Posts Tagged ‘joy’

Morning Prayer for Wednesday, September 19, 2018 — With spiritual laws, you can expect your share of joy and peace, satisfaction and success

September 19, 2018

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“These things have I spoken unto you, that your joy may be full.” Even a partial realization of the spiritual life brings much joy. You feel at home in the world when you are in touch with the Divine Spirit of the universe. Spiritual experience brings a definite satisfaction. Search for the real meaning of life by following spiritual laws. God wants you to have spiritual success and He intends that you have it. If you live your life as much as possible according to spiritual laws, you can expect your share of joy and peace, satisfaction and success.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I will find happiness in doing the right thing. I pray that I will find satisfaction in obeying spiritual laws.

Related:

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 SEPTEMBER, 2018, Wednesday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time

LOVE IS THE KEY TO WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 COR 12:31-13:13LUKE 7:31-35  ]

There are many questions in life for which we seek answers.  Many of us have questions regarding their faith and the existence of God.  We wonder whether He loves us and cares for us, or even if He could help us at all.  We cannot understand why we have to suffer and why there is so much innocent and senseless suffering in the world.  We also feel powerless to do good, and even if we do, we end up doing evil and selfish things.  No matter how we search, we know that every answer is inadequate and imperfect.  This was how St Paul felt when he wrote, “When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me.  Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but them we shall be seeing face to face.  The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.”

Indeed, in this life, we can never have the full answers to the mysteries of life.  Our minds are finite and limited.  We will never be able to comprehend everything even if they are revealed to us because we do not have the capacity to understand, just like a child who does not understand why his or her parents make him or her do certain things.  When compared to the mind of God, our minds are like little children.  St Paul exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”  (Rom 11:33-36)  Like St Paul, we can only surrender in faith to the mystery of God’s plan and love for us.

It is not the answers to our intellectual questions that we ultimately need, so long as we are assured that we are safe and secure in love.  We look for answer after answer simply because we do not trust God enough to surrender our lives to Him.  In the same way, if we do not trust someone, we will always be suspicious and keep asking what he is doing or where he is. We will keep checking on that person because we are unsure of the person’s love and fidelity.  However, if we know that the person loves us above everything else and will protect us in love, then all questions and doubts will cease.  When there is an assurance of love, all the questions become secondary.  One does not need to know all about the person in order to love.  One only needs to know that the person loves us for us to entrust our life to that person.

So too, it is, in our relationship with God.  When we know that God loves us, we will stop asking all the intellectual questions about Him.  Those of us who keep doubting God and asking questions are simply saying that we do not know Him well enough to entrust our lives to Him because He might not even exist, much less that He loves us.  St Paul makes it clear, “among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”  (1 Cor 2:6f) For this reason, St Paul remarks, “there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.”  When there is love, our faith in Him is strong and our hope is certain.  Only faith, hope and love give us the grace to persevere in times of difficulties and trials.   Love pulls faith and hope together in this journey of life.  So long as there is love, we will continue to keep our faith in God or in anyone whom we love, never giving up hope in God or in anyone.

It is love that enables us to see life from the perspective of our beloved.  Love is not self-centered but always focused on the other.  “It is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish.”  Love makes us able to enter into the other person’s life. Such a love is always non-judgmental and always understanding.  Even when the person fails us, love is always patient and kind.  Indeed, St Paul says that love “does not take offence, and is not resentful.  Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.”  Love therefore is the key to enter into the heart and mind of our beloved.  Instead of judging them from our vantage point, we see them the way they look at themselves and their life.

When we lack this kind of love, then we become judgmental and inconsistent, like the religious leaders during the time of Jesus.  They were not ready to accept the love of God and His Word spoken through John the Baptist or Jesus.  They were always finding excuses and rationalizing to reject the truth spoken by them.  “For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, ‘He is possessed.’  The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”  Jesus likened them to children in the market square shouting to one another, “We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn’t dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn’t cry.”  Their wisdom was the human wisdom of the world.  It was not the wisdom that came from their love of God.

This also explains why many of us do not know how to truly love, because our love lacks trust.  For many people love is reducible to having gifts from their loved ones.  We need tangible signs for us to encounter the love of someone.  Like the Corinthians, we seek to have more and more gifts, and we think that the gifts we receive is love itself.  But it is not the gifts that we need, what we need is love itself.  Gifts are important, but they are just signs.  St Paul wrote, “But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.”

Consequently, St Paul urges us, “Be ambitious for the higher gifts.  And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.”  The only gift that can fulfill and complete us is when we have the love of God in our hearts.  Otherwise, “If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all.  If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.”   When there is love, we are always happy.  The gifts we possess are means for us to express the love in our hearts when we share them with others.  Unless the gifts come from a heart of love, they will only be used to manipulate others for our self-interests and insecurity. 

To find the greatest love in life is to find Christ.  The true wisdom is God’s love for us in Christ crucified.  This is what the Lord prophesied, “Yet wisdom has been proved right by all her children.” St Paul wrote, “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (1 Cor 1:22-24)  Christ’s love is captured in St Paul’s poem of love.  His love is unconditional and forgiving.  His love is enduring and faithful.   When we experience such love, we can surrender our lives completely to Him as St Paul did.   With the psalmist, we say, “They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Morning Prayer for Sunday, August 26, 2018

August 26, 2018

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“God we ask you to accept and bless your servant John McCain as he arrives into your arms and reports for duty.”

Thought for Today

“If we are still clinging to something that we will not let go, we must sincerely ask God to help us to be willing to let even that go, too. We cannot divide our lives into compartments and keep some for ourselves. We must give all the compartments to God. We must say: ‘My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my friends.'” Am I still clinging to something that I will not let go?

Meditation for the Day

The laws of nature cannot be changed and must be obeyed if you are to stay healthy. No exceptions will be made in your case. Submit to the laws of nature or they will finally break you. And in the realm of the spirit, in all human relationships, submit to the moral laws and to the will of God. If you continue to break the laws of honesty, purity, unselfishness, and love, you will be broken to some extent yourself. The moral and spiritual laws of God, like the laws of nature, are unbreakable without some disaster. If you are dishonest, impure, selfish, and unloving, you will not be living according to the laws of the spirit and you will suffer the consequences.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may submit to the laws of nature and to the laws of God. I pray that I may live in harmony with all the laws of life.

Related:

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

26 AUGUST, 2018, Sunday, 21st Week, Ordinary Time

FINDING COURAGE IN CHOOSING TO SERVE THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JOS 24:1-215-18PS 34:2-316-23EPH 5:21-32JN 6:60-69  ]

One of the greatest challenges in our times is the threat to the institution of marriage and the family.  How do we preserve the sacredness of marriage and the family when the current trends in the world make the unity of marriage and family life rather daunting?  In a world of individualism, the needs and happiness of the individual takes precedence over others.  The spirit of self-sacrifice is no longer attractive to the modern generation.  Such an attitude is reinforced by the loss of the future for eternity.  Today, people without faith in God live only for this world and this life, for to them there is no future, no life after death.  So no one is willing to sacrifice his present happiness for the sake of a future that is uncertain.  We want to grab all we can before we take our permanent exit from this world.  Hence, we can understand why the Church’s teachings on contraception, indissolubility of marriage, unity of marriage and marriage as between a man and woman do not hold water for the pragmatic person.

The irony of it all is that whilst most Catholics externally profess these beliefs, many do not believe in them personally nor practise them in their own lives. We wonder how many of us really believe and observe the moral teachings of the Church.  Although all are baptized in Christ, not all are followers of Christ.  Although all might claim to be Catholic, many do not subscribe to Catholic beliefs.  Many of us are nominal Catholics.  We subscribe to our own values which are often contrary to that of the Catholic Faith.  Indeed, we are selective Catholics.  We choose what we want to believe and what we like.  Those teachings that do not agree with us, we discard or just ignore.  Indeed, many of us subscribe to divorce, abortion, contraception, euthanasia, same sex union, etc.

Many of us serve two or more gods in our life.  Many even fall into syncretism, that is, a mixture of other religions, values and practices.  Those values that we agree with, we practice.  Those that we disagree with, we just dismiss as irrelevant or inconsequential.  St Augustine warns us against taking such an attitude of selective acceptance of the teachings of Christ.  He wrote, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”  Of such disciples, the evangelist remarked, “Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.”  Indeed, insiders who are traitors are worse than those without.  They are the counter witnesses of Christ.

Today, the scripture readings confront us all to make a radical decision for our Lord.  This was what Joshua told his people.  “If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living. As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.” In a similar vein, the Lord posed the same challenge to the Twelve, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”  Indeed, we are confronted with a choice, whether to accept God as our Lord, Christ as our Saviour, or the false gods of money, power and the worship of self.

One thing is certain; there is no question of compromise.  This was always the temptation of the Israelites.   Although they belonged to the God of the Covenant and accepted Him as their Lord and God, they also worshipped the pagan gods.   They wanted the best of both worlds.  Do we choose a religion based on the material benefits of power, money, riches, or because we want live in truth and love?  In fact many claim to love Christ only because they want to be rich and seek only the riches of this world.  They do not love Christ but only what He can give them, like the way the Jews sought for Jesus after they saw Him multiply the loaves and wanted to make Him king by force even.

What does it mean when we say with Joshua, “As for me and my House, we will serve the Lord.”  To serve the Lord means that we will put Him first in everything.  We will act only in accordance to His will.  To serve the Lord means to submit in obedience of faith. Indeed, St Paul urges us to render obedience to Christ, and it is within this context that he gave the analogy of the relationship between husband and wife.  What is said about marriage must be extended to our submission in obedience to the Church and those appointed by the Lord because they represent and act in the name of Christ.

As disciples of Christ, we must obey all teachings, especially those that are difficult for us to accept.  If the teachings of Christ are so logical, then faith is not needed.  Indeed, the teachings of Christ are in contradiction to the values of the world.  The beatitudes are the reversal of the attitudes of the world.  The message of forgiveness versus revenge, grace over merit, the importance of one lost sheep over many that are saved; the question of indissolubility of marriage, rejection of same sex union, poverty over riches contradict the values of the world.  In today’s gospel, the idea of taking blood was already abominable to the Jews, not to speak of eating flesh. Understandably, we read, “after hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before.”

Disobedience is always the consequence of the lack of love for those in charge of us.  If Jesus could submit in obedience to the Father, it was because He experienced His unconditional love.  He willingly died for His Father because He loved His Father and He knew that His Father loved Him more than Himself.  Even in the passion, the Father and the Son were one in the sacrifice of love when they suffered the distance between them.  Consequently, no husband can demand obedience from his wife or children unless he is acting purely from his love for them, without vested interests.  This is true for all those in authority.  Unless those in authority show that their love is free from self-interests, our subordinates will not listen to us nor respect us.  On the contrary, they will also fight for their own interests and teach others to do the same.

To accept the teachings of Christ, faith is required.  This faith is faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God. Without faith, we cannot obey and serve the Lord.  Faith goes beyond reason.  If faith is reduced to reason, then faith is not required.  Hence, Jesus told the people, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” St Peter on behalf of the Twelve likewise responded in faith to the challenge of Jesus, “What about you, do you want to go away too?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Faith is not just an assent but a personal relationship with Him.  If Joshua could command the Israelites to choose the God of Israel, it was because He had demonstrated His love for them again and again, by leading them out of Egypt through the desert into the Promised Land.  We cannot obey unless we are first drawn to His love.  This is what the Lord says, “This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.”   We must, as the psalmist says, have tasted the sweetness and love of the Lord.

Consequently if we want to find faith in Christ, we need to be in union with Him and His Church, which is His body. The Body of Christ which we receive in communion is not just Christ Himself but also a reference to the Church as the Body of Christ.  We need to be a member of the community of faith.  It means relationship with fellow Catholics and not living as if we are alone in our faith.  Unless we stand together, we will fall in the face of difficulties.   Without being involved in the lives of our Catholics, joining in fellowship, one cannot be said that he or she is a member of the Body of Christ just by receiving communion alone.  Receiving the Body of Christ is to make us one with Christ so that we can be one with the Church.

Finally, this faith is strengthened through a prayerful reading of the Word of God.  When the Word is read in faith, it brings about transformation of life.  Indeed, only a prayerful reading of scriptures, that is, reading with faith, can bring about our transformation.   We must confess our faith in Christ because He has the message of eternal life.   If Jesus is the Son of God and His message is eternal life, then we must turn to the scriptures daily to search for the truth and be led into the fullness of life by following His teaching.  Through contemplation of the Word of God, we find wisdom, inspiration and encouragement for us to remain true to our spouse, children and to the Church, the family of God.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Afternoon Meditation for Saturday, August 25, 2018 — Do You Have “Peace of Soul”?

August 25, 2018

Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote a book entitled: “Peace of Soul – Timeless Wisdom on Finding Serenity and Joy.” It is well worth reading and certainly every human being should want “peace of soul” along with serenity and joy.

This book might be helpful to some people today who want to escape from the endless discussions, objections and news stories that seem to be robbing society from what it needs most to thrive and survive: Peace, Joy and Serenity!

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Just as Peace of Soul was needed in Bishop Sheen’s day, it was much sought after throughout Christian existence.

St. Gregory Palamus (1296-1359) looked upon the Soul the way a physician might inspect a troublesome gall bladder or spleen.

“The soul is tripartite and is considered as having three fundamental powers: the intelligent, the incensive, and the appetitive.”

Thus begins part of a discussion of the Soul by St. Gregory Palamus in a letter to Rev. Nun Xenia.

St. Gregory’s letters are available to us today in The Philokalia, a mainstay of Greek Orthodox Christianity.

Incensive means “tending  to excite or provoke; inflammatory,” according to Webster’s Revised Unabridged.

Anyone can see, the provoking, inflammatory nature in a soul could easily preclude peace, joy and serenity.

St. Gregory Palamus continues his discussion this way:

“Because the soul was ill in all three powers, Christ, the soul’s Healer began his cure with the last: the appetitive. For desire unsatisfied fuels the incensive  power, and when both the appetitive and incensive powers are sick,  they produce distraction of mind. Thus the soul’s incisive power will never be healthy before the appititive power is healed; nor will the intelligence be healthy until the other two powers are first restored to health. If you examine things you will find that the first evil offspring of the appetitive power is love of material possessions.”

Everyone knows there are many scripture verses that warn us to beware of material possessions. Perhaps, “For the love of money is the root of all evil,” (1 Timothy 6:10) covers just about every possibility.

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More On Incensive Power — And Being Troubled in Spirit

The incensive power usually troubles and confuses the soul more than any other passion, yet there are times when it greatly benefits the soul.

For when with inward calm we direct it against blasphemers or other sinners in order to induce them to mend their ways or at least feel some shame, we make our soul more gentle.

In this way we put ourselves completely in harmony with the purposes of God’s justice and goodness. In addition, through becoming deeply angered by sin we often overcome weaknesses in our soul.

Thus there is no doubt that if, when deeply depressed, we become indignant in spirit against the demon of corruption, this gives us the strength to despise even the presumptuousness of death. In order to make this clear, the Lord twice became indignant against death and troubled in spirit (John 12:27, 13:21); and despite the fact that, untroubled, He could by a simple act of will do all that He wished, none the less when He restored Lazarus’ soul to his body He was indignant and troubled in spirit (John 11:33) – which seems to me to show that a controlled incensive power is a weapon implanted in our nature by God when He creates us.

If Eve had used this weapon against the serpent, she would not have been impelled by sensual desire. In my view, then, the man who in a spirit of devotion makes controlled use of his incensive power will without doubt be judged more favorably than the man who, because of the inertness of his intellect, has never become incensed.

The latter seems to have an inexperienced driver in charge of his emotions, while the former, always ready for action, drives the horses of virtue through the midst of the demonic host, guiding the four-horsed chariot of self-control in the fear of God. This chariot is called ‘the chariot of Israel’ in the description of the taking up of the prophet Elijah (2 Kgs. 2:12); for God spoke clearly about the four cardinal virtues first of all to the Jews. This is precisely why Elijah ascended in a fiery chariot, guiding his own virtues as horses, when he was carried up by the Spirit in a gust of fire.

http://thecatholicreader.blogspot.com/2013/06/on-incensive-power.html

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Some Bible Verses On Virtue

(Virtues must have some significance since they sure come up a lot!)

2 Peter 1:5

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,

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Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

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2 Peter 1:5-8

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Ephesians 4:2

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

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Proverbs 10:9

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

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Proverbs 31:11-20

The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. …

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Matthew 7:1-2

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

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Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

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Colossians 3:13

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

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Matthew 22:36-39

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

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Hebrews 10:30

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”

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Matthew 18:15-17

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

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James 5:12

But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

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2 Corinthians 5:17-6:2

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. …

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Romans 14:10-13

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

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Acts 2:38

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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Galatians 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

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Proverbs 1:1-33

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, …

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1 John 4:1

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

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Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

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Galatians 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

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2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

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John 8:44

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

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Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

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Isaiah 1:1-31

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. …

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Proverbs 31:10

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.

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1 Peter 1:15-16

But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

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John 3:16-17

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

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Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. …

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Isaiah 58:11

And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

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Philippians 1:1-30

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. …

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Romans 14:1

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

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2 Timothy 3:2-4

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

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Mark 5:30

And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”

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Job 31:1

“I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?

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Deuteronomy 6:6-9

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

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Revelation 21:8

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

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https://www.openbible.info/topics/virtue

Morning Prayer For Saturday, June 23, 2018 — Constant Contact with God — Where your treasure is; there will your heart also

June 23, 2018

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And how long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
Turn back at my reproof
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.

Proverbs 1:22-23

(Don’t get Stuck on Stupid)

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Do not be focused on yourself

No chain is stronger than its weakest link. Likewise, if you fail in the
day-by-day program, in all probability it will be your weakest point.
Great faith and constant contact with God’s power can help you
discover, guard, and undergird your weakest point with a strength not
your own. Intelligent faith in God’s power can be counted on to help
you master your emotions, help you to think kindly of others, and help
you with any task that you undertake, no matter how difficult. Am I
master of my emotions?

Meditation For The Day

You need to be constantly recharged by the power of the spirit of
God. Continue with God in quiet times until the life from God, the
Divine life, by that very contact, flows into your being and revises your
fainting spirit. When weary, take time out and rest. Rest and gain
power and strength from God, and then you will be ready to meet
whatever opportunities come your way. Rest until every care and
worry and fear have gone and then the tide of peace and serenity, love
and joy, will flow into your consciousness.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may rest and become recharged. I pray that I may pause
and wait for the renewing of my strength.

From the book “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

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“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”

How often we get weary of praying when God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to answer them!  How slow we are to recognize that God knows better than we what is truly good for us!  How difficult it is to remain praying for what we think is right when nothing good seems to happen to us and when we sense that God has abandoned us!

God never abandons any of us but instead is always with us, seeking to form us as wonderful and loving human beings who have the strength to do what is right and good.  To form anyone requires that we learn how to persevere, how to keep going in the midst of any difficulties, how to accept that if we persevere and keep trying, eventually we see the hand of God present and his loving presence beside us.

My sisters and brothers, let us not be spoiled children who only want our own desires!  Let us grow into women and men who are strong and seek only what God wants and who are willing to suffer for the love of God and the love of others.

Pour Yourself Out:

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Book: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade.

 

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Mass For Saturday:

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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23 JUNE, 2018, Saturday, 11th Week, Ordinary Time

SLAVE OF GOD OR OF MAMMON?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 CH 24:17-25MT 6:24-34 ]

In the gospel yesterday, Jesus made it clear that “where your treasure is, there will your heart also.”  So today, we are confronted with a decision to choose God or Mammon. This is the crux of today’s Word of God, “No one can be the slave to two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.  You cannot be the slave both of God and money.”   What we choose in life will determine our happiness because our focus is dependent on what motivates us in life.  If God is whom we choose, we put God as the center of our life in all that we do or say.  If Mammon is what we choose, then it becomes the controlling factor in all our thoughts, words and actions.  So what is driving us each day in life?

In the first place, we must clarify what it means to be a slave.  The first thing we take note is that a slave is the property of the master.  He lives entirely for the master.  His whole life, all his energy and talents are at the service of the master.  All that he owns belongs to the master, his time and his whole life.  He claims nothing for his own.  The corollary of this also means that he lives from the master.  His life is dependent on the master since he lives for his master.  Since he has nothing that he could claim as his own, the master is the one who looks after him and cares for him since he is serving him.  Otherwise, the slave would be too weak to serve the master and take care of his needs.  So there is this mutual relationship of loyalty and fidelity to each other.  If the master does not treat his servant well, he will suffer ultimately.

Analogously, in our relationship with God, He is our master and we are His servants.  If we consider God as the treasure of our lives, then we would live for Him and Him alone.  He is the sole determinant in whatever we do or say.  This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness.”   This entails living for God and His kingdom of justice, love, mercy and compassion.   When we put God and His kingdom values in our lives, then all our energy, talents and resources, all our will and devotion is to make these values of the kingdom prevalent in the world.  In this way, we live for God and for the service of humanity.

All that we have belong to God and therefore our possessions and wealth are only means, not the ends.  They are used for the glory of God and the extension of His reign of love and justice.  Like the birds in the sky or the flowers in the field, we are called to glorify God with our lives.  Our attitude towards things of the world is to use them for the service of love of God and of our fellowmen.  Money and possessions are not used solely for ourselves or just for our selfish enjoyment but we see ourselves as stewards of God’s gifts to be distributed and shared with others.  Our position in society, our health, our wealth, they are all to be used to further the reign of God’s love.

But it also means that we will also live from God alone.  Since everything belongs to Him, we are aligned with His will.  We will do what He wants and not what we want.  We take whatever the Lord has given to us for others.  We accept whatever He gives us without demanding more than we need to serve the plan of God.  If God does not bless us with certain gifts, wealth or position, it is simply because we are not required to serve in that area.  When we endeavor to do God’s will rather than ours, then we will not fall into the sin of pride, envy and greed.  We will live a full life, doing as much as we can in whichever situation we are in, because we are serving our master.  At the same time, we do not crave for things that we do not need for the service of love.  In this way, we live a contented life, free from fear and worry about tomorrow because we know that God will take care of us since we live for Him.

Conversely, when a person lives for Mammon and entrusts his life to the pursuits of this world, regardless whether it is wealth, money or status, then his entire focus is about the world.  The world controls his direction in life.  Like a slave, he lives for money, power and glory.   Whatever he does, it is to increase his wealth, power and glory.  These are the things that matter most.  People are subordinated to this goal.  He will make use of people and often put his family and loved ones second to his worldly pursuits.  Everything is measured in terms of worldly success and gains.  He would even use unscrupulous and unethical means to enrich himself.   All his time and energy is for his ambition and selfish wants.

Such a person lives for himself.  He is focused on himself, his needs, his desires and aspirations.  Because he lives only for himself and can only depend on himself, he lives a life of insecurity.  He is always worried about tomorrow because life is unpredictable.  He wants his will to prevail and his goals to be realized.  But the truth is that one can fall sick and even die, the economy can suddenly collapse; a tragedy could strike anytime and anyplace.  So he lives in fear and worries even as he accumulates more and more; and grows to be more powerful and influential.  Yet, he knows that these things will soon pass and that makes him insecure and fearful that it is a matter of time when he will lose everything that he has.

This was the mistake of King Joash.  He started well as a young king guided and mentored by Johoiada, the high priest who restored the Temple of Jerusalem by removing Queen Athaliah.   When the Temple was restored, the country was also restored to order.  When God is worshipped and loved, then we find our bearings in life because everything is seen in the perspective of the love of God and of our fellowmen.  However, the tragedy of life is that riches and wealth often blind us to the truth.  As the country became prosperous, Joash and his leaders again forgot about Yahweh.  They fell into decadence and allowed idolatry, the worship of false gods and superstitious practices to come into their lives.

When we are consumed by our desires and when God is no longer the center of all that we live for, then we can no longer even hear the truth proclaimed by the prophets.  This was the reaction of King Joash to the prophet, Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest.  He forgot completely what his father did for him in helping him to regain the throne from the wicked Queen.  Yet for all that he did for him in his glory, he dismissed the warning of Zechariah.  Instead of being grateful, he had him killed.   As a consequence, the country deteriorated.  Eventually, he was conquered by the Aramean army and was murdered by his own officials.  He got his just desserts for the sins he committed.   God sends prophets to save us from our sins and destruction.  And even when He allows us to suffer for our sins, it is never out of vindictiveness or revenge but to awaken us to the truth about our selfish pursuits and the more important things of life.   If we do not pay heed to His warnings, we too will suffer the same fate.

So, we are called to make a decision today, whether we want to serve God or Mammon.  If we choose God and make Him the center of our lives, we do not have to live in fear for His will is our peace.  By surrendering our lives to Him, we can live in peace and give ourselves entirely to what we do and choose to be happy and fulfilled in any circumstance we are in.  We can be confident that He will look after us as history has shown.  Somehow, we will manage and survive in life.  When we look at our past, the Lord has shown in many situations that He is the Lord of our lives.  “Now if that is how God clothes the grass in the field which is there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you men of little faith?”  So we live in faith and trust in the Lord each day, without having to worry about tomorrow.  As Jesus said, “Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing!”  If we choose Mammon, that is, to put our trust in worldly things and in ourselves, then the consequence is that we live in perpetual fear and worry because there is no peace in our hearts.  We will always be seeking to fulfill our will.

But the real tragedy for us is not that we choose God or mammon but we want both.  The truth is that no one can serve two masters.  In trying to serve both masters, we end up confused and fickle minded.  One day, we serve God and another day, we serve Mammon.  As such, our lives are lived like a yo-yo, swinging up and down, left and right because we lack focus.  We fall into sin and then get out of sin. This explains why those of us who apparently choose God but not definitively or totally, continue to live in tension, in fear, in worry and lacking peace and joy in our lives.   So the choice is really ours.  The kingdom of God, the reign of His love and peace is ours if we choose to serve Him and make Him the center of our lives.  If we choose Mammon, the world and ourselves, then be ready for the consequences.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 20, 2018 — Pentecost Sunday — “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

May 19, 2018

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Pentecost Sunday – Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 63

Reading 1  ACTS 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

R. (cf. 30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
the earth is full of your creatures;
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD be glad in his works!
Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 COR 12:3B-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.or

 GAL 5:16-25

Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.

Sequence

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Alleluia.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”or

 JN 15:26-27; 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”

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Reflection from the Monastery of Crist in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Holy Spirit!  So often we have very little understanding of the Holy Spirit in our lives, even though that Spirit is always with us and always seeking to draw us into the love of God!  We need to ask that Spirit to be present right now:  Come, Holy Spirit!

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles and describes upon them.  Many of us have never had an experience such as we find in this account.  On the other hand, many of us have had experiences that are different from this but also are experiences of the Spirit.  Many of us have felt truly moved by some religious experience.  Perhaps we have been walking near a Church and have felt some tug in the heart to enter and say prayers.  Perhaps we have heard some terrible news and our hearts have turned to the Lord.  Possibly someone has asked us about our faith and in trying to describe our faith we have felt something new.

There are so many ways in which the Spirit is present in our lives.  Perhaps we have found ourselves in a really difficult situation and have asked the Lord for help—and it all turned out well for us. Or maybe we were in a situation of danger and asked the Lord’s protection, and we emerged safely.

The challenge is to reconcile these experiences with the other experiences that we have when we seem far from God, when we ask help from God and nothing good seems to happen.  We humans often want an all-powerful God who will always do what we ask of Him!  God is not that way. Nevertheless we need to take time to meditate on the positive experiences that we have been given.

Today we have two options for the second reading.  In the option which is from the First Letter to the Corinthians, we find Saint Paul teaching us about the role of the Holy Spirit.  No one can truly proclaim that Jesus is Lord except with the power of the Holy Spirit.  All of us today should say and proclaim:  “Jesus is Lord.”  This is a simple test of the Spirit’s presence.  We have to say that Jesus is Lord with conviction, however, and not just with words.  It is the Spirit that gives all the gifts in the Church because we are all one body in Jesus Christ, in His Church.

The second option for the second reading is from the Letter to the Galatians.  In this section of the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul contrasts the values of a life in the Spirit and those of a life without the Spirit.  It is a sobering comparison, especially in our day when so many choose to live with the values which indicate a life without the Spirit.

This is the comparison that Saint Paul gives to us:  “immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.”

There are two options for the Gospel today as well.  The first is from the Gospel of Saint John, Chapter 20.  Here Saint John records the appearance of Jesus to His disciples after His Resurrection.  Jesus gives them the Holy Spirit and this gift of the Holy Spirit is completely related to the forgiveness of sin.  We should realize that when we really love another and when we forgive another, we are sharing in the Holy Spirit.

The second option for the Gospel is from the 15th Chapter of the Gospel of Saint John and teaches us that the Spirit will guide us in truth.  If we choose to ask the Holy Spirit, even now, that Spirit will show us the way of Jesus our Lord.

May this Holy Spirit come upon us today, guiding us in love, truth and forgiveness.  May this Holy Spirit give us unity in the Church and faithfulness in preaching the Gospel.  May this Holy Spirit guide us in the path of right living and away from the values of this world.  Amen.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/2018/05/easter-pentecost-cycle-b-2018/

The fruits of the Holy Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is the simplified version according to the Abbot’s sermon in 2015.

Related:

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The only thing we need to allow us to find the Holy Spirit is to SEARCH. Our search requires an open mind and prayer. Pope John Paul II said one time, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” We all need to energize our lives with Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit. We start by wanting more out of life….

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The seven gifts of Holy Spirit

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, these gifts “…complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.”[19]

  • Wisdom is considered the first and the greatest of the gifts. It acts upon both the intellect and the will. According to St. Bernard, it both illumines the mind and instills an attraction to the divine. Adolphe Tanquerey OP explained the difference between the gift of wisdom and that of understanding, “…the latter is a view taken by the mind, while the former is an experience undergone by the heart; one is light, the other love, and so they unite and complete one another.”[20] Wisdom is the perfection of the theological virtue of charity;
  • Understanding is a perceptive intuition which illuminates the mind to grasp the truths of faith. It does not involve a comprehensive understanding of the mysteries of faith, but helps a person understand that these mysteries are credible; compatible with and related to each other; and not unreasonable. The gift of understanding perfects the theological virtue of faith.[21]
  • Counsel functions as a sort of supernatural intuition, to enable a person to judge promptly and rightly, especially in difficult situations. It perfects the cardinal virtue of prudence. While prudence operates in accord with reason as enlightened by faith, the gift of counsel operates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the will of God.[22]
  • Fortitude is often identified with courage, but Aquinas takes its meaning to also encompass endurance. Joseph J. Rickaby describes it as a willingness to stand up for what is right in the sight of God, even if it means accepting rejection, verbal abuse, or physical harm. The gift of fortitude allows people the firmness of mind that is required both in doing good and in enduring evil.[23] It is the perfection of the cardinal virtue of the same name.
  • Knowledge: The gift of knowledge allows one, as far as is humanly possible, to see things from God’s perspective. It “allows us to perceive the greatness of God and his love for his creatures” through creation.[24]
  • Piety accords with reverence. A person with reverence recognizes his total reliance on God and comes before God with humility, trust, and love. Thomas Aquinas says that piety perfects the virtue of religion, which is an aspect of the virtue of justice, in that it accords to God that which is due him.[25] In a series of talks on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis said that piety is a recognition of “…our belonging to God, our deep bond with him, a relationship that gives meaning to our whole life and keeps us resolute, in communion with him, even during the most difficult and troubled moments”.[26] “Piety is not mere outward religiosity; it is that genuine religious spirit which makes us turn to the Father as his children and to grow in our love for others, seeing them as our brothers and sisters,…”[27]
  • Fear of the Lord is akin to wonder (or awe): With the gift of fear of the Lord, one is made aware of the glory and majesty of God. At a June 2014 general audience Pope Francis said that it “is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace”.[28] A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all one desires. This gift is described by Aquinas as a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a “filial fear,” like a child’s fear of offending his father, rather than a “servile fear,” that is, a fear of punishment. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the perfection of the theological virtue of hope.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_gifts_of_the_Holy_Spirit

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Pope Francis’ Pentecost Homily and Regina Coeli Address

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May 24, 2015

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Pentecost

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“The gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth”

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Pope Francis against the backdrop of St Peter’s Basilica and dressed in scarlet vestments, celebrated Mass on Pentecost Sunday. In his homily, the Holy Father began by focusing on Sunday’s readings saying that, “the word of God, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit. Expanding on this theme of the Spirit, Pope Francis said that, in the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all the truth. Indeed he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”.
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Today’s world Pope Francis stressed, “needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit, he said, means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin.  There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit, the Pope continued, “by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.” He underlined that the gift of the Holy Spirit “has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.”
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The Holy Father explained to those gathered that, “the gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth”.  The Holy Spirit, he went on to say, “whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same.” Therefore, the Pope said, respect for creation, is a requirement of our faith and the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, he added, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that strengthened by the Spirit and his many gifts, we would be able uncompromisingly to battle against sin and corruption, devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.
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Below is the Vatican’s English translation the Pope’s homily on Pentecost Sunday

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“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you…  Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22).  The gift of the Spirit on the evening of the Resurrection took place once again on the day of Pentecost, intensified this time by extraordinary outward signs.  On the evening of Easter, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and breathed on them his Spirit (cf. Jn 20:22); on the morning of Pentecost the outpouring occurred in a resounding way, like a wind which shook the place the Apostles were in, filling their minds and hearts. They received a new strength so great that they were able to proclaim Christ’s Resurrection in different languages: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).  Together with them was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first disciple and the Mother of the nascent Church. With her peace and her smile, she accompanied the joyful young Bride, the Church of Jesus.
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The word of God, especially in today’s readings, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit: he guides us into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), he renews the face of the earth (Ps 103:30), and he gives us his fruits (cf. Gal 5:22-23).
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In the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13).  Indeed he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth,” and explains to his disciples that the Spirit will bring them to understand ever more clearly what he, the Messiah, has said and done, especially in regard to his death and resurrection.  To the Apostles, who could not bear the scandal of their Master’s sufferings, the Spirit would give a new understanding of the truth and beauty of that saving event.  At first they were paralyzed with fear, shut in the Upper Room to avoid the aftermath of Good Friday.  Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples; they would no longer tremble before the courts of men.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand “all the truth”: that the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the Resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the Living One, the Lord, the Redeemer of mankind, of history and of the world. This truth, to which the Apostles were witnesses, became Good News, to be proclaimed to all.
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The gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth.  The Psalmist says: “You send forth your Spirit… and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30). The account of the birth of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles is significantly linked to this Psalm, which is a great hymn of praise to God the Creator. The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same.  Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15). Yet this is possible only if Adam – the man formed from the earth – allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, only if he allows himself to be re-formed by the Father on the model of Christ, the new Adam.  In this way, renewed by the Spirit of God, we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of the sons and daughters, in harmony with all creation. In every creature we will be able to see reflected the glory of the Creator, as another Psalm says: “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!” (Ps 8:2, 10).
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In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul wants to show the “fruits” manifested in the lives of those who walk in the way of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22).  On the one hand, he presents “the flesh”, with its list of attendant vices: the works of selfish people closed to God.  On the other hand, there are those who by faith allow the Spirit of God to break into their lives.  In them, God’s gifts blossom, summed up in nine joyful virtues which Paul calls “fruits of the Spirit”.  Hence his appeal, at the start and the end of the reading, as a programme for life: “Walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:6, 25).
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The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit.  Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin.  There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.  The world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers.  The world needs the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).  The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.  Strengthened by the Spirit and his many gifts, may we be able uncompromisingly to battle against sin and corruption, devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.

Holy Spirit

Regina Coeli Address – Pentecost Sunday

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Following Mass on this Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis at the Regina Coeli expressed serious concerned over the plight of migrants in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman sea in Southeast Asia. More than 3,600 people, around half of them from Bangladesh and the others, minority Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, have come ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand since May 10. But thousands more are reported to be trapped at sea in desperate conditions.
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The Holy Father spoke of his appreciation for the efforts being made by those countries that have expressed a willingness to welcome those people who are facing great suffering and danger. He also encouraged the international community to provide them with the necessary humanitarian assistance.
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Pope Francis, after the recitation of the Regina Coeli also recalled Sunday, the one hundreth anniversary of Italy’s entry into World War I, describing the conflict as “useless slaughter”. He prayed for the victims, asking the Holy Spirit for the gift of peace. The Pope then recalled Saturday’s Beatification’s of an Archbishop and Nun in El Salvador and Kenya.
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Firstly, he remembered Archbishop Oscar Romero, of San Salvador, killed in hatred of the faith while celebrating the Eucharist. This zealous pastor, he said  an example of Jesus, chose to be among his people, especially the poor and the oppressed, even at the cost of his life. He also remembered, Italian nun, Sister Irene Stefani, of the Consolata Missionaries, who served the Kenyan people, he said,  with joy, mercy and tender compassion.
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The Pope underlined that the heroic example of these blesseds inspire in each of us the fervent desire to be witnesses to the Gospel with courage and self-sacrifice.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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04 JUNE, 2017, Sunday, Pentecost
UNIVERSALITY AND BREATH OF THE GOSPEL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:1-111 COR 12:3-7,12-13JOHN 20:19-23 ]

Today, there is so much talk of inclusivity.  In itself, it is the right step towards promoting unity and cohesiveness among all peoples.   In the heart of every human person, there is this built-in desire for unity and communion.  It is in our DNA.  No man is an island.  We are created for love and the expression of love is unity.  Only when there is love and unity, can there be world peace.

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, we are invited to promote unity and peace in the world through an authentic love for all of humanity.  If the Christian gospel is called the “Good News”, it must be good news for all, regardless of language, race and religion. The Risen Lord comes to give us peace so that we can be messengers of peace.  “He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. ‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’” 

Peace, however, cannot be attained by violence, war, guns, weapons and technology.  This is the perennial mistake of humanity. Indeed, the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of the reversal of Babel.  Those of us who are familiar with this story in Genesis 11, where we read that when humanity cuts itself off from God and its reliance on Him, depends only on itself, technology, science and reason, like those who sought to build the tower without God’s help, it will bring about further division.

Humanity can only be united firstly when there is a real communion between God and man and among men.  It is significant that the first reading talks about the miracle of the gift of tongues.  “Something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.”  The gift of tongues enables us first and foremost to communicate with God and with our fellowmen.

What is this gift of tongues? In the first place, it refers to what most of us are familiar with, especially those in the charismatic renewal, which we call praying in tongues.  In glossolalia, the person that is being addressed is God Himself. This language however is made up of utterances of meaningless syllables, unintelligible to the speaker.   It was widely practiced in the early Church till the 4th century by both clergy and laity.  In our times, because of the charismatic renewal, this use of glossolalia is once again practiced.  It is called the language of the angels or a language of the spirit.  It is used as a form of deep contemplative prayer to the Lord.

Indeed, whether we exercise the gift of glossolalia in prayer or not, it remains the essential truth that we all need to communicate with God.   A radical religious experience like receiving the gift of tongues is inexplicable and beyond description. All of us in the depths of our heart remains incomplete unless we are in union with God.  As St Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God!’  So regardless whether we are believers or not, Christian or of other religions, we all need to encounter God deeply and intimately.  There is this deep thirst in our soul for the ultimate, otherwise we remain incomplete and restless.

At the same time, this religious experience underscores the essence of this truth that without a real encounter with the Lord, there can be no real transformation in our lives.  The apostles, upon receiving the Holy Spirit, were transformed from fearful and timid people to bold witnesses for the Lord.  in the final analysis, it is our religious experience of God that will determine how we worship Him and how we share our experiences with others. At the end of the day, conversion is not a matter of intellectual conviction alone, but it is rooted in a radical experience of the Sacred.  This explains why St Paul declared, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.” The work of conversion is not the work of man, neither by force or pressure, but ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit who touches the hearts of man.  So if a person comes to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, it is because of the gift of the Spirit.

There is yet another aspect of the gift of tongues.  This is the gift of prophecy.  It remains true that the gift of prophecy is given to the universal Church and for humanity.  God raises people within and without the Church to address humanity and the world on issues that affect society and the world at large.  Today, we still need prophets to speak courageously on the trends in the world.  More than ever, we need strong, courageous, wise, foresighted statesman and religious leaders to proclaim the truth to the rest of humanity.   The tragic situation in the world today is that leaders are afraid to speak the truth lest others get offended.

In the final analysis, the only language is love.  This is the only tongue that is truly universal.  We need to pray for a renewal of love in our hearts for God and for humanity.  The gift of tongues, symbolized by the tongues of fire, is a call to reignite the love of God in our hearts.  Unless we are filled with the Spirit of Christ’s love, we cannot go out to the world and renew the face of the earth.  Love is the beginning and basis of mission.  Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.”  It is the love of the Father for humanity that He sent Jesus, His only Son, for the salvation of the world.

It is this same Spirit of love that raised Jesus from the dead that urges us to bring reconciliation to the world, for that is what the Lord commanded the disciples to do.  “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’”  Forgiveness and compassion is the way forward for reconciliation.  The Good News is that our sins are forgiven.  We do not have to live in fear and guilt like the apostles hidden in the Upper Room.  Jesus the Risen Lord came to them and offered them peace through forgiveness of their sins. The Lord wants to liberate us from our guilt and self-hatred so that we in turn can be His messengers of peace to others, freeing them from their guilt and fears and healing their wounds.

Finally, it is the same Spirit of love that invites us to appreciate and recognize the gifts of the Spirit in others even when they are not of the same faith.  We cannot be narrow minded.  St Paul reminds us that “there is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.”  So we should recognize and appreciate what others are doing, whether they are faith believers or otherwise.  So long as they teach the values of peace, love, joy, kindness and generosity, they too are working from the same Spirit.   Who is not against us is for us.  Indeed, St Paul reminds us that we are ultimately one body in Christ, one family of God, whether we recognize it or not, all have been given the one Spirit to drink.

So let us be promoters of dialogue and reconciliation wherever we are, at home, in church, in the office and in society.   Let us encourage each other in doing good regardless of race, language and religion.  Let us build bridges, not barriers!  This is what it means to carry out the mission of Christ in building a world of unity, love and peace.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 15, 2017 — The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face

October 14, 2017

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 142

Misha Levin (Russian b1986) “The Prophet Isaiah” Oil on Canvas

The Prophet Isaiah by Misha Levin (Russia)

Reading 1 IS 25:6-10A

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
the web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from every face;
the reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.
On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup

 

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R. (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Reading 2 PHIL 4:12-14, 19-20

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.

AlleluiaCF. EPH 1:17-18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
so that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to our call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 22:1-14

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.
But when the king came in to meet the guests,
he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
But he was reduced to silence.
Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
and cast him into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

Or MT 22:1-10

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people
in parables, saying,
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He dispatched his servants
to summon the invited guests to the feast,
but they refused to come.
A second time he sent other servants, saying,
‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
and everything is ready; come to the feast.”‘
Some ignored the invitation and went away,
one to his farm, another to his business.
The rest laid hold of his servants,
mistreated them, and killed them.
The king was enraged and sent his troops,
destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
Go out, therefore, into the main roads
and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
The servants went out into the streets
and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
and the hall was filled with guests.”

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Image result for Monastery of Christ in the Desert, photos

From The Abbot

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Banquets and parties—and yet the invited don’t show up.  Today’s readings are about God’s invitation to you and to me.  Will we answer his invitation?

The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah.  The Prophet tells us that God will provide a banquet for all peoples.  Everyone is invited.  God wants all to be saved.  God will destroy death forever.  All will rejoice that God has saved us.

This is a strong message because so many in our world do not want salvation for everyone nor even do many people want good things for everyone.  There is enormous competition in our world—and so many, perhaps even ourselves, want to be ahead of others.  Such desires destroy our humanity.  We can strive to be the very best person that we can be—but never in competition with another.  We can strive to serve others to the best of our ability—but not by competing with others.  God wants us all to be saved and that should always be our prayer for our sisters and brothers.  May they be the person that God has created them to be:  and if they are better than we, so be it.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Philippians.  Here Saint Paul is teaching us:  “I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance.”  The challenge is for us to live the same way.  Whether we have power and might and money or whether we have nothing, we must know how to live for God’s glory and not for our own purposes.

Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew brings us back to banquets!  Now the King, God Himself, is giving a banquet and those invited don’t come to the banquet.  Jesus uses this image as an image of the Kingdom of God.  We are all invited!  Are we going to respond to the invitation of Jesus?  God wants us.  God also invites us to live in a way given to us by Jesus Himself.  So many people today no longer believe that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is God, that Jesus is Savior.

When we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, God and Savior, then we can understand how important it is to respond to His invitation and to live as He has shown us:  love for all others, sacrifice of ourselves for the sake of others, trying to give our lives completely to the Lord through the service of others.

Just as in today’s Gospel, God will not force us.  Jesus accepts our freedom to reject Him and His invitation to the banquet of the Kingdom.  Even though Jesus is God and Lord, He will never compel us against our own choices.  So we are left in the end with our own choice:  I don’t have to be perfect.  I don’t have to do everything right.  I can make mistakes.

At the center of my heart there is only question:  Am I seeking to follow the Lord Jesus?

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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15 OCTOBER, 2017, Sunday, 28th Week, Ordinary Time
GOD’S GRACE IS A GIFT AND A RESPONSIBILITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 25:6-10PHIL 4:12-14,19-20MATT 22:1-14 (OR ><22:1-10) ]

In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of the great vision of God for humanity  where “the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.”  Indeed, paradise or heaven is always described as a banquet.  In the gospel, the same imagery is used with regard to God’s invitation to all men and women, Jews and Gentiles, to come to share in His heavenly banquet.  The Lord has this banquet all prepared and is waiting for us to respond to His invitation.

Why is a banquet an appropriate imagery of heaven?  When there is food, there is pleasure and joy.  It is a fact that our body needs food and pleasure to be in good health. But the joy of a meal is more than just eating delicious food; we need to have good company.  Food is for the body but the company is for the soul.  It is in sharing, laughing and celebrating that we experience the love of God in our community.  What more when this banquet is a wedding banquet which is truly a celebration of love.  This is why the summit of Catholic worship is the celebration of the Eucharist, which is an anticipation of heaven.  Every Eucharist is a celebration of our wedding feast with the bridegroom, our Lord Jesus Christ.   This is what the psalmist prays, “You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes.”

So right from the outset, this dream of God for humanity is a wonderful dream.  Heaven on earth and in heaven is a beautiful place to be in.  This concept of heaven should dispel all the false notions that to be a Catholic is to lose our joy in life.  There are many who paint the Catholic Faith as a gloomy religion; that it is all about laws, fasting, doing penance, making sacrifices, dying and being at a disadvantage.   No wonder, such bad news attract few to join the Church.   To be a Christian is to find life to the fullest, for Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (Jn 10:10)

Rather, the Good News that Jesus comes to offer is the Good News of life, love and joy.  It is the Good News that all will have a share in the life and love of God.  There will be enough food for all and abundantly, if only the world is willing to share the resources they have with everyone.  Unfortunately, 1% of the rich owns half of the world’s resources and the richest own 87% of the world’s wealth.  This is the result of global inequality due to selfishness and irresponsibility.  But in the vision of a heavenly banquet, when everyone lives a responsible life, contributing their best and sharing their resources with others as a community of love, then there will be joy and peace for all.   As the prophet Isaiah said, “On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations, he will destroy Death for ever.”

For this reason, the Good News that Jesus came to offer us is given to all.  Regardless of whether we are Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, influential or marginalized, all are invited to this banquet of love, joy and sharing.  In the gospel, Jesus told us the parable of the Wedding Banquet.  The King firstly invited the Israelites and the Jews to the banquet.  The king was still gracious when they did not come the first time, “he sent some more servants. ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.’”

However, we read that they rejected the prophets who invited them on behalf of God to the Mountain of Jerusalem.   “But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them.”  Most of all, they rejected the king’s son, that is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.   This is the tragedy of grace being rejected.  And many of us are just like the Jews as well. The truth is that the rejection of grace often need not be a blatant rejection but a preference for evil over goodness, immorality over morality.  Such people certainly deserve condemnation and punishment, just like those who killed the prophets.   We read that “the king was furious. He dispatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town.”  This note by the evangelist was made because Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 because the people did not repent by being humble and submissive. Their arrogance and rebelliousness caused the Roman authorities to overthrow the country.

But for most people, when they are invited to come to the banquet and the house of God, they appear to have valid excuses.  Most people belong to this category.  We read that “one went off to his farm, another to his business.”  Indeed, many of us are preoccupied with other responsibilities.  We are concerned about our jobs and our loved ones.  We have to look after them, the young and the elderly.  We have to be responsible in our job.  Some of us are busy tending to our business as many workers depend on us to provide them an earning.  The tragedy is that these people are short-sighted.  They think that by just giving their energy and focus to their responsibilities, they can be successful and be happy.  They fail to see the bigger picture of life, which is God, friends and the invitation to love and serve and belong to the family of God.  It is this family that could give them the support and encouragement they need, rather than just going on alone.  Most of all, although we are concerned about earthly responsibilities and temporal affairs, we must not lose sight of the eternal values of life, which is love, sharing, caring, fellowship with God and with our brothers and sisters.  Life is more than just work and making money.  It is fellowship and communion with each other.

For those of us who are regular Church goers, the tragedy does not lie in the fact that we did not receive the invitation of God to come to the wedding feast.  Indeed, we are here like those who were called from the wayside.  “’The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the cross-roads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.’ So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”  We are the fortunate ones who have been invited purely out of the grace of God.  We are invited to the banquet not because of merit, status or position.  It is purely by the grace of God that we have come to know Jesus as the Saviour and Lord.

The real tragedy lies in the fact that we come to the wedding feast without the wedding garment.  This garment has been given to us at our baptism.  In other words, we have been given the necessary graces to enter heaven to celebrate the Wedding feast.  In those days, the wedding gown was provided for the guests.  Hence, there was no excuse for the man to come to the Wedding without the Wedding garment. This explains why the man was silent when the King said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?”  He was irresponsible and callous, showing disrespect for his host and guests.

We too must also ask ourselves whether we have kept the baptismal garment given to us free from stain and that we put it on every day in our lives.  To put on the baptismal garment means to put on Christ in our attitudes, thoughts and actions.   The truth is that many of us are careless and irresponsible in our faith.  We do not take the time to pray, to read the Word of God before every mass we celebrate.   We do not treasure the sacraments of healing that the Church gives to us, especially the Eucharist and reconciliation.  We neglect the sacraments.  We fail to give Him worship on Sundays or make time to be with the Lord daily.

Indeed, if we are Catholic, we cannot carry on living a life of the world, a life of immorality and selfishness.  We cannot go on living as if we have never met Christ or received His gospel.  Our lives must be different from the rest of humanity. The gift of grace entails a corresponding responsibility. The Lord welcomes sinners into His kingdom but when we enter, we must put on Christ and become saints.  Otherwise, we would have received the grace of God in vain.

The consequence of rejecting the grace of God or not receiving it responsibly is not so much the punishment of God but the deprivation of joy in our lives.  “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’”   It is not God who throws us out of the wedding banquet but we deprive ourselves of of the joy of sharing in the wedding banquet.  We will fail to realize ourselves and the joy of love.

That was how St Paul lived his life after knowing Christ.   He was indifferent to being poor or rich.  He said, “I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty.”   For St Paul, life is more than having riches and plenty of food.   Richness in life is when we learn to trust God completely and learn to care for each other.  “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 29, 2017 — “They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them….”

March 28, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 246

I bless the Lord:  O Lord my God, how great you are!  You are robed with honor and majesty and light!

Reading 1 IS 49:8-15

Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18

R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.
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 gracious and merciful.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 11:25A, 26

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

Gospel JN 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

The counterintuitive propositions of the Gospels.

Society tells us: be strong. Seek money. Show off your skills. Rise to the top.

Jesus tells us: be humble. Become totally dependent upon the father. Seek out and do service for the marginalized.

Embraces all his creatures.

Eat my body. Drink my blood.

Can we follow him? Can we imitate him? There is little in the way of reward here on earth…..

Do not be afraid…

The Gospels also say, “No matter what you encounter, be joyful. Your reward shall be in heaven.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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29 MARCH, 2017, Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

THE FOUNDATION FOR DOING GOOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 49:8-15; Ps 144:8-9,13-14,17-18; Jn 5:17-30]

Today, the liturgy continues with the theme of joy in expectation of the feast of the resurrection, albeit in the shadow of hostility and death.  “Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For Yahweh has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones.”  In the first reading, we read the consoling words of the Lord to the Israelites who felt forsaken and abandoned in their exile at Babylon, “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast; feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.”   On the day of salvation, the Lord would restore Israel.  “Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.”

This promise of the Lord of course was fulfilled in Jesus who is the Suffering Servant prophesied in the first reading.   The words spoken to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah aptly applies to Jesus when God said, “I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties, to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’” In the last few days, the gospel narrated how Jesus manifested Himself as a life-giver.  He told the story of the Prodigal Son and the mercy of His Father whom He sought to imitate.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.”

The works of Jesus was done in union with the Father.  He said, “My father goes on working, and so do I.”  So like the Father, Jesus gave life to the Court Official’s son who was on the brink of death.  Yesterday, we read how Jesus healed the paralyzed man and forgave his sins.  This is justified by the fact that “the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does himself, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses.”   The authority and powers of Jesus to heal, raise and forgive were given by the Father.  Jesus saw Himself as acting on His behalf.

On this basis, Jesus claimed identification with the Father!   And the Jews knew what He was implying.  “That only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the Sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.”   By healing on the Sabbath and giving the basis for doing good works of mercy on the Sabbath, in imitation of His Father, Jesus was making implicit claims that He was God.  They were fully aware that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of Man mentioned in the Book of Daniel, chapter 7.  The miracles He performed were messianic signs, especially the raising of the dead, curing the lame and giving sight to the blind. He was thus seen as making a blasphemous claim to be the Son of God.

Secondly, He claimed to speak the Word of God.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; I tell you most solemnly, the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.”   He is the Word of God in person.  If He were to speak God’s words, then it means that one has to believe in Him and all that He said.  It means that we need to accept Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life.   Only by accepting Jesus, can we find life, not just life after death but life on this earth.   In following the path that Jesus set out for us, the way of love and humble service, in obedience to the Father’s will, in everything, we will live the fullness of life.  Hence, for such a person, “without being brought to judgement he has passed from death to life.”

Thirdly, Jesus claimed to be the Judge as well, a position reserved for the Father.  He said, “For the Father, who is the source of life, has made the Son the source of life; and, because he is the Son of Man, has appointed him supreme judge.  Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graces at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation.  I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just.”   Jesus could judge only because He is holy and perfect like the Father.  Because He is the Word of God, He could judge with full knowledge and understanding.   He judges with love and compassion, as the psalmist says. “The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.”  So the judgement of Jesus is founded on truth, love and compassion.  In speaking of Himself as the judge, He takes the place of God.

How could Jesus dare to make such claims of divinity and authority to act on behalf of the Father?  How could He be so confident and courageous to make such claims at the risk of courting death?  How is it that He was not afraid of being misunderstood, condemned or opposed? How do we explain the confidence in Jesus if not because of His intimate relationship with the Father? 

This identity with the Father is based on a mutual union between the Father and the Son.  This union with the Father must be seen as a union of mind and heart.  Jesus performed everything in union with the Father, based on the union of mind and will.  Jesus would not do anything except in alignment with the Father’s will.  He reiterated, “I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just, because my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”   Jesus’ obedience to the Father was not a reluctant obedience or simply a submission of will. Rather, His obedience was the consequence of a union of will and love.  As Jesus said to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (Jn 4:34)  Jesus loved His Father because of His Father’s love for Him.  He lived and died for His Father.  He said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”  (Jn 10:17f)

What about us?  What is the basis for our good works?  What is the basis for living a life of love and truth?  Is it based on purely humanitarian reasons, simply because we feel the sufferings of our fellowmen or because of moral obligation to contribute to society because we have been beneficiaries?   In truth, many of us do good out of guilt, or at most out of responsibility because of our conscience.  Of course, some do out of love for their fellowmen but many help because of fear of condemnation or at least to gain respect and honour from the world.

In the case of Jesus, His good works came from His identification with the compassion and love of His Father.  His union with the Father was the cause of His mission to humanity.  As the psalmist says, “The Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds.  The Lord supports all who fall and raises all who are bowed down. The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds. He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts.”  So it was out of the love of the Father in Him that He went about doing good so that the Father could be seen through Him. This too must also be the source of our strength in doing good. We must not be like the pagans.  “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Mt 5:46-48)

So today, we need to return to the ancient times when Catechumens were instructed more intensely during this time.  At this mass, salt would be placed in their mouths so that they would receive the Word of God and be the salt of the earth.  They too would be given the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Four Gospels so that they will become more identified with the Lord in how they live their lives.  For those of us who are baptized, let us renew our appreciation for the love of God in Christ as we contemplate on His passion.  We must come to know the identity of Jesus more and more so that we can truly be identified with Him in mind and in heart as Jesus is with the Father.

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Related:

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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Commentary on John 5:17-30 From Living Space

Let us not be afraid or cast down; God is on his way in the person of Jesus

Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s story of the healing of the crippled man by the pool. That passage had ended with the words: “The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this [i.e. the healing] on a sabbath.” We might point out, as with some other sabbath healings, that there was absolutely no urgency to do the healing on a sabbath for someone who had waited 38 years. It is just another indication of the divine authority with which Jesus works.

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So Jesus’ reply is direct and unapologetic: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” Because Genesis speaks of God resting on the seventh day (the origin of the Jewish sabbath), it was disputed whether God was in any way active on the sabbath. Some believed that the creating and conserving work of his creation went on and others that he continued to pass judgement on that day. In any case, Jesus is claiming here the same authority to work on the sabbath as his Father and has the same powers over life and death.

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The Jewish leaders are enraged that Jesus speaks of God as his own Father. They want to kill him. They understand by his words that Jesus is making himself God’s equal. Jesus, far from denying the accusation, only confirms it.

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“A son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” This saying is taken from the model of an apprentice in a trade. The apprentice son does exactly what his father does. Jesus’ relation to his Father is similar. “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, so that you may be amazed.” And “just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes” – and whenever he wishes. And such giving of life is something that belongs only to God. As does the right to judge, which Jesus says has been delegated to him.

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Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father. The Father is acting in him and through him. He is the Word of God – God speaks and acts directly through him. God’s Word is a creative Word. Jesus, like the Father, is life-giving, a source of life.

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The right to judge has been delegated by the Father to the Son. And to refuse to honour the Son is to refuse the same honour to the Father. In everything Jesus acts only according to the will of his Father and does what his Father wants.

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Jesus, then, is the Way, the Way through whom we go to God. For us, there is no other Way. He is God’s Word to us and for us.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1044g/

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I cannot fathom what it must have been like for You Lord. Most of our hearts cried out for salvation while others could not, having been bound and gagged by Sin.

Your love for us was so great that You promised to come save us, prepared us for Your coming and then fulfilled Your promise to us. What did we do? How did we welcome You? We turned our backs on You, We mocked You, plotted to kill You and eventually did.

Knowing all this You still came seeking out Your lost sheep. You brought light into our darkness, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to nourish bodies and souls. With Your precious blood You washed us so that we can stand spotless before our heavenly Father. How great is our God!

Our lives are nothing without You and without You there is no relationship with our heavenly Father. All love, peace and joy comes from You for in You is life eternal. May we always seek to do our Father’s Will. Amen

Source http://catholicjules.net/2014/04/01/on-todays-gospel-395/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection

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• The Gospel of John is different from the other three. It reveals a more profound dimension which only faith is able to perceive in the words and gestures of Jesus. The Fathers of the Church would say that the Gospel of John is “spiritual”, it reveals what the Spirit makes one discover in the words of Jesus (cf. Jn 16, 12-13). A beautiful example of this spiritual dimension of the Gospel of John is the passage which we are going to meditate on today.

• John 5, 17-18: Jesus explains the profound meaning of the healing of the paralytic. Criticized by the Jews for having cured on Saturday, Jesus answers: “My Father still goes on working, and I am at work too!” The Jews taught that no work could be done on Saturday, because even God had rested and had not worked on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20, 8-11). Jesus affirms the contrary. He says that the Father has always worked even until now. And for this reason, Jesus also works, and even on Saturday. He imitates his Father! For Jesus the work of creation is not finished as yet. God continues to work, unceasingly, day and night, holding up the Universe and all of us. Jesus collaborates with the Father continuing the work of creation in such a way that one day all may be able to enter into the eternal rest that has been promised. The reaction of the Jews was violent. They wanted to kill him for two reasons: because he denied the sense of Saturday and for saying he was equal to God.

• John 5, 19-21: It is love which allows the creative action of God to shine and be visible. These verses reveal something of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Jesus, the Son, lives permanently attentive before the Father. What he sees the Father do, he does it also. Jesus is the reflection of the Father. He is the face of the Father! This total attention of the Son to the Father makes it possible for the love of the Father to enter totally into the Son and through the Son, carry out his action in the world. The great concern of the Father is that of overcoming death and to give life. It is a way of continuing the creative work of the Father.

• John 5, 22-23: The Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgment to the Son. What is decisive in life is the way in which we place ourselves before the Creator, because it radically depends on him. Now the Creator becomes present for us in Jesus. The plenitude of the divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 1, 19). And therefore, according to the way in which we are before Jesus, we express our position before God, the Creator. What the Father wants is that we know him and honour him in the revelation which he makes of himself in Jesus.

• John 5, 24: The life of God in us through Jesus. God is life, he is creating force. Wherever he is present, there is life. He becomes present in the Word of Jesus. The one who listens to the word of Jesus as a word that comes from God has already risen. He has already received the vivifying touch which leads him beyond death. Jesus passed from death to life. The proof of this is in the healing of the paralytic.

• John 5, 25-29: The resurrection is already taking place. All of us are the dead who still have not opened ourselves to the voice of Jesus which comes from the Father. But “the hour will come” and it is now, in which the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who will listen, will live”. With the Word of Jesus which comes from the Father, the new creation begins; it is already on the way. The creative word of Jesus will reach all, even those who have already died. They will hear and will live.

• John 5, 30: Jesus is the reflection of the Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me”. This last phrase is the summary of all that has been said before. This was the idea that the community of the time of John had and diffused regarding Jesus.

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 31, 2016 — Are we striving to be rich in what matters to God? (The Book of Ecclesiastes simply reminds us that everything in this world passes away except spiritual reality.)

July 30, 2016

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 114

Reading 1 ECC 1:2; 2:21-23

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill,
and yet to another who has not labored over it,
he must leave property.
This also is vanity and a great misfortune.
For what profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart
with which he has labored under the sun?
All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation;
even at night his mind is not at rest.
This also is vanity.

Responsorial Psalm PS 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17

R. (1) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the LORD our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 COL 3:1-5, 9-11

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Alleluia MT 5:3

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.”

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.”—today most people find this way of thinking unacceptable.  We want to live in this life, not in the life of the world to come.  Many of us have lost any sense of eternal life and instead live for the values of this world.  Following Christ demands that we convert and accept His message, which gives us a whole different way of living.

The first reading today is from the Book of Ecclesiastes.  We don’t read much from this book, but most of us know the phrase:  “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  So many of us can identify with this statement.  We have looked for so many things and in the end have found that truly nothing has value except that which lasts for eternity.  We call this Christian virtue detachment.

Christian detachment does not take away the value of earthly realities, but keeps us aware that there is more to come.  If we set our hearts on being rich, on having a wonderful career, on possessions, or on anything else, we will find ourselves disappointed.  Those realities can be wonderful if they help us love others more.  In other words, if we use the realities of this world to embrace the reality of the world to come (love God and love neighbor), then the realities of this world are useful to us in a very good way.  The Book of Ecclesiastes simply reminds us that everything in this world passes away except spiritual reality.

The second reading, from the Letter to the Colossians, reminds us again:  “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.”  Today our modern world wants to change what is immoral into what is moral, what is impure into what is pure, passion into virtue, evil desire as something to be imitated and greed in to the normal way of living.  We Christians are invited to live according to the teachings of the Lord Jesus and they are truly counter cultural today!

The Gospel, today from Saint Luke, reminds once more that we should always keep our eyes on death, on the life of the world to come, so that our actions in this life will be guided by the eternal realities that await us.

It is so easy for us Christian to be seduced by the values of this world because they seem so pleasant and bring such pleasure.  The challenge is to keep our eyes on Jesus and allow ourselves to be formed by what He had told us.  Far too many teachers today preach a Gospel which is not from Jesus but is simply a Gospel of the values of this world.  For us who accept that Jesus is always in His Church, we have the guidance of the Church to help us stay on the right path.  Again, many today want the Church to adjust to the values of this world.  Let us walk with the Lord Jesus and with His Church.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/2016/07/18th-sunday-of-ordinary-time-cycle-c-2016/

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Commentary on Luke 12:13-21 From Living Space

We move on now in Luke to more immediate concerns of the Christian life. Today’s topic is about the perennial question of money, or rather, the love of money.

A man in the crowd asked Jesus to tell his brother to give him a share of the inheritance due to them both. According to Mosaic Law the general rule was that an elder son received double that of a younger son. If there was a dispute, it was usually settled by a rabbi, which is presumably why the man approached Jesus. It was the kind of problem in which Jesus was not remotely interested and he refused to get involved. One wonders how interested Jesus is when we make novenas to win lotteries or when we ask God to help us get our hands on the wealth of a rich and elderly aunt!!

Jesus now takes the opportunity to make some general remarks about material greed “in all its forms”.  A man may be wealthy, he says, but his possessions do not guarantee him life. Life comes with freedom, peace and happiness. Money cannot buy these things.

There is no evidence that rich people enjoy more freedom, peace or happiness although many of us are inclined to think they do and we envy them. Their marriages do not last any longer. They do not bring up better children. They do not necessarily enjoy better health.

At this point Jesus speaks a telling parable. A farmer who is already rich has a bumper harvest. It is so big that he has to pull down his existing barns to build larger ones. When all that is done, he smugly says to himself: “My boy, you have blessings in reserve for years to come. Relax! Put your feet up. Eat heartily, drink well. Enjoy yourself.” But that very night, Jesus says, God will terminate his earthly life.

What happens now to all his piled-up wealth? Yes, it all has to be left behind. “You can’t take it with you.” “How much did he leave?” was asked about a billionaire who died. “Every red cent,” was the reply. When the farmer met his God, what had he brought with him? Little or nothing. When Mother Teresa died, how much do you think she brought? One feels she brought a great deal. And she certainly left behind a great deal to enrich the lives of many.

 

What is my attitude to money and wealth? If I were to die now what could I bring with me to present to God? And what will I leave behind, apart from cash and possessions? All of us can be rich in God’s sight and it does not require any money. Someone has said that the really rich are not those who have the most but those whose needs are the least. [If you have a New Testament handy, read the following passage, 12:22-34, where Jesus spells out a recipe for a life free from anxiety, the life which he himself lived.]

And what we need most is the ability to reach out in love, the love that builds and makes life better for others. Think of what good parents leave behind in children whose lives are dedicated to making this world a better place. Or teachers who have helped young people to devote themselves to service of the community.

What we need is to live in communities where people look after each other. A situation where because everyone gives, everyone gets.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2292g/

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Meditation: What causes disputes and what’s the best means for settling them?  In Jesus’ time it was customary for people to take their disputes to the rabbis for settlement.  Jesus refuses such a case and instead gives the disputant a parable to “mull over”.  How would you react if Jesus refused to settle your dispute, but gave you a parable instead? What is the point of Jesus’ story about a wealthy landowner and why does he call him a fool?  Jesus does not fault him for his industriousness, but for his egoism and selfishness. Like the rich man and Lazarus, he had lost the capacity to be concerned for others.  His life was consumed with his possessions and his only interests were in himself. His death was the final loss of his soul!  In the parable of the rich fool Jesus gives a lesson on using material possessions.  His lesson contains a warning to beware of all covetousness.  To covet is to wish to get wrongfully what another possesses or to begrudge what God gave him.  Jesus restates the commandment do not covet, but he also states that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.  In this little parable Jesus probes the heart — where is your treasure? Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus.  The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. What do you treasure most?

Oliver! (1968 British musical drama film directed by Carol Reed)

“Lord, free me from all covetousness and from attachment to possessions.  May I wholly desire you as my treasure and portion.  Help me to make good use of the material blessings you give me that I may use them generously for your glory and for the good of others.” 

http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/luke1213.htm

God sent a homeless man to teach me, “We have everything we need.”

First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Not too long ago while I was assisting a homeless man, he looked me square in the eyes and said:  “We have everything we need.”
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Dang. I hate that!
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Actually, this man travels around the neighborhoods near where I live with no possessions most of us would care anything about. He has few articles of clothing and he often cuts up old trash bags to make himself a hat, a cap, or a kind of serape. He never begs or asks for anything.
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And he’s happier than most people you’ll meet in suburbia these days.
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I offered him a crisp new twenty dollar bill on Easter Sunday morning. He rushed inside the first convenience store and gave that money to the charity collection jar! “Jerry’s Kids”  got my $20.00.
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Indeed I have experienced what Jesus tells the disciples: “We have everything we need.”
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A homeless woman seemed to be a messenger from God to me a short time later when she said, “Cherish what you have.”
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Many of us in our modern world have way more than we need. We have lots of toys and possessions. We sometimes seem wedded to our possessions or maybe we are in love with them.
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A neighbor of mine used to spend so much time loving his car while washing it each Sunday that the other men in the neighborhood used to say,  “Jim can’t come to the game, he’s making love to his car!”
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Jesus also instructs us, and the disciples, to carry the message of his love, his care for us, and the redemption he earned for us on the cross. We need to be evangelists — and to do that well we need to be unencumbered!
Like the man that first suggested to me: “We have everything we need.”
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People who are already unencumbered have every reason to trust in God. Actually some of the poorest people I know in terms of material good are the richest in the faith.
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Sometimes I tell people I took a vow of poverty, which was easy because, “I was already VERY poor!”
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So each day I try to keep in my mind — “Cherish what you have” and “We have everything we need.”
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One final thought: I believe “we cannot keep it unless we give it away.”
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Once we have been touched by the Holy Spirit we need to share in gratitude: we need to carry the message, just the way Jesus instructed the apostles.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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 Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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From: October 19, 2015 —
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It is notable that Jesus went beyond merely trying to settle the question of justice in human understanding.  Jesus knew that the real problem is not so much a question of getting our fair share in life.  In the first place, is there such a thing as a fair share of life?   How can this world be equal in every way?  Not only are we not equal in wealth, power, status and influence; but we are also not equal in health, talents, and opportunities; less still are we equal in love, peace, joy and happiness.  So to speak about equality in every way is an illusion.  Just look at each one of us – we are all different in height, features, etc.  So how can we be equal?  Justice thus cannot be sought on the human level because no matter how much we get, we will still feel that we are shortchanged.  So what is the crux of the problem?

It is simply this: avarice, also known as greed.  Thus, Jesus pointedly warned the crowd, “Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs”.  Indeed, no matter how much we have in life, we can never be satisfied.  The want of man is like an abyss; there is no end to what he desires.  Greed is an illusion that we do not have enough.  We are never contented; always hankering for more.  How can we when there will always be others who are better than us?

But why are people greedy?  It is because man always live in fear of the future.  Man is afraid to die and to suffer.  He accumulates to protect himself from the unforeseen future.  This was certainly the case of the rich man in today’s parable.  He had a good harvest from his land and he built bigger barns to store his crops.  And he said to himself, “My soul, you have plenty of good things laid out for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time”.  Indeed, man wants to have more simply because he wants to insure himself from all contingency that can threaten his life, his survival and his happiness.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

31 JULY 2016, 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

THE MEANING OF LIFE IS TO RESTORE OUR IMAGE, WHICH IS HIDDEN IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  ECCL 1:2; 2:21-23; COL 3:1-5, 9-11; LK 12:13-21  ]

What do you live for?  Some live for work.  This is vanity.  For if the meaning of life is found in work, then life becomes drudgery.  Indeed, the author of Ecclesiastes bemoans, “for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights?”  Perhaps you live for power and status.  Well, this is also vanity.  Great leaders, presidents and prime ministers, famous movie stars and singers have come and gone.  One day, we will have to relinquish our office and positions to someone else.  And once out of office, like those once great and famous people, we will languish away quietly and fade from the world.

What if you live for money and wealth?  That too is vanity.  The truth in life is that nothing lasts.  At any rate, money cannot buy you everything in life.  Money cannot buy love and peace.  In fact, the more money you have, the more worries and anxieties there are.  Most of all, you cannot bring your money to your grave.  Hence, once again as the author laments, “a man who has laboured wisely, skillfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all.”   Lastly, maybe you live for pleasure.  But can one find fulfillment in sensual pleasure alone?  Are we mere animals that can be satisfied by the physical and material needs alone?  Do we not have spirits that cry out for fulfillment? So pleasure too is vanity!

The stark truth is that even when we have status, power, money and the luxuries of life, we are not much happier.  In fact, surveys have shown that increase in status, power, wealth and luxury do not bring a corresponding increase in happiness.  They might give us some satisfaction but not happiness. There is a limit to the satisfaction that power, money and luxury can bring to a person. Once the limit is reached, greed begins to take control of our life. We become increasingly dissatisfied and this greed will eventually destroy our happiness and peace.

What is most frustrating in life is that after all the hard work accumulating wealth, power and status, we live in fear and anxiety.  Quite often, the people who are beneficiaries of our wealth and inheritance are ungrateful.  Even at our deathbed we can hear our loved ones fighting for their share of our property and wealth.

In the light of all these, the author of the first reading could not but be pessimistic because of the great injustices of life. Life is unfair! Ironically, many of those who commit suicide are seldom poor, but people who are rich, powerful and famous. In spite of their success and fame, they find life meaningless. Having attained all they wanted, they found success a disillusion, as it has not brought them real happiness.  So why invest so much energy to work for something so transient?  Why spend our whole life making a living when we do not know how to live?

For this reason, Jesus warns us, “Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.”  Security and happiness in life is not determined by our possessions.  Even though what we own can provide some security, it cannot fulfill our emotional, affective and spiritual needs.  Life is surely vanity if we think that it is simply about physical wealth, prestige and power or even pleasure.

Where, then, can we find happiness in life?  We must live for a higher purpose. The truth is that we cannot live only for this world or for ourselves alone.  Such a life is always a life under threat and is meaningless.  What is this higher goal that St Paul is inviting us to aspire to? We are called to live for others by living for God.  We must go beyond ourselves.  We must live in a transcendent manner, living transcendent values.  St Paul says, “since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand. Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died.”

It is the life of the Spirit, the life of God.  This is what Jesus is inviting us in today’s gospel as well.  He warns us not to store up treasure for ourselves in place of making ourselves rich in the sight of God.  The only treasure that can last is when we are rich in God, which is to share in His life.  The good news is that this treasure is already given to us in Christ.  St Paul reveals to us that the true meaning of life is sharing in the life “hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”

In other words, what is the meaning of life and its happiness if not to become Christ and to share in His life?  Our goal and purpose of life is to be restored in the image and likeness of God.  St Paul says, “you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator.”

What is the life of Christ?  It is a life of love and selfless service.  It is a life that is concerned with values and virtues.  Such is the life of the Spirit and being rich in the sight of God.  Indeed, when we look at the life of Christ, it is about relationship, love and service.

Relationship makes life meaningful.  Only a right relationship with God, others and ourselves can give us fulfillment and happiness.  One of the main reasons for our unhappiness in life is disunity in our family, workplace and community.  Quarrels, misunderstandings and broken relationships cause us to be upset and incomplete.  What is the use of bringing so much money home when there is no peace in the house because your spouse is fighting with you; and your siblings are fighting among themselves or even not talking to you?

Indeed, it is for relationship that Christ came into this world, to put us in right relationship with God and with each other.  St Paul tells us “there is no room for distinction between Greek and Jew, between the circumcised or the uncircumcised, or between barbarian and Scythian, slave and free man. There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.”  In Christ, we become one. This is what the reconciling work of Christ is all about.

Besides relationship, what makes us happy is when we are able to go beyond ourselves to care for others through selfless service. St Paul urges us, “you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self.”

Hence, Jesus’ advice to us all is that we must store for ourselves the riches of God. We do this by cultivatingvirtues such as love, forgiveness and compassion.  We must realize that what we do in life will build up our character for better or for worse.  Every time we do something wrong, selfish or evil, we reinforce negative attitudes in us.  Conversely, when we do good works, even if it is a small act of good deed, we increase our capacity to love.  Our whole life is really a pilgrimage, pedagogy, when we learn to grow in love and selflessness through our struggles in relationships and the difficulties of loving.  If we pursue that direction, we will build up our Christian character and restore our image in Christ.

With the invitation to a life in Christ as our goal, there is also a warning not to procrastinate and live in false security.  Whatever time, talents and money we have we should use them for personal sanctification through a life of charity without expecting any return.  In this way, when the time comes for us to leave this world, we can depart in peace without any unfinished agenda or unresolved issues.  If not, we would have to endure the restlessness and the pains of not being able to let go of this life to return to God.  For at the end of our lives, what remains is only the soul, that is, the “I”, our thoughts, feelings, our mind and heart!  If our hearts remain resentful and selfish, we cannot leave this world in peace.  Our attachment, anger and unforgiveness will return to haunt us.

One thing that is certain about life is this: death. The question we must ask ourselves today is:  How do you want to die?  The way we respond to this question will determine how we should live our lives now.  Do you want to end your life in misery, anger, resentment, and bitterness, feeling that life has been unjust to you?  Or do you want to let go of all that you have, be these riches or negative feelings, so that you can be free from selfishness and be free for love and service.   It is better that we die poor and be rich in heaven.  We die poor when we have given our lives in service and love to others.  In emptying ourselves for others, we enrich ourselves with love, generosity, goodness and kindness.  A rich life is one of love, compassion and detachment.  This is the life of God.  So if we want to avoid falling into a state of disillusionment at the end of our lives, we must start living now by loving and serving and sharing until we extinguish ourselves. For when we are not, then Christ lives in us and everything is in Christ.

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http://www.catholic.sg/31-july-2016-18th-sunday-ordinary-time/

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Out here in suburbia we have a friend that lost his wife to brain cancer a few years ago…. Everyone in the family participated in her recovery effort — with the children taking her for walks and her husband extremely supportive through it all. She suffered a lot but kept going and never gave up. Her wake was a tear jerker — with many of the high school friends of the children crying uncontrollably. The funeral Mass was at St. Paul Chung Catholic Church and it was terrific.

St. Paul Chung Catholic Church

Last winter, after about two years, the husband came over to show me some of their wedding pictures. He said he was placing coffee and cookies on her side of the bed every night before bedtime. He also said he was going to have her grave moved to a place with “a better view.” His kids said he was very easily moved to anger and argument. It seemed to me, he hadn’t yet seen his grief brought to a close — but I chalked it up as something more in God’s line than mine — and prayed for a happy ending. Last night, when we returned from visiting a man who had a stroke, we found out that our neighbor, the husband of the woman that died, had a stroke himself. The children noticed that that his anger was gone and he became suddenly peaceful so they took him to the doctor. The doctor did a brain scan and explained that one tiny part of the brain had been hit, and if he followed all the recommendations of the doctor to the best of his ability, he’d be fine. The children told us last night it might have been a miracle because he is calm, peaceful and happy now. No anger. No arguments. Before I went to sleep last night, I told God I accepted everything He had done for me and everybody I know — And everything He was doing for me now, and vowed to be as cheerful, happy, kind and grateful as I could be — and it was OK with me if He didn’t Bless Me with a stroke just to straighten me out. He could maybe just send a bird or a bunny or something to tell me to work harder. I guaranteed Him I’d get the message.

Today my bride and I are going to see Bin, who has been in pain for at least 10 years. Before that he was almost killed in war and was tortured for about ten years in a prison camp. He he smiles, the entire room fills with light. I keep going back to see him. I am addicted to his smile.

Bin with his wife and one of the great ladies from our parish. I am pretty sure God sent Bin to me. “All my problems turned to dust.”

This little girl is named Safyre. She survived a terrible fire….. I get tremendous energy from the “survivors.”

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, June 22, 2016 — “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”

June 21, 2016

Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 373

Holy Spirit Flower

This flower is found in Panama and it blooms only during the Pentecost season.

Reading 1 2 KGS 22:8-13; 23:1-3

The high priest Hilkiah informed the scribe Shaphan,
“I have found the book of the law in the temple of the LORD.”
Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it.
Then the scribe Shaphan went to the king and reported,
“Your servants have smelted down the metals available in the temple
and have consigned them to the master workmen
in the temple of the LORD.”
The scribe Shaphan also informed the king
that the priest Hilkiah had given him a book,
and then read it aloud to the king.
When the king heard the contents of the book of the law,
he tore his garments and issued this command to Hilkiah the priest,
Ahikam, son of Shaphan,
Achbor, son of Micaiah, the scribe Shaphan,
and the king’s servant Asaiah:
“Go, consult the LORD for me, for the people, for all Judah,
about the stipulations of this book that has been found,
for the anger of the LORD has been set furiously ablaze against us,
because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book,
nor fulfill our written obligations.”The king then had all the elders of Judah
and of Jerusalem summoned together before him.
The king went up to the temple of the LORD with all the men of Judah
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem:
priests, prophets, and all the people, small and great.
He had the entire contents of the book of the covenant
that had been found in the temple of the LORD, read out to them.
Standing by the column, the king made a covenant before the LORD
that they would follow him
and observe his ordinances, statutes and decrees
with their whole hearts and souls,
thus reviving the terms of the covenant
which were written in this book.
And all the people stood as participants in the covenant.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40

R. (33a) Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.
Instruct me, O LORD, in the way of your statutes,
that I may exactly observe them.
R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.
Incline my heart to your decrees
and not to gain.
R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.
Turn away my eyes from seeing what is vain:
by your way give me life.
R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.
Behold, I long for your precepts;
in your justice give me life.
R. Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord.

AlleluiaJN 15:4A, 5B

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

Gospel MT 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

• We are reaching the final recommendations of the Sermon on the Mountain. Comparing the Gospel of Matthew with that of Mark one perceives a great difference in the way in which they present the teaching of Jesus. Matthew insists more on the content of the teaching and organizes it into five great Discourses, of which the first one is the Sermon of the Mountain (Mt 5 to 7). Mark, over fifteen times, says that Jesustaught, but he rarely says what he taught. In spite of this difference, both agree on a point: Jesus taught very much. To teach was what Jesus did the most (Mk 2, 13; 4, 1-2; 6, 34). He used to do it always (Mk 10, 1). Matthew is interested in the content. But does he want to say that Mark does not do it? Depends on what we want to say when we speak about content! To teach is not only a question of communicating a truth in such a way that people learn it by heart. The content is not limited to words, but it is also composed by gestures and consists in the way in which Jesus used to relate himself with persons. The content has never been separated from the person who communicates it. The person, in fact, is the origin of the content. The good content without goodness is like milk spilt on the ground. It does not convince and conversion does not take place.

• The final recommendations and the result of the Sermon on the Mountain in the conscience of the people are the points of the Gospel of today (Mt 7, 15-20) and of tomorrow (Mt 7, 21-29). (The sequence of the Gospel of the days of the week is not always the same as that of the Gospels).

Matthew 7, 13-14: Choose the sure way
Matthew 7, 15-20: The prophet is known by the fruits
Matthew 7, 21-23: Not only speak, but act.
Matthew 7, 24-27: Construct the house on rock.
Matthew 7, 28-29: The new conscience of the people.

• Matthew 7, 15-16ª: Beware of false prophets. In the time of Jesus, there were prophets of all types, persons who announced apocalyptic messages to involve people in different movements of that time: Essen, Pharisee, Zelots, and others (cf. Ac 5, 36-37). When Matthew writes there were also prophets who announced messages diverse from the one proclaimed by the community. The Letters of Paul mention these movements and tendencies (cf. 1 Co 12,3; Gal 1,7-9; 2,11-14;6,12). It must not have been easy for the community to make the discernment of spirits. From here results the importance of the words of Jesus on false prophets. The warning of Jesus is very strong: “Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves”. The same image is used when Jesus sends the disciples on mission: “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves” (Mt 10, 16 e Lc 10, 3). The opposition between the ravenous wolf and the meek sheep is irreconcilable, unless the wolf is converted and looses its aggressiveness as the Prophet Isaiah suggests (Is 11, 6; 65, 25). What is important here in our text is the gift of discernment. It is not easy to discern the spirits. Sometimes it happens that personal interests or of a group lead the person to proclaim false those prophets who announce the truth and disturb. That happened with Jesus. He was eliminated and put to death, considered a false prophet by the religious authority of that time. Ever so often, the same thing has happened and continues to happen in our Church.

• Matthew 7, 16b-20: The comparison of the tree and of its fruits. To help to discern the spirits, Jesus uses the comparison of the fruit: “You will be able to tell them by their fruits”. A similar criterion had been suggested by the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt 18, 21-22). And Jesus adds: “Can you pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way a sound tree produces good fruit, but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. In the Gospel of John, Jesus completes the comparison: “Every branch in me that bears no fruit, he cuts away. Every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes to make it bear even more. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. Those branches will be cut off and thrown into the fire to be burnt” (Jn 15, 2.4.6)

Personal questions

• False prophets! Do you know any case in which a good and honest person who proclaimed a truth which disturbed was condemned as a false prophet?

• In judging from the fruits of the tree of your personal life, how do you define yourself: as false or as true?

Concluding Prayer

Yahweh, look at my suffering and rescue me,
for I do not forget your Law.
Plead my cause and defend me;
as you promised, give me life. (Ps 119,153-154)

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JUNE 2016, Wednesday, 12th Week in Ordinary Time
YOU WILL BE ABLE TO TELL THEM BY THEIR FRUITS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 KG 22:8-13, 23:1-3; MT 7:15-20 ]

When Jesus warned the disciples about false prophets who come “disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves”, He was thinking of the false prophets of the Old Testament.  There were many of them who prophesied for their self-interests and misled the king and the leaders of their days.  He was also thinking of the shepherds in those days who wore the skin of the sheep when looking after the sheep.  Therein lies the danger that some of these shepherds might not be truly protecting the sheep but are in fact thieves and brigands.

Indeed, the crux of today’s scripture readings is about how we discern whether a leader is a true and good leader or a bad leader.  The truth is that many are hoodwinked by whoever comes to present themselves as leaders but have ulterior motives and selfish interests.  They are eloquent preachers, glib talkers, dramatic and popular and often use the name of God or claim to do whatever they do for the good of the people.  Many are easily tempted by such leaders as they make many empty promises and give false hopes to the people.  Yet, often, for the ordinary person it is difficult to differentiate a genuine from a fake leader.  That is what Jesus meant when He remarked, “Can people pick grapes from thorns or figs from thistles?”  The point that Jesus was hinting at is that there are some plants that are difficult to distinguish, or look similar that we can mistake one for the other.  In fact there is a certain buckthorn tree that bears fruits that look like grapes and there is a certain thistle that bears flowers that look like a fig from afar.

The guideline from Jesus is clear.  He said, “You will be able to tell them by their fruits.”  Indeed, “a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire.”   In other words, we only have to look for the fruits of the preacher or the prophet.  We must examine his thoughts, words and actions.  What he says is less important than how he lives.  A true leader must produce the fruits of the Spirit, which are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22f)

A false teacher, leader or prophet is one who promotes himself. When he draws people to himself instead of drawing people to God or to do the right thing, he is not a true leader.  The task of leading is to help others to become more independent and freer.  He is here to do his job, perform his role and then move on.   He does not build a kingdom for himself.  We must be careful of leaders who make themselves the center of everything.  Everything that is done is about himself, his prestige and popularity.  Such leaders are more concerned about what people think of him and how popular he is, than whether he is doing the right things for his people and for their interests.

A false teacher is always thinking about money and pursuing wealth and pleasure.  We must be very weary of those teachers that come to ask for money for themselves or use the gospel to increase their wealth.   Those who use the gospel in such a manner will lead to their own destruction. St Paul wrote, “For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good,  treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid them!”  (2 Tim 3:2-5)  Such leaders who ask for money and benefits are not men of God because they are worshipping false gods.  The only exception is when he asks money for the poor and for the spread of the gospel.

A true teacher who has the truth will know that such worldly things cannot give real happiness.  It is the joy of forming people, changing wrong attitudes, setting them free and empowering them to live a richer life that is full of meaning that gives the preacher joy.   Indeed, Jesus Himself was rich and became poor so that He could enrich us.  The great joy of a leader is that he could be of service to others, especially the weak, the ignorant and the poor.  When we lead them out of their poverty and misery, this is a joy that no amount of money can buy.

Again, we can distinguish a true leader from a false leader in what they preach.  If the content of their teaching comes from the world and their own ideology, we must shun them as well.  Some leaders are promoting their own philosophy of life.  Often they themselves are blind and ignorant.   They do not even know the truth themselves and are selling their ideas to others.  Others, especially the rich and powerful, seek to impose their ideology on poor countries and peoples by using money and economic power.   A true teacher only teaches the truth that comes from God.  There is only one teacher, that is, the Christ!   (Mt 23:10)   Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  (Jn 14:6)  So if anyone were to teach then he must teach only what the Lord instructs him.  He teaches not his own philosophy but the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 2:4)  So preachers and teachers must be cautious that they are not transmitting their own shallow and misguided understanding of the truth but whatever they say must be grounded in the Word of God.

In the final analysis, the true leader is one who liberates and gives life to others.  This is the whole mission of Jesus.  He said, “I come to give life, life abundantly.”  (Jn 10:10)  Just as Jesus sacrificed His life for His people, a true leader has no other motive, no expectation of reward and gain, other than to offer His life in selfless and humble service for others.  He chooses to live a life of simplicity, using only what he needs, and the abundance, he gives to others, especially those who are in need.  A leader does his work and when the day comes for another leader to emerge, he steps down graciously and departs with joy into oblivion, knowing that he has played his part in the building of the community.   A true leader is contented that he has done his work and happy to leave when it is done.

In the first reading, we have the exemplary leadership of King Josiah. When the high priest found the Book of the Law in the Temple of the Lord, he reported to the King’s secretary.  And when the king heard of the contents of the Book of the Law, we are told that he was filled with remorse at the ingratitude and shameful practices of the nation and its leaders.  He said, “Great indeed must be the anger of the Lord blazing out against us because our ancestors did not obey what this book says by practising everything written in it.”  He “tore his garments” as a sign of repentance and determination to change the course of the culture of the nation.  As a follow up, he called everyone to the Temple of the Lord to hear the Book of the Law and then “in the presence of the Lord he made a covenant to follow the Lord and keep his commandments and decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, in order to enforce the terms of the covenant as written in that book. All the people gave their allegiance to the covenant.”  Such was the exemplary leadership of King Josiah.  When he discovered the truth revealed in the Book of the Law, he acted immediately and did not wait any longer.   As a true leader, he called the rest to follow his good example.

What about us and our leaders?  Do we listen to the Word of God daily and pray to the Lord so that we can know what He wants for His people?  If we ourselves have not heard from the Lord, how can we teach our people, our children and those under our charge?  Like the psalmist, we must pray every day in this manner.  “Teach me the demands of your statutes and I will keep them to the end. Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart. Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight.  Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain. Keep my eyes from what is false; by your word, give me life.  See, I long for your precepts; then in your justice, give me life.”   Indeed, leaders must walk in the truth before seeking to lead others; if not both will fall into the ditch. (Mt 15:14)

Finally, if we ourselves have not first brought to consciousness our own sins and inadequacies, we will be too blind to lead others to do what is right.  We need leaders today who are humble and conscious of their own limitations and sinfulness so that they will rely not on their own strength but on God alone.  We need leaders who will produce the fruits of love, unity and compassion so that all will be united in mutual love, service and fraternal correction.  In truth, we know who the true leaders are.  They work for the good of others.  They remain humble and unassuming.  All they have are always for the service of the common good.  They are compassionate and forgiving.  They are life-givers and always empowering.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 15, 2016 — Pentecost — Those who are in the flesh cannot please God — But you are not flesh alone — The Spirit of God dwells in you

May 14, 2016

Pentecost Sunday
Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 63

Reading 1 ACTS 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven
staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

R. (cf. 30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
the earth is full of your creatures;
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD be glad in his works!
Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 COR 12:3B-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Or ROM 8:8-17

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

Sequence – Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Alleluia.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Or JN 14:15-16, 23B-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.

JN 14:15-16, 23B-26

“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.

“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”

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Pope Francis celebrates Pentecost at Mass, May 24, 2015

Below is the English translation the homily given by Pope Francis on Pentecost Sunday (May 24, 2015)

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you…  Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22).  The gift of the Spirit on the evening of the Resurrection took place once again on the day of Pentecost, intensified this time by extraordinary outward signs.  On the evening of Easter, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and breathed on them his Spirit (cf. Jn 20:22); on the morning of Pentecost the outpouring occurred in a resounding way, like a wind which shook the place the Apostles were in, filling their minds and hearts.  They received a new strength so great that they were able to proclaim Christ’s Resurrection in different languages: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).  Together with them was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first disciple and the Mother of the nascent Church.  With her peace and her smile, she accompanied the joyful young Bride, the Church of Jesus.

The word of God, especially in today’s readings, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with the Spirit: he guides us into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), he renews the face of the earth (Ps 103:30), and he gives us his fruits (cf. Gal 5:22-23).

In the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13).  Indeed he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”, and explains to his disciples that the Spirit will bring them to understand ever more clearly what he, the Messiah, has said and done, especially in regard to his death and resurrection.  To the Apostles, who could not bear the scandal of their Master’s sufferings, the Spirit would give a new understanding of the truth and beauty of that saving event.  At first they were paralyzed with fear, shut in the Upper Room to avoid the aftermath of Good Friday.  Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples; they would no longer tremble before the courts of men.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand “all the truth”: that the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the Resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the Living One, the Lord, the Redeemer of mankind, of history and of the world.  This truth, to which the Apostles were witnesses, became Good News, to be proclaimed to all.

The gift of the Holy Spirit renews the earth.  The Psalmist says: “You send forth your Spirit… and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30).  The account of the birth of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles is significantly linked to this Psalm, which is a great hymn of praise to God the Creator.  The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same.  Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15).  Yet this is possible only if Adam – the man formed from the earth – allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, only if he allows himself to be re-formed by the Father on the model of Christ, the new Adam.  In this way, renewed by the Spirit of God, we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of the sons and daughters, in harmony with all creation.  In every creature we will be able to see reflected the glory of the Creator, as another Psalm says: “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!” (Ps 8:2, 10).

In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul wants to show the “fruits” manifested in the lives of those who walk in the way of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22).  On the one hand, he presents “the flesh”, with its list of attendant vices: the works of selfish people closed to God.  On the other hand, there are those who by faith allow the Spirit of God to break into their lives.  In them, God’s gifts blossom, summed up in nine joyful virtues which Paul calls “fruits of the Spirit”.  Hence his appeal, at the start and the end of the reading, as a programme for life: “Walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:6, 25).

The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit.  Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin.  There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.  The world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers.  The world needs the fruits of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).  The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.  Strengthened by the Spirit and his many gifts, may we be able uncompromisingly to battle against sin and corruption, devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/05/24/the_popes_homily_on_pentecost_sunday/1146370

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

The Solemnity of Pentecost is a splendid reminder of the universality of the love God has for us. At Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, the Church celebrates the powerful presence of God in our midst through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, poured out upon the people of God in ages past and to the present day.

The traditional list of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is derived from Isaiah the Prophet, chapter 11, verses 1 – 3: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude and fear of the Lord.

In essence Pentecost Sunday recounts the outpouring of these gifts by the Holy Spirit on the apostles and other disciples and the Mother of Jesus ten days after the Ascension of Jesus and fifty days after his resurrection. This is traditionally considered the beginning of the Church, the birthday of the Church.

Human history constantly speaks to us of the effects of sin. It is enough to look at the pages of any history book to see much division between peoples, leading to hatred, wars, death and revenge. Salvation history, on the other hand, recounted in Sacred Scripture, is about the presence of God constantly inviting people to overcome their divisions by what is sometimes called an “unseen warfare,” also referred to as “spiritual combat.”

This of course is not at all about taking up arms against others in the name of God, but of zealously striving to turn the entire heart and life over to God, seeking to do good, avoiding sin, loving and forgiving others, in imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ. But this takes effort and work, comparable to warfare, but once again, understood as a spiritual endeavor.

In the books of the Bible we do in fact find a repetition of secular history, namely, the reality of division, war, hate, death and revenge, but with a difference: in the Bible we repeatedly hear about the distinct call from God. That call is to turn from sin and accept the invitation to live by the law of love and forgiveness. God makes that possible by constant intervention in human lives and by communicating to those who will listen.

Christians believe that salvation history culminates in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, acknowledged as the Redeemer of the human race. All that Christ promised during his public ministry was fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples so that they could go forth and bear witness to the mystery of life and salvation in God.

The consequences of sin, the divisions that exist between people, may still be present in the world, but the possibility of overcoming them and living a new life in Christ came to the fore in the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Sacred Scripture gives a clear example of the consequences of sin in the story of the Tower of Babel, from the eleventh chapter of the Book of Genesis. It is essentially the story of pride, when people decide to make a name for themselves by building a tower up to the sky in order to reach God. That plan is rejected by God, who scatters the people over the earth, resulting in confusion of languages and ultimately division between peoples. As cooperation and communication between people gets lost in the process, so also is lost communion with God.

The miracle of Pentecost, recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter two, is the opposite of the Babel story. At Pentecost people of diverse tongues unite. They come to realize that they are all in essence equal to each other, meaning everyone is eligible for receiving life in God and of being in communion with God and one another.

The grace of God produces unity and the disciples of Jesus experience this concretely at Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “God is a God, not of confusion, but of peace,” Saint Paul reminds the believers at Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:33).

The message of Pentecost is simply that the direction of human history has changed. People can be forgiven of their sins and at peace with and reconciled to God, who has shared in our human nature in order to lift humankind to God.

Peace is the result of forgiveness. The Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation (in the past more often called Confession or Penance) traditionally ends with “Go in peace, the Lord has forgiven you your sins.” Peace is a gift from God, the fruit of the cooperation of people with the grace of God. Those who act in accord with God’s will acquire interior peace.

It is no accident that Jesus clearly stated at the time of the coming of the Holy Spirit: “Peace be with you.” This above all is what he wishes to give his followers. It is not the peace of the world, the absence of war and abundance of material goods, for example. The peace of Christ is something else, a peace which no one can take away, which endures forever, which is without cost but more valuable than any earthly good. In essence peace is closely linked to the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

To his followers, who receive the Holy Spirit, Jesus gave and gives a particular commandment, namely, to carry his peace, the message of salvation, to the ends of the earth. As the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus sends his followers forth. The forgiveness of sins is at the heart of the message of peace, entrusted to the Church by Christ, born at Pentecost.

At Baptism and Confirmation the gifts of the Holy Spirit are bestowed in a particular way. What becomes of those gifts is dependent on willing cooperation with the grace of God in life. We have been redeemed in the blood of Christ, brought to everlasting life by the presence of the Holy Spirit, wherein our faith, hope and love will grow.

In the Eucharist (Holy Mass) we experience over and again the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit, who now and always pours out gifts on the beloved of God. May we open our hearts so that we truly experience the marvelous action of the Holy Spirit leading us from the shadow of death to the house of our Maker, who is our lasting hope and peace.

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico 87510

https://christdesert.org/2016/05/pentecost-sunday-may-15-2016/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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15 MAY 2016, Pentecost Sunday
GROWING IN THE SPIRIT OF THE RISEN LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:1-11; ROMANS 8:8-17; JOHN 14:15-16, 23-26  ]

Today we reach the climax of the Easter Season by celebrating the feast of Pentecost.  For 50 days after Easter, we contemplated on the Risen Lord and the new life that He offered us by His passion, death and resurrection.

Indeed, the scripture readings in the last seven weeks of Easter basically contemplated on the Risen Lord and how this resurrected life could be lived by us through the sacraments of Initiation.  In Christ Jesus, through baptism, we share in the new life of Christ and have become a new creation.  Through the Eucharist, which is where the Lord makes Himself present in a par excellence manner, Christians continue to be nurtured and be fed by the Lord, sharing in His life, passion, death and resurrection more deeply and also becoming more and more united with the Church, His body.  Finally, through the sacrament of confirmation, they were given the Spirit and His gifts for witnessing to the Risen Lord in the world.  The sacrament of confirmation empowers the newly baptized to live out their respective vocations in the world, be of service and a witness to the new life that they have been given in Christ.

Yet, today’s scripture readings remind us that being born again in Christ into a new creation is just the beginning of new life, not yet the consummation.  Baptism is just the entry into the life of Christ when we die to our sins and rise to a new life in Christ.  It is not yet the realization of the fullness of the resurrected life.  It only brings about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and gives us the grace of renewing ourselves daily for the final resurrection.  It is at most anticipatory.  Indeed, all sacraments have this dimension of the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’.  Sacraments are symbolic of the future reality and yet this future has already begun in us when we live out the sacraments.  So the sacraments are not just a foretaste of the fullness at the end but also instrumental in helping us to reach that ultimate goal which is to be fully resurrected with Christ at the end of our lives.  Therefore, it means that Pentecost is that period of the Church when members of the Church continue to grow in the Spirit of the Risen Lord until consummation.  That is why Pentecost is not a one-off event but a series of events.  Pentecost is ongoing until the end of time.

The primary purpose of the giving of the Holy Spirit is for mission, as Jesus told the disciples earlier on:“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)  This explains why the Acts of the Apostles was written as a sequel to the gospel of St Luke because he wanted to write on the ongoing mission of the Church that was begun by the Lord.   And this will go on until the Kingdom of God is established at the end of time and spread to all of creation.

However, the Holy Spirit, whilst it is given for mission, is principally also for the growth of the life of the Christian in the Lord. We cannot be missionary for Christ unless we are disciples.  So discipleship in the Lord is an ongoing process impelled by the Holy Spirit.  Before we can go out to proclaim Christ to the world and be His living witnesses of love and life, we must deepen our sonship in Christ.  This is what St Paul is telling us in the second reading.  Pentecost cannot be reduced to merely some spiritual enthusiasm and religious emotions that we experience but rather an obedient Christian living of the gospel.

Unfortunately, many of us forget that baptism is just the beginning of this process of being formed in Christ until the day we die.  In truth, many Catholics stop growing the day they were baptized.  This is also true for those who have been renewed in the Holy Spirit at some retreat or seminar, like the LISS or Conversion Experience Retreat.  They think that growing in faith is like attending a course where at the end of it you get a paper stating that you have graduated, and life continues as before without any change.  Christian faith is a different thing. It is a process that never ends since the moment we were baptized.  This explains why the liturgical colour after Pentecost is green, signifying that the Church is still growing each day in the power of the Spirit.  The giving of the Spirit at baptism marks the long journey that is to be undertaken for the rest of our lives, growing in discipleship each day.

How can we grow in discipleship, which is basically, to grow in the Spirit of the Risen Lord?  Firstly, we are called to obedience to the commandments of Christ.  Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.  Those who do not love me do not keep my words. And my word is not my own: it is the word of the one who sent me.”  So if we claim that we love Jesus and believe that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, it means that we are ready to obey His commandments since they are the way to the fullness of life and love.   This obedience is not a reluctant submission to the commands of Christ but like Jesus a total surrender in love to the Father.   Jesus’ obedience was the result of His identification with the Father’s will and love for humanity.

Secondly, St Paul reminds us that unless we walk in the Spirit, we cannot live.  “In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him.  Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified.”  Negatively, it calls for death to the self, particularly what is worldly, especially sensual living and pride.  “People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God.”  So we are called to live a transcendent life which is one of love, peace, joy, service and compassion; not one of self-centeredness, pleasure and self-indulgence.  Life in the Spirit entails a struggle for freedom from the flesh and to place ourselves under the Lordship of Christ.

Thirdly, it means living a life of freedom in the Spirit.  St Paul wrote, “The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!” Of course, this struggle for authentic living in freedom means suffering, which is symbolized in our desire to die with Christ, effected internally through personal mortification and external persecutions.   When a Christian deepens his sonship in the Lord, he lives like a free person because the Spirit removes all fear from his life.  Fear is the work of the devil to hinder us from giving ourselves to God and for service.  Fear is the cause of all our sins.  But when we are children of God, we know that the Father will take care of us.   We are confident that regardless of what happens, our future will be glorious in Christ.  Like Jesus and the apostles, we can therefore spend our lives in total giving to God and the service of the gospel.   We are called to share the gifts of the Spirit we have received and put them into action.

Fourthly, a life of discipleship requires ongoing formation.  We are called to deepen not just our knowledge of the Lord but our relationship with Him.  This is the reason for the giving of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said, “…the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.”  All that needs to be revealed has been revealed in Christ.  He has shown us the fullness of revelation because He is the revelation of God.  But there are many things that we do not fully understand, partly because of the depth of what Jesus wanted to teach us and also because of new situations.  The Holy Spirit’s task is not to reveal to us new truths, but to deepen our understanding, interpretation and application of what has been taught to us by Christ.  By growing in understanding and perception of the truth in Christ, we come to know Him more and by so doing, we also come to know our Father as well.

In the final analysis, the joy of the Christian lies in his or her personal relationship with the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and the Spirit.  This is the implication of today’s gospel when the Lord said, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Lord comes to our hearts with His Father.  Through the Holy Spirit, we come to be in touch with the Lord and in seeing His face, we see the Father’s face and experience His Trinitarian love for us.  Such a life is truly what we call a Christian life because it is a sharing of the life of the Trinity.  With Jesus, we can then truly call God ‘Abba Father’.

Consequently, we need the Holy Spirit to do all these things.  On our own, we are helpless unless we receive the help of God the Holy Spirit Himself.  It is for this that the Lord promised that He will pray to the Father to give us the Holy Spirit.  This is the prayer of Jesus for us all.  It is His desire that we receive the Holy Spirit so that we can truly live the resurrected life and be empowered to love and give as He did in union with Him.  This too is the constant refrain of the Church, “Come, Holy Spirit.”  That was what we prayed in the responsorial psalm, “Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.”  With the Holy Spirit, everything is possible.

So let us ask for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives, not once but again and again.  That is why we celebrate Pentecost every year.  We need the Holy Spirit to constantly renew us and empower us.  We must make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit through renewal programs, retreats, contemplation and especially through the reception of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist.  In this way, the Holy Spirit dwells with the Church, the Christian community more and more, bringing us all together in Christ and forming us all truly into the sons and daughters of God.  The world cannot see Christ today but they can see Christ in us.  By sharing our love with them, we bring the world together in unity.  This, then, is the way to renew the face of the earth and to proclaim the marvels of God working in our lives.


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