Posts Tagged ‘Mary’

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 26, 2018 — Monday of Holy Week — “Upon you I have put my Spirit”

March 25, 2018

Monday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 257

Image result for the mark of God's spirit, photos

Reading 1 IS 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
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Image result for Jesus heals the blind man, art, photos, pictures

Responsorial Psalm  PS 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
When evildoers come at me
to devour my flesh,
My foes and my enemies
themselves stumble and fall.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel

Hail to you, our King;
you alone are compassionate with our faults.

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Gospel JN 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 MARCH, 2018, Monday of Holy Week
MOVED BY LOVE AS WE CONTEMPLATE ON THE PASSION OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 42:1-7JN 12:1-11  ]

With the celebration of Passion Sunday yesterday, the Church now wants us to contemplate further on the Passion of Christ.  Indeed, all the scripture readings for the next few days are focused on the sufferings and imminent death of Christ.  But why does the Church want us to reflect on the Passion?  For only upon the contemplation of the Passion would our hearts be moved to repentance and conversion.  That is why Pope John Paul II in the apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, invites us to contemplate on the face of the crucified Christ so as to grow in holiness.

Today, the liturgy invites us to reflect on the Passion as love.  There is a contrast between Mary and Judas in today’s gospel.  Mary demonstrated her love for Jesus without reserve by using costly ointment to wash Jesus’ feet and her hair to dry His feet.  Apparently, Judas being thrifty and practical considered this wasteful since the money could have been saved for the poor.

Putting aside John’s comment that Judas did not act out of concern for the poor but for selfish reasons, we must reflect further whether this remark is objectively true. Can love be reduced to a matter of money?  Can love be reduced to a matter of giving?  Whilst there could be a relationship between loving and giving, yet these two actions could be separate as well.  Of course, if we truly love, we will give without reservation.  But there could be giving without real love. There is a danger that we disguise our incapacity to love by giving instead.  Quite often, we do not have real love for the poor but in order to soothe our conscience and guilt, we give away some of our money or material things.  Thus, we tend to be calculative as to how much we should give.

When we think like Judas, even if we mean well, are we not lacking in authentic love?  Isn’t it true that love does not count the cost?  With people we love, love is never measured in monetary terms.   This is true in the case of Mary.  In loving, we forget about ourselves.  That is why Jesus said true love and generosity is to give in such a way that the left hand does not know what the right is doing.

Yet perhaps, the admonition of Jesus to Judas could well apply to us when Jesus said, “Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always; you will not always have me.”  When we have no love for someone or something, we think logically.  We do not think with our heart.  But when we have true love for someone, we do not love with our head, but with our heart.  When we love with our heart, we do not calculate love in material terms.  We give all that we can possibly give.

Indeed, today, Jesus is the exemplar of true love and giving.  Jesus too was passionate about His Father’s unconditional love.  In the first reading, Jesus was indeed like that servant who gave himself totally for the love and service of his people.  At Jesus’ baptism, we remember the words of the Father declaring Jesus to be His beloved son in whom He was well pleased.  As the Son of the Father, the Holy Spirit came down upon Him and the Spirit of Sonship which He received was of course the Spirit of servanthood.  Clearly for Jesus, sonship is spelt out in terms of servanthood.  Jesus is truly the Suffering Servant of Isaiah because He is the Son of the Father.

Indeed, because Jesus shares the spirit of the Father, He too has the same passion of the Father for humankind.  Because He loves the Father completely as He has been loved Himself, His whole life was given to do the will and the work of the Father, which was to bring justice to the nations, to be the “covenant of the people and light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.”

Can we also say that Jesus acted foolishly? Shouldn’t He have retreated to a safe place if His enemies were mounting attacks on Him?  Shouldn’t He have advised Mary to save the money for His mission instead?  No, because He knows that love is to think less and feel more.  Love is to feel and to act.

Indeed, if Judas was critical of Mary, it was because having witnessed such momentous love of Mary for Jesus, he knew deep within himself that he was a selfish and calculative man who had no real love for Jesus.  His prejudice against Mary was but a reflection of himself.  After all, as it is often said, we never see things as they are but we see things as we are.  So if we too condemn others for being extravagant in love, let us realize that it is because we are not capable of love and our hearts are not as magnanimous.

Often, we are critical of others for being prayerful, helpful or generous in their service for the community or with their money.  We think that they are foolish to give so much of themselves.  We impute motives to their generosity.  Could it be that we are critical because we are not as generous and caring?  We must search deeper within ourselves every time we are negative towards people who do good.  Has our jealousy made us prejudiced?

Hence, may we who contemplate on Christ’ Passion this Holy Week be moved to real and authentic love for Jesus, so that we too will be passionate about our love for our fellow sisters and brothers and, most of all, our personal conversion from a life of sin to a life of holiness.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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Bible; Jesus Christ; Revealing Himself; Resurrection; Mary Magdalene Painting - Jesus Revealing Himself To Mary Magdalene by William Brassey Hole
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Commentary on John 12:1-11 from Living Space

Today’s Gospel serves as a lovely prelude to the Passion of Jesus.

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Jesus is back in the house of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, recently brought back from the dead. Perhaps these are his last moments of companionship before the horrors that are to come. True to character, Martha is the active hostess. Mary, the contemplative, brings in a jar of an expensive perfumed unguent and pours it all over the feet of Jesus, filling the house with its fragrance. It is a sign of great love and echoes what the “sinful” woman in Luke’s gospel also did.

.This account is probably the same as that described in Mark 14:3-9 and Matthew 26:6-13 but is distinct from the story of the woman in Luke 7:36-50.

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While the “Beloved Disciple” is a nameless character in John’s gospel, he can be matched by this beloved disciple.

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Judas, the spiritually blind materialist, only sees what he regards as terrible waste. Hypocritically he suggests the money would have been better spent helping the poor. John suggests Judas was more interested in getting the money for himself than sharing it with those in need.

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Jesus sees an altogether different meaning in Mary’s action. He sees the tremendous love behind the action and interprets it as a symbolical anointing for his burial. Dying as a common criminal, Jesus would normally not have been anointed. (And, in fact, he was not anointed after his burial; when the women went to do the act on Sunday morning, Jesus was already risen.)

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“You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.” This is not to be understood any cynical way. The poor cannot be truly loved except in God and in Jesus.

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“As often as you do it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” Only those who truly love God (whatever name they call him) are able truly to love the poor and all those in need. And vice versa. Also, in Jewish tradition there was disagreement as to whether giving alms to the poor or burying the dead (which would include anointing) was the greater act of mercy. Those in favour of burial thought it an essential condition for sharing in the final resurrection.

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Finally, we are told Lazarus’ own life is in danger as well as Jesus’. Lazarus is seen as the living sign of Jesus’ divine power and so they both must be wiped out. Many of the Church’s martyrs died for the same reason. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’, witnessing to the truth, love and power of Christ.

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Am I willing to be a martyr-witness for Christ, to stand beside him on the cross as he is mocked and insulted? This is the week for me to find the answer to that question.

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Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1062g/

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Judas by Katsuya
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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to proceed into the Holy Week, and in a few days’ time we shall be commemorating the three days of Easter Triduum, the heart of our faith, when we commemorate the time when our Lord instituted the Eucharist, and giving up His Body and Blood, He suffered and died for us, so that by His resurrection from the dead, He gave us a new life and a new hope that sin and death can be overcome.

Today we heard the hypocrisy of Judas, who criticised Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who had poured a whole jar of very expensive perfume made of pure spikenard on the feet of Jesus and wiped it dry with her hair. In another account, the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume also anointed His head with the same perfume, and she was criticised all the same.

As mentioned, Judas did not do so because he cared for the poor in any way, and he did it because he was a thief and a cheater, who stole the money from the common fund of the Apostles, which was meant for the poor and the needy. Thus, he spoke a lie and brought about calumny and injustice to another. His inability to resist the temptation of money, desire and the impurities in his heart led him to do what he had done, that is to betray his own Lord and Master, for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

Just for your knowledge, that when Joseph, the son of Jacob was sold by his brothers out of jealousy into slavery, he was priced at about the same price. And at that price, they were valued at even lower than animals. A good quality animal would have fetched far higher prices than those which Judas received for betraying his Lord and which the brothers sold Joseph with.

Thus we value so low the Lord who had loved us all completely and sincerely with all of His heart, we looked down on He who was tortured, mocked and rejected for our sake, who died for us on the cross, so that we might be saved. We did not appreciate the things which He had done for us, and all the hard works which He had undertaken for our own good.

We are often tempted and our minds and hearts clouded with worldly things such as greed, pride, pleasures of the flesh and many others. The Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests were all infected with the disease of greed and jealousy, as well as fear and insecurity. They were all concerned only with preserving themselves and their own livelihoods. This is why, even though they were supposed to be the ones with wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures, they refused to believe in Jesus and instead trying to undermine His works by plotting against Lazarus whom Jesus had resurrected from the dead.

They were manipulated by the wickedness and malice that Satan had planted in their hearts, which also exist in all of us. They were afraid of losing their position of honour and the respect which they have been accorded with by the society. They did not want to take a risk with the Romans, whom they were afraid that they would destroy all of their livelihood. And similarly with Judas, Satan manipulated his greed and desire for money, and in the end they destroyed and condemned only themselves.

It is a lesson for all of us that we cannot be hypocrites in our faith. Instead, we truly have to live out our faith, through our own actions. And we cannot be divided in our faith, just as we cannot have two masters. We cannot both serve God and worldly things, and as Jesus mentioned, that we will either despise one and love the other or we will not be sincere in our faith as a whole.

Therefore, let us all reflect on this occasion, and take steps to change our lives for the better. We can make a difference by committing ourselves more and more to the cause of the Lord. Now the choice is in our hands to make that difference. Let us therefore emerge from this Lenten observation, a better, more dedicated and more faithful servant of God. God bless us all. Amen.

Source http://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/03/30/monday-30-march-2015-monday-of-the-holy-week-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 31, 2017 — “Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience…”

December 30, 2017

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Lectionary: 17

Image may contain: one or more people

Art: Circumcision of the Lord By Guido Reni

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Reading 1 SIR 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

Or GN 15:1-6; 21:1-3

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying:
“Fear not, Abram!
I am your shield;
I will make your reward very great.”
But Abram said,
“O Lord GOD, what good will your gifts be,
if I keep on being childless
and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?”
Abram continued,
“See, you have given me no offspring,
and so one of my servants will be my heir.”
Then the word of the LORD came to him:
“No, that one shall not be your heir;
your own issue shall be your heir.”
The Lord took Abram outside and said,
“Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.
Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.”
Abram put his faith in the LORD,
who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would;
he did for her as he had promised.
Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age,
at the set time that God had stated.
Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his
whom Sarah bore him.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (cf. 1) Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Or  PS 105:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (7a , 8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
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. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
constantly seek his face.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
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. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations
which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.

Reading 2  COL 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.

Or COL 3:12-17

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

OrHEB 11:8, 11-12, 17-19

Brothers and sisters:
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
—and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises was ready to offer
his only son,
of whom it was said,
“Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.”
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,
and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

AlleluiaCOL 3:15A, 16A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts;
let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

OrHEB 1:1-2

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets;
in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 2:22-40

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
They took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, 
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, 
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
He took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s 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.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

Or  LK 2:22, 39-40

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
they took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

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Image may contain: 2 people
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From The Monestary of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Today we have three really short readings to help us focus on this great mystery of Mary, Mother of God and our Mother.  Only when we understand, even feebly, Mary’s role as Mother of God, can we come to accept fully the reality that God has taken on our flesh and brought redemption.

This year, this Solemnity of Mary comes the very day after the Feast of the Holy Family.  This can help us understand that, for most of her life, people probably looked at Mary as simply an ordinary mother, caring for her only child, a son.  Only as we reflect on the full life of Mary do we come to understand the depth of her love and the depth of her faith in the Lord.  It is Mary’s faith that allows the incarnation to happen, that allows the Word to become flesh.

The first reading, from the Book of Numbers, speak of the Lord’s blessing to the Israelites.  It is because Mary was able to listen and reflect on Scripture that she was able to receive the invitation of God and say “yes” to God’s request of her.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Galatians and tells us clearly that Jesus is born of a woman and born under the law.  The challenge is for each of us to become like Mary and to always say “yes” to whatever God asks of us.  The challenge is for each of us to allow the Lord to be born in us by our obedience to His word.  We can ask Mary’s intercession so that we can follow her example and always say “yes” to the Lord.

The Gospel is the account of Jesus receiving His name and of His circumcision.  Both of these events are there to make clear to us that Jesus is truly human in every aspect of his life—but still divine.  It is Mary’s role as Mother that allows Jesus to be fully human.

Mary is always present in the mystery of our salvation.  As we begin a New Year, she is present again, reminding us to seek the Lord and to listen to His Word and to say “yes” to God.  May this New Year draw us deeper into the mysteries.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/2017/12/homily-solemnity-mary-mother-god-cycle-b-2018/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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31 DECEMBER, 2017, Sunday, Holy Family

BUILDING A FAMILY OF FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 15:1-6,21:1-3HEB 11:8,11-12,17-19LK 2:22-40  ]

What is it that makes life meaningful and purposeful? For many of us, we are deceived by the world into thinking that happiness in life is to have wealth, fame and power.  As a result many of us spend our whole life, and direct all our energies to our work, business, making money, being famous and promoted to positions of power and influence.  The truth is that those who have arrived will discover the emptiness of wealth, power and the burden of fame, because it means the loss of security and privacy.   This is the irony of life.

In the final analysis, what makes life worth living is meaningful relationships and love.  Without love, life is empty and totally meaningless.  We are not animals that simply need food and pleasure.  We have an intellect and a will to grow in knowledge, understanding and a heart that needs love and warmth.  All the wealth and power in this world cannot fill the abyss of the human heart.  This was true of Abraham.  He was rich and famous.  That was why God did not promise him wealth and power.  He himself found life so meaningless.

But it is not even enough to be married. Indeed, even though Abram had a wife, he was unfulfilled.  Abram lamented when he told the Lord, “My Lord, what do you intend to give me? I go childless. See, you have given me no descendants; some man of my household will be my heir.”  Love does not exist only between persons.  A love that stays within two persons will eventually die.  This is why the Church is against any form of relationship that is closed-in and does not go beyond themselves to be at the service of humanity. This explains why the Church has always said that every marriage must be open to procreation.  Marriage is not defined as a relationship between two persons, as in same sex union, but a man and a woman who are open to bringing forth children into the world.  The truth is that only when the love between the two persons gives birth to new life, that love will not be one of fullness.  True love for each other is never kept between the couple but is poured out into the world.  This is true of God as well.  The love between the Father and the Son is not kept within themselves but their love for each other is poured out into the world through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of love.

Does it mean that those who are married and have no children are doomed?  Not necessarily.  Our lives at the end of the day cannot be lived for ourselves but for the service of God and humanity, by giving life to others, whether physically or in moral and material support.  Our lives are given to be consecrated for others.  It is true also for us priests and religious, as well as singles.  This was what Mary and Joseph did when they brought Jesus to the Temple.  It was the law of the Jews that every first-born child must be offered to the Lord and be consecrated to Him.  A sacrifice is offered to God to redeem the child as an acknowledgment that God is the author of life.  The child does not belong to us but to God and is to be groomed for the service of God and humanity.

Simeon said of Jesus.   “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.”  Mary and Joseph offered Jesus to the Lord and consecrated Him for the service of the people of God and for God Himself.  Jesus, we read, was called not just to be the light of the Jews but for the salvation of everyone.  This was what Simeon said.  “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.”  We too must offer our children and ourselves for the service of God and humanity.

Consequently, we are called to build up not just a human family but also a family of faith.  All the three scripture readings of this Sunday speak about the importance of faith in God. We need to build our family according to what God wants of us. The family must be god-fearing and devout.  This was what Mary and Joseph did.  “And when the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord.” We need to pray for the wisdom to raise up our family and children according to the laws of God as Joseph and Mary did.  In this way, the family would be united in love and service.  A Catholic family is not one that is inward-looking but reaching out to others in love by contributing to the larger human family.  Hence, it is important that we must ensure that our family is raised in the faith of the Church.  If we do not, we will lack the direction to guide our family to walk in the way of the Lord so that they can find life.

What is faith? Faith means first and foremost to trust in God.  This was what the Lord said, to Abram.  “Have no fear, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.”  God was saying to Abram that He would be His protector, His shield and His defence against all enemies.  Indeed, “it was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going.”   He simply trusted in God’s promise.  When he left the land of Ur, he was already 75 years old!

Secondly, faith means to believe in the impossible.   It was this faith that enabled Abraham and Sarah to have a child, in spite of Sarah being past child-bearing age.  The Lord spoke to him, “…your heir shall be of your own flesh and blood. Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants.”

Thirdly, faith means to obey.  When we have faith in God, we obey Him even when we do not understand.  Abraham obeyed God and left his homeland to a place that he had not seen even though he was already well established in life.  He did not need to venture out as he was already rich with flocks.  Most of all, his obedience was seen in the sacrifice of Isaac.   After waiting for 25 years, so much so that by the time Isaac was born Abraham was already 100 years old, yet when the Lord asked for his only son, Abraham did not hesitate but immediately set out early in the morning to sacrifice his only son.  Indeed, Hebrews tells us that “It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead”

Finally, faith means to surrender oneself entirely to the Lord.  Indeed, Abraham surrendered his life entirely to the Lord, walking by faith not by sight.  He believed because of the promise of the Lord even though not all the promises were realized in his time.  “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.”  (Heb 11:39f)

So today, if we can find the strength to surrender our family to the Lord, especially our children and elderly, then we need to put Jesus as the center of our lives, our family, our work and our activities. We too must offer ourselves and our children to God for His service and humanity.  But for this to take place, we need to acquire the wisdom of God the way Simeon and the prophetess Anna did.  We are told that “he was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God.”  And for Anna, “She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.”

We cannot be faith-filled people living in the wisdom of God unless we are a praying family like Simeon and Anna.  They were people who walked close to God and were enlightened to see the Messiah when He came.  We too must walk in the spirit of faith with our own family and the larger family of faith in the Catholic community, especially worshipping together in faith and sharing our faith with the community and the people beyond our narrow confines.  In this way, together we build the family of God, a family rooted in love, faith and in Christ who shows us the way to grow in maturity and in wisdom as He did in Nazareth. “Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 18, 2017 — “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”

December 17, 2017

Monday of the Third Week of Advent
Lectionary: 194

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Reading 1  JER 23:5-8

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
As king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD,
when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”;
but rather, “As the LORD lives,
who brought the descendants of the house of Israel
up from the land of the north”–
and from all the lands to which I banished them;
they shall again live on their own land.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous deeds.
And blessed forever be his glorious name;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Image result for art, joseph pulls the mule, mary is pregnant

Gospel  MT 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.

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Jesus — Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd by Joseph Brickey
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Commentary on Matthew 1:18-24 From Living Space

Today’s passage follows immediately on yesterday’s account of Jesus’ genealogy.

There were three stages for Jews getting married in Jesus’ time. There was the engagement, then the betrothal, and finally the wedding. The betrothal was a serious commitment. It was already the first part of the marriage. There would be no sexual relationships as the couple would not yet be living together but it was a binding relationship. Normal married life began some months later when the husband took his betrothed into his home. To violate the betrothal by having sexual relations with another person was equivalent to adultery.

Imagine, then, the horrific dilemma of Joseph. He discovers that the woman to whom he is already betrothed but with whom he has not consummated their relationship in marriage, is already pregnant. There could be only one explanation; she had been unfaithful and was having another man’s child. It was a very serious matter and, if brought out into the open, would have made Mary liable to death by stoning.

But Joseph was a “righteous” man. As a devout follower of the Mosaic Law, he would want to break the union with someone who had so seriously broken the Law. And yet, because he was such a good man, he did not want to expose her to a terrible punishment. In this, for his time and indeed for our own time, he shows extraordinary forbearance. Few men would accept such a situation with such calmness and self-restraint. Most would find it a terrible blow to their manhood.

It is at this point that there is divine intervention and God communicates the true situation to Joseph who is assured that no other man is involved, that she has conceived through the power of God’s Spirit. Joseph is further instructed to call the newborn child Jesus. Jesus, in Hebrew Joshua, had the meaning at this time of “Yahweh saves”. Jesus is so called because he will save his people from their sin.

And, as Matthew likes to do, he shows that all this is in fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy (following the Septuagint text of Isaiah 7:14) that a virgin will bear a son and he will be called “Emmanuel” or “God-is-with-us”. This will be re-echoed when, at the very end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says to his disciples just before he ascends to his Father: “I will be with you all days to the end of the age”. Jesus remains with us for ever.

Joseph, now at peace, took Mary to his home as his wife. And he had no sexual relations with her until after Jesus was born. Thus there is no mistaking the origins of Jesus. He has a human mother but a divine Father. He will be the perfect Saviour of his people: in a fully human person the power of God himself will be at work.

Jesus is still our Emmanuel, God still lives with his people. And he does that through the Body of the Risen Jesus, the Church, the Christian community and its communities all over the world. Each one of us is called to be Emmanuel. Through us people can meet God and hear the message of love and salvation and forgiveness and reconciliation. Let us renew our commitment to be Emmanuel for the people in our lives.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/a1218g/

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Blessed Art Thou among Women, by Walter Rane

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom:

Has an angel ever come to you in a dream? If your answer is “no,” this may be a good time to start to practice listening, meditating and prayer.

When we talk to God in prayer, we need also pledge that we will listen for his guidance. Our ability to listen can be developed with practice, just like anything else we want to learn. Everyone who sincerely submits and listens to God will find him. Everyone who seeks to develop his or her spiritual nature, with proper guidance will flower and gain. Nobody who seeks will be left empty.

A theme repeated over and over again in the scriptures is, “Do not be afraid.”
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When someone today asks, “What do we get as Christians?” We might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”
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In today’s Gospel, Joseph gets some direction in his sleep. After he wakes up, he follows those Holy directions and  he “did the right thing.”
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One of the most respected theologians of the last century, Jesuit Karl Rahner, wrote in “On The Question of Formal Existential Ethics” —
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Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right moment: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. His dignity relies upon observing this law…”
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The “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” if we seek — will reward us with a good conscience — an inner feeling or voice that drives us always toward, love, the good and the right. If we work to develop this indwelling we will be rewarded.
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Unfortunately, in today’s secular society, we seem to have fewer who are seeking. So how can they possibly find?
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The Gospels tell us to pray, meditate and consume Christ — make him a part of us and us in him.
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This is intertwined with the mystery of the Eucharist….
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We don’t have to “get it.” But we’ll be a lot happier if we do it!
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Related here on Peace and Freedom:
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God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!
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Related:

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The book Holy Spirit by Edward Leen can help seekers find the Holy Spirit within us….

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Nazareth Christmas celebrations will be held as normal

December 16, 2017

Reuters

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File photo: Annual re-enactment of the birth of Jesus in Nazareth. REUTERS File photo by Baz Ratner

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Nazareth, the Israeli Arab city where Jesus is thought to have been raised, will celebrate Christmas as usual, its mayor said, denying the festivities would be curtailed in protest at the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On Wednesday, a city spokesman said there would be some cuts to the celebrations to protest against President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem that angered Palestinians as well as U.S. allies in the Middle East and the rest of the world.

Mayor Ali Salam told Reuters on Saturday that three singers who had been due to perform would not appear. He gave no reason for their absence, but said that the celebrations would proceed as normal.

“I don’t know why people thought that there would be cuts to the celebrations. Everything, except for three singers who will not be coming, will be held as normal. We have already welcomed 60,000 people to the city today,” Salam said.

Nazareth, the largest Arab town in Israel with a population of 76,000 Muslims and Christians, is one of the Holy Land’s focal points of Christmas festivities which begin officially on Saturday evening.

Nazareth’s imposing Basilica of the Annunciation is built on a site that many Christian faithful believe was the childhood home of Jesus’ mother, Mary.

(Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 30, 2017

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 572

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Art: Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Reading 1  ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Or  ROM 12:9-16

Brothers and sisters:
Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;
do not be wise in your own estimation.

Responsorial Psalm  ISAIAH 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6

R. (6) Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
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. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
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. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Alleluia SEE LK 1:45

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary, who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

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Homily Ideas for The Visitation
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Today’s feast celebrates the special place that Mary has in the life of the Church. This place is first of all defined by her being chosen to be the mother of Jesus, his only human parent. This alone gives her a uniqueness which is shared by no other person who has ever lived.

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As with the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we need to look at the meaning of what the feast is about rather than being too literal in our understanding of how it is described in scripture.

Today’s Gospel is the story of Mary’s visitation to her cousin, Elizabeth, when both were expecting their first child. The story contains most of the elements which contribute to the status we give to Mary in our Church.

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First, we see Mary setting out with haste from Nazareth to a small town in the hills of Judea, not far from Jerusalem (where Zechariah served as a priest in the Temple), to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant with the child we know as John the Baptist. Mary herself, of course, is carrying her own child, Jesus. It is highly significant that it is Mary and Jesus who go to visit Elizabeth and John. Already in the womb, Jesus is showing that urge to serve rather than be served. Mary, too, shares that urge. And, at the presence of Jesus and his mother, the child in Elizabeth’s womb jumps for joy.

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Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, excitedly bursts out into praise. She recognises the special position of Mary and her Son: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary is indeed unique and blessed in being chosen to be the mother of our saving King and Lord. Elizabeth is deeply moved that it is Jesus and his Mother that come to her and John: “And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” And yet that is what is happening to each of us all the time, and especially in every celebration of the Eucharist when the Lord comes to us in the sharing of his Word and in the breaking of the bread and our sharing in the cup.

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And there is a special word of praise for Mary also: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” This brings us to the second characteristic of Mary: her faith and total trust in God. That was expressed in her fiat (‘Let it be done to me…’), when, even though not fully understanding what was being asked of her, she unconditionally accepted to submit to God’s plan.

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It is now Mary’s turn to sing God’s praises in the lovely song we called the Magnificat, which the Church sings at its evening prayer every day. It is full of reflections on what makes Mary great in the eyes of God.

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“He has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.”

Mary was a simple unmarried girl living in obscurity in a small town in an out of the way Roman province.

“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Mary’s greatness was not just in being chosen to be Jesus’ mother but in her total acceptance of that responsibility in faith and trust, accepting blindly all that it might entail. And, indeed, she had no idea the price she would have to pay to be the mother of Jesus. But, again, like her Son she had emptied herself in total service to him and to day we celebrate her reward, her being raised to the highest place among the human race.

In the human race we see today, perhaps we have forgotten how to full appreciate and protect human life.

We need to constantly look to Mary and Joseph who never question God’s plan — but fully accept what they have been chosen to do.

May we do the same with half as much fidelity. That would be a miracle for me!

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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31 MAY, 2017, Wednesday, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
THE LORD IS IN OUR MIDST IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ZEPH 3:14-18 or ROM 12:9-16; LUKE 1:39-56 ]

The scripture readings of today’s feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary underscore the presence of God in our midst.  Whenever the Lord is in our midst, there will always be joy and celebration.  In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!”  In the gospel too, we read how the Lord came into the lives of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  Again, the theme of joy is prevalent.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit … For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.’”

Indeed, the cause of sorrow is always the absence of God in our lives.  We become discouraged when God is not present in our midst.  Our hearts are made for God.  When life is lived without God, there is a vacuum in our hearts.  That is why the psalmist cried out, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” (Ps 42:1)  Whether we admit it or not, our soul seeks union with God.  When a soul lives in sin, it knows that God is absent.  We feel His absence when we know that we are living immoral lives or lack integrity in our lives.  Knowing that we are not living a blameless life, we condemn ourselves being hypocritical.

The other cause of sorrow is when we feel quite alone in our struggles.   This was the case of the Israelites.  They felt that they were alone and helpless against their enemies.  But God was with them!  They did not have to go through all this alone. The prophet assured them, “The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.  The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”  God assured them of His love and presence.  Most of all, the Lord would be their warrior.  He would be the One who would rescue them from their enemies and help them to return from exile.

How, then, can we once again bring back the presence of God into our lives?  We need to welcome the Holy Spirit.  He is the presence of God.  The gospel of Luke, which is the gospel of the Holy Spirit, always associates joy with the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Mary was filled with joy because of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her and the baby Jesus.  She was filled with the Holy Spirit when she sang the Magnificat. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out with joy and so did John the Baptist who leapt for joy.  Anyone who is filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit is filled with joy.  This explains why those who are prayed over for the awakening of the Holy Spirit often are overwhelmed by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, the Holy Spirit can come in many other ways as well, as illustrated in the scriptures.  Indeed, it is appropriate for us during this 7th Week of Easter, as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, to emphasize the importance of the Holy Spirit and welcome Him as Mary did at the Upper Room.

One way of experiencing the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation always releases the burden of years of guilt and pain.   Many of us, because of the fear of confession due to our pride, carry these fears in our hearts, the fear of coming before God because of our sins; and the fear of man because of shame.  In the Magnificat Mary warns us that God will bring down the mighty from their thrones.  Unfortunately, many are not making use of this most beautiful Sacrament given by the Church.  We take note that the peace of Easter given to the apostles was followed by the power to forgive sins through the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (Jn 20:22f)  Having our sins forgiven is a necessary prerequisite to receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit, as the apostles remind us.

The second way to rediscover the presence of God is forgiveness of our enemies.  Many have no peace in their hearts because they refuse to let go of those people who have hurt them.  They keep the pain caused by betrayals or harsh words buried deep in their hearts.  They cannot let go of their resentment and anger against those who have humiliated them.  Without letting our enemies go, we remain prisoners of the past.  Hence, we cannot find peace.  Indeed, many are not free and have no deep joy in their hearts simply because they did not take heed of the words of St Paul, “Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them.”   We must be ready to let go of our hurts and bless our enemies if we are to overcome the hatred in our hearts.  Forgiveness will liberate us for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The lack of forgiveness hinders us from receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit because He is the Gift of God’s love in person.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit also comes to us through acts of kindness and genuine love.  St Paul says, “Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.”  That was what Mary did after the annunciation.  Immediately, filled with joy, she did not keep the joy within her.  Rather, she brought her joy to Elizabeth who was pregnant in her advanced age.   Her thoughtfulness came from the joy within her.  In sharing that joy, her joy doubled.  St Paul urges us also to identify with those who are in need and give them empathy and support, for by so doing, we share and partake in the joy of the Holy Spirit.  Again, St Paul exhorts us, “if any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.”  Through genuine hospitality and care, we bring the presence of God to others.

Fourthly, from Mary, we learn the importance of fraternal support from the community.  Encountering the love of God is always within and through the community.  That is why St Paul urges us to “Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other.”  Mary could have kept to herself, but upon knowing that her cousin needed help, she went out of the way to see her and stayed with her for three months.  Mary saw the need of community and that was why she was with the apostles in the Upper Room, giving them encouragement and strength when Jesus returned to the Father.  Many Catholics miss out on the presence of God because they do not have fellowship with their fellow Catholics. They are alone in their faith, without any support.  What they must do is to reach out and find a community to which they can belong, not just for social fellowship but one that can offer them spiritual support through prayer and sharing of the Word of God.

Fifthly, from Mary, we learn that the way to welcome the Holy Spirit is through expectant prayer.  That was what Mary did, together with the apostles. “All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.”  (Acts 1:14). In the Magnificat, she urges us to be receptive and docile to God through a spirit of poverty.  St Paul also urges us to pray often, especially in times of trial, for this is where we can experience the power of the Holy Spirit helping us.  Mary did not simply pray, but she prayed with faith.  This was what Elizabeth said of her.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”   So if we want to receive the Holy Spirit, we need to pray with faith and with fervor.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is seen in and through the mighty deeds of God.  With Mary and the psalmist, we must sing the Magnificat often in our lives.  In praising and glorifying God, we remember His presence in our lives.  The psalmist urges us to “Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples! Declare the greatness of his name.” Mary in the Magnificat spontaneously gave thanks to God. “All generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.” In rendering thanks to God and thanksgiving, we recount His goodness and mercy.  By so doing, we will not forget the presence and love of God in our lives.  When our prayers are only petitions, they become weak as they are based only on hope; whereas in thanksgiving, our prayers are more certain as our hope is based on the past actions of God.  It is our hope that through our service to others, we can bring the love of God to them.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Magnificat
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My soul doth magnify: the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced: in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the humility of his handmaid: for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things unto me: and holy is his name.
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And his mercy is from generation to generation: unto them that fear Him. He hath shewed strength with his arm: He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich He hath sent empty away.
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He hath upholden his servant Israel: being mindful of his mercy. As He spake unto our fathers: to Abraham and his seed for ever. Glory be to the Father, etc.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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14 AUGUST 2016, Sunday, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary*
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ASSUMPTION CELEBRATES THE GRACE OF CERTAIN VICTORY

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

[  REV 11:19; 12:1-6.10; 1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-26; LUKE 1:39-56 ]

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Life on this earth is always a battle between good and evil as we read in the first reading. In the book of Revelation, we read how the Church, represented by the woman, was harassed by the Evil One, represented by the huge red dragon.  This woman of course also represents Mary, the Mother of the Church.  The reality is that all of us are fighting against evil all the time.  Day in and day out, we are being challenged to remain faithful to the gospel values.  At times, we are able to overcome the temptations of the Evil One.  But there are also many times when we succumb to his temptations. The more we try to be faithful to the gospel, the more we fall.  This can be rather trying and disappointing, especially when we have just gone for a good confession.  Indeed, the Devil wants us to give up trying to be good and holy. He wants us to feel discouraged and condemn ourselves as hopeless recalcitrants.

When we feel defeated and want to give up fighting against evil, we can take courage on this solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The promise of final victory over the Evil One is most consoling.  We read in the first reading, “The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron scepter, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne.  Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God and all authority for his Christ.”  Jesus Christ truly has won victory for us and He has conquered the Evil One.  So we need not feel that we have lost the battle against the Devil. Rather, our faith remains in Christ who has won that victory for us.

This certain victory has been claimed for Mary, for we read that “the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready.”  This is what the Assumption is celebrating; that Mary has now shared in the glorification of our Lord.  She was given the special privilege of sharing the fullness of resurrection that has already been anticipated in Christ.  She is now in heaven waiting for the rest of the Church, the Body of Christ to join her.  While she remains there, she is also interceding for the Church so that the full body of Christ can be complete.   The assumption of Mary therefore is meant to be a source of hope for the Church, that where she is, we will be there too; and that we too will share in the glorification of the body when we die.

Our destiny after death is clear.  Unlike many in the world who fear death because it is seen as annihilation, we need not fear death because death has been overcome forever in the resurrection of Christ.  St Paul says that Christ “must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.”  Death, which is the cause of every sin on this earth and gives rise to selfishness and self-preservation, having been conquered once and for all by Christ dying to death and rising again, gives us confidence not to fear death as well.  We now know for certain that death is not the final word, or hatred and selfishness brought upon by death.  Love conquers death because love is stronger even than death.  Even after death, when we love someone, love lives on.  Nothing can overcome the power of love in terms of passion and in terms of time.  It is God’s love for us in Christ that overcomes death forever.

Mary’s assumption is the guarantee of our sharing in the resurrection.  Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, and Mary’s assumption of body and soul into heaven, we know where we will also be after death.  St Paul makes it clear that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is “the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.”

So this feast of Mary’s assumption is an important celebration to remind us that we should not subscribe to the materialistic world view that like the rest of the creatures on earth, when we die, we will be reduced to nothing or that we would be left with only an immortal soul.  Rather, Christian faith affirms the value of the body and hence the glorification of the body after death.  As human beings, we are constituted of body and soul; and whilst separated temporally at death, our body and soul will be reunited on the last day.

Accordingly, when we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, we need also to share with her the life she lived in Christ if we are to share in the resurrection as well.  If Mary was granted that privilege of sharing the resurrection of Christ before us, it was because she was sinless and intimately shared in the suffering of Christ on the cross. Mary was associated with Jesus in His redemptive work right from the beginning of her fiat to God’s will and throughout her life until the death of Christ on the cross, where she surrendered her only Son to the Father.  Beyond His death, Mary, given to the Church as the Mother when Christ was glorified at His death, played the role of giving encouragement to the primitive Church at prayer, interceding for her.

Concretely this means being receptive to grace, like Mary, all the time.  Salvation is not the work of man but principally the work of God.  That is why the Assumption of Mary is called a privilege, not a merit that Mary gained for her work.  It is purely a gift from God on account of God’s generosity.  The Church perceived it as fitting for her to be glorified based on tradition and scripture.  This was what Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”  Her blessedness is purely due to God’s mercy and grace.

Mary is called ‘full of grace’ because God has not only bestowed upon her grace, but she has always been receptive to grace all her life.  In truth, God too has given us His grace but we are not always that responsive.  When we fail to be docile and receptive to His grace, this is where we fail and fall.  If we lack docility to His grace, it is because, unlike Mary, we are proud and arrogant.  This is what Mary again said, “He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.”  Humility is the way to obtain the grace of God to live a holy and blessed life.  Pride has been the downfall of the Devil and so is ours.  Many of us rebel against God, thinking we know everything instead of obeying His divine will for us.

So today, let is in faith cling to God’s promise given to Mary, realized in her and also given to us.  We need to be like Mary – carry Jesus in our hearts as she did in both her womb and her heart.  Like Mary, we are called to never doubt in God’s love and forgiveness but ”believe in the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”   Indeed, during this year of mercy, “He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

*Traditionally the Assumption of the B.V.M is celebrated on 15 August. By decree of The Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei this solemnity is being celebrated on Sunday, 14 August this year.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, April 10, 2017 — “The coastlands will wait for his teaching.”

April 9, 2017

Image may contain: cloud, sky, ocean, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

Serenity by Natt Mus

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Monday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 257

Reading 1  IS 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
When evildoers come at me
to devour my flesh,
My foes and my enemies
themselves stumble and fall.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel

Hail to you, our King;
you alone are compassionate with our faults.

Gospel JN 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.

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Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

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Image result for she washed his feet and dried them with her hair , art

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE COST OF LOVE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 42:1-7; JN 12:1-11]

Why wasn’t this ointment sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor?”  That seems to be a reasonable and logical criticism of what Mary did when she “brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus.”  How many of us would agree with Judas that it was a waste of money?  Furthermore, when you think of the many poor and suffering people in the world, it would seem that Mary had committed a great sin of wastefulness.  If we go by this reasoning, then perhaps, all the Churches’ treasures should be sold and given to the poor.  All the expensive and fine vestments, sacred vessels, including the chalice, should be made of wood or metal.  Then all churches should be built with the basic practical needs, without any frills or concern for aesthetics.  Then again, if the Lord were to dwell in such a temple, so too, all our homes must be stripped of all unnecessary items.  And we should save the money spent on expensive wedding gowns, which are used once only and then set aside, and not hold any grand dinners too because most of the time, much food is thrown away, especially at buffets! Such reasoning can go on and on.  We will have divided opinions and never come to any consensus.

What was the response of Jesus?  “Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.”  Indeed, we are all obliged to help the poor and the suffering.  But we need to see things in perspective.  Some things cannot be measured by money and time. Actions of love cannot be quantified or calculated like a mathematical problem.  True love does not count the cost because it is not logical.  Daily life examples should convince us. There are many mothers who are professionals and busy career women. Yet they would wake up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for their children rather than let the domestic helper do it.  Why?  Because they love their children and want them to have a proper breakfast and also to pack for them a healthy and sumptuous lunch.  For the same reason, they would rush home from work to pick up their children or chauffeur them to school and for their activities.  Some of them are old enough to take public transport on their own.  Yet they do it because they love their children and cannot bear to see them suffer the inconvenience.  Logically, it is also economical for them to go home on their own than to waste the precious time of their parents.  Furthermore, it is good for discipline and formation as well, lest they become too demanding and take their comforts for granted.

The truth is that when we love, we do not act rationally but we allow the heart to express itself spontaneously.  We do not really think of the trouble and inconvenience when we reach out to someone we love.  The immediate and spontaneous response is to make our beloved feel loved and comfortable.  We do not count the cost because the heart only knows that love is all that matters.  We are always lavish and generous with people we love.  We cannot say ‘No’ to our loved ones even though we know at times that it is not good to pamper them.  But love is such.

Conversely, if we act and think like Judas, it is because we are not sincere in love.  Judas had no real love for Jesus.  He was more concerned about his interest than that of Jesus’, and lesser still for the poor. The evangelist commented, “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions.” Clearly, such objections do not hold water for those who harbor selfish motives.  We must therefore ask ourselves when speaking against such extravagance; whether it is because our pockets are hurt. Of course, not all are motivated by selfishness when they speak out against such apparent extravagance.

When we take a logical and financial stance, it is more likely because we are detached from the person concerned.  In other words, when we have no personal relationship, that person becomes just a case, and we use pure objectivity in assessing our response to the needs of the person.  In public decisions affecting the interests of everyone, as in an organization or society, we need to be transparent, objective and impartial in making decisions, without fear or favor.  This is to ensure that justice and fair play prevail.  We cannot allow our emotional ties or vested interests to influence us in the way we make decisions.  When we are not emotionally related to a person, we can of course think and act logically.

But when we are speaking about love and relationship, it is a different ball game.  Does a judge in the court behave like a judge at home, analyzing the needs of the family according to pure logic alone?  Does not a judge also have compassion for his or her son even if he commits a crime?  Surely, he or she will get the best lawyer to defend him.  This is not to say that he or she will hide the guilt, but he or she will find the best defence so that the son would not be punished too harshly. So often, we have those in authority protecting their loved ones by covering up for their mistakes.

So with our loved ones, we use the heart rather than the head.  This is inevitable!  Isn’t that the way God acts?  Because He loves us, His way of rendering justice to sinners and evil people is to forgive us and to save us; not to punish us!   As our loving Father, He has no heart to punish us because it grieves Him as much to see us suffer.  When God saw the world in sin, during the time of Noah, He grieved.  “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”  (Gn 6:5f)

So like God, we love and care for our loved ones in this manner.  Whether your darling is your spouse, friend or even a dog or cat, you act in the same manner.  When your dog is old and sickly, why do you spend so much money bringing it to the vet?  Isn’t it better to let the dog die and get a new one, which is much cheaper?  But you cannot buy emotional ties and happy memories.   You cannot buy love and affection.  There is no price for that!  This explains why animal lovers would do anything for stray animals, cats, dogs, birds, etc.  They would tend to them especially when they are sick or wounded and feed them when they are hungry.  They feel for and with the hurting and hungry animals.  When we see them scavanging for food, we feel sorry for them.

So the reality is that we do not feel for what we do not see.  If we do not see something with our own eyes, we are not emotionally moved.  When we do not see them hungry and without shelter, we think such stray animals are a nuisance.  St Teresa of Calcutta started to reach out to the poorest of the poor only because she came into contact with the suffering in India.  To see them suffering grieved her heart like God who grieves for us.  When you see someone on the road, thin to the bones, won’t you be moved by the sufferings of your fellowman?  Unless you have hardened your heart like Judas, you will stretch out to help.  The priests had no compassion for Lazarus and even wanted to kill him because “it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.” What if Lazarus was one of their children, or their loved one? Would they see Jesus differently?  Of course!  They would be grateful to Jesus.  But because of selfish interests, they saw Jesus and even Lazarus as a threat to their status quo and greed.

Jesus is our exemplar in love.  He is the model of the suffering servant, giving without reservation, as expressed in the first reading. He was endowed with the Spirit of God to bring justice, hope, healing, enlightenment and freedom to the poor, the discouraged, the sick, the prisoners and those who live in darkness.  We too must follow Jesus in the way of love.  Let us use our heart to love and not our head so that we can feel the heart of God.

In the final analysis, to love the way Jesus loved, and how God loves us, we need His Spirit to “bring true justice to the nations.”  The strength and capacity of His love came from His Father.  He was full of compassion even towards His enemies.  His sense of justice and passion for His mission came from the Father’s love in Him.  He lived and died for His Father. Even when persecuted, condemned and crucified, He never failed to cling to His Father; “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink? I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.  Hope in the Lord!”  Both Father and Son, because of their deep love for us, emptied themselves of each other for the sake of us all so that we will never doubt their unconditional and total love for us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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Bible; Jesus Christ; Revealing Himself; Resurrection; Mary Magdalene Painting - Jesus Revealing Himself To Mary Magdalene by William Brassey Hole
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Commentary on John 12:1-11 from Living Space

Today’s Gospel serves as a lovely prelude to the Passion of Jesus.

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Jesus is back in the house of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, recently brought back from the dead. Perhaps these are his last moments of companionship before the horrors that are to come. True to character, Martha is the active hostess. Mary, the contemplative, brings in a jar of an expensive perfumed unguent and pours it all over the feet of Jesus, filling the house with its fragrance. It is a sign of great love and echoes what the “sinful” woman in Luke’s gospel also did.

.This account is probably the same as that described in Mark 14:3-9 and Matthew 26:6-13 but is distinct from the story of the woman in Luke 7:36-50.

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While the “Beloved Disciple” is a nameless character in John’s gospel, he can be matched by this beloved disciple.

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Judas, the spiritually blind materialist, only sees what he regards as terrible waste. Hypocritically he suggests the money would have been better spent helping the poor. John suggests Judas was more interested in getting the money for himself than sharing it with those in need.

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Jesus sees an altogether different meaning in Mary’s action. He sees the tremendous love behind the action and interprets it as a symbolical anointing for his burial. Dying as a common criminal, Jesus would normally not have been anointed. (And, in fact, he was not anointed after his burial; when the women went to do the act on Sunday morning, Jesus was already risen.)

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“You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.” This is not to be understood any cynical way. The poor cannot be truly loved except in God and in Jesus.

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“As often as you do it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” Only those who truly love God (whatever name they call him) are able truly to love the poor and all those in need. And vice versa. Also, in Jewish tradition there was disagreement as to whether giving alms to the poor or burying the dead (which would include anointing) was the greater act of mercy. Those in favour of burial thought it an essential condition for sharing in the final resurrection.

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Finally, we are told Lazarus’ own life is in danger as well as Jesus’. Lazarus is seen as the living sign of Jesus’ divine power and so they both must be wiped out. Many of the Church’s martyrs died for the same reason. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’, witnessing to the truth, love and power of Christ.

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Am I willing to be a martyr-witness for Christ, to stand beside him on the cross as he is mocked and insulted? This is the week for me to find the answer to that question.

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Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1062g/

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to proceed into the Holy Week, and in a few days’ time we shall be commemorating the three days of Easter Triduum, the heart of our faith, when we commemorate the time when our Lord instituted the Eucharist, and giving up His Body and Blood, He suffered and died for us, so that by His resurrection from the dead, He gave us a new life and a new hope that sin and death can be overcome.

Today we heard the hypocrisy of Judas, who criticised Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who had poured a whole jar of very expensive perfume made of pure spikenard on the feet of Jesus and wiped it dry with her hair. In another account, the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume also anointed His head with the same perfume, and she was criticised all the same.

As mentioned, Judas did not do so because he cared for the poor in any way, and he did it because he was a thief and a cheater, who stole the money from the common fund of the Apostles, which was meant for the poor and the needy. Thus, he spoke a lie and brought about calumny and injustice to another. His inability to resist the temptation of money, desire and the impurities in his heart led him to do what he had done, that is to betray his own Lord and Master, for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

Just for your knowledge, that when Joseph, the son of Jacob was sold by his brothers out of jealousy into slavery, he was priced at about the same price. And at that price, they were valued at even lower than animals. A good quality animal would have fetched far higher prices than those which Judas received for betraying his Lord and which the brothers sold Joseph with.

Thus we value so low the Lord who had loved us all completely and sincerely with all of His heart, we looked down on He who was tortured, mocked and rejected for our sake, who died for us on the cross, so that we might be saved. We did not appreciate the things which He had done for us, and all the hard works which He had undertaken for our own good.

We are often tempted and our minds and hearts clouded with worldly things such as greed, pride, pleasures of the flesh and many others. The Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests were all infected with the disease of greed and jealousy, as well as fear and insecurity. They were all concerned only with preserving themselves and their own livelihoods. This is why, even though they were supposed to be the ones with wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures, they refused to believe in Jesus and instead trying to undermine His works by plotting against Lazarus whom Jesus had resurrected from the dead.

They were manipulated by the wickedness and malice that Satan had planted in their hearts, which also exist in all of us. They were afraid of losing their position of honour and the respect which they have been accorded with by the society. They did not want to take a risk with the Romans, whom they were afraid that they would destroy all of their livelihood. And similarly with Judas, Satan manipulated his greed and desire for money, and in the end they destroyed and condemned only themselves.

It is a lesson for all of us that we cannot be hypocrites in our faith. Instead, we truly have to live out our faith, through our own actions. And we cannot be divided in our faith, just as we cannot have two masters. We cannot both serve God and worldly things, and as Jesus mentioned, that we will either despise one and love the other or we will not be sincere in our faith as a whole.

Therefore, let us all reflect on this occasion, and take steps to change our lives for the better. We can make a difference by committing ourselves more and more to the cause of the Lord. Now the choice is in our hands to make that difference. Let us therefore emerge from this Lenten observation, a better, more dedicated and more faithful servant of God. God bless us all. Amen.

Source http://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/03/30/monday-30-march-2015-monday-of-the-holy-week-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• We have entered into Holy Week, the week of the Passover of Jesus, of his passing from this world to the Father (Jn 13, 1). Liturgy today places before us the beginning of chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, which serves as a link between the Book of the Signs (cc 1-11) and the Book of the Glorification (cc 13-21). At the end of the “Book of Signs” there appears, very clearly the tension between Jesus and the religious authority of the time (Jn 10, 19-21.39) and the danger which Jesus was facing. Several times they had tried to kill him (Jn 10, 31; 11, 8. 53; 12, 10).
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So much it was like this that Jesus was obliged to lead a clandestine life, because he could be arrested at any moment (Jn 10, 40; 11, 54).
• John 12, 1-2: Jesus persecuted by the Jews, goes to Bethany. Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany to the house of his friends Martha and Mary and of Lazarus. Bethany means, House of Poverty. The police was looking for him (Jn 11, 57). They wanted to kill him (Jn 11, 50). But even now that the police was looking for Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus received him in their house and offered him something to eat. Because love overcomes fear.
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• John 12, 3: Mary anoints Jesus. During the meal, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a pound of perfume of pure spikenard (cf. Lk 7, 36-50). It was a very costly perfume, so very expensive that it cost three hundred denarii. Then she dried his feet with her hair. The whole house was filled with the scent of the ointment. Mary does not speak during this whole episode. She only acts. The gesture filled with symbolism speaks for itself. In washing the feet, Mary becomes a servant. Jesus will repeat the gesture at the Last Supper (Jn 13, 5).
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• John 12, 4-6: Reaction of Judas. Judas criticizes the gesture of Mary. He thinks that it is a waste. In fact, three hundred denarii were the wages of three hundred days! The wages of almost a whole year spent in one time alone! Judas thinks that the money should have been given to the poor. The Evangelist comments and says that Judas had no concern at all for the poor, but that he was a thief. They had a common fund and he stole the money. A strong judgment which condemns Judas.
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It does not condemn the concern for the poor, but the hypocrisy which uses the poor for self promotion and to enrich oneself. Judas, in his own egoistic interests, thought only about money. This is why he was not aware of what Mary kept in her heart. Jesus reads in the heart and defends Mary.
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• John 12, 7-8: Jesus defends the woman, Judas thinks only of the waste and criticizes the woman. Jesus thinks of the gesture and defends the woman: “Leave her alone; so that she can keep it for the day of my burial!” And immediately Jesus says: “You have the poor with you always; you will not always have me!” Which of the two lived closer to Jesus: Judas or Mary? Judas, the disciple, lived together with Jesus for almost three years, twenty-four hours a day. He was part of the group.
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Mary saw him once or twice a year, on the occasion of some feast, when Jesus went to Jerusalem and visited her in her house. But to live together with, not having any love does not help us to know others. Rather it blinds people. Judas was blind. Many people live together with Jesus and praise him even with many hymns, but do not truly know him and do not reveal him (cf. Mt 7, 21). Two affirmations of Jesus merit a more detailed comment: (a) “You have the poor with you always” and (b) let her keep it for the day of my burial”.
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(a) “You have the poor with you always “. Is it perhaps that Jesus wants to say that we should not be concerned about the poor, given the fact that there will always be poor? Or does he want to say that poverty is the destiny imposed by God? How is this phrase to be understood? At that time, persons knew the Old Testament by heart. It sufficed for Jesus to begin quoting a phrase of the Old Testament and persons already knew the rest.
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The beginning of the phrase said: “There will never cease to be poor people in the country” (Dt 15, 11ª). The rest of the phrase which people already knew and which Jesus wants to remind is the following: “And this is why I am giving you this command: always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your country who is in need and is poor!” (Dt 15, 11b).
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According to this Law, the community should accept the poor and share its goods with them. But, Judas instead of “opening his hand to help the poor” and to share his goods with them, wanted to do charity with the money of others! He wanted to sell the perfume of Mary for three hundred denarii and use it to help the poor. Jesus quotes the Law of God which taught the contrary. Anyone who, like Judas, carries out a campaign with the money of the sale of the goods of other does not disturb or trouble. But, the one who, like Jesus, insists on the obligation to accept the poor and to share with them one’s own goods, this one disturbs, troubles and runs the risk of being condemned.
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(b) John 12, 9-11: The crowds and the authority. To be the friend of Jesus could be dangerous. Lazarus is in danger of death because of the new life received from Jesus. The Jews had decided to kill him. Lazarus alive was a living proof that Jesus was the Messiah. This is why the crowd was looking for him, because people wanted to experience closely the living proof of the power of Jesus. A living community runs the risk of its life because it is the living proof of the Good News of God!
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Personal questions
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• Mary was misinterpreted by Judas. Have you been misinterpreted sometimes?
• What does this text of Mary teach us? What does the reaction of Judas say to us?
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Concluding Prayer
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Yahweh is my light and my salvation,
whom should I fear?
Yahweh is the fortress of my life,
whom should I dread? (Ps 27,1)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 MARCH 2016, Monday of Holy Week
ENTERING INTO THE PASSION OF OUR LORD THROUGH UNDERSTANDING AND LOVE IN ACTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 42:1-7; JN 12:1-11 ]

As we enter into Holy Week, the Church invites us to contemplate more deeply on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For this reason, Holy Week begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to face His death.  At the same time, the reading of the passion prepares us for what is ahead for Christ.  It therefore calls for a deeper reflection of His passion for us.   How can this be done?

Firstly, we must deepen our understanding of His passion through knowledge.  In the first reading, we are told that Jesus, who is the suffering servant, brings justice to the nations by gently inviting us to reflect on our own lives.  As the light of the nations, “he does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.”

But more importantly, the understanding of His passion cannot stop at mere intellectual appreciation.   We must feel with Jesus in our hearts, for that is what common passion is all about.  Instead of words alone, Jesus acted decisively through deeds of love and works of wonders, for as God said, “I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.”  Indeed, Jesus was able to show that God is our light and our salvation not only through His words, but also by His actions and miracles.  And as the psalmist wonderfully declared, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies themselves stumble and fall. Though an army encamps against me, my heart will not fear; though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust.”

This is what Mary in the gospel teaches us as well.  She loved Jesus so passionately that she even anointed His feet with expensive ointment and wiped them with her hair shamelessly.  Mary understood the true meaning of hospitality and making space for God in prayer.  In the earlier episode when Jesus visited her, she gave full attention to Jesus by listening to Him instead of being distracted by doing things for Him.  On this occasion she knew, unlike her elder sister, that faith and love in action was also necessary.  She anointed the body of Jesus for burial, and most of all, worshipped Him as the Christ by washing His feet and wiping them with her hair.  Not only did she love Jesus, but she also recognized Him and worshipped Him.

Of course, Judas could not understand because his love for Jesus was not from the heart but from the head.  Indeed, without love, we tend to think and reason only from the head.  Logically, what Judas said about saving the money for the poor was not wrong.  Yet, love goes beyond mere logic alone.   Jesus understood this truth when He said, “’Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’”   So too the Jewish leaders as well!  They were too full of hatred and jealousy to see the good works that Jesus did.  Ironically, the evangelist says that “the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.”

When we love someone we do not think in terms of logic, and definitely not in terms of money.  Love does not count the cost.  That is why parents would do anything for their children, even if they have to sell their assets or borrow money for their sake.   When we love, we will do anything and everything within our capacity for our loved ones.  When love is lacking, then we tend to act on the rational level and become calculative.  True love is never calculative.

Today, let us follow  Mary and Martha in preparing for the passion of Christ.  Let us wait on Jesus as Martha did, in serving Him through good works and sacrifices.  But more importantly, let us follow the path of Mary who shared the passion of Jesus by being one with Him in His moment of anxiety and aloneness in His sufferings.  Through our common passion with Jesus in prayer and in love, we will be able to appreciate His love for us even more.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 20, 2017 — Saint Joseph Shows Us How To Be Father, Husband, Worker

March 19, 2017

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 543

On The Road to Bethlehem by Joseph Brickey

Reading 1  2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16

The LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David,
‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.'”

Responsorial Psalm PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 AND 29

R. (37) The son of David will live for ever.
The promises 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. The son of David will live for ever.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.

Reading 2 ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22

Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.
That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.

Verse Before The Gospel PS 84:5

Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord;
they never cease to praise you.

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Joseph, Mary and Jesus — “Flight into Egypt”

Gospel MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

Or LK 2:41-51A

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them.

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We must remember that Jesus knew in detail the whole course his earthly life would take from his conception onwards (cf. note on Lk 2:52). This is shown by what he says in reply to his parents. Mary and Joseph realized that his reply contained a deeper meaning which they did not grasp. They grew to understand it as the life of their Child unfolded. Mary’s and Joseph’s faith and their reverencetowards the Child led them not to ask any further questions but to reflect on Jesus’ words and behavior in this instance, as they had done so on other occasions.

The Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in just three words: “erat subditus illis”, he was obedient to them. “Jesus obeys, and he obeys Joseph and Mary. God has come to the world to obey, and to obey creatures. Admittedly they were very perfect creatures — Holy Mary, our mother, greater than whom God alone; and that most chaste man Joseph. But they are only creatures, and yet Jesus, who is God, obeyed them. We have to love God so as to love his will and desire to respond to his calls. They come to us through the duties of our ordinary life — duties of state, profession, work, family, social life, our own and other people’s difficulties, friendship, eagerness to do what is right and just” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 17).

Jesus lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working at the same trade as St Joseph and earning his living by the sweat of his brow. “His hidden years are not without significance, nor were they simply a preparation for the years which were to come after–those of his public life. Since 1928 I have understood clearly that God wants our Lord’s whole life to be an example for Christians. I saw this with special reference to his hidden life, the years he spent working side by side with ordinary men. Our Lord wants many people to ratify their vocation during years of quiet, unspectacular living. Obeying God’s will always means leaving our selfishness behind, but there is no reason why it should entail cutting ourselves off from the normal life of ordinary people who share the same status, work and social position with us.

“I dream–and the dream has come true–of multitudes of God’s children, sanctifying themselves as ordinary citizens, sharing the ambitions and endeavors of their colleagues and friends. I want to shout to them about this divine truth: If you are there in the middle of ordinary life, it doesn’t mean Christ has forgotten about you or hasn’t called you. He has invited you to stay among the activities and concerns of the world. He wants you to know that your human vocation, your professsion, your talents, are not omitted from his divine plans. He has sanctified them and made them a most acceptable offering to his Father” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 20).

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Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”.  Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

See also:

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Author Devin Schadt wrote “Joseph’s Way — The Calling To Fatherly Greatness” to help all men with relationships, parenting and living as a Christian husband.

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Devin Schadt talks to us about how we can translate The Word — and the lessons of Jesus and the saints —  into the best kind of a Christian life; especially for fathers.
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Today’s scripture readings reminded me of this passage in Schadt’s book, “Joseph’s Way” — “Both Adam and the New Adam establish the pace for the dynamism of love, or absence thereof. The former established the paradigm of neglect, selfishness and lust while the latter set the paradigm of responsibility, of self giving, of complete self-donation.”
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How do we, each of us, become the rock? How do we keep the keys to heaven? (Matthew 16:18-19). How do we become “the cornerstone” even if we were once sinful and felt rejected? (Psalm 118:22). How do we “pour ourselves out” (Isaiah 58:10) and become people of self-donation?
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Over and over again, Christ urges us to “go the extra mile,” (Matthew 5:41) and He tells us that through faith and prayer, He will always meet our needs — giving us what we need when we need it to complete our mission for Him.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Related:

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From 2016:

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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FAITH IN THE UNFOLDING OF gOD’S PLAN IN OUR LIVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 7:4-5;12-14,16; ROM 4:13;16-18,22; MT 1:16,18-21,24 OR LK 2:41-51]

Many of us live in anxiety and fear of tomorrow.  We worry about our job, our health and our loved ones.  We worry about the education of our children, whether they will do well in their studies.  We are always worried that we do not have enough money to sustain us and our loved ones.  Such fears and concerns are normal and understandable.  But when we look at our life many years down the road, we would come to realize that most of these fears are quite unnecessary. In fact, our health would have been better, our lives more joyful and happier had we not been so anxious. Anxiety causes us to have high blood pressure and hypertension, and sometimes insomnia.  Worse still, it leads us to vices, like gambling, cheating and drinking.

This is because we trust only in ourselves.  Weaklings as we are, our lives are always fragile.  We cannot guarantee or predict what will happen tomorrow.  We are not in full control of our lives.  But we want to be in charge.  We do not want to live in faith.  Because we take things into our own hands instead of relying on God’s grace, we often end up messing the plans of God as Abraham did when he was impatient waiting for the promised son.  He did not live by faith and took Hagar a slave to conceive a son for him.  This lack of trust in God’s plan caused more problems for humanity later.  This is also true for ourselves.

What we need is to have faith in God’s fidelity to us. All the three readings unveil to us the marvellous and irrevocable plan of God. No matter what we human beings do to contradict the plan of God, His plan would unfold all the same.  God is faithful to His promises.  This is the centrality of today’s scripture readings so beautifully expressed by the psalmist.  “I will sing forever of your love, O Lord; through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.  Of this I am sure, that your love lasts forever, that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I will establish your dynasty forever and set up your throne through all ages.”

We see first and foremost God’s fidelity to Abraham when He called him to move out of his comfort zone of Ur, the land of the Chaldeans, and to journey to an unknown land that God would show Him. There was no guarantee but it was just a promise that he would be “the father of many nations” and “his descendants will be as many as the stars.”  Based on that promise, he set out to a foreign land fraught with dangers from weather and enemies. Certainly, Abraham would have wondered many times when the promise of God would be fulfilled.  In truth, he did not see it in his life time completely, except for the birth of Isaac. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised.”  On hindsight, we see that God fulfilled His promises beyond our imagination.  He is the Father of faith and hence of many generations.  Through him, the great religions were born, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  We are all his children in faith.

In the first reading, we see the promise of a nation fulfilled. Then the Davidic dynasty was established.  Under the reign of King David, the nation flourished. All the Twelve tribes were united under one Israel.  But God went further in promising King David that his kingdom would last forever.  Through the prophet Nathan, God said, “I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established forever.”

When David heard these words, we can be sure that he did not fully grasp the meaning.  At most, he would have thought that his son and descendants would continue to perpetuate the dynasty he had started.  Even that is not realistic.  Did he really believe that his kingdom will last forever when history has shown that kingdoms rise and fall regardless how powerful and great they are?  Even great powers like Assyria, Babylon and Persia; Greece and Rome in the ancient days had fallen.  In our times, countries like Spain, Portugal and Britain were once powerful countries, but their influence is much less today.  All earthly kingdoms have come and gone.

Yet, we see once again the fidelity of God to His plan for humanity. God is faithful to His promises. What we cannot conceive, God could do. God had planned that His Son would come from the line of David and establish forever the sovereignty of God.  From hindsight, the prophecy of Nathan now makes sense, when God said to David, “It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure forever. I will be a father to him and he a son to me.”  Although it was true that the king in the Old Testament was considered a son of God, yet the full understanding of the Fatherhood of God is realized only with the birth of Christ, His son. When Christ was on earth, His message was simply the kingdom of God.  Christ, by His death and resurrection, established the kingdom of the Father forever and ever.

What does it mean for us when we celebrate the feast of St Joseph? We must imitate him in his receptivity to the plan of God. The idea of him being a foster father was never in the mind of Joseph. All he wanted was a normal family.  He was certainly like the rest of us.  But God had other plans for him.  God said to him, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.”  When God revealed His plan to Joseph, he could have revolted or insisted on going his own way.  He could have said, “No, I want to have a normal married life.” But he was receptive and obedient to God’s will.

How many of us are receptive to the unexpected changes in our life and adapt accordingly?  Many of us are afraid of change.  We want the comfortable and secure life we are used to having.  Whether at work, at home or in church, we resist change. We want to do things the same old ways but at the same time, we give lip service to progress. When called upon the Lord to undertake certain tasks and responsibilities, we shy away because it means changing the routine and status quo.  How many of us would be like Joseph, who upon hearing the voice of God,  woke up and took the risk of accepting Mary to be his wife?   Many of us do not live a fruitful and meaningful life because we are like a frog that will not come out of our well.  We must learn to adapt and take risks in responding to the call of God and the unimaginable will happen.

Secondly, we are called to imitate the faith of Joseph in cooperating with God’s plan.  “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.”. We can be sure that he could not understand how Mary could conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It seemed too farfetched.  He would also have wondered what all these would entail.  But he trusted in the Lord. He believed that God would be faithful to His promise.  This is the same faith of Abraham.  We might never know exactly how the plan of God would evolve.  What is important is that like Joseph, our task is to cooperate with the plan of God.  We need to walk by faith, not by sight. God in His own time will bring about the maturity of His plan for us.  This was the case of Abraham as St Paul wrote, “I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.”   We must do all we can whilst leaving God to determine how events will unfold.  Faith does not mean doing nothing; it requires us to cooperate with Him.

Thirdly, having faith in God means to live in hope. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him’.”   Without hope, we will give up.  But hope must be sustained by faith.  If we continue to live on in spite of the trials and difficulties facing us, it is because we have hope that we will be able to overcome them.

Conversely, only faith can help us to persevere in hope. This is what St Paul tells us. “The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith.” Truly, “what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the Father of all of us.” In this way, the promise of God to unfold His plans in our lives will also be realized in any one of us who has faith like our forefathers. Let us therefore walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

So today, as we celebrate the feast of St Joseph, let us in faith walk confidently in the ways of the Lord.  Let us not be too worried about the future.  We too pray with the psalmist, “You are my father, my God, the rock who saves me.”  And God assures us, “I will keep my love for him always; with him my covenant shall last.”  He is reliable and although things may not work out the way we think, we can be sure that it will work out in ways beyond our imagination.  With St Paul we say, “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)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From 2016:

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 MARCH 2016, Saturday, St Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M.
ST JOSEPH PATRON OF HOLY WORKS OF MERCY AND SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2SAM 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; PS 88:2-5, 27,29; ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22; MATT 1:16, 18-21, 24 ]Today, we celebrate the solemnity of St Joseph, the spouse of our Blessed Mother Mary and the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It must not have been easy for Joseph to assume this role.  St Joseph was a common man who desired what everyone hopes for in life.   He was an ordinary carpenter and he hoped to settle down and raise a family.  Everything seemed to be going well with St Joseph as Mary was betrothed to him in marriage. He must have thought that his life and future were all cut out for him.   Mary certainly must have been known to him and his relatives as a decent God-fearing girl. He would have looked forward to the day of his marriage. Yet, the truth is that man proposes, God disposes.  Our plans are not always His plans.  God had chosen Mary to be the mother of the Saviour and she would conceive Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was told to Mary by the angel Gabriel.If we were Joseph and were told that our future wife is pregnant in the power of the Holy Spirit, how would we react and what would we do?  Would we believe her?  Would we think that she was either lying, gone berserk or even been unfaithful to us?  We would be totally lost and devastated at such news.   So we can imagine what St Joseph must have gone through when Mary broke the news to him.  It was too good to be true on one hand and too sad to be true on the other; but on both counts it went against logic.  No one would believe them, even if St Joseph were to give Mary the benefit of the doubt.   We can be sure that St Joseph went through days of torment and sleepless nights.  Utmost in the mind of St Joseph was how to explain this situation and secondarily how to protect Mary.

This predicament that St Joseph had to go through was not made easier because he was known to be a just man.  This is to say, he was God-fearing and law abiding.  He would not do anything against the Law of Moses.   He was obedient to the commandments.  He was a man of justice and of integrity.  He was known to be a diligent, hardworking and responsible worker.  So how could he be just and yet merciful to Mary?   This is the crux of today’s celebration when we contemplate on St Joseph as the patron of works of mercy and as spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

How can one be just and yet merciful?  Very often, justice and mercy seem to be in conflict.  Being merciful implies that we bend the laws whereas justice is based on rights and fairness, reward and punishment.   So there is always this tension within us of wanting to be just to all and yet at times compassion implies that we let an offender go free without being punished for the sufferings and wrongs he has caused to others. Truly, very often we are caught in such dilemma, more so when that person who commits an offence or sin is someone we know personally and love dearly.  On one hand, we are able to feel with that person and empathize with him or her.  On the other hand, justice must be done, especially in a case of a criminal offence.   Either way, we are paralyzed in our decision.  Either way, our heart will be broken.

How did St Joseph resolve this conundrum? The apparent conflict between justice and mercy can only be resolved by faith in God’s mercy and grace.  It is faith in the mercy and grace of God that saves us.  God saves us not because of our good works but because of His mercy.  Indeed, this is what the Church wants the world to know, that God is merciful and compassionate.  The jubilee year of mercy is to underscore the mercy of God and His forgiving love.  Whilst we must seek to be just, yet mercy is greater than justice, forgiveness better than revenge.  St Joseph in this sense was made to realize that we are justified by faith, not good works.  It is not good works or the law that saves us but the mercy of God.  Recognizing that God’s justice is His mercy, he was careful not to allow his fidelity to the laws to make him harsh.   Even though He initially thought that Mary could have been unfaithful, Joseph wanted to do what was just and yet merciful.  He did not take revenge, nor was he presumptuous in condemning Mary of a sin she did not commit and of which her pregnancy could not be explained.

This requires us to have faith in the transforming power of God’s grace.   Just as Mary accepted in faith the angel’s message, Joseph was asked to trust in God’s plan.  Although it was difficult to accept or to believe, he submitted to God’s plan in faith.  St Joseph was a man of deep faith.  He knew that God was faithful. Joseph knew from scripture that God is always with the just man.  He just knew that somehow God would come to his aid and see him through all his trials.  He also knew that God’s grace can transform sinners as well.  Hence, we must not give up on sinners.  There are no incorrigible sinners or hopeless people.   So when we have faith in His grace, we know He works both in just and unjust people.

This faith comes about through understanding in deep prayer and intimacy with God.  We know from scriptures that Joseph was a quiet man, but a man of deep faith and contemplation.  He was always attentive to the voice of God.  So God spoke to him in a dream and revealed to him His plan for our salvation.  Although his mind was made up, he was not wilful or too proud to listen.  So it was his contemplative spirit that enabled him to hear the Word of God so clearly that the gospel says, “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.

The ability to accept the will of God is aided by a better understanding of the fulfillment of God’s plan.  When St Joseph was informed by the angel in a dream of how the plan of God was being fulfilled, he understood and gave his full cooperation to the plan of God.   Understanding the beauty of God’s plan and His divine providence enabled him to surrender even when things were not clear to him.  God has a plan for sinners too.  He makes all things good if they cooperate with His grace.  In other words, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight.  This does not mean that we be rash in believing what people say.  Walking by faith means to walk in trust, but it also requires us to be responsible in clarifying and verifying whether the voice we hear is truly the Word of God and His will.  This was what Mary did when asked to be the mother of the Lord.  Unlike Zechariah, she was not lacking faith but she needed the angel to help her confirm the message she had heard.  So too, if we were to take the leap of faith, it would come through prayer and study in the process of discernment.

Today as we celebrate the Solemnity of St Joseph we are asked to imitate His example of justice in mercy. Being just itself is an act of mercy.  As Christians we need to observe the very basic foundation of mercy which is justice. We need to be fair to our workers and those under us.  We must ensure that they are reasonably paid and we must be compassionate to them in times of sickness and family problems. Justice and impartiality in our actions and treatment of our workers or family members is the most basic justice.  We must be careful not to pass judgement on people based on hearsay without verification or investigation.  This is where we as Church must avoid gossiping, slandering, and false accusations.

But we must also go beyond justice to compassion and forgiveness.  In the Church we are all sinners.  We must be ready to forgive and let go.  At times we do not understand, but like St Joseph, we must hand over judgment to God and not take it upon ourselves.  St Joseph could not explain the situation, but not for once did he judge Mary or make any accusation against her.  He just noted the fact that she was indeed pregnant, but as to who caused the pregnancy, he made no judgment.  All he wanted to do was to see how to resolve this matter without scandal and without causing hurt to anyone.  That is why when we speak of compassion, this does not mean that we are exempted from doing the right thing.  We do what is permitted within the laws and yet, at the same time, we must be careful not to judge the intentions of the heart.  We must leave judgment and vengeance to the Lord.   With Jesus, we say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they were doing.”

This presupposes we have contemplated on God’s mercy.  Unless we are first and foremost recipients of God’s mercy, we cannot show mercy to others.  His mercy is only given to those in need of His mercy.  Proud and self-righteous people do not need mercy because they trust only in themselves and their good works.   To be like St Joseph who is just and merciful, we must be aware of our sins and failures.   If there is a lack of contrition and self-awareness on our part, we will not be able to receive or be moved by His mercy.  Reflection on one’s misery and wretchedness should make us realize that we are not in a position to judge others because there is a plank in our eyes.  We should instead see our sins in our fellowmen so that their sins would evoke our gratitude for God’s mercy and sorrow for them instead of anger and condemnation.

But being sorry for our sins is not yet redemption as we will fall into despair like St Peter or, worse still, into scrupulosity.  Such fear of God will not make us holy but only robs the joy of the gospel from our lives.  If there is no joy in us we have nothing to share with others.  A further consideration of God’s patience and mercy for us is critical to transform us to be like St Joseph – just and yet not judgmental; kind and merciful towards others.  Only faith in His unconditional love and mercy can heal our wounds and assuage our fears.  Without experiencing mercy from God either for our sins or remembering those times when He came to our aid in hopeless and difficult situations, we will never be able to appreciate the power and mercy of God; and as a result lack power to proclaim and share His mercy with others.

Beyond forgiveness and compassion for the sins and weaknesses of our brothers and sisters, we mustalso reach out to those in need, in distress and in pain.  This is what we are invited to do today if we love St Joseph who is the protector of our Blessed Mother, defender of widows and orphans and the dying.  Like St Joseph, we must be ready to assist and to help the universal Church.  We are called to help the People of God and the world.  We must come to the aid of widows, orphans and those in trouble.  St Joseph could be all these to us only because he had gone through all these pains in his life and identified with those who were and had been in such situations.  We too can be like St Joseph, a man of mercy and compassion, provided we are also able to identify with the sufferings and pains of our fellowmen and most of all, with the heart of God.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 18, 2016 — The Dysfunctional Family Tree of Jesus — “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”

December 17, 2016

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 10

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and indoor

Angel Appears to Joseph in a Dream byAnton Raphael Mengs. c. 1773-1774 2

Reading 1 IS 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (7c and 10b) Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

Reading 2 ROM 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,
called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,
which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,
but established as Son of God in power
according to the Spirit of holiness
through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia MT 1:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel
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which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
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From The Abbot in the Desert
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Prophet Isaiah tells us:  “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.”  Lots of scholars disagree about the translation of the Hebrew into the Greek of the word which we translate “virgin.”  Really that is a misleading argument because it distracts us from the promise of salvation in the son who is proclaimed.  Yes, of course, we can also devalue that virgin birth if we do not accept the translation of the early Greek translators, but the first focus is on the son, who will be born and who will be named “Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”

In every age there are challenges to faith.  In many parts of the world today, there is an acceptance of Jesus, but often not as God or as God with us.  Instead our Lord and Master is seen as a good man, a strong spiritual teacher, but not as God.

Our readings today proclaim to us over and over:  the son who is to be born is “God with us.”  These are proclamations of salvation, God taking on our humanity so that we can be drawn into His divinity.

The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, gives us this prophecy, which is first proclaimed to Ahaz, but which was accepted by many in the Jewish tradition as a foretelling of the Messiah to come, who will save His people.  We Christians need to understand that many Jews, even today, believe that a Savior will come, a Messiah, but they also believe that Jesus was not the Savior or Messiah.  What is important for us is that the Jewish tradition, in great part, accepts the prophecy of a Messiah, a Savior.  We Christians believe that the prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus.

The second reading is from the letter to the Romans.  This passage today is surely chosen because of this:  “the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  This reading states clearly the humanity of Jesus, because He is descended from David according to the flesh.  Yet is also proclaims Jesus as Son of God, as true God, because of His resurrection from the dead.  The resurrection is always the point where the followers of Jesus finally believe completely that Jesus is Lord, Jesus is God, Jesus is Messiah and Savior.

Matthew’s Gospel today brings us back to the birth of the Savior.  Matthew states without any conditions that Jesus is born of Mary and that Mary became with child by of the Holy Spirit.  Joseph becomes convinced by a dream that what is happening is what is supposed to happen and so he does not divorce Mary quietly and put her away.  Instead, Joseph takes on the role of foster father of the Savior.

We can only imagine the feelings and thoughts of Mary and Joseph as they begin this journey with the child born of the Holy Spirit!  We can only imagine the challenges to the early followers of Jesus to accept something so out of the ordinary and almost unbelievable.

As we come to the final week of Advent, we are invited to meditate again on the mysteries and to deepen our faith that Jesus is Lord, God, Savior, Redeemer, Messiah and calls us all deep into the mysteries of God’s plans.  Let us follow the Lord in our lives and live as He invites us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 DECEMBER, 2016, 4th Sunday of Advent
PREACHING THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 7:10-14; ROMANS 1:1-7; MATTHEW 1:18-24   ]

As the feast of Christmas is just a few days away, the Church wants to prepare us for the real significance of this celebration.  The truth is that many, perhaps even Christians, do not even know what they are really celebrating.  Christmas for many is a nice, sentimental season where we can celebrate with our loved ones.   It is a time of festivity and a time to wind down, take a break from our work and business, as we wait for the New Year.

Whilst all these are not excluded in our Christmas celebration, we need to ask the cause of our joy and celebration.  What are we celebrating?  We are celebrating Jesus, truly God and truly man.  We are celebrating the Emmanuel, God with us, as the scripture readings proclaim today. God is not just with us in creation, in history, but He has become one with us in the flesh.

This is the Good News, St Paul said, “that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.” This is unimaginable and, for many, unbelievable!   Indeed, it even took time for Mary and Joseph to digest this fact.  St Joseph needed time for discernment and assurance from God.  That God chose to be one of us and with us in the flesh is beyond comprehension.  St Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said, “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”  (1 Cor 1:22-25)

So we should not be surprised how the world views the celebration of Christmas.  For most, they are just joining in the merry making, the cozy and romantic spirit and atmosphere, the fun and the merry making.  Others see it as an occasion to celebrate love and giving, especially to those who are poor and marginalized.  So they are happy to celebrate with Christians.  But this does not mean that they are celebrating the incarnation, the Word becoming flesh in Jesus.  At most, Jesus was a great prophet, leader and a good man.  Surely not the Son of God, and neither God!

What about us?  Can we say that we have also arrived at this real wonder of our celebration that we can proclaim that God is with us in a very real, personal and existential manner in Jesus, in His life, death and resurrection; in all His words and deeds?  How do we know that we have come to this faith?  The answer is obedience of faith.  This is what St Paul wrote, “Through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name.”

What does obedience of faith entail?  Faith is first and foremost an assent to the truth revealed to us by God.  This was the case of St Joseph.  Whilst making his own plans to divorce Mary informally, and being a man of honour, he changed his mind when the angel of the Lord revealed to him the plan of salvation.  Most of all, when he came to know that the son of Mary was indeed the work of the Holy Spirit and that Jesus would be the one to save the people from their sins, he obeyed without assurance, accepting the word of the Angel in faith simply because it was the Word of the Lord.  We read, “he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.”

This is the first level of faith.  It is to put our trust not in the words of man but in the Word of God. St Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said, “I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  (1 Cor 2:3-5)  The obedience of faith therefore is what Mary also said to the Lord, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  (Lk 1:38) This is the same kind of obedience that Abraham demonstrated.  

Faith however is more than just an intellectual assent to a doctrine or truth.  It has implications on how we live after knowing the truth.  To proclaim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life means that we are going to follow Jesus in all that we do and how we live.  So faith is more than just accepting the Word of God as true and the teachings of the Church as an explanation of the revealed Word of God.

The irony is that many Catholics profess the doctrines of the Church but these doctrines are empty doctrines because they have no effect on their lives.  As Jesus, quoting from the prophet Isaiah said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”  (Mt 15:8 cf Isa 29:13)  Faith in what we believe must be demonstrated in how we live.  Otherwise, there is a dichotomy.  Such intellectual faith cannot save us and cannot give us fullness of life.  This explains why many Catholics do not find life in their faith.  For many, their faith is a mere ritual, a chore, a duty and a routine that they do week after week.  But it is not a living faith.  What they believe is one thing, but how they live the rest of their lives at home, in the office, in business or with their friends is entirely unrelated to what the Word of God tells them.

This was the case of Ahaz in today’s first reading.  Assyria was becoming a strong military power and the army was known to be ruthless and fierce.  Threatened by Assyria, the kings of Syria and Israel wanted King Ahaz of Judah to join them in fighting Assyria. To protect himself, Ahaz sought alliance with Assyria.  Instead of listening to the Word of God spoken through Isaiah, that God would protect him; he was stubborn and followed his own plans.  He trusted in himself and sought the help of man instead of the help of God.  He relied on military might rather than in the power of God.  And he continued to reject God’s Word, even when he was given a sign.  Regardless of his faith in God or lack of it, God demonstrated His power and faithfulness when He fulfilled the prophecy by allowing Assyria to defeat Syria in 732 B.C. and Israel in 722 B.C.

What about us?  What is the level of our practical faith in God?  Are we open to His Word and ready to obey Him?  Are we ready to welcome the Lord into our lives?  Are we ready to allow Him to take flesh in us?  The psalmist says, “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things.  He shall receive blessings from the Lord and reward from the God who saves him. Such are the men who seek him, seek the face of the God of Jacob.”  Faith in the Lord presumes that we live the truths taught to us.

Today we are called to be like St Joseph who is known to be a just man.  He not only accepted in faith the word of the Lord, but he carried it out immediately upon waking up from his sleep.  St Paul is another shining example of how encountering the Lord at Damascus resulted in him giving his entire life to the proclamation of the Good News, in and out of season.  Whether it was Mary, Joseph or St Paul, all considered themselves to be servants of the Good News, proclaiming the marvelous truth that Christ is the Son of God, the Emmanuel, and the God who is with us in the flesh. In Him is our salvation and our reconciliation with God.

If we truly believe this truth, then we must let the Word of God take flesh in us today as well.  Many do not believe in Him because they have not yet encountered the Lord.  Like St Paul, “through him we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations.”   We do this through the proclamation of what God has done for us in our lives and how we experience Christ, His presence, guidance and strength in our daily life.  We show His love to other through our lives of gentleness, compassion, meekness, kindness, humility and generosity. Reaching out to others, showing our compassion and love, others will come to encounter the living God, the Lord Jesus through us in the flesh, which is, but a stepping-stone to faith in Him.

Accordingly, as we approach Christmas, let us allow the Lord to enter into our lives.  We must be watchful that we do not reduce Christmas to a material celebration, of fun, merry making, food and partying, as such external celebrations, unless they come from a heart filled with gratitude and joy for Christ’s coming into our lives, is meaningless, empty and passing.  Christmas is almost here, have you yet let Him into your life?  Hear the appeal of the psalmist, “Let the Lord enter! He is the king of glory.”  Let us make room for Him in our hearts by making time for prayer, contemplation and for friendship and love.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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In the text which we are meditating on this Sunday, the concern of Matthew is evident, he wants to confirm the faith of the communities. It is as if he wished to tell us: “You do not live deceived! Jesus is truly the Messiah! “The intention of Matthew in chapters one and two of his Gospel is to inform the readers concerning Jesus, whose activity will be described beginning in chapter three.

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In the first two chapters, Matthew presents the credentials of Jesus, the new Legislator, the new Moses. In the genealogy (Mt 1, 1-17), he had already shown that Jesus belongs to the race of David and of Abraham (Mt 1, 1). In these verses (Mt 1, 18-25) Matthew continues to present Jesus to us describing his birth. He says how Joseph received the news that Mary was with child and, the prophecies which will be realized with the birth of Jesus, showing that he is the expected Messiah.

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During the reading, it is well to pay attention to what the text tells us on the person of Jesus, especially in what concerns the significance of the two names that he receives.

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b) A division of the text to help the reading:

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Matthew 1, 18: A legal irregularity in Mary Matthew 1, 19: The justice of Joseph Matthew 1, 20-21: The explanation or elucidation by the Angel Matthew 1, 21-23: The melody in Matthew’s Gospel Matthew 1, 24-25: The obedience of Joseph.

The text:

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 18 This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. 20 He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ 22 Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: 23 Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’. 24 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home; 25 he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

A moment of prayerful silence

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….so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.

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Some questions

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…. to help us in our personal reflection.

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i) Which point of this text struck you the most? Why?

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ii) According to the words of the Angel, who is the Son who will be born of Mary?

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iii) According to the words of Matthew, which prophecy of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus?

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iv) Which are the two names which the Child receives and which is God’s project hidden in these names?

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v) How is Joseph’s attitude to be understood? What does this attitude teach us?

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vi) In what exactly does Joseph’s “justice” consist?

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vii) Which is our justice, compared with that of Joseph?

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For those who desire to go deeper into the theme

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Context of the evangelic text:

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The genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1, 1-17) leaves us with a question. Next to the names of the forty-two paternal ancestors of Jesus (Mt 1, 17), Matthew gives the names of four maternal ancestors only: Tamar (Mt 1, 3), Rahab, Ruth (Mt 1, 4) and the wife of Uriah (Mt 1, 6). The four women conceived their sons outside the parameters of purity or of the legal justice of that time. Therefore, the state of these four women is irregular before the Law. The irregularity of these four ancestors is evident. It is sufficient to read the texts of the Old Testament where their story is described. And thus, at the end of the genealogy arises a question: “And Mary, the spouse of Joseph, from whom Jesus is born (Mt 1, 16), does she also incur in some irregularity of a legal type? The text on which we are meditating this Sunday speaks about this.

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Commentary on the text:

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Matthew 1, 18: A legal irregularity in Mary Mary is with child before going to live with Joseph, her promised spouse. The one who looks at things from outside is aware of an irregularity and will say: “Mary, how horrible!” According to the law of Moses, these errors merited a death penalty (Dt 22, 20). To avoid this mistaken interpretation of facts, Matthew helps the reader to see the other aspect of Mary’s pregnancy: “She conceived by the Holy Spirit”. To human eyes this may seem a transgression of the Law, but in God’s eyes this was exactly the contrary!

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Matthew 1, 19: The justice of Joseph The pregnancy of Mary takes place before she went to live with Joseph, not because of a human deviation, but because of the divine will. God himself made fun of the law of legal purity in such a way as to make the Messiah be born among us! If Joseph had acted according to the requirements of the law of that time, he would have had to denounce Mary and possibly she would have been stoned. Pregnancy before marriage is irregular and according to the law of legal purity, she should be punished with the death penalty (Dt 22, 20). But Joseph, because he is just, does not obey the requirements of the law of purity. His justice is greater. Instead of denouncing, he prefers to respect the mystery which he does not understand and decides to abandon Mary in secret. The greatest justice of Joseph saves both the life of Mary and that of Jesus. Thus, Matthew sends an important message to the communities of Palestine and Syria. It is as if said: “Behold, what would happen if the rigorous observance would be followed, which certain Pharisees demand from you! They would put the Messiah to death!” Later Jesus will say: “If your justice is not greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5, 20).

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Matthew 1, 20-21: The explanation or elucidation of the Angel and the two names of the Son of Mary: Jesus and Immanuel. “The Angel of the Lord” helps to discover the deepest dimension of life and of events. He helps to make an X-Ray of events and to perceive God’s call which with our human eyes alone we cannot perceive. The Angel makes Joseph understand that Mary’s pregnancy is the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit. God himself, the day of creation, blew over the waters and filled with force the creating Word of God (Gen 1, 2). The new creation takes place in Mary. It is the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth, announced by Isaiah (Is 65, 17). The Son of Mary receives two names: Jesus and Immanuel. Jesus means “Yahweh saves”. Salvation does not come from what we do but from God, rather from what God does for us. Immanuel means “God with us”. In the Exodus, when getting out of Egypt, God goes down to be with the oppressed people (Ex 3, 8) and tells Moses: “I will be with you” (Ex 3, 12) and from that moment on he never abandons his people. The two names, Jesus and Immanuel, render concrete, and even go beyond the hope of the people.

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Matthew 1, 22-23: The melody of Matthew’s Gospel “All this took place in order that what had been said of the Lord by the prophet could be fulfilled”. This phrase or other similar ones are like a melody, words which are repeated many times in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 1, 23; 2, 5.15.17.23; 4, 14; 8, 17; 12, 17; 13, 14.35; etc.). This reveals the purpose which the author had in mind: to confirm for his readers of Jewish origin the fact that Jesus is truly the promised Messiah. In him the promises of the prophets are fulfilled. Here Matthew quotes the text of Isaiah: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7, 14). The title Immanuel more than a name reveals the meaning of Jesus for us. Jesus is the proof that God continues to be with us. The name itself of the Child is Jesus (Mt 1,25).

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Matthew 1, 24-25: The obedience of Joseph Waking up from sleep, Joseph does what the Angel told him and took Mary to his house. And he continues to say that he had no relation with Mary, to confirm that Jesus is born from the Holy Spirit.

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Extending the information:

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A key for the Gospel of Matthew – The Gospel of Matthew is addressed to a community of converted Jews, who live a deep crisis of identity in relation to their Jewish past. When in the year 65 AC the revolt broke out against Rome, the Jewish-Christians did not participate and they abandoned Jerusalem. The Pharisees did the same thing. After the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, the Pharisees reorganized the people who had remained and they lined up, always in a more decisive way, against the Christians, who at the end were excommunicated. This excommunication made the problem of identity even worse. Now, officially excommunicated, they could no longer go to their Synagogue, to their rabbi. And the question arose among them: To whom do the promises belong: to the Synagogue or to the Church? Who is the true People of God, they or we? Is Jesus truly the Messiah? Matthew writes his Gospel for this community. The Gospel of Matthew can be defined by the three following words: i) The Gospel of consolation for those excommunicated and persecuted by their brother Jews who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah (Christ); it helps to overcome the trauma or shock of the breaking. ii) The Gospel of revelation: It shows Jesus as the true Messiah, the new Messiah, in whom is the summit of all the history of the Old Testament with its promises. iii) The Gospel of the new practice: which describes the practice of Jesus, and shows how to attain a new justice, greater than that of the Pharisees.

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This happened in order that it could be realized – by means of this phrase repeated many times in his Gospel, Matthew touches on the point of greatest tension between Christians and Jews. Starting from the Bible, they said: “Jesus is not and cannot be the Messiah!” Starting from the Bible itself, Matthew responds and affirms: “Jesus is truly the Messiah!”

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The pregnancy of Mary – Matthew as well as Luke quote the text of Isaiah “A virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7, 14). But there is a difference. Luke places Mary in the centre and gives more importance to the sign of virginity (Lk 1, 31). Matthew places Joseph in the centre and gives more importance to the significance of the name Immanuel.

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Joseph’s dream – the Angel appeared to Joseph in his sleep and helps him to understand. With the help of the Angel, Joseph succeeded in discovering God’s action in this event, which according to the opinion of the time, seemed to be only the fruit of deviation and of sin. Angel means messenger. He brings a message and a help to perceive God’s action in life. Today there are many Angels who guide us in life. Some times they act while we sleep, in our dreams, other times in our meetings, in conversations and in Biblical encounters, in facts, etc. So many Angels, so many Angels!.

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Prayer: Psalm 72 (71)

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His name endure for ever!

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God, endow the king with your own fair judgment, the son of the king with your own saving justice, that he may rule your people with justice, and your poor with fair judgement.

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Mountains and hills, bring peace to the people! With justice he will judge the poor of the people, he will save the children of the needy and crush their oppressors. In the sight of the sun and the moon he will endure, age after age.

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He will come down like rain on mown grass, like showers moistening the land. In his days uprightness shall flourish, and peace in plenty till the moon is no more. His empire shall stretch from sea to sea, from the river to the limits of the earth.

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The Beast will cower before him, his enemies lick the dust; the kings of Tarshish and the islands will pay him tribute. The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts; all kings will do him homage, all nations become his servants.

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For he rescues the needy who calls to him, and the poor who has no one to help. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the needy from death. From oppression and violence he redeems their lives, their blood is precious in his sight.

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Long may he live; may the gold of Sheba be given him! Prayer will be offered for him constantly, and blessings invoked on him all day. May wheat abound in the land, waving on the heights of the hills, like Lebanon with its fruits and flowers at their best, like the grasses of the earth.

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May his name be blessed for ever, and endure in the sight of the sun. In him shall be blessed every race in the world, and all nations call him blessed. Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders; blessed for ever his glorious name. May the whole world be filled with his glory! Amen! Amen!

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Final Prayer

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Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-4th-sunday-advent

Related:

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JESUS’ DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY TREE

The full story of how Jesus Christ came to be born includes elements that we do not easily imagine when we sing our Christmas hymns. Jesus’ family tree and blood-line were far from perfect and this, according to the great biblical scholar, Raymond Brown, needs to be kept in mind whenever we are tempted to believe in Jesus but want to reject the church because of its imperfections, scandals, and bad history. Jesus may have been immaculately conceived, but there is much in his origins, as the gospels make clear, that’s as un-immaculate as any contemporary church scandal.

For example, in giving us the origins of Jesus, the gospels point to as many sinners, liars, and schemers in his genetic and historical lineage as they do to saints, honest people, and men and women of faith.

We see, for example, in Jesus’ genealogy a number of men who didn’t exactly incarnate the love, justice, and purity of Jesus: Abraham unfairly banished Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, rationalizing that God favours some people over others; Jacob, by scheming and dishonesty, stole his brother Esau’s birthright; and David, to whom Jesus explicitly connects himself, committed adultery and then had the husband of his mistress murdered to cover-up an unwanted pregnancy and in order to marry her.

And the women mentioned in Jesus background aren’t much better. It’s interesting to note, as Raymond Brown does, which women don’t get mentioned in reference to Jesus’ origins. The gospels don’t mention Sarah, Rebekeh, or Rachel, all of whom were regarded as holy women. Whom do they mention?

They mention Tamar, a Canaanite woman, someone outside the Jewish faith, who seduces her father-in-law, Judah, so that she can have a child; Rahab, also a Canaanite woman, and an outsider, who is in fact a prostitute; Ruth, a Moabite woman who is also outside the official religion of the time; and Bathsheba, a Hittite woman, an outsider who commits adultery with David and then schemes to make sure one of her own offspring inherits the throne.

All of these women found themselves in a situation of marriage or pregnancy that was either strange or scandalous, yet each was an important divine instrument in preserving the religious heritage that gave us Jesus. It’s no accident that the gospels link these women to Mary, Jesus’ mother, since she too found herself in a ritually taboo pregnancy and in a marital situation that was peculiar.

And beyond these less-than-saintly characters in Jesus’ lineage, we see as well that some of the institutions that shaped the Jewish faith were also less than saintly. Institutionalized religion back then suffered from many of the same problems it has today, including the corrupt use of power. Moreover, Israel itself (perhaps justifying the deed by referring to what Jacob had done to Esau) seized the land of Canaan from those who had a prior claim to it, claiming ownership by divine privilege.

Finally, and not insignificantly, we see too that the lineage that gave us Jesus built itself up not just upon the great and the talented, but equally upon the poor and the insignificant. In the list of names that makes up the ancestors of Jesus, we see some that are famous and others that can make no claim to specialness or significance. Jesus’ human blood, scripture tells us, was produced equally by the great and the small, the talented and the talentless.

What’s to be learned for all of this? Perhaps Raymond Brown captures it the best. What all this tells us, he says, is that God writes straight with crooked lines, that we shouldn’t accept an overly-idealized Jesus Christ, and that our own lives, even if they are marked by weakness and insignificance, are important too in continuing the story of the incarnation.

As Brown, himself, puts it: “The God who wrote the beginnings with crooked lines also writes the sequence with crooked lines, and some of those lines are our own lives and witness. A God who did not hesitate to use the scheming as well as the noble, the impure as well as the pure, men to whom the world harkened and women upon whom the world frowned – this God continues to work through the same melange. If it is a challenge to recognize in the last part of Matthew’s genealogy that totally unknown people were part of the story of Jesus Christ, it may be a greater challenge to recognize that the unknown characters of today are an essential part of the sequence.”

Christianity isn’t just for the pure, the talented, the good, the humble, and the honest. The story of Jesus Christ was also written and keeps getting written too by the impure, by sinners, by calculating schemers, by the proud, by the dishonest, and by those without worldly talents. Nobody is so bad, so insignificant, so devoid of talent, or so outside the circle of faith, that he or she is outside the story of Christ.

http://ronrolheiser.com/jesus-dysfunctional-family-tree/#.WFWhdxsrKUn

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 21, 2016

March 20, 2016

Monday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 257

Bible; Jesus Christ; Revealing Himself; Resurrection; Mary Magdalene Painting - Jesus Revealing Himself To Mary Magdalene by William Brassey Hole

Reading 1 IS 42:1-7

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
Upon whom I have put my Spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
Not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
Until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spreads out the earth with its crops,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
When evildoers come at me
to devour my flesh,
My foes and my enemies
themselves stumble and fall.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel

Hail to you, our King;
you alone are compassionate with our faults.

Gospel JN 12:1-11

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served,
while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.
Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil
made from genuine aromatic nard
and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair;
the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages
and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions.
So Jesus said, “Leave her alone.
Let her keep this for the day of my burial.
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came,
not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

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Commentary on John 12:1-11 from Living Space

Today’s Gospel serves as a lovely prelude to the Passion of Jesus.

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Jesus is back in the house of his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, recently brought back from the dead. Perhaps these are his last moments of companionship before the horrors that are to come. True to character, Martha is the active hostess. Mary, the contemplative, brings in a jar of an expensive perfumed unguent and pours it all over the feet of Jesus, filling the house with its fragrance. It is a sign of great love and echoes what the “sinful” woman in Luke’s gospel also did.

.This account is probably the same as that described in Mark 14:3-9 and Matthew 26:6-13 but is distinct from the story of the woman in Luke 7:36-50.

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While the “Beloved Disciple” is a nameless character in John’s gospel, he can be matched by this beloved disciple.

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Judas, the spiritually blind materialist, only sees what he regards as terrible waste. Hypocritically he suggests the money would have been better spent helping the poor. John suggests Judas was more interested in getting the money for himself than sharing it with those in need.

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Jesus sees an altogether different meaning in Mary’s action. He sees the tremendous love behind the action and interprets it as a symbolical anointing for his burial. Dying as a common criminal, Jesus would normally not have been anointed. (And, in fact, he was not anointed after his burial; when the women went to do the act on Sunday morning, Jesus was already risen.)

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“You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.” This is not to be understood any cynical way. The poor cannot be truly loved except in God and in Jesus.

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“As often as you do it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” Only those who truly love God (whatever name they call him) are able truly to love the poor and all those in need. And vice versa. Also, in Jewish tradition there was disagreement as to whether giving alms to the poor or burying the dead (which would include anointing) was the greater act of mercy. Those in favour of burial thought it an essential condition for sharing in the final resurrection.

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Finally, we are told Lazarus’ own life is in danger as well as Jesus’. Lazarus is seen as the living sign of Jesus’ divine power and so they both must be wiped out. Many of the Church’s martyrs died for the same reason. The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’, witnessing to the truth, love and power of Christ.

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Am I willing to be a martyr-witness for Christ, to stand beside him on the cross as he is mocked and insulted? This is the week for me to find the answer to that question.

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Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1062g/

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Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to proceed into the Holy Week, and in a few days’ time we shall be commemorating the three days of Easter Triduum, the heart of our faith, when we commemorate the time when our Lord instituted the Eucharist, and giving up His Body and Blood, He suffered and died for us, so that by His resurrection from the dead, He gave us a new life and a new hope that sin and death can be overcome.

Today we heard the hypocrisy of Judas, who criticised Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who had poured a whole jar of very expensive perfume made of pure spikenard on the feet of Jesus and wiped it dry with her hair. In another account, the woman who anointed Jesus with perfume also anointed His head with the same perfume, and she was criticised all the same.

As mentioned, Judas did not do so because he cared for the poor in any way, and he did it because he was a thief and a cheater, who stole the money from the common fund of the Apostles, which was meant for the poor and the needy. Thus, he spoke a lie and brought about calumny and injustice to another. His inability to resist the temptation of money, desire and the impurities in his heart led him to do what he had done, that is to betray his own Lord and Master, for a mere thirty pieces of silver.

Just for your knowledge, that when Joseph, the son of Jacob was sold by his brothers out of jealousy into slavery, he was priced at about the same price. And at that price, they were valued at even lower than animals. A good quality animal would have fetched far higher prices than those which Judas received for betraying his Lord and which the brothers sold Joseph with.

Thus we value so low the Lord who had loved us all completely and sincerely with all of His heart, we looked down on He who was tortured, mocked and rejected for our sake, who died for us on the cross, so that we might be saved. We did not appreciate the things which He had done for us, and all the hard works which He had undertaken for our own good.

We are often tempted and our minds and hearts clouded with worldly things such as greed, pride, pleasures of the flesh and many others. The Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests were all infected with the disease of greed and jealousy, as well as fear and insecurity. They were all concerned only with preserving themselves and their own livelihoods. This is why, even though they were supposed to be the ones with wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures, they refused to believe in Jesus and instead trying to undermine His works by plotting against Lazarus whom Jesus had resurrected from the dead.

They were manipulated by the wickedness and malice that Satan had planted in their hearts, which also exist in all of us. They were afraid of losing their position of honour and the respect which they have been accorded with by the society. They did not want to take a risk with the Romans, whom they were afraid that they would destroy all of their livelihood. And similarly with Judas, Satan manipulated his greed and desire for money, and in the end they destroyed and condemned only themselves.

It is a lesson for all of us that we cannot be hypocrites in our faith. Instead, we truly have to live out our faith, through our own actions. And we cannot be divided in our faith, just as we cannot have two masters. We cannot both serve God and worldly things, and as Jesus mentioned, that we will either despise one and love the other or we will not be sincere in our faith as a whole.

Therefore, let us all reflect on this occasion, and take steps to change our lives for the better. We can make a difference by committing ourselves more and more to the cause of the Lord. Now the choice is in our hands to make that difference. Let us therefore emerge from this Lenten observation, a better, more dedicated and more faithful servant of God. God bless us all. Amen.

Source http://petercanisiusmichaeldavidkang.com/2015/03/30/monday-30-march-2015-monday-of-the-holy-week-homily-and-scripture-reflections/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• We have entered into Holy Week, the week of the Passover of Jesus, of his passing from this world to the Father (Jn 13, 1). Liturgy today places before us the beginning of chapter 12 of the Gospel of John, which serves as a link between the Book of the Signs (cc 1-11) and the Book of the Glorification (cc 13-21). At the end of the “Book of Signs” there appears, very clearly the tension between Jesus and the religious authority of the time (Jn 10, 19-21.39) and the danger which Jesus was facing. Several times they had tried to kill him (Jn 10, 31; 11, 8. 53; 12, 10).
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So much it was like this that Jesus was obliged to lead a clandestine life, because he could be arrested at any moment (Jn 10, 40; 11, 54).
• John 12, 1-2: Jesus persecuted by the Jews, goes to Bethany. Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to Bethany to the house of his friends Martha and Mary and of Lazarus. Bethany means, House of Poverty. The police was looking for him (Jn 11, 57). They wanted to kill him (Jn 11, 50). But even now that the police was looking for Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus received him in their house and offered him something to eat. Because love overcomes fear.
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• John 12, 3: Mary anoints Jesus. During the meal, Mary anoints the feet of Jesus with a pound of perfume of pure spikenard (cf. Lk 7, 36-50). It was a very costly perfume, so very expensive that it cost three hundred denarii. Then she dried his feet with her hair. The whole house was filled with the scent of the ointment. Mary does not speak during this whole episode. She only acts. The gesture filled with symbolism speaks for itself. In washing the feet, Mary becomes a servant. Jesus will repeat the gesture at the Last Supper (Jn 13, 5).
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• John 12, 4-6: Reaction of Judas. Judas criticizes the gesture of Mary. He thinks that it is a waste. In fact, three hundred denarii were the wages of three hundred days! The wages of almost a whole year spent in one time alone! Judas thinks that the money should have been given to the poor. The Evangelist comments and says that Judas had no concern at all for the poor, but that he was a thief. They had a common fund and he stole the money. A strong judgment which condemns Judas.
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It does not condemn the concern for the poor, but the hypocrisy which uses the poor for self promotion and to enrich oneself. Judas, in his own egoistic interests, thought only about money. This is why he was not aware of what Mary kept in her heart. Jesus reads in the heart and defends Mary.
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• John 12, 7-8: Jesus defends the woman, Judas thinks only of the waste and criticizes the woman. Jesus thinks of the gesture and defends the woman: “Leave her alone; so that she can keep it for the day of my burial!” And immediately Jesus says: “You have the poor with you always; you will not always have me!” Which of the two lived closer to Jesus: Judas or Mary? Judas, the disciple, lived together with Jesus for almost three years, twenty-four hours a day. He was part of the group.
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Mary saw him once or twice a year, on the occasion of some feast, when Jesus went to Jerusalem and visited her in her house. But to live together with, not having any love does not help us to know others. Rather it blinds people. Judas was blind. Many people live together with Jesus and praise him even with many hymns, but do not truly know him and do not reveal him (cf. Mt 7, 21). Two affirmations of Jesus merit a more detailed comment: (a) “You have the poor with you always” and (b) let her keep it for the day of my burial”.
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(a) “You have the poor with you always “. Is it perhaps that Jesus wants to say that we should not be concerned about the poor, given the fact that there will always be poor? Or does he want to say that poverty is the destiny imposed by God? How is this phrase to be understood? At that time, persons knew the Old Testament by heart. It sufficed for Jesus to begin quoting a phrase of the Old Testament and persons already knew the rest.
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The beginning of the phrase said: “There will never cease to be poor people in the country” (Dt 15, 11ª). The rest of the phrase which people already knew and which Jesus wants to remind is the following: “And this is why I am giving you this command: always be open handed with your brother, and with anyone in your country who is in need and is poor!” (Dt 15, 11b).
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According to this Law, the community should accept the poor and share its goods with them. But, Judas instead of “opening his hand to help the poor” and to share his goods with them, wanted to do charity with the money of others! He wanted to sell the perfume of Mary for three hundred denarii and use it to help the poor. Jesus quotes the Law of God which taught the contrary. Anyone who, like Judas, carries out a campaign with the money of the sale of the goods of other does not disturb or trouble. But, the one who, like Jesus, insists on the obligation to accept the poor and to share with them one’s own goods, this one disturbs, troubles and runs the risk of being condemned.
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(b) John 12, 9-11: The crowds and the authority. To be the friend of Jesus could be dangerous. Lazarus is in danger of death because of the new life received from Jesus. The Jews had decided to kill him. Lazarus alive was a living proof that Jesus was the Messiah. This is why the crowd was looking for him, because people wanted to experience closely the living proof of the power of Jesus. A living community runs the risk of its life because it is the living proof of the Good News of God!
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Personal questions
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• Mary was misinterpreted by Judas. Have you been misinterpreted sometimes?
• What does this text of Mary teach us? What does the reaction of Judas say to us?
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Concluding Prayer
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Yahweh is my light and my salvation,
whom should I fear?
Yahweh is the fortress of my life,
whom should I dread? (Ps 27,1)
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Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer (c.1655)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 MARCH 2016, Monday of Holy Week
ENTERING INTO THE PASSION OF OUR LORD THROUGH UNDERSTANDING AND LOVE IN ACTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 42:1-7; JN 12:1-11 ]

As we enter into Holy Week, the Church invites us to contemplate more deeply on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For this reason, Holy Week begins with the celebration of Palm Sunday, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem to face His death.  At the same time, the reading of the passion prepares us for what is ahead for Christ.  It therefore calls for a deeper reflection of His passion for us.   How can this be done?

Firstly, we must deepen our understanding of His passion through knowledge.  In the first reading, we are told that Jesus, who is the suffering servant, brings justice to the nations by gently inviting us to reflect on our own lives.  As the light of the nations, “he does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame.”

But more importantly, the understanding of His passion cannot stop at mere intellectual appreciation.   We must feel with Jesus in our hearts, for that is what common passion is all about.  Instead of words alone, Jesus acted decisively through deeds of love and works of wonders, for as God said, “I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.”  Indeed, Jesus was able to show that God is our light and our salvation not only through His words, but also by His actions and miracles.  And as the psalmist wonderfully declared, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, my foes and my enemies themselves stumble and fall. Though an army encamps against me, my heart will not fear; though war be waged upon me, even then will I trust.”

This is what Mary in the gospel teaches us as well.  She loved Jesus so passionately that she even anointed His feet with expensive ointment and wiped them with her hair shamelessly.  Mary understood the true meaning of hospitality and making space for God in prayer.  In the earlier episode when Jesus visited her, she gave full attention to Jesus by listening to Him instead of being distracted by doing things for Him.  On this occasion she knew, unlike her elder sister, that faith and love in action was also necessary.  She anointed the body of Jesus for burial, and most of all, worshipped Him as the Christ by washing His feet and wiping them with her hair.  Not only did she love Jesus, but she also recognized Him and worshipped Him.

Of course, Judas could not understand because his love for Jesus was not from the heart but from the head.  Indeed, without love, we tend to think and reason only from the head.  Logically, what Judas said about saving the money for the poor was not wrong.  Yet, love goes beyond mere logic alone.   Jesus understood this truth when He said, “’Leave her alone; she had to keep this scent for the day of my burial. You have the poor with you always, you will not always have me.’”   So too the Jewish leaders as well!  They were too full of hatred and jealousy to see the good works that Jesus did.  Ironically, the evangelist says that “the chief priests decided to kill Lazarus as well, since it was on his account that many of the Jews were leaving them and believing in Jesus.”

When we love someone we do not think in terms of logic, and definitely not in terms of money.  Love does not count the cost.  That is why parents would do anything for their children, even if they have to sell their assets or borrow money for their sake.   When we love, we will do anything and everything within our capacity for our loved ones.  When love is lacking, then we tend to act on the rational level and become calculative.  True love is never calculative.

Today, let us follow  Mary and Martha in preparing for the passion of Christ.  Let us wait on Jesus as Martha did, in serving Him through good works and sacrifices.  But more importantly, let us follow the path of Mary who shared the passion of Jesus by being one with Him in His moment of anxiety and aloneness in His sufferings.  Through our common passion with Jesus in prayer and in love, we will be able to appreciate His love for us even more.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh