Posts Tagged ‘Mary Magdalene’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, April 25, 2018 — “Clothe yourselves with humility” — “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

April 24, 2018

Feast of Saint Mark, evangelist
Lectionary: 555

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Art: St Mark and St Luke by Matthias Stom

Reading 1 1 PT 5:5B-14

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

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

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

Alleluia 1 COR 1:23A-24B

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

Gospel MK 16:15-20

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:
“Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”Then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven
and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
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Commentary from Living Space
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Ironically, the Gospel reading is from a passage at the end of Mark’s gospel, a section that is thought to be an added supplement to his original text. It is believed that Mark’s gospel ends with verse 8 of chapter 16 where we read: “So they [the women] went out and ran from the tomb, distressed and terrified. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.”   This seems to have been regarded as too abrupt an ending so brief summaries borrowed from other sources were added on, including, the appearance to Mary Magdalene (John), the appearance to two disciples “on their way to the country”, a clear reference to the disciples on their way to Emmaus (Luke), the appearance of the Risen Jesus to the eleven apostles (Matthew, Luke and John), and Jesus taken up to heaven (Luke, Acts).

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

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

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0425r/

 

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 APRIL 2016, St Mark, Evangelist
SECOND CHANCE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Pt 5:5-14; Ps 88:2-3, 6-7, 16-17; Mk 16:15-20    ]

From the Acts of the Apostles, we read how Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas half way on the first missionary trip.  After finishing their mission on the island of Cyprus, preaching at both Salamis and Paphos, Mark decided to return to Jerusalem.   “Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia.”  (Acts 13:13f)   We are not too sure exactly the reasons why Mark did not continue with the journey to Pamphylia.  It could be because he was unable to take the swampy ground of Perga or the rugged terrain at Antioch in Pisidia.  It could also be because he missed home as he was still a young man.  Perhaps, he could be resentful that Barnabas allowed Paul to take the lead when it was Barnabas who called Paul to help him.  Whatever the reasons, Paul lost complete confidence in him.  So much so, that when Barnabas wanted to take Mark with him on the second missionary journey, Paul refused to let him come along.  “The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.  But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord.”  (Acts 15:39f)

When we consider how God works in our lives, we cannot but be grateful that God always gives us a second chance.  God does not rule us out completely even when we are condemned in the eyes of the world.  Paul, before his conversion, was an enemy of the faith but Barnabas managed to rehabilitate him and welcome him to the Christian community.  He became the greatest apostle to the Gentiles.  So, too, was Mark.  He was young then.  He was a coward in many ways.  We read in the gospel that he wrote, how he ran away when Jesus was arrested. Scholars believed that the following verse referred to Mark himself.  “A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”  (Mk 14:51f)

St Peter himself was also given a second chance.   He denied the Lord three times.  Like Mark, he too was a coward because he dared not even acknowledge Jesus before a servant girl. (cf Mk 14:77-72)  But the Lord gave him a chance to redeem himself after the resurrection. (cf John 21:15-19)   In many ways, St Peter was like Mark.  Peter was a bit gung-ho in the way he thought of himself.  He was so sure of himself many times.  Like when he was walking on the waters (cf Mt 14:29-33) or when he told Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”  (Mk 14:31)   Peter must have learned his lessons after eating humble pie a few times.

This perhaps also explained his special affection for Mark because he sees himself in Mark.   He calls Mark his dear son.   Legend also had it that Peter, who married a relative of Mark’s father, took it upon himself to take care of Mark when his father died.  At this point of time, Mark was assisting Peter when he was in prison.  Most likely, he was helping St Peter in recording his stories, testimonies and teachings as he was more educated and most of all, he could speak Greek, being a Greek-speaking Jew.  This accounts for his two names, John Mark.  John was his Jewish name and Mark was his Greek name.   So Mark was tremendously useful to St Peter who could most likely only speak Aramaic.  He must have taken a liking to Mark because he could identify with him so closely.

In the first reading, it gives the impression that he was seeking to encourage Mark who once too was afraid of the future and of his life and thus deserted Paul in his missionary journey.  As if advising Mark, he wrote, “God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble. Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you.”  Peter was reminded to be humble and not be so cocky and confident of himself through his mistakes.  So too, perhaps Peter was advising Mark not to think too highly of himself.  Instead, with humility, he advised the Christians to trust in the Lord instead and cast all their anxieties unto Him.

Mark seems to take his advice well to heart.  He was not only a great assistant to Peter but later on for Paul as well, who was reconciled with him.  Paul wrote, “Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions – if he comes to you, welcome him.”  (Col 4:10)  Later on, Paul even asked Mark to help him.  In his letter to Timothy written in prison in Rome, he instructed, “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful in my ministry.”  (2 Tim 4:11)  Indeed, by then Mark must have become more mature in faith and in character.   By then, he was a changed man, grown up and regained his confidence and courage to be a true witness of Christ.

He became an evangelist and went to spread the gospel as far as Alexandria in Egypt.  Indeed, today’s gospel reading which invites us to spread the gospel to all the nations was taken seriously by Mark.  He sought to spread the gospel according to the talents the Lord had given him.  Today the Coptic Church takes pride in establishing their apostolicity by tracing their church to St Mark, one of the 70 disciples of Christ.  He was eventually martyred.  But he was no longer afraid to die for Christ because the words of St Peter reminded him.  “Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: The God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever.”

As we celebrate the feast of St Mark, we too must learn patience with those who are young or slow to learn.  We must never give up on the young especially, and those whom we think have failed us.  Like St Peter and Barnabas and later Paul, we must give those who were weak a second chance.  With encouragement, love and understanding, they can become great leaders and apostles for Christ.   Like St Mark, let us proclaim the gospel to all the nations, knowing that the Lord is working with us and “confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.”  It is never too late to change and redeem ourselves.  So long as we do not give up on ourselves, the grace of God can change us.  We must surrender all our shortcomings to the Lord and He will give us the grace to be courageous and faithful to our vocation in life.

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

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Who Was Saint Mark?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 (MED-IT-ATION not MED-IC-ATION)

Catholic Church Teaching on Human Life and Suicide:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 7, 2018 — “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

April 6, 2018

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 266

Image result for elders, and scribes recognize the companions of Jesus, art, bible, pictures

“The leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.”

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.

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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 may contain: 1 person, standing

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

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Reflection From Christian Women’s Corner

Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene.  Who he had cast out sevendemons 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-intelligentcreatures, 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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07 APRIL, 2018, Easter Saturday
INCREDULITY AND OBSTINACY TO FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 4:13-21PS 118:1,14-21MARK 16:9-15 ]

Faith in the resurrection of our Lord is central to the Christian Faith.   Everything about the Christian Faith stands or falls with belief in the resurrection of Christ.  If Christ were not resurrected, then we cannot proclaim Him as Lord and we cannot accept His teachings without doubt and compromise.   Because He has been raised from the dead by the Father, we can believe all that Jesus said, taught and did as coming from God.

However, this central doctrine of the Church’s faith is always under challenge.  If many cannot accept the Christian Faith and Christ as the Son of God and their savior, it is understandable because they have not yet encountered the Lord as risen in their lives.   Without faith in the resurrection, Jesus remains just a prophet and a good teacher at most, but certainly not God to be worshipped and be given full submission of faith. Yet, we can understand why many find the resurrection of our Lord difficult to accept.  In the first place, not all have seen the Lord. St Paul wrote, “He appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time.”  (1 Cor 15:4f)

Furthermore, the resurrected Lord does not manifest Himself exactly the same way as the Jesus of Nazareth because He is transformed.   Indeed, the gospel said that He showed Himself to His disciples in different forms.  “After this, he showed himself under another form to two of them as they were on their way into the country.”  It appears that the transfigured Lord could appear in different ways.  His resurrected body transcends human imagination and space and time.  He could walk through walls to the room where the disciples were, appear and disappear at will when He was at Emmaus.  So the resurrected Lord is beyond conception.

But beyond these reasonable doubts about the resurrection of our Lord, some have questions about the resurrection, not because of intellectual doubt but because of incredulity and obstinacy.  Jesus “reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  The apostles, even though they had testimonies from the women and the two disciples at Emmaus that Jesus was alive, refused to believe.  What could be the reasons?  Perhaps, they really thought that Jesus was dead because of their cowardice and betrayal.   They could not come to terms that they had killed the Lord, or they were afraid to meet their master again because of shame.  Their mental block was not of the intellect but an emotional blockage.  Indeed, we are told that they did not believe until the Lord appeared to them and said to them, “Peace be with you” forgiving them for their abandonment of Him to death.

For the Jewish leaders, they too did not believe in Jesus because of obstinacy.  They were not ready to admit that they were wrong about Jesus and most of all, for causing His death.  They could not accept their responsibility for putting an innocent man to death.  They wanted to be seen right in the eyes of the people.  To admit that Jesus was the Christ would mean that they had to compromise their position in society as well.  They had too much to lose in accepting Jesus as the Messiah. However, the preaching and claims of the apostles embarrassed them and made them lose credibility with the people.  Yet, at the same time, they could not contradict the fact that the crippled man was healed and according to the apostles, it was done so in the name of the man they crucified and whom God raised from the dead.  (cf Acts 4:8-10)  So they had to find ways to silence the truth and the apostles’ proclamation to preserve their self-interests.   They were stubborn in admitting their faults.

Furthermore, they saw the transformation of the apostles.   “The rulers, elders and scribes were astonished at the assurance shown by Peter and John, considering they were uneducated laymen.”  From weak, uneducated and fearful men, they became self-assured and confident before the Sanhedrin, a group of educated men.  They were no longer timid or lacking self-confidence.  They spoke with conviction and without fear of anyone.  That is why their rejection of the message of the apostles went against reason.  It was not because the resurrection of our Lord was incredulous, but because they had too much to lose.  They could not give in to the apostles’ claim for fear of being stripped of their powers and security.  It was pure obstinacy, pride and selfishness.

Indeed, they were in a dilemma.   “The Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked. ‘It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it. But to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.”  Three times they warned the disciples not to speak about Jesus.   “So they called them in and gave them a warning on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. 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.”   Instead of recognizing the truth, they silenced the truth.  This is what the world is seeking to do today.

Today, we can no longer speak about our faith and our beliefs openly, because those who do not believe in Christ will object to what we say, our claims and our beliefs. They will judge us to be discriminating and lacking respect for others.  We are now therefore permitted only to say things and make claims that others agree with.  Otherwise, we would be accused of superiority and triumphalism.  We have to say that our religion is just like the others and no better than theirs.  We cannot claim Christ to be the unique savior of the world because some might judge us to be making a sweeping statement and denigrating their own beliefs.  Could we say with the same conviction and courage that the apostles made, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”?  (Acts 4:12)

Why was the command of the Sanhedrin not able to deter the disciples from speaking about Jesus?  “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.”  Having encountered the Risen Lord and seeing Him at work in their lives, they cannot but do what He did when He was on earth, fulfilling His promise to His disciples that “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (Jn 14:12)  With such a deep experience of His power at work in their lives, it can only prove that Jesus is truly alive in the Spirit.

This was equally true of the women who encountered the Risen Lord and the two disciples on their way to the countryside.  When they saw the Lord in their own ways, they knew for certain that was the Risen Lord.  They were convicted and in turn went to tell the rest.  Eventually, when the Eleven also saw the Lord, they too became His witnesses.  The Lord said to them, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.”   When we have a deep encounter with the Risen Lord, nothing can hold us back.  Not only are our lives transformed but we will have a deep desire to announce Jesus as the Good News, the Saviour of all humanity.

How, then, can we encounter the Risen Lord and find the same strength and conviction?  We are told that they were “associates of Jesus.”  We need to walk with Jesus like the apostles before we could encounter Him in His resurrection.  We need to know the Jesus of Nazareth through our contemplation of His humanity in the gospels so that we can recognize His Risen presence in our midst in the world today.  Spending time with Jesus in intimacy is the key.

Indeed, this was the case of Mary of Magdala as well.  She was so devoted to Jesus and so in love with Him and therefore was rewarded with the grace to see the Risen Lord before the apostles.  She knew the Jesus of Nazareth and how He delivered her from the seven devils.  So, too, the disciples on their way to the country.  They were downcast because they had great hopes in the Lord.  Jesus, the Risen Lord, appears to those who want to see Him and are receptive to His love.   If we want to see the Lord, then we too must be His constant companions and be His associates in prayer, in study and in fellowship.

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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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The Challenge of Easter

April 3, 2018

Whether you’re a believer or not, there is no way to ignore the radical claim of the Resurrection

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Easter has resisted the commercialization and commodification that have distorted the celebration of Christmas. Pictured, ‘The Resurrection of Christ’ by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. PHOTO: BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

When was the last time you felt stressed out by Easter? So much Easter shopping to do, so many Easter cards to write, so many Easter gatherings to attend. Not to mention the endless stream of Easter commercials on television and online, the nearly unavoidable Easter-themed movies and all those tacky Easter sweaters that you’re forced to wear every spring. And don’t forget the travails of setting up the annual Easter tree and stringing Easter lights on your house.

Every year you lament how overly commercialized Easter has become. Can the holiday get any more money-oriented? You feel that way every year, don’t you?

Of course you don’t.

That is because Easter has stubbornly resisted the kind of commercialization, commodification and general crassification that long ago swallowed up the celebration of Christmas, at least in the U.S. Here’s a confession: It’s reached the point where I have begun to, yes, dread the Christmas season, and it can be fairly stated that I now dislike Christmas. By that I mean the commercial complex that has grown up around the holiday. (The Feast of the Nativity is another story. That I love.)

So how has Easter—with some notable exceptions, like ever-expanding Easter baskets with more and more expensive gifts for the kids—maintained its relative religious purity?

Mainly, I would say, because of its subversive religious message: Christ is risen.

That is quite a statement. And it’s one that non-Christians can readily grasp, even if they don’t believe it. Jesus of Nazareth, the man whose followers claim that he healed the sick, stilled storms, raised people from the dead and made the poor the center of his ministry, was crucified under the orders of Pontius Pilate and died an agonizing death in Jerusalem. Then, as his followers believe—myself included—after three days in the tomb, he rose from the dead.

If you don’t believe in the Resurrection, you can go on living your life while perhaps admiring Jesus the man, appreciating his example and even putting into practice some of his teachings. At the same time, you can set aside those teachings that you disagree with or that make you uncomfortable—say, forgiving your enemies, praying for your persecutors, living simply or helping the poor. You can set them aside because he’s just another teacher. A great one, to be sure, but just one of many.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, however, everything changes. In that case, you cannot set aside any of his teachings. Because a person who rises from the grave, who demonstrates his power over death and who has definitively proven his divine authority needs to be listened to. What that person says demands a response.

In short, the Resurrection makes a claim on you.

This is unlike Christmas. To be clear, Christians believe that, at the first Christmas, God became human. This is the meaning of what theologians call the “Incarnation.” God took on flesh, a concept as bizarre then as now.

But the Christmas story is largely nonthreatening to nonbelievers: Jesus in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the adoring shepherds, is easy to take. As the Gospels of Matthew and Luke recount, there was no little danger involved for Mary and Joseph. But for the most part, it can be accepted as a charming story. Even nonbelievers might appreciate the birth of a great teacher.

By contrast, the Easter story is both appalling and astonishing: the craven betrayal of Jesus by one of his closest followers, the triple denial by his best friend, the gruesome crucifixion and the brutal end to his earthly life. Then, of course, there is the stunning turnaround three days later.

Easter is not as easy to digest as Christmas. It is harder to tame. Anyone can be born, but not everyone can rise from the dead.

Yet the Easter story, essential as it is for Christian belief, can be a confusing one, even for believers. To begin with, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the Resurrection can seem confounding, even contradictory. They are mysterious in the extreme.

In the Gospel of John, for example, Jesus first appears to Mary Magdalene, one of the few disciples who did not desert him at the Crucifixion. (The fidelity of the women disciples—in contrast to all but one of the men—is an undervalued aspect of the narratives of the death and resurrection of Jesus.) Mary arrives at the place of Jesus’ burial early in the morning, peers into the empty tomb and eventually sees someone. It is the Risen Christ.

But she thinks he is the gardener. “Sir,” she says, “if you carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.” When he speaks her name, “Mariam” (the Greek texts preserve her original Aramaic name), she realizes who it is.

What is going on? How could Mary not recognize the person that she has been following for so long? In later stories, Jesus seems similarly hard to recognize. In the Gospel of Luke, when two disciples encounter him as they are walking to the town of Emmaus, outside of Jerusalem, they don’t recognize him at all.

How is this possible?

Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015.
Worshipers light candles as they attend an Orthodox Easter mass in St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine, April 11, 2015. PHOTO: NURPHOTO//ZUMA PRESS

More confusion: In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears as an almost ghostly figure, apparently able to walk through walls; in other accounts, he is decidedly corporeal. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says explicitly, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he appears to the unfairly named Doubting Thomas (for who wouldn’t doubt?), he says, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.”

Ghostly and yet physical, recognizable but unrecognizable. Which is it? How could Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have presented the details of such an important story with such seeming contradictions? The agnostic or atheist will point to this as proof that it never happened. I would suggest that it’s quite the opposite.

Most likely, the narratives reflect the struggle of the eyewitnesses and, later, the evangelists to understand and communicate what had been experienced. After all, no one had ever encountered what theologians call the “glorified body,” the appearance of Jesus after the Resurrection. So they struggled to explain it. It was him, but more. It was his body, but something else. It was like this, but not like this.

If the Gospel writers were intent on getting their stories straight and providing airtight narratives with no inconsistencies, each would have made sure to agree with the others, so as not to give rise to any confusion. Instead, the Gospel writers, composing their accounts at different times and for different communities, simply reported what they had been told. And what they had been told was beyond telling.

But it was him. One of the most astonishing insights about Easter is that this is the same man who was crucified. Sometimes people speak, inadvertently, as if Jesus of Nazareth died on Good Friday and a new person, the Risen Christ, appeared on Easter Sunday. But as the Jesuit priest and New Testament scholar Stanley Marrow has written, for him to have risen as anything other than the Jesus the disciples knew would strip the Resurrection of all meaning.

As Father Marrow wrote, “Showing them ‘his hands and his side,’ which bore the marks of the crucifixion and the pierce of the lance, was not a mere theatrical gesture, but the necessary credentials of the identity of the risen Lord, who stood before them, with the crucified Jesus whom they knew.”

That has implications for all Christians. For one thing, it means that Jesus carries upon himself the visible marks of his human life. In other words, he remembers his suffering. So when one prays to Jesus, one prays to someone who knows, in the most intimate way possible, what it means to live a human life. One also prays to someone who is not only God but man. Who understands you.

This is the mystery of Jesus’ two “natures”: human and divine. The divine one suffered human pain, and the human one is now raised from the dead.

But this was true before the Resurrection.

As mysterious as it is, Christians believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine at all times—fully human when healing someone from an illness, fully divine when sawing a plank of wood in his workshop. So his teachings are not simply divinely inspired but flow from his human experience.

To take a homey example, during the time of Jesus’ adolescence and young adulthood, Nazareth was a poor village of no more than 400 people, as archaeology has revealed. The backwater hamlet was, quite literally, a joke. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” says the Apostle Nathanael when he first hears about the messiah’s hometown.

Jesus worked there as a tekton, a Greek word usually translated as carpenter but also as craftsman, woodworker or even day laborer. It was a job considered below the status of a peasant, since a tekton did not even have the benefit of a plot of land.

If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, everything changes.

But a mere 4 miles from Nazareth was the bustling city of Sepphoris, then being rebuilt by King Herod. Sepphoris had a population of 30,000 and included a Greek amphitheater that seated 3,000, a fortress, courts, a royal bank and so on. Most contemporary scholars believe that the poor carpenter from Nazareth almost certainly visited this cosmopolitan city, called the “ornament of all Galilee” by the Jewish historian Josephus. There Jesus would have seen beautiful buildings and houses decorated with mosaics and frescoes (the ruins of which one can still see today).

What did Jesus think when he walked back from the wealthy city to his poor hometown? How could his heart not have been moved by how the poor were forced to live in Nazareth? How could he have seen Mary and Joseph at their backbreaking chores and not have been grieved by the glaring disparities in wealth?

When Jesus witnessed injustices—the shunning of certain of the sick, the mistreatment of the powerless and gross material inequalities—he was inspired to preach against them not simply out of divine inspiration but because his human heart was, as the Gospels often say, “moved with pity.”

When we listen to Jesus, then, we are listening not only to a God who cares for the poor but a human being who knew the poor and who was poor himself.

A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015.
A faithful held a rosary as Pope Francis led the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 5, 2015.PHOTO: ALESSANDRO BIANCHI/REUTERS

What difference does Easter make in the life of the Christian? The message of Easter is, all at once, easy to understand, radical, subversive and life-changing. Easter means that nothing is impossible with God. Moreover, that life triumphs over death. Love triumphs over hatred. Hope triumphs over despair. And that suffering is not the last word.

Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is an odd thing to read in a secular newspaper. But I’m merely stating a central Christian belief. And if he is Lord, and if you’re a Christian, then what he says has a claim on you. His teachings are invitations, to be sure, but they are also commands: Love your neighbors. Forgive. Care for the poor and the marginalized. Live a simple life. Put the needs of others before your own.

Jesus’ message still has the power to make us feel uncomfortable, as it did in first-century Palestine. It was just as much of a challenge to pray for your enemies in antiquity. It was no easier to hear Jesus’ judgment against the excesses of the wealthy during a time of degrading poverty for so many. It was just as subversive a message to be asked to pray for your persecutors as it is now.

By walking out of the tomb on Easter, Jesus declared something life-changing, something subversive and something that cannot be overcome by commercialism. It is a message that refuses to be tamed. The Resurrection says not only that Christ has the power of life over death, but something more subversive.

The Resurrection says, “Listen.”

Father Martin is a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine and the author of several books, including “Jesus: A Pilgrimage” and, most recently, “Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship With Jesus.”

Appeared in the March 26, 2016, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-challenge-of-easter-1458916153

Re-posted this year. Suggested by a friend.

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 3, 2018 — Listen to the testimony of those who have encountered the Risen Lord

April 2, 2018

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

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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. St 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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03 APRIL, 2018, Easter Tuesday
WHAT MUST WE DO?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 2:36-41PS 33:4-5,18-20,22JN 20:11-18 ]

If you were there among the crowd when St Peter gave his first discourse on the resurrection of Christ and what it meant with regard to the identity of Jesus, what would you have done?  How would you have responded to the declaration that “The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”?  The crowd did not see the Risen Lord, only the apostles and some disciples did.  Neither have we seen the Lord physically as they did.  However, look at their response. “That very day about three thousand were added to their number.”

To come to faith in the Risen Lord, we must first find grounds for belief.  For the seed of faith to take place, we must first listen to the testimony of those who have encountered the Risen Lord.  This was what the early converts did.  The crowd that gathered at Jerusalem heard the testimony of St Peter and the apostles.  “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know – this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.  But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”  (Acts 2:22-24)

Secondly, they heard the arguments to substantiate their claims so that what they saw could be verified from the scriptures.  “He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments.”  So for many of us, before we take the leap of faith, we need to be convinced before we can be convicted.  So St Peter cited from the psalm of David who prophesied that his descendant would not see death.   “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.  For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”  Indeed, we read that “They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised.”

Having come to faith in Christ as Lord, the next step is to make an act of commitment.  So when they heard the discourse of St Peter, “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.”  So, the action of accepting Jesus as Lord is repentance and be baptized.

What is repentance?  To repent is to turn away from sin.  This is what St Peter asked of them, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation.”   Giving up our sins is the way for us to encounter the Risen Lord.  So long as we live in our sins, we will not be able to encounter Him in the Spirit.  “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.”  (1 Cor 2:14f)

To repent means to give up our pride in wanting to comprehend God with our finite minds.  This was what Mary Magdalene and the rest of the apostles did.  They were still looking for the Jesus of Nazareth who was dead.  That was why the angel said to them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Lk 24:5)

So long as we keep looking for the Jesus of Nazareth, we will not be able to see the Risen Lord.  Many of us have preconceived ideas of how the Lord should manifest Himself to us.  We are looking for Him to come in a definite way when He would have come in other ways.  Indeed, we must allow the possibilities for God to show His face to us.  St Paul warns us, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ –  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.”  (1 Cor 2:8-11)

To repent means to come out of our grief.  Mary could not see the Lord because she was too absorbed in her attachment to the Jesus of Nazareth.  She was licking the pain of grief in her life.   Twice, she was asked by the angels and the Lord, “Woman, why are you weeping”  And her response was that “They have taken my Lord away.”  She wanted to reclaim the body.  But the Lord is risen.  There is no earthly body to recover.  But because of her grief and sorrow that came from her attachment to the earthly Jesus, she was blinded from seeing the greater reality in front of her, the Risen Lord, thinking that He was a gardener.  If we want to see the Risen Lord, we must be ready to let go of the past and our attachments, whether to things, money, status,or people.   Then our eyes will be able to see the greater things the Lord has in store for us.

Repentance is looking inwards.  The next step is to look upward.  It is to believe in Him.  This is the necessary way of faith.  Repentance is turning away from something to someone, that is Christ.   Mary Magdalene was led by the Lord to turn away from herself and to turn to Him.  “As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him.  Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  We must turn to the Lord if we want to encounter Him.   To turn to the Lord means to hear the voice of our Master, to spend time with Him in intimacy as Mary did.  Without listening to His voice, we will not be able to hear Him or see Him.  With Mary, let us be attentive to the voice of our Lord calling us to Him.

To look upwards also means to grow from an affective relationship with the Lord to a contemplative relationship.  Mary Magdalene could see the Lord because of her passion for Him.  This is but the starting point of coming to know the Lord.  Many of us come to recognize Jesus as our Lord through some miracles, especially of healing, enlightenment or salvific and religious experience.   The Lord will reveal Himself to those who love Him.  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.”   However, we cannot be always clinging to the Lord on this level of relationship.  We need to mature in our relationship from a physical, tangible and affective level to a contemplative level.  Otherwise, we will still be stuck to the Jesus of Nazareth.   This was why the Lord told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”   Clinging to the Jesus of Nazareth will hinder us from receiving the Risen Lord in a new way when He comes again in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This was what St Peter told the crowd, “be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Finally, encountering the Risen Lord requires us to move out of our comfort zone to the world.  The Lord instructed Mary Magdalene, “’But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.”  In reaching out and proclaiming Christ the Risen Lord to the world, our faith will increase and be strengthened when we see how the Lord works in the lives of those who come to believe in Him as the apostles did.   We evangelize ourselves by evangelizing others.

Truly, as St Peter said,  “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.”  The Lord is inviting us to come to know Him and believe in Him so that believing in Him as St John wrote, “you may have life in his name.”  (Jn 20:31)  So for those who are still waiting to encounter the Risen Lord, take the courage to search, to study and to pray.   Most of all, wait for Him in love as Mary Magdalene did.  May the prayer of the psalmist be ours.  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018 — “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

March 30, 2018

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord -At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
Lectionary: 41

Image may contain: indoor

Reading 1 GN 1:1—2:2

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.
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Image result for earth, sunrise, from space, photos

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Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth, ”
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

Then God said,
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures,
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems,
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying,
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas;
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished
with the work he had been doing,
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

Or  GN 1:1, 26-31A

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.

Responsorial Psalm PS 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35

R. (30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
with the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You water the mountains from your palace;
the earth is replete with the fruit of your works.
You raise grass for the cattle,
and vegetation for man’s use,
Producing bread from the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—the earth is full of your creatures.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Or PS 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20 AND 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
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.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as in a flask;
in cellars he confines the deep.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
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. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
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.

Reading 2 GN 22:1-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey,
took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well,
and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust,
set out for the place of which God had told him.On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.
Then he said to his servants:
“Both of you stay here with the donkey,
while the boy and I go on over yonder.
We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust
and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,
while he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:
“Father!” Isaac said.
“Yes, son, ” he replied.
Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood,
but where is the sheep for the holocaust?”
“Son,” Abraham answered,
“God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
Then the two continued going forward.When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Next he tied up his son Isaac,
and put him on top of the wood on the altar.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh;
hence people now say, “On the mountain the LORD will see.”

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

Or  GN22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy, ” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Reading 3  EX 14:15—15:1

The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers.”

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Image result for The angel of God, exodus, bible, art, photos

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp,
now moved and went around behind them.
The column of cloud also, leaving the front,
took up its place behind them,
so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians
and that of Israel.
But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed
without the rival camps coming any closer together
all night long.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and the LORD swept the sea
with a strong east wind throughout the night
and so turned it into dry land.
When the water was thus divided,
the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.

The Egyptians followed in pursuit;
all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them
right into the midst of the sea.
In the night watch just before dawn
the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud
upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic;
and he so clogged their chariot wheels
that they could hardly drive.
With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel,
because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians.

Then the LORD told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea,
that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians,
upon their chariots and their charioteers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth.
The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea,
when the LORD hurled them into its midst.
As the water flowed back,
it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army
which had followed the Israelites into the sea.
Not a single one of them escaped.
But the Israelites had marched on dry land
through the midst of the sea,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.
When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore
and beheld the great power that the LORD
had shown against the Egyptians,
they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

Responsorial Psalm  EX 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18

R. (1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
You brought in the people you redeemed
and planted them on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place where you made your seat, O LORD,
the sanctuary, LORD, which your hands established.
The LORD shall reign forever and ever.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Reading 4 IS 54:5-14

The One who has become your husband is your Maker;
his name is the LORD of hosts;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
The LORD calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
a wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
but with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.
This is for me like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
should never again deluge the earth;
so I have sworn not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
my love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled,
I lay your pavements in carnelians,
and your foundations in sapphires;
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In justice shall you be established,
far from the fear of oppression,
where destruction cannot come near you.

Responsorial PsalmPS 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

R. (2a) I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Reading 5  IS 55:1-11

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of nations,
so shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

Reading 6  BAR 3:9-15, 32C4:4

Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life:
listen, and know prudence!
How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land,
defiled with the dead,
accounted with those destined for the netherworld?
You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.
Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.
Who has found the place of wisdom,
who has entered into her treasuries?

The One who knows all things knows her;
he has probed her by his knowledge—
The One who established the earth for all time,
and filled it with four-footed beasts;
he who dismisses the light, and it departs,
calls it, and it obeys him trembling;
before whom the stars at their posts
shine and rejoice;
when he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!”
shining with joy for their Maker.
Such is our God;
no other is to be compared to him:
He has traced out the whole way of understanding,
and has given her to Jacob, his servant,
to Israel, his beloved son.

Since then she has appeared on earth,
and moved among people.
She is the book of the precepts of God,
the law that endures forever;
all who cling to her will live,
but those will die who forsake her.
Turn, O Jacob, and receive her:
walk by her light toward splendor.
Give not your glory to another,
your privileges to an alien race.
Blessed are we, O Israel;
for what pleases God is known to us!

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (John 6:68c) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Reading 7  EZ 36:16-17A, 18-28

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their land,
they defiled it by their conduct and deeds.
Therefore I poured out my fury upon them
because of the blood that they poured out on the ground,
and because they defiled it with idols.
I scattered them among the nations,
dispersing them over foreign lands;
according to their conduct and deeds I judged them.
But when they came among the nations wherever they came,
they served to profane my holy name,
because it was said of them: “These are the people of the LORD,
yet they had to leave their land.”
So I have relented because of my holy name
which the house of Israel profaned
among the nations where they came.
Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD:
Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel,
but for the sake of my holy name,
which you profaned among the nations to which you came.
I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Responsorial Psalm – When Baptism Is Celebrated. PS 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4

R. (42:2) Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
I went with the throng
and led them in procession to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving,
with the multitude keeping festival.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.

When Baptism Is Not Celebrated.IS 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

When Baptism Is Not Celebrated  PS 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19

R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a holocaust, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Epistle  ROM 6:3-11

Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
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. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for on entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side clothed in a white robe, art, pictures
“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side clothed in a white robe….”

Gospel  MK 16:1-7

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
‘He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'”
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Homily by Bishop William Goh, Archbishop of Singapore
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Spiritual writers often warn against a certain “numbness” that can enter our lives and keep us from experiencing newness of life. Sometimes, we are numb to the evil in our midst and just accept “things as they are.” Sometimes we are numb to God’s miracles in our lives and fail to recognize all that is possible. Sometimes, we are numb to what is expected of us and just “keep going on” living our lives in the same old way. Sometimes, we are numb to the reality that this world will one day end and so we just put all our emphasis on the here and now. Tonight the Church in her infinite love and wisdom gives us the “wake up call” we may need to alleviate our numbness.

We began this liturgy in darkness, which is in our midst each day but sadly may no longer shock us. It includes: the lack of reverence for all human life and the dignity of each person; hatred and violence in our communities and the lack of care for the poor and needy. Only when we are mindful of the darkness do we recognize our dependency on the Light that dispels it. Having lit the Easter fire and Paschal Candle, may we be drawn away from a passive acceptance of the darkness and drawn ever close to the Light of Christ.

In doing so, may we be reawakened to the power of God to make all things new, as beautifully proclaimed in tonight’s Sacred Readings. The Old Testament revealed God transforming chaos to order and delivering his people from bondage to freedom. The New Testament proclaims Jesus as the One who was raised from the dead and proved victorious over sin, suffering and even death itself. Tonight, we are awakened to the new life God offers each one of us and His miraculous power within our lives.

The Church also awakens us tonight to our call to be instruments in bringing the Light of Christ to others. We are happy tonight for those who will be baptized and received into full communion with the Church. They inspire us. Thus, as we renew our baptismal call this evening, we pledge to bring Christ’s light to others as they see that we find our strength in His Word and the Sacraments; to consistently practice our faith; and to adhere to the call of the Gospel and generously serve one another. In doing so, we are faithful witnesses to the presence of Christ, who is alive and with us.

We can so easily become numb to the reality that our life here on earth is merely a journey to our final destination. Through His own suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus invites us to eternal life. Thus, we must not be consumed with worldly concerns. Instead, we keep our eyes on what is above so that on the day the Lord calls us to Himself we may fully celebrate the truth proclaimed on this holy night: that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father; we too might live in newness and fullness of life forever and ever. Amen.

http://dioceseofraleigh.org/content/easter-vigil-homily

Palm Sunday: Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, March 25, 2018 — Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

March 24, 2018

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Lectionary: 37 and 38

Image may contain: 2 people

At The Procession With Palms – Gospel MK 11:1-10

When Jesus and his disciples drew near to Jerusalem,
to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives,
he sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately on entering it,
you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat.
Untie it and bring it here.
If anyone should say to you,
‘Why are you doing this?’ reply,
‘The Master has need of it
and will send it back here at once.'”
So they went off
and found a colt tethered at a gate outside on the street,
and they untied it.
Some of the bystanders said to them,
“What are you doing, untying the colt?”
They answered them just as Jesus had told them to,
and they permitted them to do it.
So they brought the colt to Jesus
and put their cloaks over it.
And he sat on it.
Many people spread their cloaks on the road,
and others spread leafy branches
that they had cut from the fields.
Those preceding him as well as those following kept crying out:
“Hosanna!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come!
Hosanna in the highest!”
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Image result for Palm sunday, art, pictures

Or JN 12:12-16

When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,
they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out:
“Hosanna!
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,
the king of Israel.”
Jesus found an ass and sat upon it, as is written:
Fear no more, O daughter Zion;
see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’s colt.
His disciples did not understand this at first,
but when Jesus had been glorified
they remembered that these things were written about him
and that they had done this for him.

At The Mass – Reading 1 IS 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

Responsorial Psalm PS 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24.

R. (2a) My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
All who see me scoff at me;
they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:
“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,
let him rescue him, if he loves him.”
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Indeed, many dogs surround me,
a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;
They have pierced my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
They divide my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, be not far from me;
O my help, hasten to aid me.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Reading 2 PHIL 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Verse Before The Gospel PHIL 2:8-9

Christ became obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name which is above every name.

Gospel MK 14:1—15:47

The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread
were to take place in two days’ time.
So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way
to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.
They said, “Not during the festival,
for fear that there may be a riot among the people.”When he was in Bethany reclining at table
in the house of Simon the leper,
a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil,
costly genuine spikenard.
She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.
There were some who were indignant.
“Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?
It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages
and the money given to the poor.”
They were infuriated with her.
Jesus said, “Let her alone.
Why do you make trouble for her?
She has done a good thing for me.
The poor you will always have with you,
and whenever you wish you can do good to them,
but you will not always have me.
She has done what she could.
She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.
Amen, I say to you,
wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world,
what she has done will be told in memory of her.”Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve,
went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.
When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money.
Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
when they sacrificed the Passover lamb,
his disciples said to him,
“Where do you want us to go
and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”
He sent two of his disciples and said to them,
“Go into the city and a man will meet you,
carrying a jar of water.
Follow him.
Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house,
‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room
where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”‘
Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready.
Make the preparations for us there.”
The disciples then went off, entered the city,
and found it just as he had told them;
and they prepared the Passover.When it was evening, he came with the Twelve.
And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me,
one who is eating with me.”
They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one,
“Surely it is not I?”
He said to them,
“One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.
For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

While they were eating,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them, and said,
“Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them,
and they all drank from it.
He said to them,
“This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many.
Amen, I say to you,
I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine
until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
Then, after singing a hymn,
they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Then Jesus said to them,
“All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:
I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be dispersed.

But after I have been raised up,
I shall go before you to Galilee.”
Peter said to him,
“Even though all should have their faith shaken,
mine will not be.”
Then Jesus said to him,
“Amen, I say to you,
this very night before the cock crows twice
you will deny me three times.”
But he vehemently replied,
“Even though I should have to die with you,
I will not deny you.”
And they all spoke similarly.
Then they came to a place named Gethsemane,
and he said to his disciples,
“Sit here while I pray.”
He took with him Peter, James, and John,
and began to be troubled and distressed.
Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death.
Remain here and keep watch.”
He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed
that if it were possible the hour might pass by him;
he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.
Take this cup away from me,
but not what I will but what you will.”
When he returned he found them asleep.
He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?
Could you not keep watch for one hour?
Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.
Then he returned once more and found them asleep,
for they could not keep their eyes open
and did not know what to answer him.
He returned a third time and said to them,
“Are you still sleeping and taking your rest?
It is enough. The hour has come.
Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.
Get up, let us go.
See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Then, while he was still speaking,
Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived,
accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs
who had come from the chief priests,
the scribes, and the elders.
His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying,
“The man I shall kiss is the one;
arrest him and lead him away securely.”
He came and immediately went over to him and said,
“Rabbi.” And he kissed him.
At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.
One of the bystanders drew his sword,
struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Have you come out as against a robber,
with swords and clubs, to seize me?
Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area,
yet you did not arrest me;
but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.”
And they all left him and fled.
Now a young man followed him
wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.
They seized him,
but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

They led Jesus away to the high priest,
and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.
Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest’s courtyard
and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin
kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus
in order to put him to death, but they found none.
Many gave false witness against him,
but their testimony did not agree.
Some took the stand and testified falsely against him,
alleging, “We heard him say,
‘I will destroy this temple made with hands
and within three days I will build another
not made with hands.'”
Even so their testimony did not agree.
The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus,
saying, “Have you no answer?
What are these men testifying against you?”
But he was silent and answered nothing.
Again the high priest asked him and said to him,
“Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?”
Then Jesus answered, “I am;
and ‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power
and coming with the clouds of heaven.'”
At that the high priest tore his garments and said,
“What further need have we of witnesses?
You have heard the blasphemy.
What do you think?”
They all condemned him as deserving to die.
Some began to spit on him.
They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!”
And the guards greeted him with blows.

While Peter was below in the courtyard,
one of the high priest’s maids came along.
Seeing Peter warming himself,
she looked intently at him and said,
“You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”
But he denied it saying,
“I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.”
So he went out into the outer court.
Then the cock crowed.
The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders,
“This man is one of them.”
Once again he denied it.
A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more,
“Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.”
He began to curse and to swear,
“I do not know this man about whom you are talking.”
And immediately a cock crowed a second time.
Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him,
“Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”
He broke down and wept.

As soon as morning came,
the chief priests with the elders and the scribes,
that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.
They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
He said to him in reply, “You say so.”
The chief priests accused him of many things.
Again Pilate questioned him,
“Have you no answer?
See how many things they accuse you of.”
Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them
one prisoner whom they requested.
A man called Barabbas was then in prison
along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.
The crowd came forward and began to ask him
to do for them as he was accustomed.
Pilate answered,
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that the chief priests had handed him over.
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd
to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Pilate again said to them in reply,
“Then what do you want me to do
with the man you call the king of the Jews?”
They shouted again, “Crucify him.”
Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,
released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged,
handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace,
that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.
They clothed him in purple and,
weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.
They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.
They knelt before him in homage.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the purple cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,
a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country,
the father of Alexander and Rufus,
to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha
— which is translated Place of the Skull —
They gave him wine drugged with myrrh,
but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments
by casting lots for them to see what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
The inscription of the charge against him read,
“The King of the Jews.”
With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left.
Those passing by reviled him,
shaking their heads and saying,
“Aha! You who would destroy the temple
and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself by coming down from the cross.”
Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes,
mocked him among themselves and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
come down now from the cross
that we may see and believe.”
Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
which is translated,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“Look, he is calling Elijah.”
One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed
and gave it to him to drink saying,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
When the centurion who stood facing him
saw how he breathed his last he said,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!”
There were also women looking on from a distance.
Among them were Mary Magdalene,
Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.
These women had followed him when he was in Galilee
and ministered to him.
There were also many other women
who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

When it was already evening,
since it was the day of preparation,
the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea,
a distinguished member of the council,
who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God,
came and courageously went to Pilate
and asked for the body of Jesus.
Pilate was amazed that he was already dead.
He summoned the centurion
and asked him if Jesus had already died.
And when he learned of it from the centurion,
he gave the body to Joseph.
Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down,
wrapped him in the linen cloth,
and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock.
Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses
watched where he was laid.

Or MK 15:1-39

As soon as morning came,
the chief priests with the elders and the scribes,
that is, the whole Sanhedrin held a council.
They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him,
“Are you the king of the Jews?”
He said to him in reply, “You say so.”
The chief priests accused him of many things.
Again Pilate questioned him,
“Have you no answer?
See how many things they accuse you of.”
Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them
one prisoner whom they requested.
A man called Barabbas was then in prison
along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.
The crowd came forward and began to ask him
to do for them as he was accustomed.
Pilate answered,
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”
For he knew that it was out of envy
that the chief priests had handed him over.
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd
to have him release Barabbas for them instead.
Pilate again said to them in reply,
“Then what do you want me to do
with the man you call the king of the Jews?”
They shouted again, “Crucify him.”
Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?”
They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”
So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd,
released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged,
handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away inside the palace,
that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.
They clothed him in purple and,
weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.
They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.
They knelt before him in homage.
And when they had mocked him,
they stripped him of the purple cloak,
dressed him in his own clothes,
and led him out to crucify him.

They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon,
a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country,
the father of Alexander and Rufus,
to carry his cross.

They brought him to the place of Golgotha
—which is translated Place of the Skull —
They gave him wine drugged with myrrh,
but he did not take it.
Then they crucified him and divided his garments
by casting lots for them to see what each should take.
It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.
The inscription of the charge against him read,
“The King of the Jews.”
With him they crucified two revolutionaries,
one on his right and one on his left.
Those passing by reviled him,
shaking their heads and saying,
“Aha! You who would destroy the temple
and rebuild it in three days,
save yourself by coming down from the cross.”
Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes,
mocked him among themselves and said,
“He saved others; he cannot save himself.
Let the Christ, the King of Israel,
come down now from the cross
that we may see and believe.”
Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.

At noon darkness came over the whole land
until three in the afternoon.
And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
which is translated,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Some of the bystanders who heard it said,
“Look, he is calling Elijah.”
One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed
and gave it to him to drink saying,
“Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”
Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
When the centurion who stood facing him
saw how he breathed his last he said,
“Truly this man was the Son of God!”

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Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  Matthew 11:29-30

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From The Abbot in The Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

We enter Holy Week.  Christ dies for us.  Christ is raised for us.  We walk with the Lord through His passion and death to rejoice in His Resurrection.  This is the most sacred and wonderful week of our whole year.  Let us be people who listen to God’s word and allow it to form us.

The first reading is from the Prophet Isaiah:  “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.  The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

We also must not shield ourselves from the horror of the sufferings of Jesus.  The more we can understand the absolute degradation of this death on the Cross, the more we can understand that which seems impossible:  He rises from the dead.  Today in our liturgy we look at His suffering.  Yes, we know He will rise, but we leave that aside for now.

The second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians, again focuses us on death:  “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  The early Christians invite us to believe their testimony:  he died.

The narrative of the Passion from the Gospel of Mark is a simple retelling of what the early Christians experienced and passed on to us.  The simple details of anointing his head before death, the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, the preparation for the Passover meal, the celebration of the Passover meal, the institution of the Eucharist, the going to the garden and praying there, the arrival of Judas, the handing over, the condemnation, Peter’s denial, the way of the Cross, the crucifixion, the death, the burial.  And so it was finished.

All hope seemed extinguished and gone.  This is where we are today.  All hope for our world, for our Saviour, for our faith—all seems extinguished and gone.  Let us be in silence and trust in the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

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Reflection By The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

FITTING CHRIST’S IMAGE INTO OURS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  MK 11:1-10ISA 50:4-7PHIL 2:6-11MK 14:1-15:47 (OR><15:1-39) ]

As we enter into Holy Week, we are invited to accompany Jesus into Jerusalem.  This was why we have the procession of the palms.   Following the people of Jerusalem, we too hail Jesus as our King and our savior.“And those who went in front and those who followed were all shouting, “Hosanna! Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heavens.”  By His deliberate entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus was claiming to be the Promised Messiah fulfilling the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9) and Zephaniah (3:16-19)   It is significant that Jesus rode on a lowly donkey as a humble king of peace, not as a warrior on a horse as during wartime. (cf 1 Kg 1:38-41)  But He also came as the Son of God, for the gospel noted that the donkey which Jesus sat was never ridden before as it was required for an animal that was carrying the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sm 6:7)  In using the word, “Hosanna”  they were in effect saying, “God save the king of Israel.”

But the kingship of Jesus was a mistaken one.  This was what He sought to avoid throughout His whole ministry.  The people were looking for a political king that could drive out the Romans.  They already tried to do this after the multiplication of loaves.  This was true for Judas and many of the disciples of Jesus too, who were hoping for a revolution.  One of the suggestions why Judas betrayed Jesus was because He did not fit into his image.  But Jesus’ idea of kingship was not a political one but spiritual.   It is the reign of God in the hearts of men and women.  It is not about politics but about the conversion of the human heart, which could then impact how politics is conducted for the people.  This explains why Jesus was finally charged not with a religious crime but with a political crime indicated by the title affixed to the cross,  “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  This accounts for why the people turned against Jesus when they realized that He would not be the political revolutionary leader they expected.  Thus they pressed Pilate to release Barabbas.   He “was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising.”

Jesus too, could not fit into the image of what the religious leaders had expected of the Messiah.  They had no preconceived idea of what true faith was all about.  Hence, they were upset that Jesus was challenging the status quo of the religious institutions, the system of worship, the Sabbath Law, the customary practices, the rituals and the reinterpretation of the Laws of Moses.  For them, Jesus was a deviant, a dangerous man who was destroying Judaism.  He was someone that they needed to get rid of.  Furthermore, Jesus was exposing the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who were quite comfortable in their positions.  They were getting rich at the expense of the people.  They were all out to remove Jesus.  Hence, they framed Jesus with all kinds of charges which could not hold water. This was what the evangelist noted, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus on which they might pass the death-sentence.  But they could not find any. Several, indeed, brought false evidence against him, but their evidence was conflicting.”  This came to a head when Jesus claimed to be the Messiah when the High Priest asked Him. “’Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his robes, and said, ‘What witnesses have we now? You heard the blasphemy. What is your finding?’ And they all gave their verdict: he deserved to die.”

Aren’t we also in the same situation?  Many of us have our own preconceived ideas in following Christ.  We think that to follow Christ means that there will be no suffering and that God will bless us with riches and the goodness of life.  We feel that God should give us what we want when we serve Him.  Indeed, many of us give up our faith because Christ did not grant us our petitions.  How many have left the Church because of personal tragedies in their lives, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a child, or loss of jobs and failures in business or the loss of health.  We get angry with God because instead of rewarding us with blessings, He calls us to suffer even more.

This is true even of those involved in ministry.  Many of us who serve the Church leave bitter, because of politics in the Church.  The truth is that where there are human beings, there will be politics.  People have different views of how things should be done, and of deciding what is important. There is bound to be disagreement.  Above all, we are not dealing with saints but sinners who are seeking to serve God. Many of us are wounded, come from different backgrounds, experiences, different world views and therefore see life differently.  As a consequence of disagreement and unhappiness, some have left the Church and even the faith, because of quarrels, misunderstandings and even slander.

During this Holy Week, how do we accompany Jesus as He makes His last entry into Jerusalem?  We are called to contemplate on His life, especially His passion.  We must enter into the heart of God by contemplating on the passion of Christ so that we will be moved into total surrender.   We begin by reflecting on the journey of Christ from heaven to earth and back to His Father.  St Paul’s letter to the Philippians reflects on the depth of God’s love in Christ.   “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.”  Jesus descended twice as a man, and humbler than most men, even unto innocent death, the most shameful of punishment.

The truth is that the way to glory requires us to enter into the passion of Christ, sharing in His suffering, humiliation, rejection and even death if we were to share in the fullness of life.  It was Jesus’ humble submission to the innocent suffering that He went through that the Father raised Him from the dead.  All through the trial, we see the travesty of justice.  He was charged for a political crime He did not commit.  He was framed by the religious authorities who made use of the gullible crowd to charge Him for a political crime.  But how did He react? Like the Suffering Servant, He said, “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.”  Jesus took upon all human sins and suffering so that by overcoming hatred with love, forgiveness with injustice, He showed us the way to suffer with Him so that we can share in His glory.   He reacted with humility, obedience, non-retaliation and non-violence.  This was the way, Jesus fulfilled His mission.

So with the psalmist, in our innocent suffering, let us entrust our life to the Lord as the Suffering Servant did, and our Lord Himself.  “The Lord Yahweh comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.  So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.”  Indeed, Christ was raised on High because He submitted so humbly in death. “But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on the earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of the Father.”

Today we are called to undertake this same journey as we continue to deepen our meditation on the passion of Christ.  As we take this journey in coming to appreciate Christ’s extreme love and mercy for us, let us also examine the part we play in crucifying Jesus again and again because of our sins.  The different characters in the passion play depict our attitude towards Christ.  To follow Christ requires us to share in His passion. Most of all, it requires obedience to His will.  It is by submission to His will that we accomplish the mission of Christ.  Indeed, the word, “sub-mission” means that we place ourselves in all that we do under the mission of Christ.  What is this mission, if not to overcome sins, establish His reign of love and peace through humble service, self-sacrifice, self-denial and carrying the sufferings of others in our bodies as we seek to relieve and heal them of their pains as Jesus did? Indeed, the passion narrative underscores that life is found not by seizing it but by giving it away.  The passion and the cross reminds us that authentic love is the giving of ourselves and that brings real peace into the world.

 Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 22, 2017 — Those deprived of the truth suppose religion to be a means of gain — We brought nothing into the world, and take nothing out

September 21, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 447

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Mary Magdalene, 1887, Alfred Stevens

Reading 1 1 TM 6:2C-12

Beloved:
Teach and urge these things.
Whoever teaches something different
and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the religious teaching
is conceited, understanding nothing,
and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.
From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions,
and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds,
who are deprived of the truth,
supposing religion to be a means of gain.
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.
Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap
and into many foolish and harmful desires,
which plunge them into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is the root of all evils,
and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith
and have pierced themselves with many pains.

But you, man of God, avoid all this.
Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion,
faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life,
to which you were called when you made the noble confession
in the presence of many witnesses.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 49:6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Why should I fear in evil days
when my wicked ensnarers ring me round?
They trust in their wealth;
the abundance of their riches is their boast.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Yet in no way can a man redeem himself,
or pay his own ransom to God;
Too high is the price to redeem one’s life; he would never have enough
to remain alive always and not see destruction.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Fear not when a man grows rich,
when the wealth of his house becomes great,
For when he dies, he shall take none of it;
his wealth shall not follow him down.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed,
“They will praise you for doing well for yourself,”
He shall join the circle of his forebears
who shall never more see light.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 8:1-3

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.

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Money is a touchy subject for a lot of people. We need money to live on, even Jesus and his disciples needed money/provisions in today’s gospel account. Yet, Christ also taught us to:

“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out”, because where your treasure is, so is your heart. ~ Lk 12:33

The first reading for mass today from the book of Timothy also says:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

This is so true for so many people in today’s world, maybe even for some of us. This especially manifests itself after a person dies. Sometimes families start fighting over the money and possessions a person leaves behind even before they are buried, and it causes a great deal of hard feelings. Adult children will sometimes fight in court for years over their perceived inheritance and make themselves and everyone else around them very miserable.

People that pursue promotions on the job in order to make a lot more money can also hurt themselves, others at work, and even their own family (if they work too many hours away from home trying to achieve this). Then there are employers, landlords, investors, lawyers, etc. that will sometimes take advantage of the poor in order to become more wealthy themselves. This is a great moral wrong.

The psalm today asks why should a person worry themselves over people who seek to increase their wealth and trust in the power of money, as the focus of their lives? What ransom can they pay for their life? If their greed for money prevents them from entering heaven? Even Jesus said the same thing when he told us that one can not serve God and money because we will love one and hate the other. It is an either or situation.

There is a popular saying that, “you can’t take it with you” and today’s psalm says conveys this as well:

“For when they die they will carry nothing away;
their wealth will not go down after them.
Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy,
for you are praised when you do well for yourself.”

The bible warns us repeatedly not to get too attached to money because love is what is important in life.  Love and unselfishness is what we take into eternal life. The definition of sin is selfishness. If you don’t believe this, just Google “Vatican catechism on selfishness”. What pops up is the catechism on sin. I heard a priest say in his homily one time that “selfishness is the definition of sin.”  Sin is what prevents us from going to heaven.  The love of money can easily become a mortal sin if we aren’t careful though.

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St. Francis of Assisi by El Greco

Almost all of the saints embraced poverty. Saint Francis of Assisi is a very famous saint who was from a wealthy family who rejected wealth in order to pursue holiness by loving God and loving people more than money and possessions.

Today’s gospel sets the example on how we are to live our lives, because the women who followed Jesus provided for him and the disciples out of their own resources. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to be remembered for? Taking care of the needs of Jesus?  In modern times, we take care of Jesus, when we take care of the poor.

Mother Teresa said that she saw the face of Christ in the poor.   This is something we should also take more seriously, to see Christ in others. Those who are in genuine need – need our help. Pope Francis also said the same thing in one of his tweets recently too: ” There are many people in need in today’s world.  Am I self-absorbed in my own concerns or am I aware of those who need help?”

For those of us who have all of our basic needs met, then perhaps we could work on not worrying about money so much and to be willing to share even a little more of our resources with others. When a lady asked mother Teresa how she could live more like her, in service to the poor, Mother Teresa did not tell her to give up all her possessions. She told her to buy a less expensive dress from what she had intended, and give the difference to the poor.  Surely most of us could do the same?

http://www.acatholic.org/is-the-love-of-money-the-root-of-all-evil/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Friday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time
WHAT ARE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR MINISTRY?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TIM 6:2-12LK 8:1-3 ]

St Paul, the great missionary of Christ, today advised Timothy, a pastor of his flock on what it entails to be a good minister.  He squarely pointed out the abuses of religious ministry.  Indeed, as he highlighted, there is potentially great profit to be made in religion.  This is something very real even for us today.

How often have religious leaders and those serving in Church ministries exploited religion for their own personal and material advancement?  This is particularly tempting for those who have charismatic gifts like preaching and healing, where they can attract big crowds.  The danger is that adulation and popularity can make people do things not so much for the kingdom of God or the spread of the gospel but for their own material benefit or ego.  Indeed, even if we do not seek material gain, quite often we unconsciously seek power, control and recognition.  Some even manipulate, exploit and abuse those under their charge sexually. They want people to be led to them and to worship them rather than to God.

Some religious leaders are known to even hypnotize their followers into parting with all their money for their causes, or even to enrich their personal coffers by promising them healing. Often we hear preaching that promises those who give (supposedly to Jesus) manifold returns from the Lord, a hundred fold.  Religion thus becomes a kind of investment!  The motives of the members in such cases are not spiritual either:  it is not peace, unity, love and joy they seek, but success in their business, work and investments.  By indulging ourselves in this way, not only do we cheat the people but we also bring about our own ruin and destruction.  We have short-changed them.  Money is not everything.  St Paul exhorts Timothy and all involved in Church ministry: “People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.  ‘The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.”  Health and self-sufficiency are also not everything.  A good life is more than just material and physical blessings on earth but rather the blessings that come from the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22f)

The psalmist reminds us of the stark truth of the gospel message.  The response is a quotation from the first of the eight beatitudes preached by Jesus when He said, “Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!”  The psalmist cautions us against trusting ourselves and this world: “Why should I fear in evil days when my wicked ensnarers ring me round? They trust in their wealth; the abundance of their riches is their boast. Yet in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God; Too high is the price to redeem one’s life; he would never have enough to remain alive always and not see destruction.”  Again the psalmist says, “ Fear not when a man grows rich, when the wealth of his house becomes great,  For when he dies, he shall take none of it; his wealth shall not follow him down. Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed, “They will praise you for doing well for yourself,” He shall join the circle of his forebears who shall never more see light.”  So let us not deceive ourselves or allow those teachers who preach the prosperity gospel to mislead us into focusing on the selfish, individualist and worldly needs rather than the values Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes, which are the values of the Kingdom.  These are totally at variant with the promise of worldly gains. (Cf Mt 5:3-11)

Truly, the ministry is full of temptations and if we are not careful, what we begin with good intentions may end up with self-gratification.  What then must we do to ensure that our ministry is a true continuation of the ministry of Jesus? The key to overcome temptations of every sort is contentment.  Unless we are contented with ourselves and with our lives, we will always be seeking more and more.  This is very true on the most mundane level of life, namely, our material needs.  When we feel that we do not have enough money or material things, then we begin to hanker after them.   When we do, then we begin to discriminate people.  We serve them with ulterior motives.  We do not serve them with unconditional and genuine love.  But we love and serve them only because we can get things or favours from them.

What Paul says about material things applies to other areas as well. Thus, if a Church leader has low self-esteem, he becomes very insecure in his relationship with others; he begins to seek affirmation and popularity.  If a leader lacks authentic self-love, then he makes use of others, his fellow ministry members, counselees, parishioners and others whom he serves, to fill the lack in his life.  If he is not careful, he will fall into activism.  But activism is not ministry because the former springs from emptiness whereas the latter springs from an overflowing love.

For this reason, what is most essential before ministry can take place is contentment. The classical axiom: we cannot give what we have not got remains very true.  To be contented means that we are full – full in love, full in joy and in meaning.  In other words, as Paul says, we are sufficient.  And we must really believe not just in our heads but deep in our hearts, that we have more than we need to be happy in life.  St Paul says, that “if we have food and clothing, we have all that we need.”  This is very true.  Perhaps, we can add one more, shelter as well.  But beyond food, clothing and shelter, there is nothing that we really must have to be happy.  Everything else is a bonus and a luxury.  Now, a person who is contented need not therefore not look to others and to things to be happy and fulfilled in his life.  Consequently, he will never be tempted by them and will not make use of people to achieve his desires.

Jesus is our model.  Consider the way He carried out His ministry in the gospel.  The evangelist remarked, “Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.“  He was certainly not hoarding money or seeking to build a kingdom for Himself and His disciples, or accumulating anything for Himself.  They were living a simple life in faith and in trust.  And God sent people like the women, some who were rich and influential to help them.  But Jesus certainly did not promise us riches and freedom from suffering on earth.  The women must have been so inspired by the detachment of Jesus that they too gave up their luxurious lifestyle and accompanied Jesus in His journey, serving Him quietly, generously out of their own resources.

So, if today we want to find contentment and live a life of detachment from the world, we must strengthen our relationship with Jesus, just as the women did. It is important to take note that the women who attended to Jesus and assisted Him out of their own resources were people who had been touched by the Lord in a very personal way.  They had experienced His liberating love and some have been cured of evil spirits and maladies.  We too, as disciples of Jesus, must cultivate a personal relationship with Him.  Unless we experience His liberating love and are cured of the evil spirits of lust, attachment, greed and jealousy in our lives, we will not be able to be contented in life.  But when we experience His love, then we know that our sufficiency is in Jesus.  In Christ, we are not lacking in anything. Only when we come to this level of experience, will we be able to carry out our ministerial responsibilities with unconditional love.

Yes, let us heed the advice of Paul.  We must flee from this lack of sufficiency in our lives.  Instead, we must seek integrity, piety, faith and love.  As St Paul urges all religious leaders, “You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.  Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.”  This is possible for all those who love Jesus and allow themselves to be loved by Him.  In the final analysis, therefore, ministers who are not intimate with Jesus will fill up their emptiness with the things of the world; they will bring harm to themselves and those people they serve.  But ministers who are filled with the love of Jesus have more than sufficient and therefore have abundance of love to share with others.  Such ministers of God will do themselves and others good.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 15, 2017 — Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows — “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me.” — “Because I live, you also will live.”

September 14, 2017

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Lectionary: 441/639

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Our Lady of Sorrows by Sassoferrato

Reading 1 1 TM 1:1-2, 12-14

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our savior
and of Christ Jesus our hope,
to Timothy, my true child in faith:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he considered me trustworthy
in appointing me to the ministry.
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.
Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1B-2A AND 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

mothercrucified3

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

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)

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.

Image result for Our Lady of Sorrows, art, pictures

Our Lady of Sorrows by Tianna Mallett

Or 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.”

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

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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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Related:
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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, 2015
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SHARING THE SUFFERINGS OF OUR LOVED ONES IN SPIRIT
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Hebrews 5:7-9Luke 2:33-35

How often do we feel helpless in helping people, especially when they are suffering?  Not only are we unable to help them financially or physically, but even emotionally.  Indeed, we are often lost for words to encourage them.  We do not know what to say to comfort them.  We look at them and we feel so helpless and useless.  There is nothing we can do to relieve the suffering.  We use means in our power to help but to no avail.  We can only watch them suffer in pain and in depression.  We feel frustrated and even angry with God, besides being angry with ourselves.  In such a situation, what do we do?

Like Mary, we are called to simply stand by the cross of Jesus.  In celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we feel with Mary who stood by Jesus not just when He was rejected in His ministry and even thought to be mad by His relatives.  She had always stood by Him in good and in bad times.   Although alone and widowed, she did not prevent Jesus from leaving home for the work of His Father.  Mary was supportive of Jesus’ mission from beginning to the end.

But we have no sufferings that can be compared with Mary’s sufferings.  No one can and will ever be able to suffer the way Mary suffered with Jesus.  She was His mother.  He was her only son, her flesh and blood.  She was one in mind and heart with her Son.  At the wedding in Cana, she was one with the will of God and invited us to do the same, “Do whatever He tells you.”   When presented with a problem she did not once exert the obligations of filial piety on Jesus to solve it. She just informed the Son that “they had no wine” without instructing Him what to do.  She knew her Son better and trusted in His wisdom and judgement.  (cf Jn 2)

Hence, when we reflect on the death of Jesus on the Cross, it must be said, that although Mary did not suffer in body like Jesus, she suffered in spirit.  She was a martyr in spirit. St Bernard wrote, “Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.” She suffered not so much in her body but she suffered as much as what Jesus suffered on the cross morally.  Jesus suffered because of our sins, which He carried in His body. Not only did He carry our sins but He was also condemned for our sins. Like the Suffering Servant, He was crushed for our sins.

What went through the heart of Mary when she saw her Son carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem on His way to Mount Calvary?  We cannot imagine how much she would have suffered, seeing her Son bathed in blood, scourged beyond recognition, losing so much blood and with raw and open wounds, carrying the cross and being paraded as a criminal.  Yet, Mary stood bravely with Jesus and moved with the crowd as she watched helplessly her Son struggling all alone with the weight of the cross and enduring the ignominy of being ridiculed and shamed by the people and mocked by the soldiers.  Yet, Mary did not utter a word against God or against His enemies.  In sorrow and in pain she shared with Jesus His sufferings in her heart.  She must have been such a strong woman to carry such pain in her heart.  Her grief cannot be compared to ours even when we lose our own loved ones.

Most of all, when she was at the foot of the cross, she had to endure the last filial act of our Lord on the Cross when He gave His disciple to Mary, “Behold your son!”  And to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother!”  (Cf Jn 19:26f)  On the surface, Jesus was doing a filial act by entrusting the care of His mother to one of His disciples, since Jesus was her only son.  But how can the Son of God be replaced by the son of man; or a master by a disciple?  There is no substitute for Jesus.  This is true for us when we love someone dearly and deeply.  Can anyone replace our spouse, our boyfriend or girlfriend or even our dog?

Mary fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon who said that a sword will pierce her heart. “As the father and mother of Jesus stood wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘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.’”  (Lk 2:33-35)  So deep is the wound and so sharp is the sword that no one can ever feel the way she felt.  After the death of Jesus, He no longer felt the pain in His body or in His soul, but her soul suffered the violence of sorrow.  For this reason, the Church gave her the title, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.  Beyond the prophecy of Simeon, she suffered when she had to flee for their lives to Egypt.  She suffered the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple.  She was filled with sorrow when she met Jesus on the way to Calvary.  Certainly, she must have been so overwhelmed at the way Jesus died on the cross.  As if it was not enough to see Him crucified, Mary had to see her Son pierced on the side by a soldier’s lance.  This last action would have pierced her heart even more.  Finally, all that was left for Mary was to receive the lifeless bloody body of Jesus in her arms and leave Him in the tomb.  Such were the seven sorrows of Mary.

Yet in all these events, she was not angry with God or vindictive of the enemies of her Son.  She stood by the cross in silence and joined her sufferings with that of her Son, forgiving those who killed Him.  There was no anger but only grief for her enemies because of their ignorance.  She was so full of love that she could love beyond herself and her own pain of seeing her Son suffering.   Like her Son on the cross, she would have uttered the same words of Jesus in her heart, “Father, forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.”  Like Jesus, Mary not only forgave her enemies but she prayed for them and made excuses for their actions, reducing them to ignorance.  Such was the magnanimity of Mary.  How many of us pray for our enemies with love and compassion, much less to make excuses for them for hurting us and making us suffer?

In the light of this feast of our Lady of Sorrows, we too are called to suffer in spirit with those who are suffering, especially when they suffer innocently and unjustly.  Our blessed Mother is asking us to suffer in silence and in love for them, whether they are our friends or our enemies.  If we feel helpless like her for her Son, let us offer that inadequacy in helping our loved ones with Mary to Jesus. With those who are the cause of our suffering, we must remember what St Peter wrote, “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)  And again, he wrote, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”  (1 Pt 3:17f)

Indeed, following the example of Jesus in our weakness, we need to surrender everything to the Lord in faith and trust and in obedience.  If we surrender ourselves to Him in total obedience to His divine will and wisdom, the Lord will hear us and He will transform us.  This is all that is needed of us.  We cannot take things into our own hands.  We need to allow God to be God.  Just as He did the impossible by raising Jesus from the dead, He will do the same for us.   We only need to pray in faith.  We are called to stand by the cross like Mary.  We feel with them and for them.  Remaining helpless, we need to believe in the power and wisdom of God that He will act in His own time.

So let us obey Jesus and give a place to Mary in our home, in our spiritual life.  Like the beloved disciple, let us bring Mary to our home.  This means that we are called to accept Mary as our spiritual mother.  She is the mother of the Church represented by the unnamed disciple of the Lord.  We are called to learn from her to share the sufferings in spirit of those whom we cannot help in body.   We may not be able to take away the sufferings of the other person but we can always pray for them and offer them the hope of Christ.  Let us in faith take the assurance of Jesus to heart, “Because I live, you also will live.” (Jn 14:19)

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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

Image result for Mary Magdalene, , art, photos

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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