Posts Tagged ‘Moses’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 27, 2017 — “You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see.” — “Understand with your hearts and be converted.”

July 26, 2017

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 398

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Moses leads the people

Reading 1 EX 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20B

In the third month after their departure from the land of Egypt,
on its first day, the children of Israel came to the desert of Sinai.
After the journey from Rephidim to the desert of Sinai,
they pitched camp.

While Israel was encamped here in front of the mountain,
the LORD told Moses,
“I am coming to you in a dense cloud,
so that when the people hear me speaking with you,
they may always have faith in you also.”
When Moses, then, had reported to the LORD the response of the people,
the LORD added, “Go to the people
and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow.
Make them wash their garments and be ready for the third day;
for on the third day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai
before the eyes of all the people.”

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On the morning of the third day
there were peals of thunder and lightning,
and a heavy cloud over the mountain,
and a very loud trumpet blast,
so that all the people in the camp trembled.
But Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God,
and they stationed themselves at the foot of the mountain.
Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke,
for the LORD came down upon it in fire.
The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace,
and the whole mountain trembled violently.
The trumpet blast grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking
and God answering him with thunder.When the LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai,
he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain.

Responsorial Psalm DANIEL 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56

R. (52b) Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever;
And blessed is your holy and glorious name,
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
praiseworthy and glorious above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you on the throne of your Kingdom,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you who look into the depths
from your throne upon the cherubim,
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!
“Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
praiseworthy and glorious forever.”
R. Glory and praise for ever!

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

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

Gospel  MT 13:10-17

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 JULY, 2017, Thursday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time
REMOVING THE OBSTACLES FROM SEEING AND HEARING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 19:1-29-1116-20DANIEL 3:52-56MT 13:10-17]

Why do some have faith and some don’t?  The same message is given to all and yet not all receive it.  This was the same question St Paul asked. “But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.  But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’” (Rom 10:16-18)  Obviously, therefore faith does not depend on one’s intellectual capacity to grasp the message.  We have as many great scientists, doctors, and political leaders who believe in God, and as many who also do not.

So why do some people believe in God and some do not?  Jesus said, “So in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:  You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing.”  Many see and not perceive; hear and do not understand.  This is inevitable.  That is why some are converted and more convinced of something than another.  Again, as Jesus underscored, faith is not a matter of knowledge that comes from hearing or seeing, but understanding of the heart.

What are the causes that hinder us from perceiving with the heart? We have grown coarse because of sin and the temptations of the world.  The world is consumed by consumerism and ruled by materialism.   It is about satisfying the comforts of the human body.  The world wants immediate gratification of comfort and pleasure.  It cannot wait.  That is why there are so many products in the world that entice the eyes, the minds and the body.  We want to taste, see and experience all the good things of this world.  When we live like animals, merely attending to the insatiable needs of our body, we tend to neglect the Spirit.  We live the life of an animal, eat, work, enjoy and sleep, without real meaning and purpose, now and after death.

We grow coarse also because of routine, both in our religious practices and in our daily life. It is true that daily life is normally a routine but it is different to just go through the routine and not grow in depth in assimilating the richness of what we do every day.   Take the example of those attending mass daily or pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet.   We can go through the routine of saying these prayers and yet not really benefiting from them because it is a routine that we go through.  We do not pause to understand more deeply what we are celebrating or doing each day.  This applies to the other areas of our life as well, be it the practice of customs, mundane tasks at home or work in the office.  Routine practices when not assimilated and reflected upon become a chore and reduce us to an automaton.

Thirdly, we become coarse because of indifference and neglect.  Why do we lose taste for God and for prayer or praying the Word of God?  This is because of neglect.  We begin by missing one Sunday mass, or skipping part of the Liturgy of the Hours and very soon, we will stop going for mass all together and the other pious practices as well.  We do not lose faith overnight.  But indifference sets in when we are no longer connected with God regularly.  So routine practices do have a role in our lives to keep us connected with God and with the meaning of life.  However, as I have said earlier, without deepening our understanding of what we do, they become meaningless and gradually we will fall into neglect and indifference because of a lack of appreciation and understanding.  Clearly, whether it is the temptations of the world, the sin of the flesh, or neglect and indifference or routine and perfunctory practices, when brought together, lead us to become distant from God.

What about those who are dull of hearing?  Today, many are dull of hearing because there is information overload.  There is so much information in the Media that we are simply spoilt for choice and even paralyzed by the plethora of choices.  We do not have time to consume all the information before us.  On the other hand, many of us do not make informed choices on what to read.   We end up reading fake news, sensational news and some are indoctrinated by radical ideologies. No wonder, in spite of mass communication, today there is a communication breakdown because there are simply too many emails to read, too much information to absorb.  As a consequence, whether it is on religious matters or others, people no longer have time to read serious and in-depth reflections.  This explains why Twitter and Instagram have taken over the other platforms of communication.

The second reason why we are dull of hearing is because of pride and intellectualization.  We think that knowing God is a matter of logical argument based on empirical science and experimentation.  At times, the study of theology and knowledge of science can become obstacles to come to know and encounter God.  This is not to say that theology and sciences are not important because they help us to purify our faith in God so that faith will not become a myth or some superstitious belief.  Faith in God must also be reasonable, that is to say, a human way to encounter Him.  But many of us mistake our knowledge of theology and sciences as real knowledge when they are means to encounter the Sacred and the Ultimate of life.  When we seek just to defend our clever arguments to win our case, then Jesus would say to us, “they have shut their eyes for fear they shall see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me.”

The third factor that causes us to shut our ears is because of skepticism due to scandals and impropriety, injustices and mismanagement.  This by far is the most prevalent factor, especially those who have been hurt by religious leaders or believers.  They are bitter with God and with them.  They lose confidence in God and in the institution.  All are seen to be hypocrites, untrustworthy, uncaring, insincere and mercenary.   Indeed, many have left the Church because they have been hurt by the unjust practices of the Church and organizations and most of all, when they do not agree with the Church leaders.   They feel that the Church does not care except for herself, her institutions and structures.

Indeed, if we were to see and hear clearly today, then we must be disposed to seeing and hearing.  Moses told the people to prepare themselves and to consecrate themselves if they want to hear the voice of God.  To consecrate is to set apart all our preoccupations and our ideas, and be docile to the voice of God.  The Lord told Moses, “Go to the people and tell them to prepare themselves today and tomorrow.  Let them wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people.”   But this external purification of oneself must be an expression of the inner disposition of the purity and openness of one’s mind and heart and not something purely external.

Only when the people were prepared, did Moses then lead “the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain.”   To stand at the bottom of the mountain means to be receptive, to be open and to be ready to act when the Word is spoken to them.  This is the kind of disposition needed if we are to hear the voice of God and perceive His presence and instructions.

When God comes, He will not come through logic and theories.  He comes through an event.  As the first reading tells us, He manifests Himself in nature, under the signs of peals of thunder, clouds, smoke and lightning.  Indeed, the reality of God and our conviction of Him will not come from intellectual faith or human wisdom and philosophy but from an encounter with Him in the mysteries of life.  This was why our Lord taught in parables.  “’Because the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them.’”   Parables are not meant to be rationalized or be explained away.  They are meant to enable us to enter into the experience that the parable is seeking to convey.  Only when we can identify with that experience, can we then relate with God who comes to visit us through the daily events of life.  This is what the Lord said, “The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding.”  The problem with many people is that they try to rationalize about God and hence are never able to encounter Him in their daily life.  The understanding that is needed is not of the mind but of the heart.

 Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 13:10-17 From Living Space Parables of the Kingdom
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Today’s passage forms an interlude between the parable of the sower and its interpretation. Jesus is asked by his disciples why he speaks to the people in parables. The implication is that he does not speak in parables to his own disciples. It would be possible to interpret Jesus’ reply as meaning that he speaks clearly to his disciples but to the people in riddles because they are outsiders.
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This would seem to contradict the purpose of speaking in parables which is to use helpful and familiar images in order to lead towards a better understanding of a deeper message. (The parable of the sower is a good example.) The Jerusalem Bible sees it somewhat differently: “Those who saw so dimly could be further blinded by the light of full revelation. Jesus, therefore, does not reveal with complete clarity the true nature of the messianic kingdom which is unostentatious. Instead he filters the light through symbols, the resulting half-light is nevertheless a grace from God, an invitation to ask for something better and accept something greater.”
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It seems that we are dealing here again with the difference between ‘insiders’ and the ‘outsiders’. The ‘insiders’ are those who give Jesus a ready hearing. Naturally, they are more open to hear about the ‘mysteries’ of the kingdom and to assimilate what they hear. The ‘outsiders’, on the other hand, are precisely that because they have closed minds, they are not ready to listen. In the particular context of Matthew’s gospel, those who refuse to listen are those who have rigidly bound themselves within the confines of the Mosaic Law and who refuse to listen to the message of Jesus which is a “fulfilment” as well as being a radical restatement of the Law and the proclamation of a totally new covenant in the person of Jesus as Messiah.
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Or, as the Jerusalem Bible puts it: “The ill-disposed will even lose what they have, namely, that Jewish Law which, without the perfection Christ brings to it, is destined to become obsolete.” This gives meaning to the words which Jesus uses. Speaking of the ‘insiders’ he says, “To the one who has, more will be given until he grows rich; the one who has not, will lose what little he has.” Those who have opened themselves to the Word of God will find themselves evermore enriched, while those who have not even begun to accept the Word will end up in even a worse situation than they are now. .
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Similarly, those to whom the parables are addressed, “look but do not see, listen but do not hear or understand”. This happens, not because the parables are difficult but because the hearers are not prepared to listen. In fact, they are, one might almost say, watered down and easily digestible versions of the full message. And Jesus quotes words of Isaiah which are not meant to be understood as God deliberately blocking his Word reaching people; this would not make any sense. The prophet is better understand as speaking in a strongly sarcastic tone: Listen as you will, you shall not understand, look intently as you will, you shall not see.
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Sluggish indeed is this people’s heart That is the problem. They have scarcely heard with their ears, they have firmly closed their eyes. And why have they acted like this? Otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts. And what would be the result of that?
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They might turn back to me and I should heal them. That is where the issue lies. If we are prepared to see and to listen, it will mean a radical change in our lives, in our attitudes, in our values and priorities, in our relationships. Many are not ready to have their lives turned upside down. They prefer to remain blind and deaf. On the contrary, Jesus says to the ‘insiders’: “Blest are your eyes because they see [understand and accept] and blest are your ears because they hear [listen, accept and carry out].” And, to the extent that we have become ‘insiders’ with Christ, we too are deeply blessed. But we do need to be sensitive to our own tendencies not to see or not to listen because of our unreadiness to go all the way in our following Jesus, our reluctance to let go and make the changes in our lives he is asking of us.
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First Thought from Peace and Freedom
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Jesus carried the most simple and pure message ever delivered on this earth: love one another as God, your Father, has loved you.
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The problem is not with the message nor the messenger. The problem is: man doesn’t want to listen. At least most of us don’t.
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Jesus casts a wide net, just like his fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. But he knows everyone does not want to be caught. Only a few.
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Man sees but does not see — and hears but does not hear. The essence of man includes self reliance — and Jesus tells us that is not the ticket to happiness.
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The parables, it seems, were meant to force us to pause and think. To rethink our own lives, perhaps.
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“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
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When I was first married into our Vietnamese family I was easily thrown for a loop and often filled with misunderstanding. The Vietnamese priest said I needed to “Listen with your heart.” I never thought that was possible — but it came to me over time, perhaps a gift of the Holy Spirit.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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.• Chapter 13 speaks to us about the discourse of the Parables. Following the text of Mark (Mk 4,1-34), Matthew omits the parable of the seed which germinates alone (Mk 4,26-29), and he stops on the discussion of the reason for the Parable (Mt 13,10-17) adding the parable of the wheat and the darnel (Mt 13,24-30), of the yeast (Mt 13,33), of the treasure (Mt 13,44), of the pearl (Mt 13,45-46) and of the dragnet (Mt 13,47-50). Together with the parable of the sower (Mt 13,4-11) and of the mustard seed (Mt 13,31-32), there are seven parables in the Discourse of the Parables (Mt 13,1-50).

• Matthew 13,10: The question. In the Gospel of Mark, the Disciples ask for an explanation of the parables (Mk 4,10). Here in Matthew, the prospective is diverse. They want to know why Jesus, when he speaks to the people, speaks only in parables: “Why do you talk to them in parables?” Which is the reason for this difference?

• Matthew 13,11-13: “Because to you is granted to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not granted. Anyone who has will be given more and will have more than enough; but anyone who has not will be deprived even of what he has. The reason I speak to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. Jesus answers: “Because to you is granted to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven. Anyone who has will be given more and will have more than enough; but anyone who has not will be deprived even of what he has“.

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Why is it granted to the Apostles to know and not to others? Here is a comparison to help us to understand. Two persons listen to the mother who teaches: is someone who does not cut and sew”. One of them is the daughter and the other is not. The daughter understands and the other one understands nothing. Why? Because in the house of the mother the expression “cut and sew” means to slander.

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Thus, the teaching of the mother helps the daughter to understand better how to put into practice love, helping her so that what she already knows may grow, develop. Anyone who has will be given more. The other person understands nothing and loses even the little that she knew regarding love and slander. She remains confused and does not succeed in understanding what love has to do with cutting and sewing! Anyone who has not will be deprived even of what he has. A parable reveals and hides at the same time! It reveals for “those who are inside”, who accept Jesus as the Messiah Servant.

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It hides from those who insist in saying that the Messiah will be and should be a Glorious King. These understand the image presented by the parable, but they do not succeed to understand the significance. The Disciples, instead grow in what they already know concerning the Messiah. The others do not understand anything and lose even the little that they thought they knew on the Kingdom and on the Messiah.

• Matthew 13,14-15: ”The fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Just like some other time (Mt 12,18-21), in this different reaction of the people and of the Pharisees before the teaching of the parables, Matthew again sees here the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah. He even quotes at length the text of Isaiah which says: “Listen and listen, but never understand! Look and look, but never perceive! This people’s heart has grown coarse, their ears dulled, they have shut their eyes tight to avoid using their eyes to see, their ears to hear, their heart to understand, changing their ways and being healed by me”.

• Matthew 13,16-17: “But blessed are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear“. All this explains the last phrase: “But blessed are your eyes because they see your ears because they hear. In truth I tell you, many prophets and upright people longed to see what you see and never saw it, to hear what you hear and never heard it!”

• The Parables: a new way of speaking to the people about God. People remained impressed about the way in which Jesus taught. “A new way of teaching! Given with authority! Different from that of the Scribes! (Mk 7,28). Jesus had a great capacity for finding very simple images to compare the things of God with the things of life which people knew and experienced in the daily struggle to survive. This presupposes two things: to be inside the things of the life of the people, and to be inside the things of God, of the Kingdom of God. In some parables there are things that happen and that seldom arrive in life.

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For example, when has it ever happened that a shepherd, who has one hundred sheep, abandons the flock with 99 to go and look for the lost sheep? (Lk 15,4). Where have we ever seen a father who accepts with joy and a feast his son who had squandered all his goods, without saying a word of reproach to him? (Lk 15,20-24). When has it been seen that a Samaritan man is better than a Levite, than a priest? (Lk 10,29-37).

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The parable makes one think. It leads the person to enter into the story beginning from the experience of life. And through our experience it urges us to discover that God is present in our daily life. The parable is a participative form of teaching and of educating. It does not change everything in one minute. It does not make one know, it makes one discover. The parable changes our look, it renders the person who listens to be a contemplative, it helps her to observe reality. This is the novelty of the teaching of the parables of Jesus, different from that of the doctors who taught that God manifests himself only in the observance of the law. “The Kingdom is present in your midst” (Lk 17,21). But those who listened did not always understand.

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Personal questions

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• Jesus says: “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom”. When I read the Gospels am I like those who understand nothing or like those to whom it has been granted to know the Kingdom?

. • Which is the parable of Jesus with which I identify myself more? Why?

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Concluding Prayer

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Yahweh, your faithful love is in the heavens, your constancy reaches to the clouds, your saving justice is like towering mountains, your judgements like the mighty deep. (Ps 36,5-6)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/divina-lectio-matthew-1310-17

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 24, 2017 — “We wish to see a sign from you.” — Moses answered the people, “Fear not! Stand your ground!”

July 23, 2017

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 395

Image result for Pharaoh's whole army his horses chariots and charioteers, bible, art, pictures

Reading 1 EX 14:5-18

When it was reported to the king of Egypt
that the people had fled,
Pharaoh and his servants changed their minds about them.
They exclaimed, “What have we done!
Why, we have released Israel from our service!”
So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers
six hundred first-class chariots
and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all.
So obstinate had the LORD made Pharaoh
that he pursued the children of Israel
even while they were marching away in triumph.
The Egyptians, then, pursued them;
Pharaoh’s whole army, his horses, chariots and charioteers,
caught up with them as they lay encamped by the sea,
at Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Pharaoh was already near when the children of Israel looked up
and saw that the Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them.
In great fright they cried out to the LORD.
And they complained to Moses,
“Were there no burial places in Egypt
that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert?
Why did you do this to us?
Why did you bring us out of Egypt?
Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said,
‘Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’?
Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians
than to die in the desert.”
But Moses answered the people,
“Fear not! Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.
These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.
The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the children of Israel 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.”

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

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.

Alleluia  PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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24 JULY, 2017, Monday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

FAITH OVERCOMES FEAR AND DOUBT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 14:5-18Ex 15:1-6Mt 12:38-42]

We live our lives in fear.  It is natural to fear for our safety and our needs.  We all have an instinct for survival.  We fear pain, suffering and death.  So in the face of danger, we panic.  When we become anxious and frightened, we become irrational and say or do things without thinking.  This was the case of the Israelites.  We can imagine their fears.  Hence, they began to complain and lament.  “Were there no grave in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the wilderness?  What good have you done us, bringing us out of Egypt? We spoke of this in Egypt, did we not? Leave us alone, we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!”  They started to blame Moses and accuse him of leading them to their death.  They even preferred to live in slavery than to suffer in the desert or die in the hands of the Egyptians.

In our straits, we tend to forget all the great things that happened to us before.  How true, in bad times, we forget the good times.  Even in friendship, when there is a misunderstanding, we forget all the other good times we have had.  We cannot forgive the person for the one mistake he has made when he had done many good things for us.  We just pick on the fault, disregarding all the good the person has done.  This is also true in times of adversity.  We begin to doubt His love for us when we are going through difficult times or trials in life.  In good times, we praise and thank God for His love but in bad times, we forget all His blessings.

Fear drives us to hopelessness. But doubt will cause us to be unresponsive.  This was the situation of the scribes and the Pharisees.  They had doubts about Jesus as the Messiah.  “Master, we should like to see a sign from you.”  Again, this request was not unreasonable.  It is necessary that there be signs for credibility before we commit ourselves to belief.  All throughout the scriptures, a true prophet must be able to give signs that his prophecy is from God.  So it was not wrong for them to ask Jesus for a sign that they should believe in Him.

Perhaps, we must ask whether our doubts come from the sincere desire to know the truth or from pride or obstinacy.  This too was the obstinacy of Pharaoh.  “When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and his courtiers changed their minds about the people. ‘What have we done,’ they said ‘allowing Israel to leave our service?’ So Pharaoh had his chariots in Egypt, each manned by a picked team.  The Lord made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn, and he gave chase to the sons of Israel as they made their triumphant escape.” He saw the miracles worked by Moses.  He relented and let them go but his pride and ego was hurt.  He could not accept defeat.  So he changed his mind about letting the Israelites go.

God is not against us seeking signs because the act of faith must be responsible. When Jesus remarked, “It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign!”  He was not reprimanding the people for seeking a sign but for their refusal to be receptive and open to the signs that He had given. The religious leaders were not asking for signs for verification but signs to disprove the claims of Jesus.  They came with a closed mind.  They lacked openness, sincerity to find the truth.  Their minds were already made up.

Even in the case of Moses when he demanded faith from the people, he had already given them some signs.  He worked the miracles of the Ten plagues.  But the greatest of all signs was yet to come.  It was the crossing of the Red Sea. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on.  For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground.  I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them.  So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horseman.  And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’”

Jesus too, as the New Moses, had given them signs through His miracles of healing and exorcism.  He had showed them the love and mercy of God.  He is the wisdom of God in person.  “On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”  In other words, He is the true prophet of God.

But the greatest of all signs will be His passion, death and resurrection.  This was already anticipated in the Exodus experience. But it is also given in the sign of Jonah.  “For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.  On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with the generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” In His passion and resurrection, He is vindicated by the Father as His Son.

So the Lord is not asking us to make an irrational act of faith. The signs have been given.  Now we must make an act of faith to see the fullness of the power of God.  This was what was asked of the Israelites.  “Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you to-day: the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.  The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.” And God showed His power and fidelity.  Thus the people sang for joy. “I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph! Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength, my song, my salvation. This is my God and I extol him, my father’s God and I give him praise. The Lord is a warrior! ‘The Lord’ is his name. The chariots of Pharaoh he hurled into the sea, the flower of his army is drowned in the sea.”

So too by His death and resurrection, Jesus shows forth His glory as He leads us through the waters of baptism, from death to sin and new life in His spirit.   Jesus shows Himself to be the New Moses by His preaching and feeding us with the bread of life.  He conquered sin and death by His victory in the resurrection.  So we are called to have faith in Jesus on account of the resurrection.

What about us?  We have seen all the signs. We have seen how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets.  We have seen how the apostles witnessed to His resurrection by signs and powers, of healing and exorcism, and most of all the testimony of life, even unto death.  We continue to see His mighty works even in our days.  We see the miracles of the sacraments which bring about effects in our lives.  Hence, we do not live in fear or doubt but in faith in Christ our Saviour. Our faith in Christ is real and well substantiated.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 12:38-42 From Living Space

Today’s passage follows two others, which we have not read. In the first Jesus is accused of doing what he does by the power of Satan. An accusation which he easily shows is self-contradictory and makes no sense. In the second he says that a tree that is rotten inside cannot produce good fruit. Goodness comes from a person’s interior. The words are directed at his accusers whom he more than once accuses of being hypocrites: pious and law-abiding on the outside and full of malice inside.

It is these same people who approach him today. It is difficult to know their mood as they ask Jesus for a sign. Is it a genuine request for Jesus to indicate the source of his authority and power or is it a hostile demand for Jesus to present his credentials?

In response, Jesus first says that “it is an evil and unfaithful (literally, ‘adulterous’) generation that asks for a sign”. Yes, evil and unfaithful, because for anyone with an open mind, Jesus has been giving nothing but signs ever since he began his public life. The ordinary people have been full of praise and amazement at what Jesus is doing and say that “God has visited his people”. But these leaders, blinded by their own prejudice, are even saying that the teaching, exorcisms and healings of Jesus are the work of Satan.

In addition to all this they are going to get an unmistakable sign of who Jesus really is. They will be given the “sign of Jonah”. Just as Jonah spent three days buried in the belly of the sea monster so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. This is a clear reference to Jesus’ resurrection – the conclusive sign of his identity and power.

Mention of Jonah leads Jesus to say that the people of Niniveh who repented after hearing Jonah will fare better at the last judgment than the people that Jesus is speaking with. And Jesus is of far more significance than Jonah.

Similarly, the Queen of the South, that is, the Queen of Sheba, who came from a far distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon will fare better than the unbelieving listeners to Jesus, who is greater by far than Solomon.

We, too, have the privilege of listening to Jesus and we know the sign of his resurrection. Is it not possible that there are many people around us who, not knowing Jesus but following the guidance of their consciences, will find themselves going before us into the Kingdom? Complacency is probably one of our biggest temptations. “I am good enough; I observe the basic requirements of my religion.” Is that all that Jesus expects of me?

Related:

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Reflection on Exodus 14:5-18

Remember: Sanctification is the idea of being set-apart for God. To be pursue holiness as He is holy.

Context: Before we get too far, lets just remember what the scene is here at this point in Exodus:

The people have been in bondage in Egypt for over 400 years.

This bondage was preceded by a season in which Joseph held a high position in Egypt because of his ability to interpret the dreams that the Pharaoh was having. He instructed that there was going to be a big famine and that Egypt should prepare. As a result, the Pharaoh put him as 2nd in command. Israel benefitted from this because this preparation would preserve them during this famine.

Over time the Egyptian dynasty changed, and turned on Israel by putting them into bondage.

Finally, Moses was born. He was to be thrown into the Nile, but instead was adopted into the Egyptian household.

Long story short, Moses was called by God to the instrument to call Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Pharaoh repeatedly said no, and God poured out 10 plagues upon Egypt to change Pharaoh’s heart.

We are now at the point in the story where the people have been set free. They are stepping out on to a NEW JOURNEY with God, but this journey is not going to be a easy “walk in the park” (no pun intended). God will still use some pretty amazing events to grow them in their faith.??

What does your journey look like? If your anything like me, the journey that God has you on hasn’t included any “writing on the wall”, or “burning bush” experiences. Instead it has been a journey of faith where the clarity has been all but clear at times.?

 

Read the rest:

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-journey-chad-finch-sermon-on-exodus-206119?ref=SermonSerps

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore from July 21, 2014
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What is the primary indictment that God made against His people?  It is their ingratitude.  In anguish and deep disappointment, the God of Love and Compassion cried out, “My people, what have I done to you, how have I been a burden to you? Answer me. I brought you out of the land of Egypt, I rescued you from the house of slavery; I sent Moses to lead you, with Aaron and Miriam.”  In His mercy, God saw the miseries of His people and called Moses to lead them out of the slavery of the Egyptians.   Yet in spite of what He had done for them, they turned against Him and worshipped false gods, disobeyed the Covenantal Laws which were given to them so that the People of God could live in peace and harmony based on the principles of justice and charity; truth and love.  Alas, this was not the case.  Not only did they turn against Him, but they had taken advantage of the poor and the weak whom the Lord loves as His own.

Isn’t this the way we regard God as well?  God has blessed us with riches and success.  Have we used them for His glory?  Have we thanked Him by proclaiming Him as our Lord and God?  Do we put Him as the center of our lives, or do we allow pleasures and success to crowd Him out of our lives?  Most of all, do we use our success, power, influence, money and resources for the service of His people?  More often than not, we only care about ourselves, and even if we do help the less fortunate, it is but a meager percentage of what we are enjoying in life.  And God is also asking us the same question as well, “Are we grateful for what we have been given?”

The second charge leveled against us is the failure to repent.  Even in our sinfulness, God does not give up on us.  He is always patient with us, awaiting our repentance.  He does not want to punish or destroy us.  If He allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, it is in order that we may come to the realization of the state of our souls.  Most of all, God sent us His only Son, Jesus, the Word of God, the Greatest of all prophets to call us to repentance.  Yet, like the Jews, our ears are deaf to His call to repentance; our hearts remain hardened in our stubbornness and sinfulness.  This is particularly true for Catholics because we have all the means to be reconciled with God and yet we are lukewarm in our response to His call for a change of heart.  Ironically, just like the so-called pagans, the Ninevites, non-Catholics and sinners are more responsive to the invitation to repent and seek conversion and reconciliation.

Those of us who are lukewarm in our faith are the most resistant to the grace of conversion.  We are contented to drift along with a nominal faith, like the Israelites. We try to soothe our conscience by fulfilling the basic duties of a Catholic, like attending Mass on Sundays and saying a few prayers upon waking up and before going to sleep; and perhaps occasionally, give a few dollars to the Church and to the poor.  However, in our daily lives, whether at work or at home, we are abusive, intolerable, dishonest and unreasonable in our dealings with our fellowmen.

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 20, 2017 — God is not in any way bound by human wisdom and expectation — Our faith requires unconditional commitment — Our reward is unconditional love

July 19, 2017

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 392

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Art: God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush. Painting from Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Petersburg

Reading 1 EX 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of the LORD from the burning bush, said to him,
“When I go to the children of Israel and say to them,
‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’
if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”
God replied, “I am who am.”
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the children of Israel:
I AM sent me to you.”

God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the children of Israel:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.

“This is my name forever;
this my title for all generations.

“Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and tell them:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
has appeared to me and said:
I am concerned about you
and about the way you are being treated in Egypt;
so I have decided to lead you up out of the misery of Egypt
into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites,
Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites,
a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Thus they will heed your message.
Then you and the elders of Israel
shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him:
“The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent us word.
Permit us, then, to go a three-days’ journey in the desert,
that we may offer sacrifice to the LORD, our God.

“Yet I know that the king of Egypt will not allow you to go
unless he is forced.
I will stretch out my hand, therefore,
and smite Egypt by doing all kinds of wondrous deeds there.
After that he will send you away.”

Image result for God Appeared to Moses in Burning Bush. Painting from Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Petersburg

Responsorial Psalm  PS 105:1 AND 5, 8-9, 24-25, 26-27

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generationsB
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He greatly increased his people
and made them stronger than their foes,
Whose hearts he changed, so that they hated his people,
and dealt deceitfully with his servants.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He sent Moses his servant;
Aaron, whom he had chosen.
They wrought his signs among them,
and wonders in the land of Ham.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:28-30

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

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Reflection on Moses in the Desert With God by Mark A. Barber
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It was business as usual in all the rest of the world. The world was entirely ignorant of an event that was to take place in a remote desert. Yet it is what happened here that has changed the world and not whatever decrees might have come that day from the throne of Pharaoh or the talk in the street about politics, the economy, or some other subject. This often is the way that God works. Yet when He speaks to a fugitive in the middle of nowhere, His word comes to pass.

Moses was a miracle child, a type of the miracle child who would later be born in a mange in Bethlehem. The decree had gone forth from Pharaoh that all the Israelite male children were to be cast into the river (Exodus 1:22). His mother hid him for three months but eventually complied with the order. But Moses instead of being cast out into the river to drown was placed in a little boat and left to the mercy of God.

We read that this child floating in a boat was caused to be found by Pharaoh’s daughter whom God put pity in her heart. She knew this child was a Hebrew, yet had her raided in her house as her son. So Moses was raided as the Scripture says in all the learning and wisdom of Egypt. He would have learned about Egypt’s gods and his standing as part of Pharaoh’s family his being enrolled among them.

Moses who had to be nursed was providentially nursed by his own mother. From this he seems to have learned his true identity as an Israelite. When he was older, he saw a Egyptian taskmaster mistreating a fellow Hebrew and killed the man and hid his body. But he was found out and betrayed by one of his own countrymen and had to escape for his life. This was the occasion for his removal to the backside of the desert. Thus ended the first forty years of the life.

Moses would spend the next forty years of his life as a shepherd guiding sheep through the wilderness. It seems like quite a demotion in life. But in forty years, Moses knew where to find forage for his sheep and to know good water from bad. In order to survive, he had to be an expert.

Moses had probably seen dry bushes erupt into flames before in the dry hot desert, but today was different. The bush he saw on fire did not disintegrate into ashes. The fire kept on burning. God used Moses’ curiosity to attract him to this place.

What we see here is a magnificent encounter between the Lord and Moses. Moses was in no need of some sort of argument about the existence of God. He did not chance upon the ontological argument or teleological argument. Rather He was personal encountered by God Himself. What we learn here is that God is self-authenticating. Moses did not find God through his advanced learning and wisdom, not even the truths that his mother had shared about God. Rather God allowed Himself to be found.

God is not in any way bound by human wisdom and expectation. He cannot be found by such means. He only can be known by His revelation and only to the extent that He wishes to be revealed. The Lord did not reveal Himself to the world that day but just one person. And He did so to reveal to Moses that he was chosen by the Lord as His instrument to deliver them from the cruel bondage of Egypt and lead them out.

Read the rest:

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/i-am-that-i-am-mark-a-barber-sermon-on-moses-206569?ref=SermonSerps

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

20 JULY, 2017, Thursday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time

FEELING WITH GOD AS THE KEY TO OVERCOMING OUR PAINS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 3:13-20Ps 105:1,5,8-9,24-27Mt 11:28-30 ]

When we are going through difficult times, we can get rather discouraged.  We feel alone, lacking support and understanding.  We tend to focus on our pains.  We become depressed and resentful.  We feel like giving up because it is not worth the sacrifices and pains.  We begin to doubt whether what we are doing is benefiting  anyone.  We look for scapegoats and become angry with God and society.

If we are feeling burdened and discouraged, the Lord invites us to find rest in Him.  He said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.”  How can we deal with our pains? The key to overcoming our pains is to feel with God in His suffering and pains.  That is why Jesus invites us to come to Him to find rest by shouldering His yoke and learning from Him.  He said, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  He invites us to share in His pain and love for the People of God.  This is what it means to shoulder His yoke and to learn from Him. Only by entering into the mind and heart of the Father as Jesus did, can we become gentle and humble in heart and find rest for our souls.  Unless we carry the heart of God, we will not be able to look at others’ sufferings with gentle compassion and be able to surrender our responsibilities to God with humility, asking Him for divine assistance.

What is the yoke of God?  His yoke is to see us in our misery.  It is natural that when you love and care for someone, you identify with his pains and sufferings.  In fact, often, those who see their loved ones suffer, suffer more emotionally and psychologically.  To see our loved ones in pain because of an illness or  emotional distress causes us much anxiety and grief.  When we feel for our loved ones, we would do anything to help them.  If we are not moved by the sufferings of others, it is because we have no relationship with them and we do not feel with them enough to want to help.  We close our hearts to their sufferings.  But not for God. His heart is open to all and that is why He suffers most because whenever He sees us suffering, He suffers as much with us.

Indeed, God, who is love and created us in love, feels much with and for us.  He told Moses, “I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you.”  God could not bear to see His chosen people suffer.  Their anguish was also His anguish.  He is close to His people and feels for them.  So He told Moses, “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, – the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.”   So love is the reason for one to act and to be moved.  God is moved by love and by our suffering.

God wanted Moses to let the people know that He has always been with them and is faithful to the covenant that He established with their forefathers.  “He remembers his covenant for ever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.  He gave his people increase; he made them stronger than their foes, whose hearts he turned to hate his people and to deal deceitfully with his servants.”  This has always been the testimony of the people of Israel.  God is faithful to the promises He made with the Fathers of Israel.

Most of all, God calls Himself “I Am who I Am.”  In other words, He is not so much a noun, something that is static.  He is dynamic and always in process.  He is a verb and therefore always present to His people in every new situation.  Hence, His reply to Moses was,  “This is what you must say to the sons of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.”   Furthermore, He reiterated, “This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.”

But God does not only feel with us, He will act in love.  Many of us feel sorry for those who are suffering but are unable to act or not able to help. This is understandable because we feel inadequate. Of course, sometimes it is because we are selfish and do not wish to trouble or inconvenience ourselves.  We only pay lip service to those who ask us for our assistance or who need our intervention.  But God does not stand by to watch us in our helplessness.  He steps in to help us to get out of the situation.  “And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites. the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.”  He acted by sending His special messenger to save His people.  God also said to Moses, “You are to say to the sons of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.”

Not only does He send His messengers but He empowers them as well.    The Lord assured Moses.  “They listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the King of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, of God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us.  Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.’”  The reponsorial psalm says, “Then he sent Moses his servant and Aaron the man he had chosen. Through them he showed his marvels and his wonders in the country of Ham.”  He will help us to do His work.  Moses did not find himself worthy to be the leader of Israel but God qualified Him.  He was the one who would ensure success, not by the strength and wisdom of Moses.  He assured Moses that through His mighty hand, the Egyptians would let them go.  “For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there.  After this he will let you go.”  We too will find rest for our souls if we have the humility of heart to entrust all our projects to God and wait for Him to act.  If God is for us, there is nothing to fear.  He will ensure our success.

Truly, every burden is heavy when we carry it alone without the grace of God and His divine assistance; and when we carry it without the love and compassion of God in our hearts.  Thus, the key that Jesus is offering to us all if we are feeling tired and weary because of our responsibilities, anxieties and fears for our work, family and church, is to see them and our challenges as means to share His love with them.  At the same time, we must not think we can accomplish all these by ourselves.  Rather, we must identify with Jesus for He accomplished His mission by being one with the Father in doing His will.

Finally, to find strength to continue believing in Him, we must, like the psalmist, “give thanks to the Lordtell his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, the judgements he spoke.”  By recalling all the great things He has done for us in the past, we will find hope and inspiration to carry on. We are not always successful in everything we do but He comes to bless us in different ways in accordance to His plan.  If it is His divine will, He will bring forth fruits from the work of our hands.  So by giving thanks to what we have received and been blessed by Him, we will find greater courage to continue to hope in His mercy and love.


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

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

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Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30 From Living Space

The Gospel in many of its passages is very demanding and requires an unconditional commitment to the following of Christ. We have seen that clearly in the contrast Jesus made between the demands of the Law and what he expected from his followers. But, again and again, that is balanced by the other side of God – his compassion and his understanding of our weakness and frailty.

Today he invites “all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest”. He seems to be referring to the burden of the Law and the many other legalistic observances which had accumulated over the generations. In fact there was a common rabbinic metaphor which spoke of the ‘yoke of the Law’. We will see some of this in the two remaining readings of this week. Jesus did not have much time for this kind of religion. He invites us to come to him instead and experience comfort and consolation.

Jesus invites us to take on his yoke instead. A yoke can be heavy but it makes it easier for the ox to pull the cart or the plough. Jesus’ yoke is the yoke of love. On the one hand, it restricts us from acting in certain ways but at the same time it points us in the right direction. In the long run, it has a liberating effect. It is not unlike the idea of the “narrow door” which Jesus invites us to go through rather than follow the wide road to nowhere.

Jesus asks us to learn from him in his gentleness and humility. This was in stark contrast to the severity and arrogance of other religious leaders. Not only are we to experience the gentleness of Jesus, we are also to practise it in our own dealings with others.

I think it is commentator William Barclay who offers another lovely idea. It was quite common to have double yokes when two animals pulled a vehicle together. Barclay suggests that Jesus is offering to share his yoke with us. He and I will pull together and he will share the burden with me. In either case, he assures us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Jesus expects us to give all of ourselves to him but, when we do so, we discover that what he asks is absolutely right for us. To follow Jesus is not to carry a great weight but to experience a great sense of liberation.

If we have not found that experience yet then we are not yet carrying the yoke of Jesus.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1155g/

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Thank Heaven Prayer for Little Children
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“I thank you Father,
Lord of Heaven and of earth,
for hiding these things from the learned and the clever
and revealing them to little children”. 
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• Certain texts of the Gospel reveal to us all their significance when we place them on the background of the Old Testament. This is how this very brief and very beautiful text of the Gospel of today is. In this text there are echoes of two themes greatly loved and recalled by the Old Testament, one from Isaiah and the other one from the so called Wisdom Books.
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• Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, the Servant and represents him as a disciple who is always looking for a word of comfort so as to be able to encourage those who are discouraged: “The Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple’s tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning, he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple”. (Is 50, 4). And the Messiah Servant launches an invitation: “Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money come! Buy and eat; come buy wine and milk without money, free” (Is 55, 1).
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These texts were present in the memory of the people. They were like the songs of our childhood. When people listens to them, souvenirs come to mind, there is nostalgia. The same with the word of Jesus: “Come to me!” revived the memory and brought close the nostalgic echo of those beautiful texts of Isaiah.
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• The Books of Wisdom represent the divine wisdom as a woman, a mother who transmits to her sons her wisdom and tells them: “Buy her without money, put your necks under her yoke, let your souls receive instruction. She is near, within your reach. See for yourselves; how slight my efforts have been to win so much peace” (Si 51, 25-27). Jesus repeats this same phrase: “You will find rest!”.
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• Precisely because his way of speaking to people, Jesus awakes their memory and thus the heart rejoiced and said: “The Messiah, so greatly awaited for has come!” Jesus transformed the nostalgia into hope. He made people advance a step forward. Instead of fixing themselves on the image of a glorious Messiah, king and dominator, taught by the Scribes, the people changed opinion and accepted Jesus, Messiah Servant. A humble and meek Messiah, welcoming and full of tenderness, who made them feel at ease, they the poor together with Jesus..
Personal questions
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• Is the Law of God a light yoke which encourages me, or is it a weight which gets me tired?
• Have I felt sometimes the lightness and the joy of the yoke of the Law of God which Jesus has revealed to us?.
Concluding Prayer
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Bless Yahweh, my soul,
from the depths of my being, his holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul,
never forget all his acts of kindness. (Ps 103)
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From 2015
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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EFFECTIVE PRAYER AND INTERCESSORY PRAYERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  1 Kings 18: 42b-45aPs 14:12-34Gal 4: 4-7Jn 19:25 – 27

We are living in challenging times.  Institutions, religious values and cultural practices and traditions are called into question.  The institution of marriage and family is being redefined.  Divorce and remarriage is accepted as not contrary to the gospel.  Abortion, euthanasia and stem cells research involving embryos are accepted forms of killing or destruction of life.  Surrogate motherhood and test-tube babies on the other hand are promoted to help couples to have children.  Among the Christian communions and within the Catholic Communion, the values of the gospel are compromised to fit the needs of the modern world.  Instead of humanity trying to be faithful to the values taught by Christ, we are attempting to manipulate the gospel to suit our needs.

Like Elijah, more than ever, we are called to preserve the purity of the gospel.  This was the context of today’s first reading.  The prophet Elijah was known to be a zealous prophet in keeping the faith of Israel uncontaminated.  He was a true prophet and servant of God in defending the true God of Israel.  Just earlier on, he confronted King Ahab and the false prophets.  He even went to the extent of killing the false prophets in obedience to Moses’ command as death sentence was imposed on those who apostatized.  Indeed, Elijah demonstrated his utter devotion and loyalty to God.  It showed his deep concern and protective love for his fellow Israelites who were being led astray by the false prophets.

What principal weapons did he use to purify the nation of Israel?   What can we learn from Elijah?  How do we preserve the purity of our faith and the health of society? 

Firstly, Elijah did not use weapons or force but the power of faith in God.  The secret of his courage in confronting the King and exposing the false prophets at Mount Carmel was his faith in God.  He had total confidence in Yahweh whom he believed would vindicate him.  True enough, the Lord allowed a severe drought in Israel at the command of Elijah.  And, unlike the false prophets who could not command their gods to consume their sacrifices, the Lord had the holocaust burn at Elijah’s command, even though it was deliberately drenched with water.  Finally, Elijah prayed for the rain to come and it became a storm.

Secondly, from Elijah, we learn that this faith in God must be expressed by fervent and persistent prayer.  His confidence in God’s power and fidelity was seen in the brevity and simplicity of his prayer.  He did not utter long and complicated prayers.  Elijah believed and his prayer was heard.  He never doubted the fidelity of God to his prayers.  His prayer was not only, fervent but it was also persistent.  “Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees.”  Elijah persevered in prayer, a prayer that was complete and total, symbolized by the seven times before the prayer was answered.  Even though Elijah received his prophetic word that God would send the rain, he persevered in prayer until the rains came.  (1 Kg 18:41-45)   If we want our prayers to be heard, we, too, should not give up too easily.  We must pray till it is given, search until we find and knock till the door is open.  (cf Mk 7:7)

Fourthly, he prayed with expectant faith that God would manifest His power.   Indeed, God manifested His power in response to his sincere prayer.   He sent fire to consume the sacrifice thereby showing Himself to be a living God and vindicating him as God’s prophet.   Through his persistent prayer, the rains came, symbolizing the renewed blessings of God for the nation.  We need to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a spiritual renewal in the Church.  This is what the New Evangelization is inviting us to.  We should pray also for a God-encounter so that we too will know that our God is a living God who is not only to be believed but one who acts in our lives. Without an experience of His love in our lives and His mighty power, the world which believes only in science and technology, in empirical and experimental sciences, would not come to have faith in our God.

However, it is not enough to pray rightly.  The way and attitude in prayer is no less important than the motives and the life of the pray-er.   Elijah did not pray for himself.  He interceded for the people of Israel because of his sincere desire to reveal God’s grace to them so that they would repent and turn their hearts back to God.  He asked for God’s grace to deal with the false prophets and Baalism and Asherah, the pagan gods.   He was not seeking for his glory and honour but the restoration of God’s hour and glory.  Indeed, this is what the Lord asks of us when He taught us the Lord’s Prayer, to pray thus, “Holy be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done!”

Besides having the right motives, we need to live a holy and righteous life.  St James reminds us that the prayer of the righteous man works wonders.  After saying, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed”, he added, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5:16f)   It is important that we keep ourselves pure and holy if we were to be effective in the lives of others.  Righteousness comes from faith in Christ who justifies us.  But it also means that having been justified and reconciled with the Lord, we need to continue living a righteous, holy and God-fearing life in obedience to His commandments.  The psalmist underscores this necessity for a righteous life in prayer when he says, “Lord who shall be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain?  He who walks without fault.  He who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart.”

Without putting on the mind of Christ, we will not be able to always ask according to His holy will.  And the Lord will give us what we ask provided we ask with the mind of Christ.  This is an indispensable condition if we want to receive what we ask.  St John wrote, “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (1 Jn 3:21f)

Hence, to pray according to His perfect will as the Lord asks of us in the Lord’s Prayer and as He did in the garden of Gethsemane, we must pray that we are not in the will or in the way of God because of our self-centered motives.  Like Elijah, we need to give our undivided attention to the Lord.  Just as he challenged the people earlier on to make a definitive choice between worshipping Baal or Yahweh, we too must with undivided heart render complete devotion to God.  Elijah, regardless of how he was taunted and ridiculed by the prophets of Baal and threatened by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, he remained committed to the Lord to purify Israel from corruption and false compromises.  We, too, if we want our prayers to be heard must have undivided loyalty to God.

Within this context of prayer and the faith of Elijah and his spiritual warfare against the false prophets at Mount Carmel, we can now better appreciate why our Carmelite sisters are doing what they are doing.  Following the tradition of the spirituality of Elijah, they too seek to live a life of purity through penance and mortification in the monastery.  Through their sacrifices and self-denial, they unite themselves with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross so that they can do the will of God.  At the same time, this house is known as a house of prayer and, especially, a house for intercession.  The primary task of the sisters is to offer their whole life, not just at prayer but in their whole being, for the conversion of sinners and the petitions of the local church and the universal church and the world.  Their prayers, like Elijah’s, are effective because they are prayed with a purity of heart, with fervor, sincerity, persistence and most of all, with faith.   Indeed, we have much to thank our sisters for being our great intercessors.  We know that their prayers are effective because of their holiness of life and their faith.

Finally, we also take inspiration from Mary, our Lady of Mount Carmel in seeking to follow the spirituality of the Carmelite sisters.  The response in the responsorial psalm says, “Draw us after you, Virgin Mary; we shall follow in your footsteps.”  Indeed, let us follow Mary’s footsteps in doing the will of God and glorifying Him in our lives in obedience to His will.  She reminds us at Cana in Galilee, to do whatever He tells us if we want our prayers to be answered.  So through Mary, let us live out our sonship in Christ by living our lives not as slaves to the Law or to sin but truly as adopted sons and daughters in Christ, sharing in His life.  In this way, our prayers would be heard for we pray not just with the confidence as sons and daughters of God but with the same mind of Christ.

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 18, 2017 — God saves us so that we can save others.

July 17, 2017

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 390

Image result for Pharaoh's daughter finds a basket by the river, art, photos

Pharaoh’s daughter finds a basket by the river

Reading 1 EX 2:1-15A

A certain man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman,
who conceived and bore a son.
Seeing that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months.
When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket,
daubed it with bitumen and pitch,
and putting the child in it,
placed it among the reeds on the river bank.
His sister stationed herself at a distance
to find out what would happen to him.

Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe,
while her maids walked along the river bank.
Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it.
On opening it, she looked, and lo, there was a baby boy, crying!
She was moved with pity for him and said,
“It is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter,
“Shall I go and call one of the Hebrew women
to nurse the child for you?”
“Yes, do so,” she answered.
So the maiden went and called the child’s own mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,
“Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will repay you.”
The woman therefore took the child and nursed it.
When the child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter,
who adopted him as her son and called him Moses;
for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

On one occasion, after Moses had grown up,
when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor,
he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen.
Looking about and seeing no one,
he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting!
So he asked the culprit,
“Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?”
But the culprit replied,
“Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Then Moses became afraid and thought,
“The affair must certainly be known.”

Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put Moses to death.
But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34

R. (see 33) Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
I am sunk in the abysmal swamp
where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths;
the flood overwhelms me.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me;
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

AlleluiaPS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt

Gospel MT 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 JULY, 2017, Tuesday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time
THE TRAGEDY OF INDIFFERENCE AND INGRATITUDE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 2:1-15Ps 68:3,14,30-31,33-34Mt 11:20-24   ]

God is our deliverer and He is our savior.  Indeed, it is God’s desire to save us.  He has always wanted to save His people.  It is significant that God saves us so that we can save others.  God saved Moses so that he could save His people.   The name given to Moses means “I draw you out of the waters.”  In the responsorial psalm, the psalmist also prayed, “I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold.  I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me. This is my prayer to you, my prayer for your favour.  In your great love, answer me, O God, with your help that never fails.”   We too were in our sins and sunk deep in the mess of life.  But Christ saved us through the waters of baptism when we died to our sins.  Through the passion and death of Christ, we are raised with Him in the resurrected life.

But we are not saved for our sake.  We are always saved for others.  When God delivers us, He has in mind for us to deliver others as well.  That was the case of Moses when he was saved from the waters so that he could lead the people across the waters from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land.  This was true of Peter and Paul as well.  They were saved by the Lord, forgiven and set free.  In turn they became great evangelizers.  This is something we must never forget.  God does not bless us just for our sake but for the sake of others.  Moses likewise responded by protecting his countryman from being bullied by an Egyptian.  He saw one of them being ill-treated and his natural instinct was to fight for his rights. Having been rescued himself, he did the same for others.

Only those who have suffered much can empathize much.   We tend to champion the underdogs only because we were once underdogs ourselves.  Those who have gone through difficult times can better identify with those who are suffering.  That was why Jesus became man.  He assumed our humanity, born into the poverty of His people and shared in the humanity of His people.  For this reason, Jesus was a compassionate high priest.  He understands our pains and our struggles.  He feels with us in our sickness, alienation and rejection.  We too, especially when we become better off and or have recovered from our struggles or illnesses, should learn to be more compassionate with those who are suffering.  The call to mission always springs from a desire to save and heal those who have suffered much like us.

But seeking to save others does not mean that we should right a wrong with another wrong.  Quite often in the world, we see much violence in the name of justice.  So called ‘religious people’ kill in the name of God.  Those who champion justice would kill others to fight for their rights.   We must be careful that we do not fall into extremes in the desire to help those who are in the same situation as were in.  That would be only a reaction, not an action on our part, in the face of suffering.  In the case of Moses, instead of helping the situation, he made it worse by killing the Egyptian.  In his disgust, he allowed his anger against injustice done to his countryman to be expressed in violence.  He took things into his own hands.  He did not follow the right way in his desire for justice.  To take a life was not in accordance with the plan of God. This was not the way to right a wrong.  We cannot overcome evil with evil.  “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”  (Rom 12:17) St Paul made it clear.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:19-21)

As a result he had to flee “from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.”  Perhaps, God needed to teach Moses the right way to deliver others from their misery.  He had to understand the ways of God.  He had to be healed of his old wounds first before he could heal others.  Otherwise, when we act out of our raw wounds, we tend to be excessive and reactive towards the oppressors or in undertaking certain actions. St Paul preached at Damascus soon after his conversion and almost got himself murdered as well.  (cf Acts 9:23-25) He too went away to Arabia to reflect on his conversion experience and grow in his relationship with the Lord. “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.”  (Gal 1:17)  It is always dangerous when one acts from one’s wounds as many do in their attempts to fight for the marginalized.  It is said that oppressors were once a victim.  So much so that in helping those who are suffering, we act from the raw wounds that are still hurting us.

On the other hand, there are those who, although have been helped and delivered, remain inward-looking.  They take their privileges for granted, like the townsfolks from Chorazin and Bethsaida.  “Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.” In spite of the miracles that Jesus performed for them, they were not responsive to the Good News.  Their lives were not changed or transformed.  Perhaps Jesus’ remark in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine’s, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you” (Mt 7:6), came from such encounters.

There are many who have taken for granted the blessings they received in life.  Instead of being grateful and thankful to God and to those who have blessed them, they remained indifferent.  This is the tragedy of life.  There are some people who are so grateful for the little things we have done for them.  They remember our kindness for life and in turn want to bless others with whatever blessings they have received.  Indeed, we hear stories of those who have been helped by the Church when they were poor.  Now that they have become rich, they recount their stories of their gratitude to the Church for standing by them in those difficult times.  They remain eternally grateful to God and the Church and seek to help those who are less fortunate.

Then there are others we have helped much, financially and in so many other ways.  They take us for granted, remain unappreciative and demanding.  What is most hurting is that those people whom we have sacrificed our lives for, given all we could and supported them in every way, would later turn against us.   For such people, we do not condemn them.  They deserve our pity rather than judgment.  This was the way Jesus felt for those people in Chorazin and Bethsaida.  He spoke out of sorrow for them rather than anger at their ignorance and indifference. At the end of the day, they were the ones who deprived themselves of the fullness of the grace of God’s blessings.

Today, we are called to be like the psalmist who is ever so grateful to God for delivering him from the troubles of life.   “I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold.  I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me.  In your great love, answer me, O God, with your help that never fails.  As for me in my poverty and pain let your help, O God, lift me up.  I will praise God’s name with a song; I will glorify him with thanksgiving.  The poor when they see it will be glad and God-seeking hearts will revive; for the Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains.”  The Lord listened to the prayers of the needy and those in the depths of their pains.  Filled with gratitude and joy, they glorify God in their lives.  Let us not receive the grace of God in vain, like the people in the towns that Jesus preached.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

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

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Exodus 2:1-10 . BIRTH AND PRESERVATION OF MOSES.

1. there went a man of the house of Levi, &c. Amram was the husband and Jochebed the wife (compare Exodus 6:2 , Numbers 26:59 ). The marriage took place, and two children, Miriam and Aaron, were born some years before the infanticidal edict.

2. the woman . . . bare a son, &c. Some extraordinary appearance of remarkable comeliness led his parents to augur his future greatness. Beauty was regarded by the ancients as a mark of the divine favor.
hid him three months–The parents were a pious couple, and the measures they took were prompted not only by parental attachment, but by a strong faith in the blessing of God prospering their endeavors to save the infant.

3. she took for him an ark of bulrushes–papyrus, a thick, strong, and tough reed.
slime–the mud of the Nile, which, when hardened, is very tenacious.
pitch–mineral tar. Boats of this description are seen daily floating on the surface of the river, with no other caulking than Nile mud (compare Isaiah 18:2 ), and they are perfectly watertight, unless the coating is forced off by stormy weather.
flags–a general term for sea or river weed. The chest was not, as is often represented, committed to the bosom of the water but laid on the bank, where it would naturally appear to have been drifted by the current and arrested by the reedy thicket. The spot is traditionally said to be the Isle of Rodah, near Old Cairo.

4. his sister–Miriam would probably be a girl of ten or twelve years of age at the time.

5. the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river–The occasion is thought to have been a religious solemnity which the royal family opened by bathing in the sacred stream. Peculiar sacredness was attached to those portions of the Nile which flowed near the temples. The water was there fenced off as a protection from the crocodiles; and doubtless the princess had an enclosure reserved for her own use, the road to which seems to have been well known to Jochebed.
walked along–in procession or in file.
she sent her maid–her immediate attendant. The term is different from that rendered “maidens.”

6-9. when she had opened it, she saw the child–The narrative is picturesque. No tale of romance ever described a plot more skilfully laid or more full of interest in the development. The expedient of the ark, the slime and pitch, the choice of the time and place, the appeal to the sensibilities of the female breast, the stationing of the sister as a watch of the proceedings, her timely suggestion of a nurse, and the engagement of the mother herself–all bespeak a more than ordinary measure of ingenuity as well as intense solicitude on the part of the parents. But the origin of the scheme was most probably owing to a divine suggestion, as its success was due to an overruling Providence, who not only preserved the child’s life, but provided for his being trained in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Hence it is said to have been done by faith ( Hebrews 11:23 ), either in the general promise of deliverance, or some special revelation made to Amram and Jochebed–and in this view, the pious couple gave a beautiful example of a firm reliance on the word of God, united with an active use of the most suitable means.

10. she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter–Though it must have been nearly as severe a trial for Jochebed to part with him the second time as the first, she was doubtless reconciled to it by her belief in his high destination as the future deliverer of Israel. His age when removed to the palace is not stated; but he was old enough to be well instructed in the principles of the true religion; and those early impressions, deepened by the power of divine grace, were never forgotten or effaced.

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he became her son–by adoption, and his high rank afforded him advantages in education, which in the Providence of God were made subservient to far different purposes from what his royal patroness intended.

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she called his name Moses–His parents might, as usual, at the time of his circumcision, have given him a name, which is traditionally said to have been Joachim. But the name chosen by the princess, whether of Egyptian or Hebrew origin, is the only one by which he has ever been known to the church; and it is a permanent memorial of the painful incidents of his birth and infancy.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/exodus/exodus-2.html

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Commentary on Matthew 11:20-24 From Living Space
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After the apostolic discourse of chap 10, Matthew goes back to narrative.  In two passages preceding today’s Jesus reassures the disciples of John the Baptist that he is indeed the “one who is to come”, that is, the Messiah and Saviour-King.
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This is followed by a passage where Jesus complains of those who close their minds to God’s word.  John the Baptist led the life of an ascetic in the wilderness and they did not listen to him.  Jesus socialised freely with all kinds of people and they accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.
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So today Jesus warns three towns where he spent much of his time: Chorazin, Bethsaida and especially Capernaum.  If Jesus had done in the pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon what he had down in these predominantly Israelite towns, they would have converted long ago. Even Sodom, the biblical image of the very worst in immorality, would have done better.
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It is important for us to realise that, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is primarily speaking to us today.  If many non-Christians had been given the opportunities that we have received through our membership of the Christian community, they could very well be living much more generously than we do.  To what extent are we listening to God’s word?  How much of it do we try to understand?  And how much of it is reflected in our lifestyle?  Are we clearly and obviously followers of Christ and his Way?
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Discourse of the Mission occupies charter 10.  Chapters 11 and 12 describe the Mission which Jesus carried out and how he did it. The two chapters mention how the people adhered to him, doubted the evangelizing action of Jesus, or rejected it.
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John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, does not succeed in understanding him (Mt 11, 1-15). The people, who looked at Jesus out of interest, were not capable to understand him (Mt 11, 16-19). The great cities around the lake, which listened to the preaching of Jesus and saw his miracles, did not want to open themselves up to his message (this is the text of today’s Gospel) (Mt 11, 20-24). The wise and the doctors, who appreciated everything according to their own science, were not capable to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11, 25). The Pharisees, who trusted only in the observance of the law, criticized Jesus (Mt 12, 1-8) and decided to kill him (Mt 12, 9-14).
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They said that Jesus acted in the name of Beelzebul (Mt 12, 22-37). They wanted a proof in order to be able to believe in him (Mt 12, 38-45). Not even his relatives supported him (Mt 12, 46-50). Only the little ones and the simple people understood and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).  They followed him (Mt 12, 15-16) and saw in him the Servant announced by Isaiah (Mt 12, 17-21).
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• This way of describing the missionary activity of Jesus was a clear warning for the disciples who together with Jesus walked through Galilee. They could not expect a reward or praise for the fact of being missionaries of Jesus. This warning is also valid for us who today read and meditate on this discourse of the Mission, because the Gospels were written for all times.  They invite us to confront the attitude that we have with Jesus with the attitude of the persons who appear in the Gospel and to ask ourselves if we are like John the Baptist (Mt 11, 1-15), like the people who were interested (Mt 11, 16-19), like the unbelieving cities (Mt 11, 20-24), like the doctors who thought they knew everything and understood nothing (Mt 11, 25), like the Pharisees who only knew how to criticize (Mt 12, 1-45) or like the simple people who went seeking for Jesus (Mt 12. 15) and that, with their wisdom, knew how to understand and accept the message of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).
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• Matthew 11, 20: The word against the cities which did not receive him. The space in which Jesus moves during those three years of his missionary life was small; only a few square kilometres along the Sea of Galilee around the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin. Only that!  So it was in this very reduced space where Jesus made the majority of his discourses and worked his miracles.  He came to save the whole of humanity, and almost did not get out of the limited space of his land.  Tragically, Jesus has to become aware that the people of those cities did not want to accept the message of the Kingdom and were not converted.
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The cities become more rigid in their beliefs, traditions and customs and do not accept the invitation of Jesus to change life.
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• Matthew 11, 21-24: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are worse than Tyre and Sidon. In the past, Tyre and Sidon, inflexible enemies of Israel, ill treated the People of God. Because of this they were cursed by the prophets. (Is 23, 1; Jr 25, 22; 47, 4; Ex 26, 3; 27, 2; 28, 2; Jl 4, 4; Am 1, 10). And now Jesus says that these cities, symbols of all evil, would have already been converted if in them had been worked all the miracles which were worked in Chorazin and Bethsaida.
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The city of Sodom, the symbol of the worse perversion, was destroyed by the anger of God (Gn 18, 16 to 19, 29). And now Jesus says that Sodom would exist up until now, because it would have been converted if it had seen the miracles that Jesus worked in Capernaum. Today we still live this same paradox.  Many of us, who are Catholics since we were children, have many solid and firm convictions, so much so that nobody is capable of converting us. And in some places, Christianity, instead of being a source of change and of conversion, becomes the refuge of the most reactionary forces of the politics of the country.
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Personal questions
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• How do I place myself before the Good News of Jesus: like John the Baptist, like the interested people, like the doctors, like the Pharisees or like the simple and poor people?
• Do my city, my country deserve the warning of Jesus against Capernaum, Chorazion and Bethsaida?
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Concluding Prayer
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Great is Yahweh and most worthy of praise
in the city of our God, the holy mountain,
towering in beauty,
the joy of the whole world. (Ps 48,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (July 14, 2015)
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St John captured it so poignantly when he wrote “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  (Jn 1;11)  Jesus who loved His people so much and who came for them even instructed His disciples “not to go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.  Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt 10:5f)

 

The failure to respond to grace is the gist of today’s gospel.  The scripture readings invite us to consider the graces that we have received from God.  Like the Chosen People of God, we fail to take cognizance of the many wonderful graces we have received from Him with respect to our faith, life, health, material sufficiency, loved ones and friends.  Miracles are happening all around us every day and yet we are so blind to the wondrous works that God is doing for us and with us.  We fail to see these as signs from God, tokens of His love and mercy for us.

Instead, most of us take God and His graces for granted.  In Singapore, we are so fortunate in that there are ample avenues for those of us who are serious about deepening our faith.  We have the daily Eucharist celebrated at our parishes, and as if these are not near enough, we even have the Eucharist brought to the vicinity of our work place.  We have plenty of Adoration chapels open for us to pray in comfort.  There is even one, the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at CSC, which is open 24 hours throughout the year.  For those of us who are internet savvy, there are plenty of websites that offer scripture reflections for the day.  In terms of faith formation, we have talks, seminars and retreats in the parishes and our retreat houses.  And if we need community, there are neighbourhood groups and numerous movements and organizations to join, according to the charisms God has bestowed us with.  But how many of us avail of these resources?  More importantly, how many of us are making full use of the graces given to us so that we can deepen our faith and grow in charity for ourselves and for each other?

Not only do we take God and our faith for granted, we take our loved ones for granted as well.  It is ironical that we are more grateful to strangers and acquaintances who help us with small favours now and then, rather than to our friends and loved ones who spend much time and resources on us.  The love and kindness shown to us by our spouse and intimate friends seem to be something owed to us and not perceived as graces given to us.  When we take people for granted, especially those who are close to us, we do not grow in our love for them.  We are not appreciative because what is supposedly a gift from their goodness is seen as a right due to us.

Finally, most of us have received the blessings of God in vain.  God has blessed us with talents, wealth, health, career and success, yet we do not use our resources to help others, to contribute to the Church and society.  Instead of using what the Lord has blessed us with for the good of humanity, we use them only for ourselves.  Worse still are those who use their talents and resources for evil purposes, to manipulate others, to acquire more power and wealth for themselves.

If we have received the grace of God in vain, there will be serious repercussions. Jesus has this to say to us, “And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard as the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.” In warning them about the imminent judgment, He was not saying that God is a vindictive and merciless God.  On the contrary, Jesus was trying to express the lamentation of God who could not bear to see the self-destruction of His people.  The truth is that what we sow will be what we reap.  The disastrous consequences will be brought upon by ourselves.  For failing to use the graces of God responsibly and gratefully, we will cause ourselves and even our innocent loved ones to be destroyed by our sins.

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You can read all of Bishop Goh’s sermon from last year in our archives:
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O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small…

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Turkey opposition chief says undeterred by Erdogan threats

June 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu walks with a placard reading ‘Justice’ during a protest march in Ankara, on June 15, 2017

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey’s main opposition leader on Sunday vowed to press on with a “walk for justice” from Ankara to Istanbul after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he risked facing legal proceedngs for the action.Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu called the march after former journalist turned CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoglu was sentenced to 25 years in jail on Wednesday for leaking classified information to a newspaper.

Kilicdaroglu on Sunday completed the fourth day of a trek that is expected to take almost a month and represents by far his biggest challenge to the Turkish strongman since he took over the CHP in 2010.

But Erdogan the day earlier had said such actions bring no good for the country and bluntly told Kilicdaroglu “don’t be surprised” if legal proceedings were opened.

“They want to provoke us but we will not give in! They want to threaten us with the courts and he (Erdogan) calls out the judges, the prosecutors,” said the CHP chief.

“We are walking for justice, not against justice,” he added, quoted by the party while the march.

Kilicdaroglu, 68, has made the word “justice” the slogan of his march, clutching a stick with the word emblazoned on a card.

His plan is for the 450-kilometre (280 miles) trek to culminate at Maltepe prison in Istanbul where Berberoglu is being held.

Political tensions have been rising in Turkey after Erdogan on April 16 narrowly won a referendum granting him greater powers that the CHP fears will lead to one-man rule.

Kilicdaroglu accused Erdogan of being the “July 20 coup plotter” over the crackdown that followed the failed July 15 putsch to oust him from power.

Erdogan on July 20 declared a state of emergency that has seen some 50,000 people arrested and another 100,000 lose their jobs in the biggest purge in modern Turkey’s history.

Kilicdaroglu invited Erdogan to spend “a night in the caravan” on the way, sarcastically warning the president: “We don’t have golden toilets in the caravan.”

The CHP leader had accused Erdogan of having golden toilet seats in his palace, an accusation the presidency denied.

“I want to remind you — there is a Moses for every pharaoh. Don’t forget this,” he said, referring to the Israelite prophet who led the exodus from Egypt.

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, April 28, 2017 — ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’

April 27, 2017

Friday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 271

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Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes by Vasili Nesterenko.

Reading 1 ACTS 5:34-42

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 27:1, 4, 13-14

R. (see 4abc) One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
One thing I ask of the LORD
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaMT 4:4B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

Wallpapers Jesus Good Shepherd Christ Christianity God Hill Painting Religion 800x600 | #81005 #jesus good shepherd
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First Thoughts By Peace and Freedom
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At the very end of that long Gospel, “Jesus withdrew again to the mountain alone.”
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We shouldn’t think this is insignificant. Jesus prayer. Jesus meditates in silence. Jesus asks His father, The father, for help.
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“Knowck and the door will open.”
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Jesus’ Solitude and Silence by 
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Many Bible students miss the importance of Jesus’ Solitude and Silence. Every pastor, ministry leader, and caregiver — any disciple of Jesus! — needs to learn from Jesus’ example of intimacy with God. I don’t want to miss this! So I went back to the Gospel of Mark and did a Bible study on Jesus’ solitude and silence.

Continually Jesus withdrew from people, daily life activities, and the demands of his ministry to be alone with the Father and pray. Jesus’ solitude and silence is a major theme in the Gospels. Study this in your Bible and you’ll Discover the Secret of Jesus’ Peace and Power.

The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul. It’s how he taught his disciples. It’s how he prepared for important ministry events. It’s how he prepared for his death on the cross.

Jesus’ solitude is how he went deeper in his love-relationship with the God he knew as Abba. Jesus invites us to join him.

Even Mark Can Be Unhurried with Jesus

How could we miss the significance of Jesus’ solitude and silence with the Father? How could we think that we can live well or love well without following Jesus’ example?

Mark doesn’t miss it!

Many Bible scholars say that Mark tell his gospel in a hurry. Indeed his favorite expression is “immediately” (or “at once”) which he uses 39 times (NASB). He is so excited to tell us about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus! He even skips the story of Jesus’ birth. He gets out the Gospel of Jesus much faster than any of the other Gospel writers. (It takes only about an hour and fifteen minutes to read the Gospel of Mark straight through.)

But, like Jesus, Mark is not really in a hurry — except to get to the cross! (See Mark 10:32 when Jesus was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem where his cross waited.) Mark may be breathless with enthusiasm to share the Good News that Jesus has made the Kingdom of God available to us, but repeatedly he pauses to give us glimpses into Jesus’ solitude and silence with the Father.

In this way Mark invites us to join him and be unhurried with Jesus. Unhurried with Jesus. It can be your way of life too.

Bible Verses on Jesus’ Solitude and Silence

Here is a chronological survey of Bible verses from Mark that highlight Jesus’ solitude and silence. (I’ve added a few verses from the other Gospels. All verses are NIV84 unless indicated otherwise.)

“At once the Spirit sent [Jesus] out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” (Mark 1:12)

“Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee… ‘Come, follow me,’ he said.” (Mark 1:16)

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35) [Everyone was looking for Jesus, but after his time in prayer he told his disciples that it was time for them to move on to another village.]

“[Despite Jesus’ plea that his miracles be kept secret] the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16; see also Mark 1:45)

“Once again Jesus went out beside the lake.” (Mark 2:13)

“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples walked along.” (Mark 2:23)

“Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed.” (Mark 3:7)

“Jesus went out to a mountain side to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him.” (Luke 6:12-13. See also Mark 3:13)

“Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables.” (Matthew 13:1-3. See also Mark 4;1.)

“When Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been beheaded], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13)

“Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to [his disciples], ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)

“After [Jesus] had dismissed [the crowds], he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was [still] there alone.” (Matthew 14:33; see also Mark 6:46)

“[Jesus] entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.” (Mark 7:24)

“Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’” (Luke 9:18. See also Mark 8:27)

“Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there.” (Matthew 15:29, ESV)

“Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.” (Mark 9:2)

“After his brothers had gone up to the feast, then [Jesus] also went up, not publicly but in private.” (John 7:10, ESV). [Jesus walked 90 miles from Galilee to Jerusalem, which gave him about five days in solitude.]

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’” (Luke 11:1)

“Again [the religious leaders in Jerusalem] sought to arrest [Jesus], but he escaped from their hands. He went away again [walking about five miles] across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. And many came to him.” (John 10:39-41, ESV)

“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.” (Mark 10:32.) [Apparently Jesus kept silent for most of the 22-mile hike. Luke says Jesus was “resolute” (9:51). He told them that he’d be tortured and killed in Jerusalem.]

“When [Jesus and his disciples] had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” (Mark 14:26). This was Jesus’ “usual place” to pray when he was in Jerusalem. (Luke 22:39)

“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’” (Mark 14:32)

“They crucified [Jesus]… Darkness came over the whole land… Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’” (Mark 15:25, 33; Luke 23:46)

http://www.soulshepherding.org/2013/02/jesus-solitude-and-silence/

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Robert Cardinal Sarah’s new book about “Silence.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 APRIL, 2017, Friday, 2nd Week of Easter

THE UNASSAILABLE POWER OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:34-42; PS 26:1,4,13-14; JN 6:1-15 ]

It is human nature to defend ourselves against perceived enemies who threaten our lives or status quo.  This was so in the case of the Jewish leaders who tried to deal with the newfound Jesus movement by the early Christians.  They were motivated partly by jealousy that the new movement was gaining popularity and new members.  But they were also motivated by fear of the Romans’ intervention as the preaching of the apostles could cause social disorder, religious division and even pose political challenges for the Romans.  So institutions use the stick, penalty, threats and imprisonment to silence those who are different or could cause damage to the existing social, religious and political institutions.

But thanks to St Paul’s teacher, Gamaliel, the Sanhedrin were steered in the right direction by his wisdom and astuteness.  Instead of reacting to the new movement founded by the disciples of Christ, he urged for the situation to be monitored.  He gave them a very important guiding principle for the work of discernment.  “What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go.  If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.”   Indeed, those who walk by the light and in truth will be victorious in the end.  Those that come merely from a human initiative will not last.  Worse still are those who walk in darkness and in falsehood; they will eventually destroy themselves.

After this ruling, we read that the persecution from the Jewish authorities was much restrained.  Although they flogged and warned them not to proclaim in His name, they continued all the same after their release.  “And so they left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.  They preached every day both in the Temple and in private houses, and their proclamation of the Good News of Christ Jesus was never interrupted.”  The apostles could rejoice even in their suffering and humiliation simply because they knew that it was not their own strength or ingenuity that the spread of the gospel continued relentlessly but purely because of the power of the Risen Lord at work in their lives.

Truly, in the history of Christianity, Gamaliel’s principle was proven right.  In later Church history, when the Romans began persecuting the early Church in the first three centuries, it showed that the use of power, force and threats did not stop the Church from growing.  On the contrary, even though many Christians were martyred, tortured and killed; and even though the Christian faith was outlawed, yet the number of Christians grew even more.  As it was said, the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church.   This is why when we try to fight against the power of God, we will lose the battle, for God in the Old Testament is known as the Lord of Hosts!  He is the commander of the army of Israel.

This same predicament in a less threatening manner also occurred during the ministry of Jesus.  He was faced with the dilemma of feeding the crowd of five thousand.  He asked Philip, “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.” Andrew showed his desperation when he told the Lord, “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’”  Again, humanly there was no solution.  It would be difficult to send the crowd away to find food.  On the other hand, there was no way that Jesus could buy enough food to feed them or use the five loaves and fish.

Like Gamaliel and the apostles, they surrendered themselves to the power of God’s grace.  So we read that Jesus “took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready, he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as they wanted.”  In giving thanks, Jesus showed His total trust and gratitude to God for whatever His Father provided.  To give thanks means to trust in the power of God.  Those who cannot give thanks are always looking at the wrong side of the problem.  Instead of focusing on the half full cup, they focus on the half empty cup.  Instead of focusing on their blessings, they focus on their woes!  When we focus too much on the negative things in life, we become discouraged and lose faith in God and in ourselves.  We end up wallowing in self-pity.  Rather, we are called to thank God for what we have, even if it were for five barley loaves and two fish.  When we thank God, we begin to count our blessings.  When we are grateful for what we have, we become more receptive to His grace for the future and also grateful to others.

Perhaps this was how the bread multiplied.  Some scholars suggested that Jesus might not have literally multiplied the bread for the five thousand because unlike all the other miracles, there was no expression of amazement at the end of the miracle.  Perhaps, it could be that the people who brought their own food, on seeing Jesus give thanks for the little he had, came to appreciate their own abundance and blessings.  When they came to realize how much more blessed they were than Jesus with their food, they were moved to share all that they had brought in their baskets.  And this possibly explains why there was so much left over, twelve baskets of scraps, signifying that they had all more than enough to eat.  When we share what we have, there would be no poverty in this world and no hungry or suffering people.  The truth is that the few are hoarding most of the food for themselves and leaving the rest with nothing.  But if we count our blessings and are grateful to God, we will start sharing what we have.

However, we must not give up the possibility that a real miracle happened in that the bread was literally multiplied by the Lord.  If we accept this position, it too could be accommodated simply because we are speaking about the power of God’s intervention.  We might not know historically what actually happened, since this miracle was taken from the early liturgy of the Church in the celebration of the Eucharist. The point remains that with God, nothing is impossible.

This miracle recounted by John is to prepare us for the discourse on the Eucharist as the bread of life.  This explains why John prefaced this miracle with the mention of Jesus’ crossing to “the other side of the Sea of Galilee” and that it was “shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.”  These two details remind the listeners of the great miracle that God performed when He set the Israelites free from the slavery of the Egyptians and how they crossed the Red Sea.  Secondly, we remember how the Passover lamb saved the lives of the first born of the Israelites. These two details are meant to help us situate the Eucharistic discourse.  Jesus is likened to the new Moses who would be the teacher of the New Israel, the one who also provided the real manna from heaven.  Hence, like Moses, “Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples” to teach them, like a teacher.

The most important principle for faith in the Eucharist is that God has power over nature and therefore He has the same power to transform bread and wine into His body and blood. Humanly speaking, it is impossible.  But precisely for God, nothing is impossible.  Our response to God is not by logic and reasoning but by faith in His divine power.  Like Jesus, we are called to surrender all we have to the Lord, even if it were five loaves and two fish.  If we surrender ourselves to the Lord, He will work miracles in our lives.  We must learn to trust Him and His divine providence and power.  God will work wonders in our lives if, like Jesus, we continue to give Him thanks at all times, for things big and small.  In trusting in the power of God and not the power of man, we will see His miracles at work in us.

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

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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He withdrew to the mountain alone! That is what the Gospel of John tells us today. Jesus recognizes that the motivation of His followers is not right. They still want an earthly king, someone who will give them all they want. Jesus wants them to recognize how God really works in their lives and to seek the will of God, not miracles and great works.

The first reading today, from the Second Book of Kings, gives us the account of the Prophet Elisha feeding a large number of people with a little food. This helps us understand that God is always at work, not only in the time of Jesus and through Jesus, but always God is at work. Perhaps too often we think of the miracles of Jesus as something new. Or we think that the teachings of Jesus are all new. Instead, we are invited to understand Jesus as the fulfillment of all that has gone before Him and of all that will come after Him. Jesus is truly the center point of all of history and needs to be the way in which we understand all that has been and all that will be.

We are instructed that we have one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. This unity is always present in all of history. The challenge is that our eyes and our ears and our hearts are often closed and do not see the connections and the unity.

As we return to the passage from the Gospel of John which is our Gospel today, we see this wonderful miracle, which John always considers a sign. A sign is meant to point to something else and not to itself. The real danger of miracles is that we can get caught by them, want them, long for them–and not see them as pointing to the Kingdom of God, directing you and me to live in the Kingdom. When we are hungry, we want real food and not a sign! If we are sick and dying, we want a true miracle and not a sign pointing us to the Kingdom.

Faith tells us, however, that signs are actually more important than the miracle itself. Encountering the presence of the living God in this life is more important than eating or recovering from serious illness. That takes a lot of faith! On the other hand, if we think about it, what a wonderful gift to meet the living God personally, rather than just to have food or health! Sure, that takes faith! And we could be like some of the saint who would say: I want it all!

So let us ask for all today. Let us ask for the food to feed our hunger and for the miracles for our health and wellbeing. Let us ask most to know the living God and His love for us.

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From Living Space

Like Mark, John begins by telling us that Jesus crossed over to the opposite shore of the Lake of Galilee and that he was followed by a large crowd. He does not mention (as we saw last week) Jesus wanting to bring his disciples to a quiet place after all their work of teaching and healing where they could reflect away from the crowds.

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However, as we know from Mark, the crowds had gone before them on foot. What made people walk nine miles (12 km) to see Jesus? John says it was because “they saw the signs that Jesus was doing for the sick”. This is likely an expression of the deep hunger and longing of people for healing and wholeness in their lives. At the same time, it could also be interpreted in a purely selfish and curious sense, the way people will flock in crowds after hearing about some “miraculous” event. (The end of today’s Gospel suggests this second reading.)

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We will not be any better than the crowd, if we only see in this story a miraculous multiplication of a few loaves of bread and some fish. All gospel stories are steeped in symbolism and this is especially true of John.

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Like Moses, but also different

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We are told first that Jesus “went up the mountain”. This is not just a factual detail. In that symbolism we mentioned, it reminds us of Moses on the mountain bringing God’s Law to the people.

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Here, however, there is a great difference: Jesus is no mere intermediary; he speaks in his own right, with the same authority as his Father. As we saw last week, Mark has Jesus teaching the people first. Here in John the teaching, which we shall see in the coming weeks, flows out of the multiplication experience. And, while Moses went up the mountain alone, Jesus brought his disciples with him. They were partners in his work and they would continue that work after his resurrection.

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And just as Moses gave the Jewish people God’s teaching in the form of the Law and later fed them with manna, so God, in Jesus, the new Moses, will feed both spiritually and materially those who come to him.
Teaching the people is not mentioned by John but is mentioned by the other evangelists. And just as Moses gave the Jewish people God’s teaching in the form of the Law and later fed them with manna, so God, in Jesus, the new Moses, will feed both spiritually and materially those who come to him.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/OB171/.

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From 2016

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 APRIL 2016, Friday, 2nd Week of Easter
THE ENTERPRISE OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:34-42; JOHN 6:1-15   ]

The readings of today are very timely in helping us to remember that the mission of the Church is primarily the initiative of God and it is His work, not ours. When we forget this fundamental principle, we fall into discouragement.  This is especially so when things do not turn out well and we are deeply disappointed.  This is particularly true of those of us who work hard for the spread of the gospel, the renewal of our parish or organization and those in Church ministries.  In whatever we do, although we mean well for everyone and for the good of the Church, we often meet with opposition, slander, nasty remarks and misunderstandings.  This explains why many who volunteer their services to the Church or to charitable organizations resign with much resentment and anger.  Instead of being grateful for our contributions, we have to deal with those who are jealous of us, who see us as threats to their position and status quo.

Indeed, as Christians, should we be surprised at all?  In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read how the apostles were persecuted, unjustly imprisoned, intimidated and warned not to preach in the name of Jesus.  And this was simply because the interests of the religious and political institutions were threatened. It was not based on justice and fair trial that they were arrested, but out of fear and anger because they had challenged the status quo and put the religious authorities in a bad light.  Yet, we read that in spite of being flogged and warned, “They left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.”  Not only did they feel happy to suffer with the Lord who suffered even more than they in standing up for the truth, their zeal for the Lord did not wane.  “They preached every day both in the Temple and in private houses, and their proclamation of the Good News of Christ Jesus was never interrupted.”  Instead of retreating, they found other ways to proclaim the gospel courageously.

What was the secret of their joy in suffering the shame in proclaiming the gospel?  It was simply because they knew that the work they were doing was the work of God, not theirs!  As Gamaliel rightly pointed out, the fruits of their work would show whether their movement came from God or from men.  Advising the Sanhedrin on the line of action to take, the famous teacher of St Paul said, “What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go.  If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.”

So let it be clear that if the work we are doing is the work of God, then we should not be worried when we face opposition and setbacks in our mission. We should not become too anxious or disillusioned when our proposals and projects are rejected.  If it were the work of God, somehow God will work His ways to bring about the realization of His divine plan.  Nothing can thwart the plan of God.  So if we are nervous, unable to sleep, angry and frightened because there are people opposing our plans and proposals, let us surrender them to the Lord and He will take care of our enemies for us.  The psalmist prayed, “Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.’  He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” (Ps 2:1-6)  We pray, “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?”   With the Lord on our side, we will surely triumph over our opponents.

Indeed, in the gospel today, we see the wonderful work of God in Christ when He multiplied the loaves for 5000 people excluding women and children.   In this miracle, He wanted to teach the apostles not to rely on their own skills and ingenuity.  Hence we read that purposefully, He asked Philip, “’Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’”  Philip was asked by the Lord simply because he came from Bethsaida, a village close by.  Like all of us, we rationalize and think of human ways to overcome the challenges in ministry and in mission.  Like an accountant or a logistic officer, he plainly told Jesus that it would be too costly and even then it would be a futile effort.  Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother was no different when he said, “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?” We can be sure that the apostles would have even more with them than that little boy but they reckoned that it would be too little to be shared with all.

To prove them wrong on looking at the mission merely in a human, calculative way, He took whatever little the boy could offer and after offering it in thanksgiving to God, He fed more than 5000 with twelve baskets of leftovers.  Through this miracle, Jesus showed that it was God who was doing the work and not men.  What He did was also to anticipate the Eucharist which He would give to the world, His own flesh and blood.  It was also to remind them of the great miracle at the Exodus when the Lord sent manna down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert.   He was as the Evangelist mentioned, the prophet who was come into the world. Moses indeed prophesied, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.” (Dt 18:15)  By deliberately climbing up “Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples”, Jesus was claiming to be the New Moses and the Prophet foretold.  That it also happened “shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover” reminds us of the Exodus experience and anticipates for us the Eucharistic meal at the Last Supper, which sums up the greatest miracle of all time, His passion, death and resurrection.

Consequently, today, we must take heart and learn from the apostles and the little boy.  We only need to bring what we have to the Lord and He will know how to multiply our resources.  We need to have faith in Him, not in man. “Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.” (Ps 20:6-8)  God only wants us to show our sincerity and generosity.  He knows we are weak and limited in resources and strength.  But He also wants us to know that all glory and power belong to Him.  He wants to demonstrate His power through us so that people will know the power of God and give honour to Him, not to us.  “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” (Ps 115:1)  Again, St Paul wrote, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:27-29)

So let us therefore find courage and inspiration in working for the Lord.  In all things, let us give praise to Him, whether in success or in failure.  Everything that is done for the Lord is always a success in His eyes. Let us not worry about what people think and reckon as success.  We do the will of God and continue to be like the apostles to proclaim the gospel in humility, with courage and confidence.  Like them, we must be resourceful and find new ways to reach out and do things for the Lord if we find barriers and obstacles.  We must circumvent these difficulties and seek new ventures.  Never say die but always get up and try. If the Lord closes one door, He opens the window.  So instead of giving up so easily, be like the Lord who finds a solution to every problem, like the way He multiplied the loaves.

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, March 30, 2017 — God answers prayer; But people are easily distracted by shiny things and false worship

March 29, 2017

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 247

God answers prayer; But people are easily distracted by shiny things

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Reading 1 EX 32:7-14

The LORD said to Moses,
“Go down at once to your people
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
for they have become depraved.
They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them,
making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it,
sacrificing to it and crying out,
‘This is your God, O Israel,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt!'”
The LORD said to Moses,
“I see how stiff-necked this people is.
Let me alone, then,
that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them.
Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying,
“Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people,
whom you brought out of the land of Egypt
with such great power and with so strong a hand?
Why should the Egyptians say,
‘With evil intent he brought them out,
that he might kill them in the mountains
and exterminate them from the face of the earth’?
Let your blazing wrath die down;
relent in punishing your people.
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.'”
So the LORD relented in the punishment
he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 106:19-20, 21-22, 23

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

Verse Before The Gospel  JN 3:16

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

Gospel  JN 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”

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Image result for Golden calf, bible, art
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Reflection on Exodus 32:7-14 By Dr. Calvin Wittman
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Our text today is a clear example of the power of prayer. Last week we observed the impatience of the Israelites and the sins that are born out of impatience. We saw how they constructed an idol of gold and how they bowed down and worshiped it, in what we termed false worship. We pick up our story this morning in chapter 32, with our principle text being verses 7-14.

Herein we find God angered with the Israelites and threatening to destroy them and to make a new nation out of Moses. Moses, acting as the intercessor for the Israelites, pleads with God to relent and not to destroy His people, and the scripture says that God changes His mind and turns from the punishment He had threatened against Israel.

Notice three things this text tells us about God this morning.

I. God is aware of everything (32:7)

Nothing escapes the all seeing eyes of God. Nothing is beyond the scope of His knowledge. In reality, we know that God knew what Israel was going to do, so the golden calf comes as no surprise to Him. This is what Verse 7 tells us.

II. God is a jealous God (32:8-10)

Remember the second commandment, back in Exodus 20:4-6, God made it very clear that He would not tolerate divided loyalty. He wanted all of their devotion; He would not share it with anyone.

III. God is sovereign (32:11-14)

There are those who read this passage and want to focus on the fact that the text says that God changed His mind. This sends some folks into absolute panic, especially those who are fatalistic and are so wrapped up in predestination that their limited view of God leaves Him no room to be God. A plain reading of this text tells us that God changed His mind about what He was going to do to Israel.

This presents us with somewhat of a theological dilemma. For you see, since we know that God knows all things, and has perfect foreknowledge, it would seem incompatible with His nature for Him to change His mind. To deal with this tension, scholars have come up with several theories. Some tell us that God never really intended to destroy the Israelites, but that He was just testing Moses to see if Moses would intercede for them as he was supposed to. The problem with this theory is that it is not what the text tells us.

Which brings me to my final point…look again at verses.

IV. God answers prayer (32:11-14)

I want you to notice the characteristics of Moses’ prayer; what made it work.

It was personal – that is, it was given within the context of authentic relationship. While God can answer the prayers of anyone He wants, the only people whose prayers He has promised to hear and answer are of those who are in relationship with Him.

It was purposeful – So many of our prayers lack actual specifics. We pray that God would bless all the missionaries, would help the poor and comfort the afflicted. That’s not how Moses prayed. He had a specific purpose in mind when He prayed. He was intentional. He went to God with a purpose weighing heavily on his heart.

It was positional – That is, Moses used His position as intercessor and mediator to go to God on behalf of the people.

It was passionate – We know from the verse 32, that Moses was even willing to have his own name blotted out of the book of life, if only God would forgive Israel. Moses was passionately involved with the people he was leading.

Conclusion

Are you doing anything which you think will escape God’s attention? Are you slowly but surely drifting away from God, wandering from the intimacy which you once had with Him? You can get back into fellowship this morning. Is your view of God limited? Have you been fooled into believing that prayer doesn’t really change things? Friend, don’t let anyone or anything steal that most precious resource from you. God hears our prayers and answers them.

Dr. Calvin Wittman

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-god-answers-prayer-moses-forgiveness-golden-calf-exodus-32

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 MARCH, 2017, Thursday, 4th Week of Lent
HOSTILITY AGAINST CHRIST AND HIS GOSPEL
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EXODUS 32:7-14; JOHN 5:31-47]

Since the healing of the paralyzed man at the Sabbath, we read of the growing hostility and opposition against Jesus from the Jewish leaders. Today, Christianity is in many ways under assault from all sides.  Externally, the world is opposed to the teachings of the gospel.  Those involved in business and in politics find the gospel a nuisance to their aspirations and their pursuits.   Internally, many Catholics are not even convinced of the truth of the Word of God, paying lip service to the Bible as an inspired book with God as the author.  Much less do they show allegiance to the teachings of the Holy Father and the Magisterium as authoritative teachers and interpreters of the Word of God!

Why are people opposed to the gospel, including so called Catholics and Christians?  In the first reading, we read that the people apostatized simply because they were looking for a vacuum to fill their empty lives when Moses left them to go to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.  Many people seek to fill their emptiness by creating false gods in their lives.  Idolatry is the worship of false gods, something that cannot give true happiness and life.  In a word, idolatry is a worship of nothingness.  Those who worship idols will come to naught. “All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless.”  (Isa 44:9) “Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them.”  (Ps 115:8)   Idolatry can come in the form of worship of our spouse, our children, our work, our possessions, power, status and our pleasures in life.  These things cannot last and bring us real happiness.

Secondly, like the Jewish leaders, people are opposed to the gospel because of selfish interests.  They are afraid to lose their status quo in society.  As Jesus remarked, “Besides, I know you too well; you have no love of God in you. I have come in the name of my Father and you refuse to accept me; if someone else comes in his own name you will accept him.  How can you believe since you look to one another for approval and are not concerned with the approval that comes from the one God?”  People in the world, including nominal Catholics, reject the truth of the gospel because their interests and desires of this world are being challenged.  For some, they feel that the gospel is a cause of them losing business in the entertainment world or power in the political and scientific world, especially when the Church condemns certain forms of entertainment or immoral bio-ethical practices and social injustices.  When the profits of such people are undermined, they defend their position by aggressively attacking the teachings of the Church and the Bible.

Thirdly, enemies of the Church are those who worship their intelligence. They have deep intellectual pride.  They take offence when their views are not accepted.  They only believe in themselves and their reasoning.  Anything that is opposed to their beliefs or their reasoning is not acceptable.  They lack humility to recognize the limits of reason, particularly their own reasoning.  In the final analysis, they are not keen to seek the truth but they only want to prove that others are wrong.   They want to show themselves to be wise in the world.  That is why they would go to the social media to make sure their views are heard loud and clear; and would vehemently defend their position right to the end.  As Jesus said, they are seeking for human approval.  Jesus came and spoke only for our salvation, out of love for us.  He made it clear, “as for human approval, this means nothing to me.”  Jesus was not interested in arguing with the Jewish authorities.  He knew that such intellectual arguments will go nowhere because there is a lack of sincerity to search for the truth.  All they wanted was to prove Jesus wrong.  So too, there are many enemies of the Church, within and without, who just want to flaunt their sophisticated arguments, showing themselves to be very intelligent, not to defend the truth but to win an argument.

In the light of such opposition, what must we do?  How do we respond to our critics?Firstly, we depend on human witnesses.  Jesus appealed to John the Baptist.  He said, “Were I to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid; but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf, and I know that his testimony is valid. You sent messengers to John and he gave his testimony to the truth.”  We too need Catholics to be witnesses to Christ.  We need courageous Catholics who are willing to stand up for their faith.  We need Catholics who are living signs of God’s love and mercy in the world.  We are called to be like John the Baptist, by being a light in darkness, not cursing the darkness but simply to be that light.   Indeed, “John was a lamp alight and shining and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.”   There is nothing more convincing than Christians witnessing to the truth in their lives by words and deeds.  Unfortunately, many of our Catholics are hiding behind the light and not allowing their lamp to shine.  As Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”  (Mt 5:14-16)

 

A lamp in the time of Jesus

Secondly, we need to rely on the works of Christ.  “But my testimony is greater than John’s: the works my Father has given me to carry out, these same works of mine testify that the Father has sent me. Besides, the Father who sent me bears witness to me himself.”  Clearly, the best testimony is always in the fruits and works of what a person teaches.  What he says is not as important as how he lives his life.  In the case of Jesus, we have seen His miracles at work, and His works of mercy, compassion and healing.  How do we know the gospel is true if not through the fruits of love that Catholics manifest in their lives?  Catholics need to give testimony to Jesus at work in their lives.  St Paul wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  (Phil 2:12b, 13)   When we listen to the beautiful testimonies of how God works miracles in the lives of our Catholics, especially when they are transformed, then we know that this God we worship is a living God and the true God.

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

Thirdly, we need to seek the scriptures to find the Lord.  Jesus reprimanded the Jews, “You have never heard his voice, you have never seen his shape, and his word finds no home in you because you do not believe in the one he has sent.”  This was because they sought the scriptures to select texts that justified their prejudices.  They failed to see that the scriptures point us to Jesus, the truth as proclaimed by Him.  We cannot see God but we can see God and hear Him in Jesus.  This is what Jesus said, “You study the scriptures, believing that in them you have eternal life; now these same scriptures testify to me and yet you refuse to come to me for life!”  In truth, the scriptures point towards Jesus as the fulfillment.  He enlightened the disciples at Emmaus, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” (Lk 24:44)  Again at the Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared together with Jesus, we have a reiteration that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Laws as represented by Moses and the eschatological prophet as represented by Elijah.  In a word, Jesus is the Word of God in person, because all the Laws and the prophecies are fulfilled in Him.  This explains why Jesus said, “Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you place your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be your accuser. If you really believed him, you would believe me too, since it was I that he was writing about but if you refuse to believe what he wrote, how can you believe what I say?”

So today, let us testify for Jesus.  Let us be His witnesses and light in the world. Let us search the scriptures, not to look for answers to satisfy our prejudices and preconceived notions, but to allow scriptures to lead us to Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.  When we allow the Word of God to work in and through us, our lives will be changed. Indeed, “when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 16, 2016 — “Pray always without becoming weary” — “Constant Contact With God” — “Only prayer can change the world.”

October 15, 2016

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 147

Jesus is the Light of Life. Art by Greg Olsen

Reading 1 EX 17:8-13

In those days, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.
Moses, therefore, said to Joshua,
“Pick out certain men,
and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle.
I will be standing on top of the hill
with the staff of God in my hand.”
So Joshua did as Moses told him:
he engaged Amalek in battle
after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.
As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,
Israel had the better of the fight,
but when he let his hands rest,
Amalek had the better of the fight.
Moses’hands, however, grew tired;
so they put a rock in place for him to sit on.
Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands,
one on one side and one on the other,
so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people
with the edge of the sword.

Responsorial Psalm PS 121:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (cf. 2) Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;
whence shall help come to me?
My help is from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
May he not suffer your foot to slip;
may he slumber not who guards you:
indeed he neither slumbers nor sleeps,
the guardian of Israel.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD is your guardian; the LORD is your shade;
he is beside you at your right hand.
The sun shall not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.
R. Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Reading 2 2 TM 3:14-4:2

Beloved:
Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God
and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus,
who will judge the living and the dead,
and by his appearing and his kingly power:
proclaim the word;
be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient;
convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

Alleluia HEB 4:12

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

Gospel LK 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.’”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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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 Second Letter to Timothy, from which our second reading comes today, tells us this piece of wisdom:  “You have known the sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  Clearly the lesson today is to seek wisdom and to listen attentively to the Lord and others as we seek God’s wisdom.

The first reading is from the Book of Exodus and that wonderful story of Moses holding up his hands in prayer.  As long as his hands are held up, the army of Israel wins in battle.  When Moses tires and lowers his hands, the other armies begin to win.  This is a story that is repeated in the Gospel:  never weary of praying because, in truth, it is only prayer than can change the world.

The Gospel today is from Saint Luke and tells the story of a widow dealing with an unjust judge.  As we hear the details of this judge, we understand why the widow is upset.  The judge does not fear God and does not respect any human being!  There really is no hope for the widow.  We don’t know the details of the widow’s case which she brings before the judge.  She is not asking that the judge favor her, only that he render a just decision.  This widow is relentless!  She just keeps pestering the judge until he says to himself:  I better give a just decision lest she finally come and strike me.

This is almost a comic situation:  a strong and unjust judge who fears a widow who might come and beat him up!  Luke’s Gospel tells us that “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert https://christdesert.org/about/

Last Supper. Art by Mike Duke

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From Peace and Freedom

God really hear and answer our prayers. The problem with many of us, even the most devout Christians and Catholics, often find that they don’t really believe. So they don’t really ask. They don’t really pray.

God is kind of gentle that way — he always allows us free rein. We always have out free will. I’ll just bet, often times as he watches me, He’s thinking, “There you go again. Always wanting to do it your own way!”

It is interesting to me that often in the Bible, Jesus or some other major player says, “Do not be afraid.” But that supposes we are doing the things Jesus tells us to do like keeping the commandments and to, “Pray always without becoming weary.”

God wants us to have peace of mind — but we have to do some work to get it!

People trying to recover from alcoholism or drug addiction are often given the suggestion to seek “constant contact with God.”

One of our friends sent us this:

What is your definition of prayer? God’s Word says we are to pray without ceasing. If your definition would meet this requirement then the definition needs to be changed to be able to meet this requirement. God wants us to stay in constant contact with Him all throughout our days. So let’s invite him into every moment of every day and ask Him to move and be glorified in every thought we think, every word we speak, and every action we take or prevent ourselves from taking.
To many, prayer means: bow their head, kneel, and pray. If that were the definition of prayer and when the Bible tells us “never stop praying”, how could anyone do it?

There are different times and prayer styles, however, to be able to meet the requirement of “never stop praying”, we need to make sure we aren’t putting God in a box but that we are considering how and what we can do to ensure we are in constant contact with God and that we are walking in alignment with Him. Yes, we should have our private prayer time. Yes, we should have our corporate prayer time. We also need to realize that directing our thoughts towards God qualifies as a silent prayer. Since prayer is a conversation with God, the Bible is telling us that we are to be in constant conversation with God. So be aware of His presence throughout Your day. Invite Him into your meetings and conversations. Invite him into the planned and surprise events. Invite Him into the exciting and routine parts. Talk to Him when you wake up and when you go to sleep.

https://from2005toeternity.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/are-you-staying-in-constant-contact-with-god/

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Whenever I am in need of keeping in constant contact with god: I hum. I hum in the grocery store. I hum while driving. I fall asleep humming. I mow the lawn and shovel snow while humming. I think God hears me and always knows where I’m at! I know He knows where I am even if I don’t hum. But If I do hum, I KNOW I need HIM always and constantly.

That’s a critical part of my constant contact with God.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 OCTOBER 2016, 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
DISCERNMENT IN PRAYER CALLS FOR OPENNESS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  Ex 17:8-13; 2 Tim 3:14-4:2; Lk 18:1-8 ]

Does God really hear and answer our prayers?  This question will elicit different answers from different people.  Some would declare confidently that God always answers their prayers, no matter what they ask for, and if they are not answered, it is probably because they lack faith that God can answer their prayers.  Others would hesitate and answer that God does not answer all our prayers for reasons we do not know.  Others still, find it useless to pray, for God cannot answer our prayers at all.  Everything is dependent on human and will- power.

What is the scripture’s response to this question?  In no uncertain terms, the scripture readings today affirm that God always listens to our prayers and answers them.  This is what Jesus taught us in today’s gospel when He gave us the parable of the judge and the poor widow, declaring that God “will see justice done to them, and done speedily”.  Then, we have the story of how Moses, whenever his hands were raised in prayer, his people won victory over their enemies.  Hence, Jesus exhorts us to pray continually and never lose heart.

Now, although it is true that God always answers our prayers, we must not understand this in a naive and simplistic way.  When we examine the parable given by Jesus, we must not over anthropomorphize God to the level of man.  In other words, we must not reduce God to the level of the human judge.  In fact, in the analogy between God and the judge, there is a much greater dissimilarity than similarity.   If not, then we might come to the conclusion that God, like the judge, is lazy and needs to be pestered before He answers our prayers.  Furthermore, when He answers our prayers, it is not because He wants to answer them, nor because He cares for us, but because He does not want us to be a nuisance to Him; and so responding to our requests is the best way to get rid of us.  If that is how God is like, such a kind of God surely does not command our respect, even less, our worship.

Nay, on the contrary, the point of comparison that Jesus wants to bring is that God is so unlike the judge.  Like the judge, God has no fear of man, but in a positive sense.  The judge does not fear God or man because he thinks only of himself.  He is so self-centered that he has no respect or concern for others, not even God in his life.  But God’s ‘fear’ of man is different.  If God does not fear man, it is because His love for us is not a grasping kind of love.  He does not love us so that we might love Him.  Rather, He loves us first even before we decide to love or not love Him.  He loves us because His very nature is love.  He loves us not even for our sake, nor for His sake.  His love is really a disinterested love – a love that flows from His very nature.

For this reason, God can freely bestow His favours and blessings on man without discrimination.  God is fair to us all and He loves us all the same.  He cannot be manipulated or be appeased.  We do not have to do anything for Him to gain His favour.  In other words, we cannot do anything to buy God over.  This is because He is complete in Himself.   Consequently, God’s justice is unlike the judge’s justice.  His justice is His merciful love for all and His care for all.  His justice is His impartiality in loving all without discrimination and without any selfish motives.

Within this context then, we can understand better that it is not simply because Moses raised his hands in prayer that God helped the Israelites to win the battle.  We should not read this text literally.  Rather the significance of the raised hands of Moses and the prayer of the widow is their persistent openness and trust.  All prayers are always answered by God without exception, provided we have this attitude of persistent openness to Him in trust. That is why Jesus declared at the end of today’s gospel, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”  That is to say, can people be open to the different ways God enters into our lives?  The rejection of Jesus by His fellowmen is simply because they had their fixated ideas of how God should come as their saviour.

How, then, can one adopt such a persistent openness to God in trust?  By praying continually.  But this must be clarified.  To pray continually does not mean we keep on knocking on the doors of the heart of God, demanding that our petitions be answered.  No, to pray continually means to be in continuous dialogue with God in discernment.

How then do we discern whether our petitions are in line with the will of God? The second reading provides us the means of discernment.  It speaks first of all of our teachers, that is, the wisdom of the teaching Church, the tradition which we have inherited.  Secondly, Paul refers us to the scriptures, “from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  By praying over the scriptures, we can be guided and inspired.  In reading the scriptures, we must keep an open mind and accept the Word, welcome or unwelcome, as Paul said.  Unwelcome, because there will be times when the Word challenges us in the ways and attitudes of our thinking. We might find it difficult to accept certain truths about ourselves or about life.  Yes, we are constantly being called to be true to ourselves.

However, when we see the error of our ways of thinking and living, we will spontaneously be converted.  We are converted not because of any compulsion but because we see the stupidity of our attitudes to life; the foolishness of the petitions that we pray for.  Yes, to be converted is to be converted to the will of God.  Prayers are not meant to convert God to do our will, rather, that we do His will.  Obedience to the will of God is not something which we carry out as a burden; rather, it is carried out joyfully and happily because we see it as something good for us.  If we find obedience to God’s will difficult, it is simply because we do not understand His will for us.  We are carrying them out in blind obedience, which goes against our intellectual and volitional grains.  The reason why we carry crosses in life is only because our will crosses God’s will.  But when His will and ours are one, there are no crosses to carry.

Yes, the faith that the scriptures ask from us, therefore is a faith that is open to the ways of God which are often above the ways of man.  With that faith and with the gift of God’s wisdom to see life differently, we will indeed find that all our prayers are always answered.  Not only will our prayers be answered, but we will find that the best answer that one can receive from God is that He does not answer our prayers at all.  Why? Because we will come to understand that He always provides what is best for us.  We will learn to trust Him at all times and only be open to His providence.  Of course, such an attitude can be in us only if we are like Moses and the widow who were persistently open.  Such openness means that we can never lose heart no matter what comes our way. And we therefore will always be at peace with God and within ourselves.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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Commentary on Luke 18:1-8 From Living Space
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One of the attributes attributed to Luke is that his is a “Gospel of Prayer”. We see Jesus praying in this gospel more than in the others and he gives more teaching about prayer.
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Today Jesus tells a parable urging perseverance. “He told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.” This is very much a theme in Paul’s letters (cf. Rom 1:10; 12:12; Eph 6:18; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 5:17; 2 Thess 1:11, etc., and 2 Cor 4:1,16; Gal 6:9; Eph 3:13; 2 Thess 3:13).
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The parable features a totally corrupt judge, who fears neither God nor man. It also features a widow, probably the most powerless, the most pitiful and least pitied of people in the society of those days. She has lost her husband, re-marriage is out of the question, she has lost the support of her own family and her husband’s family, and there is nothing comparable to social welfare for her to lean on.
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As far as a corrupt judge is concerned, she can be ignored. She has neither power nor money (for bribing). But this widow is different. She is persistent and will not give up. Eventually, the judge, for his sheer peace of mind, settles in her favour.
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If, Jesus concludes, a corrupt and ruthless judge can be moved by a helpless widow, what kind of response can we expect when we, his people, call out in our helplessness to our loving and compassionate God? “I tell you, he will give them swift justice.” That is, he will give them what is rightfully due to them.
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But, says Jesus in a challenge which should make us sit up and take notice, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?” Times of persecution are on the way – they have already begun as this gospel is written – and some will give up under pressure. They will not persevere in keeping close contact with God in prayer, finding him and his peace in the midst of their sufferings.
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It is easy to pray when things are going well. It is often in times of pressure that we, too, give up praying when we need it most, when our faith is really being put to the test. We have to pray constantly and consistently. We should not be afraid to ask for what we believe we really need.
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But then, if God is such a caring person, why should we have to pray to him at all? We need to keep praying, not for his sake but for our own. By doing so, we maintain an awareness that “by ourselves we can do nothing”.
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Secondly, the more we pray, the closer we come to God. And, as we pray, what we ask for will gradually change. Ultimately what we want is what we need. And what we need is to bring our thinking, our dreams, our ambitions totally into line with God’s way of seeing things.
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The problem is, as Jesus says at the end today, how many people will really be doing that when he comes looking for us? How often do I pray? How consistently do I ask? What do I ask for? What do I really want? Do I distinguish between what I want and what I really need? And do I really have that faith and trust in the loving providence of my God?
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There is another and very indifferent interpretation of this passage. When we read this parable about perseverance, we usually think of it in these terms: God is the judge and we are the widow. This means we should persevere in pestering God until our needs are met.
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But what happens if we turn that around and say that we are the judge and God is the widow? In some ways, this interpretation makes more sense. We, like the judge, are basically unjust. Sometimes we, too, have no fear of God; that is, we do not allow God to scare us into being good.
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Similarly, like the judge we persist in refusing to listen to the cries of the poor all around us. But God is the persistent widow who will not go away. God keeps badgering us, refusing to accept as final our ‘No’ to love. God will persist until we render a just judgment, that is, until we let the goodness out, until we learn to love.*
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In Genesis we are told we are made in the image and likeness of God. Perhaps our prayer could be: Dear God, Persevering One, make us more like you!
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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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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013 over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images) When the going gets tough, we have to get our faith going!

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From Our Archives)
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14 NOVEMBER 2015, Saturday, 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
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THE SIN OF DESPAIR

SCRIPTURE READINGS: WIS 18:14-16; 19:6-9; LK 18:1-8

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”  This is indeed a very critical question that we are all asked to consider today.  Will we remain faithful to God until the end of our lives?  Will we remain true to our faith in God?  Will we remain true to our vocation in life, especially those of us who are married or those called to priestly life or religious life?  The fact is that we are all being tested and challengedin many ways.  We can be tried in big ways and in the daily humdrum of life too.

Like the widow in today’s gospel, we are put through all kinds of onslaughts and disappointments in life and pushed to our wits end.  We can certainly feel with the widow in her predicament.  It is unfortunate enough that she could no longer depend on her husband for her livelihood.  Not only did she have to look after herself, but perhaps her children as well.  Life must indeed have been tough for her.  However, that is not all.  We are also told that she was being persecuted by her enemies and lost some of her rights.  In that kind of situation, we can certainly empathize with her in her plight.

But we too suffer similar struggles in our own lives.  We too have our own tragedies.  Some of us are in ill health; others are in financial straits; yet others have difficulty securing employment.  Some of us also face the challenge of trying to change certain situations in our life, in our family, at work, or the community we belong to.  Unfortunately our attempts to rectify such irregularities are often met with indifference and opposition.  Such difficulties can be rather trying.

One of the most painful experiences in life is thesuffering that comes from being unjustly treated; discriminated at our workplace and at home. Like the widow, we feel the need to address the injustice. However, justice must be seen in the biblical context.  Justice in the bible is firstly understood in terms of distributive justice, that is, an equal and fair distribution of goods, and the respect of each individual’s rights.  This is the most basic level of justice.  However, in the bible, justice goes beyond mere legal justice.  It entails a harmonious relationship with our neighbours and with God.  It is concerned with a right and loving relationship.  According to our own situations, we all suffer some form of deprivation or the lack of relationship with others and even with God.  Redressing our rights is certainly a tedious and time-consuming process.  Quite often, such mediation or litigation can result in further complications, especially when neither party is willing to admit its error.

But even more difficult and daunting is the restoration of relationships, especially after a misunderstanding.  Even if one party is willing to forgive, the other party might not.  In such circumstances, most of us would be tempted to give up.  As the gospel says, there is a real possibility of losing heart when we find that seeking justice is too difficult a process.  As a result, some of us succumb to unjust practices.   Most of us give up in those situations where we have fought hard to make changes but received no support.  Students give up studying because they fail in their exams; parents give up on their wayward children and surrender them to the homes when they fail to change their behaviour.  We too also give up on our friends when they hurt us.  In giving up hope, we are admitting defeat.

Even if we are not overwhelmed by the major trials of life, the real test is our fidelity to what we believe and who we are in the long haul.  It is in the ordinary, everyday life that we are truly tested, the daily sacrifices of a mother; the giving of spouse to each other in mutual love, forgiveness, patience and tolerance of each other’s weaknesses; the perseverance in our duties, whether at home, in our faith or in looking after our loved ones, particularly our children who have endless needs and want our attention; and the dying to one’s self-will and interests.  It is easy to love, to forgive or do a good deed once or twice, but to do it every day and every year, that is a different matter altogether!

This is also true in our spiritual life.  There are some of us who have a beautiful experience of God, especially after a good retreat.  But then the euphoria does not last.  We cannot thrive on mere spiritual highs and sentimental experiences of God.  After the spiritual renewal, we need to take the difficult step of deepening our spiritual life through prayer, reading the Word of God, receiving the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, almsgiving and good works, fasting and mortification.  Most of us do not persevere in prayer; much less strive to grow in virtues and in deepening our love and faith in love.  In no time, we stop praying, ongoing formation in our faith and the scriptures.  And of course, we slide back to our old way of life; a life of sin and irresponsible living.

However, it is precisely this situation that the gospel encourages us to avoid.Jesus is telling His disciples and us “never lose heart.”  Indeed, the teaching of Jesus in today’s gospel is not simply a question of perseverance in prayer so that our petitions could be answered.  Rather, when we interpret this story in the context of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom, then Jesus’ message is that we must never give up our hope for the realization of the Kingdom of God in our lives.  Jesus is assuring His disciples and us that even when things seem to be against us; even when things do not seem to be moving or changing, we must never give up hope.  We must believe that things are changing, gradually, but certainly.  When we feel that we are getting nowhere, we are not making much progress, when things are not changing; when our diocese, parish or Church group is not growing in strength and unity; when we get impatient with ourselves or others or the situation, then the gospel is saying, “Be patient and persevere!

Yes, to give up hope is to give in to the biggest temptation of the Evil one.  This is precisely the intent of the petition in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.” The greatest temptation that we need to pray to be delivered from is the temptation to despair, to lose heart and to lose hope.  It is not even to pray for deliverance from our sufferings because if we lose hope in life, in love, in humanity, then the Devil is victorious over us.  Once we give up hope, we give up life.  Giving up hope is to give up trust in God and the Kingdom.  This would spell the end of us.

What then is our basis for not giving up hope?  Simply this:  we must realize that the mercy and love of God is so much greater compared to the unjust judge.  God is more merciful than him.  Indeed, Jesus reminds us that if an unjust judge could listen to the appeal of the widow, certainly God, who is unlike the unjust judge, would all the more listen to our prayers.  And this faith in God’s mercy and care is also founded in the history of Israel.  This is what the first reading from the book of Wisdom wants to teach us.  In that passage, we are reminded of how God helped Israel to cross the Red Sea in their flight from Egypt.  Just as God helped Israel in all their difficulties, God will certainly also respond to our pleas for help.

Consequently, today, the responsorial psalm invites us to “remember the wonders the Lord has done.”  It is important that we remember.  If not, during our trials and difficulties, we will fall into depression.  Remembering the past blessings we have received from the Lord will give us confidence to continue hoping and trusting in the power of God who is always at work in unseen ways.  Yes, today, if we feel discouraged or about to lose hope in goodness and in life, let us recall the wonderful deeds of the Lord in our lives.

And, as the first reading tells us, when we least expect, God will manifest His powers and stretch out His hands to save us.  God will come, like as the author tells us “when peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt.” Indeed, God will come in a sudden, decisive and surprising way.  He will work the same wonders He did at Exodus. He will deliver us in a most stupendous way. When that day comes, we will never, like the Israelites, the Jews and the early Christians, doubt that Jesus is Lord, or the efficacious power of the Word of God at work in us.

So, if we are losing our patience with the Lord because He appears to be late in responding to our prayers, let us never doubt that He is aware of our needs.  According to St Augustine, it is because the time is still not yet opportune.  What we need to do is to wait for God so that at the opportune time, God can give us the better things we are praying for.  In the meantime, God wants us to wait so that we can purify ourselves.  It is our patience and perseverance in times of trials and difficulties that we become victorious in the end.  Hence, we will prove also with God’s grace that the Kingdom of love is the last word,;not evil and despair.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, April 8, 2016 — “One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.” — “For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.”

April 7, 2016

Friday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 271

Feeding the Five Thousand (The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes), by James Tissot

Reading 1 ACTS 5:34-42

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 4, 13-14

R. (see 4abc) One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
One thing I ask of the LORD
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. One thing I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 4:4B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.
A large crowd followed him,
because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
Jesus went up on the mountain,
and there he sat down with his disciples.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,
he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
He said this to test him,
because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Philip answered him,
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough
for each of them to have a little.”
One of his disciples,
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;
but what good are these for so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”
Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.
So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed them to those who were reclining,
and also as much of the fish as they wanted.
When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,
“Gather the fragments left over,
so that nothing will be wasted.”
So they collected them,
and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments
from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The reading of the IV Chapter of John begins today which places before us two signs or miracles: the multiplication of the loaves (Jn 6, 1-15) and walking on the water (Jn 6, 16-21).Then the long dialogue on the Bread of Life is mentioned (Jn 6, 22-71). John places this fact close to the feast of the Passover (Jn 6, 4). The central approach is the confrontation between the old Passover of the Exodus and the new Passover which takes place in Jesus. The dialogue on the bread of life will clarify the new Passover which takes place in Jesus.

• John 6, 1-4: The situation. In the ancient Passover, the multitude crossed the Red Sea. In the new Passover, Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee. A great crowd follows Moses. A great crowd follows Jesus in this new exodus. In the first exodus, Moses goes up to the Mountain. Jesus, the new Moses, also goes up to the mountain. The crowds followed Moses who presents great signs. The crowds follow Jesus because they had seen the signs that he worked in favour of the sick.

• John 6, 5-7: Jesus and Philip. Seeing the multitude, Jesus confronts the disciples with the hunger of the people and asks Philip: “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” In the first exodus, Moses had obtained food for the hungry people. Jesus, the new Moses, will do the same thing. But Philip, instead of looking at the situation in the light of the Scripture, he looked at it according to the system and replies: “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough!” One denarius was the minimum salary for one day. Philip is aware of the problem and recognizes his total incapacity to solve it. He complains, but presents no solution.

• John 6, 8-9: Andrew and the boy. Andrew, instead of complaining, seeks a solution. He finds a boy who has five loaves of bread and two fish: Five barley loaves and two fish were the daily ration of the meal of the poor. The boy hands over his daily ration of food! He could have said: “Five loaves of bread and two fish, what is this for all these people? It will serve nothing! Let us divide all this among ourselves, between two or three persons”, but instead, he has the courage to give the five loaves of bread and the two fish to feed 5000 persons (Jn 6, 10! One who does this, either he is a fool or has much faith, believing that out of love for Jesus, all are ready to divide their food as the boy did!

• John 6, 10-11: The multiplication. Jesus asks the people to sit down on the ground. Then he multiplies the food, the ration of the poor. The text says: “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were sitting there; he then did the same with the fish, distributing as much as they wanted”. With this phrase, written in the year 100 after Christ, John recalls the gesture of the Last Supper (I Co 11, 23-24). The Eucharist, when it is celebrated as it should be, will lead the persons to share as it impelled the boy to give all his ration of food to be shared.

• John 6, 12-13: The twelve baskets of what was left over. Number twelve evokes the totality of the people with their twelve tribes. John does not say if fish were also left over. He is interested in recalling the bread as a symbol of the Eucharist. The Gospel of John does not have the description of the Eucharistic Supper, but describes the multiplication of the loaves, symbol of what would happen in the communities through the celebration of the Eucharistic Supper. If among the Christian people there was a true and proper sharing, there would be abundant food and twelve baskets would be left over for many other people!

• John 6, 14-15: They want to make him king. The people interpret the gesture of Jesus saying: “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!” The peoples’ intuition is just. Jesus in fact, is the new Moses, the Messiah, the one whom the people were expecting (Dt 18, 15-19). But this intuition had been deviated by the ideology of the time which wanted a great king who would be strong and a dominator. This is why, seeing the sign, the people proclaim Jesus the Messiah and ask to make him King! Jesus perceived what could happen, and he withdraws and goes to the mountain alone. He does not accept this way of being Messiah and waits for the opportune moment to help the people to advance a step farther.

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Personal questions

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• In the face of the problem of hunger in the world, do you act as Philip, as Andrew or like the boy?

• The people wanted a Messiah who would be a strong and powerful king. Today, many follow populist leaders. What does today’s Gospel tell us about this?

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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)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-61-15

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 APRIL 2016, Friday, 2nd Week of Easter
THE ENTERPRISE OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:34-42; JOHN 6:1-15   ]

The readings of today are very timely in helping us to remember that the mission of the Church is primarily the initiative of God and it is His work, not ours. When we forget this fundamental principle, we fall into discouragement.  This is especially so when things do not turn out well and we are deeply disappointed.  This is particularly true of those of us who work hard for the spread of the gospel, the renewal of our parish or organization and those in Church ministries.  In whatever we do, although we mean well for everyone and for the good of the Church, we often meet with opposition, slander, nasty remarks and misunderstandings.  This explains why many who volunteer their services to the Church or to charitable organizations resign with much resentment and anger.  Instead of being grateful for our contributions, we have to deal with those who are jealous of us, who see us as threats to their position and status quo.

Indeed, as Christians, should we be surprised at all?  In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we read how the apostles were persecuted, unjustly imprisoned, intimidated and warned not to preach in the name of Jesus.  And this was simply because the interests of the religious and political institutions were threatened. It was not based on justice and fair trial that they were arrested, but out of fear and anger because they had challenged the status quo and put the religious authorities in a bad light.  Yet, we read that in spite of being flogged and warned, “They left the presence of the Sanhedrin glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name.”  Not only did they feel happy to suffer with the Lord who suffered even more than they in standing up for the truth, their zeal for the Lord did not wane.  “They preached every day both in the Temple and in private houses, and their proclamation of the Good News of Christ Jesus was never interrupted.”  Instead of retreating, they found other ways to proclaim the gospel courageously.

What was the secret of their joy in suffering the shame in proclaiming the gospel?  It was simply because they knew that the work they were doing was the work of God, not theirs!  As Gamaliel rightly pointed out, the fruits of their work would show whether their movement came from God or from men.  Advising the Sanhedrin on the line of action to take, the famous teacher of St Paul said, “What I suggest, therefore, is that you leave these men alone and let them go.  If this enterprise, this movement of theirs, is of human origin it will break up of its own accord; but if it does in fact come from God you will not only be unable to destroy them, but you might find yourselves fighting against God.”

So let it be clear that if the work we are doing is the work of God, then we should not be worried when we face opposition and setbacks in our mission. We should not become too anxious or disillusioned when our proposals and projects are rejected.  If it were the work of God, somehow God will work His ways to bring about the realization of His divine plan.  Nothing can thwart the plan of God.  So if we are nervous, unable to sleep, angry and frightened because there are people opposing our plans and proposals, let us surrender them to the Lord and He will take care of our enemies for us.  The psalmist prayed, “Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.’  He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” (Ps 2:1-6)  We pray, “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?”   With the Lord on our side, we will surely triumph over our opponents.

Indeed, in the gospel today, we see the wonderful work of God in Christ when He multiplied the loaves for 5000 people excluding women and children.   In this miracle, He wanted to teach the apostles not to rely on their own skills and ingenuity.  Hence we read that purposefully, He asked Philip, “’Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’”  Philip was asked by the Lord simply because he came from Bethsaida, a village close by.  Like all of us, we rationalize and think of human ways to overcome the challenges in ministry and in mission.  Like an accountant or a logistic officer, he plainly told Jesus that it would be too costly and even then it would be a futile effort.  Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother was no different when he said, “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?” We can be sure that the apostles would have even more with them than that little boy but they reckoned that it would be too little to be shared with all.

To prove them wrong on looking at the mission merely in a human, calculative way, He took whatever little the boy could offer and after offering it in thanksgiving to God, He fed more than 5000 with twelve baskets of leftovers.  Through this miracle, Jesus showed that it was God who was doing the work and not men.  What He did was also to anticipate the Eucharist which He would give to the world, His own flesh and blood.  It was also to remind them of the great miracle at the Exodus when the Lord sent manna down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the desert.   He was as the Evangelist mentioned, the prophet who was come into the world. Moses indeed prophesied, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.” (Dt 18:15)  By deliberately climbing up “Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples”, Jesus was claiming to be the New Moses and the Prophet foretold.  That it also happened “shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover” reminds us of the Exodus experience and anticipates for us the Eucharistic meal at the Last Supper, which sums up the greatest miracle of all time, His passion, death and resurrection.

Consequently, today, we must take heart and learn from the apostles and the little boy.  We only need to bring what we have to the Lord and He will know how to multiply our resources.  We need to have faith in Him, not in man. “Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.” (Ps 20:6-8)  God only wants us to show our sincerity and generosity.  He knows we are weak and limited in resources and strength.  But He also wants us to know that all glory and power belong to Him.  He wants to demonstrate His power through us so that people will know the power of God and give honour to Him, not to us.  “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness.” (Ps 115:1)  Again, St Paul wrote, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:27-29)

So let us therefore find courage and inspiration in working for the Lord.  In all things, let us give praise to Him, whether in success or in failure.  Everything that is done for the Lord is always a success in His eyes. Let us not worry about what people think and reckon as success.  We do the will of God and continue to be like the apostles to proclaim the gospel in humility, with courage and confidence.  Like them, we must be resourceful and find new ways to reach out and do things for the Lord if we find barriers and obstacles.  We must circumvent these difficulties and seek new ventures.  Never say die but always get up and try. If the Lord closes one door, He opens the window.  So instead of giving up so easily, be like the Lord who finds a solution to every problem, like the way He multiplied the loaves.

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Question: “Who was Gamaliel in the Bible?”

Answer: Gamaliel was a first-century Jewish rabbi and a leader in the Jewish Sanhedrin. Gamaliel is mentioned a couple of times in Scripture as a famous and well-respected teacher. Indirectly, Gamaliel had a profound effect on the early church.

Gamaliel was a Pharisee and a grandson of the famous Rabbi Hillel. Like his grandfather, Gamaliel was known for taking a rather lenient view of the Old Testament law in contrast to his contemporary, Rabbi Shammai, who held to a more stringent understanding of Jewish traditions.

The first biblical reference to Rabbi Gamaliel is found in Acts 5. The scene is a meeting of the Sanhedrin, where John and Peter are standing trial. After having warned the apostles to cease preaching in the name of Jesus, the Jewish council becomes infuriated when Simon Peter defiantly replies, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). Peter had no intention of ceasing to proclaim the gospel, regardless of the possible repercussions. Peter’s defiance enrages the council, who begin to seek the death of the apostles. Into the fray steps Gamaliel. The rabbi, “who was honored by all the people” (Acts 5:34), first orders the apostles to be removed from the room. Gamaliel then encourages the council to be cautious in dealing with Jesus’ followers: “In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38–39). The Sanhedrin is persuaded by Gamaliel’s words (verse 40). That the council acquiesced to his advice speaks to the influence that Gamaliel possessed.

Later rabbis lauded Gamaliel for his knowledge, but he may be better known for his most famous pupil—another Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:3), who later became the apostle Paul. It was under the tutelage of Rabbi Gamaliel that Paul developed an expert knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul’s educational and professional credentials allowed him to preach in the synagogues wherever he traveled (seeActs 17:2), and his grasp of Old Testament history and law aided his presentation of Jesus Christ as the One who had fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17).

Gamaliel is also mentioned by the historian Josephus, who wrote of the nobility of Gamaliel’s son, Simon (Vita, 38). Josephus’ description of Gamaliel’s family is consistent with the picture we see of him in the book of Acts. The Talmud also mentions Gamaliel, but there is still much that we do not know about him. As with many figures from ancient history, our knowledge of Gamaliel is limited. From the sources that we do possess, it is clear that Gamaliel and his family were revered as men of wisdom and prudential judgment. In God’s sovereign plan, this Jewish rabbi preserved the lives of the apostles in the early church and helped equip the greatest Christian missionary.

Recommended Resources: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns and Logos Bible Software.

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Source http://www.gotquestions.org/Gamaliel-in-the-Bible.html
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, March 15, 2016 — Beware the Golden Serpent — “If you do not believe that I AM; you will die in your sins.”

March 14, 2016

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 252

Reading 1 NM 21:4-9

From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road,
to bypass the land of Edom.
But with their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses,
“Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!”In punishment the LORD sent among the people saraph serpents,
which bit the people so that many of them died.
Then the people came to Moses and said,
“We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you.
Pray the LORD to take the serpents away from us.”
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

moses serpent pole

Moses with the bronze serpent on a pole

Responsorial Psalm PS 102:2-3, 16-18, 19-21

R. (2) O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
O LORD, hear my prayer,
and let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
in the day when I call, answer me speedily.
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

Verse Before The Gospel

The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower;
all who come to him will live for ever.

Gospel JN 8:21-30

Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.”
So the Jews said,
“He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?”
He said to them, “You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.”
So they said to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

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Commentary on John 8:21-30 From Living Space

Listening to Jesus, the Pharisees must have thought he was speaking in riddles. This was largely due to their own preconceived ideas about him. They take every statement he makes literally (they are the original Fundamentalists) and miss the symbolism. Basically, their problem is, as Jesus points out, that they “are from below; I am from above”; they “are of this world; I am not of this world”.

John uses the word ‘world’ in two senses. In one meaning he simply is referring to the world that God created with all its variety. Later, he will tell his disciples that, if they want to communicate his message effectively, they will have to be fully inserted in that world, like the leaven in the dough. Separating themselves from that world will not do much for the building of the Kingdom on earth.

The second meaning of ‘world’ for John refers to everything around us which cannot be identified with God or Jesus. It is that part of our environment which speaks and acts in a way that is contrary to the Spirit of Jesus and the vision of Jesus for the world. Jesus does not identify himself with that world nor does he want any of his disciples to identify with it either. Their mission is to change it, to shine his Light on it.

Twice in today’s passage Jesus says of himself “I AM”, an expression we saw yesterday and which was used directly of God himself.

When they “have lifted up the Son of Man”, then they will know who Jesus really is and that everything that Jesus has said and done comes from God himself because, as he will say later, “I and the Father are one”. “Lifted up” not only refers to Jesus being lifted up on the cross but also includes the glorification of Jesus, his lifting up to sit at the Father’s right hand. For John the cross is Jesus’ moment of glory, the triumphant climax of his mission.

And, because of these words, we are told, “many” came to believe in him but most of the Pharisees were not among them.

This is a time for us also to examine our allegiance to Christ and what he means for us in our lives. Is our following of him truly a healing and liberating experience not only for ourselves but for others as well?

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1053g/

Related:

Beware the snake on a pole….

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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15 MARCH 2016, Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent

HEALED BY THE WOUNDS OF OUR LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30

In the first reading, we read of the ingratitude of the Israelites.  In spite of what God had done for them, liberating them from the harsh slavery of the Egyptians, providing them water and bread; sheltering them from the scorching sun during the day by the pillar of cloud and providing them light by the pillar fire at night, they were still not satisfied.

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We read that they lost patience with Moses and with God.  They complained, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.”  In not appreciating the gift of God in the manna and the graciousness of God in liberating them from their slavery, “God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel.”

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This perhaps was the biggest lesson they learnt about the danger of ingratitude.  The truth is that ingratitude leads to many sins: envy, greed, theft and murder.  Those who lack contentment in life and are not grateful for the blessings they receive from God are despising God and therefore will ultimately hurt themselves.

In the gospel, we read of the Jews who were ignorant of Jesus.  In spite of the miracles He had performed, they failed to recognize that He was the Messiah and His divine origin.  They continued to doubt Him and reject His message.  This was because they were of the world, as Jesus said.  “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I have told you already: You will die in your sins.”

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In rejecting Jesus, they rejected the Word of God and the Light of the world, as we read in yesterday’s gospel.   God is always recognized as the Light of our lives.  So by rejecting the Lord, they had also rejected God.  As a consequence, they died in their sins because of ignorance and rebellion against God.

Sin always has its consequences.  This is the warning of today’s scripture readings.  We will die because of our sins.   Just like the Israelites in the first reading, they were bitten literally by their own sins.  St Augustine taught that the punishment for iniquity is more iniquity because one sin leads to many other sins.  Sin never comes alone but every sin gives birth to a multitude of sins.

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When we sin, we are travelling on a slippery road leading to the abyss of hell.   No one is happy when he or she commits sins.  No one stops at one sin but seeks to cover up his or her sins; or worse still, commits more sins because he or she has become blind, confused, hurt, wounded, insecure, angry, jealous and consumed by pride, fear and revenge.  So the warning of Jesus is timely, “You will die in your sins. Yes, if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

So how does the Lord bring us back to the right path?  Firstly, He allows our sins to punish us, as St Augustine says.   We are punished by the very sins we commit.  If we commit adultery, then when it is exposed, we would have to bear the consequences of division in the family, quarrels, fighting, and divorce, carrying the guilt of watching our spouse and children suffer because of our sins.   This is true for those who commit crimes like stealing, cheating, reckless driving and all other offences.  When we sin, not only do we suffer but our loved ones and often innocent parties are deeply hurt by our selfishness and irresponsible acts.

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So like the Israelites, God allowed them to suffer the pains of their sins through death, which is less severe than eternal death.  By allowing them to die in their sins, the Lord hoped that they would wake up from their slumber and come to realization, like the prodigal son in the gospel, that what they were doing is wrong and are causing others to suffer on account of their evil, self-centered and dishonest acts.  For many people, by reflecting on the consequences of their sins, they would already be brought to repentance and conversion.  However, not all might come to see their folly and sinfulness. This was what the Lord did.  He “sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel.”  The people said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’”

Secondly, He sought to heal our pains by having us look at His power.  The command to look at the Bronze serpent to find healing is a very telling way how the Lord wants us to reflect deeply and examine our conscience so that we can come to full realization of our sins.   It is significant that God commanded Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a standard.  “’If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.”   From the point of etymology of the word serpent, we are given some clues as to how the Lord works to heal us.  The angels of light and life are the messengers of God and they belong to the seraphim. The word “serpent” shares the root meaning of messengers, only that they are messengers of death.  So by looking at the bronze serpent, they might repent out of fear; and come to realize that the sole source of power is God alone, not the serpent that He sent to bite them so that they could come to repentance.  Through this event, it was hoped that the Israelites would then trust in God enough to allow Him to lead them through the desert providing for their needs.

However, this might not bring sinners to repentance.  Then the third way is by contemplation on the mercy and love of Christ on the cross.   The raising of the serpent on the standard is but a foreshadowing of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus when He was raised up on the cross.  Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing of myself.”  And St John remarked, “As he was saying this, many came to believe in him.”  In the cross of Jesus, we see the love and mercy of God our Father.  Indeed, like the suffering servant, the Lord carried our sins in His body. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  (Isa 53:5-6)  Jesus’ death on the cross was in accordance to the Father’s will.  Jesus made it clear that His identity and works are identified with the Father for “what the Father has taught me is what I preach; he who sent me is with me, and has not left me to myself, for I always do what pleases him.”

But even the passion of Christ cannot bring some to faith.  The last possibility is to contemplate on the resurrection of Christ.  In being lifted up, we are reminded of how the Father raised up Jesus from the dead and how after His resurrection, He was lifted up into heaven to share the glory of His Father.  In being lifted up, Jesus showed that His Father is identified with Him, in His words and deeds.  The glorification of our Lord is at the same time the glorification of His Father.  In the resurrection, we bring together the love and power of God.  The death of Jesus only reveals the mercy of God, but it shows powerlessness.  The resurrection of our Lord shows power, but does not show mercy.  So together, the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord show that God is powerful and yet merciful; that no sin, no enemy, not even death can overcome His divine will for humanity.

So as we continue to contemplate on His passion in view of the resurrection, let us contemplate on our sins.  This examination of our conscience is not meant to drive us to introspection and hopelessness, despair or fear, but to come to awareness of where we are and how much we are hurting and also hurting our loved ones. Then by contemplating on His passion, especially when we pray the Stations of the Cross, we will come to appreciate His sacrifices and love for us.  May we be moved to conversion like the Israelites as they looked upon the Bronze Serpent or the Centurion who “saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent!’  And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts.”  (Lk 23:47f)

 

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• Last week, the Liturgy led us to meditate on chapter five of the Gospel of John. This week it confronts us with chapter 8 of the same Gospel. Like chapter 5, chapter 8 also contains profound reflections on the mystery of God which surrounds the person of Jesus. Apparently, it is a question of dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees (Jn 8, 13). The Pharisees want to know who Jesus is. They criticize him because he gives testimony of himself without any proof or witness to legitimize himself before the people (Jn 8, 13). Jesus responds by saying that he does not speak in his own name, but always for the Father and in the name of the Father (Jn 8, 14-19).

• In reality, the dialogues are also an expression of how the faith was transmitted in the catechesis in the communities of the beloved disciple toward the end of the first century. They show the prayerful reading of the word of Jesus that the Christians did, considering it Word of God. The method of question and answer helped to find the response to the problems which toward the end of the first century, the Jews raised to the Christians. It was a concrete way to help the community to deepen its faith in Jesus and in his message.

• John 8, 21-22: Where I am going, you cannot come. Here John presents a new theme or another aspect which surrounds the person of Jesus. Jesus speaks about his departure and says that where he is going the Pharisees cannot follow him. “I am going away; you will look for me and you will die in your sin“. They will look for Jesus, but will not find him, because they do not know him and will look for him with mistaken criteria. They live in sin and will die in sin. To live in sin is to live far away from God. They imagine God in a certain way, but God is different from what they imagine. This is why they are not capable to recognize the presence of God in Jesus. The Pharisees do not understand what Jesus wants to say and they take everything just literally: “Is he going to kill himself?”

• John 8, 23-24: You are from here below; I am from above. The Pharisees consider everything according to the criteria of this world. “You are from this world; I am not from this world!” The framework of reference which guides Jesus in everything which he says and does is the world above, that is, God, Father, and the mission which he has received from the Father. The framework of reference of the Pharisees is the world below, without openness, closed up in its own criteria. This is why they live in sin. To live in sin is not to have the gaze of Jesus on their life. The look of Jesus is totally open toward God up to the point that God himself is in him in all his fullness (cf. Col 1, 19). We say: “Jesus is God”. John invites us to say: “God is Jesus!”. This is why Jesus says: “If you do not believe that I AM HE, you will die in your sins”. I AM is the affirmation with which God presents himself to Moses at the moment of liberating his people from the oppression of Egypt (Ex 3, 13-14). This is the maximum expression of the absolute certainty of the fact that God is in our midst in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the definitive proof of the fact that God is with us. Emmanuel.

• John 8, 25-26: Who are you? The mystery of God in Jesus does not fit in the criteria with which the Pharisees look toward Jesus. Once again they ask: “who are you?” They did not understand because they do not understand Jesus’ language. Jesus was very careful to speak to them according to all that he experienced and lived in union with the Father and for the knowledge and awareness of his mission. Jesus does not promote himself. He only says and expresses what he hears from the Father. He is the pure revelation because he is pure and total obedience.

• John 8, 27-30: When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I AM HE. The Pharisees did not understand that Jesus, in everything he says and does, is the expression of the Father. They will understand it only after the Son of man will be lifted up. “Then you will know that I AM HE”. The word lifted up has a double sense, to be lifted up on the Cross and to be lifted up to the right hand of the Father. The Good News of the death and resurrection reveals who Jesus is, and they will know that Jesus is the presence of God in our midst. The foundation of this certainty of our faith is twofold: on the one side, the certainty that the Father is always with Jesus and he never remains alone and, on the other side, the radical and total obedience of Jesus to the Father, which becomes total openness and total transparency of the Father for us.

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Personal questions

• The one who closes up in his own criteria and thinks that he already knows everything, will never be capable to understand others. This is the way the Pharisees were before Jesus. And I, how do I behave before others?

• Jesus is radical obedience to the Father and because of this he is total revelation of the Father. And which is the image of God which I show, which comes from me?

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Concluding Prayer

Yahweh, hear my prayer,
let my cry for help reach you.
Do not turn away your face from me
when I am in trouble;
bend down and listen to me, when I call,
be quick to answer me! (Ps 102,1-2)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-821-30

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