Posts Tagged ‘kingdom of God’

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

January 11, 2019

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

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

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

.

Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 JN 5:14-21

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

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a)  The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R.  Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 4:16

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

Gospel  JN 3:22-30

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

********************************************

.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.

12 JANUARY, 2019, Saturday after the Epiphany

THE JOY OF RECONCILING MAN WITH GOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related image

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

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

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

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

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

.

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

.
*****************************************************

Reflection from Lectio Divina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****************************************

Homily By Pastor Mark Driscoll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

More later….

*************************

Bishops Describe Retreat With Father Raniero Cantalamessa

By Carol Zimmermann 
Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– – –

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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

Advertisements

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, November 15, 2018 — God is already here in us and in our midst

November 15, 2018

Image result for Lightning, photos

The Kingdom of God is within us and in our midst. The Kingdom of God is the reign of God’s love, justice and joy in our lives. Am I doing the will of God?

Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 494

Reading 1 PHMN 7-20

Beloved:
I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love,
because the hearts of the holy ones
have been refreshed by you, brother.
Therefore, although I have the full right in Christ
to order you to do what is proper,
I rather urge you out of love,
being as I am, Paul, an old man,
and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus.
I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,
whose father I have become in my imprisonment,
who was once useless to you but is now useful to both you and me.
I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you.
I should have liked to retain him for myself,
so that he might serve me on your behalf
in my imprisonment for the Gospel,
but I did not want to do anything without your consent,
so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.
Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while,
that you might have him back forever,
no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother,
beloved especially to me, but even more so to you,
as a man and in the Lord.
So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.
And if he has done you any injustice
or owes you anything, charge it to me.
I, Paul, write this in my own hand: I will pay.
May I not tell you that you owe me your very self.
Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord.
Refresh my heart in Christ.

Responsorial Psalm PS 146:7, 8-9A, 9BC-10

R. (5a) Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;
the LORD loves the just.
The LORD protects strangers.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 15:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the vine, you are the branches, says the Lord:
whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”

.
****************************************
.
.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN US AND IN OUR MIDST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ PHILEMON 7-20LUKE 17:20-25 ]

The Jews during the time of Jesus were speculating on the arrival of the Kingdom of God.  In other words, they were looking out for signs of the day of the Lord.  And in those days, it was believed that the Day of the Lord would come when there would be total destruction of the Old Age, that is, this present world, before the New World is ushered in.   Preceding this event there would be wars and natural disasters.  That was why Jesus told them, “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”  (Mk 13:7f)

Rather, the Kingdom of God is in us.  This is because the Kingdom of God is the reign of God’s love, justice and joy in our lives.  St Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  (Rom 14:17)  Thus when “asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’”

Indeed, if we live the life of the Spirit, the life of Christ, then the Kingdom of God is already here in us and in our midst.  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Conversely, St Paul warns us, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  (Gal 5:19-21)

A case in point is the transformation of the life of Onesimus.  He was most likely a runaway slave.  But for some reason, he came to find Paul in prison.  Through the mentoring and tutorship of Paul, Onesimus was converted to the Lord.  St Paul took pains to point out to Philemon the radical transformation of Onesimus, from one who was “no use to you before, but he will be useful to you now, as he has been to me.”  Before his conversion, Onesimus must have been a difficult slave.

But through Paul’s preaching of the gospel and his fatherly care and love for him, he was transformed and converted.  Indeed, the relationship that was cultivated between Paul and Onesimus was like a father and a son.  He said, “I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus.”  Paul must have shown him the love of God in such a way that he was touched and moved by his compassion and gentle love and care for him.  That changed him to want to serve Paul in prison willingly and happily.  Under St Paul’s tutelage, Onesimus did not just become a Christian but his personal life was transformed as well, from living for himself to living for others, from an unwilling slave to a willing slave of the Lord.

Most likely, Onesimus was a new name given to him after his baptism because the word, “Onesimus” means “beneficial.”  As a result of being reborn in Christ, Onesimus now lived out his identity as Christ’s brother, and his name, which is to benefit others.  His invaluable service to Paul who was in his old age must have been remarkable and Paul was grateful for his service.  When Paul wrote to Philemon, he assured him that he would be more useful to him than before.  Indeed, he said, “I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous.”

Indeed, for Paul, Onesimus should no longer be regarded a slave but a brother in the Lord since he had accepted Christ.  Writing to Philemon, he said, “I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave anymore, but something better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord.”  As a true believer in the Lord, he is the brother of Christ and therefore our brother.  In the mind of St Paul, slavery should be abolished although at that point of time, it was still so much part of the culture.  But it is significant that Christianity speaks of the freedom of every person because he or she has been purchased by Christ and belongs to Christ.  And if we all belong to Christ, then we are brothers and sisters.  Relationships among Christians should not be focused on a master-slave relationship but we are all one in Christ, serving the Lord in and through each other in different ways.

It is within this context that Paul urged Philemon to accept Onesimus back, not as a slave, but as a brother in the Lord because of his new identity as a Christian, a son to him, a brother to all.  “So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me.”  As Christians, we are called to accept one another in Christ, respecting everyone regardless of race, language, wealth, rank and status.  In the Church, all must be treated equally and there should be no discrimination between the rich and the poor, the influential and the ordinary people.  In the mind of Christ, we are all equally important to Him.  St James wrote, “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,”  have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”  (Jms 2:3-5)

But such matter should not be seen or be reduced to an obligation because if we fulfill the command to love and accept our brothers and sisters unwillingly, that love would not be sincere and free.  We will be paying only lip service and not genuine hospitality.  Thus, St Paul did not wish to impose his will on Philemon to accept Onesimus back.  Rather, he said, “Now, although in Christ I can have no diffidence about telling you to do whatever is your duty, I am appealing to your love instead, reminding you that this is Paul writing, an old man now and, what more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  He even went to the extent of wanting to repay what Onesimus owed him. “If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, then let me pay for it. I am writing this in my own handwriting: I, Paul, shall pay it back – I will not add any mention of your debt to me, which is yourself.”

What St Paul said to Philemon is also addressed to us, “I am so delighted, and comforted, to know of your love; they tell me, brother, how you have put new heart into the saints … Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord; put new heart into me, in Christ.”  Let us also follow St Paul and Philemon in putting new hearts in those who are hopeless, the poor, the depressed, the forlorn, the troubled, the sick and the hopeless.  We are called to be like St Paul to transform life, to heal, to empower and to restore such wounded and dejected people to wholeness through Christ and in Christ.  Like St Paul we must see the hidden Christ in such difficult and wounded people.  They are like Onesimus, waiting to be set free from their slavery to self and to their passions.  So we must follow St Paul in embracing them, taking them into our arms and fold, guide, heal and give them a new life.  So long as they have Christ, there is hope.  This is how we make the Kingdom of God present here and now, in our midst and in our hearts.

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

http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

.
******************************************
.

Socialism, Marxism, Capitalism and the choices to be made

September 4, 2018

Let us not forget that Marxism began its career as the one great political force of our century with the claim that it would usher in a new world of freedom and of human liberation. It was precisely Marxism’s assurance that it knew the scientifically guaranteed way to freedom and that it would create a new world which drew many of the boldest minds of our epoch to it. Eventually, Marxism even came to be seen as the power by which the Christian doctrine of redemption could finally be transformed into a realistic praxis of liberation—as the power whereby the kingdom of God could be concretely realized as the true kingdom of man. The collapse of “real socialism” in the nations of Eastern Europe has not entirely extirpated such hopes, which quietly survive here and there while searching for a new face. The political and economic collapse was not matched by any real intellectual defeat, and in that sense the question posed by Marxism is still far from being resolved. Nevertheless, the fact that the Marxist system did not function as had been promised is plain for all to see. No one can still seriously deny that this ostensible liberation movement was alongside National Socialism, the greatest system of slavery in modern history. The extent of its cynical destruction of man and of the environment is rather shamefacedly kept quiet, but no one can any longer dispute it.

No automatic alt text available.

….

It admits of no doubt that capitalism made a great step forward. And it also admits of no doubt that it has not lived up to what was expected of it. The cry of the huge masses whose desire has not been fulfilled is a constant refrain in capitalism…. The downfall of the Soviet conception of the world and of man in political and social praxis was a liberation of millions of human lives from slavery. But in the intellectual patrimony of Europe, in the light of the tradition of the last two hundred years, the anti-Communist revolution also signals the end of the illusions of the Enlightenment, hence, the destruction of the intellectual conception which was at the basis of the development of early modern Europe…. A remarkable, hitherto unprecedented epoch of uniform development has begun. And it has suddenly become apparent—probably for the first time in history—that there is only one recipe, one way, one model and one method of organizing the future. And men have lost their faith in the meaning of the revolutions which are occurring. They have also lost their hope that the world can be changed at all and that it is worthwhile changing it…. Today’s lack of any alternative, however, leads people to pose completely new questions. The first question: was the West wrong after all? The second question: if the West was not right, who, then, was? Because there is no one in Europe who can doubt that Communism was not right, the third question arises: can it be that there is no such thing as right? But if this is the case, the whole intellectual inheritance of the Enlightenment is worthless…. Perhaps the worn-out steam engine of the Enlightenment, after two centuries of profitable, trouble-free labor has come to a standstill before our eyes and with our cooperation. And the steam is simply evaporating. If this is the way things are in fact, the prospects are gloomy.

It is not the order of the community which saves man…

Marxism proceeds from the principle that freedom is indivisible, hence, that it exists as such only when it is the freedom of all. Freedom is tied to equality. The existence of freedom requires before anything else the establishment of equality. This means that it is necessary to forego freedom in order to attain the goal of total freedom. The solidarity of those struggling for the freedom of all comes before the vindication of individual liberties. The citation from Marx which served as the starting-point for our reflections shows that the idea of the unbounded freedom of the individual reappears at the end of the process. For the present however, the norm is the precedence of community, the subordination of freedom to equality and therefore the right of the community vis-a-vis the individual.

Bound up with this notion is the assumption that the freedom of the individual depends upon the structure of the whole and that the struggle for freedom must be waged not primarily to secure the rights of the individual, but to change the structure of the world. However, at the question as to how this structure was supposed to look and what the rational means to bring it about were, Marxism came up short…

The feeling that democracy is not the right form of freedom is fairly common and is spreading more and more. The Marxist critique of democracy cannot simply be brushed aside: how free are elections? To what extent is the outcome manipulated by advertising, that is, by capital, by a few men who dominate public opinion? Is there not a new oligarchy who determine what is modern and progressive, what an enlightened man has to think? The cruelty of this oligarchy, its power to perform public executions, is notorious enough. Anyone who might get in its way is a foe of freedom, because, after all, he is interfering with the free expression of opinion. And how are decisions arrived at in representative bodies? Who could still believe that the welfare of the community as a whole truly guides the decision-making process? Who could doubt the power of special interests, whose dirty hands are exposed with increasing frequency? And in general, is the system of majority and minority really a system of freedom? And are not interest groups of every kind appreciably stronger than the proper organ of political representation, the parliament? In this tangled power play, the problem of ungovernability arises ever more menacingly: the will of individuals to prevail over one another blocks the freedom of the whole.

There is doubtless a flirtation with authoritarian solutions and a flight from a runaway freedom. But this attitude does not yet define the mind of our century.

Sartre regards man as condemned to freedom. In contrast to the animal, man has no “nature.” The animal lives out its existence according to laws it is simply born with; it does not need to deliberate what to do with its life. But man’s essence is undetermined. It is an open question. I must decide myself what I understand by “humanity,” what I want to do with it, and how I want to fashion it. Man has no nature, but is sheer freedom. His life must take some direction or other, but in the end it comes to nothing. This absurd freedom is man’s hell. What is unsettling about this approach is that it is a way through the separation of freedom from truth to its most radical conclusion: there is no truth at all. Freedom has no direction and no measure.  But this complete absence of truth, this complete absence of any moral and metaphysical bond, this absolutely anarchic freedom—which is understood as an essential quality of man—reveals itself to one who tries to live it not as the supreme enhancement of existence, but as the frustration of life, the absolute void, the definition of damnation. The isolation of a radical concept of freedom, which for Sartre was a lived experience, shows with all desirable clarity that liberation from the truth does not produce pure freedom, but abolishes it. Anarchic freedom, taken radically, does not redeem, but makes man a miscarried creature, a pointless being.

Read the complete test from Joseph Ratzinger

https://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/truefree.htm

Related:

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 27, 2018 — Saint Monica, Love and Protect My Children

August 26, 2018

Related image

Augustine is one of those Olympian Sinners of faith history. His short story goes something like this: He’s living with his slave/pregnant girlfriend while still living under the roof of  his Mom’s house.  He is what today we would consider a lawyer or an advocate. He actually wins the case of a man accused of planning a murder. After the trial his client is set free and completes the murder he had been planning. Augustine shows no remorse but instead he is filled with pride because he won such a difficult trial! In his part time after the day’s drinking and frolicking, he is writing attacks of the followers of  Jesus Christ.

But St. Augustine’s Mom (who we now know at Saint Monica) is instructing him on Jesus and constantly prays that Augustine will “get it.”

So Augustine starts to pray “Oh God, I know I have to clean up my life and follow your way — BUT NOT YET!”

I call “The Not Yet Prayer.”  I prayed it often myself!

JFC

*****************************************

Saint Monica, also known as Monica of Hippo, is St. Augustine of Hippo’s mother. She was born in 331 A.D. in Tagaste, which is present-day Algeria.

When she was very young, she was married off to the Roman pagan Patricius, who shared his mother’s violent temper. Patricius’ mother lived with the couple and the duo’s temper flares proved to be a constant challenge to young Monica.

While Monica’s prayers and Christian deeds bothered Patricius, he is said to have respected her beliefs.

Three children were born to Monica and Patricius: Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Unfortunately, Monica was unable to baptize her children and when Augustine fell ill, Monica pleaded with Patricius to allow their son to be baptized.

Patricius allowed it, but when Augustine was healthy again, he withrew his permission.

For years Monica prayed for her husband and mother-in-law, until finally, one year before Patricius’ death, she successfully converted them.

As time passed, Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious life, but unfortunately Augustine became lazy and uncouth. This greatly worried Monica, so when Patricius died, she sent the 17-year-old Augustine to Carthage for schooling.

While in Carthage, Augustine became a Manichaean, which was a major religion that saw the world as light and darkness, and when one died, they were removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, which is where life comes from.

After Augustine got his education and returned home, he shared his views with Monica, who drove him from her table. Though it is not recorded how much time passed, Monica had a vision that convinced her to reconcile with her wayward son.

Monica went to a bishop, who told her, “the child of those tears shall never perish.”

Inspired, Monica followed Augustine to Rome, where she learned he had left for Milan. She continued her persual and eventually came upon St. Ambrose, who helped her convert Augustine to Christianity following his seventeen-year resistance.

Augustine later wrote a book called Confessions, in which he wrote of Monica’s habit of bringing “to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread, water and wine.”

When Monica moved to Milan, a bishop named Ambrose told her wine “might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink,” so she stopped preparing wine as offerings for the saints.

Augustine wrote: “In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.”

After a period of six months, Augustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. The pair were led to believe they should spread the Word of God to Africa, but it the Roman city of Civitavecchia, Monica passed away.

Augustine recorded the words she imparted upon him when she realized death was near. “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.”

She was buried at Ostia, and her body was removed during the 6th century to a hidden crypt in the church of Santa Aurea in Osta, near the tomb of St. Aurea of Ostia.

In 1430, Pope Martin V ordered her relics to be brought to Rome and many miracles were reported to have occurred along the way. Later, Cardinal d’Estouteville built a church to honor St. Augustine called the Basilica di Sant’Agostino, where her relics were placed in a chapel to the left of the high altar.

Her funeral epitaph survived in ancient manuscripts and the stone it was originally written on was discovered in the church of Santa Aurea in 1945.

Douglas Boin translated the tablet’s Latin to read:

“Here the most virtuous mother of a young man set her ashes, a second light to your merits, Augustine.

As a priest, serving the heavenly laws of peace, you taught [or you teach] the people entrusted to you with your character. A glory greater than the praise of your accomplishments crowns you both – Mother of the Virtues, more fortunate because of her offspring.”

Fun Fact
The city of Santa Monica, California is named after Monica, as were the “weeping” springs outside the city.

St. Monica Prayer

St. Monica,
I need your prayers.
You know exactly how I’m feeling because you once felt it yourself.
I’m hurting, hopeless, and in despair.
I desperately want my child to return to Christ in his Church but I can’t do it alone.
I need God’s help.
Please join me in begging the Lord’s powerful grace to flow into my child’s life.
Ask the Lord Jesus to soften his heart, prepare a path for his conversion, and activate the Holy Spirit in his life.
Amen.

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

St. Monica at prayer

Related:

*****************************************

Memorial of Saint Monica
Lectionary: 425

Reading 1  2 THES1:1-5, 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters,
as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more,
and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.
Accordingly, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God
regarding your endurance and faith in all your persecutions
and the afflictions you endure.This is evidence of the just judgment of God,
so that you may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God
for which you are suffering.We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 4-5

R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,
but the LORD made the heavens.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Alleluia  JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 23:13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.”Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”
.
*******************************************
.
Reflection By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds
.
Jesus gives great importance to the virtue of sincerity.  To be sincere is to live in the truth, and the source of all truth is God.  To be sincere involves living as God would have us do, so that our desires, words, and actions are authentic and all spring from the same source. The visible forms of the faith serve to cultivate and reinforce an interior disposition of belief, conversion, and worship.
.

 As Jesus’ passion and death draw near, his teaching becomes more intense.  According to the chronology of St. Matthew, the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a prelude to the dramatic cleaning of the Temple.  There follows a series of parables that emphasize the theme of judgment and repentance.  In the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 23:13-22), Jesus rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy.

As we have seen, Jesus gives great importance to the virtue of sincerity.  To be sincere is to live in the truth, and the source of all truth is God.  To be sincere involves living as God would have us do, so that our desires, words, and actions are authentic and all spring from the same source.

The hypocrisy of some of the scribes and Pharisees stands in stark contrast to this ideal.  Jesus doesn’t criticize these religious leaders simply for being sinners; no one can escape that condition.  Nor does he rebuke them for being unrepentant; he must still have hope for them in that regard.  They are criticized, however, for manipulating the precepts of their religion, and for failing to share the riches of their faith with others.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.  You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter” (Matthew 23:13).

This is the first in a series of seven “woes” in the Gospel of St. Matthew.  In a way, they are the “reverse side of the coin” to the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).  Whereas the Beatitudes proclaim the pattern of blessedness for the Christian, these “woes” reveal the barrenness that is the rotten fruit produced by the rejection of Christ and his Gospel.

Blessedness versus barrenness.  This is the contrast presented by Christ.  If we want to find blessing, grace and peace in our lives, we will strive, with God’s help, to live the virtues described in the beatitudes.  On the other hand, the interior blindness that fuels the “woes” will only lead to corruption, cynicism, and unhappiness.

Particularly offensive to the Lord is the twisting of religious practice into something that resembles superstition.

“You say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (Matthew 23:18-19).

Where did the Pharisees get all of this?  Their approach to religious duties seems to be little more than a series of well-choreographed rituals, far removed from the intentions of the heart.  It is almost as if religion has been reduced to a game of chance.  “To attribute the efficacy of prayers. to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2111).

We recognize, of course, that Jesus directs this warning not only to the Pharisees, but to us as well.  We never want to regard the outward practice of the faith as a kind of “good luck charm” with the power to manipulate circumstances to our benefit.  Rather, the visible forms of the faith serve to cultivate and reinforce an interior disposition of belief, conversion, and worship.

Indeed, in the sacramental life of the Church, outward ritual is transformed by the power of Christ into a living and dynamic communion with God.  The sacraments possess a power all their own, because it is Christ himself who is at work.  When our faith is firmly rooted in the sacraments, it will not only be preserved, but it will grow in vigor and intensity.

Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: http://www.SugarLandCatholic.com.

https://www.catholic.org/homily/yearoffaith/story.php?id=52134

Related:

***********************************************************

.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.

27 AUGUST, 2018, Monday, 21st Week, Ordinary Time

LEGALISM THE CAUSE FOR THE LOSS OF FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 THESSALONIANS 1:1-511-12MATTHEW 23:13-22  ]

In the first reading, we read of St Paul’s warm and encouraging letter to the early Christians in Thessalonica.  St Paul began the letter by affirming them in the progress they had made in Christian life.  “We feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers; quite rightly, because your faith is growing so wonderfully and the love that you have for one another never stops increasing; and among the churches of god we can take special pride in you for your constancy and faith under all the persecutions and troubles you have to bear.”  St Paul first praised them for their growing faith.

Their maturity in faith was seen firstly in the love that they had for each other.  Indeed, the sign of faith is always the expression of love.   St John wrote, “let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  (1 Jn 4:7f)  Jesus in the gospel said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:34f)  He reiterated this when He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last -and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”  (Jn 15:16f)  St Paul, writing to the Galatians, made it clear, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  (Gal 5:6)

Secondly, their strong faith was manifested in the capacity to remain firm in their allegiance to Christ in spite of the persecutions and oppositions they faced.  Being able to endure and suffer for our faith and beliefs is the hallmark of a tested faith.  It is easy to love Christ in good times.  True love is always seen in the trials of life.  This is particularly true in relationships, especially in marriage.  When things are good, it does not take much sacrifice to love.  It is only when things are trying, then love requires us to die to ourselves and to suffer for the love of other.  St Peter wrote to the Christians, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  (1 Pt 1:6-9)

Unfortunately, many Catholics have gone back to the laws like the early Christians.  This is disastrous for the Catholic Faith.  Truly, many Catholics in their mind think that salvation is by good works and not by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.   They think that salvation is simply doing good, living righteously, earning merits to get to heaven.  That is why many Catholics live in fear of the final judgement, about being punished and sent to hell.  They are over scrupulous of their sins and actions. St Paul reprimanded the Christians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Gal 1:6f)  He made it clear, “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”  (Gal 2:15f)

Legalism is the strength and also the weakness of the Catholic Church.  Laws are certainly needed in any institution to safeguard justice and charity because not all members are strong enough to love like Christ.  They need structures and guidelines to help them to live out the gospel life.   But an over emphasis on obedience and observance of the laws reduce faith into a moral system, the efficacy of some rituals and an impersonal and cold institution without a soul.  This is how many Catholics feel about the Church.  The institutions of the Church lead to legalism in the way we practice our faith. It is a list of dos and don’ts.  The individual is not taken seriously but all are seen collectively.  We do not treat our people as persons who have their feelings and unique struggles.  All are judged by the laws without exception.  Punishment is meted without taking into consideration the specific circumstances.  The letter of the law is followed but not the spirit.  There is no compassion exercised, sensitivity and sympathy to their pain.

This is precisely the condemnation of Jesus in the gospel with regard the way the Pharisees and the scribes lived out their faith.  He called them “hypocrites!”  Why? Firstly, the meticulous observance of the laws is almost impossible for anyone to truly observe them in fact and in spirit.  Tradition has it that the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 commandments, of which 365 are negative commands and 248 are positive laws.   But if you think this is already too many, the Catholics have 1752 Canon laws for us to observe and obey.  These laws do not include the liturgical laws and laws dealing with governance in specific areas.   In truth, how could anyone truly claim that he or she has observed all the laws or even know what they are!  Hence, the Lord said, “You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”

Secondly, when we fall into legalism, we become self-righteous.  There are many Catholics who are lacking compassion for fellow Catholics who are weak, struggling in their sins and trying to walk the gospel way of life.  The so-called upright Catholics are judgemental of others’ behavior and conduct.  They make themselves the judges of others, how they live their lives and practice their faith.  Often they make presumptuous judgement, slandering people, gossiping and spreading fake news.  Such self-righteous Catholics often break up families, communities and discourage sincere Catholics from coming to Church because of their sins.  Instead of welcoming them, understanding them, affirming and journeying with them, we ostracize them, especially those who have same-sex orientation, are divorced and remarried, past criminals, etc.  Hence, Jesus warns us, “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.”

Thirdly, when we are legalistic, we are manipulative of the laws.  Instead of seeking to be true to the spirit of the laws, we are simply concerned about the external performance.  We find ways to circumvent the laws by giving all kinds of excuses.  This was what the Lord said to the religious leaders regarding the validity of an oath taken by the gold of the Temple or the Temple itself.  He said to them, “You blind men!  For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred?  Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it.  And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.”  We lack sincerity!

Indeed, at the end of the day, it is not the legalistic and ritualistic observance of the laws that will save us.  Rather, it is our faith in God’s love and that we are justified in Christ. In uncertain terms, St Paul declared, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”  (Gal 2:20f)  St Paul also wrote, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  (Rom 13:8)

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

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 22, 2018 — A Scolding To The Shepherds

August 22, 2018

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want — Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ — God will continue to invite us over and over throughout our whole life

.

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 421

Reading 1 EZ 34:1-11

The word of the Lord came to me:
Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel,
in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds:
Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel
who have been pasturing themselves!
Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.
You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.
My sheep were scattered
and wandered over all the mountains and high hills;
my sheep were scattered over the whole earth,
with no one to look after them or to search for them.

Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
As I live, says the Lord GOD,
because my sheep have been given over to pillage,
and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast,
for lack of a shepherd;
because my shepherds did not look after my sheep,
but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep;
because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I swear I am coming against these shepherds.
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
I will save my sheep,
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.

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

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
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. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
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. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness will follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia HEB 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 20:1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
.
Related:
.
.
.
**********************************************
.
Homily From The Abbot in the Desert
.

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

How can someone who works the whole day be paid the same as someone who only worked an hour or less?  God keeps on demanding of us that we recognize His mercy and His love.  Do we want salvation for others, even if they have only converted at the last moment?  If we don’t, then there is something wrong in the way that we love others.

So we come to the Gospel from Saint Matthew.  What an incredible parable!  This is Jesus teaching us about the Kingdom of God.  God will continue to invite us over and over throughout our whole life.  God never tires of asking us:  “Will you come and work in my vineyard?”  We can’t really believe that God is so good because we ourselves are often no so good.  But God is not a human being!  God is God and has his own ways and His own thoughts.  God loves us eternally and is always willing to forgive us and to show us mercy.

We are invited today to know more about how God loves us and then to live that same kind of love with one another.  Truly it is the only way to salvation and the only way that our world will ever come to live in peace.  Let us walk with Jesus and live as He lived.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

**************************************

 

.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.

22 AUGUST, 2018, Wednesday, The Queenship of the B.V.Mary

GOOD LEADERSHIP BEGETS GOOD LEADERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ezekiel 34:1-11Matthew 20:1-16  ]

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt 9:37f) Indeed, the harvest is great but we do not have sufficient labourers in the vineyard of the Lord.  This is often the lamentation of Catholics, that we are short of priests and religious to serve the People of God.  It is becoming more and more challenging in this secular, materialistic and individualistic world we live in because the values of poverty, obedience and chastity are difficult to observe.  Not only are we short of priests and religious, hardly 10% of our Catholics are serving in Church organizations.   Many are multitasking and holding a few portfolios in different ministries.

However, the truth is that the Lord does call His people to leadership and to serve in His vineyard.  He calls different individuals and groups of people at different times in our history.   He never stops calling as we read in today’s gospel.   He invites those who are standing idle in the market place and says to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.”  He calls at the third, sixth, ninth and the eleventh hour.  No one is excluded from this call and no one is too late to be called.  The place where He calls is not at the palace but at the market place where the ordinary people live and work.  Wherever we are, we are called to different forms of leadership.   It is immaterial where we are called, but we are called to live meaningful lives by giving ourselves in service to the community instead of idling our time away.

Of course, the Lord often calls through the leaders that He has already appointed.  Those of us who are in leadership must therefore call others into service and leadership, even whilst we lead the people in our organization.  Leaders must always be thinking of how to generate new leaders after them.  Otherwise their leadership will be a failure as there is no continuity after they are gone.  Indeed, often because leaders do not explicitly invite potential leaders and workers, they remain idle and lacking purpose in life.

However, leaders do not simply call others to share their work through explicit calling.  Rather, the best way to call is through exemplary and inspiring leadership.   What kind of leaders we have in the future is dependent on whether leaders are role models for those under their charge.  Good leaders will beget good leaders; and bad leaders will beget more bad leaders.  The truth is that the subordinates tend to take the cue from their leaders and act according to the signals their leaders give them.

This was the case of the bad shepherds in the first reading.  The kings, the nobles, the judges, the priests and the prophets were not leading the covenantal life that they were supposed to live.  They broke the laws and twisted the laws to suit their convenience, their greed for power, wealth and status.  They were not concerned for the people under their care but about themselves.  They used their political and religious leadership to further their self-interests rather than have the people at heart in whatever they do.  It was about enriching themselves at the expense of the poor and the suffering.  They acted unjustly and were not concerned that the country was weakening because of loose moral standards, hypocritical worship, and unjust practices.   As a result, the people were internally divided and thus were unable to defend themselves from their enemies.  

It is important therefore to recognize that if there is a lack of workers and leaders in the vineyard of the Lord, it is because we fail to nurture strong and good leaders.  If leaders are credible in their field of work or commitment, they will naturally edify and inspire others to follow their lead.  The leaders of tomorrow are dependent on the leaders of today.  If they are corrupt, then the Church and society will produce corrupt and inept leaders.  However, good leaders will inspire those who truly want to serve God and His people to come forward and offer themselves for the service of God and country.

What kind of leadership role models should good leaders exhibit to attract potential good leaders to work with them?  Firstly, leadership must be offered not for power, prestige or riches but simply for humble service.  A leader is always a servant of the people that he leads.  The Lord told His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them.  It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Mt 20:25-28) Leaders must remain humble in service because it is by grace, as today’s gospel tells us, that we are called.  It is not by our efforts or talents alone that the Lord calls us.  If we are chosen to be leaders, it is purely through His grace and mercy alone.  So there is nothing to boast about except His grace alone.

Secondly, inspiring leadership is collaborative in nature.  It is never dictatorial. This was the indictment on Israel’s leaders.  “On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and violently.”   Jesus did not keep leadership to Himself.  He invited the disciples to share in His power to proclaim the Good News and gave them the power to do so as He did. “Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.”  (Mt 10:1) Then later on, “the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.”  (Lk 10:1) Leaders must not behave as if they are kings, ordering people around and dominating them as if they have the right answers to every issue that affects the life of the community.  They need to bring as many people as possible, according to their talents to work together as Church to build up the Body of Christ.

Thirdly, inspiring leadership is a compassionate service.  This was the failure of the Israelite leaders.  “You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the wounded ones.”  That is why Pope Francis constantly reminds priests to be compassionate and merciful, for leaders are called to reveal the mercy of God and His love for humanity.  The problem is that we do not mind tending to those who are strong and healthy, but dealing with the weak, the broken, the wounded, the poor and the suffering saps much of our energy and emotional strength as well.  This is what is needed today.  Leaders must care for the weak of society, not just look after the rich, the powerful and the strong.

Fourthly, inspiring leadership seeks the lost sheep.  “You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost.”  There are so many nominal Catholics but we are not doing enough to bring them home.  Many of our young Catholics leave the Church after confirmation because they cannot connect with the Lord.  Many are misled by the values and opinions and half-truths propagated by the world.   As a result, “For lack of a shepherd they have scattered, to become the prey of any wild animal; they have scattered far. My flock is straying this way and that, on mountains and on high hills; my flock has been scattered all over the country; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them.”  Indeed, today many of us clergy only care for the strong, those who support us and the Church.  But those on the margin, we do not proactively reach out to them.  We ostracize them and live in our comfort zone.  Yet these are the ones that the Lord has come for – the sick, not the healthy, sinners, not the saints. (cf Mk 2:17)

Because leadership is a grace of God and not our own doing, the failure to exercise the gift of leadership properly will not just cause suffering for those under our charge but our own self destruction as well.  The Lord is warning us as He warned the Israelite leaders.  “Trouble for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Shepherds ought to feed their flock, yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock. I am going to call the shepherds to account. I am going to take my flock back from them and I shall not allow them to feed my flock. In this way the shepherds will stop feeding themselves.”  Such is the end of all bad leaders, whether in the political, corporate or religious world.   So rather than using the gift of leadership to enrich ourselves at the expense of those whom we serve, let us learn from Jesus to serve humbly and selflessly even unto death.   “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  (Jn 10:11) With Jesus we say, “I come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (cf Jn 10:10)

Today, we also celebrate the memorial of the Queenship of Heaven.  Mary showed herself to be a leader in her own right.  She exercised her leadership by being a mother in grace, in holiness and in charity.  She taught us the importance of faith in God when she said “yes” to the angel.  She taught us the true virtue of charity when she went out of her way to help Elizabeth in her old age during her time of pregnancy.  She taught us sensitivity to the needs of others even when they did not ask for help, as in the case of the wedding couple at Cana.  She exercised expectant faith when she interceded for the wedding couple who were short of wine for the wedding banquet.  She taught us charity in forgiving our enemies as she did at the foot of the cross.  She led the disciples in prayer as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  She taught us that leadership does not mean that we always must be in the forefront and in the limelight.  Quietly, she meditated on the scriptures and the daily events in her life, gave praise to God and supported her son’s ministry on the quiet.  Such was the humble, selfless, inspiring leadership of Mary in living out the life of the gospel, the life of Christ.

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

Morning Prayer for Monday, July 30, 2018 — The reward of faith is to see what you believe

July 30, 2018

Image result for praising god, photos

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is not seeing, but believing. Down through the ages, there have always been those who obeyed the heavenly vision, not seeing but believing in God. And their faith was rewarded. So shall it be to you. Good things will happen to you. You cannot see God, but you can see the results of faith in human lives, changing them from defeat to victory. God’s grace is available to all who have faith – not seeing, but believing. With faith, life can be victorious and happy.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may have faith enough to believe without seeing. I pray that I may be content with the results of my faith.

Related:

Our Top Rated Morning Prayer:

.

Image may contain: text

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 17, 2018 — “For we walk by faith, not by sight”

June 16, 2018

We need to spend some time with the Lord, listening to His words, and wondering what the words mean.  When we do this, we begin to understand Jesus and the Kingdom.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree … Ezekiel

Sounds like: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 92

Reading 1 EZ 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. (cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

Reading 2 2 COR 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
.
***********************************************
.
First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
.
People used to talk a lot about extrasensory perception or ESP, also called sixth sense or second sight. That’s the powerful feeling about where to go, what to do and how to proceed.
.
Christians would be more comfortable talking about the Holy Spirit — a God centered type of guidance system informed by scripture, prayer and even God Himself.
.
After all, ESP could be fueled by heroin or cocaine… or lust, selfishness, greed or maybe anger.
.
God wants us to choose the right path.
.
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
.
There will be an accounting. And to reach a life that will “pass muster,” we start as small as a mustard seed and try to grow in the way of the Lord.
.
This takes work and prayer and dedication.
.
Our choice is to pick God’s Way or the Highway.
.
But remember, the Highway is full of disorder even if we manage to avoid the worst of it — the opiates, prostitutes and the rest.
.
God’s way, even with the required work, is still easier than the Highway — especially when it’s time to give our accounting!
.
.
**********************************************
.
Reflection By The Abbot, Monastery of Christ in the Desert
.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Parables!  Jesus is often speaking to us in parables.  Often we don’t spend enough time thinking about the parables, about the images that He gives us.  We need to spend some time with the Lord, listening to His words, and wondering what the words mean.  When we do this, we begin to understand Jesus and the Kingdom.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel.  We have many images in this reading.  However, the message is clear:  “All the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”  The message is simple:  God is God and we humans are not God and cannot control our world or anything in it.  We have the appearance of control, but the world spins out of control when we humans no longer respect God nor respect the ways of God for us.  This has happened over and over in human history and we humans seem incapable of learning the lesson:  follow the Lord and life is very good!  Abandon the Lord and life becomes unbearable.

The second reading is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  The small passage that we read today repeats the lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel:  “We walk by faith, not by sight.”  When we walk by faith, we listen to the Word of God and strive to form our lives by that Word.  If we walk by sight, we no longer believe in the Lord because the present world tells us that God is not necessary, is only a foolish thought of humans, and that life is much better without God.

Once again we are confronted with the truth:  With God there is mercy!  Without God, all becomes useless and without meaning.  The only meaning without God is the human being.  The human being is always fickle, always seeking its own good, always looking for please and wealth and power.  As our world continues to abandon God, we can expect worse things yet to happen.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint Mark and brings us back to parables and images.  What is the Kingdom of God like, Jesus asks?  Well, it is something that we cannot control.  It is like planting a field and not understanding why the plants grow.  The Kingdom of God is all around us and is within us—but we have a choice to recognize it or to ignore it.  Whether we recognize the Kingdom or ignore the Kingdom, the process of the Kingdom is still at work:  time is given to us to give ourselves to God.

The Kingdom of God is very small and that is why so many cannot see it.  Small.  Not small in size but small in its beginnings within us and within our communities.  Yet it can grow and become so powerful.  God never forces Himself upon us.  We can always invite God to grow within us and within our communities.

When we see the grass grow or when we see a tree grow, we can think of the Kingdom of God!  When we see birds fly in the air, we can think of the Kingdom of God.  God is always at work and always loving us.  May we open our eyes and our hearts to Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

************************************************

Related:

.

**********************************************

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

January 21, 2018
 / 05:04 AM January 21, 2018

The story is told about a woman who was married four times: to a rich man, to an actor, to a preacher, and to a funeral director. When asked why it was so, her response was: “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go.”

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 1, 14-20), we hear how Jesus called the first disciples. Simon, Andrew, James and John were fishermen who were simply drawn to the person and message of Jesus. They had no ulterior motives in following Him. We ask ourselves today: Why am I following the Lord? What keeps me going? Why do I go on serving?

Today is the feast of the Santo Niño, the boy Jesus who reminds us about purity of heart and clarity of purpose. As we grow on, we must stay focused on our original call and purpose when we started out to follow Jesus. Let not functions, positions, possessions, benefits and privileges that go along with the call blind and imprison us, and hinder us from becoming true and free disciples for the kingdom of God.

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” This is the original message of our Lord which we, His followers, must preach and proclaim. Note that it is all about the kingdom of God, and not about ourselves, nor about our own “kingdoms,” programs, plans, or what have you. The messenger must not be corrupted, and the message must not be adulterated.

The fishermen abandoned their nets and followed Jesus as His disciples. Following and serving the Lord must involve sacrifice; otherwise, it becomes a profession, a comfort zone, or worse, a business enterprise. In other words, discipleship is not for the money and for the show; otherwise, we will not be ready when it’s time to go.

The act of abandoning our nets in favor of the Lord’s net is, and should be, an ongoing task for those who claim to be His followers and disciples. We must continue to be like children: humble, obedient, joyful and docile. If at some point we hold on to our own agenda and plans, and get caught in our desire for comfort, popularity and performance, it is time to be humble and in prayer, and remember again that we have a Master, and that we are mere servants.

“So they left their father, Zebedee, in the boat along with the hired men, and followed Him.” Following Jesus is becoming a disciple with no thought of compensation and wages. In other words, we are not hired men and women who function “for the money.”  This is the challenge for all church and government leaders. Let not money corrupt us and destroy our original vision and mission to protect and to serve.

The sunset is a beautiful time of the day. At sunset, life slows down, and one gets the feeling of achievement for having gone this far, or simply, for having survived. But it could also be a time for panic, insecurity, or even regret. It really all depends on how you traveled the road. Those who relied on themselves all along will find the sunset years lonely and scary, filled with worries and even guilt perhaps. But those who traveled with the Lord will find the sunset years peaceful, serene and meaningful. Yes, in our sunset years, may we have little or no regret that we loved too little, or too late.

Think about this: “Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same God who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.”

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels” (Saint Augustine). Let us be reminded that humility is the key to true leadership and discipleship. It is the humble that make the difference in this world. Those who are loud and proud are soon gone and forgotten. Those who are simple and humble will always be remembered and appreciated.

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, unworthy as we are, You have called and continue to call us. Help us to become more humble and true. Amen.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/110422/the-call#ixzz54qC6Zfgd
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

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

September 17, 2017

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

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing

Reading 1 1 TM 2:1-8

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

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

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

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

Responsorial Psalm  PS 28:2, 7, 8-9

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

Alleluia  JN 3:16

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

Gospel  LK 7:1-10

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

.
*********************************************
.
Homily For 1  TM 2:1-8 Steven J. Cole
.

How concerned am I with people around me who are perishing without Jesus Christ? Do I care more about my own comfort and financial gain than I do about people dying without the Savior? Do I go on about my business day after day, week after week, without any burden for those who need to know Christ as Savior?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

**************************************************************

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

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

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

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

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

Related image

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

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

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

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

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

.
***************************************
.

Article by Jon Bloom

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more:

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

******************************

.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 22, 2017 — “For God all things are possible.” — “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

August 21, 2017

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 420

Image may contain: text, outdoor and nature

Reading 1  JGS 6:11-24A

The angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth in Ophrah
that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite.
While his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press
to save it from the Midianites,
the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said,
“The LORD is with you, O champion!”
Gideon said to him, “My Lord, if the LORD is with us,
why has all this happened to us?
Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers
told us when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’
For now the LORD has abandoned us
and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”
The LORD turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have
and save Israel from the power of Midian.
It is I who send you.”
But Gideon answered him, “Please, my lord, how can I save Israel?
My family is the lowliest in Manasseh,
and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”
“I shall be with you,” the LORD said to him,
“and you will cut down Midian to the last man.”
Gideon answered him, “If I find favor with you,
give me a sign that you are speaking with me.
Do not depart from here, I pray you, until I come back to you
and bring out my offering and set it before you.”
He answered, “I will await your return.”

So Gideon went off and prepared a kid and a measure of flour
in the form of unleavened cakes.
Putting the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot,
he brought them out to him under the terebinth
and presented them.
The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and unleavened cakes
and lay them on this rock; then pour out the broth.”
When he had done so,
the angel of the LORD stretched out the tip of the staff he held,
and touched the meat and unleavened cakes.
Thereupon a fire came up from the rock
that consumed the meat and unleavened cakes,
and the angel of the LORD disappeared from sight.
Gideon, now aware that it had been the angel of the LORD,
said, “Alas, Lord GOD,
that I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!”
The LORD answered him,
“Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.”
So Gideon built there an altar to the LORD
and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 85:9, 11-12, 13-14

R. (see 9b) The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace
To his people, and to his faithful ones,
and to those who put in him their hope.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. The Lord speaks of peace to his people.

Alleluia  2 COR 8:9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

.

Image result for eye of the needle, art, photos

Gospel  MT 19:23-30

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said to him in reply,
“We have given up everything and followed you.
What will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you
that you who have followed me, in the new age,
when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory,
will yourselves sit on twelve thrones,
judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters
or father or mother or children or lands
for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more,
and will inherit eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

.
***********************************************
.
Image may contain: outdoor
Gideon and the angel by David T. Lamb
.

God sometimes protects us from suffering (he’ll deliver Israel through Gideon), but somethings he sends suffering to get our attention (he handed Israel over to the Midianites), and other times he allows suffering almost randomly (e.g., Job).  The problem is discerning how God is working in the midst of suffering, and why.

One of the major problems with the people of God in the Old Testament is the worshipping of idols, ie. idolatry.

They were called to be God’s people and to worship the one true God and yet they turned to idols and bowed down and prostrated them in worship of images or idols that represented or were thought to embody various pagan deities.

But what was it that made them turn to idolatry? What was the attraction of idolatry that made them unfaithful to God who had showed them such great signs and wonders?

The attraction, and the seduction, came in many forms: fertility of animals and crop and the connected ritual sex, material gains, power and conquest of other nations, etc.

Being faithful to God would seem boring to say the least, with those laws and commandments, and they felt like losers compared to the other idol-worshipping pagans around them.

But what they fail to see is that they were also being slowly seduced by an evil power that was drawing them away from God, and leading them down the road of immorality and wickedness.

As we heard in the 1st reading, God punished them for their unfaithfulness but He also appointed judges to rescue them from their enemies. But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors. Obviously, the evil power never gives up in pulling the people away from God.

In the scripture, the rich young man who wanted to possess eternal life wands to know how. Jesus wanted him to follow him on the condition that he gives up his earthly riches.

Jesus was trying to pull him out of the clutches of the idolatry of earthly wealth, but like his ancestors, he was too attracted and obsessed by it.

As for ourselves, do we know what earthly attractions we are attached to or obsessed with? Let us ask Jesus to pull us out of it and to be faithful to Him.

If Jesus is not our first above all, then in the end, we will have nothing at all; neither here nor in eternity.

.
*************************************************

Commentary on Matthew 19:23-30 From Living Space

After hearing the sad story of the rich young man who could not accept his invitation to be a disciple, Jesus gives some comments on the effects of wealth. It is next to impossible for the rich man to enter the kingdom of God, says Jesus. It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. (It is said that Jesus was referring to a narrow entrance in the city wall of Jerusalem called the ‘eye of the needle’. In either case, Jesus is indicating something which is extremely difficult, in fact, next to impossible.)

Some of us may feel slightly uncomfortable about this. Even if we are not rich ourselves, we might like to see our children get rich some day or we admire people who have, by their hard work, become wealthy. What is wrong with having a lot of money which one has earned by the one’s own sweat and labour?

What does the Gospel mean by being rich? To be rich here means to have a large surplus of money and possessions while around one are people who do not have what they need to live a life of dignity. How can I continue to hold on to “my” possessions when such a situation prevails? How can I claim to belong to the kingdom, the reign of God, which is a kingdom of love and justice? “I was hungry and thirsty and sick and in prison” and you did not give me to eat or drink, you did not visit me or show any compassion. Instead, you piled up all that money in the bank or on the stock exchange or you splurged it on BMWs and fancy restaurants and expensive clothes.

To be rich in the Gospel means refusing to share what you have with those who have not. As long as you behave like that, you cannot be eligible for the Kingdom. It really is like trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle. There is a radical incompatibility.

The disciples were quite amazed at Jesus’ words. They were thinking along lines traditional to their culture and their religion. Wealth was a sign of God’s blessings; poverty and sickness a sign of his punishment. But Jesus is turning their traditions on their head.

It was something the young man could not understand either. He was under the impression that his wealth was a grace, a sign of God’s favour. The idea of giving alms was to be highly commended but to share his wealth with the poor and create a more just playing field was something for which he felt no obligation and which made no sense.

Then Peter, the optimist, begins to see the bright side. “What about us? We have left everything and followed you.” Jesus gives a twofold reply.

As the leaders of the new community and people who have generously put their whole security in Jesus, his disciples will be especially rewarded. And indeed everyone who leaves family and goods for Jesus’ sake will be rewarded many times over with father, mother, brothers, sisters, goods. This is not just a pie-in-the-sky promise. It is one that can be realised and, in many parts of the world, is being realised. When everyone works for the good of the other, everyone benefits.

The wealth-is-good world believes that it is every man for himself. There is only a limited amount of the cake and it is up to each one to get as big a piece as he can. Too bad about the losers.

In the world of Jesus, everyone gets because everyone gives; because everyone gives, everyone receives. It is not a ‘gimme’ world; it is a reaching out to others world. And when everyone reaches out, everyone is benefiting. In such a world, I do not have to worry about a roof over my head, or about brothers and sisters, or property or security. It is the realisation of “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” It is where love and justice meet. For too many people in our world, there is neither love nor justice.

If the rich man had liberated himself from his wealth and shared it with the poor and become a follower of Jesus in the new community, he might never have been rich again but he would have had all his needs attended to.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2203g/

.

***********************************************

.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
22 AUGUST, 2017, Tuesday, 20th Week, Ordinary Time
CALLED AND EMPOWERED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jdg 6:11-24Mt 19:23-30 ]

There are so many challenges facing the Church, society and the world today.  The Church is facing many challenges from within and without.  From within, the Church has to deal with scandals, bureaucracy, connectivity to our people.   From without, the Church has to deal with the question of mission in the new era of ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and secularism.  Above all, within and without, the Church is divided on ethical and moral issues, especially those that deal with family and marriage.  Society is divided as there are no common values to hold all together because of relativism.  There is also the tension of integrating migrants into the host country.   The world is more unstable today because of wars and the abuse of ecology.  If not properly handled, the world could risk destruction.

In the face of these challenges, many simply lament about the state of the Church, society and the world.  Like Gideon, we feel distressed at the developments in the world.  When we are facing trials, not just on the global front but within our own families, because of broken marriages and dysfunctional children, we cannot but blame God and the world for the state we are in.  Gideon said, “Forgive me, my lord, but if the Lord is with us, then why is it that all this is happening to us now? And where are all the wonders our ancestors tell us of when they say, ‘Did not the Lord bring us out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has deserted us; he has abandoned us to Midian.”   Indeed, where is the God whom we believe in, the God of love, mercy and might?  So much so in our trials, we wonder whether God really exists, because He does not seem to be able to help us.

Instead of looking outside ourselves and finding fault with the situation, the truth is that the problems of society begin with us.   We do not see that the problems are created by us.  When Gideon complained why God had deserted them, it was a wrong judgment.  God did not abandon Israel but rather, it was they who abandoned the Lord and sought false gods.  They did not obey the commandments given to them to help them in their relationship with God and with each other.  So it was they who left God and went on their own ways instead of following the ways of God.  They believed in themselves.   It is true of the world today.   In a world of relativism, everyone seeks to go his or her own way.  It is based on subjectivism.  We find all sorts of reason to justify our opinions.

We pride ourselves for being pragmatic people, doing what is best at the point in time without having the wisdom and insight to consider the implications of our decisions for tomorrow and for the future of humanity.  We just have to examine the short-sighted policies advocated by the world today, be it the redefinition of family and marriage, population control, abortion and euthanasia, the destruction of ecology, etc, all because we want to have a good life now.   So the sufferings we are going through and the problems we are facing is the result of so-called pragmatic policies and decisions that we made earlier.   Only from hindsight do we learn that policies which we thought were good for humanity are actually destructive. So instead of over-population, we are now have a depopulation; with the resultant effect that a decreasing workforce is now having to shoulder the burden of looking after a burgeoning aged population, in addition to the young.

Indeed, this is the folly of the world.  This is what the scripture readings are telling us.  The ways of God are not our ways.   The way to find life is not through riches, power and glory.  Indeed, the Lord said, “I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Such teaching of Jesus was revolutionary because it was always thought that wealth is a sign of God’s blessings and poverty, the consequence of sin.  Hence, “when the disciples heard this they were astonished.  ‘Who can be saved, then?’”

This was the same question that Gideon raised when the Lord said to him, “’Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian.  Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my Lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’”   He was too weak to be sent to save his people.   He found himself inadequate and lacking the capacity to accomplish the task of setting his people free from the enemies.  His immediate reaction was, “I am not the one!  I cannot do it!”   Isn’t this our response too when called upon to undertake a mission or an appointment for the greater good of the community?  We would say, “Choose someone else, not me!”

The truth is that we are shirking our responsibilities.  Instead of stepping out to make a difference in the lives of our fellowmen, we lament and hide.  This was the case of Gideon.  He was hiding from his enemies.  Gideon “was threshing wheat inside the winepress to keep it hidden from Midian.”  Indeed, those who are called are not willing to sacrifice themselves for the service of the Church, society and the country.  They want to protect their comfort zone.   This was the same attitude of the rich man in the gospel.  He was a man of great wealth and when asked to sell everything to give to the poor and follow Jesus, he declined.

The sad reality in the world today is not that there are not enough leaders to lead.  We have prophets and leaders, but not many are ready to sacrifice their comfort, convenience and security to offer themselves for public service, either in Church, in NGOs or in the government.  God has never failed to supply us with good leaders and shepherds.  But not many are responding because they are afraid of the sacrifices both to themselves and their families.  But if we are called, we cannot say “no” since we have been endowed with the talents and skills for the job.  Otherwise, by leaving our job to others who are not called, the little that we have will be taken away because bad leaders will destroy not just themselves but the whole Church, society and country.

The Lord wants to give the world peace through us.  This is what the psalmist says, “I will hear what the Lord God has to say, a voice that speaks of peace, peace for his people and his friends and those who turn to him in their hearts.   Mercy and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced. Faithfulness shall spring from the earth and justice look down from heaven. The Lord will make us prosper and our earth shall yield its fruit. Justice shall march before him and peace shall follow his steps.”  We know that we are called when God stirs our hearts like He stirred Gideon’s.  He knew that something was not right and something had to be done.  But instead of offering himself, he was thinking that others should do it.  In the same way too, it is not right to complain about the poor leadership in our Church and country if we do not give ourselves for service.

If we are willing to say “Yes”, God will make peace a reality through us.  It will not be with our own strength.   Just as Jesus gazed at the disciples, He would also gaze at us and say, “For men, this is impossible; for God everything is possible.”   Indeed, we are called to rely on God alone in all that we do.   By our own strength and reasoning, we cannot go far.  Without the superior light of faith and revelation, we cannot see the long-term implications of the rationalistic decisions we make for today.  This was what the Lord said to Gideon.  “Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian.  Do I not send you myself? I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.”  We are not to depend on our riches and self-sufficiency.   We are called to rely on His grace alone.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
.
.
*******************************************
.
Image may contain: 4 people, people standing and outdoor
Children hold up signs begging for food and water near Cebu, the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan, November 2013
.
From The Carmelites
.

Matthew 19, 27: The question of Peter. The background of the misunderstanding of the disciples appears in the question asked by Peter: “Look, we have left everything and have followed you. What are we to have then?” In spite of the beautiful generosity of abandoning everything, they still have the old mentality. They have abandoned everything in order to get something in exchange. They still had not understood well the sense of service and of gratuity.

Image result for St. Peter with jesus, art

Jesus gives the keys to Peter

.

Matthew 19, 28-30: The response of Jesus. “In truth I tell you, when everything is made new again and the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory you yourselves will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much and also inherit eternal life. Many, who are first, will be last, and the last, first”. In this response, Jesus describes the new world, the foundation of which had been placed by his work and that of the disciples. Jesus stresses three important points: (a) The disciples will sit on twelve thrones next to Jesus to judge the twelve tribes of Israel (cfr. Rev 4, 4). (b) In exchange they will receive many things which they had abandoned: houses, brothers, sisters, mother, children land and will inherit eternal life. (c) The future world will be the reverse of the present world. There, the last ones will be the first ones and the first ones will be the last ones. The community around Jesus is the seed and the manifestation of this new world. Up until now the small community of the poor continues to be the seed and manifestation of the Kingdom.

.

Every time that in the history of the people of the Bible a new movement arises to renew the Covenant, it begins by re-establishing the rights of the poor, of the excluded. Without that, the Covenant will not be reconstructed. This is the sense and the reason for the insertion and the mission of the community of Jesus, in the midst of the poor. It draws from the roots and it inaugurates the New Covenant.

Concluding Prayer
.
Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you Lord, are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me. (Ps 23,4)
.
.
Image result for St. Peter with jesus, art
Jesus offers his cross to Peter
.