

September 11, 2017

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 438

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Image may contain: 4 people, tree, outdoor and nature

Jesus addressed the Twelve by Tissot

Reading 1 COL 2:6-15

Brothers and sisters:
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him,
rooted in him and built upon him
and established in the faith as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy
according to the tradition of men,
according to the elemental powers of the world
and not according to Christ.

For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily,
and you share in this fullness in him,
who is the head of every principality and power.
In him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision not administered by hand,
by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ.
You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him
through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.
And even when you were dead in transgressions
and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him,
having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims,
which was opposed to us,
he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross;
despoiling the principalities and the powers,
he made a public spectacle of them,
leading them away in triumph by it.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:1B-2, 8-9, 10-11

R. (9) The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
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. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.

AlleluiaSEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
that you may go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Jesus chooses the Twelve

Gospel LK 6:12-19

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground.
A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.
Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him
because power came forth from him and healed them all.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The Gospel today presents two facts: the choice of the twelve apostles (Lk 6, 12-16) and the enormous crowds who want to meet Jesus (Lk 6, 17-19). The Gospel today invites us to reflect on the Twelve who were chosen to live with Jesus, being apostles. The first Christians remembered and registered the name of these twelve and of some other men and women, who followed Jesus and who, after His Resurrection, began to create the communities for the world outside. Today, also, all remember some catechists or persons, significant for their own Christian formation.
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• Luke 6, 12-13: The choice of the 12 apostles. Before choosing the twelve apostles definitively, Jesus spent a whole night in prayer. He prays in order to know whom to choose and then chooses the Twelve, whose names are in the Gospels and they will receive the name of apostles. Apostle means sent, missionary. They were called to carry out a mission, the same mission that Jesus received from the Father (Jn 20, 21). Mark is more concrete and says that God called them to be with him and he sends them on mission (Mk 3, 14)..
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• Luke 6, 14-16: The names of the 12 Apostles. With small differences the names of the Twelve are the same in the Gospels of Matthew (Mt 10, 2-4), Mark (Mk 3, 16-19) and Luke (Lk 6, 14-16). The majority of these names come from the Old Testament. For example, Simeon is the name of one of the sons of the Patriarch Jacob (Gn 29, 33). James (Giacomo) is the same name of Jacob (Gn 25, 26), Judah is the name of the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Matthew also had the name of Levi (Mk 2, 14), the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23) Of the twelve apostles, seven have a name that comes from the time of the Patriarchs: two times Simon, two times, James, two times Judah, and one time Levi! That reveals the wisdom and the pedagogy of the people. Through the names of the Patriarchs and the matriarchs, which were given to the sons and daughters, people maintained alive the tradition of the ancestors and helped their own children not to lose their identity. Which are the names which we give our children today?
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• Luke 6, 17-19: Jesus goes down from the mountain and people are looking for him. Coming down from the mountain with the twelve, Jesus finds an immense crowd of people who were trying to hear his words and to touch him, because people knew that from him came out a force of life. In this crowd there were Jews and foreigners, people from Judaea and also from Tyre and Sidon. These were people who were abandoned, disoriented. Jesus accepts all those who look for him Jews and Pagans! This is one of the themes preferred by Luke!

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These twelve persons, called by Jesus to form the first community, were not saints. They were common persons, like all of us. They had their virtues and their defects. The Gospels tell us very little on the temperament and the character of each one of them. But what they say, even if not much is for us a reason for consolation.

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– Peter was a generous person and full of enthusiasm (Mk 14, 29.31; Mt 14, 28-29), but at the moment of danger and of taking a decision, his heart becomes small and cannot go ahead (Mt 14, 30; Mc 14, 66-72). He was even Satan for Jesus (Mk 8, 33). Jesus calls him Rock (Peter). Peter of himself was not ‘Pietra’ – Rock, he becomes Rock (Pietra) because Jesus prays for him (Lc 22, 31-32).

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– James and John are ready to suffer with and for Jesus (Mk 10, 39), but they were very violent (Lk 9, 54), Jesus calls them “sons of thunder” (Mk 3, 17). John seemed to have some sort of envy. He wanted Jesus only for his group (Mk 9, 38).

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– Philip had a nice welcoming way. He knew how to put others in contact with Jesus (Jn 1, 45-46), but he was not too practical in solving the problems (Jn 12, 20-22; 6, 7). Sometimes he was very naïve. There was a moment when Jesus lost his patience with him: Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? (Jn 14, 8-9).

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– Andrew, the brother of Peter and friend of Philip, he was more practical. Philip goes to him to solve the problems (Jn 12, 21-22). Andrew calls Peter (Jn 1, 40-41), and Andrew found the boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish (Jn 6, 8-9).

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– Bartholomew seems to be the same as Nathanael. This one was from there and could not admit that anything good could come from Nazareth (Jn 1, 46).

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– Thomas was capable of sustaining his own opinion, for a whole week, against the witness of all the others (Jn 20, 24-25). But when he saw that he was mistaken, he was not afraid to acknowledge his error (Jn 20, 26-28). He was generous, ready to die with Jesus (Jn 11, 16).

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– Matthew or Levi was a Publican, a tax collector, like Zaccheus (Mt 9, 9; Lk 19, 2). They were persons who held to the system of oppression of that time.

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– Simon, instead, seems that he belonged to the movement which radically opposed the system which the Roman Empire imposed on the Jewish people. This is why he was also called Zealot (Lk 6, 15). The group of the Zealots even succeeded to bring about an armed revolt against the Romans.

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– Judah was the one who was in charge of the money in the group (Jn 13, 29). He betrayed Jesus.

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– James, son of Alphaeus and Judas Taddeus. The Gospels say nothing of these two, they only mention their name.

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Personal questions

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• Jesus spends the whole night in prayer to know whom to choose, and then he chooses those twelve. Which conclusions can you draw?
• Do you recall the persons who began the community to which you belong? What do you remember about them: the content of what they taught or the witness they gave?

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Concluding Prayer

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

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-612-19

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 12, 2017 — The Apostles Were Just Like Us

July 11, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 385

Image result for matthew was a tax collector, art, photos

“Matthew the tax collector”

Art: “The Calling of Matthew” by  Caravaggio

Reading 1  GN 41:55-57; 42:5-7A, 17-24A

When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt
and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread,
Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph
and do whatever he told them.
When the famine had spread throughout the land,
Joseph opened all the cities that had grain
and rationed it to the Egyptians,
since the famine had gripped the land of Egypt.
In fact, all the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain,
for famine had gripped the whole world.

The sons of Israel were among those
who came to procure rations.

It was Joseph, as governor of the country,
who dispensed the rations to all the people.
When Joseph’s brothers came and knelt down before him
with their faces to the ground,
he recognized them as soon as he saw them.
But Joseph concealed his own identity from them
and spoke sternly to them.

With that, he locked them up in the guardhouse for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to his brothers:
“Do this, and you shall live; for I am a God-fearing man.
If you have been honest,
only one of your brothers need be confined in this prison,
while the rest of you may go
and take home provisions for your starving families.
But you must come back to me with your youngest brother.
Your words will thus be verified, and you will not die.”
To this they agreed.
To one another, however, they said:
“Alas, we are being punished because of our brother.
We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us,
yet we paid no heed;
that is why this anguish has now come upon us.”
Reuben broke in,
“Did I not tell you not to do wrong to the boy?
But you would not listen!
Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”
The brothers did not know, of course,
that Joseph understood what they said,
since he spoke with them through an interpreter.
But turning away from them, he wept.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 33:2-3, 10-11, 18-19

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
But 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.

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.'”

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

Source http://godscareerguide.com/the-leader-who-empowers-others/

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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.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2144g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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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:
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Introduction: the birth and preparation of the Messiah (Mt 1 to 4)
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a) Sermon on the Mountain: the entrance door into the Kingdom (Mt 5 to 7)
Narrative Mt 8 and 9
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b) Discourse of the Mission: how to announce and diffuse the Kingdom (Mt 10)
Narrative Mt 11 and 12
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c) Discourse of the Parables: The mystery of the Kingdom present in life (Mt 13)
Narrative Mt 14 to 17
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d) Discourse of the Community: the new way of living together in the Kingdom (Mt    18)
Narrative 19 to 23
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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)
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• 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).
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• 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.
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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).
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• 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!
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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.
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• 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”.
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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).
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• 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).
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Personal questions
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• 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?
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Concluding Prayer
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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)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JULY, 2017, Wednesday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time
SENT TO THE LOST SHEEP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 41:55-5742:5-717-24Ps 32:2-3,10-11,18-19Mt 10:1-7  ]

In the gospel today, the Lord sent out the twelve with the following instruction, “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.”  This specific command from the Lord seems contrary to our understanding of the Church’s mission to evangelize the whole world.   Why did Jesus tell the apostles to confine themselves to the lost sheep of Israel rather than to go out of Palestine to proclaim the Good News to all?  Does not the Lord also care for the Gentiles?

Undoubtedly, the gospel is for all and not for the Jews.  God wants all peoples to be saved.  However, the gospel cannot be proclaimed to the whole world unless some are chosen for the task.  Israel, as the chosen race of God, had been given this task of spreading the Good News to all nations.  Israel had been blessed by God, not for her sake but for the sake of humanity.  For the same reason, in the first reading, we read of the divine providence and intervention of God to save Joseph from his enemies.  He became the economic leader of Egypt.  The Lord wanted to prepare Joseph for the birth of Israel when he would invite his family to make their home in Egypt for 400 years.  It was in Egypt that the people grew in strength and in number till it was time for them to move out of Egypt and found their own country and kingdom.

In the same way too, what the Church needs today in the work of evangelization is to look within and not just without.  The irony of the Church is that we are so keen in making new converts to the faith, baptizing and confirming candidates, forgetting the need for discipleship and mentoring for those who are already baptized.  We should not be surprised therefore if more souls are lost from within the Church than the number being brought into the Church.  Our nets are broken because the fishes are swimming out whilst we are too busy catching new fishes.  What is critical therefore is to look within and make use of what we already have for the work of evangelization, rather than focus on bringing in new admissions into the Church only.   If we cannot retain our members, it shows that we are weak.

Indeed, we have many lost sheep today.  Who are these that could be considered as lost?  They are those who have left the Church completely because they are disillusioned with the Church.  Some have lost faith completely in God because God was not felt or experienced. But the majority are nominal Catholics or seasonal Catholics who come to Church occasionally and in a perfunctory manner.  We have many of these.  Indeed, statistics in most churches show that only around 10% of our church members are active in their faith or in ministries.  And out of these, many are there out of goodwill, but they lack real formation and depth in their faith.

Hence, the work of evangelization cannot be fruitful if the majority of our members are indifferent and laid back Catholics.  Not only are they not witnesses of the gospel but in fact they are counter-witnesses.  There is no neutrality in the faith. By not being a witness, we are telling others implicitly that there is nothing great about Jesus and that He makes no difference in our lives.  The Church therefore cannot grow so long as we do not give more focus in forming and strengthening the faith of our existing Catholics, both intellectually and personally; and also to reach out to those who have left the faith for various reasons.  Many of them have left more out of emotional than doctrinal reasons.  This explains why Jesus told the disciples to go to the lost sheep of Israel first.   As Church, if we want to be evangelistic and missionary minded, then we must form our Catholics well and disciple them.

How can this be done?  Firstly, we need to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom anew.  Jesus said to the apostles, “and as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”   How can we proclaim that the Kingdom is near if not through miracles, healing, liberation and good deeds?   We cannot proclaim the Kingdom by words alone but by actions.  Accordingly, Jesus gave them the authority and power as well.  He did not appoint us as His apostles and ambassadors without also empowering us to do so.  “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.”  If our own Catholics do not experience the Good News in terms of the power and mercy of God in their own lives, there is no Good News to proclaim.

Secondly, we need authority.  This authority is more than just being given the power or the office. This is institutional authority.  Whilst important, institutional authority must be accompanied by personal authority.  If our witnessing is lacking power, it is because we do not speak with authority either by our words and less by our lives.  No one will listen to us if we are hardly convinced of what we say and, worse still, when we do not walk the talk.  What is needed to transform the world are not preachers or even teachers but witnesses, people who are so filled with God’s love and mercy by their words and works.

Thirdly, we need intense formation.  It is significant that the Lord only chose the Twelve to be with Him for three years.  He did not spend all His time with the crowd or seeking to make His name known in Palestine and beyond.  Although He did reach out to the crowd, He spent more time with His apostles than with others.  The Twelve were always gathered around Him, listening to Him and watching how He lived, prayed and related with His Father and with others.  There was mentorship and learning from the Lord.

This is the greatest negligence of the Catholic Church.  We do not underscore the importance of ongoing formation.  The only formation we give emphasis to is the Catechumenate.  The truth is that faith is an ongoing process.  Not everything can be learnt or grasped even if we have faithfully gone through the whole RCIA.  Formation of faith in one’s spiritual life, whether personal or intellectual, never stops because it is ongoing.  Even as bishop, I am still learning, reflecting, praying and studying about our faith.  Catholics must be reminded again and again that ongoing formation in faith, whether done formally in a classroom setting or informally through the sharing of the Word with fellow Catholics, is indispensable for a deepening of one’s faith in Christ.

More than just formation, we also need good mentors who teach through inspiration and guidance.  Do we have good mentors around to disciple the new comers in the faith or in our ministry or the young?  Again, this is another failure on our part.  Older priests are not mentoring younger priests, parents not mentoring children, etc.  We need to train and form mentors for those who are still weak in the faith.  We need to empower our mentors.  The lack of witnesses and teachers make the rest of the Church weak.

Today, we must realize that we are called in our own ways to be agents of transformation in society, beginning with our own family, society and office.  Like the apostles, we are all diverse and different.  But it is because of our differences that we are one in mission, collaborating with each other, according to our charisms and unique gifts for the service of Christ and His Church.   Let us go back to the lost sheep of Israel, the lost Catholics who have either left the Church or are ignorant about their faith.  These people are our first priority.  Unless we renew our own faith personally and those of our Catholics, we cannot be the salt and light of the world.  Following the exhortation of Pope Francis, we must begin on the path of interior conversion; and Pope Emeritus who, during the Year of Faith, invited us to rediscover, re-appropriate and renew our faith.  Like Joseph who sought to help his brothers to repent of their sins, we too must bring back the lost sheep of our Church.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, June 29, 2017 — Saints Peter and Paul — The Lord stood by me and gave me strength

June 28, 2017

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 591

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Liberation of St. Peter by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1667

Reading 1 ACTS 12:1-11

In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them.
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,
and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
–It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–
He had him taken into custody and put in prison
under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.
He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison,
but prayer by the Church was fervently being made
to God on his behalf.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter, secured by double chains,
was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,
“Get up quickly.”
The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.”
He did so.
Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
So he followed him out,
not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
“Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

Reading 2  2 TM 4:6-8, 17-18

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Alleluia MT 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Saint Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

Gospel  MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

29 JUNE, 2017, Thursday, 12th Week, Ordinary Time

CAN THE CHURCH WITHSTAND THE ONSLAUGHT OF THE WORLD?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 33:2-9; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 17-18; Mt 16, 13-19  ]

We are living in a world of rapid changes.  The world is moving and changing so fast that what we see today was unimaginable 30 years ago.  Technology, mass media and digital communications have changed the world radically.  The way we communicate, the way we live, our lifestyles, whether it is at work, in the family, social or religious life have changed.  

But it is not just changes in technology; economic, political and social life, and ideology have changed as well.  Indeed, today, we are paralyzed by the many choices in life.  Even buying a phone is not an easy decision as there is a whole range of choices, all with different capabilities.   Watching television or going for a movie is equally daunting as there are a plethora of choices to choose from. So too with regard to the different ideologies of how life should be lived. All opinions seem to have their valid points.  With so much information it is difficult to make sense of what is truly right or wrong.  In a society that is so steeped in relativism, it has become difficult for anyone to talk about morality.  Pragmatism and individualism rule the day.  At the other extreme end of the pendulum, those who resist change express themselves in fundamentalism which can become violent, especially among religious fanatics.

In the midst of these changes, the Church presents herself as the spokesman for what is truth in the world.  The Church in the person of the Holy Father is seen as the moral spokesman for humanity.  The Church regards herself as the bulwark and pillar of truth.  But the Church is also under attack from the onslaught of those who disagree with the teachings of the Church.  There is much opposition not just from without but also from within.

Can the Church withstand the change of time in the light of extreme ideologies such as relativism, secularism and fundamentalism? The common lamentation of our young people is that the Church is no longer relevant in their lives.  We seem to be speaking a different language and they cannot sync with the Church’s language both in terms of style, content and communication.   Indeed, will the Catholic Church be reduced to a minority, as Pope Emeritus Benedict warned us during his pontificate?  We have the new Herods persecuting the Church today for political gains.  In the first reading we read that King Herod “beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well.”

Many political and even religious leaders are pandering to the wishes of the majority regardless of whether those things they ask for are good or bad for them.  Instead of leading the people into the fullness of truth, they are being led by the people.  This is the consequence of democracy, truth by consensus.   Or rather, a pragmatic approach to life.  Give them whatever they want.  The leader is reduced to a coordinator, no longer one who leads.   The truth is that most people behave like little children.  In a world of technology and consumerism, we must get what we want quickly.  We cannot wait.  So, do we pander to the desires of our children even when they ask for things that could harm their future?  But this is what we do for the so-called adults in the world today.  The world is no longer ruled by truth but by consensus and desires.

So as leaders, how can we lead if we do not know the truth, what is truly good for our people, not just for today but for tomorrow?  As in the gospel, the people during the time of Jesus held different views about Him.  We get nowhere if we base the truth on consensus.  Reason is important for finding the truth, but truth has its limits and must be supplemented by faith.

How can we be sure that we have the truth to life and love if not because of our faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God?  This is the foundation of truth.   Jesus assured Peter, “So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”  Unless our faith is founded on the Church’s faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God, we cannot claim that we have the truth.  Anything less than this confession of faith expressed by Peter will not give us the courage to withstand the onslaught of the world and the diverse worldviews.

By extension, as Catholics, we also believe that the rock that Jesus refers to is not just the rock of faith but Peter as the leader among the apostles.  He is also that little pebble, “Petra” in which the Church is built upon.  This is because the Lord has entrusted the keys of heaven, that is the authority, to St Peter to decide on matters pertaining to faith and morals for the Church.  The Lord said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”  For this reason, good Catholics will abide by the teachings of the Pope, together with the bishops. The magisterium is considered as the authentic, authoritative teacher of the Church.  When Jesus promised the Church that He would be with us until the end of time, obviously, it cannot be merely with the individual but the Church as a whole, led by the apostles and their successors.

Indeed, if obedience is lacking today, it is because faith is lacking.  This is the cause of disobedience at every strata of life.  Today, obedience to authority is no longer taken seriously even in priestly and religious life.  Everybody trusts only in his or her opinions and claims to have personal revelation from God.  There is a distrust in authority because of scandals and corruption.  So, whilst it is understandable why people have lost faith in authority, none of us must lose faith in Christ.  We must hold fast to the promise of Christ that He will somehow protect His Church from the Evil One.  Hence, obedience requires us to surrender in faith even when we do not understand.

Faith in Christ can overcome all things.  Christ will protect His Church.  This was the faith of Peter in Christ.  We read how the Lord sent an angel to deliver him from his enemies.  The angel set him free from his chains and led him out into safety.  It was such a miraculous event that caught Peter by surprise.  So, too, the Lord came to Paul’s aid in his trials. “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”  So we might suffer a temporary setback and have to deal with some scandals affecting the Church.  But we can be sure that the Lord will also set us back and lead us forward to the future with even greater zeal and growth in holiness and in strength.

But Peter and Paul’s faith in Christ is not limited to being delivered only in this life but in the life to come.  Although their lives ended in death, they knew that even death could not overcome them because the last word is life eternal.  Life and love will triumph over death and hatred.  That was why they were also not afraid of death. St Paul was confident of final victory which is even more important than temporary victory.  He wrote, “All there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day.”

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, we are called to imitate them for they are the pillars of the Church.  Like them, we are called to be faithful to the Lord even unto death.  In the first reading, we have St Peter who was ever ready to witness to the Lord even when threatened with imprisonment by King Herod and the Jews.   St Paul too spoke of his life as a libation offered for Christ and the Church.  He wrote, “My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.”  Both Peter and Paul gave their life for Christ and His Church.  Both were martyred in Rome.

If we want to have the same courage and fidelity to Christ, then we need to strengthen our faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God.  This faith is given through grace, for the Lord said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  We can only pray for this faith of revelation.  But we must, like Sts Peter and Paul, cooperate with His grace given to us, doing all that we can within our strength and then surrender everything else unto the Lord who will complete the task for us.

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

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St. Peter – Prince of the Apostles

Peter became the leader of the apostles, after Jesus’ ascension.

So many people want signs and miracles and yet even what is evidently happening in history and the present times, there is still spiritual blindness. Sometimes what we really need to know is already there in front of our eyes. It might mean that we must open our mind so we can understand from a different perspective. Our world is more than two dimensional. Our thought process is not lineal although help to connect information together. With the right information, we can see how everything fits together. We can expand on this as you will see here. There are layers of awareness and so nothing is every straightfoward. Nothing is ever quite as it seems. Nothing is coincidence either.

A previous article shows St. Peter’s and how this reveals a key. In this statue St Peter is holding Keys and also a scroll. There are two keys in his right hand. One key is silver plated and the other is gold plated. The scroll indicates that Peter received Divine Revelation and was guided directly from God with making decisions. For this reason he became an important figurehead of the church.

Old Saint Peter’s Basilica stood from the 4th to 16th centuries where the Basilica of Saint Peter stands today in Rome. Construction of the Basilica was built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero. Work began during the reign of emperor Constantine I ordered the contstuction between 326 and 333; that took 30 years to complete. The name Old Saint Peter’s Basilica to distinguish between the buildings of the Old and present time Bassilica.

“The altar of the Old St. Peter’s used several Solomonic columns. According to tradition, Constantine took these columns from the Temple of Solomon and gave them to the church; however, the columns were probably from an Eastern church. When Gian Lorenzo Bernini built his baldacchino to cover the new St. Peter’s altar, he drew from the twisted design of the old columns. Eight of the original columns were moved to the piers of the new St. Peter’s.”

Fresco of Constantine’s Old St. Peter’s Basilica as it looked in the 4th century.

Since the crucifixion and burial of Saint Peter in 64 A.D., the Basilica is said to be the location of the tomb of Saint Peter. The structure housed tombs of saints and popes. Bones were still being found as late as February 1544. In the design of the new basilica attempted to reconsecrate these remains as much as possible.

“It is stated in the Liber Potitificalis, written by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the eighth century, that the Emperor Constantine after his miraculous conversion caused the body of St. Peter to be exhumed in presence of Pope St. Sylvester, and enshrined in a case of silver enclosed within a sarcophagus of Cyprian brass. Over this he placed a large cross of gold weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, and bearing the inscription : “Constantinus aug. et Helena aug. hanc doraum regalem (auro decorant quam) simili fulgore coruscans aula circumdat.” The body was then restored to its original tomb, over which he erected an altar and a vaulted chamber (in place of St. Anacletus’ memoria) faced interiorly with plates of gold. This chamber was, and still is, right under the high-altar of St. Peter’s basilica, and on the Apostle’s tomb still lies the cross of gold, as will be shown later.”

The Destruction of Old Basilica of St. Peters

“Old St. Peter’s had lasted some 1126 years (i.e., from A.D. 324 to 1450), when the walls began to settle down on the side where the masonry of Nero’s circus had been retained. Lanciani says the destruction of this venerable basilica is “one of the saddest events in the history of the ruin of Rome,” yet it was considered a necessity, for in Nicholas V’s time (1447—1455) the structure was found to be in a damaged state, and the roof threatened to fall. He conceived the idea of entirely rebuilding it, but did little or nothing because of the enormous sums required. Pope Benedict XII (1334—1342) had spent 80,000 gold florins (i.e., some ,£480,000 of our money) in repairing the roof; but a century later it was found to be again unsafe, thousands of rats having made holes in the beams, and the southern wall was leaning three feet seven inches to the side, so that the pilgrims, who came to the Jubilee of 1450, were naturally alarmed.”

St. Clements with St. Peter of Alexandria – who is seen here holding the scepter. According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter, and he is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century. Pope Clement I also known as Saint Clement of Rome (in Latin, Clemens Romanus), is listed from an early date as a Bishop of Rome. He was the first Apostolic Father of the Church.

St. Peter is seen holding a book and the keys. We also see that he is illumined (by God) His crown chakra is open to recieve divine revelation and this provides evidence of him being sanctified.

History has been mapped out to the finest detail – so has today. There is no cheating to attain spiritual enlightenment. No one can buy or sell this realisation within our being. The people who have strived to maintain lofty places and kept people down, might never realise a higher consciousness. However, in this time there are more people from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths who are ready to experience higher consciousness.

The Golden Age is the age of enlightentment – for everyone.

By research, we can learn about history in context. Visual evidence helps to support factual information. Ancient buildings, ruins of temples and churches give evidence of history and people who have lived before. In the ancient times war, fire and natural disasters, floods and earthquakes have been reasons why ancient buildings have been destroyed. At different times throughout history, people have been divinely inspired and this is not to create division between people – but to unite people together in peace. Today the churches are uniting in peace and it is important that no one is excluded from this opportunity and understanding. Today there is a golden opportunity for everyone to realise a higher consciousness. You decide your process.

Physical locatons can change, buildings can change even people can change – however truth does not change. Peter is written about in the Holy Bible. Nothing is hidden from anyone!

Peace, love and best wishes
Pauline Maria

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http://paulinemaria.blogspot.com/2012/06/st-peter-prince-of-apostles.html
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From Last Year:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JUNE 2016, Wednesday, Ss Peter and Paul, Apostles
SUPPORTING OUR HOLY FATHER’S VISION OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLESHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 33:2-9; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 17-18; Mt 16, 13-19 ]  Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is bringing much needed renewal to the Church and the world.  Indeed, he is truly visionary and courageous.  He has undertaken radical reforms in the Church, especially the Curia and the different Church organs.  He has given a new face to the papacy by his simplicity, ordinariness and compassion, especially for the poor and the ordinary people. He is also very much in touch with the struggles of ordinary Catholics, whether in family life, in marriage and especially those who are divorced.   He feels with those with a different sexual orientation, the marginalized and the outcast.   He has also made radical changes in the liturgy to make it simpler and connected to life. He reaches out beyond the Church to peoples from other Christian communions and other religions as well.  His speeches and homilies are straight from the heart and not couched in nice political language.  Indeed, because of his authenticity and genuine love for all, many outside the Catholic Church admire him and find him truly the face of Christ for them.  Because of him, the Church has become more missionary and evangelical and he has changed the image of a cold, indifferent and outdated Church fazed by scandals, especially pedophilia to a Church of compassion and mercy.  

Indeed, Pope Francis shows himself to be a true shepherd of the flock of Christ and a true missionary in bringing Christ to all, especially the poor and the marginalized.  He seeks to exercise both roles by modelling his life after St Peter and St Paul.  St Peter is the symbol of the call to be a shepherd to the flock of Christ, whereas St Paul reminds us of our missionary call to proclaim Christ to the earth.  Every Pope, bishop and priest and lay person is also called to be both a shepherd and a missionary.  The mission of the Church consists of both ad intra and ad extra; within, as we renew ourselves in the faith and without, by being evangelical minded.  Pope Francis seeks to bring both these aspects into his ministry by being the shepherd of the universal Church by governance and teaching on one hand, and on the other hand, by being creative and proactive in reaching out to those who have left the Church, those outside the Church and those who are unreached.  And he is doing this at the risk of being misunderstood and opposed by his own. 

What should our attitude be with respect to the changes that Pope Francis is undertaking for the Church? What if some of us cannot agree with him and feel confused with the developments in the Church, especially with regard to time immemorial doctrines and practices, particularly liturgical practices?  Indeed, for those of us who are happy with the changes, they have all but praise for him and thanksgiving to God.  But for those who sincerely object to the innovations and initiatives of our Holy Father, particularly in seeking to make the faith more real and relevant in the lives of our people, especially those who feel ostracized by the Church, how should we handle this dilemma? 

The real question at the end of the day is:  do you have faith in St Peter and his successors, the college of bishops, the magisterium?  Do you believe that the Holy Spirit that is promised to the Church guarantees the infallibility of the teaching of the Church?  At the end of the day, it is a matter of faith, not logic or understanding, or even finding consensus.  As the Vicar of Christ and the pastor of the universal Church, the Holy Father has full and supreme authority over the Church.  When he teaches in matters of faith and morals, we must give a religious assent to His teachings; if ex cathedra, submission in faith; and if ordinary teaching, the submission of the intellect and will.  (Cf LG 22,25)   Precisely, in matters of faith, reason is not sufficient to establish but revelation is required.  Otherwise, faith is reduced to mere reason alone.

The scripture readings of today assure us that St Peter is under the protection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the first reading, we read how St Peter was miraculously released from jail by an angel who could simply be a messenger of the Lord.  At first he thought it was a dream, but later when Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”

In the gospel too, we read how the Lord assured St Peter of divine assistance.  In the first place, his declaration that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is through divine revelation given to him. The Lord said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  Furthermore, the Lord entrusted St Peter with the authority to govern the Church of Christ.  He said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  Not only St Peter but He also protects His apostles.  St Paul too experienced God’s protection when he recounted, “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”

Based on this promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church has consistently professed the supreme teaching authority of St Peter and his successors throughout the ages.   His teaching when declared ex cathedra is to be accepted in faith; and when taught ordinarily, it must be accepted with the religious submission of the intellect and will.

Today, when we celebrate the re-dedication of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, we want to reaffirm our faith in Christ according to the mind of the Church as declared on our behalf by St Peter.  The rock that Jesus spoke about is both St Peter as the rock on which His Church is built, that is, under His guidance.  But it is also a reference to the faith of Peter in Christ as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Unless, we make St Peter’s faith our own, both in mind and in heart, we cannot find salvation.  We too must be able to declare personally that Christ is the Son of God.  It is not enough therefore simply to rely on the faith of St Peter or the Church but it must also be our own.   Without this faith in Christ as the Son of God, we cannot profess our faith in the teaching of the Holy Father as well.

But this personal faith in Christ as the Son of God has its implications.  All of us are called to nurture the faith of those Catholics under our care.  We are called to look after the faith of our loved ones, especially our young.  The reason why the faith of many of our Catholics is weak is because many are poorly instructed in their faith.  Doctrinally, they know so little and spiritually, they do not read the Word of God or share the Word of God with their brothers and sisters.  Their faith in Christ at most is an intellectual faith but not the personal faith demanded of Christ when He asked the disciples the question, “Who do you say I am?” We cannot be missionary minded unless we take our discipleship seriously.

At the same time, this feast also reminds us that it is not sufficient just to look into the interests of the Catholic community; we are called to be like St Paul, sharing this faith with the whole world.   His whole life was given for the spread of the gospel, especially to those who do not know him.  He wrote, “As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish.”  With St Paul, we are reminded that the Church does not exist for herself but for the world.  So whilst it is important to follow St Peter in shepherding our Catholics and looking after our Catholic community, in our parish and in the diocese, we must not forget the missionary thrust of the Church.  As Pope Francis often reminds us, we are always missionary disciples.  We need to look after our faith and strengthen our faith, but this is for the sake of the mission.

When we celebrate this feast of Ss Peter and Paul, we must never forget that we are called to imitate both St Peter and St Paul.  With St Peter, we must take part in the life of the community, serving the community and learning from each other so that we can deepen our faith in the Lord.  We must never forget that we need to deepen our faith each day so that we can arrive at the faith of St Peter, making his faith our own personal conviction.  So it is not enough to serve in the ministry but we need to be disciples of Christ through prayer, study and fellowship.  With St Paul, let us be missionaries and evangelists for Christ so that the world will know Him as Saviour and Lord.  We need to actively reach out beyond our community and bring Christ to the world directly or indirectly through works of mercy and charity.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

Beloved:
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.”

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

http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

Related:

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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.

http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1099

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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BEAR THE HARDSHIPS FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOOD NEWS

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.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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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.

http://faithleap.org/Transfiguration_of_the_Lord.htm

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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.

http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

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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

Image may contain: 8 people, people sitting

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.”

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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.

http://www.epilepsiemuseum.de/alt/raffaelen.html

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

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.

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

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Lectio Divina from The Carmelites

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Reflection
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• 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.
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• 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.
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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.
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• 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.
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• 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.
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• 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).
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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).
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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).
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Personal questions
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• 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?
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• Which is the type of evil today which can only be overcome with much prayer?
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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
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Why Peters, James and John were Chosen Witnesses of the Transfiguration
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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’.”
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 FEBRUARY, 2017, Saturday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
FAITH AND VISIONS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEBREWS 11:1-7; MARK 9:2 -13  ]

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.

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

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Gospel Reading – Mark 9,2-13
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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.
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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.
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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?’
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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.’
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Reflection
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• 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.
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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.
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• 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.
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• 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.
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• 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!
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• 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!
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• 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.
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• 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.
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• 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).
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Personal questions
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• 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?
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Concluding Prayer
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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)
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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”…

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https://www.lds.org/bible-videos/videos/sermon-on-the-mount-the-beatitudes?lang=eng

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.”

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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:

Father:

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.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2274g/

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Related:

 (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.”
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Robert Barron
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So there’s our choice.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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I can’t do that.
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Jesus’ impact on man, on mankind, is so profound that he cannot be denied — even in this “all knowing” Internet and technology Age.
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Jesus is not just the main thing. He is the only thing.
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Jesus is our  Raison d’être.
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I can either be a follower with conviction or face conviction and hell after the Court of Real Justice in Heaven!
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No. I have faced conviction and hell already.
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I choose life and conviction to Jesus and His Father — with the help and intercession of the Holy Spirit.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related:

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

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….

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

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.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From our Archives:

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

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.”

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

OUR FOOD, FORGIVENESS, AND HOLINESS

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.

THE MINGLING OF ETERNITY AND THE EVERYDAY

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).

PRAYER FOR ETERNITY

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.

PRAYER FOR THE EVERYDAY

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.

OUR FATHER — IN HEAVEN

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.

MAJESTIC AND MERCIFUL

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.

THE UNIQUE FIRST PETITION

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.

ONE GREAT PASSION

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.

PRAYER FOR PRESSURES AND PROBLEMS

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.

ATTACKING INDIRECTLY

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.

FEET ON THE GROUND, HEART RISING TO GOD

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.
or:
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.
or:
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.
or:
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.
or:
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.’”

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

Source http://godscareerguide.com/the-leader-who-empowers-others/

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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.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2144g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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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:
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Introduction: the birth and preparation of the Messiah (Mt 1 to 4)
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a) Sermon on the Mountain: the entrance door into the Kingdom (Mt 5 to 7)
Narrative Mt 8 and 9
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b) Discourse of the Mission: how to announce and diffuse the Kingdom (Mt 10)
Narrative Mt 11 and 12
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c) Discourse of the Parables: The mystery of the Kingdom present in life (Mt 13)
Narrative Mt 14 to 17
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d) Discourse of the Community: the new way of living together in the Kingdom (Mt    18)
Narrative 19 to 23
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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)
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• 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).
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• 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.
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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).
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• 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!
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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.
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• 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”.
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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).
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• 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).
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Personal questions
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• 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?
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Concluding Prayer
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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)
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Bishop Goh Tells Us To Constantly Seek The face of The Lord
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 JULY 2016, Wednesday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time
CONSTANTLY SEEK THE FACE OF THE LORD

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.”

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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.
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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.”

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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*
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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.
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Merciful Transformation in God — What is grace?
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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.

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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.

http://www.catholicsun.org/2015/07/20/books-christian-social-order-the-authority-of-the-churchs-teaching/

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale

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

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.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh