Posts Tagged ‘Mary Magdalene’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 22, 2017 — “The love of Christ impels us.” — “He indeed died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves.”

July 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

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Reading 1  SGS 3:1-4B

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

OR  2 COR 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

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Christ and Mary Magdalene by Albert Edelfelt

Responsorial Psalm  PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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“She thought it was the gardener.”

Mary Magdalen at the Tomb. By Rembrandt

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

22 JULY, 2017, Saturday, St Mary Magdalene

MOVEMENT FROM SACRAMENTAL TO MYSTICAL LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SONG 3:1-4, or 2 COR 5:14-17PS 63: 2.3-4.5-6.8-9JN 20: 1-211-18]

Why is there a lack of fervor in the faith today?  Sad to say, many have left the Church but those who stay are lukewarm and tepid in their faith.  Many lack evangelical zeal and the desire and enthusiasm to spread the Good News about Jesus.  The practice of faith is reduced to the practice of religion.  It has become a routine in life.  It has even become an iron rice bowl for those in priestly and religious life. No wonder, so many have left the Church or some have joined other religions or Protestant churches where faith seems to be more alive and vibrant.

The cause of the indifference towards the faith is due to a lack of the consciousness of the love of God in our lives.   Rationalism is the first cause for distancing from God. With the emphasis on science and reasoning, there is a tendency towards rationalism.  Our faith in God is very much on the level of intellectual knowledge rather an affective experience of His love.  Theologians can be very knowledgeable in theology but yet lack a real faith in Christ because of the lack of a conscious experience of His personal love.   The danger for those who are engaged in theological study is that they think they know about God’s love and yet in truth they do not know it in their personal life.  It is a deceptive way of pretending to know lots about God.

The second reason is activism.  Many are very active in the apostolate and in the ministry.  Today, the emphasis is on work and activities.  People are afraid to stay still and do nothing.  We must always be doing something and multi-tasking as well.  We are afraid of silence and contemplation.  So we are busy with our projects and activities, doing things for people and for the Church.  It is all about output without any input.  As a consequence, we become edgy and irritable when overworked.  We begin to focus on results and efficiency and no longer on the needs of the people.   It is not surprising that many who are involved in Church ministry or those in priestly life become jaded, lose interest and enthusiasm after a while and instead get themselves engaged in squabbling over rules and control.

The third reason is the loss of the Sacred.  They lack devotion and the presence of the sacred.  Religious things are reduced to the level of the profane.  Many no longer respect the sacredness of the Church, the Eucharist, or the sacramentals.  Holy things are treated with irreverence.  When the line between the sacred and profane is blurred, there is no sense of God’s presence.  This is not to say that they are so clearly distinguished, for we know that God could also be found in ordinary things and the ordinary events of life as well.  But to arrive at this realization, we must begin with the experience of God in the sacred.  Without a real encounter of the Sacred, we can no longer feel the presence of God in our lives.

When we read the bible or study the history of the Church, the growth of the Church was always the result of people and charismatic leaders who were deeply in love with Christ and for His people.  In the Old Testament, it was the great love for God in leaders like Moses, King David and the prophets that the faith was kept.  The prophets, Elijah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Isaiah, were all consumed by their love for God.  During the time of Christ, it was His deep love and intimacy with His Father that was the motivating factor in His mission.  It was for the love of His Father that Christ emptied Himself in the incarnation.  During the time of the apostles, it was their love for the Lord that made them give up their life to follow Jesus in the mission.  They were willing to abandon their family and trade to follow after Jesus.

In the gospel today, we read of Mary Magdalene’s deep devotion to the Lord.  Love enabled her to do all things.   When we are in love with someone, there is nothing that can prevent us from giving ourselves to that person.  When we love, we are consumed by love.   Mary Magdalene was so in love with the Lord she could not wait for the sun to rise to visit Him in the grave.  When she arrived in the dark, the stone was already moved away.  Without checking what was inside the tomb, her fear was that His body was taken away.  And later when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she was so absorbed in her attachment to Jesus’ body that she only could say that the body was taken away.  And when Jesus spoke to her, thinking that He was the gardener said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”   She never thought for a while how she could ever remove a dead body which is too heavy for one person to lift, much less by a woman!  The point is that when we are deeply in love, using all our energy and might, we are able to do things beyond human imagination.

Isn’t this true for all the saints and the missionaries of the early Church and those before the 18th century?  Many of them, for the love of Jesus and their fellowmen, would leave their homeland to far distant countries to spread the gospel.  Many were persecuted and killed or died because of hunger, poverty, poor hygiene and illnesses.   Many died as martyrs for their faith, after being cruelly tortured for their belief.  Saints like St Francis of Assisi left everything and sold all he had for the poor and lived in simplicity because of his love for the Lord.   St Francis Xavier travelled to the Far East to spread the gospel.  Indeed, the Church in the East, Africa and in South America was the result of the sacrifices of the missionaries. This was why St Theresa of the Child Jesus remarked, “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was aflame with Love. I understood that Love alone stirred the members of the Church to act… I understood that Love encompassed all vocations, that Love was everything”.

However, their love for Christ and His Church came from a prior experience of His love for them.  It is not that we love Him but that He loved us first.  This is what St Paul wrote about his passion for Christ and the gospel.  In the letter to the Corinthians, he said, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14f) St John also reiterated the primacy of God’s love for us.  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”  (1 Jn 4:10)

For this reason, if we want to renew the fervor of the faith of our Catholics, we must lead them to a personal experience of Christ’s love for them.  We need to renew our thirst for the Lord’s love as the Bride did in the Book of Song of Songs.  She cried out, “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him.”   The responsorial psalm also speaks of this thirst for God in his life.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”

But it must proceed from the way of human love before we can arrive at mystical love.  There is a danger of Catholics who lack the experience of God’s love but seek a mystical encounter with Him, bypassing the humanity of Christ through some kind of centering prayer.  It has always been the teaching of the Church and of the mystics that the only way to encounter the mystical Lord is through the humanity of Christ.  Hence, it is important to recount how Mary Magdalene made the progress from loving the Jesus of Nazareth before reaching the maturity of loving the Christ of Faith.  The reason why Mary Magdalene could not find the Lord was because she was still attached to the earthly Jesus of Nazareth.

So Jesus invited her to transcend the level of sensual love to a spiritual love for Him.  He said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   St Paul in the same vein urged the Christians to do likewise.  “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”

In other words, whilst spiritual life begins with an encounter with the Lord through the human way, that is, by tangible and sacramental means, yet we must not just cling to such devotions.  There are many of these devotions, charismatic worship, healing services, Divine Mercy, Novenas and devotions to the saints in the Church.  They are not to be despised or thought to be for the uneducated.  Such devotions help us to cultivate a human love for God and the saints.  It helps us to experience their love affectively.  But if our love for the Lord is just focused on devotions and the sacramentals, we can become overly superstitious.   Nevertheless, they are important means to lead us to into a deeper encounter with the Lord in contemplative prayer, in silence and in charity.  In the final analysis, the height of love for God is both a contemplative and mystical experience of His love leading us to share His love with others.

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

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Reflection from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
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Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the
Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
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It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little”
(Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Meditation: Do you recognize the presence and reality of the Lord Jesus in your life? How easy it is to miss the Lord when our focus is on ourselves! Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize the Lord Jesus after he had risen from the grave because her focus was on the empty tomb and on her own grief. It took only one word from the Master, when he called her by name, for Mary to recognize him.

Recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that every Christian know something about the Lord, but that each one of us know him personally and intimately. It is not enough to argue about him, but that we meet him. Through the power of his resurrection we can encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares his glory with us.

The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope – the hope that we will see God face to face and share in his everlasting glory and joy.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, in his word, in the “breaking of the bread”, and in his church, the body of Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence in your saving word.”

Daily Quote from the early church fathersMary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, by Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

“Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner in the city (rf. Luke 7:37), loved the Truth and so washed away with her tears the stains of wickedness (rf Luke 7:47). Her sins had kept her cold, but afterward she burned with an irresistible love.… We must consider this woman’s state of mind whose great force of love inflamed her. When even the disciples departed from the sepulcher, she did not depart. She looked for him whom she had not found.… But it is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search. She looked for him a first time and found nothing. She persevered in seeking, and that is why she found him. As her unfulfilled desires increased, they took possession of what they found (rf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4)… Holy desires, as I have told you before, increase by delay in their fulfillment. If delay causes them to fail, they were not desires.… This was Mary’s kind of love as she turned a second time to the sepulcher she had already looked into. Let us see the result of her search, which had been redoubled by the power of love. (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 25)

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, By Rembrandt

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Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888) — He said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

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She mistook him for the gardener — And he said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JULY 2016, Friday, St. Mary Magdalene
PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SG 3:1-4 or 2 COR 5:14-17; PS 62(63):2-6.8-9; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18  ]

How can we know God?  Most people want to know God through reason.  In the bible, it is clear that the way to know God is through faith rather than through reason.  It is the way of the heart, not the head.  The difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of God through the head is because our minds keep changing.  Reasoning has no end because our minds are always curious and searching for the fullness of truth which can only be arrived at when we find God.  The way to God is always through the heart.  But how can we have faith?  Faith comes through love.  We can place our faith in God only because of love.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Dt 6:4f)

Indeed, this has always been the case of all those who have found God.  Very few have come to know God through an intellectual process.  The way of St Paul was that of love.  In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14)  All the disciples, including Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today, followed the Lord because they were moved by His love for them.  This is true for all the saints and mystics.  Even St Thomas Aquinas abandoned his great project, the Summa Theologica, upon encountering God whilst celebrating Mass.  He refused to complete his works saying, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.  I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”  His vision of heaven or of God cannot be compared to anything else, so that all things on earth appeared to be worthless to him.

Indeed, when we have fallen in love with God, everything changes.  This is what St Paul says again, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  (2 Cor 5:16-17)  When we love, we see things and people differently.  We no longer see them as they are but we see them with the eyes of love.  Both the lover and the beloved are transformed by love.  All religions are based on faith, a personal encounter with the Lord or a mystical experience.  This explains why different people have different faiths, and why some do not have faith in any religion at all.   This is true in all human relationships.  When we fall in love with someone, we perceive the person with the eyes of love and that colours our judgment of the person.  We see beyond what the person is externally.

Mary Magdalene is the exemplar of a disciple who was deeply in love with the Lord. She had been delivered from the seven demons by Jesus.  Apparently, she was a wealthy lady.  From then on, she, with the other women, travelled with Jesus in his itinerant ministry.  They were ministering and taking care of Jesus and the disciples in the background.  Her love for Jesus could be seen in the way, she went to look for Jesus at the tomb early in the morning before all others.  She was with Jesus at the foot of the cross at His death.  All she wanted was to be with the Lord.  And so, upon discovering that the tomb was empty, she went to inform the disciples.  What was significant was that only John who went to the tomb, upon seeing the linen cloths that were left behind, believed that the Lord was risen.  Peter saw but could not make sense of it.  And so he went back still mystified.  However, the faithful Mary Magdalene stayed outside near the tomb weeping and waiting for Jesus.  She did not give up hope.

Mary Magdalene is for us an example of one who waits actively for her beloved to appear.  As the Song of Songs says of the bride who not only waits for her bridegroom but with expectant faith and hope, goes in search for him. “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares. I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. The watchmen came upon me on their rounds in the City: ‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them than I found him whom my heart loves.”

For those of us who have no experience of God’s love or find it difficult to allow God to love us, then we are called to follow the path of Mary Magdalene.  We must abandon the way of reason and take the path of love.  How can we empty our minds when we are so used to reasoning and proofs? 

We must be like Magdalene, be ready to keep on waiting patiently for the Lord.  But we do not simply just wait for Christ to appear. We need to search for Him. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Mt 7:7f)  Waiting for the Lord is necessary, just like Mary Magdalene who remained outside the tomb when the other disciples left after finding no one there.

Secondly, if we want to encounter Him, then we are called to be like Mary Magdalene whose desire for the Lord is beautifully expressed in the responsorial psalm.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”  By longing for the Lord, we increase our capacity to love Him even more so that when He appears, we can enjoy a deeper experience of His love.  The deeper the desire, the bigger the capacity to receive His love.  This explains why when the Lord appeared to Magdalene He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She replied, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”   This act of asking Magdalene is to strengthen and deepen her desire for Christ.

Thirdly, we need to wait till we hear Him calling us by name.  This was what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene.  “‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  Until we hear the Lord calling us by name, we will never know His love.  Before that when Jesus addressed her as woman, she was not able to recognize Jesus:  “’Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’” To hear the call of Jesus and to recognize Him requires that we are called by name, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.”  (Isa 49:15f)  Those of us who have heard Him calling our names are set free and feel loved again. Only then are we convinced that He really loves us.

Finally, we must also avoid falling into the same mistake as Magdalene when she allowed her grief to blind her to the presence of Jesus.  Quite often our pains, hurts and resentments prevent us from looking for the Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, we want to cling on to the past instead of allowing the new creation to work in us.  Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene could not see the Risen Lord because she was looking for the Historical Jesus.  But Christ is a New Creation. We must look beyond ourselves to the Lord, to focus on Him rather than on ourselves.  In this way, we can then recognize the Lord coming into our lives in so many ways.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 15, 2017 — “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.”

July 14, 2017

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 388

Image result for eyes in the darkness, photos

Reading 1  GN 49:29-32; 50:15-26A

Jacob gave his sons this charge:
“Since I am about to be taken to my people,
bury me with my fathers in the cave that lies
in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
the cave in the field of Machpelah,
facing on Mamre, in the land of Canaan,
the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite
for a burial ground.
There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried,
and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah,
and there, too, I buried Leah–
the field and the cave in it
that had been purchased from the Hittites.”

Now that their father was dead,
Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought,
“Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us
and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!”
So they approached Joseph and said:
“Before your father died, he gave us these instructions:
‘You shall say to Joseph, Jacob begs you
to forgive the criminal wrongdoing of your brothers,
who treated you so cruelly.’
Please, therefore, forgive the crime that we,
the servants of your father’s God, committed.”
When they spoke these words to him, Joseph broke into tears.
Then his brothers proceeded to fling themselves down before him
and said, “Let us be your slaves!”
But Joseph replied to them:
Have no fear. Can I take the place of God?
Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good,
to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.
Therefore have no fear.
I will provide for you and for your children.”
By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them.

Joseph remained in Egypt, together with his father’s family.
He lived a hundred and ten years.
He saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation,
and the children of Manasseh’s son Machir
were also born on Joseph’s knees.

Joseph said to his brothers: “I am about to die.
God will surely take care of you and lead you out of this land to the land
that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Then, putting the sons of Israel under oath, he continued,
“When God thus takes care of you,
you must bring my bones up with you from this place.”
Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7

R. (see Psalm 69:33) Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!

Alleluia1 PT 4:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of God rests upon you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 10:24-33

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more those of his household!
“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

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Reflection on Genesis 49:29-33, 50:15-26

We read of the death of Jacob, now Israel, in our reading from Genesis today and of his wish to be buried in his native Canaan – the Land of Promise – rather than Egypt. Jacob’s sons now fear Joseph’s wrath for what they did to him as a boy now that their father is dead, but Joseph forgives his brothers, reminding them that a great good has come of their evil intent. Joseph too dies and before he dies he instructs them that, when they leave the land of Egypt, they are to take his bones with them. We continue reading in the Gospel from the instruction Jesus gave to his apostles before they went out to preach on his behalf. He again reminds them that a difficult road lies ahead and he tells them not to fear what people may do to their bodies but to fear what the prince of darkness may do to their souls if they do not trust in Christ alone. That same warning is given to us. We quite often spend far more time worrying about our physical body than we do about our soul even though the soul is far more important and is the immortal part of us.

From the Carmelites

http://www.carmelites.ie/readingsreflect.html

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

15 JULY, 2017, Saturday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time

LETTING GOD TAKE OVER MEANS LETTING GO

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 49:29-3350:15-26Ps 104:1-4,6-7Mt 10:24-38  ]

This life is full of challenges.  So long as we are on this earth, we cannot avoid the crosses in daily life.  We will have our joys and sorrows, successes and failures, delights and disappointments, friends and foes.  Jesus said, “The disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master.”

Indeed, even Jesus Himself faced much opposition in His life, not because He did anything wrong but because He did what was good.  Jesus said, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household?”  Our master Himself had to carry His cross; of being rejected by His own family, betrayed by His apostles, abandoned at His passion, slandered by His enemies, and condemned for a political crime He did not commit, all because Pilate was afraid of displeasing the Jewish authorities.

This was true of Joseph as well.  Partly his own doing, for boasting, and his father’s doing, for showing favoritism and making his brothers jealous of him.  He was sold by his brothers to the Midianite merchants. (cf Gn 37)   Whilst working for one of Pharaoh’s officials, Potiphar, he did well and was put in charge of the master’s household.  But Potiphar’s wife wanted to seduce him, and he resisted.  Out of revenge, she falsely accused him of outraging her modesty and was put in prison. (cf Gn 39)  Later on, he helped to interpret the dream of the Chief Cupbearer.  (Gn 40) When Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his dream, as none of his advisers could, the cupbearer remembered Joseph and introduced him to Pharaoh who later made him in charge of Egypt. (Gn 41)

When we look at the life of Jesus and Joseph, we see history as a series of twists and turns.  This is the reality of life.  Prosperity is followed by adversity; health is followed by illness; life is followed by death, union is followed by separation.   This process just goes on and on.  The last will of Joseph, asking for his remains to be brought back to Canaan, sets the stage for the Exodus saga.  “At length Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die; but God will be sure to remember you kindly and take you back from this country to the land that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’  And Joseph made Israel’s sons swear an oath, ‘When God remembers you with kindness be sure to take my bones from here.’”  The Exodus story would be another long chapter in the history of salvation where again we see the fortunes and misfortunes, the victories and failures of the Hebrews.  Their stay in Egypt spanned more than 400 years, before they came out of Egypt into the desert and gradually conquered the Promised Land, which took another 40 years.  By the time Israel became a united kingdom, it took another 400 years!  So from the promise made to Abraham (2091 B.C)  to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of David (1010 B.C), it took more than a 1000 years!

In the light of the mystery of God’s inexorable plan of salvation for humanity, we are called to trust in the Lord like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and down through the centuries to Christ Himself.  This is what the Lord is asking of us in the gospel.  He said, “Do not be afraid of them therefore.  For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the house tops.”  From hindsight, we will appreciate the unfolding wisdom of God’s plan.  This is what the psalmist says, “O children of Abraham, his servant, O sons of the Jacob he chose. He, the Lord, is our God: his judgements prevail in all the earth.”

Indeed, God is faithful to His promises.  In the first reading, we see again and again how God remained faithful to His promise.   Before Jacob died, he asked to be buried among his peoples.  “Bury me near my fathers, in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave in the field at Machpelah, opposite Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial-plot. There Abraham was buried and his wife Sarah.  There Isaac was buried and his wife Rebekah.  There I buried Leah.  I mean the field and the cave in it that were bought from the sons of Heth.’”  This field was the beginning of the possession of the Promised Land that was to come.  With the psalmist, we “give thanks to the Lord, tell his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.  O sing to him, sing his praise; tell all his wonderful works!”

This is what the Lord is also assuring us.   God will provide for us and will protect us.  “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny?  And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing.  Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”  This promise of God taking care of us does not of course dispense us from having to struggle and cooperate with His plan.  It does not mean that we sit and do nothing, and wait for God to provide.  What Jesus meant was that the Lord will give us the grace to work through our struggles in life.  He will not abandon us and He will not allow our soul to be overwhelmed.  Hence, He said, “Do not be afraid of those that kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  Even if our body is killed, our soul is saved for eternal life.  That is why we should not be afraid of anything in life.

All we need is to seek His face. The psalmist exhorts us. “Seek the Lord, you who are poor, and your hearts will revive.   Be proud of his holy name, let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice. Consider the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.”  We need to acknowledge Him as the Lord and our God.  Jesus said, “So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.  But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  To acknowledge Him is to surrender our lives to Him in faith and trust like the biblical men and women.  This is what it means to let God take over.

But to let God take over also means not just to let go of wanting things our way, but also to let go of those who hurt us, especially our enemies.  This was what Joseph was asked to do.  He was asked to forgive his brothers.  “So they sent this message to Joseph: ‘Before your father died he gave us this order: ‘You must say to Joseph: Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.’  Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.’  Joseph wept at the message they sent to him.”  It was immaterial whether it was concocted by the brothers or truly from his father, but he took the message in the right spirit.  He forgave.

But he could forgive only because he knew that God was in control and that all things happen for our good, pleasant and unpleasant events.  “Joseph answered them, ‘Do not be afraid; is it for me to put myself in God’s place? The evil you planned to do me has by God’s design been turned to good, that he might bring about, as indeed he has, the deliverance of a numerous people.  So you need not be afraid; I myself will provide for you and your dependents.’  In this way he reassured them with words that touched their hearts.”  Truly, God allows things to happen to us for our good. As St Paul wrote, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  (Rom 8:28)  “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”  (Rom 11:33)

In letting go of our enemies as Joseph did, and Jesus who also did likewise on the cross, we are taught to let God take over.  This is what St Paul exhorts us.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:19-21)  When we act like Joseph and Jesus, then it truly means to let God take over because we have truly let go.

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

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Commentary on Matthew 10:24-33 From Living Space

We continue Jesus’ apostolic discourse to his apostles and all those who do the work of evangelisation.

a, He reminds them very clearly that they can expect no better treatment than he himself received. “The disciple is not superior to his teacher.” All in all, Christians are to show no surprise at violence and abuse against them. But, at times, it can be hard to understand. However, if they treated the Master and Lord in this way, his followers can expect no better treatment. If the Master is called the Prince of Devils, how much more those of his family! Remember what Jesus had said earlier: “Blessed, fortunate are those who suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel.”

b, Much of Jesus’ teaching to his disciples was done quietly and away from the crowds. He frequently told both people he cured and demons not to speak about him. Even his disciples were not to reveal his identity as Messiah. People at that stage were not ready and could have misinterpreted the true meaning of his teaching.

Also his message could not be fully understood until he had completed his mission through his passion, death and resurrection. Only that would put his teaching into its proper context.

But, in the course of time, it will be all made public. Later on it will be the duty of his disciples to deliver the message in its entirety and without fear. The Christian community, although it does consist of initiates with a way of life that is not always understood by outsiders, has no secrets. The ‘mysteries’ that Paul and others speak of are truths, previously unknown, which have been revealed. They are not like those of the so-called ‘mystery religions’ of the time or of secretive societies in our own. The message of Christ is to be made known to all in its entirety, even in hostile environments.

c, Some of those who proclaim the Gospel are going to be threatened even with losing their lives, a fact that is testified to by a long list of martyrs (martyr = witness) over the centuries. Jesus is saying that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. It is a reality we are all going to have to face sooner or later anyway. Far worse than physical death is the “loss of one’s soul”, that is, the death of one’s integrity. There are some values which transcend our physical survival. To betray such a value in order to live a bit longer is to lose one’s soul. Thomas More understood this, so did Oscar Romero and many, many others.

Jesus is telling us that, even though we may, as he himself did, lose our lives, he will be with us. To be unfaithful to our deepest beliefs and convictions is a fate worse than death.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2147g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (From July 11, 2015)
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OVERCOMING FEAR AND GUILT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: GN 49:29-3350:15-26MT 10:24-38

We all live in fear.  We fear rejection, loneliness and suffering.  Most of all, we fear death.  There is in every man the instinct to preserve his life.  No one wants to die if he is assured of love, sustenance and happiness.  In order to protect our interests, we would go to a great extent to perpetuate our existence, sometimes even employing unethical means.   Fear is the cause of many of our sins.

Hence, we should not be surprised to read of how Joseph’s brothers, upon the death of their father, lied to Joseph that their father specifically instructed him thus, “Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.”  They had to use their father’s name because they were still uncertain whether Joseph would take revenge on them after his death.  They said, “Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.”  This shows that fear still lurked in their hearts in spite of the goodwill and assurance of Joseph.  They still could not believe that their brother had forgiven them.

The real reason was the guilt they still carried in themselves.  They could not believe in forgiveness.  They recognized their crime was unpardonable.  Indeed, most of us cannot forgive ourselves for what we have done.  We labour in the belief that unconditional forgiveness is impossible.  We feel that we should be punished for our sins.  This explains why even after using their father’s name, they were still willing to be punished as they told Joseph, “We present ourselves before you as your slaves.”

This is also very true of us as well.  Sometimes the wrongs we have done in the past have been forgiven by those whom we have injured but, somehow, we cannot believe that they have forgiven us.  This is also true even in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Some penitents who have already confessed their sins with contrite hearts, continue to feel deep in their hearts they have not been forgiven by God and thus are unworthy to see Him when they die.

More likely, when we feel this way, it is because we ourselves have not truly forgiven those who have hurt us.  The truth is that we tend to project our lack of forgiveness on others.  The inability to accept forgiveness springs from ourselves; not the injured party.

Indeed, more often than not, these fears are unfounded.  Joseph had truly forgiven his brothers and had never had any intention of taking revenge on them.  Similarly too, Jacob was fearful of his future, especially his fidelity to his ancestors.  It was with reluctance that he migrated to Egypt, but his constant thought was to return to the land God had promised to them.  Again, his fears were unfounded because as history would show, his bones including that of Joseph’s would be buried with their ancestors.

So how then can we overcome fear in our lives? 

Firstly, we must overcome fear by living in the truth.  As Jesus warns us “everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.”  Falsehood and lies are the means by which the devil holds us in bondage.  Many of us live not just in guilt but fear of being exposed for our crimes and lies one day.  We are worried that our past might catch up with us.  This is true especially for crimes concerning breach of trust, theft, cheating, slandering and especially sexual crimes against innocent children or women.  To live a life of freedom, we must now choose to live in the truth, since only the truth can set us free.  People can forgive our past so long as we show sincerity in repentance.

To live in the truth entails being truthful to our identity as the son and daughter of the Father as Jesus did. “So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.  But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  We can only share in the sonship of Jesus provided we recognize Him to be the Son of God and in and through Him, we become adopted sons and daughters in the Spirit too.  To declare our faith in Jesus is more than saying that Jesus is my Lord but to act and live like a child of God.  Our lives must not contradict our identity as the children of God.  We must bear witness to Christ in both word and deed.

Secondly, we must see beyond this life.  Jesus invites us to see death and life in perspective.  He cautioned us saying, “Do not be afraid of those that kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  To live a living death while still on earth because of the incapacity to love and be loved is already an experience of spiritual death.  It would be tragic to perpetuate this kind of hellish life into the next world of eternity.  When we see that eternal life is at stake, we will be able to accept the sufferings of life, even when events appear not to be in our favour.

Thirdly, like Joseph and Jacob, we must learn to trust in divine providence.  Fears are created by man, instigated by the Devil.  The antidote to fear is trust in God and faith in Him whilst doing our best.  It is said that fear knocks at the door, but when faith opens it, no one is out there. Isn’t this what Jesus is assuring us of today?  “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny?  And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing.  Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”

Fourthly, we must recognize that suffering is part and parcel of life.  We are called to share in the sufferings of Christ by carrying our cross after Him.  If Jesus our master has suffered and the apostles as well, why do we think we should be exempted from suffering and persecution?  In the gospel, Jesus preempts us, urging the Twelve as follows, “the disciple is not superior to his teacher, nor the slave to his master.  It is enough for the disciple that he should grow to be like his teacher, and the slave like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, what will they not say of his household? ‘Do not be afraid of them therefore.“

Yes, when we live in the truth and according to the Spirit, we will find ourselves at peace.  If one is negative towards others and lacking trust in God and man, it has to do with a heart that is lacking in integrity.  Perhaps, this story could serve to illustrate the point.  At the beach, a boy was playing with marbles.  There came a girl with a box of chocolates.  The boy offered to give her his entire collection of marbles if she would give him all her chocolates. And she agreed.  However, the boy did not give her all the marbles.  He kept the biggest and the most beautiful one for himself.  The girl went home and slept peacefully that night whereas the boy was unable to sleep, wondering whether the girl kept any chocolates for herself, just as he did with the marbles.  Those who give themselves totally to their loved ones and to God will in the same measure trust that their loved ones and God will do the same.  Those who cheat in relationships will also think that others are doing the same thing.  In the measure we give is the measure we receive.

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, April 24, 2017 — “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light…”

April 23, 2017

Monday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 267

Jesus with the Pharisee named Nicodemus

Reading 1 ACTS 4:23-31

After their release Peter and John went back to their own people
and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them.
And when they heard it,
they raised their voices to God with one accord
and said, “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth
and the sea and all that is in them,
you said by the Holy Spirit
through the mouth of our father David, your servant:

Why did the Gentiles rage
and the peoples entertain folly?
The kings of the earth took their stand
and the princes gathered together
against the Lord and against his anointed.

Indeed they gathered in this city
against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed,
Herod and Pontius Pilate,
together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
to do what your hand and your will
had long ago planned to take place.
And now, Lord, take note of their threats,
and enable your servants to speak your word
with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal,
and signs and wonders are done
through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook,
and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 2:1-3, 4-7A, 7B-9

R. (see 11d) Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples utter folly?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the princes conspire together
against the LORD and against his anointed:
“Let us break their fetters
and cast their bonds from us!”
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He who is throned in heaven laughs;
the LORD derides them.
Then in anger he speaks to them;
he terrifies them in his wrath:
“I myself have set up my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD.
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD said to me, “You are my Son;
this day I have begotten you.
Ask of me and I will give you
the nations for an inheritance
and the ends of the earth for your possession.
You shall rule them with an iron rod;
you shall shatter them like an earthen dish.”
R. Blessed are all who take refuge in the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaCOL 3:1

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If then you were raised with Christ,
seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:1-8

There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
Jesus answered,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

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Homily Reflection on Nicodemus
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John describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee. Sad to say, the Pharisees are in many ways the victims of bad press. By and large they were not the sourpusses, the spiritual killjoys, that they have sometimes been depicted to be. Simply put, and more than anything else, the Pharisees were people who sincerely desired to lead lives that were pleasing to God, that were consistent with his laws laid down in the Old Testament. They were moral, upright people. They were regular attenders in the synagogues. They were tithers. They would help little old ladies across the street (as long as it wasn’t a sabbath). In every respect they were model citizens—just the kind of people you would want to have as neighbors.

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John further informs us that Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but that he was a religious leader, literally “a ruler of the Jews”. This suggests that he was actually a member of the Sanhedrin, a body that comprised within itself the highest legal, judicial and legislative authority among the Jews. He was one of a number of prominent and influential people who came to Jesus in the gospels, among them a centurion, a royal official, Lazarus of Bethany, the anonymous rich young ruler, Jairus the synagogue ruler, and Simon the Pharisee.

He came by night

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John tells us that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Now night and darkness are significant words in John’s gospel. In the opening chapter John has told us of Jesus, the eternal Word, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (1:5). Jesus proclaims of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (8:12). It was while it was still dark on the first Easter morning that Mary Magdalene, believing Jesus to be dead, went to his tomb (20:1). And perhaps most significantly of all, after Judas leaves the Passover supper in the upper room, John laconically remarks, “And it was night” (13:30).

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So it was significant for John that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. And we need to ask ourselves, why? It may easily have been because the crowds that so regularly followed Jesus had dispersed. Things would definitely have been quieter and there would have been opportunity for a more in-depth conversation. It has been my experience that some of the most significant conversations in my life have taken place at night.
Yet I rather think there was a different reason that Nicodemus came to Jesus by night—and it was that he did not wish to be seen. To me this corresponds with Nicodemus as we meet him at two other points in John’s gospel. The first incident is in chapter 7. It is the Feast of Booths, or Succoth. Knowing that there are plots to do away with him, Jesus has gone to Jerusalem secretly, not even telling his brothers. Midway through the festival, however, he begins to teach in the Temple. Inevitably there is controversy over him but the Temple police hold back from arresting him. When the Pharisees criticize the police for their inaction, it is Nicodemus who stands up and asks, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” And that, for the moment at least, seems to be the end of the matter.

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The final time we meet with Nicodemus is towards the end of the gospel. Jesus has died on the cross and Joseph of Arimathea has petitioned Pontius Pilate for his body. Then John tells us, “Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds.” I think it is significant that John chooses to identify Nicodemus as the one who came to Jesus by night, under cover of darkness. It seems to me that, while Nicodemus had sympathy for Jesus, he was one that always stood in the shadows. He was never quite willing to come out into the light.

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I suppose there is a parallel with Peter at this point, in his threefold denial of Jesus as he warmed himself in the courtyard of the high priest. Yet Peter we hear from again. He is reconciled and restored. He is filled with the Holy Spirit. He later answers the high priest and the Sanhedrin, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Nicodemus himself may well have been there at the time when Peter spoke. Yet we never hear from him again. He simply slips into the shadows whence he came.

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The tragedy is that down through the centuries to our present day there have been many Nicodemuses, men and women who respect Jesus, who admire him. Yet whether it is for fear or some other reason, they find themselves unable to step out into the light and identify with him. So it is that as the chapter unfolds that John comments (and I believe with a deep sense of sorrow), “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light…”

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Born from above

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So it is that under the shadows and with no one around Nicodemus begins by expressing his admiration for Jesus. “Rabbi…,” and even to use the term rabbi to a man who had no formal training and was his junior in every way was to show enormous respect. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do unless God were with him.” To which Jesus gives the puzzling reply, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Jesus’ words are literally, “Amen, amen, I say to you…” They carry a solemnity and an earnestness to them that the English cannot convey.

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“Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” What was it that prompted these enigmatic words? The answer is to be found in the way that John introduces Nicodemus to us in the first verse. Literally it goes like this: “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus…” This is an odd way to describe someone in English, so most of our English translations have simplified it to something like what we see in our pew Bibles: “Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus…” But it is an odd turn of phrase in Greek also; and John has chosen to use it specifically because of what he has just finished saying in the previous paragraph, which if you read it literally, goes, “Jesus did not need anyone to testify about man, for he knew what was in man.”

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Then he continues, “There was aman…”

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What I can only conclude is that Jesus knew exactly what was going on in Nicodemus’ heart—and he chose to speak not to his words but directly to his heart. Remember that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. His whole life was dedicated to obedience to the Law. What Jesus was saying was, “Nicodemus, you have spent your entire life doing things for God. And tragically you have missed the point. It’s not about what you can do for God. It’s about what God wants to do in you.”

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To see how focused Nicodemus was on doing things, you have only to look at his response: “Can one enter a second time into one’s mother’s womb and be born?” For him it was all about what he could do: his efforts, his hard work, his endeavors. And so Jesus drives the point home again. “Listen, Nicodemus, while I tell you another time: no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.” As Tim Keller has put it, “I contributed nothing to my birth: I contribute nothing to my being born again.”

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The Spirit blows

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Jesus makes the same point again when he shifts from the mystery of birth to the mystery of the wind. “You hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going.” In both Hebrew and Greek the same word can be used to mean “wind” or “spirit”. No one can control the wind. Here in Minnesota we are reminded of that at 1 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month. We cannot control the wind, but we can harness it. And we are reminded of that as we cross the prairie and see rows of enormous wind turbines.

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In 2012 wind turbines in this country generated 140 million megawatt-hours of electrical power.
What Jesus was inviting Nicodemus to was to allow the Holy Spirit to blow through his life—to allow the Spirit to do in him what, even with the strictest obedience, even with the most valiant of efforts, he could never achieve for himself. Later in the New Testament we meet with another Pharisee who did take to heart what Jesus taught.

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He wrote, If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

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Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

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Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus occupies a very special place in my own life as well. I first overheard it many years ago when I was a senior in high school. I had become involved in church and was trying to live a Christian life, but I always sensed that there was something missing. I had begun reading the New Testament and was several months into it when I arrived at this passage. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, it was as though he were speaking to me: “In very truth I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” It was on reading those words that I knelt and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life—and he became a reality for me in a way that he had never been before.

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Nicodemus never came out of the shadows. But thank God that you and I have the opportunity to let him do his work in us. “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.”

http://notworthyofthename.blogspot.com/2014/03/nicodemus.html

 

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Commentary on John 3:1-8 From Living Space

Today we go back to the early part of John’s gospel and begin reading chapter 3.  In the coming Easter weeks we will be going through John’s gospel more or less in order.

Today we see the encounter between Jesus and a Pharisee who was also a member of the Sanhedrin, the governing council of the Jews.  He was, then, a very highly placed official.

Nicodemus came to Jesus by night.  This, on the one hand, indicates his fear of being seen by others but, on the other, probably also has a symbolic meaning.  Religious man though he was, when he came to Jesus he was in a kind of spiritual darkness.  His virtue is that he comes to seek light.  Jesus, of course, is the Light of the World.  (On the other hand, in the following chapter, the Samaritan woman will meet Jesus in the full blaze of the midday sun.)

Nicodemus begins by praising Jesus.  No man, he says, could do the things that Jesus did if he did not come from God.  (Given the fact that at this stage of John’s gospel Jesus has hardly begun his public life, it is odd that Nicodemus can make this statement.  But it shows that the events described in this gospel are not to be taken with a strict chronology.  This gospel is rather a set of themes about the role of Jesus for us and the world.)

Nicodemus sees in Jesus a prophet, a man of God but has yet to recognise the full identity of Jesus.  Jesus counters by saying that no one can see the rule, the kingdom, of God unless “he is born from above” (or “born again” – both readings are possible and the meaning is basically the same).  Though very common in the other gospels, the term ‘Kingdom of God’ is only used here in John (vv. 3 and 5).  Its equivalent in the rest of John’s gospel is ‘life’.  To be truly in the Kingdom of God, to be fully integrated in the Reign or Rule of God is to be fully alive.

Nicodemus hears Jesus literally.  “How can a man be born again when he is old?  Is he to return to his mother’s womb and start life all over again?” His misunderstanding gives Jesus the opportunity to lead Nicodemus to a deeper understanding.  To be born again is to be born of “water and the Spirit”, a clear reference to Christian baptism.  Flesh only produces flesh (as in natural birth) but the Spirit gives birth to spirit and that is the second birth we all need to undergo.

“You must all be begotten from above.”  A statement directed to all and not just to Nicodemus.

And, once we are reborn in the Spirit, we let ourselves be led to where God wishes.  “The wind blows where it will.  You hear the sound it makes but you do not know where it comes from, or where it goes.”  The ‘wind’, ‘breath’ of the Holy Spirit is the sole Guide for our lives.  He brings about our renewal in his own way.  The word for “wind” here is a word which also means “breath” and “spirit” [Greek, pneuma, pneuma].

Once we are guided by the Spirit we have put ourselves totally in God’s hands ready to be led wherever God wants us to go. This is the message which is being given to Nicodemus.  He must be ready to move in a different direction from that which has guided his life up to this.  This readiness will lead him to see in Jesus the Word of God.

We, too, wherever we happen to be right now must ever be ready for God, through his Spirit, to call us in a new direction and to follow his lead.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1022g/

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Gospel today presents part of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus. Nicodemus appears several times in the Gospel of:
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John (Jn 3, 1-13; 7, 50-52; 19, 39). He was a person who held a certain social position. He was a leader among the Jews and formed part of the supreme tribunal, called the Synedrium. In the Gospel of John, he represents the group of Jews who were pious and sincere, but who did not succeed in understanding everything which Jesus said and did. Nicodemus had heard about the signs and the wonderful things that Jesus did, and he was struck, amazed.
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He wanted to speak with Jesus in order to understand better. He was a cultured person, who thought he believed the things of God. He expected the Messiah with the Book of the Law in his hand to verify if the novelty announced by Jesus would arrive. Jesus makes Nicodemus understand that the only way to understand the things of God is to be born again! Today this same thing happens. Some like Nicodemus: accept as new only what agrees with their ideas. What does not agree with their ideas is rejected and considered contrary to tradition. Others allow themselves to be surprised from facts and are not afraid to say: “I have been born anew!”
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• John 3, 1: A man called Nicodemus. Shortly before the encounter of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist was speaking of the imperfect faith of certain persons who were interested only in the miracles of Jesus (Jn 2, 23-25). Nicodemus was one of these persons. He had good will, but his faith was still imperfect. The conversation with Jesus helped him to perceive that he has to advance in order to be able to deepen his faith in Jesus and in God.
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• John 3, 2: 1st question of Nicodemus: the tension between what is old and what is new. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a prominent person among the Jews and with a good common sense. He went to meet Jesus at night and said to him: “Rabbì, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him”. Nicodemus gives an opinion of Jesus according to arguments which he, Nicodemus himself, has within himself. This is already important, but it is not enough to know Jesus. The signs which Jesus works can arouse a person and awake in the person some interest. They can generate curiosity, but they do not generate greater faith. They do not make one see the Kingdom of God present in Jesus. For this reason it is necessary to advance, to take one more step. Which is this step?
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• John 3, 3: The response of Jesus: “You must be born again!” In order that Nicodemus can perceive the Kingdom present in Jesus, he should be born again, from above. Anyone who tries to understand Jesus only from his arguments alone does not succeed to understand him. Jesus is much greater. If Nicodemus remains only with the catechism of the past in his hand, he will not succeed to understand Jesus. He should open his hand completely. He should set aside his own certainties and his security and abandon himself totally. He should make a choice between, on the one hand, the security which comes from the organized religion with its laws and traditions and, on the other hand, launch himself to the adventure of the Spirit which Jesus proposes to him.
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• John 3, 4: 2nd question of Nicodemus: How can anyone who is already old be born again? Nicodemus does not give in and returns with the same question with a certain irony: “How can a man be born when he is old? Is it possible to go back into the womb again and be born again?” Nicodemus takes the words of Jesus literally and, because of this, he understands nothing. He should have perceived that the words of Jesus had a symbolic sense.
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• John 3, 5-8: The answer of Jesus: To be born from above, to be born from the Spirit. Jesus explains what it means: to be born from above or to be born again. It is “To be born from water and the Spirit”. Here we have a very clear reference to Baptism. Through the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, the Evangelist invites us to review our Baptism. He gives the following words: “What is born of human nature is human, what is born of the Spirit is Spirit”. Flesh means that which is born only from our ideas. What is born from us is within our reach. To be born of the Spirit is another thing!
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The Spirit is like the wind. “The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going; so it is with anyone who is born of the Spirit”. The wind has within itself, a direction, a route. We perceive the direction of the wind, for example, the North wind or the wind coming from the South, but we do not know, nor can we control the cause why the wind moves in this or that direction. This is the way the Spirit is. “No one is the master of the Spirit” (Ecl 8, 8). What characterizes the wind best, the Spirit, is liberty. The wind, the Spirit, is free, He cannot be controlled. He acts on others and nobody can act on him. His origin is a mystery. The boat must first find the route of the wind. Then it has to place the sails according to that route. That is what Nicodemus should do and what we should all do.
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• A key to understand better the words of Jesus on the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew language uses the same word to say wind and spirit. As we have said the wind has within it a route, a direction: the North wind, the wind from the South. The Spirit of God has a route, a project, which already manifested itself in creation. The Spirit was present in creation under the form of a bird which flew over the waters of the chaos (Jn 1, 2). Year after year, he renews the face of the earth and sets nature through the sequence of the seasons (Ps 104, 30; 147, 18). The same is also present in history.
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He makes the Red Sea move back (Ex 14, 21) and he gives quails to the people to eat (Nb 11, 31). He accompanies Moses and, beginning with him, he distributes the leaders of the people (Nb 11, 24-25). He took the leaders and took them to carry out liberating actions: Othniel (Jg 3, 10), Gideon (Jg 6, 34), Jephthah (Jg 11, 29), Samson (Jg 13, 25; 14, 6.19; 15, 14), Saul (1S 11, 6), and Deborah, the prophetess (Jg 4, 4). He is present in the group of the prophets and acts in them with the force which is contagious (1S 10, 5-6. 10), his action in the prophets produces envy in the others. But Moses reacts: “If only all Yahweh’s people were prophets, and Yahweh had given them his spirit!” (Nb 11, 29).
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• All along the centuries the hope grew that the Spirit of God would have oriented the Messiah in the realization of God’s project (Is 11, 1-9) and it would have descended upon all the people of God (Ez 36, 27; 39, 29; Is 32, 15; 44, 3). The great promise of the Spirit appears in various ways in the prophets of the exile: the vision of the dry bones, risen by the force of the Spirit of God (Ez 37, 1-14); the effusion of the Spirit of God on all the people (Jl 3, 1-5); the vision of the Messiah-Servant who will be anointed by the Spirit to establish the right on earth and announce the Good News to the poor (Is 42, 1; 44, 1-3; 61, 1-3). They perceive a future, in which people, always more and more, are reborn thanks to the effusion of the Spirit (Ez 36, 26-27; Ps 51, 12; cf. Is 32, 15-20).
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• The Gospel of John uses many images and symbols to signify the action of the Spirit. Just like in creation (Gn 1, 1), in the same way the Spirit descended upon Jesus “like a dove, coming from heaven” (Jn 1, 32). It is the beginning of the new creation! Jesus pronounces the words of God and communicates to us His Spirit (Jn 3, 34). His words are spirit and life (Jn 6, 63). When Jesus announces that he is going to the Father, he says that he will send another Consoler, another defender, so that he can remain with us. He is the Holy Spirit (Jn 14, 16-17). Through his Passion, death and resurrection, Jesus obtains for us the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism all of us receive this same Spirit of Jesus (Jn 1, 33). When he appears to the Apostles, he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20, 22). The Spirit is like the water which springs up from persons who believe in Jesus (Jn 7, 37-39; 4, 14).
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The first effect of the action of the Spirit in us is reconciliation: “If you forgive anyone’s sins they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins they are retained” (Jn 20, 23). The Spirit is given to us in order to be able to remember and understand the full meaning of the words of Jesus (Jn 14, 26; 16, 12-13). Animated by the Spirit of Jesus we can adore God any place (Jn 4, 23-24). Here is realized the liberty of the Spirit of whom Saint Paul speaks: “Where the Spirit is, there is liberty” (2 Co 3, 17).

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Personal questions
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• How do you react before the new things which present themselves; like Nicodemus or do you accept God’s surprises?
• Jesus compares the action of the Holy Spirit with the wind (Jn 3, 8). What does this comparison reveal to me about the action of the Spirit of God in my life? Have you already had some experience which has given you the impression of being born again?
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Concluding prayer
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I will bless Yahweh at all times,
his praise continually on my lips.
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice. (Ps 34,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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24 APRIL, 2017, Monday, 2nd Week of Easter
PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS WITH ALL BOLDNESS IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:23-31; JOHN 3:1-8 ]

When we read of the courage of Peter and John in proclaiming the gospel with such boldness, we wonder where they got such power of witnessing from.  After being arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin, threatened and warned, then released, they continued undeterred to proclaim the Good News about Jesus Christ.  The greater the opposition from the authorities, the more they were emboldened to proclaim about Jesus, without fear of man or for their lives.  Most of us would succumb to opposition.  How many of us can withstand fierce criticisms of our Catholic beliefs, especially with regard to morality when the secular world attacks us?  We are afraid to be unpopular.  Few would risk their reputation in the world, tolerate being misunderstood and ridiculed.  Going to jail and losing our family is not something we are willing to sacrifice for Jesus and our faith.   But the apostles and the early Christians were ever ready.

What is the source of their strength and motivation if the not the power of the Holy Spirit?  Jesus in the gospel told Nicodemus that if we want to enter the Kingdom of God, we must be reborn again in the Holy Spirit.   He said, “I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”   This Kingdom of God, unlike what the Jews thought, is not so much an earthly territorial spatial kingdom.  It is the rule of God in our hearts.  Great things happen to anyone who allows the rule of God to happen in his or her life.  To enter the Kingdom is to live by and under the power of God’s rule.

That was what the apostles prayed in the early Church.  They saw themselves under the rule of God. “They lifted up their voice to God all together, ‘Master, it is you who made heaven and earth and sea, and everything in them.’”  First and foremost, they acknowledged that God is the supreme ruler and the creator. Everything is under His rule. God is therefore sovereign in all things.  Quoting from the psalm, they recognized the fulfillment of the prophecy of King David when he said, “Why this arrogance among the nations, these futile plots among the peoples? Kings on earth setting out to war, princes making an alliance, against the Lord and against his Anointed.”  Applying this opposition to Jesus, they said, “This is what has come true: in this very city Herod and Pontius Pilate made an alliance with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel, against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, but only to bring about the very thing that you in your strength and your wisdom had predetermined should happen.”  So nothing is not within the radar of God.

No matter what happens, God is in charge. Again quoting from the psalm, the early Christians saw how God was supreme over all peoples and that nothing could derail the plan of God for humanity.  The psalmist said, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord is laughing them to scorn. Then he will speak in his anger, his rage will strike them with terror. ‘It is I who have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’”  True enough, this prophecy is fulfilled in Christ.  He was ridiculed, mocked, wrongly condemned as a criminal but the authorities on earth could not bind Him.  God raised Him from the dead and proved His enemies wrong.

How, then, can we enter into the heart of God if not through His Holy Spirit?  This was what the Lord told Nicodemus.  Jesus said, “Unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God: what is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  So it is through baptism that we are reborn in the Holy Spirit.  Baptism has always been the ordinary means when God would fill His people with His Holy Spirit.  He comes to dwell in us in the Holy Spirit and recreates us as His children and makes us into a new creation.

The Holy Spirit is the power of God.  He is the force of God.  Jesus said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.”  With the Holy Spirit, God works beyond human calculation and our limitations.  The Holy Spirit can empower us, enlighten us, and give us the gift of speech and eloquence as He did to the uneducated apostles when they could argue and defend their position confidently and convincingly before the educated scholars of religion.  Instead of putting faith in themselves, they put their faith in God.  This is what the responsorial psalm says, “Blessed are they who put their trust in God.”

The Holy Spirit also leads us to Jesus.  In their prayer to God, they said, “Lord, take note of their threats and help your servants to proclaim your message with all boldness, by stretching out your hand to heal and to work miracles and marvels through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  The disciples were fully aware that whatever they did or said, it was never from their own strength or their capacity.  They were exercising the ministry in the name of Jesus.  The miracles and healings they worked were never attributed to themselves but always in the name of the Lord.  The Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Jesus, continued to work in their ministry.  That they could perform the same miracles that Jesus did, proved beyond doubt that He had risen and that He lived and reigned in the hearts of His disciples.  As Nicodemus said, “’Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.”

So we need to be connected with the Holy Spirit if we are to do what the apostles did.  We need to be born again in the Holy Spirit.  Like Nicodemus, many of us are weak and timid in our faith.  We read that he came in the dark to meet Jesus so that he would not be seen by others, especially his fellow rabbis for fear of losing his position and credibility.  His faith in Jesus was not perfect but he was a sincere seeker of truth.  He did not believe in making judgment without first clarifying and coming into personal contact with the Lord.  He believed that judgment must be fair and just.  Indeed, he came into the defence of Jesus when the chief priests and Pharisees sought to have Jesus arrested.  He said, “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” (Jn 7:51)

What is admirable about Nicodemus is his humility to learn from others even though he himself was a very learned rabbi.  He knew the scriptures well.  But unlike his fellow colleagues, he was not afraid of Jesus’ popularity undermining his position and status in the eyes of the people.   He came to the Lord to learn.  He did not allow his prejudice or study to be docile to people who thought differently.  He was not defensive of his ideas or beliefs.  If only we can be more like Nicodemus, we too would be able to experience the power of the Holy Spirit.  Pride and skepticism are always the obstacles to encounter the dynamism of the Holy Spirit.  In my ministry, whenever I pray for the release of the Holy Spirit, I always encounter resistance from people.  Many lack the faith that the Holy Spirit as experienced by the early Church is still the reality in our lives.  So they are cynical about the Holy Spirit and the gifts that come with the bestowal of the Spirit.  Some make fun of those who pray in tongues or receive healing miracles.  But for those who open themselves up in faith, in surrender and in humility, they truly experience the release of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  No longer do they doubt the power of the Holy Spirit and the reality of the Risen Lord.

If you feel powerless in witnessing to the Lord or are timid in sharing Jesus with others, it is clear that you are not conscious of the Holy Spirit at work in you.  You are using your own strength and human reasoning.  This is where we need to pray for an awakening of the Holy Spirit.  Get someone to pray over you in faith so that you can feel once again the Holy Spirit in your heart as you experience joy, love, peace and courage.  Most of all, you feel that you are confident and able to do your work and ministry well.   We must learn from the apostles.  “As they prayed, the house where they were assembled rocked; they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the word of God boldly.”

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 22, 2017 — “He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.” — It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.

April 21, 2017

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 266

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

He appeared to them walking along the road. Art by Greg Olsen

Reading 1 ACTS 4:13-21

Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.
So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin,
and conferred with one another, saying,
“What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name.”

So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
After threatening them further,
they released them,
finding no way to punish them,
on account of the people who were all praising God
for what had happened.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 14-15AB, 16-18, 19-21

R. (21a) I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD has struck with power.”
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
Though the LORD has indeed chastised me,
yet he has not delivered me to death.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia PS 118:24

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

Gospel MK 16:9-15

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Image result for Jesus appeared to those walking along the road, art, photos

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Reflection From Christian Women’s Corner

Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene.  Who he had cast out seven demons from!

What does it mean to have demons?  In the New Testament demons often appeared in the form of mental illness.  Mary had seven; seven different demons each most likely of a different type.

Why in the world would Jesus appear first to a woman and one who happened to have had seven demons?

Throughout the New Testament Jesus had many interactions with women, he spoke to them freely, ignoring the social restrictions of the time.  They also served multiple important roles, such as preparing his body for burial using costly perfumed oils, they were the ones who were there as he made his way to his crucifixion; no woman denied Jesus.

Women had the role of being in tune intuitionally with Jesus.  They are receptive, where as the men disciples are doers.  Jesus counted on them for action, and on women for understanding.

Is it really so surprising then than Jesus appeared first to a woman; a woman who had been purified from the demons that possessed her.  She was the perfect person to be receptive to his rising from the dead, the perfect person to see, because he had opened her eyes.

https://christianwomenscorner.wordpress.com/tag/reading-and-reflection-from-the-gospel-of-mark-169-15/

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Gospel Reflection From Father Afonse

Doubts, disbelief, fears and terror. These are the sights and sounds of the early Church as they waited for their eyes to see the Risen Lord.
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Surprise, joy, boldness and outreach. These are the sights and sounds of those whom the Lord revealed himself to.
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In the Acts of the Apostles we witness an on-going transformation that continues to rock our world today. The Eleven, who were once locked in fear, can no longer contain themselves. They must proclaim the Good News, not because they received a death threat from the Lord but because they received his life. What was once considered impossible or dangerous (like being recognized, going out into the streets and preaching the Truth; preaching Jesus as Lord and God; preaching to the Jews and standing before the leaders, the elders and the chief priests, etc.) they now do without hesitation. They believe in themselves because the Lord believes in them.
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When we believe in God, we begin to believe in ourselves. Nothing is impossible! Nothing, for nothing matters more than the Lord. What will separate me from the love of God: tribulations, betrayals, fear, suffering and pain, anxieties, bitterness, ridicule, loss of life, death, even death on a cross? Nothing. Nothing will separate me from the love of God. The old man is dead, buried and gone away. The new man has risen from the dead, and has been sent by the Lord.
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Here I am Lord, send me! And he does, like he always has, and he will continue to bear fruit through me and after me.
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How many times have I said, Enough!? Too many. How many times have I said, I can’t do this anymore!? Too many. How many times have I said, I will never make a difference”? Too many. I could go on and on, so many more doubts come to my mind as I write this list. But the Lord loves me and loves sharing everything with me, even my dirty laundry list! The doubts we have the Apostles shared too. We, the modern-intelligent creatures, have the same doubts as the Apostles, those uncivilized-uneducated men. Yes, they may have said the exact same thing, but look and see for yourself what they did. They lived for the Lord and not for themselves. They believed in God because God shared his belief in them. He lifted them up! He told them as he told me, “Go and sin no more.” God has more faith in us than we have in Him!
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The Apostles woke up one morning and rocked the world. They had finally learned all things from the Master, and they began to imitate Him in everything – even his resurrection; for the Lord was the first to wake up one Sunday morning and change the world forever! We must do the same thing. Awake, O sleeper, arise from thy slumber. Christ is calling you by name!
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 APRIL, 2017, Saturday within Easter Octave
IRRESISTIBLE POWER OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:13-21; PS 117:1,14-21; MARK 16:9-15 ]

It is man’s nature to want to be in control of their lives.  This was the sin of Adam and Eve.  The devil promised them that if they ate the forbidden fruit, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Gn 3:5) That is why we do not like situations that are unpredictable.  We want our lives to run like clockwork, precise and in a mechanical manner.  We hate surprises because it means upsetting our program and our schedule.  Things must go according to our way and according to our plan.  This, too, was the attitude of the Jewish leaders.  They sought to be in control of the situation and to ensure that everyone toed the line.  The scriptures clearly spelt out the laws, and the traditions had kept the Jews together for centuries.  So, too, the Romans were always fearful of rebellion, social and political upheavals.

But this God is a God of surprises.  He does not follow the laws all the time!  Not even the laws of nature!  Indeed, we are always being challenged to think out of the box.  This God works out of the box and brings us new situations that we have no control over.  When the Jewish leaders saw “the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer.”  Indeed, no human, scientific or natural explanation could be found.  They themselves admitted this fact.  “It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it.”

This was also the experience of the apostles in encountering the power of grace.  They initially could not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  They were “in mourning and in tears!”  When Mary Magdalene and the two disciples from Emmaus recounted their encounter with the Risen Lord, they did not believe them.  Only when the Lord appeared to them, did they come to believe.  “He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  We can appreciate their reluctance because it was too good to be true, and it was a trans-historical event.  Their fears, sadness and despair prevented them from looking beyond the fact of the crucifixion.  Once again, one has to drop all logic and human reasoning to accept this event of encountering the Risen Lord.  Furthermore, this encounter was beyond description as they were encountering someone that came from the future to the present.

In the face of the power of grace, we can take two approaches.  One is to reject and the other is to accept.  The Jewish leaders took the path of denial and rejection.  “So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked.”  And the decision reached was “to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.”  Instead of dealing and reflecting on the marvelous event, they sought to quash it for fear of losing their status quo, their position in society and their institutions.  And they knew that they were wrong.  Instead, “the court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.”   They refused to recognize the facts that were so obvious before their eyes.

How true for many of us as well.  When we see miracles happening, we still do not want to admit that it is the power of grace and the power of God.  There are many agnostics who would not surrender themselves to the power of grace.  They see the facts and conclude that science cannot explain, but they would not ascribe the event to the power of God’s grace at work in their lives.  We are simply too proud to submit to a higher authority because we think we are in control and we have the answers to everything.  Human pride and fear are the causes of unbelief.

The other response is to bow down before the power of God, as St Peter asks of us.  “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.”  (1 Pt 5:6)  That was what the apostles did even when they were under threat not to repeat what they said and especially  “on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.’”  For the apostles, it was clear that the healing of the crippled man was the power of God, regardless whether they believed it or not.  It was in the name of the Lord Jesus that the man was healed.  Indeed, if we have seen and heard the power of God at work in our lives, there is no way for us to remain quiet.  This in itself is the proof of the work of God!  The grace of God is irresistible and overwhelming for anyone who encounters Him.  

So, what brought about the powerful grace of God? What gave the apostles who were uneducated, ordinary men such boldness, courage and confidence to preach the Good News about Jesus?  The cause of their radical change, they came to realize, was that they were simply “associates of Jesus.”  Indeed, those who associated with Jesus were radically transformed after the resurrection and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.  Their fears were removed completely and they could stand tall before the Jewish leaders testifying to the power of the Risen Lord.  Once, they were fearful of the authorities and afraid of suffering and prosecution.  But now they were ready to suffer anything for the Lord Jesus.  We can explain such radical change only because they walked with Jesus, they saw Him, they loved Him and they were inspired by Him and, last but not least, they encountered Him alive after being put to death.  The resurrection as the radical expression of grace was enough to transform their lives radically.

This means that if we are to see the Risen Lord in our lives, the first thing we need to do is to associate with Jesus!  Unless we are in contact with Jesus, reading the scriptures, studying about the faith, reading spiritual books and making contact with the disciples of Christ, we cannot know Jesus sufficiently to have faith in Him. Hearing and seeing open our hearts and minds to the grace of God.  This is the purpose of preaching;to help potential believers to respond to the grace of God.  That is why sharing of faith among Catholics, finding a faith community for spiritual and moral support is so critical for anyone who wants to be an associate of Christ.  Where is Christ today if not in His Church, in the liturgy, in the priests and in their fellow Catholics?

This, however, is just the first stage.  The second stage to respond to grace is through intimacy and love.  It is significant to take note that it was not to Peter that the Risen Lord first appeared but to “Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils.”  St Peter was using too much of his head, logic and reasoning.  But the Lord appeared to those who loved Him.  Mary Magdalene had been forgiven much and liberated from her severe bondages to her sins and her past.  For that, she loved Jesus deeply and passionately.  She was the first to arrive at the Tomb on Sunday.  She could not wait to see Jesus, even if He were just a corpse.   Love enables us to see the Lord that reason cannot.  Jesus said, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  (Jn 14:21)

So today, we are invited to come to God not through reason but in faith and in love.  Only faith and love can allow the grace of God to open our hearts and our minds.  It is not wrong to have a rationalizing and empirical spirit, but it should come only after the experience of the power of grace.  We are called to take the leap of faith, relying not on our own strength but the power of God.  If we behave like the Sanhedrin, we will end up fighting against God. The question of Peter is also ours when he retorted, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”  We ignore the power of grace to our disadvantage.  Those who seek to smother grace will be the ones who will lose out to the greater things of life that the Lord wants to offer them.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 18, 2017 — “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” — Will we be willing and able to recognize Jesus when he appears before us?

April 17, 2017

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

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

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia PS 118:24

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

Gospel  JN 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.

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Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb, by Rembrandt. ASt Mary’s right she has her breakfast — a jug of water and some eggs in a basket. Jesus is seen wearing a hat because “She thought it was the gardener.”
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Why Did Mary Turn Around? Reflection by Albert Holtz, OSB of “Downtown Monks”
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St. John Chrysostom suggests that the two angels suddenly caught sight of the Risen Lord standing behind Mary and she read their faces and so turned to see what they were looking at.


She may have turned only partly around, because v.16 tells us that when Jesus called her by name, “She turned and said to him, ‘Rabouni.’”


But the phrase that really caught my interest came when she first turned and saw this figure standing there “but she did not know that it was Jesus.”


Maybe her eyes were filled with tears, or maybe she was so overwhelmed with grief that she wasn’t really thinking sraight. And she certainly had no concept of a “risen Jesus” – Judaism had no such concept nor any vocabulary to express it, so she was not prepared to see a “risen Lord.”


In addition, there are other places in the Easter narratives where other people don’t recognize Jesus either ( e.g. the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples out fishing when Jesus calls to them from the shore), which indicates that there was now something different about his appearance. So we can’t blame poor Magdalene for mistaking Jesus for the gardener. “She did not know it was Jesus.


SO, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

But what about you and me? We have the gospel accounts along with the hindsight and the insights of two millennia of Christian tradition, all preparing us to recognize Christ in every person we meet. But the same thing happens to you and me as happened to Magadelene: we don’t know that it is Jesus standing before us when he comes.


I’ve learned that He often comes in the guise of the person who puts their umbrella into the spokes of my life’s bicycle: he phones at an inconvenient hour looking for someone to talk to, he needs help pouring cereal into his bowl because his Alzheimer’s is bad this morning, he is a homeless woman asking for a handout on the sidewalk down the hill from the monastery. I need to be on the watch all the time for these “appearances” of the Risen Lord so that I don’t make the same mistake that Magdalene made when “she did not know that it was Jesus.”
We’re about to start classes on Monday after a two-week Easter break. There are lots of terrific kids who I’ll be delighted to see after a two-week vacation; I’ll see Jesus in them right way and enjoy His presence. But will I be willing and able to recognize the same Jesus when he starts acting out his adolescent anger in class because he doesn’t know what else to do with it, or when he starts chatting with his classmate while he’s supposed to be taking notes in class? That will be the test for me.


Let’s pray to the Risen Jesus that He’ll give each of us the eyes of Easter Faith, that he’ll open our eyes to see His presence in every person and every circumstance.
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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
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Reflection
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• Today’s Gospel describes the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. The death if her great friend urges Mary to lose the sense of life. But she does not give up her search. She goes to the tomb in order to meet again the one whom death has taken away. There are moments in our life in which everything crumbles. It seems that everything is finished. Death, disasters, pain and suffering, disillusions, betrayals! So many things which may cause us to feel in the air, without standing on firm ground and which can lead us to fall into a deep crisis. But other things also happen. For example, that suddenly we meet a friend again and that can give us hope anew and can make us discover that love is stronger than death and defeat.
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• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Magdalene, it also speaks about diverse episodes which reveal the richness, indicate the richness of the experience of the Resurrection: (a) to the beloved disciple and to Peter (Jn 20, 1-10); (b) to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20, 11-18); (c) to the community of disciples (Jn 20, 19-23) and (d) to the Apostle Thomas (Jn 20, 24-29). The purpose of the writing of the Gospel is that of leading persons to believe in Jesus, and believing in him, to have life (Jn 20, 30-3).
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• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one perceives, one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search up to the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, seeking God and living the Gospel.
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• John 20, 11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but she seeks. There was a very strong love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few persons who had the courage to remain with Jesus up to the moment of his death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest on Saturday, she goes back to the tomb to be in the place where she had met her Beloved for the last time. But, surprisingly, the tomb is empty! The angels ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” and her response is: “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put him!” Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus, that Jesus whom she had known during three years.
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• John 20, 14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing him. The Disciples of Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize him. She thinks that he is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks: “Why are you weeping?” and he adds: “Who are you looking for?” The response: “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him”. She was still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. And it is precisely the image of the Jesus of the past which prevents her to recognize the living Jesus, who is present before her.
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• John 20, 16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name: “Mary!” This was the sign to recognize him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the name. She answers: “Master!” Jesus had returned the same, as the one who had died on the cross. The first impression was that death was only a painful incident on the journey, but now everything has again become as before. Mary embraces Jesus strongly. He was the same Jesus whom she had known and loved. And thus, is fulfilled what the Parable of the Good Shepherd said: “He calls them by name and they recognize his voice”. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10, 3.4.14).
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• John 20, 17-18: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the Apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being together with her is not the same as before. Jesus tells her: “Do not cling to me, because I have not as yet ascended to the Father!” He goes toward the Father. Mary Magdalene has to let Jesus go and assume her mission: to announce to the brothers that he, Jesus, has ascended to the Father. Jesus has opened up the way for us and thus, once more, God is close to us.
Personal questions
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• Have you ever had an experience which has given you the impression of loss and of death? How was it? What is it that gave you new life and gave you the hope and the joy of living?
• Which is the change that took place in Mary Magdalene throughout the dialogue? Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus in a certain way and found him in a different way. How does this take place in our life?
Concluding Prayer
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We are waiting for Yahweh;
he is our help and our shield,
for in him our heart rejoices,
in his holy name we trust.
Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in you. (Ps 33,20-22)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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18 APRIL, 2017, Tuesday within Easter Octave
THE DYNAMICS OF FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:36-41; PS 32:4-5,18-20,22; JN 20:11-18]

Christ is Risen.  This is the heart of the Church’s proclamation.  The resurrection of Christ is the central doctrine of the Christian Faith.  The Church began with faith in the resurrection of Christ.  Without this confession of faith in the resurrection, all the other doctrines will not hold water, whether it is the incarnation or the identity of Jesus as Lord, Saviour and the Son of God or the inerrancy of scriptures and the efficacious power of the sacraments and the authority of the institutions.

But how do we arrive at faith in the Risen Lord when we have not seen Him ourselves?  How do we enter into the faith of the apostles who claimed that they had seen the Risen Lord and were witnesses to the resurrected Lord?  Unless we can enter into the faith of the apostles and make it our own, we cannot truly proclaim that Jesus is risen and He is Lord.  What then are the stages to arrive at the apostolic faith which is the faith of the Church?

Firstly, faith begins with proclamation.  One can come to faith only through the proclamation of the witnesses of the Lord.  This is what St Paul wrote, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”  (Rom 10:14f)  Indeed, this was what St Peter did at Pentecost, as we read in today’s first reading.  Proclamation therefore is necessary to bring people to faith.  Not just proclamation but proclamation with faith and conviction!  It is not only what we say but how we say it.   Proclamation is not an intellectual discourse.  It is a teaching that is rooted in faith.   It seeks to strike the heart of the listeners.

Secondly, besides proclamation, the way to bring people to faith is through testimony.  There is nothing more convincing than personal testimony. Faith in God is never the outcome of an intellectual process by which we come to agree on the facts.  That would be reasoning and it is weak because reasoning can change with new evidence or findings.  That is why the theories offered by science keep changing as they discover new evidence.  But personal testimony is based on a personal encounter and a living out of our experience.  Again, this is what we read in the early testimonies and account of the resurrection apparitions.   The Lord appeared to the apostles and the disciples.  According to St Paul, “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”  (1 Cor 15:5-8)  In the gospel, we have Mary Magdalene who saw the Lord and “went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.”

Thirdly, we need to substantiate our testimonies with credible reasons, otherwise we can be accused of subjectivism, emotionalism and even hallucination.  Faith is never against reason and so it is our duty to show the logic of our faith and belief.  Again, this was what St Peter did.  “He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.”  Clearly, it was not only through their testimonies alone that brought about the conversion of his listeners but he could show through scriptures and reasoning that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah foretold by the prophets.

As such, although the resurrection can only be perceived by faith, yet, we cannot do without reason as well.  We need to help people to understand and find confidence to believe.  That was how conversion in the early Church took place.  It was not only personal testimony and proclamation but also a systematic explanation for their faith in the Risen Lord. Of course, we cannot prove the resurrection but we can establish the facts that strengthen our case for belief.  Otherwise we might appear to be credulous and superstitious. For many intellectuals today, without some reasonable explanation, it would be difficult for them to make the leap of faith lest they are accused of being too credulous.  Theology precisely seeks to understand so that one might believe.  Theology seeks to give a systematic presentation for the credibility of a doctrine.  Reason does not destroy faith but buttress our faith even more firmly.   And for those who believe through study already, they may understand more deeply what they already believe.

Fourthly, we need to make an act of repentance.  This is not just repentance from sin.  This is included.  But this fundamental repentance is a call to believe.  In the gospel, Jesus began His ministry by proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  (Mk 1:15)   In other words, we are called to repent by believing in the Good News.  If we accept in faith the Good News, then great things can happen.   If we believe in the Good News, then the outcome is repentance from our sins.  The motivation for change is never fear but love.  This was the response of the listeners to the discourse of Peter’s first homily.  “They were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent.’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’”  Thus, the call for change is based on the fact of the promise of the Holy Spirit and the gift of sonship in Christ.

Finally, those who believe will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and will come to know the Risen Lord personally, for this is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit.  The work of the Holy Spirit is not to announce new things but to bring us to a personal encounter with the Lord.  “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  (Jn 16:12-14) This explains why the Charismatic renewal has helped many Christians to have a personal encounter of the Risen Lord through the release of the Holy Spirit.   Only through the grace of the Holy Spirit can we know the Father through the Son.

Furthermore, through the same Holy Spirit, the apostles would be able to perform the same works that Jesus did as He promised.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:12-14)  We read that in the early Church, when they prayed in the name of the Lord and in the power of the Spirit, miracles and wonders happened.   “’And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”  (Acts 4:29-31) Clearly, therefore, such miracles could only be possible unless the Lord is risen since every healing miracle is done in the name of the Lord.

In the final analysis, the foundation of faith, the motivation for proclamation and the power of belief in Christ’s resurrection must be that of a personal encounter with the Risen Lord in prayer, worship and in our daily life, witnessing to His presence and love at work in our lives.   This gift is given to us if we are receptive to His love.  The psalmist says, “The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.”  When we love the Lord like Mary, He will reward us with the gift of seeing Him.  We can see Him through the intellect but we can see better through the heart.  For the heart has an intuition of the lover that the intellect does not.  No wonder, it is recorded in the scriptures that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene even before the apostles, perhaps because Magdalene loved the Lord most among all His disciples.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017 — The Blessed Mother is our model for patient waiting

April 14, 2017

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From: Living the Liturgical Year

Holy Saturday forms a gap between the sadness of the Crucifixion and the joy of Easter. It is a day of holy waiting, which requires a spirit of patience and prayerfulness. Yet, for most of us, we are busy with Easter baking, last minute cleaning, preparing for guests. How can we hold onto the spirit of patience and prayfulness in the midst of such busyness?

At the foot of the Cross & in the Upper Chamber

Stroll over to a crucifix in your home, and hold yourself present with those who stood at the foot of the Cross with Jesus. At the foot of the Cross stood the “three Marys:” The Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the wife of Cleopas – Jesus’ aunt and the Blessed Mother’s sister-in-law.  Feel with a mother and/or father’s heart for your only beloved child.

Among the disciples, only John remained; the other 10 scattered in fear, and closed themselves in the upper chamber. Judas Iscariot, hung himself on a tree. So, at the Cross stood kin and a small representation of the Christian community, with most holding themselves at a distance. Journey in your mind to those hovering in the Upper Chamber, and to Judas — eternally alone, hanging from the tree for his betrayal.  Place your fears and your betrayals at the foot of the Cross.

All watched and waited, as they grieved and grappled with fears. Unnatural darkness, earthquakes and storms no doubt added to the tense climate. We empathize with Peter, the passionate follower who denied Jesus three times. Our lives are likewise filled with a mixture of faithfulness and cowardice – patient waiting and anxious distractions. Call to mind the ways you have moments of faithfulness and faithlessness. Place all the busy things that stream through your mind upon the Cross.

Yet, we know how the story turns out. And so we wait with joyful expectation. Our preparations will end with the Vigil tonight (or Mass tomorrow), and then our loud Alleluias will join the bells and trumpets. In the meantime, we wait.

The scope of waiting…

The Blessed Mother is our model for patient waiting. When the Angel Gabriel announced that God had chosen her to bear the Savior, she waited. The Holy Spirit rushed through her, yet she had explaining to do with her family and community. The faithful Anna and Joachim, no doubt believed her. But even the good Joseph needed divine intervention to believe her and trust in God. The throngs threatened, directly or on the periphery, with the sentence Mary faced for those who did not believe: death by stoning. She fled to the high country to be with Elizabeth, and she journeyed to Bethlehem with Joseph for the census. Jesus was born amidst strangers.

And so his ministry encompassed kin and strangers, a succession of strangers whom he healed, whom he preached to, many of whom believed, and many who rejected him. The powerful rejected him, and carried out his death sentence. They were not patient to await the work of God in this world.

And so we wait with Mary in faith. And yet we also wait with Mary Magdalene, with the weight of our sins, awaiting remission by Him who paid our debt of sin. We await God’s plan in our life, as we negotiate the small crosses we carry, wrestle with the uncertainty that awaits, and grapple with our own fears. We also get shaken by calamities, natural and spiritual – all those developments that shake the foundation of our faith.

Virtues in waiting

Temperance is the moral virtue which restrains our impulse to concupiscence – to selfishness and to prefer lower-order rather than higher-order goods. It takes courage to resist temptation, and to choose rightly. Through patience we endure hardships, hurts and all the faces of evil, with a spirit of hopefulness, nurtured by faith, embraced within the arms of divine love.

Most of our lives are lived in Holy Saturdays, where sadnesses and expectant joys comingle. The Resurrection we celebrate tonight foreshadows our expectant joy of eternal life. In the meantime we strive to wait patiently, courageously and temperately.

The Easter Vigil – a celebration not to be missed!

The Easter Vigil service offers a larger experience than Easter Sunday. The service has four parts:

1. The Service of Light: The procession begins sometimes outside, others at the back of the Church. A “first fire” is lit amidst the darkness – symbolizing Christ’s light in the darkness following the Crucifixion, as well as at the beginning of Creation. From that holy fire the Pascal Candle is lit and prepared with the signs of new life:

Vertical line of the Cross: Christ yesterday and today.

Horizontal line of the Cross: The beginning and the End

Alpha and Omega: These Greek Symbols are placed above and below the cross.

Then the numerals of this year are placed in each corner of the cross: “2” to the left top, “0” to the right top, “1” to the left bottom, and “1” to the right bottom. The year 2011 is today’s moment in the who course of Salvation History, which the readings document.

The Paschal Candle is them processed through the Church, with the deacon pausing three times to say: “Christ Our Light.” The congregation replies: “Thanks be to God.”

Then we sing the Exsultet:

Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ, our King is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!

This is night, when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night, when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.

Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. R. Amen.

2.  The Liturgy of the Word: Now we take a journey through Salvation History, connecting the Light in Creation to the Son of Man. The nine readings include seven Old Testament readings and two New Testament readings: the story of creation, Gen 1:1-2; 2; 2) Abraham and Isaac, Gen 22:1-18; 3) Crossing of the Red Sea, Exodus 14:15–15:1; 4) Isaiah 54:5-14; 5) Isaiah 55:1-11; 6) Baruch 3:9-15.32–4:4; 7) Ezekiel 36:16-17.18-28; 8,  Romans 6:3-11; and 9) Gospel reading Mark 16:1-7.

3. The Liturgy of Baptism: New members are welcomed with Baptism and reception into the Church, and all renew their Baptismal promises and are blessed with Holy Water.

4. The Liturgy of the Eucharist: We receive anew the Body and Blood of the Savior, whose sacrifice paid the debt for our sin. With Jesus in us, we carry his Grace and Love into our lives and throughout the world.

May your Holy Saturday – and your life – be filled with the Grace of patient waiting.

Family Activity: After you’ve wrapped the caterpillars, got the butterflies ready, dyed the eggs, made the pan gardens, baked the resurrection cookies and/or resurrection rolls…

Make your own Pascal Candle. Use a white candle, and roll polymer class into small lines. You can use this to make the lines of the cross, or you can use with red ball headings to create a cross. Next shape the clay strips into the Greek symbols Alpha & Omega (beginning and end). Place the Alpha above the cross and the Omega below the cross.

Then shape the letters for the year 2011, and place them in each corner of the cross on the candle: the “2” in the top left of the cross, the “0” in the top right of the cross, the “1” in the left bottom of the cross, and the other “1” in the right bottom of the cross. (see red image above)Use straight pins to secure them in the candle.

Light this each night at dinner during the 50 days of Easter, and pray a special Easter prayer.

Barbara

https://liturgicalyear.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/holy-week-holy-saturday-before-easter-in-the-course-of-our-lives/

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If Jesus our Head rests, we too, his Body, must rest. That is, we are called to enter into the “rest of the Lord,” as described in the Letter to the Hebrews; “Therefore, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. And whoever enters into the rest of the lord, God’s rest, rests from his own works as God did from his. Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so as not to fall into disobedience” (Heb 4: 9-11). From this passage we learn that it is not activity that prevents us from entering into the rest of God, but disobedience. What gives us true rest, spiritual rest, is obedience to the will of God. Jesus, who was obedient unto death, and who will pass over to the other side of death, shows us that this is the true path of rest. Death to our self-will is the way of life, to that fullness of life that takes us to ‘eternal life.”

— From the Anawim reading for Saturday, April 15, 2017

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

15 APRIL, 2017, Holy Saturday – Easter Vigil

RENEWING OUR BAPTISMAL PROMISES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ge 1:1–2:2; Ps 103(104) or Ps 32(33), Ge 22:1-18; Ps 15(16), Ex 14:15–15; Ex 15 canticle, Is 54:5-14; Ps 29(30), Is 55:1-11; Is 12 canticle, Is 55:1-11; Is 12 canticle, Bar 3:9-15.32–4:4; Ps 18(19), Ez 36:16-28; Ps 41(42) or Ps 50(51), Rom 6:3-11; Ps 117(118), Mt 28:1-10 ]

“Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.’”  It is strange that the Risen Lord would ask the disciples to meet Him in Galilee when He was crucified in Jerusalem.  Why did not the Lord meet them in Jerusalem after the resurrection?  Galilee was the place where He began His ministry.  Most of His disciples came from Galilee.  Jerusalem, although the place of His passion and glory, would not hold so much memory as Galilee when they were first called by the Lord.  This appointment came a week later, after meeting His apostles at the Upper Room.

At Easter, we too must return to that day when we first became disciples of our Lord Jesus through baptism.   Easter is an invitation for us to recall that day when we were first baptized. This explains why we renew our baptismal vows with lighted candles followed by the rite of sprinkling of Holy Water. For those of us who were baptized at birth, we had the opportunity to ratify our baptismal promises once again at our confirmation.  Those of us who went through the RCIA had the opportunity to make our decision to be baptized in the Lord.  When we were baptized, we became a new creation, sons and daughters of God.  No longer do we walk in darkness but in the light.   How wonderful was that day when we became sons and daughters of God, or when we were empowered to be His witnesses at confirmation!

But where are we now in our faith in Christ?  This is the question we need to ask ourselves. Are we still thrilled about our relationship with Christ like the early apostles?  Mary Magdalene was deeply in love with our Lord.   The women of Jerusalem were faithful to Christ and they stood by the cross of Jesus until His death.  They were the first to be at the tomb on the first day of the week.  Mary Magdalene was in tears to discover the body of Jesus taken away.   St Peter and St John ran to the tomb upon hearing that the body was missing.   What about us?  Are we still proud to be Catholic?  Are we still happy to stand up for Jesus?  Are we excited to meet Jesus each Sunday and receive Him in the Eucharist?  Do we look forward to meet the Lord in prayer, waiting like Mary Magdalene for the Lord to come into our lives?  Some of us were once very close to our Lord, active in Church ministry, passionate in witnessing to Christ and serving Him.   But where are we now?  Perhaps, our service in the Church has become a routine and duty.   There is no longer any passion or enthusiasm in our ministry.

Secondly, are we eager to share our faith stories about our encounters with the Risen Lord? We read that the women, upon encountering the Risen Lord, ran to inform the disciples.  They could not contain their joy. “Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.”  Indeed, the sign that we have encountered the Risen Lord is when we cannot stop sharing with others what the Lord means to us, what He has done for us in our life and the difference He makes in our life today, which is lived meaningfully, joyfully and purposefully.  The lack of missionary zeal to share Christ with others is a clear indication that we are worshipping a dead Christ or worse still, a dead hero.  If Jesus were the Christ, the Risen Lord, our saviour, then we, like the apostles, would be announcing Him to the whole world that Christ is our Lord is risen.  He lives!

If we have lost our passion for Christ and are apathetic in announcing Christ to others, then we need to recall our baptism and the significance of what it means to be baptized in Christ.  To be baptized is to be delivered from our bondage to sin, from darkness and death.  This theme of deliverance is central to the Easter Vigil and celebration. This is what the whole Easter Liturgy seeks to do.  It tries to recapture the sentiments of being freed from the slavery of sin and deliverance from darkness and death.  Hence, we have the rich service of the light, the scripture readings are all focused on the consequences of sin, which is slavery and death.  At the same time, we have the light of the Risen Christ overcoming darkness, conquering sin, slavery and death by His resurrection from the dead.

Firstly, in the book of Exodus, we have the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  They passed through the waters.  It is a symbol of dying to the old man and rising with the new Adam.  It foreshadows the baptism of the early Christians.   By crossing the red sea, they left behind the idols of Egypt and made preparation to enter the Promised Land.  For us, we only take nine months to make a decision for Christ and be baptized.  The Hebrews had to wait for forty years in the desert to be formed in faith and virtues before they could be allowed to enter into the Promised Land.  It was a period of purification and testing. God could have taken them by a direct route to the Promised Land, but instead took them through the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years, wandering in the desert to learn obedience and faith.

We too must recall how our sins keep us under bondage as well.  We cannot forgive.  We are proud and egoistic.  We are addicted to our bad habits and sinful way of life, lust, greed, envy and gluttony.  All these sins make us truly slaves to the world, the flesh and to ourselves.  We are not able to live as free people.  Instead we live in guilt and in regret of our past, yet cannot let go of our sins.  We are living in our tomb of sins.  All these will be taken away if, like the Israelites, we  leave behind our past, die to self and live a new life in Christ.  “When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.”  Christ’s resurrection and the Holy Spirit will give us that power to deliver us from the bondage of sin.

Secondly, in the Book of Ezekiel, the Israelites in exile were going through a living death, without hope, without meaning and purpose, living in a strange land.  But the Lord promised them a new resurrection.  Their dry bones would be enfleshed and they would be resurrected and given a new Spirit.  Since the Exile was a punishment for their sins, the return must be accompanied by purification where they would be given a new heart and a new spirit.  Indeed, they needed a new spirit to live.  In our lives too we feel like we are in exile when there is darkness, no direction and meaning.  Many of us are living aimlessly, drifting along, not knowing the purpose of life and our destiny.  When we live without hope and purpose, then we are still living in the tomb.  We have not yet seen the light.  What we need to do is to welcome Christ, the radiant light of God that rises in the East and gives us new life and hope.  In Christ, we realize that we must die to ourselves, our self-centeredness and live for others.  For by serving others, we come to find the meaning and purpose of life.  As St Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.  And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14f)

When we bring together the themes of slavery to sin and emptiness in life, the letter of St Paul gives us the key to be set free from sin, evil and death. St Paul speaks of baptism as dying to sin and rising to a new life in Christ.  Necessarily, to be baptized means a constant imitation of His death so that we can share in His resurrection.  In order to be delivered from the slavery of sin, we must be crucified with Christ.  With the resurrection, there is hope for all.  With sin and death conquered, by love and fullness of life, we can now partake of this resurrected life in Christ.  All we need to do now is to live this life of Christ by dying to self and giving ourselves in love and service to God and humanity. This decision must be renewed daily and constantly if we are to share in this new life.

If you have gone through this experience of being liberated from sin and from death, then you too can rejoice.  This encounter is ours if we have humbly acknowledged our sins, confessed them, and put on Christ.  Those who have died to sin and started walking the life of Christ will understand the power of the resurrection.  Indeed, today is the restoration of creation. This is why we celebrate Easter as the beginning of new life, and on a Sunday, the first day of the week.  The first reading speaks of the beauty of creation.  But sin destroyed the harmony of creation.  Sin took away paradise from us and we have lost our likeness of God.  With baptism, we have been restored in Christ.  We are now children of God, sons and daughters of God.  We are now enlightened by Christ.  With Him, we have overcome sin and death.  This is our joy. This is our hope.  Christ is our life.  Alleluia!

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

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In a time when technology penetrates our lives in so many ways and materialism exerts such a powerful influence over us, Cardinal Robert Sarah presents a bold book about the strength of silence. The modern world generates so much noise, he says, that seeking moments of silence has become both harder and more necessary than ever before.

Silence is the indispensable doorway to the divine, explains the cardinal in this profound conversation with Nicolas Diat. Within the hushed and hallowed walls of the La Grande Chartreux, the famous Carthusian monastery in the French Alps, Cardinal Sarah addresses the following questions: Can those who do not know silence ever attain truth, beauty, or love?  Do not wisdom, artistic vision, and devotion spring from silence, where the voice of God is heard in the depths of the human heart?

After the international success of God or Nothing, Cardinal Sarah seeks to restore to silence its place of honor and importance. “Silence is more important than any other human work,” he says, “for it expresses God. The true revolution comes from silence; it leads us toward God and others so as to place ourselves humbly and generously at their service.”

Related:

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, December 27, 2016 — We proclaim the good news and share this joy of encountering the Lord in His humanity and in our daily lives — Our joy will increase from strength to strength.

December 26, 2016

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist
Lectionary: 697

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Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb, by Rembrandt

Reading 1 1 JN 1:1-4

Beloved:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life—
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

Responsorial Psalm PS 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12

R. (12) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are around him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Alleluia – See Te Deum

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
the glorious company of Apostles praise you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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John & Peter Running to the Tomb, by Eugene Burnand

Gospel JN 20:1A AND 2-8

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we do not know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.

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Homily Reflection from Fr. Alfonse
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Two days ago we celebrated the birth of Christ. Today, we are at the tomb. Life is short.One moment we are here, the next we are gone. We follow the Lord from birth to death, but do we follow the Lord in accepting his Father’s Will? I always pray to the Lord for the grace to never waste a second in second guessing his love for me.

How do we know God? We know him because we know Jesus. We know what God thinks because we know what Jesus thinks, and we know what God wants because we know what Christ wants from us.“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life, for the life was made visible” (1Jn 1:1-2).

We know God intimately because we intimately know Christ .

“They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first.” Why is it so important for St. John to tell us that he ran faster than Peter, and that he waited for Peter to enter the tomb first? Why is all of this so important? I believe John is telling us that his faith was stronger than Peter’s. John had no doubts. He ran to the tomb like a child running to his gifts. He ran with a sense of urgency, but confidently expecting the unimaginable. John ran knowing what he would not find. He waited for Peter because he knew the answer. The Lord is not here. He is Risen.

Let us run our lives like St. John: confident, excited and courageous in knowing that the Lord keeps his promises always. He did not come into the world to abandon or betray us. No. He came into the world to meet us. Let us run to the Lord with great faith in knowing what to expect and what to find: his promises fulfilled; His life fulfilled through mine.

http://fralfonse.blogspot.com/2010/12/john-202-8-he-ran-faster.html

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Commentary on John 20:1a, 2-8 From Living Space

The Gospel tells us that John was the brother of James and the son of Zebedee. He and his brother were among the first to be called (together with Peter and Andrew) by Jesus. John, with Peter and James, were particularly close to Jesus and were privileged to experience the Transfiguration, the raising of the daughter of Jairus and the agony in the garden.

To John also is attributed the authorship of the Gospel which bears his name as well as the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) and three Letters (John 1,2 and 3). He is often identified as the “beloved disciple”, who is only mentioned in the Gospel of John. Tradition says that John died a natural death at a great age in Ephesus (on the west coast of modern Turkey).

Today’s Gospel describes the scene where Peter and the “beloved disciple” rush to the tomb of Jesus after being told by Mary Magdalen that the body is no longer there. Although the “beloved disciple” got there first, he deferred to Peter who went in first and saw the burial cloths. One of them – the piece that was wrapped around the face – was rolled up in a separate place. When the “beloved disciple” went in, “he saw and he believed.” In other words, he understood the significance of the cloth and he knew that his Lord had risen.

Later, the Risen Jesus will say to Thomas, “Bless are those who have not seen and have learnt to believe.” Here the disciple did not see the physical Jesus. Nevertheless, on the basis of what he did see, he believed.

The question is: what exactly did he see? What he saw was that the cloth which had covered Jesus’ head was not with the rest of the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Why should that trigger his conviction that the Lord had risen? The book of Exodus (chapter 34) describes how Moses, after coming down from the mountain and conversing with God, was so radiant with light that people were afraid to approach him. And so, he put a veil to cover his face. But “whenever Moses entered the presence of the Lord to converse with him, he removed the veil until he came out again. On coming out, he would tell the Israelites all that had been commanded. Then the Israelites would see that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; so he would again put the veil over his face until he went in to converse with the Lord” (Exod 34:34-35).

Now some believe that the word ‘veil’ used in John is a Greek translation of the word in Hebrew used about Moses. In other words, the veil covering the face of the dead Jesus is now no longer needed because he has gone face to face with his Father. This veil was the humanity of Jesus which enabled us to look at our God. Jesus now has a new human body – his Church. And that was what led to the “beloved disciple’s” conviction that his Master had risen to new life.

For some commentators, the “beloved disciple” is not actually John but represents any person who has totally committed himself or herself to the following of Jesus, anyone who deeply believes and anyone who is passionately fond of Jesus. At times, as in today’s Gospel, the faith of the “beloved disciple” is shown as surpassing that of Peter. While the disciples we know of had fled after the arrest of Christ, it is the “beloved disciple” who stands with the Mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross.

Nevertheless, John as the author of the Fourth Gospel and the three letters attributed to his name, reveals a depth of faith and insight into the meaning of Christ’s life, death and resurrection that borders on the mystical and clearly reveals a faith of extraordinary depth. It is a faith and insight we can pray to have for ourselves.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/c1227g/

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Lectio Divina from the  Carmelites

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Reflection

• Today’s Gospel presents to us the passage of the Gospel of John which speaks about the Beloved Disciple. Probably, this text was chosen to read and to meditate on it today, feast of Saint John the Evangelist, for the immediate identification that we all make of the beloved disciple with the apostle John. But the strange thing is that in no passage of the Gospel of John it is said that the beloved disciple is John. But then, from the most remote times of the Church, it has always be insisted upon in identifying both of these. This is why, in insisting on the similarity between the two, we run the risk of losing a very important aspect of the message of the Gospel in regard to the beloved disciple.

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• In the Gospel of John, the beloved disciple represents the new community which is born around Jesus. We find the Beloved Disciple at the foot of the Cross, together with Mary, the mother of Jesus (Jn 19, 26). Mary represents the People of the Old Covenant. At the end of the first century, the time in which the final redaction of the Gospel of John was compiled, there was a growing conflict between the Synagogue and the Church. Some Christians wanted to abandon the Old Testament and remain or keep only the New Testament. At the foot of the Cross, Jesus says: “Woman, behold your son!” and to the Beloved Disciple: “Son, behold your mother!” And both must remain together as mother and son. To separate the Old Testament from the New one, in that time was what we would call today separation between faith (NT) and life (OT).

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• In the Gospel today, Peter and the Beloved Disciple, informed by the witness of Mary Magdalene, ran together toward the Holy Sepulchre. The young one runs faster than the elderly one and reaches the tomb first. He looks inside the tomb, observes everything, but does not enter. He allows Peter to enter first. Here is indicated the way in which the Gospel describes the reaction of the two men before what both of them see: “He entered and saw the linen clothes lying on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen clothes but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, he saw and he believed”. Both of them saw the same thing, but this is said only of the Beloved Disciple that he believed: “Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, he saw and he believed”. Why? Is it that Peter did not believe?

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• The Beloved Disciple looks, sees in a different way, he perceives more than the others. He has a loving look which perceives the presence of the novelty of Jesus. The morning after that night of working, looking for fish and, then the miraculous catch of fish, it is he, the beloved disciple who perceives the presence of Jesus and says: “It is the Lord!” (Jn 21, 7).

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On that occasion, Peter informed by the affirmation of the Beloved Disciple, also recognizes and begins to understand. Peter learns from the Beloved Disciple. Then Jesus asks three times: “Peter, do you love me?” (Jn 21, 15.16.17). Three times Peter answers: “You know that I love you!” After the third time, Jesus entrusts the flock to the care of Peter, and in that moment Peter also becomes a “Beloved Disciple”.

Personal questions

• All of us who believe in Jesus are today Beloved Disciples. Do I have the same loving look to perceive the presence of God and to believe in his Resurrection?
• To separate the Old Testament from the New one is the same thing as to separate Faith and Life. How do I do and live this today?

Concluding Prayer

The mountains melt like wax,
before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his saving justice,
all nations see his glory. (Ps 97,5-6)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-st-john-apostle

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 DECEMBER, 2016, Tuesday, St John, Apostle and Evangelist
FAITH IN THE INCARNATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 John 1:1-4; Ps 96:1-2,5-6,11-12; John 20:2-8   ]

For most Catholics and Christians, the divinity of Jesus is never questioned.  We have been brought up with faith in Christ as the Son of God, our Saviour, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Hence, we cannot understand why the world cannot accept Jesus as divine.  Today, many people including Christians doubt the divinity of Jesus.  Influenced by secularism, materialism, rationalism and empiricism, they would not accept anything that cannot be proven logically or empirically.  Many can accept Jesus as a good man and even as a prophet, but not as God.

What is at stake in today’s first reading is the reality of Jesus’ incarnation.  Many, Catholics included, have difficulty in believing that Jesus is truly man.  Our faith in Jesus as the Son of God often reduces our appreciation of the full humanity of Jesus.  The letter to the Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus was a man in every way except that He did not sin. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”  (Heb 4:15)  St John in no uncertain terms said, “And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.”  (Jn 1:14)

Faith in Jesus’ divinity is not only paramount to our faith but also in His humanity.  The complete divinity or humanity in the person of Jesus must be affirmed without compromise, without mixture, without separation and without reduction.  This is what the doctrine of the Incarnation is proclaiming; that in the human person of Jesus, the full divinity of God was present.  So Jesus was truly man and truly God, one person and yet distinct and inseparable.  If this truth is not consistently upheld, it would put the doctrine of salvation in Christ in question.  If Christ were not divine, then it means we are not saved by His death and resurrection.  Unless, Christ was truly divine, His death on the cross would not be a true manifestation of God’s unconditional and total mercy. Then we can doubt whether God really identifies with us, understands our pain and misery.  Only because of His death on the cross, do we know that God is with us in every situation.  He is the Emmanuel who continues to feel with us.  That is why He is the throne of mercy. “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb 4:16)  We must therefore with equal faith proclaim that Christ is truly God and truly man.

But how can we come to this faith if not through the witness of the Church and our contemplation?  In the gospel, we see how Mary needed the Church to confirm what she saw.  “On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’”  She observed the fact but she needed the authority of the Church to confirm that it was indeed the case.  And so, we have Peter representing the Church coming to the scene and vouching that it was as Mary had said. “Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.”

But until now, the fact has not yet been given an interpretation.  This shows the diligence of the Church when it comes to making conclusions and judgement of miraculous events, especially apparitions and healing miracles.  Indeed, in most instances, the Church is slow to make pronouncements unless she is certain that it is a divine intervention.  This calls for careful discernment as declaring something miraculous is not a small matter.  Hence, those who doubt the witness of the Church and trust in their own witness, their own “seeing” and personal “interpretation”  need to imitate Mary in allowing the Church to make her judgement on behalf of us all as they have the authority from Christ and the competency to do so.

Secondly, we learn from Mary and Peter that a historical fact or a historical event makes no sense and has no real impact on our lives unless interpreted.  This is true in every area of our daily life.  We live by symbols more than the historical event itself.  The giving of gifts is more than just the reception of a gift but the meaning and significance of being given the gift by the giver.  Every gift signifies something about the giver’s intention and sentiments and how the recipient is loved and understood by the giver. So too, the empty tomb does not say very much except that the body of Jesus was not there.  Even the linen cloth being rolled up nicely does not say much.  It only raises questions and speculation but it is not a proof of Jesus’ resurrection.   Someone must offer an interpretation.  Instead of feeling elated, they were puzzled.  Could it be that the body was stolen?  There could be many reasons for the missing body.

Thirdly, if we act like Mary out of pure sentimentalism, we might not go very far in arriving at the meaning and the truth of the event.  It was great that Mary was deeply attached to Jesus and loved Him entirely.  But that love and her tears made her blind and unable to see the reality.  She was still living in the past.  She was still thinking of Jesus of Nazareth. She was still adoring the humanity of Jesus and failed to arrive at the divinity of Jesus through the resurrection.  So we must not fall into the same pitfall of being so sentimental, and denying the truth that is to be upheld.

We are called to learn from St John the Evangelist, whose feast we are celebrating.  He was a beloved disciple of the Lord.  Surely, he loved the Lord more than anyone.  Yet, he did not lose his sobriety.  Even whilst running to the tomb and arriving there before Peter, he stopped outside the tomb to allow Peter, the head of the apostolic college, to enter the tomb first.  He was respectful of authority.  Furthermore, whilst Peter was puzzled after seeing the empty tomb, John was introspective and contemplative.  The empty tomb and the linen cloth led him to enter into prayer and contemplation.  He began to link this event with the whole life, ministry and passion of Christ.  He sought to put all the pieces together, His teachings, His lifestyle, His miracles, especially of healing and exorcism, the multiplication of loaves, the calming of the storms, the Last Supper, etc.  When he recollected all these events, he came to “see” in the fullest sense of the term.

John understood the full significance of the empty tomb and concluded that Christ was not simply raised but that He was the Son of God.  This is why he wrote, “Something which has existed since the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands: the Word, who is life – this is our subject. That life was made visible: we saw it and we are giving our testimony, telling you of the eternal life which was with the Father and has been made visible to us.”   Such is the wonderful realization of John.  He came to faith in Christ as the Son of God not only through the visible encounters with Jesus of Nazareth but fundamentally through prayer and contemplation.  We might not have encountered Jesus of Nazareth directly, but we too can arrive at this faith in His incarnation through contemplation and prayer.

Indeed, this is what we are called to do.  During this period of Christmas, we are invited to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation.  We still meet Jesus concretely in our daily lives through others.  We meet Him in the Eucharist, in the Sacrament of reconciliation, in the kindness of our friends, through an act of mercy that someone gives to us or we give to others.  So in many situations in daily life, if we only open our eyes and see beyond the events, we will see the face of the Incarnated face of Christ in all our trials, sorrows and joys of life.  We can still see Jesus today if only we contemplate in faith in all the events that happen to us, just as Mary the mother of Jesus did, always pondering on the events of her life.  Only then will the face of Christ appear before us.

Once we meet the Lord like Mary of Magala and John, we too will be filled with joy and go about spreading the Good News that the Lord is with us, our Emmanuel. St John wrote, “What we have seen and heard we are telling you so that you too may be in union with us, as we are in union with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.”   And as we proclaim and share this joy of encountering the Lord in His humanity and in our daily lives, our joy will increase from strength to strength.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 17, 2016 — “In your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.” — Why scripture records the genealogy of Jesus

December 17, 2016

Saturday of the Third Week in Advent
Lectionary: 193

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The Road to Bethlehem, by Joseph Brickey. In scripture, Joseph doesn’t utter one word. He does God’s will.

Reading 1 GN 49:2, 8-10

Jacob called his sons and said to them:
“Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob,
listen to Israel, your father.“You, Judah, shall your brothers praise
–your hand on the neck of your enemies;
the sons of your father shall bow down to you.
Judah, like a lion’s whelp,
you have grown up on prey, my son.
He crouches like a lion recumbent,
the king of beasts–who would dare rouse him?
The scepter shall never depart from Judah,
or the mace from between his legs,
While tribute is brought to him,
and he receives the people’s homage.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 72:1-2, 3-4AB, 7-8, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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The Road to Bethlehem, by Joseph Brickey

Gospel MT 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

Our favorite Eastern Orthodox pastor often gives us gems of wisdom not usually found nearly anywhere else. On the geneology of Jesus Christ he says, “The geneology of Jesus Christ tells us more than one thing. First, we are reminded that Jesus came froim good people — his bloodline was good with some royalty and great leaders. But good researchers have also told us that in that same geneology, Jesus is “related” to a lot of prostitutes, criminals and sinners. Just like you and me.”

“In the geneology of Jesus we see God’s relationship with his people — all forgiving and all loving, compassioinate and kind. Any one of us might look at our own geneology with shame or horror. But our family tree just tells us one thing: thing: we are all the sons and daughters of God.”

Related:

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Angel Appears to Joseph in a Dream byAnton Raphael Mengs. c. 1773-1774

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A great book for every Father….. Every man.

Joseph’s Way By Devin Schadt

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Commentary on Matthew 1:1-17 from Living Space

Perhaps this is regarded as one of the dullest Gospel readings of the year! It consists of a long list of names, many of which mean very little to most Christians. But it has one resounding message: Jesus fully entered our human condition, with all its virtues and vices.

One of the main purposes of Matthew’s Gospel, which was written for Jewish Christians by Jewish Christians, is to show the continuity of Jesus in the history and tradition of Israel. Jesus was no upstart. Still less was he a rebel or a traitor. On the contrary, he was the natural development of the long process of God’s relationship with his people. Not only was he the natural development, he was the long-awaited climax. He was no less than the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed King of Israel.

Today’s passage from Matthew is the opening of his Gospel. It is introduced with the words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” These two names are the most significant in the family line. Jesus as the Christ will be a King in the line of David. And he is descended from Abraham to whom God had said: “…in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing” (Gen 22:18).

The genealogy is divided into three significant parts, each with fourteen generations. This is probably because the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in David’s name amounts to 14. The third and last list actually only contains 13 names. Perhaps Matthew meant Jesus’ name to be part of the list. After all, the genealogy of Jesus continues beyond him to his followers. Or perhaps a scribe somewhere along the line got his numbers mixed up.

The first part is from Abraham down to David, the second from David to the deportation to Babylon, and the third from the deportation to Joseph and Mary.

Of course, it is not a complete genealogy. The names mentioned all appear one way or another in the Hebrew Testament. There are four women mentioned – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Mary. Each one of them interesting characters in their own right. There are also a number of scoundrels in the list. Even David, one of the most outstanding servants of God, was an adulterer and a murderer (apart from those he killed in war).

When the Son of God became a human being, he really did become one of us. The Gospel makes no effort to “sanitise” his origins, or the members of his immediate family. There is no shortage of skeletons in Jesus’ cupboard. When John says, “The Word became a human being and lived among us”, he said no less than the truth.

And, if Jesus was totally incarnated in the world so that he could communicate the message of God’s love to the world and for the world, then we, too, must be totally incarnated. We are not true to our calling if we think that, in order to be true to Jesus, we have to separate ourselves from a material and sinful world. We cannot be the “salt” of the earth, unless we are fully inserted into it. But only when we also fully identify with the values and concerns of the Kingdom. Otherwise we are salt without taste.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/A1217G/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Reflection

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• The genealogy defines the identity of Jesus. He is the “Son of David and the son of Abraham” (Mt 1, 1; cf 1, 17). Son of David, is the response to the expectation of the Jews (2 Sam 7, 12-16). Son of Abraham, is a source of blessings for all nations (Gn 12, 13). Both Jews and Pagans see their hope realized in Jesus.

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• In the patriarchal society of the Jews, the genealogies indicated only names of men. It is surprising that Matthew indicates also the names of five women among the ancestors of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah) and Mary.

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Why does Matthew choose precisely, these four women as companions of Mary? No queen, no matriarch, none of the fighting women of the Exodus: Why? This is the question which the Gospel of Matthew leaves for us to answer.

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• In the life of the four women, companions of Mary, there is something abnormal. The four of them are foreigners, they conceived their sons outside the normal canons and do not respond to the requirements of the Laws of purity of the time of Jesus. Tamar, a Canaanite, widow, she disguised herself as a prostitute to oblige the Patriarch Judah to be faithful to the law, to do his duty and give her a son (Gn 28, 1-30).

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Rahab, a Canaanite from Jericho, was a prostitute who helped the Israelites enter into the Promised Land (Jos 2, 1-21). Ruth, a Moabite, widow, poor, chose to remain with Naomi and to adhere to the People of God (Rt 1, 16-18). She took the initiative to imitate Tamar and to go and spend the night beside the pile of barley, together with Boaz, obliging him to observe the Law and to give her a son. From the relation between the two, Obed was born, the ancestor of King David (Rt 3, 1-15; 4, 13-17).

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Bathsheba, a Hittite, the wife of Uriah, was seduced, violated and she conceived and became pregnant from King David, who in addition to this ordered that the husband of the woman be killed (2 Sam 11, 1-27). The way of acting of these four women did not correspond to the traditional norms. In the meantime these were the initiatives, which were not really conventional, which gave continuity to the lineage of Jesus and led all the people to the salvation of God. All this makes us think and challenges us when we attribute too much value to the rigidity of the norms.

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• The calculation of 3 X 14 generations (Mt 1, 17) has a symbolical significance. Three is the number of the divinity. Fourteen is the double of seven. Seven is the perfect number. By means of this symbolism Matthew expresses the conviction of the first Christians according to which Jesus appears in the time established by God. With his coming history reaches its plenitude, its fullness.

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Personal questions

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• Which is the message which you discover in the genealogy of Jesus? Have you found a response which Matthew leaves for us to answer?
• The companions of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, are very different from what we imagined them. Which is the conclusion which you can draw regarding your devotion to the Blessed Virgin?

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Concluding Prayer

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May his name be blessed for ever,
and endure in the sight of the sun.
In him shall be blessed every race in the world,
and all nations call him blessed. (Ps 72, 17)

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-11-17

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 DECEMBER, 2016, Saturday, Weekday of Advent
CHRIST COMES TO HEAL OUR FAMILY TREE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: GENESIS 49:2, 8-10; MATTHEW 1:1-17   ]

Today, we enter into the Octave before Christmas.  Eight days from now, we will celebrate the birth of Christ.  The liturgy therefore takes pain to prepare us for His birth by tracing the family tree of Jesus.  In the gospel, we read the long genealogy of Christ’s ancestry.   At first glance, it seems to be a list of boring and uninspiring names, many of whom we do not have much inkling of their roles and importance in salvation history.  Furthermore, some of the names, especially the kings, were surely not good examples of fidelity to the Lord.  Rahab, Manasseh and Ahaz were of dubious character. Rahab was a prostitute.  Bathsheba the wife of Uriah was an adulterer.  Ahaz was a wicked king and brought paganism into the country and God’s judgment as well.  Of course, among the list, there were great people like Abraham, Ruth and David.

Secondly, we are told that from Judah, the most insignificant and smallest tribe among the Twelve, would come the Messiah.  Jacob prophesied, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you: you grip your enemies by the neck, your father’s sons shall do you homage … The scepter shall not pass from Judah, nor the mace from between his feet, until he come to whom it belongs, to whom the peoples shall render obedience.”

What lessons can we draw from scripture lessons? Firstly, that like Jesus, our family tree is not perfect.  It is significant that He came from a line of broken people.  In other words, He did not have a perfect family tree.  We too should not be ashamed of ourselves when we go through our family history.  As we reflect on our family tree, we should not be surprised that we too have some members of our family who committed shameful crimes and sins.  But we too will find some exemplary relatives who have given hope and pride to the family.   Instead of hiding from the fact that not all members of the family are doing well or have done well, let us accept the reality of sin and brokenness in our lives.  In every family, there will be skeletons. There will be some who are regarded as the black sheep of the family.  Sometimes, it is so difficult to admit that not all our family members are living good and happy lives.  The failure to accept sin and brokenness in our family will lead to hypocrisy, and by denying and hiding the truth, we cannot help them to put things right.  Jesus was not ashamed of His ancestors.  He calls all of us His brothers and sisters.  Let us therefore not pretend or feel embarrassed when someone mentions that our brother, sister, uncle or aunt has done something wrong, like being involved in a crime.

Secondly, God can write straight in crooked lines.  When we study St Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, we find that he categorized the family tree of Jesus into three periods, with each phase of history comprising fourteen generations.  “The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.”   The first era of salvation history therefore began with Abraham, the father of faith and ended with King David.  The second stage illustrates the fall of Israel and the resultant exile in Babylon.  The final stage saw the restoration of Israel with its completion by Christ who is the Davidic King, priest and messiah.  The intention of St Matthew is to portray the divine plan of God unfolding, irrespective of man’s cooperation and infidelity.  God’s plan cannot be destroyed by the sinfulness of man.  Since the fall of humankind, God has already initiated the plan of redeeming His people, beginning from Abraham.  The arrival of Jesus is not by chance but in accordance with the divine plan of God. In His infinite wisdom and divine providence, God had prepared the people of Israel to receive the Messiah by sending them prophets and allowing the vicissitudes of history to purify them to welcome the Messiah.

Thirdly, to affirm that “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ”, the evangelist confirms that Jesus is truly from the dynasty of David, and therefore the true King and Messiah on one hand.  However, on the other hand, it shows that Jesus is truly a man and shares all our human conditions except that He did not sin.   He too knows human frailty, the sufferings of humanity because of sin, injustice and weakness.

More importantly, although Jesus’ family tree was not perfect, He did not allow Himself to be dragged down by the sins of His ancestors.  Through Jesus, He established a new family that is protected by the grace of God.  For this reason, when Jesus was conceived, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Him and removed Him from Original Sin and the consequences that come from original sin.   Jesus, as the New and Second Adam, is fit to lead us to the Heavenly Father.  It is true that our family tree can affect us because of the effects of original sin, both in our human nature and the environment. But through Him, we too can share in His divine sonship by becoming the adopted children of God.  By virtue of our baptism, we receive the grace of God to live a holy life and a life of God.  We need not condemn ourselves to disaster just because we did not have a good family background, especially if our parents are divorced; our siblings have failed relationships and done all kinds of immoral activities.  We can be different.  Our lives are not doomed to failure.  Through Christ, we can break all curses and negative effects of our family tree from befalling on us.

Just as Judah, the most insignificant tribe, was chosen to be the one whom the Messiah would come, so too God will choose the weak, the lowly and the unknown and ordinary people of society to be His instruments of salvation.  He chose Mary, a lowly handmaid, to be the Mother of Jesus.  He chose sinners like St Peter and St Paul to be pillars of the Church He had established.  He chose the weak and the simple, the uncouth, like the shepherds, to announce the arrival of the birth of the Messiah.  Indeed, He chose the weak to shame the strong.  We too can make a difference in our family.  We must not resign ourselves to a fatalistic mentality, as if we cannot change the unfortunate course of our family tree.  Each one of us can, with the power of God’s grace in Christ, turn whatever is sinful, negative and shameful in our family line to something positive and edifying.  There is a role for each one of us to play in redeeming our family members from following the path of perdition.

So, as we approach the feast of Christmas, we must spend time going through our family tree.  Let us give thanks to God for our ancestors.  Let us search and remember what they have done for us.  In spite of their imperfections, mistakes and follies, they too have tried to live a good life within the constraints they were in.  They too had their fair share of struggles to do the right thing, of failures and success.  So for the good they have done for us and the blessings we have inherited through them, let us give praise and thanks to God for them.

On the other hand, if we uncover some skeletons in the cupboard, let us not be ashamed but accept our human condition.  We too are sinners like them.  When we see their mistakes, we do not condemn them but we ask the Lord to forgive them so that they too can forgive themselves.  It is also important for us to offer our members of the family, living and dead, our forgiveness.  Let us assure them that we hold nothing against them because they too were ignorant and more often than not, reacting to the perceived hurts that others inflicted on them, or their fears of loneliness, suffering and rejection.  We must pray for them and ask God to give them the grace of reconciliation during this Christmas.  On our part, if we can, let us reach out to them and be reconciled so that instead of darkness, we shed light; joy instead of sadness, hope instead of despair, forgiveness instead of condemnation.

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From Jesus for Jews
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The Genealogy of the Messiah
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Topics: jesus
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In 1982, Reader’s Digest decided to make the Bible easier to read. Translators, paraphrasers and a variety of religious entrepreneurs have been providing more and more modern versions of the Bible to keep pace with our rapidly deteriorating use of the English language. Reader’s Digest went one step further, condensing the Bible—excising what they considered extraneous”—providing an abridged version called The Reader’s Digest Bible.

Among the passages deemed “unnecessary” were the many genealogies. Yet, the frequency with which genealogies appear in the Scriptures is evidence of their importance. Genealogies established one’s Jewishness, one’s tribal identity, one’s right to the priesthood and one’s right to kingship.

From all the genealogies in the Hebrew Scriptures, two observations become apparent. With very rare exceptions, only the male line is traced and only men’s names appear. The descendancy of women is not given and their names are only mentioned in passing. Since biblically it was the father who determined both national and tribal identity, it was reasoned that only his line was necessary.

In addition, only one line is traced from the beginning to the end of the biblical history, the line of King David. The Scriptures reveal every name before David (Adam to David) and every name after David (David to Zerubbabel). Since the Messiah was to be of the house of David, this can also be labeled as the messianic line. In fact, the genealogies limit more and more the human origin of the Messiah. As the Seed of the woman, Messiah had to come out of humanity. As the Seed of Abraham, Messiah had to come from the nation of Israel. As the Seed of Judah, he had to be of the tribe of Judah. As the Seed of David, he had to be of the family of David.

The Jewish Scriptures as Background to the New Covenant

The pattern of genealogy in the Hebrew Scriptures is followed by the New Testament pattern where two genealogies are found: Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38. Of the four gospel accounts, only those two deal with the birth and early life of Jesus. Both Mark and John begin their accounts with Jesus as an adult, so it is natural that only Matthew and Luke would have a genealogy. While they both provide an account of the birth and early life of Jesus, each tells the story from a different perspective.

In Matthew, Joseph plays an active role, but Miriam (Mary) plays a passive role. Matthew records angels appearing to Joseph, but there is no record of angels appearing to Miriam. Matthew records Joseph’s thoughts but nothing is recorded about Miriam’s thoughts. On the other hand, Luke’s Gospel tells the same story from Miriam’s perspective. From the context of each Gospel, it should be very evident that the genealogy of Matthew is that of Joseph, and the genealogy of Luke is that of Miriam.

The question then raised is: Why do we need two genealogies, especially since Yeshua (Jesus) was not the real son of Joseph? A popular and common answer is: Matthew’s Gospel gives the royal line, whereas Luke’s Gospel gives the real line. From this concept, another theory arises. Since seemingly Joseph was the heir apparent to David’s throne, and Jesus was the adopted son of Joseph, Jesus could claim the right to David’s throne. On the other hand, Luke’s Gospel gives the real line, showing that Yeshua himself was a descendant of David. Through Miriam, he was a member of the house of David, but he could claim the right to sit on David’s throne through Joseph, the heir apparent. Actually the exact opposite is true.

Kingship

To understand the need for these two genealogies, it is important to understand the two requirements for kingship in the Hebrew Scriptures. These were developed after the division of the kingdom after the death of Solomon.…

One was applicable to the southern Kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem, while the other was applicable to the northern Kingdom of Israel, with its capital in Samaria. The requirement for the throne of Judah was Davidic descendancy. No one was allowed to sit on David’s throne unless he was a member of the house of David. So when there was a conspiracy to do away with the house of David (Isaiah 7:5-6), God warned that any such conspiracy was doomed to failure (Isaiah 8:9-15).

The requirement for the throne of Israel was prophetic sanction or divine appointment. Anyone who attempted to rule on Samaria’s throne without prophetic sanction was assassinated (1 Kings 11:26-39; 15:28-30; 16:1-4, 11-15; 21:21-29; 11 Kings 9:6-10; 10:29-31; 14 8-12).

With the background of these two biblical requirements for kingship and what is stated in the two New Testament genealogies, the question of Jesus’ right to the throne of David can be resolved.

Matthew’s Genealogy

In his genealogy, Matthew breaks with Jewish tradition and custom. He mentions the names of four women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba (who is the one to whom the pronoun “her” in verse six refers). It was contrary to Jewish practice to name women in a genealogy. The Talmud states, “A mother’s family is not to be called a family.” Even the few women Luke does mention were not the most prominent women in the genealogy of Yeshua. He could have mentioned Sarah, but did not. However, Matthew has a reason for naming these four and no others.

First, they were all Gentiles. This is obvious with Tamar, Rahab and Ruth. It was probably true of Bathsheba, since her first husband, Uriah, was a Hittite. Here Matthew hints at something he makes clear later: that while the main purpose of the coming of Jesus was to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the Gentiles would also benefit from his coming. Second, three of these women were guilty of sexual sins. Bathsheba was guilty of adultery, Rahab was guilty of prostitution and Tamar was guilty of incest. Again, Matthew only hints at a point he later clarifies: that the purpose of the Messiah’s coming was to save sinners. While this fits into the format of Old Testament genealogy, it is not Matthew’s main point.

Matthew’s genealogy also breaks with tradition in that he skips names. He traces the line of Joseph, the step-father of Jesus, by going back into history and working toward his own time. He starts tracing the line with Abraham (verse 2) and continues to David (verse 6). Out of David’s many sons, Solomon is chosen (verse 6), and the line is then traced to King Jeconiah (verse 11), one of the last kings before the Babylonian captivity. From Jeconiah (verse 12), the line is traced to Joseph (verse 16). Joseph was a direct descendant of David through Solomon, but also through Jeconiah. The “Jeconiah link” is significant in Matthew’s genealogy because of the special curse pronounced on Jeconiah in Jeremiah 22:24-30:

As I live,” declares the LORD,
“even though Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim
king of Judah were a signet ring on my right
hand, yet I would pull you off…
“Is this man Jeconiah a despised, shattered jar?
Or is he an undesirable vessel?
Why have he and his descendants been hurled out
and cast into a land that they had not known?
“O land, land, land, Hear the word of the LORD!!
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man [Jeconiah] down childless,
A man who will not prosper in his days;
For no man of his descendants will prosper
Sitting on the throne of David, Or ruling again in Judah.’

No descendant of Jeconiah would have the right to the throne of David. Until Jeremiah, the first requirement for messianic lineage was to be of the house of David. With Jeremiah, it was limited still further. Now one had to be not only of the house of David, but apart from Jeconiah.

According to Matthew’s genealogy, Joseph had the blood of Jeconiah in his veins. He was not qualified to sit on David’s throne. He was not the heir apparent. This would also mean that no real son of Joseph would have the right to claim the throne of David. Therefore if Jesus were the real son of Joseph, he would have been disqualified from sitting on David’s throne. Neither could he claim the right to David’s throne by virtue of his adoption by Joseph, since Joseph was not the heir apparent.

The purpose of Matthew’s genealogy, then, is to show why Yeshua could not be king if he were really Joseph’s son. The purpose was not to show the royal line. For this reason, Matthew starts his Gospel with the genealogy, presents the Jeconiah problem, and then proceeds with the account of the virgin birth which, from Matthew’s viewpoint, is the solution to the Jeconiah problem. In summary, Matthew deduces that if Jesus were really Joseph’s son, he could not claim to sit on David’s throne because of the Jeconiah curse; but Jesus was not Joseph’s son, for he was born of the virgin Miriam (Matthew 1:18-25).

Luke’s Genealogy

Unlike Matthew, Luke follows strict Jewish procedure and custom in that he omits no names and mentions no women. However, if by Jewish custom one could not mention the name of a woman, but wished to trace her line, how would one do so? He would use the name of her husband. (Possible Old Testament precedents for this practice are Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63.) That would raise a second question: If someone studied a genealogy, how would he know whether the genealogy were that of the husband or that of the wife, since in either case the husband’s name would be used? The answer is not difficult; the problem lies with the English language.

In English it is not good grammar to use a definite article (“the”) before a proper name (“the” Matthew, “the” Luke, “the” Miriam): however, it is quite permissible in Greek grammar. In the Greek text of Luke’s genealogy, every single name mentioned has the Greek definite article “the” with one exception: the name of Joseph (Luke 3:23). Someone reading the original would understand by the missing definite article from Joseph’s name that this was not really Joseph’s genealogy, but his wife Miriam’s.

Furthermore, although many translations of Luke 3:23 read: “…being supposedly the son of Joseph, the son of Eli…,” because of the missing Greek definite article before the name of Joseph, that same verse could be translated as follows: “Being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph the son of Heli…”.1 In other words, the final parenthesis could be expanded so that the verse reads that although Yeshua was “supposed” or assumed to be the descendant of Joseph, he was really the descendant of Heli. Heli was the father of Miriam. The absence of Miriam’s name is quite in keeping with the Jewish practices on genealogies. The Jerusalem Talmud recognized this genealogy to be that of Miriam and not Joseph and refers to Miriam as the daughter of Heli (Hagigah 2:2).

Also in contrast to Matthew, Luke begins his genealogy with his own time and goes back into history all the way to Adam. It comes to the family of David in versees 31-32. However, the son of David involved in this genealogy is not Solomon but Nathan. So, like Joseph, Miriam was a member of the house of David. But unlike Joseph, she came from David’s son, Nathan, not Solomon. Miriam was a member of the house of David apart from Jeconiah. Since Jesus was Miriam’s son, he too was a member of the house of David, apart from Jeconiah.

In this way Jesus fulfilled the biblical requirement for kingship. Since Luke’s genealogy did not include Jeconiah’s line, he began his Gospel with the virgin birth, and only later, in describing Yeshua’s public ministry, recorded his genealogy.

However, Jesus was not the only member of the house of David apart from Jeconiah. There were a number of other descendants who could claim equality with Yeshua to the throne of David, for they too did not have Jeconiah’s blood in their veins. Why Jesus and not one of the others? At this point the second biblical requirement for kingship, that of divine appointment, comes into the picture. Of all the members of the house of David apart from Jeconiah, only one received divine appointment. Luke 1:30-33 states:

And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Miriam; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Yeshua. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end.’

On what grounds then could Jesus claim the throne of David? He was a member of the house of David apart from Jeconiah. He alone received divine appointment to that throne: “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.”

While Matthew’s genealogy showed why Yeshua could not be king if he really were Joseph’s son, Luke’s genealogy shows why Yeshua could be king. When he returns, he will be king.

Two things may be noted by way of conclusion. First, many rabbinic objections to the messiahship of Jesus are based on his genealogy. The argument goes, “Since Jesus was not a descendant of David through his father, he cannot be Messiah and King.” But the Messiah was supposed to be different. As early as Genesis 3:15, it was proposed that the Messiah would be reckoned after the “seed of the woman,” although this went contrary to the biblical norm. The necessity for this exception to the rule became apparent when Isaiah 7:14 prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” Whereas all others receive their humanity from both father and mother, the Messiah would receive his humanity entirely from his mother. Whereas Jewish nationality and tribal identity were normally determined by the father, with the Messiah it would be different. Since he was to have no human father, his nationality and his tribal identity would come entirely from his mother. True, this is contrary to the norm, but so is a virgin birth. With the Messiah, things would be different.

In addition, these genealogies present a fourfold portrait of the messianic person through four titles. In Matthew 1:1 he is called the Son of David and the Son of Abraham. In Luke 3:38 he is called the Son of Adam and the Son of God. As the Son of David, it means that Jesus is king. As the Son of Abraham, it means that Jesus is a Jew. As the Son of Adam, it means that Jesus is a man. As the Son of God, it means that Jesus is God. This fourfold portrait of the messianic person as presented by the genealogies is that of the Jewish God-Man King. Could the Messiah be anyone less?

Endnote 1A.T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels.

The above article is one solution to the problem of the curse on Jeconiah. For an alternate solution, see “The Problem of the Curse on Jeconiah in Relation to the Genealogy of Jesus”

https://jewsforjesus.org/issues-v05-n06/the-genealogy-of-the-messiah

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The Story of Mary Magdalene and the First Easter Egg

Mary Magdalene has a special place among Jesus’ disciples.

It was St. Mary Magdalene‘s great love for Christ that kept her standing at the foot of the Cross, weeping and grief-stricken, until her Savior died. It was her heartbreaking pain of loss that drove her to his tomb at the first light of day in order to anoint his body.

As a reward for her great love and faithfulness, she is the privileged person to whom Jesus first appeared on Easter Sunday morning; she was the very first witness of the Resurrection.

It was Mary Magdalene, a woman, who went and told the twelve Apostles that Jesus had risen from the dead; for this she is called “Apostle to the Apostles.”

After Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, Mary Magdelene continued her mission as an evangelizer, contemplative, and mystic in the heart of the Church.

Mary Magdalene meeting Christ at the Tomb Easter

MARY MAGDALENE AND THE EASTER EGG

According to tradition, after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, the Magdalene—a wealthy woman of some importance—boldly presented herself to the Emperor Tiberius Caesar in Rome to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ, with an egg in hand to illustrate her message.

Holding the egg out to him, she exclaimed for the first time what is now the universal Easter proclamation among Christians, “Christ is risen!”

The emperor, mocking her, said that Jesus had no more risen than the egg in her hand was red. Immediately, the egg turned red as a sign from God to illustrate the truth of her message. The Emperor then heeded her complaints about Pilate condemning an innocent man to death, and had Pilate removed from Jerusalem under imperial displeasure.

Why would Mary Magdalene bring an egg to talk about Jesus with the Roman Emperor?

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In another tradition, it is said that Mary Magdalene brought a basket of white boiled eggs with her on Easter morning to the tomb of Jesus—perhaps as a meal for herself and the others as they waited for someone to roll the stone away. When she arrived at the site of the Resurrection, finding the stone already rolled away, she also found that the eggs in her basket had turned into bright shades of color.

Perhaps this is why she brought an egg to the Emperor; did she expect that Jesus would perform a similar miracle for her egg as he had done on that first Easter morning?

While we do not know if these stories are true with absolute certainty, we do know that the tradition of handing out red eggs at Easter is one that originated among Christians in Apostolic times. And we often find Mary Magdalene depicted in icons holding a red egg. Moreover, the story fits into the various cultural traditions already surrounding the symbol of the egg.

THE EASTER EGG TRADITION

For many cultures, even before the time of Christianity, the egg was a symbol of creation, spring, and rebirth.  After the resurrection of Christ, the egg took on a new meaning for Christians and became a symbol of new life breaking forth while leaving the empty tomb behind. Perhaps this became even more pronounced due the account of Mary Magdalene.

Eggs were what helped people to understand a new theological truth—the resurrection of the dead, and a new religion—Christianity—built around the first Resurrection.

In this way a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, the Easter egg then became a symbol for the rebirth of all mankind at the resurrection on the Last Day due to the merits of Jesus Christ.  “Easter eggs” were shared with one another as a joyful symbol of Christian hope.

02zb-easter-holy-week-easter-eggs-bucharest-romania

EASTER EGG DECORATION

Painting Easter eggs is a beloved ancient tradition for Eastern Catholic churches as well as Orthodox. The eggs are often dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross.

The Easter eggs are then carried to the church in baskets to be blessed by the priest (often with other foods to be eaten for the Easter feast) at the end of the Easter vigil before being distributed to the faithful. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs during a strict Lent, so Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence. The egg represented the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represented Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

In some cultures it is also common to paint wooden Easter eggs and hand them out as gifts to friends and family. You can read more interesting traditions about Christianity and the Easter egg here and here.

Thus the connection of eggs with Easter and the Resurrection is a historic one in the heart of the Church, and as is always the case with ancient Christian customs, an excellent way to catechize the faithful and celebrate a shared Christian culture with family and friends.

If you have family traditions with the Easter egg, please share in the comments below!

The Story of Mary Magdalene and the Easter Egg

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2015. © The Catholic Company.

https://www.catholiccompany.com/getfed/mary-magdalene-first-easter-egg/

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 15, 2016 — Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows — “We are all called upon to suffer”

September 14, 2016

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Lectionary: 446/639

Reading 1 1 COR 15:1-11

I am reminding you, brothers and sisters,
of the Gospel I preached to you,
which you indeed received and in which you also stand.
Through it you are also being saved,
if you hold fast to the word I preached to you,
unless you believed in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried;
that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once,
most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
After that he appeared to James,
then to all the Apostles.
Last of all, as to one born abnormally,
he appeared to me.
For I am the least of the Apostles,
not fit to be called an Apostle,
because I persecuted the Church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me has not been ineffective.
Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them;
not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.
Therefore, whether it be I or they,
so we preach and so you believed.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1B-2, 16AB-17, 28

R. (1) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD has struck with power.”
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
You are my God, and I give thanks to you;
O my God, I extol you.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Sequence (Optional) – Stabat Mater

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia)

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The Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Catholic hymn to Mary, which portrays her suffering as Jesus Christ‘s mother during his crucifixion. Its author may be either the Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi or Pope Innocent III.[1][2][3]The title comes from its first line, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, which means “the sorrowful mother stood”.
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Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 19:25-27

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Gospel LK 2:33-35

Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

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Our Lady of Sorrows – Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-9; Ps 30; Luke 2:33-35 or John 19:25-27 From Living Space

There are two choices for the Gospel reading. The first is from Luke’s account of the Presentation in the Temple. While they were in the Temple, Mary and Joseph met the holy man Simeon, who had been promised that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

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When he meets Mary and Joseph, he recognises the Messiah in the Baby she is holding. He then proceeds to make some prophecies about Jesus and, addressing Mary herself, tells her that a “sword of sorrow” will pierce her heart. He does not specify what that “sword” might be but now we can see that it particularly alludes to the suffering and death of Jesus which she witnessed. However, the “sword” can also be applied to the other painful experiences we remember in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

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The alternative Gospel reading is from John’s account of the Crucifixion where he mentions that the “mother of Jesus” was standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son died. With her were two other women, her sister called Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”.

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Seeing them there, Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to the care of his Mother, while telling the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ Mother is his also. Some would see in this scene the Mother of Jesus as symbolising the Christian community. There is to be a relationship of mutual support between the community and its dedicated members. The community exists for the well-being of the individual members and each member is committed in turn to the well-being of the community.

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The First Reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and speaks of Jesus’ passionate prayer to his Father that he not have to go through the terrible death of the Cross. And his prayer was heard, because of his total submission to his Father. It was precisely through the acceptance of his suffering that he learnt to be totally at one with the will of his Father. And, being made perfect through his obedience, he became a source of salvation for all others who unite themselves to him.

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And who was more united to Jesus than his Mother? It is because of her acceptance of and identification with the sufferings of her Son that we celebrate her memory today.

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Our Lady of Sorrows — The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From September 15, 2014)
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There are many ways to look at sufferings in life.   Those who are negative will look at sufferings as a curse from God.  Such an attitude can turn them bitter against God and the world.  When we try to run away from our sufferings or deny them, we will end up being miserable.

Fortunately, most of us assume a positive approach to suffering; seeing it as a pedagogy of life.  In other words, it teaches us about life and most of all, it purifies our attitude towards people.  It helps to sanctify us.  Indeed, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, Jesus Himself learned obedience through suffering.  In other words, we can embrace suffering as part of the mystery of life or fight it.  If we fight against suffering, then we open ourselves to greater pain, like when we harden our muscles when receiving an injection.  The way to overcome suffering is to let go and embrace it as God’s will for our growth, purification and strengthening of character.

However, it is not sufficient to see suffering in this manner as it is still very much focused on the self.  Rather, suffering should teach us to reach out, for it is only in reaching out that we are able to forget our own sufferings.  The clue to reaching out is found in the gospel of St John, when we are told that “the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  In other words, like John, we are called to feel with Mary, just as Mary felt with Jesus and identified herself with Him.

When St Paul tells us that if we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory, and that if we share in His death, we also share in His resurrection, he is not simply suggesting that if we suffer just like Jesus, we too will be glorified and raised like Jesus.  Of course, this is true, but there is a deeper significance to this exhortation of Paul.

St Paul is telling us that in sharing the sufferings of Christ, we will understand not only what Christ has gone through, but what He has suffered for us, for our sake and for our salvation.  In other words, by sharing in His sufferings, we can now identify with Him, not just in His sufferings, but also feel the depth of His love for us.  Only when we come to know how much He has loved us, can we come to love Him even more.  If we are called to know how much He suffered, it is so that we can appreciate the extent of His selfless love for us.  It is important that we understand the purpose of His sufferings.

Suffering in itself is not redeeming unless it is experienced for love of others.  So in sharing Christ’s sufferings and understanding His love for us, we are now ready to suffer for Him in return as our grateful response to His love.  Indeed, this was the way Christ suffered.  If He could suffer so much for us, it was because He had experienced the Father’s self-emptying love for Him.

Even in human relationships, we are inclined to be more sympathetic to people whom we encounter, and those who share their sufferings and pain with us.  Without understanding their struggles, the natural reaction would be for us to apply the laws to them objectively, without taking into consideration their existential context.  But justice, especially the justice of God, requires that we apply laws within the context and circumstances of each individual, as opposed to a legalistic manner.  Indeed, when we lack contact with a person and lack understanding of his or her personal struggles, we cannot empathize very much with the person.

That is why dialogue and communion enables us to feel with and for each other.  It is not in our nature to act objectively; only robots do that.  But neither do we act subjectively, for if we do, then we are not living out the truth.  Rather, we act objectively in a subjective manner, taking into consideration both the person and his circumstances.  Compassion and justice meet in God and in the Christian.  Once we recognize the person as a person and not a thing, then we too, can help the person to transcend his struggles.

Truly, if we feel with each other, then like Jesus, we will look upon others with compassion and sympathy rather than judgmentally.  In silent tears, we pray for those who are suffering and in pain, especially for our enemies, because like Jesus, we can understand why they are acting the way they do.  Like Jesus, we are called to forget our own sufferings but instead, to look towards the sufferings of others, so that no longer will we judge them with condemnation but with mercy.  For like Christ, we are called to share not just in His sufferings but we must also share in the sufferings of our enemies.

Today, Mary is our model.  If she is so associated with the redemptive suffering of Christ, it is because as a mother she must have felt with Jesus in His mission of love.  Most of all, if she could forgive the enemies of her Son, it was also because she could feel the way He felt for His enemies.  So, if we too, can feel with Jesus in His sufferings through our sufferings, we will repent of our own sins, return to Him in love and gratitude and undertake upon ourselves the same mission of love and mercy that we have received from Jesus.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/15-september-2014-our-lady-of-sorrows/#sthash.Z32XBVDT.dpuf

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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September 15, 2016
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15 SEPTEMBER 2016, Thursday, Our Lady of Sorrows
SHARING IN CHRIST’S REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING WITH MARY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  Heb 5:7-9; Ps 30: 2-6, 15-16, 20; Jn 19:25-27 OR Lk 2:33-35  ]

Yesterday we celebrated the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.  The corollary to the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross appropriately is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.   More than any other, Mary has been chosen to share most intimately in the sufferings of her Son.  She was chosen to share in His passion.  Whereas Jesus suffered in the body, notwithstanding his soul, Mary suffered in the soul for Christ and with Christ.  This suffering is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Simeon when he said, “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”  Indeed, it is for good reason the Church even honours her with the sublime title of “co-redemptrix.”

How did she share in the sufferings and the passion of Christ?  As a mother, she would be most identified with Christ.  She carried Him in her womb for nine months and was with Him day and night for 30 years of His life.  She knew Jesus’ mind and heart.  She was with Him in everything, including doing the will of God.  That is why at Cana in Galilee, she told the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

From the beginning of the life of Jesus till His death, or rather from the womb to the tomb, Mary suffered with Christ.  At her conception of Jesus, she was misunderstood by Joseph.  Upon the birth of Christ, she had to flee with Jesus to Egypt because of the persecution.  During Jesus’ teenage years, she had to deal with the angst of a growing boy finding His identity.  When Jesus was 30 years old, she had to bear the pain of separation when He entered the ministry.  When He was doing well in the ministry, she had to suffer the pain of being misunderstood and rejected by closed relatives and friends because they thought He was mad.  When He was arrested, scourged, mocked, ridiculed and taunted, she saw and bore the pain with Jesus.  On the way to Mount Calvary, she suffered the pain of seeing her Son in a most pitiable state, for He was like a criminal condemned to an innocent death.  At the cross, she had to bear the sight of the nails being driven one by one into His body.  Finally, when she thought everything was over, a lance was pierced into His heart.  The sight of this piercing would have been the last straw for Mary.  When Mary carried Jesus’ lifeless body in her arms, how sad and sorrowful Mary must have felt.  But through all these events, she stood by Jesus all the way as a mother would for her children, even standing underneath the cross when all, including Christ’s closest friends abandoned the Lord.

In the light of this, we are now called to bring Mary to our home, that is, to share in Christ’s suffering just as she did.  This was what the Lord instructed the beloved disciple who represented the Christian community, the Church.  “Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing hear her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  (Jn 19:26f)

Why is it necessary to share in Christ’s suffering?  St Paul gives us the reason, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”  (Col 1:24)  In other words, we are called to share in Christ’s suffering for our redemption and the redemption of the world.  This is what we call, redemptive suffering.

How does redemptive suffering work?  In the first place, it works for us.  We all need salvation.  We need to be purified in love and in truth.   Even Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering.  “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”  (Heb 5:8f)  Only when we do the will of God, like Christ, can we find peace and integrity.  Suffering therefore is a means by which we resign ourselves to the will of God.  It is fidelity to God even unto death that brings us salvation.  Through suffering, we learn to depend on God and not simply on ourselves.  We realize our position in this world and are not deceived into thinking that we are so great or powerful.   In the face of illnesses and tragedy in our lives, we are helpless.  So suffering can help us in our conversion and growth in holiness.

But suffering can also help the salvation of others.  It can awaken their conscience and to the illusions of this world.  This is what the Prophet Simeon said, “You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected … so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”  Jesus by His passion, death and resurrection will expose the secret motives of all of us.  For those who cheat themselves, they will destroy themselves.  For those who respond to Christ, they will rise from the pit.

Our suffering can edify those who see us suffer with joy and faith.  If we suffer patiently, cheerfully and cooperate with the grace of God, using the means given to us, we can inspire others who are sick and even the healthy.  By seeing us suffer positively and in the way we carry our crosses of life with fortitude, patience and hope, others in their trials will also find strength to carry on.  As St James urges us, “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1:2-4)  This is true when we suffer patiently and unjustly.  Innocent suffering transforms the world.  This is what St Peter said, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing (1 Pt 3:9)

This is particularly true with respect to forgiveness of those who have hurt us or wronged us.  We are called to be magnanimous and forgive them the way Jesus forgave us at the cross.  Not only did He forgive us, but He made excuses for us and prayed for our forgiveness.  In forgiving others, we show them the mercy of God, and our faith that justice, love and life will triumph over injustice, hatred and death.  This is the prayer of the psalmist.  He said, “Into your hands I commend my spirit; you will redeem me, O Lord, O faithful God.”   So through our compassion and forgiveness, we will bring healing and win over our strayed brothers and sisters to the Lord.

Hence, if we find ourselves suffering for the wrong reasons and suffering without joy, we need to pray for wisdom so that we can understand how suffering can be redemptive for us and for others.  But we must suffer in faith with cheerfulness, patience and hope.  St James says, “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”  (James 1:5)

Through prayer and contemplation on the Crucified Lord who led the way in suffering and contemplation on our Lady of Sorrows, we will find strength and inspiration to join them in suffering for the redemption of the world, beginning with ours. As we contemplate on their lives, we too will learn to suffer with others the way Mary suffered with Jesus.   We come to realize that the greatest form of charity to those who are suffering goes beyond simply helping them financially or physically.  But it is to stand by them and being with them to give them moral and spiritual support.  This is what they need most in these times to help them find the strength to conquer their weaknesses and discipline themselves in a life of virtue and holiness.  Helping them to do the task is not the best way, but to give them the strength to overcome the difficulty is even greater.  Beyond mere empathy, we suffer with them by being identified with their sufferings as we carry their infirmities on our bodies like the suffering servant.  We need to be in union with them in mind and heart and in emotions if we are to give them the strength to endure their trials.  By identifying ourselves with them, we will be more compassionate and understanding.  Most of all, we suffer for them by being of service whenever we can. At times we might have to suffer in silence because we are unappreciated or misunderstood.  To suffer for doing good is what innocent suffering is all about.  In this way, our suffering will indeed be truly redemptive for ourselves and for others.

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

 … “Today the Church has more Christian martyrs than in the first centuries,” Pope Francis said.

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 27, 2016 — “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise” — The Patron Saint of Alcoholics and Married Women — Humility may be the most important virtue

August 26, 2016

Memorial of Saint Monica
Lectionary: 430

Saint Monica, By Artist Karen DAnselmi.

Saint Monica, Mother of St. Augustine, Patron Saint of married women, alcoholics, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse

Reading 1 1 COR 1:26-31

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God.
It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God,
as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,
so that, as it is written,
Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Gospel  JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.
After a long time
the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents
came forward bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 AUGUST 2016, Saturday, 21st Week of Ordinary Time
REMEMBERING OUR HUMBLE BACKGROUND AS THE ANTIDOTE TO ARROGANCE AND INGRATITUDE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1COR 1:26-31; MT 25:14-30]

How often have we come across people who are successful, accomplished, rich, powerful, influential and famous, but have also become proud, arrogant, pretentious, snobbish, condescending, demanding and intolerant?  What is worse is that many of them actually came from humble beginnings, financially and socially.  We often wonder how these people, who have gone through a life of poverty and little social standing, could now act without compassion, understanding and respect for those who are marginalized in society, or who do not enjoy the same status in life as them.  Given what they had gone through, one would expect that they would be better placed to feel with and for such people.

What is the reason for their behaviour? They have forgotten their humble background.  Even for those who enjoyed an elite upbringing, they have failed to realize that what they now have came from their forefathers who worked hard to accumulate wealth and built up their family wealth. They, too, were once jobless and lived in poverty, despised by the rich and the powerful.  Indeed, it is when we forget our humble beginnings, whether it be in terms of our family background, education or career, that we become haughty and self-conceited.

Today, St Paul reminded his fellow Christians and all of us as well, the importance of remembering our nothingness and how, through the grace of God, we have become what we are today.  He wrote to the wealthy and intellectually snobbish and morally corrupt Corinthians, “Take yourselves, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame the strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”  Indeed, if they had come to find the true wisdom and riches in Christ who made everything else pale and insignificant to Him, it is by God’s graciousness and mercy.

St Paul could vouch for this himself, for although he came from a noble and influential family, well-educated as a rabbi and a strict orthodox Jew, he realized that all he possessed was “rubbish” compared to his encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ.  It was out of this humble experience of encountering Jesus along the road to Damascus that changed his whole outlook in life and what true religion is all about.   Having experienced the unconditional love of Christ and enlightened on the depth of God’s love and His unfathomable divine plan for humanity, he knew that this revelation was given to him not only for himself, but in order that he might reveal the mystery of Christ to all of humanity.

In the gospel, this theme of gratitude and the corollary response of commitment prevail.  The lazy servant in the gospel kept the talent that his master entrusted to him, not so much out of fear as out of sheer ingratitude.  After all, his words belied his line of defense when he said, “Sir, I have heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.”   If he was aware of how much confidence and love the master had for him in entrusting him with the talent, which is worth about one million US dollars in today’s terms, then surely he would have been so grateful and sought to increase that amount through investment, even if it was done conservatively. But he allowed it to stay idle, as if he had not even received it, and almost forgot all about it.

In contrast, the other servants, including the master himself, were aware of the blessings they received from God.  The master himself reiterated this fact when he said, “I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered.”  It is true that he worked hard to grow his wealth, but in the first place, it had been given freely by God.  So in gratitude for God’s blessings, he worked hard to make it grow.  He was cooperative with the grace of God.  He did not take what was given to him for granted, but developed further what he had been bestowed with.  This was true for the rest of the servants who had invested the money as well.

What about us?  Are we grateful for the talents we have received?  Have we made use of them for the service of God and humanity?   Or have we forgotten what we have received freely from God through our parents, relatives, and friends and from the Christian community?  Is it not true that some of us have learnt certain skills, like music or computer, or some trades but fail to use them for the good of humanity and the Christian community?  But even if we have, does rendering our services make us proud, arrogant, demanding, dictatorial and boastful of what we have been given in the first place?  Has our success in business, in education or in our professions made us consider ourselves better than others?

If we do, St Paul reminds us thus, “The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.”  Indeed, let us learn from the psalmist and be grateful to God for all that we are today.   Like the psalmist, let us sing out our praises, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down he sees all mankind. But see, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.”

Truly, let us keep ourselves humble before the Lord and His people.  The truly great person is one who is so successful, popular and accomplished in the eyes of the world and yet stays humble, unpretentious, without any airs in his dealings and relationship with others, rich or poor, influential or ordinary, small or great.   He is truly the great man because of his ordinariness and modesty.

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

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

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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Homily From The Abbot in The Desert
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It is clear that a husband and wife can be great and wonderful gifts to one another.

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But it is not automatic! What a gift the worthy wife!

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What a gift the man who entrusts his heart to his wife! We all know that it does not always work that way. When it does, we can see the Sacrament of Matrimony at work in a way that is convincing. The second reading, from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, is also clear that the end of the world, or our personal death as well, will come when we are not expecting it. We need to be prepared at all times to meet the Lord.

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We may think that we have years left, but God can come at any time, either to end the whole world or to take us to His Kingdom.

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This is a message reflected throughout all of Scripture: Be ready now! Be alert! Be prepared!

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The Gospel, from Saint Matthew, repeats both of these themes as it speaks about how to use the talents given to us. We can think of human talents, but the Gospel is really about how to use the gifts of faith given to us.

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Whatever we are given in this life, we need to use for God’s glory and for others. Perhaps at times we want to shrug off responsibility and let others take care of things.

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The Gospel keeps telling us: we are ourselves Christ present in the world. We are the hands and the love of God.

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We must live our faith or it is no faith. If we look at today’s world, we can well believe that the end is here. Yet this is so in every age. There is never a time when the world is completely obedient to the Lord and to the love the Father has for us in the Holy Spirit. There is never a time when everyone is seeking the face of the Lord.

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This cannot surprise us.

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On the other hand, in every age, God’s love and God’s word are present. We are being called to respond to that love and that word. Especially those of us who have professed faith in Jesus Christ must be willing to take up the Cross each day and to follow Him, even when it may mean suffering. Perhaps we do not do world-shaking actions!

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That should not surprise us. Yet a small act of love to another person changes the world. The smallest act of faith transforms the whole universe. We don’t have to think huge.

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We are invited to take even the smallest steps in the direction of this God who loves us. He Himself can transform that littleness. All glory to Him forever.

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First published here on Peace and Freedom on November 16, 21014
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom:
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Maybe we all know a saint like Saint Monica!

She prayed and prayed for both her husband and her son. Both might have driven a lesser woman crazy — but Monica. She turned to God and saved them both!

St. Augustine “started wrong but finished strong” like Mary Magdalene and others. He’s one of our favorite saints because he invented “The Not Yet Prayer.”

Augustine is one of those Olympian Sinners of faith history. After all, he was a lawyer.

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 (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!

Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) also “started wrong but finished strong.”  When he was knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus, he saw a bright light and was never the same.

There a few others examples of lives with hardship that became a transformational event, or period, in life.
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Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, had a transformational experience much like that of Paul on the road to Damascus. Like Paul before him, Wilson told others that the room filled with light and “the scales fell from my eyes.” Those are the same words Paul chose to describe his experience!
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I’ll be you know dozens if not hundreds of people who can say their hardships caused them a new awareness of God, a kind of re-awakening or conversion….
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What doesn’t kill us truly does make us stronger!
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Related:
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On Our Use of Our Talents
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Once during my writing career I became so depressed that I told my editor I was quitting.  After a brief pause, she looked over her glasses at me and said, “Let’s think about this. This could be a God given talent you have….”
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Leave it to the learned editor not to allow the writer to take any credit.
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But the message was clear and correct: many of our abilities are God given gifts and talents that we have a responsibility to develop and refine and mature.
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A recovering drug addict told me one time he’d never stop thanking God for his sobriety — and he would continue until the end of his life to use that gift to “God’s good purposes.”
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How we view our talents says a lot about who we are. It’s in the Good Book!
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JFC
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Caravaggio’s Conversion on the Way to Damascus — Saul says The Scales fell from my eyes — 1600
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St. Monica
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From Catholic Online
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St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. His mother Lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370. He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life.St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back toAfrica from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.
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The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home.
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Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.
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Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.
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When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric.
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Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below).
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Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been inTagaste.She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “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.”
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She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.

Source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1120.

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