Posts Tagged ‘Moses’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 9, 2017 — “Let it be done for you as you wish. Your faith is so great.” 

August 8, 2017

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 409

Image result for Jesus casts out a demon from the woman's daughter, art, photos

Jesus Casts Out The Demon, Saying, “O Woman, Let it be done for you as you wish. Your faith is so great.” by Ilya Yefimovich Repin

Reading 1  NM 13:1-2, 25–14:1, 26A-29A, 34-35

The LORD said to Moses [in the desert of Paran,]
“Send men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan,
which I am giving the children of Israel.
You shall send one man from each ancestral tribe,
all of them princes.”

After reconnoitering the land for forty days they returned,
met Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation of the children of Israel
in the desert of Paran at Kadesh,
made a report to them all,
and showed the fruit of the country
to the whole congregation.
They told Moses: “We went into the land to which you sent us.
It does indeed flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit.
However, the people who are living in the land are fierce,
and the towns are fortified and very strong.
Besides, we saw descendants of the Anakim there.
Amalekites live in the region of the Negeb;
Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites dwell in the highlands,
and Canaanites along the seacoast and the banks of the Jordan.”

Caleb, however, to quiet the people toward Moses, said,
“We ought to go up and seize the land, for we can certainly do so.”
But the men who had gone up with him said,
“We cannot attack these people; they are too strong for us.”
So they spread discouraging reports among the children of Israel
about the land they had scouted, saying,
“The land that we explored is a country that consumes its inhabitants.
And all the people we saw there are huge, veritable giants
(the Anakim were a race of giants);
we felt like mere grasshoppers, and so we must have seemed to them.”

At this, the whole community broke out with loud cries,
and even in the night the people wailed.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron:
“How long will this wicked assembly grumble against me?
I have heard the grumblings of the children of Israel against me.
Tell them: By my life, says the LORD,
I will do to you just what I have heard you say.
Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall.
Forty days you spent in scouting the land;
forty years shall you suffer for your crimes:
one year for each day.
Thus you will realize what it means to oppose me.
I, the LORD, have sworn to do this
to all this wicked assembly that conspired against me:
here in the desert they shall die to the last man.”

Responsorial Psalm   PS 106:6-7AB, 13-14, 21-22, 23

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
We have sinned, we and our fathers;
we have committed crimes; we have done wrong.
Our fathers in Egypt
considered not your wonders.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
But soon they forgot his works;
they waited not for his counsel.
They gave way to craving in the desert
and tempted God in the wilderness.
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.

AlleluiaLK 7:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 15: 21-28

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But he did not say a word in answer to her.
His disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Let it be done for you as you wish.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

09 AUGUST, 2017, Wednesday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time

UNDAUNTED FAITH


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ NUM 13:1-225 – 14:1, 26-29. 34-35; MT 15:21-28 ]

It is not difficult to identify with the fear and dismay of the Israelites in the face of such formidable foes in the land that God had given to them to occupy.  They were inexperienced and untrained soldiers, probably with very primitive weapons compared to their more established foes. Those who reconnoitered the land said, “Its inhabitants are a powerful people; the towns are fortified and very big; yes, and we saw the descendants of Anak there.  Every man we saw there was of enormous size… We felt like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

Indeed, fear overcame them.  Upon hearing this report, the Israelites were overwhelmed by terror and fright. “The whole community raised their voices and cried aloud, and the people wailed all that night.”  Fear, of course, is always contagious. When we are alarmed, we tend to influence others and discourage them as well.

Like the Israelites, we too, when under threat due to seemingly insurmountable problems and challenges at home, in the office and in relationships, can be so crushed that we are tempted to give up hope.  We fall into despair and this is worsened when there are many discouraging voices around us that seem to confirm our pessimistic prognosis of the situation.  This can be even more daunting if we are leaders in our community or organization. When the leader loses hope and is diffident about the outlook, he would neither have courage and strength, nor the conviction to steer and motivate those under him to fight on.
Perhaps we can take comfort in our cowardice because, unlike the Israelites, we can at least give the excuse that we have not seen the great wonders and works that God performed for His people at the Exodus.  The Israelites had no justification for doubting the divine power of God.  For ourselves, although we might have seen some small wonders of God at work in our lives, these perhaps may not have been convincing enough to cause us to radically change our minds about God’s love, mercy and power. Of course, some of us may have had more significant God-experiences, or seen and heard testimonies of how God had saved their friends or relatives in a most miraculous way from their sickness, relationships or from financial straits.

The lesson we can learn from the Israelites is that forgetfulness of God’s love, mercy and power is the cause of fear, distress, discouragement and the loss of faith.  This was the lesson Israel learnt, as expressed by the psalmist.  “We have sinned, we and our fathers; we have committed crimes; we have done wrong. Our fathers in Egypt considered not your wonders. But soon they forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel. They gave way to craving in the desert and tempted God in the wilderness. 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.”

How then can we remember His love for us?  The story of the Canaanite woman is a story of what faith entails.  She had an undaunted faith in the power of Jesus to heal, and total confidence in that not only could He heal, but that He would heal.  So assured was she of Jesus’ works of mercy that she would not relent even when Jesus appeared not to take notice of her and even suggested that His priority was to the House of Israel.  But this woman would not take “no” for an answer and continued pleading on behalf of her daughter.

This woman most probably had heard much about Jesus and may even have followed Him.  She saw the miracles He had performed.  She heard His teachings about God’s love, mercy and of His mission of establishing the reign of God.  She remembered His teaching and His miracles.  She knew Jesus so well and therefore had no fear of rejection.  She knew she would not return home empty.  So great was her faith in Jesus that she believed that even if she were to take the mere scraps that fell from the master’s table, it would be sufficient to heal her daughter. Her great faith, as Jesus commended her, reminds us also of another pagan, the Centurion, when he told Jesus, “I am not worthy to have you under my roof, just give the word and my servant will be cured.” (Mt 8:8).

We, too, are invited to trust in the Lord in such moments of trial and hopelessness.  We must believe that God will hear our prayers, even when we do not know how to pray as we ought.  All we need to do is to surrender the little efforts and trust that we have to the Lord, and He will elevate us further in our faith in Him, a faith that will set us free.  We must recall the good times, the blessings that we have received, the assistance we received from Him and how He had protected and guided us all this while till this day.  By remembering what He has done for us, we will regain our trust and confidence in Him.

We must also learn from the punishment meted out to the Israelites, that when we do not trust God and surrender our lives, plans and projects to Him, we will cause more problems for ourselves and those who have been entrusted to our care.  Complaining and moping will not do us any good, just as it did not help the Israelites.  Regretting and wallowing only make us inward-looking.  Staring at our navel instead of looking up to God will lead us to depression and despondency.

Like the Canaanite woman, we must press on with all our strength, trusting that God will do something for us, even beyond our imagination.  We must be proactive and take action.  During such trials, instead of grumbling against God and even becoming resentful of Him, we should take such occasions to grow in faith, in grace and in holiness.  It is said that the same fire that purifies gold also destroys the straws.  We can trust that Jesus will take the broken pieces of our lives and our wounded hearts and put them together to make them whole again.   Indeed, not only will He repair our hearts but He will transform them into something more beautiful than before.  As Psalm 30:11 says, “You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance. You have stripped off my sackcloth and clothed them with joy.”

Finally, if we find ourselves unable to make that leap of faith like the Canaanite woman, or to have that humility to continue begging from the Lord, then at least remember that He is patient with us.  He does not want to punish.  The penalty meted out to the unbelieving Israelites must not be interpreted literally.  When God pronounced judgment on them saying: “In this wilderness your dead bodies will fall … you who have complained against me.  For forty days you reconnoitered the land. Each day shall count for a year: for forty years you shall bear the burden of your sins … Here in this wilderness, to the last man, they shall die.” He knew that if they were not confident in seizing the Promised Land from the inhabitants, the whole community would be exterminated by their enemies. This explains why although they were geographically so near to the Promised Land, yet God made them travel the long way through the desert for forty years before entering it.  It was a way to strengthen their faith and to help them to psychologically come to terms with themselves. Three generations had to pass before God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled.

Psychological and emotional barriers require time to come to terms with.  So let us be patient with ourselves whilst seeking to imitate the faith of the Canaanite woman.  Let us ask for the grace of faith, which requires the gift of humility as well.  Only then can we surrender our lives to the Lord, knowing that nothing can overwhelm us as St Paul says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37-39).


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

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Commentary on Matthew 15:21-28 From Living Space


Jesus is seen on one of his few visits outside Jewish territory. The cities of Tyre and Sidon are on the Mediterranean coast in what is today Lebanon.

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While he is there he is approached by a Canaanite (that is, a non-Jewish) woman whose child is “troubled by a demon”. Whether it was an actual possession or some natural physical or mental ailment does not really matter. Already the woman’s faith and trust in Jesus is indicated by the way she addresses him, “Lord, Son of David!” coupled with her plea for his compassion.

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At first, Jesus ignores her completely. The disciples intervene and ask Jesus to give her what she wants because she is making such a nuisance of herself. Jesus replies that his mission is only to the “house of Israel”, to which this woman clearly does not belong.

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In the meantime the woman continues her pleading, “Help me, Lord!” She is following, in fact, advice that the Gospel gives – keep on asking. Jesus replies in words that sound very harsh, if not racist: “It is not right to take the children’s food and give it to the dogs.”

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‘Dogs’, together with ‘swine’, was a common colloquial expression among Jews for Gentiles (cf. Matt 7:6: “Do not give what is holy to dogs or cast your pearls before swine.”) The dog was regarded as an unclean and promiscuous animal. Because it was such a common expression, it is probably not as harsh as it sounds to us and, if spoken with a measure of humour (implied by Jesus’ use of the diminutive, ‘doggies’), would not have given offence at all. As they say, everything is in the tone of voice. (Not unlike when my Chinese friends call me a gwai-lo [‘devil fellow’] – a common term for non-Chinese.) Jesus was not a racist; that is clear from other situations where he dealt with non-Jews and with other commonly despised groups.

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For her part, the woman certainly is not in the least fazed. She comes right back: “Even the dogs eat the leavings that fall from their masters’ tables.” That was enough for Jesus. She had proved her genuineness. “Woman, you have great faith. Your wish will come to pass.” Her daughter was cured on the spot.

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It is a hint of what is to come. Membership of God’s people will be measured not by birth or circumcision but by a living faith in Jesus as Lord.

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A story like this is an occasion for us to look at our own attitudes to people of other races, ethnic groups and nationalities not to mention the socially disadvantaged or physically or mentally disabled – in other words, any people who are ‘different’. How inclusive are we in word and action? And does our parish community go out of its way to provide a welcome for the ‘outsider’? These are very real questions in societies which are becoming more and more inter-cultural.

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1184g/

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A miracle is a phenomenal or supernatural event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers, and more often than not cannot be explained by the laws of nature. God never operates contrary to His Word or to the laws of nature which He has established, but He has the prerogative to supersede them. Instantaneous healings and the expulsion of evil spirits always constitute a miracle.

Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30 both record a Gentile woman coming to Jesus for the deliverance of her daughter. Mark indicates clearly that she was “a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth.” She cried out to Him, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But Jesus didn’t even answer her. He kept walking. She continued crying out to Him. Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said,“Send her away.” Jesus’ reply was seemingly heartless and cold. “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He kept walking. She continued crying out to Him. “Lord, help me!” She kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

Finally He spoke to the woman. “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” She replied with a statement that arrested His attention and impressed Him. “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.” Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire. For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And her daughter was healed at that very minute. When she came to her house, she found her daughter lying on the bed and the demon was gone.

In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told a parable about a persistent widow. The lesson was about being persistent in prayer. “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Jesus “came to His own, [Israel] and His own did not receive Him.” Jesus knew the Scriptures about how ultimately the Gentiles would be blessed. “For the Gentiles shall seek Him… He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:10; 42:1; 49:6) He marveled at Israel’s unbelief (Mark 6:6), and marveled at the faith of Gentiles (Matthew 8:10; Luke 7:9). In the Syro-Phoenician woman, Jesus certainly found persistent faith. He was trying to reach the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but the greatest faith was coming from Gentiles.

She came to Jesus and He ignored her. The disciples were annoyed with her. Finally Jesus said that what He had was not even for her. But she did not give up in her mind. Her love and determination brought total deliverance for her daughter. Author and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/christian-ministries/ministry-of-jesus/healings-of-jesus/daughter-of-the-canaanite-woman-healing-ministry-of-jesus.html

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Lectio divina from the Carmelites
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Opening prayer
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Father of everlasting goodness, our origin and guide, be close to us and hear the prayers of all who praise you. Forgive our sins and restore us to life. Keep us safe in your love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Reflection 
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Context. The bread of the children and the great faith of a Canaanite woman is the theme presented in the liturgical passage taken from chapter 15 of Matthew who proposes to the reader of his Gospel a further deepening of faith in Christ. The episode is preceded by an initiative of the Pharisees and Scribes who go down to Jerusalem and cause a dispute to take place with Jesus, but which did not last long, because he, together with his disciples withdrew to go to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
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While he is on the way, a woman from the pagan places comes to him. This woman is presented by Matthew by the name of a “Canaanite woman” who in the light of the Old Testament, she is presented with great harshness. In the Book of Deuteronomy the inhabitants of Canaan were considered people full of sins, evil and idolatrous people.
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The dynamic of the account. While Jesus carries out his activity in Galilee and is on the way toward Tyre and Sidon, a woman came up to him and began to bother him with a petition for help for her sick daughter. The woman addresses Jesus using the title “Son of David”; a title which sounds strange pronounced by a pagan and that could be justified because of the extreme situation in which the woman lives. It could be thought that this woman already believes in some way, in the person of Jesus as final Savior, but this is excluded because it is only in v. 28 that her act of faith is recognized, precisely by Jesus.
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In the dialogue with the woman Jesus seems to show that distance and diffidence which reigned between the people of Israel and the pagans. On one side Jesus confirms to the woman the priority for Israel to have access to salvation, and before the insistent prayer of her interlocutor Jesus seems to withdraw, to be at a distance; an incomprehensible attitude for the reader, but in the intention of Jesus it expresses an act of pedagogical value. To the first invocation “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David” (v. 22) Jesus does not respond.
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To the second intervention this time on the part of the disciples who invite him to listen to the prayer of the woman, he only expresses rejection that stresses that secular distance between the chosen people and the pagan people (vv. 23b-24) But at the insistence of the prayer of the woman who bows before Jesus, a harsh and mysterious response follows: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs” (v. 26).
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The woman goes beyond the harsh response of the words of Jesus and gets a small sign of hope: the woman recognizes that the plan of God being carried out by Jesus initially concerns the chosen people and Jesus asks the woman to recognize that priority; the woman takes advantage of that priority to present a strong reason to obtain the miracle: “Ah yes, Lord, but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ table” (v. 27).
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The woman has exceeded the test of faith: “Woman, you have great faith” (v. 28); in fact, to the humble insistence of her faith corresponds a gesture of salvation.
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This episode addresses an invitation to every reader of the Gospel to have that interior attitude of “openness” toward everyone, believers or not, that is to say, availability and acceptance without distinction toward all men.
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Personal questions
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The disturbing word of God invites you to break open your closeness and all your small plans. Are you capable to accept all the brothers and sisters who come to you?
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Are you aware of your poverty to be capable like the Canaanite woman to entrust yourself to the word of salvation of Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Lord, do not thrust me away from your presence, do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. Give me back the joy of your salvation, sustain in me a generous spirit. (Ps 51,11-12)
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COVENANT RELATIONSHIP

Covenant relationships are essentially those which were never intended to be disrupted any more than the vital relationship between the heart and the lungs is meant to be disrupted.  There is literally life and death at stake in the establishing or breaking of covenant relationship.  In particular they refer to those which we hold with our spouses, our families, and yes, even the church.  We live in a day and age whereby all three of these are treated to be as disposable as a dirty diaper.  And in truth some of these relationships may smell and even appear as such!  Nevertheless there is blessing found in fighting for and seeking to grow in each and every one of these relationships.  Romans 12:4-5 says this:

“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

In Joshua 1:12-18 we see Joshua renewing covenant relationship with the people of Israel.

Honoring and acknowledging our need for covenant relationship with the body of Christ is essential for stepping into the promises of God.

He is doing a restorative work in His church in this hour.  And while it’s true that He desires a pure and spotless bride, I do not believe that this is His primary motivation.  The motivation is simply this…Love.  Love for every member who has been rejected, abused, run over, or sinned against in any way, shape or form by His body, the church.  Please understand that a fully restored church is seeing each member within her fully restored so that every joint may supply (Eph 4:11-16) and so that she could therefore function as she was designed to from the very beginning.  The restoration and maintenance of every covenant relationship is ultimately found in this one, our relationship to Christ.  However, if Christ truly is the head of the body, then the rejection of the Body of Christ is the rejection of a large portion of Jesus Himself.  As much as it is up to us, we need to pursue covenant relationship if we are to step into the promise of God in our lives.

INCREASING FAITH & UNEXPECTED BLESSINGS!

Finally we see in Joshua chapter 2, that Joshua responds to God’s word to him by secretly sending spies into the Promised Land saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.” (v1)  What purpose did it serve?  Let’s look at the report which the spies brought back in Joshua 2:24:

“Surely the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us.”

First of all they were encouraged.  Their faith was increased by the report that God would indeed do what He said He would do!  Secondly, they were given the opportunity to cooperate with the plan of God, as they received favor from and established covenant relationship with Rahab the harlot, whose name is also to be found in the genealogy of Jesus himself in Matthew chapter 1.

http://fredgarcia.com/

Do we have a covenant relationship with the body of Christ? With another human being?

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 8, 2017 — “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

August 7, 2017

Memorial of Saint Dominic, Priest
Lectionary: 408

Image result for jesus walking on water, art

Jesus Walking on the Water by Norbert McNulty

Reading 1 NM 12:1-13

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on the pretext
of the marriage he had contracted with a Cushite woman.
They complained, “Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks?
Does he not speak through us also?”
And the LORD heard this.
Now, Moses himself was by far the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam,
“Come out, you three, to the meeting tent.”
And the three of them went.
Then the LORD came down in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.

No automatic alt text available.

The LORD guided them with a pillar of cloud — and at night by fire

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When both came forward, he said,
“Now listen to the words of the LORD:

Should there be a prophet among you,
in visions will I reveal myself to him,
in dreams will I speak to him;
not so with my servant Moses!
Throughout my house he bears my trust:
face to face I speak to him;
plainly and not in riddles.
The presence of the LORD he beholds.

Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?”

So angry was the LORD against them that when he departed,
and the cloud withdrew from the tent,
there was Miriam, a snow-white leper!
When Aaron turned and saw her a leper, he said to Moses,
“Ah, my lord! Please do not charge us with the sin
that we have foolishly committed!
Let her not thus be like the stillborn babe
that comes forth from its mother’s womb
with its flesh half consumed.”
Then Moses cried to the LORD, “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 6CD-7, 12-13

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense;
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned;
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
That you may be justified in your sentence,
vindicated when you condemn.
Indeed, in guilt was I born,
and in sin my mother conceived me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not off from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

AlleluiaJN 1:49B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 14:22-36

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side of the sea,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret.
When the men of that place recognized him,
they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought to him all those who were sick
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak,
and as many as touched it were healed.

Image may contain: 2 people, outdoor

The blind leading the blind by James Tissot

Or  MT 15:1-2, 10-14

The following text may be substituted,
especially in Year A when the above Gospel is read on Monday.

Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?
They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”
He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand.
It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man;
but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”
Then his disciples approached and said to him,
“Do you know that the Pharisees took offense
when they heard what you said?”
He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted
will be uprooted.

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Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.
If a blind man leads a blind man,
both will fall into a pit.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 AUGUST, 2017, Tuesday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time
SPEAKING OUT AGAINST THE LORD’S APPOINTED LEADERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ NUM 12:1-13Ps 50:3-7,12-13Mt 15:1-210-14 ]

In the first reading we read that Moses was the Lord’s appointed leader.  This was what the Lord said of him, “If any man among you is a prophet I make myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses: he is at home in my house; I speak with him face to face, plainly and not in riddles, and he sees the form of the Lord.”  Such was the great trust and love the Lord had showered upon Moses, His servant.

But some were not happy with Moses.  As usual, leaders would speak ill of other leaders.  They like to discredit other leaders so that they would be seen in a better light.  Miriam and Aaron, the relatives of Moses, spoke against him “in connection with the Cushite woman he had taken. (For he had married a Cushite woman.) They said, ‘Has the Lord spoken to Moses only? Has he not spoken to us too?’”  In these words, we hear the undertones of their discontentment.  It was not so much that Moses married a Cushite woman even though there could be some grounds for it as inter-marriages were forbidden later.  But before that, no such prohibition existed.  At any rate, God did not defend Moses on his marriage to an alien woman.

Jesus said to Miriam and Aaron, “How then have you dared to speak against my servant Moses?”  Is it wrong to criticize our leaders? In the gospel, Jesus was always criticizing the Jewish leaders, the Pharisees and the Scribes. In the gospel today, in response to the Jewish leaders’ complaint that His “disciples break away from the tradition of the elders” because “they do not wash their hands when they eat food’, Jesus said, “What goes into the mouth does not make a man unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes him unclean.”   And the disciples told the Lord, “Do you know that the Pharisees were shocked when they heard what you said?”

Jesus was not against tradition.  Human beings create traditions as a way to express themselves.  No religious institution is spared from traditions.  We have Roman Catholic tradition, Orthodox tradition, Methodist tradition, Anglican tradition, etc.  Each organization and institution will have their traditions to regulate the conduct of the members and to help them to express their values through practices.   So traditions, even though man-made, are good and helpful for the community.

But traditions must serve the truth or the laws of the bible and ultimately the service and love of God and our fellowmen.   Traditions cannot be a law unto themselves, but they are placed there to serve the laws.  This means that traditions can change and must change according to the needs of the time.  Even in the bible, we see how traditions and practices changed over time, whether it is with regard to marriage, ablutions, food restrictions, slavery, etc.  Small traditions that are not divinely ordained but man-made have a place in the expression of our faith and the community.  However, foundation traditions passed on by the Lord cannot be changed because they are critical to the faith.  This is called Tradition with a capital “T”, and singular.  It refers to the basic doctrines of the faith, like the Passion, Death and the Resurrection of our Lord, the Trinity, the Eucharist, the Sacraments, the Priesthood, etc.  These do not change with time, unlike those traditions that serve to enhance the Tradition of the Church.

In the final analysis, Jesus made it clear that whatever traditions we have must serve God and humanity;  “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”  (Mt 15:17-20)

So we can criticize leaders provided our motives are clear.  What God was unhappy about was the way they maligned the character of Moses.  They were jealous of Moses’ authority.  They envied his position.  Instead of dealing with their own insecurity, they found an excuse to denigrate Moses and weaken his authority over the people.   Indeed, this is often the case of many of us who are not happy with our leaders.  We think we are better than them.  We feel we should be sitting in their chairs and holding their offices.  Those who are not elected or appointed to the office would often find trouble and means to discredit the leader so that they could be appointed or be seen to be better than the leader.  Instead of examining their motives, they find reasons to bring down the authority of the leader.  This is very true in politics, in the corporate world and even in religious institutions.  Envy and jealousy can cause much backbiting, slander and division.

So for those of us who wish to criticize our leaders, we must be sure that we are objective and do not have an axe to grind or because we have unmentioned or unconscious motives that spring from pride, recognition, power, glory and envy.  Before we criticize the appointed leaders, we must purify our intentions so that we speak not with the intention of destroying the leaders or diminishing their authority but to help them to serve better. The motive must be constructive, not destructive.  And for this reason, unhappiness with the leaders should be dealt with behind closed doors and through dialogue which helps both parties to understand each other better.  Often, criticisms are made because of one-sided information or even skewed and distorted information that lead people to make presumptuous judgment on the actions of their leaders.  If we are sincere, such criticisms are always made with charity and humility.

For those of us who are leaders under scrutiny and critique, we must also take such criticisms positively and sincerely search our conscience to see where we have failed and where we can change and do better.  Leaders are not beyond reproach. They too must listen to the prophets sent by the Lord to assist us.  Instead of being defensive and reactive, we should be humble, like Moses.  We read that “Moses was the most humble of men, the humblest man on earth.”  Instead of retaliating against Miriam and Aaron, he was quiet.  He did not fight back but humbly suffered the harsh critique against him.  He was ever forgiving and interceded for Miriam, “O God, please heal her, I beg you!”

But there is also a warning.  For those of us who are quick to judge and condemn the appointed leaders of the Lord, we will also be judged accordingly.  As Jesus in the gospel said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”  (Lk 6:37f)  For judging Moses and making rash remarks, Miriam was punished by the Lord.  “The anger of the Lord blazed out against them.  He departed, and as soon as the cloud withdrew from the Tent, there was Miriam a leper, white as snow! Aaron turned to look at her; she had become a leper.”

Similarly in the gospel, Jesus warned leaders who do not act rightly or are themselves ignorant and blind.  “Any plant my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.  Leave them alone.  They are blind men leading blind men; and if one blind man leads another, both will fall into a pit.”   If leaders do not live up to the trust of God for the office given to them, they would be removed eventually.   And if leaders themselves are blind, ignorant and still very broken, it is more likely that instead of leading their sheep, they might bring them to perdition.  So leaders must ask themselves whether they are in a position to lead because of the lack of integrity and wisdom in their own lives.

Whether we are critics or leaders who are criticized, let us turn to God for mercy and forgiveness.  Leaders surely have their failures and those who are very critical of leaders often do so without charity or out of selfish interests.  Hence, like Aaron, we must cry out to God, “Help me, my lord! Do not punish us for a sin committed in folly of which we are guilty.”   With the psalmist, we pray, “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done.  That you may be justified when you give sentence and be without reproach when you judge, O see, in guilt I was born, a sinner was I conceived.”   Indeed, only God can pass the sentence; not us.  Only God who knows all and reads the intentions of our hearts can judge justly and with mercy.  And that was what He did, He lightened the punishment of Miriam to just a week of alienation outside the camp before He healed her. (cf Num 12:14f)  We too must turn to the Lord for mercy and forgiveness for our lack of humility, integrity and compassion.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 14:22-36 From Living Space

As soon as the people had been filled with the food that Jesus gave them, Jesus packs his disciples off in the boat to the other side of the lake. He sends the crowds away and then retreats to the mountain to pray all by himself.

We know from John’s account that the people wanted to make him a king. If Jesus wanted to take control of the crowd this was the moment; they were ready to follow enthusiastically. Jesus was indeed their king but not the kind they were expecting. He would draw the crowds to him in a very different way, hanging in shame on a cross.

It looks too as if he did not want his disciples to get any wrong ideas either. They must have been elated at their role in the extraordinary event of feeding more than 5,000 people. So, perhaps with a lot of grumbling, they are sent off even before the excited crowds have dispersed.

As they make their way across the lake in this dark mood, things get even worse. They run into a big storm and their boat is being tossed about like a cork. Then, out of the darkness, between 3 and 6 in the morning hours, they see Jesus approaching them across the water. Far from being delighted, they are terrified out of their wits. Superstitious men that they are, they think it is a ghost. Ghosts were very much a part of their world.

Words of encouragement come across the water: “Courage! It is I [Greek,ego eimi, ‘ego ‘eimi] = I AM]. Do not be afraid.” Jesus gives himself the very name of Yahweh; this is all the reassurance they need. Their God is with them.

Only in Matthew’s account of this story do we have Peter’s reaction. “Lord, if it really is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”

“Come!”

Peter gets out of the boat and goes towards Jesus. It is an act of love and faith/trust. But not quite enough. The power of the wind and waves gets stronger than his desire to be with Jesus. He begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” Jesus lifts him up, “How little faith/trust you have!”

As soon as Jesus and Peter get into the boat, there is a complete calm.

The rest of the disciples are overwhelmed: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

We have here behind this story an image of the early Church, of which the boat and the disciples are a symbol. The surrounding water is the world and the wind and waves, the forces which threaten the tiny community. Jesus seems to be far away but he is not and he appears in the midst of the storm. Once he steps inside the boat, there is calm, not only because the surrounding storm has stopped but also because of the peace which the awareness of Jesus’ presence gives.

There is an added element in this story in that Peter, the leader of the community, comes hand in hand into the boat with Jesus. In time, the authority of Jesus will be passed over to him.

There is also, of course, in the calming of the storm an indication of Jesus’ real identity, expressed in the awe-filled words of the disciples, “Truly, you are the Son of God”, echoing Jesus’ own statement of “I AM”.

There is a brief epilogue at the end of our passage. The boat reaches the area of Gennesaret. The name refers either to the narrow plain, about four miles long and less than two miles wide on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee, north of Magdala, or to a town in the plain. Significantly for the work that Jesus was about to do, the plain was considered a garden land, fertile and well watered.

As soon as Jesus reaches the shore the crowds again gather in huge numbers especially to have their sick cured. So great was their faith that they asked only to touch the fringe of his garment. All those who did so (in faith) were healed.

Jesus had sent away the crowds earlier probably because of the late hour but also perhaps because of the mood of the crowd which was taking on political overtones not wanted by Jesus.

But now they are back to seek from him what he came to give them: healing and wholeness.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2183g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Today’s Gospel tells us again to keep in mind one of the most often repeated lessons from Jesus: DO NOT BE AFRAID.
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The Gospel tells us “Do not be afraid” — but today the saints tell us also to “speak the truth.” These are rare things in the world today. Having a real relationship with God allows us to overcome our fears, ourselves and the drag of our modern society. Be alive and joyful as God expects from us. It seems as if “Do Not Be Afraid” is one of the most frequent messages in the Gospels. Link to some of the other scripture references to do not be afraid:
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If we love God we follow God’s commandments. Once we are doing those things we seek a stronger and stronger personal relationship with Jesus — and everything is OK.
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St. John Vianney is one wonderful saint we can all follow: just work hard and pray. Live simply. He ate small meals and slept on a small cot. Mostly he heard confessions and served as God’s instrument of forgiveness. We should all go to confession more and keep ourselves ‘clean.”
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From Catholic OnLine:
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Accustomed to the most severe austerities, beleaguered by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic manifested a imperturbable patience. He was a wonderworker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity, and he remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

He heard confessions of people from all over the world for the sixteen hours each day. His life was filled with works of charity and love. It is recorded that even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word. He died August 4, 1859, and was canonized May 31, 1925.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=399

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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The Gospel today describes the difficult and tiresome crossing of the sea of Galilee in a fragile boat, pushed by a contrary wind. Between the discourse of the Parables (Mt 13) and of the Community (Mt 18), there is once again, the narrative part (Mt 14 to 17). The discourse of the Parables calls our attention again on the presence of the Kingdom. Now, the narrative part shows the reactions in favour and against Jesus provoked by that presence. In Nazareth, he was not accepted (Mt 13, 53-58) and King Herod thought that Jesus was a sort or reincarnation of John the Baptist, whom he had murdered (Mt 14, 1-12).
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The poor people, though, recognized in Jesus the one who had been sent by God and they followed him to the desert, where the multiplication of the loaves took place (Mt 14, 13-21). After the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus takes leave of the crowd and ordered the disciples to cross the lake, as it is described in today’s Gospel (Mt 14, 22-36).
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• Matthew 14, 22-24: To begin the crossing asked by Jesus. Jesus obliges the Disciples to go into the boat and to go toward the other side of the sea, where the land of the pagans was. He goes up to the mountain to pray. The boat symbolizes the community. It has the mission to direct itself toward the pagans and to announce among them the Good News of the Kingdom also, which was the new way of living in community. But the crossing was very tiring and long. The boat is agitated by the wave, because the wind is contrary. In spite of having rowed the whole night, there is still a great distance left before reaching the land.
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Much was still lacking in the community in order to be able to cross and go toward the pagans. Jesus did not go with his disciples. They had to learn to face together the difficulties, united and strengthened by faith in Jesus who had sent them. The contrast is very great: Jesus is in peace together with God, praying on the top of the mountain, and the Disciples are almost lost there below, in the agitated sea.
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• The crossing to the other side of the lake symbolizes also the difficult crossing of the community at the end of the first century. They should get out of the closed world of the ancient observance of the law toward the new manner of observing the Law of love., taught by Jesus; they should abandon the knowledge of belonging to the Chosen People, privileged by God among all other peoples, for the certainty that in Christ all peoples would be united into one Only People before God; they should get out from isolation and intolerance toward the open world of acceptance and of gratitude. Today also, we are going through a difficult crossing toward a new time and a new way of being Church.
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A difficult crossing, but which is necessary. There are moments in life in which we are attacked by fear. Good will is not lacking, but this is not sufficient. We are like a boat faced with the contrary wind.
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• Matthew 14, 25-27: Jesus comes close to them but they do not recognize him. Toward the end of the night, that is between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus goes to meet the Disciples. Walking on the water, he gets close to them, but they did not recognize him. They cried out in fear, thinking that it was a ghost. Jesus calms them down saying: “Courage! It is me! Do not be afraid!” The expression “It is me!” is the same one with which God tried to overcome the fear of Moses when he sent him to liberate the people from Egypt (Ex 3, 14). For the communities, of today as well as for those of yesterday, it was and it is very important to be always open to novelty: “Courage. It is me!. Do not be afraid!”
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• Matthew 14, 28-31: Enthusiasm and weakness of Peter. Knowing that it is Jesus, Peter asks that he also can walk on the water. He wants to experience the power which dominates the fury of the sea. This is a power which in the bible belongs only to God (Gn 1, 6; Ps 104, 6-9). Jesus allows him to participate in this power. But Peter is afraid. He thinks that he will sink and he cries out: “Lord, save me!” Jesus assures him and takes hold of him and reproaches him: “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?” Peter has more strength than he imagined, but is afraid before the contrary waves and does not believe in the power of God which dwells within him. The communities do not believe in the force of the Spirit which is within them and which acts through faith. It is the force of the Resurrection (Eph 1, 19-20).
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• Matthew 14, 32-33:Jesus is the Son of God. Before the waves that come toward them, Peter begins to sink in the sea because of lack of faith. After he is saved, he and Jesus, both of them, go into the boat and the wind calms down. The other Disciples, who are in the boat, are astonished and bowed before Jesus, recognizing that he is the Son of God: “Truly, you are the Son of God”. Later on, Peter also professes the same faith in Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Mt 16,16). In this way Matthew suggests that it is not only Peter who sustains the faith of the Disciples, but also that the faith of the Disciples sustains Peter’s faith.
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• Matthew 14, 34-36: They brought all the sick to him. The episode of the crossing ends with something beautiful: “Having made the crossing they came to Gennesaret. When the local people recognized him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all who were sick to him, begging him just to let them tough the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were saved”.
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Personal questions
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• Has there been a contrary wind in your life? What have you done to overcome it? Has this happened sometimes in the community? How was it overcome?
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• Which is the crossing which the communities are doing today? From where to where? How does all this help us to recognize today the presence of Jesus in the contrary waves of life?
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Concluding Prayer
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Keep me far from the way of deceit,
grant me the grace of your Law.
I have chosen the way of constancy,
I have moulded myself to your judgements. (Ps 119,29-30)
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From 2016:

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 AUGUST 2016, Tuesday, 18th Week of Ordinary Time
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JESUS SAVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  JER 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22; MT 14:22-36 OR MT 15:1-2, 10-14  ]

The scripture readings today clearly demonstrate the mercy and compassion of God to save His people from all situations of life, including sins and the consequences of sin.  He has come to forgive us our sins, heal us and restore us to fullness of life, both as individuals and as a community.  The psalmist says, “Let this be written for ages to come that a people yet unborn may praise the Lord; for the Lord leaned down from his sanctuary on high. He looked down from heaven to the earth that he might hear the groans of the prisoners and free those condemned to die.”

In the first reading, we read of the mercy and compassion of God.  The people of Israel in their arrogance during their time of prosperity forgot all about God, His laws and the Covenant.  The people were divided.  The poor were oppressed and the rich were living off the poor. There was great social injustice. Above all, they turned to foreign gods instead of worshipping the Lord.  As a consequence, they were conquered by the Babylonians and were exiled.  The prophet reminded the people not to look upon their misery as God abandoning them.  Rather, the punishments inflicted on them by their enemy were permitted by God so that they could turn back to Him.  The truth, as the Lord said, was that their sinfulness had gone beyond redemption.  “Your wound is incurable, your injury past healing. There is no one to care for your sore, no medicine to make you well again.  All your lovers have forgotten you; they look for you no more.”

In the gospel Jesus, as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, came to restore the Kingdom of God.  He is the compassion and mercy of God in person.  We read at the beginning of the gospel how Jesus in His compassion and consideration for the safety of His disciples sent them away. “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away.”  This was because, as St John’s gospel noted, the people wanted to make Him king after seeing the miracle of the loaves.  That would have caused political tensions with the Romans and the authorities.  So in order to calm the situation, He got the disciples out of the scene and quietly “went up into the hills.”

However, when He knew that His disciples were in a crisis, He came to their rescue.  Although they were professional and experienced fishermen, they were “battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind.”   Knowing their predicament, “he went towards them, walking on the lake.”  Even in His desire to be alone to think through His ministry arising from the misunderstanding of His messiahship as a political revolutionary, Jesus came to the help of His disciples in their time of need.  He felt the need to give them assurance as He “called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I!  Do not be afraid.’”  Indeed, the Lord demonstrated His mercy and compassion with this one desire to save all.

The compassion of Jesus is once again seen when Jesus reached the shore at Genesaret: “the whole neighbourhood…took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak.  And all those who touched it were completely cured.”  Jesus did not stop them from coming to Him even though they came only for a physical cure.  However, Jesus did not come just to save our bodies but our souls as well.  He came to give us eternal life through His word and our union with the Father.  But He allowed the people to come to Him for healing nonetheless, knowing that at this point the only way for them to encounter the presence of God was through His presence and His healing power. He did not drive them away or scold them for their superstition.  Rather, He adapted Himself to the spiritual maturity of His people as it was thought that by touching the tassels of a holy man they would be healed.  He knew that conversion is not the result of preaching alone but also through good deeds and works of compassion. This is the only way to let people know and be convinced that God really cares for them.

What, then, is needed for us to be healed by the Lord?  Firstly, we need to grow in humility.  Without this virtue, we will be too proud to turn to the Lord.  That is why God allows us to suffer tragedy and disappointments in life so that we know our place in the world.  Otherwise, some people may think that they are gods!  The mercy of God at times is ironically given through suffering.  The Lord said to Israel, “Why bother to complain about your wound.  Your pain is incurable. So great is your guilt, so many your sins, that I have done all this to you.”    Most of us will come to realize our nothingness and finiteness only when we are in a crisis.  So long as life is good to us and we are doing well, we think that success and happiness is our creation.  It is only when we are stripped of everything, including our health and freedom, that we come to realize that man is not so mighty after all.  We are powerless in the face of illness and death.  Yet, through our sufferings, we gain our sobriety and, humiliated by the Lord, we turn back to him.

Secondly, if we want to be saved, we need to have confidence in the Lord. We are assured that the moment we return to the Lord in faith and confidence, He will once again hear our prayers.  “The nations shall fear the name of the Lord and all the earth’s kings your glory, when the Lord shall build up Zion again and appear in all his glory. Then he will turn to the prayers of the helpless; he will not despise their prayers.”  Indeed, even as the Israelites suffered much during their exile, they were given hope of restoration to something even greater than they had. “Now I will restore the tents of Jacob, and take pity on his dwellings:  the city shall be rebuilt on its ruins, the citadel restored on its site.”  Not only will the city and temple be restored by Ezra and Nehemiah but they would once again gather together as the People of God and their rulers restored to power.  Of course, the fullness of this restoration is in Christ who is the Universal King, the Son of David.  But like St Peter we need to cry out for help with fervor and humility.

Thirdly, the faith that is needed is a confession of Jesus as the Son of God.  Jesus said, “’Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’  And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.  The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’” This is the height of the Christian profession of faith. Indeed, with that little faith in Him, as in the case of St Peter, the Lord will come to our help.  He does not expect us to have total faith for Him to cure or heal us.  But at least, like St Peter, we must in faith cry out to Him for help.

Finally, salvation is given only to those who keep their eyes on Jesus.  The problem with St Peter and all of us is that when we have difficulties in life, instead of looking toward the Lord for solution, wisdom and strength, we either turn to our fellowmen, our “horses and chariots” or, worse still, turn to ourselves and descend further into depression because of fear and anxiety.  St Peter was doing well until he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the waters.  Indeed, if we were to walk a tightrope, we do not look down because we would be struck with fear because of the height.  Rather, we must look straight so that we can maintain our balance.  So, too, in our faith journey our eyes must always be kept on the Lord at all times.   With Jesus in the center of our lives, in our boats, we will never have to fear because He will give us the calmness and sobriety to think through and battle the trials of life.  And even if, like St Peter, we fail half-way in our faith in Him, the Lord will come to our aid.  He will not allow us to fail if we put our trust in Him.

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The Storm Burdened under the stress and anxiety from days of pondering and searching for the Messiah, Peter, soon to be the apostle, was working diligently casting his nets. Suddenly, supernatural power engulfed him and he heard a voice flow all around him. This voice cleared Peter’s weary and distraught mind and filled his very being with comfort.

One man, a Nazarene, had spoken: “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” The power with which these words overshadowed the fishermen dissolved any doubt in his mind as to who the person was.

Peter had found him. This was the Messiah of Israel. As he felt the awesome power of the Christ, he immediately forsook his nets and followed the “perfect” stranger… Months later, Peter would again experience this identifying power and assurance. When sailing upon the Galilean Sea one night, a gale of hurricane force swept upon the disciples. As they attempted to steady their small boat, the seasoned fishermen realized that their very lives were in danger.

Suddenly, without warning, they saw a sight that caused them to temporarily forget about the storm at hand. Their fear was replaced with genuine horror as they saw what seemed to be an apparition walking upon the water. The person was not effected by the elements! Was it a spirit?

The water did not swallow him and his clothes did not blow in the wind! They cried, “It’s a ghost!” Then a calm voice sounded above the rage of the storm, “Be Not Afraid, It Is I”.

Suddenly, Peter remembered the first time he felt the power of the voice of Jesus. It was on dry land when He had called him by saying “Come, Follow Me….” Peter knew if it were him, he could tell it again by this power a second time. He spoke, “Lord, if it is you, bid me `Come’ unto you on the water.” Then the figure standing upon the sea spoke with the same power… “COME.” It was Him!

Again Peter felt the awesome power of God envelope him and lift him from the boat and out onto the water. He took one step, two steps, and then another, each time stepping on the power of the word of Christ Jesus, bidding him “Come”.

Each step carried Peter closer and closer to the Creator of the Universe, the Lamb of God. The words of Him that spoke the world into being now with power and authority led Peter beyond the distance of his ability to swim back. As he looked around, his face broadcast these words…”I don’t believe this!”

According to the testimony etched in his expression, Peter began to sink. He fearfully cried out, “Lord save me!” Jesus stretched forth his hand and lifted him up from the sea and then walked him back to the boat where He asked him “Why did you doubt?”

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 7, 2017 — The children of Israel lamented — And complained about the free food provided by God — The Apostles say “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”

August 6, 2017

Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 407

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Moses by Ivan Kramskoy, 1861

Reading 1NM 11:4B-15

The children of Israel lamented,
“Would that we had meat for food!
We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt,
and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks,
the onions, and the garlic.
But now we are famished;
we see nothing before us but this manna.”

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Manna was like coriander seed and had the color of resin.
When they had gone about and gathered it up,
the people would grind it between millstones or pound it in a mortar,
then cook it in a pot and make it into loaves,
which tasted like cakes made with oil.
At night, when the dew fell upon the camp, the manna also fell.

When Moses heard the people, family after family,
crying at the entrance of their tents,
so that the LORD became very angry, he was grieved.
“Why do you treat your servant so badly?” Moses asked the LORD.
“Why are you so displeased with me
that you burden me with all this people?
Was it I who conceived all this people?
Or was it I who gave them birth,
that you tell me to carry them at my bosom,
like a foster father carrying an infant,
to the land you have promised under oath to their fathers?
Where can I get meat to give to all this people?
For they are crying to me,
‘Give us meat for our food.’
I cannot carry all this people by myself,
for they are too heavy for me.
If this is the way you will deal with me,
then please do me the favor of killing me at once,
so that I need no longer face this distress.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 81:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

R. (2a) Sing with joy to God our help.
“My people heard not my voice,
and Israel obeyed me not;
So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts;
they walked according to their own counsels.”
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
“If only my people would hear me,
and Israel walk in my ways,
Quickly would I humble their enemies;
against their foes I would turn my hand.”
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
“Those who hated the LORD would seek to flatter me,
but their fate would endure forever,
While Israel I would feed with the best of wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would fill them.”
R. Sing with joy to God our help.

Alleluia  MT 4:4

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.

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Miracle of the loaves and fishes by James Tissot

Gospel  MT 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.

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Image result for five loaves and the two fish, art, photos
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over–
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
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Reflection Upon Numbers 11 — Moses Blames God
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This is not one of Moses’ greatest leadership moments. He blames God for the problems. They’re your problem, he tells God. Why do I have to deal with your problem people? At the root of Moses’ misery, however, are two elements:

  1. The burden of leadership is too heavy for him.
  2. He knows he is inadequate to supply what the people are demanding.

Moses is at his wits end. Unless God backs him up, he can’t “face [his] own ruin.” God answers Moses in two ways:

  1. God puts some of his Spirit on 70 of Israel’s elders (which we examined in Lesson 4, Numbers 11:24-30)
  2. God promises abundant meat (Numbers 11:31-34)

God’s promise of a month’s supply of meat is so huge even Moses can’t believe it. (Numbers 11:21-22). Moses’ vision of God is too small! Then God rebukes Moses and tells him to tell the people what he said, even if he can’t envision it!

“The LORD answered Moses, ‘Is the LORD’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’ So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said.” (Numbers 11:23-24a)

http://www.jesuswalk.com/moses/8_rebellion.htm

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 AUGUST, 2017, Monday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time
OVERWHELMED BY THE BURDENS OF LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ NUM 11:4-15PS 81:12-17MT 14:22-36 ]

We can easily identify with the sons of Israel when they lamented, complained and bemoaned of a better life they had in Egypt.  What is the use of freedom when our stomach is hungry?  This was what they said. “Who will give us meat to eat? Think of the fish we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic! Here we are wasting away, stripped of everything; there is nothing but manna for us to look at!”

Moses felt the burden of leadership.  He was sandwiched between God and his people.  On one hand, he felt the hardship with his people.  It was not easy to survive in the desert because water and food were lacking.  On the other hand, he knew that if the people were to continue grumbling, God would not be happy, for He brought them out of Egypt because He heard their cries under the harsh treatment of Pharaoh.  He led them out of Egypt to the Promised Land, where milk and honey flowed.   Torn between God and His people, Moses felt devastated.

Oftentimes, we too feel the same overwhelming burden of responsibilities.  Parents are exasperated with their children because they work hard to provide for their needs but their children are never contented and not cooperating by studying hard and helping out in the house.  Children are not happy with their parents because they feel they do not have enough material things and freedom to do whatever they want.  Looking after the sick and elderly can be very trying for us too, because it seems we can never please them enough.  They are always unhappy over this and that.  They are stubborn and want things their way.  They do not acknowledge that they need help.   It is the same for those in priestly and religious life.  No matter how much we sacrifices we make, it is never enough for the people.  They have nothing but demands and when these are not met, they complain and criticize.   It is very difficult to satisfy the needs of everyone.

Like Moses, we are also tempted to give up in such a situation.  We are tired of being parents, superiors and caregivers.  Like Moses, we say to the Lord, “Was it I who conceived all this people, was it I who gave them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, like a nurse with a baby at the breast, to the land that I swore to give their fathers?’”  This is what we say as well, “Why should I give myself to the Church when all I get are these uncalled for complaints and criticisms?”  Or sometimes, parents regret having children, saying, “Why did I give birth to them?”  Children would say, “Why did you bring me into this world to suffer?  I never asked to be born!  So it is your duty to look after my needs.”  In our frustration, we too would say what Moses said to the Lord, “Why do you treat your servant so badly? Why have I not found favour with you, so that you load on me the weight of all this nation? If this is how you want to deal with me, I would rather you killed me!  If only I had found favour in your eyes, and not lived to see such misery as this!”  Have we not said this many times to the Lord, “Let me die quickly! I am very tired of this life!”   How can we provide them all that they ask for?  Truly, by our own strength we cannot do all this!  We cannot meet their needs.

If we feel so overwhelmed by the trials of leadership and responsibilities, we need to learn from Jesus how to deal with such a situation.  We read that Jesus too was overwhelmed by the challenges in His ministry.  When “Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist”, He knew that He had to withdraw to consider the implications of the death of His cousin.  He too would have to share the same fate as his cousin and the prophets if He were to continue with His mission.  Whilst dealing with His grief, and the precarious dangers ahead of Him, He had also to deal with a crowd that was hungry for spiritual and physical food.  He wanted to withdraw “to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.  But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot.  So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and heeled their sick.”  He did not even have time to find rest for Himself or to deal with His grief or take stock of His mission.  But there were so many who needed Him.  Indeed, when “they came to land at Genesaret”, they “took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak.  And all those who touched it were completely cured.”   Such was the overwhelming demands made on the Lord.  But He was able to remain calm and composed.

What was Jesus’ secret to remaining calm and composed?  He spent time in prayer.  We read that “after sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”  It was His constant communion with the Father that gave Him strength to carry on the burdens of the people.  Prayer had always been the constant source of Jesus’ strength.  His intimacy with the Father, the assurance of His love for Him gave Jesus the courage to continue giving Himself selflessly and generously to the people.  Otherwise, He too would have given up carrying such burdens for others, just like any of us.

Indeed, we cannot rely on our own strength to do God’s work!  This was the mistake of Moses for he said, “Where am I to find meat to give to all this people, when they come worrying me so tearfully and say, “Give us meat to eat”? I am not able to carry this nation by myself alone; the weight is too much for me.”  This was the same question that the apostle asked Jesus when He told them to feed the five thousand. “But they answered, ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’”  But Jesus did not rely on His own strength. He prayed for divine assistance.  “He took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing.  And breaking the loaves he handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds.  They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining, twelve baskets full.”

We too must learn from Jesus.  God is always with us as He was with Jesus. He never leaves us alone.  This was what happened to the apostles. Without Jesus, they panicked when the storm set in.  We read that “the boat, by now out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind.  In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him on the lake they were terrified.  ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear.”  In the storms of our life, we might not be able to see Jesus, but He is there in our midst.  He is not a ghost or just a figment of our imagination. He is really with us.  “At once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I!  Do not be afraid.’”

We must come to Him for strength.  Jesus is always there for us if we come to Him.  That was what Peter did.  He said, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”  And Jesus said, “Come.”  “Then Peter got out of the boat and started to walk towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink.  ‘Lord!  Save me!’ he cried.”  Like Peter, we must come to the Lord to seek assistance.  He promised us the strength and the grace to accomplish His task but along the way we doubt His love and His presence.  “Jesus put out his hand at once and held him.  ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’”  Truly, we should never doubt the presence of Jesus who is with us in our trials.  He is holding us by our hands and pulling us up when we are sinking.  We only need to cry out to Jesus as Peter did in times of fear and discouragement, “Lord, save me!”  “And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.  The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”

Truly with the psalmist, we can rely on the Lord.  The responsorial psalm invites us, “Ring out your joy to God our strength.” When God is our strength, we will find joy in our struggles because we know we will overcome.  We just have to obey the Lord and walk in His ways.  “O that my people would heed me, that Israel would walk in my ways!  At once I would subdue their foes, turn my hand against their enemies. The Lord’s enemies would cringe at their feet and their subjection would last forever. But Israel I would feed with finest wheat and fill them with honey from the rock.”  So we need not fear if only we continue to walk in His ways and not follow ours. “My people did not heed my voice and Israel would not obey, so I left them in their stubbornness of heart to follow their own designs.”  If we do not follow His ways, we will only destroy ourselves.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 14:13-21 From Living Space

The announcement of John the Baptist’s death is followed immediately in Matthew by the feeding of the 5,000 in the desert.

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Matthew says that Jesus, on hearing of his cousin’s tragic death, withdrew by boat to a desert place by himself. He clearly wanted time to reflect. He knew that, if things continued as they were, he too could be facing trouble.

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However, the crowds knew where he had gone and followed along the shore on foot. “When he disembarked and saw the vast throng, his heart was moved with compassion, and he cured their sick.” His own troubles were set aside as he saw the greater need of the people. We have here, of course, an image of our God, filled with compassion for all of us and anxious to bring us healing and wholeness.

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As evening comes down, the disciples suggest that the people be sent to neighbouring villages for food. It is the first mention of the disciples’ presence. In Mark’s version of this story, the disciples had accompanied Jesus in the boat at his invitation, so that they could all have a period of quiet away from the crowds. Jesus’ response is simple and to the point: “You give them food to eat.” They reply: “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish. What good is that?”

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This, of course, is a sign of the future. It will be the responsibility of Jesus’ followers to give the people the nourishment they need for their lives. At times, their resources will seem very inadequate but time will show that wonders can be done with very little. Just look at what Mother Teresa achieved with nothing of her own.

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The people are then ordered to sit down on the grass. Jesus takes the loaves and fish, looks up to heaven in the direction of his Father, blesses the food, breaks it, gives it to the disciples who in turn distribute it among the people. The whole action clearly prefigures the Eucharist and leads up to it.

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It is not explained how it all happened but five thousand men not counting women and children had their fill. Matthew alone notes the presence of women and children. As Jews did not permit women and children to eat together with men in public, they would have been in a place by themselves.

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And what was left over filled 12 baskets – a perfect number symbolising abundance and also the number of the apostles.

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There are two clear lessons. God takes care of his people. We can read the feeding in two ways. On the one hand, we can simply take it as a miraculous event, pointing to the divine origins of Jesus. On the other hand, there is another possibility with its own meaning. Once the disciples began to share the little food they had with those around, it triggered a similar movement among the crowd, many of whom had actually brought some food with them. When everyone shared, everyone had enough. A picture of the kind of society the Church should stand for.

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Some people might say that this is explaining away the miracle but it also makes an important point. The second lesson is that it was the disciples and not Jesus who distributed the bread and fish. And so it must be in our own time. If the followers of Jesus do not share with others what they have received from him, the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel will not happen.

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Lastly, there are clear Eucharistic elements in the story. Especially the ritualistic way in which Jesus prayed, blessed, broke and distributed the bread. The breaking of the bread (a name for the Mass) is very important because it indicates sharing and not just eating. The Eucharist is the celebration of a sharing community. If sharing of what we have in real life is not taking place, then the Eucharist becomes a ritualistic sham, a whited sepulchre full of dead people’s bones.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1182g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Look at the words: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given.
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This is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus did with the loaves and the fish — and this is what Jesus does again at The Last Supper.
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Jesus does this over and over again in the Mass — and with us in our lives.
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Whenever we are broken we can return to Him. We can be taken, blessed, broken and given back to Him.
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Archbishop Goh has said, “Without hope, everything will end in nihilism.”
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Nihilism says that life is without objective meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth if we follow Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
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Related:
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Our thanks and prayers go out to Fr. Henri Nouwen who has been my excellent teacher.
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Fr. Henri Nouwen

In Henri Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved” he outlines four words that he believes are central to the spiritual lives of Christians,

“To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use for words: taken, blessed, broken and given. These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it and give it. These words also summarize my life as a Christian, because, as a Christian, I am called to become bread for the world: break that is taken, blessed, broken and given. Most importantly, however, they summarize my life as a human being because in every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessings, the breaking and the giving are happening.” (Life of the Beloved, 41-42)

The radical difference between the way God works and the way the world works is that the world only uses 2 of the four. The world takes and breaks with no idea of how to bless and give. Praise God that we have a Father who knows us and loves us enough to give us exactly what we need and then turn right around and use us to be a blessing to others through the experiences we have walking with God…being taken by him, blessed by him, experiencing brokenness through him and with him and then being given for others.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26

Nouwen says, we are now that bread….

http://mattdabbs.com/2014/07/28/taken-blessed-broken-given-we-are-the-bread/

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 5, 2017

August 4, 2017

Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 406

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Reading 1  LV 25:1, 8-17

The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai,
“Seven weeks of years shall you count–seven times seven years–
so that the seven cycles amount to forty-nine years.
Then, on the tenth day of the seventh month, let the trumpet resound;
on this, the Day of Atonement, the trumpet blast shall re-echo
throughout your land.
This fiftieth year you shall make sacred
by proclaiming liberty in the land for all its inhabitants.
It shall be a jubilee for you,
when every one of you shall return to his own property,
every one to his own family estate.
In this fiftieth year, your year of jubilee,
you shall not sow, nor shall you reap the aftergrowth
or pick the grapes from the untrimmed vines.
Since this is the jubilee, which shall be sacred for you,
you may not eat of its produce,
except as taken directly from the field.

“In this year of jubilee, then,
every one of you shall return to his own property.
Therefore, when you sell any land to your neighbor
or buy any from him, do not deal unfairly.
On the basis of the number of years since the last jubilee
shall you purchase the land from your neighbor;
and so also, on the basis of the number of years for crops,
shall he sell it to you.
When the years are many, the price shall be so much the more;
when the years are few, the price shall be so much the less.
For it is really the number of crops that he sells you.
Do not deal unfairly, then; but stand in fear of your God.
I, the LORD, am your God.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 67:2-3, 5, 7-8

R. (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
The earth has yielded its fruits;
God, our God, has blessed us.
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

Alleluia  MT 5:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Robert Ryan as John the Baptist in the film King of Kings

Gospel  MT 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.

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Commentary on Matthew 14:1-12 From Living Space

Our reading is about the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod. When Herod the Great died his kingdom was divided among four of his sons. One of them, the Herod of today’s Gospel and also known as Herod Antipas is called a “tetrarch”, meaning that he was the ruler of a fourth part or a quarter of a territory.

Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD, that is, all during the life of Jesus and beyond. He is the one who wanted to see Jesus and whom Jesus called “that fox”. He is the one to whom Pilate sent Jesus during his trial. His rather painful and loathsome death is described in the Acts. Although only a tetrarch, Matthew calls him ‘king’ because that was his popular title among the Galileans and also in Rome.

It seems that, by all accounts, Herod was a nasty man and, as revealed by today’s story, a weak and highly superstitious one. It is striking how many powerful people are made insecure by superstition e.g. businessmen worried by the feng shui (lucky orientation) of their company buildings, anxious to have ‘lucky’ numbers on their cars, and the like.

Herod was hearing extraordinary things about Jesus and he came to the conclusion that Jesus was a re-incarnation of John the Baptist whom he had executed for reasons he knew very well to be totally wrong. Now here was John’s spirit come back to taunt him for he had killed God’s servant.

This leads to a re-telling by Matthew of the events which led to John’s death.

John, who was no respecter of persons, had openly criticised Herod for taking his half-brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, as his own partner. This was in clear contravention of the Mosaic Law. Herod’s fault was not so much in marrying a close relative but for taking her as his wife when Philip was still living and, at the same time, putting away the wife he already had.

It was already an extraordinarily incestuous family. Herodias was a granddaughter of Herod the Great and therefore a niece of Herod Antipas. First, she married another uncle, Herod Philip, who lived in Rome. He was a half-brother, from a different mother, of Herod Antipas. It was on a visit to Rome that Herod Antipas persuaded Herodias to leave her husband for him. This, of course, was strictly forbidden by the Mosaic law: “You shall not have intercourse with your brother’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your brother” (Leviticus 18:16).

Herod, doubtless under pressure from Herodias, had wanted to rid himself of the embarrassment John was causing him but was afraid to do anything because, in the eyes of the people, John was a prophet and spoke in the name of God.

Herodias got her chance on the occasion of Herod’s birthday. Knowing her new husband’s weakness, she got her daughter to dance in his presence. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the daughter was known as Salome. She later married her granduncle, another Philip and a son of Herod the Great who ruled over the northern territories. He is mentioned by Luke.

Whether the dance was as lascivious as Cecil B. de Mille and others like to suggest, we do not know but Herod was greatly taken by the performance. In the presence of his courtiers and very likely having drunk a little too much he promised the girl he would give her anything she wanted, even half his kingdom. Under the prompting of her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist delivered on a dish. Herod was clearly appalled and also afraid but he had made his oath in the presence of a large number of people. He could not go back. John was decapitated and the head delivered as requested. His disciples came and buried the body and then went to tell Jesus.

There are echoes in this story of Jesus’ own death. He also died because of the moral weakness of Pilate who gave in to the threats of the Jewish leaders for the sake of his own career. Jesus’ death too was the result of blind hatred. And when he died his disciples arranged to have him buried.

Undoubtedly John was a martyr. He died as a witness to truth and justice in the service of God.

Herod, on the other hand, put expediency and his own convenience before truth and justice. He was in an immoral relationship with another woman and he gave in to what he felt would be the criticism and perhaps the derision of others. He had indeed made an oath but it was one that, in the circumstances, he was obliged not to observe.

With whom do I identify with more? John the Baptist, the fearless champion of truth and justice? Or Herod, the vacillator, the one who compromised truth and justice because of pressure of opinion and his own personal interests? I am sure all of us can think of times when we compromised with what we knew was the good thing, the right thing to do and took the line of less resistance.

John is an example to us of integrity. And, like him, we have each one of us been called in our own way to be prophets, to be spokespersons for God’s way. It may not always be easy.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2177g/

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From the film “King of Kings” Brigid Bazlen portrays Salome, seen here performing a dance of the seven veils in order to incite King Herod with lust into giving her “anything [she] wants” — the head of John the Baptist.
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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This is one of our favorite gospels. Given the choice between sparing a wrongly accused human’s life; a self-important leader chooses to watch a sexy dancer.
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Instead of choosing God’s will or truth or justice, in this reading we see what happens to one who chooses all the sins of the flesh for himself: mounds of food, gallons of wine and provocative sexual behavior.
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Many people today still live by the evil principles of life we see in this Gospel. We here at Peace and Freedom got into an “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” attitude ourselves.
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Humans are constantly seeking. We want what makes us happy and we want lots of it. I’ve lusted after money, sex, power, esteem and awards. I’ve even lusted after pizza and chocolate cake but those drugs can
Salomé – 1953 – Rita Hayworth
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We love this Gospel. We should never forget that our time here on earth is short — we’re on the clock. Our lives, some say, have little real value unless they are dedicated to bringing the lives of our family, our friends, and ourselves toward the one truly eternal goal — salvation and resurrection after death — to reap an eternal reward.
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Time moves on, but human behavior remains the same, doesn’t it?  We want to do what we want to do.  But there is more to life than just satisfying our worldly desires.
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Stay true to doing right and living in the truth of the Lord.  It probably won’t make us very popular in today’s culture, but a reward in Heaven is greater than any fleeting popularity that the world can give.
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What an interesting and timely gospel we read today.  These days our church has been working hard to preserve the true meaning of marriage.  In today’s gospel passage from Matthew, John the Baptist is imprisoned and ultimately murdered for criticizing Herod’s illegitimate marriage to the wife of his brother Philip.

Source: http://deacongarydumer.com/2015/08/01/the-head-of-the-baptist-2/

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Head of Saint John the Baptist by an anonymous Spanish painter c. 1600-1650, Cleveland Museum of Art

The lesson to men: “Don’t lose your head to a girl.”

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See also:
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For myself, wounded wretch that I am,
by your saving power raise me up!
I will praise God’s name in song,
I will extol him by thanksgiving. (Ps 69, 29-30)
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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Today’s Gospel describes the way in which John the Baptist was the victim of corruption and of the arrogance of the government of Herod. He was killed without a process, during a banquet of the king with the great of the kingdom. The text gives us much information on the time in which Jesus lived and on the manner in which power was used by the powerful of that time.
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• Matthew 14,1-2. Who is Jesus for Herod. The text begins by informing about the opinion which Herod had of Jesus: “This is John the Baptist himself, he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him”. Herod tries to understand Jesus starting from the fear which assailed him after murdering John. Herod was very superstitious and hid his fear behind the ostentation of his riches and of his power.
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• Matthew 14, 3-5: The hidden cause of the murdering of John. Galilee, the land of Jesus, was governed by Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod, the Great, from the year 4 BC until the year 38 AD, after Christ. Forty-three years in all! During the time of the life of Jesus, there were no changes of government in Galilee! Herod was the absolute Lord of everything, he did not render an account to anyone, he did whatever passed through his mind. Arrogance, lack of ethics, absolute power, without control from the people! But the one, who commanded in Palestine since the year 63 before Christ, was the Roman Empire. Herod, in Galilee, so as not to be dismissed, tried to please Rome in everything. Above all, he insisted on an efficient administration which would bring riches to the Empire. His concern was his own promotion and his security. For this reason, he refrained from any type of subversion. Matthew says that the reason for murdering John was because he had denounced Herod, because he had married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Flavio Joseph, a Jewish writer of that time, says that the true reason for the imprisonment of John the Baptist was the fear of Herod that there would be a popular revolt. Herod like to be called the benefactor of the people, but in reality he was a tyrant (Lk 22, 25). The denunciation of John against Herod was the drop that caused the glass to overflow: “It is against the Law for you to have her”. And John was put in prison.
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• Matthew 14, 6-12: The plot of the murderer. An anniversary and a festive banquet, with dances and orgy! Mark says that in the feast were “the great of the court, the officials and the important people of Galilee” (Mk 6, 21). This is the environment in which the murdering of John the Baptist is planned. John, the prophet, was a living denunciation of that corrupt system. This is why, he was eliminated with the pretext of a problem of personal revenge. All this reveals the moral weakness of Herod.
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So much power accumulated in the hands of one man incapable to control himself! In the enthusiasm of the feast and of the wine, Herod makes a promise by oath to Salome, the young dancer, daughter of Herodias. Superstitious as he was, he thought that he had to maintain this oath, and respond to the caprice of the girl; and because of this he ordered the soldier to bring the head of John on a tray and give it to the dancer, who then gave it to her mother. For Herod, the life of his subjects was worthless. He disposes of them as he disposes of the staircases in his house!
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The three characteristics of the government of Herod: the new Capital, large estates, and the class of functionaries:
a) The New Capital. Tiberiade was inaugurated when Jesus was only 20 years old. It was called like that in order to please Tiberius, the emperor of Rome. It was inhabited by the lords of the earth, the soldiers, the policemen, the unscrupulous judges (Lk 18, 1-4). The taxes and the products of the people were channelled toward it. It was there that Herod made his orgy of death (Mk 6, 21-29). Tiberiades was the city of the palaces of the King, where those who wore soft, delicate dresses lived (cf. Mt 11, 8). It is not known by the Gospels that Jesus entered this city.
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b) The large estates. Scholars say that during the long government of Herod, the large estates grew causing harm to community property. The Book of Henoch denounces the lords of the land and expresses the hope of the little ones: “And then the powerful and the great will no longer be the lords of the land”. (Hen 38,4). The ideal of ancient times was the following: “Each one will peacefully sit under his vine and nobody will frighten them” (1 Mac 14,12; Mi 4,4; Zc 3,10). But the politics of the government of Herod made this ideal impossible.
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c) The class of functionaries. Herod created a whole class of functionaries faithful to the project of the King: the Scribes, the merchants, the lords of the land, the officers of the market, the tax collectors, the militia, the policemen, the judges, the local heads,. In every village there was a group of persons which supported the government. In the Gospels, some Pharisees appear together with the Herodians (Mk 3, 6; 8, 15; 12, 13), and that shows the alliance between the religious power and the civil power. The life of the people in the villages was very controlled, both by the government and by the religion. Much courage was necessary to begin anything new, as John and Jesus did! It was the same thing as attracting to self the anger of the privileged ones, both from the religious and the civil powers.
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Personal questions
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• Do you know any persons who died victims of corruption and domination of the powerful? And here among us, in our community and in the Church, are there victims of authoritarianism and of the abuse of power?
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• Herod, the powerful, who thought he was the lord of life and death of people, was a coward before the great and a corrupt flatterer before the girl who danced. Cowardice and corruption marked the exercise of the power of Herod. Compare all this with the exercise of religious power and civil orgy, in the different levels of society and of the Church.
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Concluding Prayer
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The humble have seen and are glad.
Let your courage revive, you who seek God.
For God listens to the poor,
he has never scorned his captive people. (Ps 69,32-33)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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05 AUGUST, 2017, Saturday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time
THE VISION OF GOD FOR HUMANITY

 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ LEV 25:18-17MT 14:1-12]

What is the vision of God for humanity in His plan of salvation?  God wants us to share in His love and life.  This entails that we are in communion with Him and in communion with the human family. He desires that humanity live in true brotherhood, in unity based on the principles of love, justice and equality. This magnificent plan of God unfolds itself in the establishment of the People of God, the constitution of Israel as a nation.  In order to preserve the harmonious relationship between Israel and God and among themselves, God gave them a set of laws which we call the Mosaic Laws.

Among these laws, one of the most important is that of the Jubilee law.  Every seventh year was a sabbatical year and at the end of every seven sabbatical years there was a year of jubilee.  Hence, the Jubilee year comes every fifty years.  According to this jubilee tradition, all debts were to be forgiven.  Slaves were set free and land sold in repayment of a debt must be returned to its original owner (Lev 25:23-28).  In this way, justice and equality among all inhabitants was restored.

This Jubilee tradition with respect to the regulation of land and social relationships appears to be merely a pragmatic means of keeping social order.  Yet the basis of such a social program is rooted not so much in humanitarian concerns but a theological reality, namely, that God is the ultimate owner of the land. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your God.” (Lev 25:38) Whatever we have in this world does not belong to us but to God who is the master.  We are merely stewards of God’s gifts and God’s creation.  God loves all His people and He does not want anyone of us to be poor or be in servitude.  Hence, He wants to re-establish the right social relationships and proper economic order among His people.

Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom message is certainly in line with the spirit of this Jubilee Tradition.  He began His ministry in the power of the Spirit in the background of the Jubilee Tradition, like all the prophets before Him, including John the Baptist, who was the last in the line of the Old Testament prophets.  At Nazareth where He inaugurated His ministry, He deliberately cited from Isaiah 61:1-2 which says, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour …” (Lk 4:18-19)

What are the implications of this message for us all?  In the first place, it means that we cannot dissociate the spiritual message of the Kingdom of God from the social, political and economic dimensions of the gospel.  Although the gospel does not offer a blueprint for how we should implement social or political policies, it does give us the principles of how society should be governed according to the spiritual values of the gospel, which is based on compassion, equality and justice.  The first reading reminds us that we must be fair in our dealings with our brothers and sisters. These fundamental values are underpinned by a theological understanding that every human person is a child of God and therefore must be given his rightful dignity.  Social justice and human rights are rooted in the fact that man is created in God’s image and likeness.

Secondly, it follows that we are not living an authentic Christian life if we are purely contented with a spiritual and liturgical life.  Just attending mass and saying prayers, and even reading the Word of God alone, does not make us a true Christian.  When our spiritual life is dichotomized from the concrete practice of Christian love and charity towards our neighbours, that kind of faith is self-centered and individualistic, since it bears no fruits in love and service.  In the final analysis, we will be judged by whether we love our brothers and sisters, for as St John says, “for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.  The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. ” (1 Jn 4:20f)

Thirdly, it shows that Christian charity is not based solely on humanitarianism, that is, compassion for our fellowmen, but on the very fact that all the goods we have belong to God and that we are all equally His sons and daughters.  We are only stewards of God’s gifts, whether it is with regard to wealth, power and resources.  So whatever God has given to us, we must be ready to share our goods with others, especially those who are marginalized and poor. The poor too, are entitled to enjoy the goods of the earth.

Consequently, being a true disciple of the Lord requires that we follow the examples of Jesus and John the Baptist in speaking out for the poor and championing the cause of the weak and the voiceless.  To be a voice for the truth and for what is right of course is a prophetic role that few are ready to assume and are courageous enough to undertake.  To carry out such a role presumes that we ourselves are living an authentic life of justice and a life of poverty.  When we speak in favour of the weak in society and expose the corruption of those in power, we can be certain that we will face tremendous opposition and persecution.  We could even be stripped of our own wealth, power, livelihood, and face harm and threats to our life as well as that of our family’s.  This was true in the case of Jesus and John the Baptist.  As we read in today’s gospel, the price of truth is death and martyrdom.

But is there really a choice?  We can behave like King Herod who was indecisive in the face of truth.  He allowed his selfishness, pride and lust to control the way he acted.  He was afraid of facing the truth about himself.  On one hand, he felt inspired listening to John the Baptist, but on the other hand, he could not obey the Word of God.  As a consequence, he lived in guilt all his life and was haunted by his bad conscience, especially in his cowardly act of putting John the Baptist to death in order to please Herodias and his audience and to protect his pride.  When we are in a position to use our power, authority, status or influence to put things right, but fail to do so, we would certainly have failed in our duty to be God’s prophet.  Our conscience will eventually catch up with us and we will live in regret and guilt like King Herod.

Or would we allow ourselves, like Herodias’ daughter, to be used as a pawn by selfish people to do their evil deeds?  Some of us may not be in a position of power or influence, but we can easily succumb to those in power and authority.  For fear of earning their wrath or falling out of their favour, we suck up to them and cooperate with them in their wrongdoings and acts of injustice.  This is particularly true of subordinates who, for fear of losing their livelihood or the desire for promotion, shrink from voicing their disapproval of dishonest and unscrupulous means used by their superiors to secure business contracts or have their projects approved. By cooperating with them, we too become accomplices to their crimes.

Worse still, if we allow ourselves to become a Herodias; whose heart was so filled with anger, resentment, bitterness and vindictiveness that she would stop at nothing to spew her venom.  She was the chief protagonist in the plot to put John the Baptist away permanently.  Only a person who has become so evil could scheme not only to have the Baptist beheaded but to have his head on a plate, and to even instigate her daughter to cooperate with her in her heinous crime.  Some of us who are so absorbed by power, possessed by greed and lust, enslaved by anger and revenge, would do anything to destroy our enemies and those who are against us, even when we know they speak the truth.

Today, let us follow the footsteps of our Lord and John the Baptist.  They died for the values espoused by the Law, particularly by the Jubilee Year.  We, too, must pray for courage, integrity and wisdom. The prophet Micah asked, “O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God!” (Mic 6:8)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Reflection and Explanation for Leviticus 25
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The jubilee was a joyous year appointed to be observed every fifty years. The cycle of the sabbatical year and the jubilee touched without coalescing. The forty-ninth year was necessarily a sabbatical year, and the following year was the jubilee. It has appeared to some so difficult to believe that two years in which it was not allowable to engage in agricultural work should come together, that they have assumed that the sabbatical year itself, that is, the forty-ninth year, was the year of the jubilee. But this was clearly not the case. Twice in the century the laud was to lie fallow for two years running—from September to the second September following—special preparations having, of course, been made by laying up a store of grain from the abundant harvest promised in the previous year (Leviticus 24:21), and foreign crops being, no doubt, imported to take the place of the usual home crops. In matter of fact, however, these two blank years seldom, if ever, occurred together; for as the sabbatical year was not observed before the Captivity, while there are indications of the existence of the jubilee (1 Kings 21:3Isaiah 61:1-3), so probably the jubilee ceased to be observed after the Captivity, when the sabbatical year was carefully kept. Supposing that they did come together, the second year in which labour was prohibited would end just in time for the seed to be sown for the next summer’s harvest.The jubilee affected both land and men. Land could only be sold for fifty years, its value immediately after a jubilee had passed being that of fifty harvests, or rather, deducting the sabbatical years and the fiftieth year, of forty-two harvests. If it were sold, it might be bought back by the original owner or any of his relations, counting the number of harvests remaining before the next jubilee, and buying out the previous purchaser with the sum of money thus estimated. No more effective plan could be well devised for preserving the various properties in the families to which they were at first assigned.

The other point chiefly affected by the law of the jubilee was slavery. In ease a brother Israelite became poor, it was the duty of his richer brethren to help him, and to lend him money without interest, to set him up in the world again. But if this did not succeed, the poor man might sell himself as a slave, either to an Israelite or to a foreigner living in the land. In the former ease it had been already enacted that his slavery was not to last beyond six years (Exodus 21:2). To this enactment it was now added that he must be also set free whenever the year of jubilee occurred.

If he became the slave of a non-Israelite, he must be set free, not as before on the seventh year of his slavery, but still at the jubilee. He had also preserved for him the right of being redeemed by any kinsman, the price paid for him being the wages which would be paid up to the next jubilee. In either case, he was to be treated without rigour, and it was the duty of the Israelite magistrate to see that no undue harshness was used by the foreign master. The principle is, as before, that as the land is God’s land, not man’s, so the Israelites were the slaves of God, not of man, and that if the position in which God placed them was allowed to be interfered with for a time, it was to be recovered every seventh, or at furthest every fiftieth, year. The possession of slaves was not forbidden—the world was not yet ready for such a prohibition. The Hebrews might purchase and own slaves of alien blood, but between Hebrew and Hebrew the institution of master and slave was practically abolished, and superseded (in most respects) by the relationship of master and servant.

Leviticus 25:1

And the Lord spake unto Moses in mount Sinai. The purpose of the words, in Mount Sinai, is not to distinguish the place in which the sabbatical law and the law of the jubilee were given from that in which the preceding laws were delivered. The words mean only, “in the Sinai district;” and they are employed because these laws form the conclusion of the series of laws given while tile people were en-camped under Mount Sinai. The law on vows is, it is true, added to them, but it is by way of appendix.

Leviticus 25:2-7

The sabbath of the seventh year could only be observed when ye come into the land which I give you.The habit of making no distraction in the seventh year during the whole of the life in the wilderness may have led to the neglect of the law after the settlement in Canaan. Another excuse for the neglect may have been a difficulty which would have presented itself of fixing the date from which to count up to the seventh year, as different parts of the land were conquered at different times. According to the law, from New Year’s Day of the seventh year to the following New Year’s Day, there was to be neither sowing nor pruning, reaping or gathering. The expression, Neither shalt thou gather the grapes of thy vine undressed, would be more literally rendered, the grapes of thy Nazarite vine, the vine with its unpruned tendrils, being likened to the Nazarite with his unshorn locks. As to sowing and reaping, an exception was made with respect to the barley sown and reaped for the Passover sheaf, and the wheat sown and reaped for the Pentecost loaves. The spontaneous fruits of the earth, and they were very large in the rich fields of the valleys and plains, were to be the property of all alike, whether the owners of the land or not, “that the poor of thy people might eat” (Exodus 23:11). And what was left by man was to be food for the cattle and beasts of the field. The cessation of agricultural labours must have served, and may have been intended to serve, as an encouragement to mercantile pursuits, as well as to the study of the Divine Law (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). The Feast of Tabernacles of the seventh year was specially appointed by Moses as a day for reading the Law to the assembled people (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). And the Mishna appoints the following passages of Deuteronomy to be read on that day:—Deuteronomy 1:1-6Deuteronomy 6:4-8Deuteronomy 11:13-22Deuteronomy 14:22Deuteronomy 15:23Deuteronomy 17:14Deuteronomy 26:12-19Deuteronomy 27:1-26Deuteronomy 28:1-68. (‘Mish. Sotah.,’ 7.8). The other ordinance connected with the sabbatical year, the release of debts to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:1-6), was, like the fifth commandment, made of none effect by rabbinical traditions—notably by one which required a debtor, when his creditor said, “I remit,” to insist that nevertheless he should accept payment. The moral purpose of the sabbath of the seventh year is well drawn out by Keil:—”In the sabbatical year the land which the Lord had given his people was to observe a period of holy rest and refreshment to its Lord and God, just as the congregation did on the sabbath day; and the hand of man was to be withheld from the fields and fruit gardens from working them that they might yield their produce for his use. The earth was to be sacred from the hand of man, exhausting its power for earthly purposes as his own property, and to enjoy the holy rest with which God had blessed the earth and all its productions after the Creation. From this, Israel, as the nation of God, was to learn, on the one hand, that although the .earth was created for man, it was not merely created for him to draw out its power for his own use, but also to be holy to the Lord and participate in the blessed rest; and on the other hand, that the great purpose for which the congregation of the Lord existed did not consist in the uninterrupted tilling of the earth, connected with bitter labour in the sweat of the brow (Genesis 3:17Genesis 3:19), but in tile peaceful enjoyment of the fruits of the earth, which the Lord their God had given them and would give them still, without the labour of their hands, if they strove to keep his covenant and satisfy themselves with his grace.”

Leviticus 25:8Leviticus 25:9

The word jubile (as it is always spelt in the Authorized Version) is taken from the Hebrew word yovel, and it came to mean a year of liberty (Ezekiel 46:17; Josephus, ‘Ant.,’ 3.12, 3), because it freed men and lands from the obligations to which they would otherwise have been liable; but originally it signified no more than a cornet-blast, and thence the year of the cornet-blast. The way to find the jubilee year was to number seven sabbaths of years, that is, seven weeks of years (Leviticus 22:15), seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years: then by a blast of the cornet (the word is inexactly rendered trumpet) on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement, the approach of the jubilee in the following year was announced.

Leviticus 25:10

This verse contains a short statement of the two purposes of the jubilee:

(1) to proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof;

(2) ye shall return every man unto his possession.

Leviticus 25:11Leviticus 25:12

So far as the tillage of the land went, the jubilee year was to have the same effect as a sabbatical year.

Leviticus 25:13-17

The Israelites were only tenants of God. They might regard themselves as owners for fifty years, but at the end of every fifty years the land was to come back to him to whom the Lord had assigned it, or to his representative. It might be bought and sold on that understanding, the value of the purchase being four. d by reckoning the price of the harvests up to the next jubilee day; but in this period only “the years of the fruits” were to be counted, that is, the sabbatical years, in which there would be no harvests, were to be deducted. Ye shall not therefore oppress (or overreach) one another by demanding more for the hind than would be its just value under the limitation of the jubilee law.

Leviticus 25:18-22

“Not only the year of jubilee, but the sabbatical year also, commenced in the autumn, when the farmers first began to sow for the coming year; so that the sowing was suspended from the autumn of the sixth year till the autumn of the seventh, and even till the autumn of the eighth whenever the jubilee year came round, in which case both sowing and reaping were omitted for two years in succession, and consequently the produce of the sixth year, which was harvested in the seventh month of that year, must have sufficed for three years, not merely till the sowing in the autumn of the eighth or fiftieth year, but till the harvest of the ninth or fifty-first year, as the Talmud and rabbins of every age have understood the law” (Keil). The question, What shall we eat? would present itself with double force when the sabbatical and the jubilee years came together. It and the answer to it therefore properly follow on the institution of the jubilee, instead of preceding it, as Ewald, Knobcl, and others demand that it should do.

Leviticus 25:23Leviticus 25:24

For the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. Many incidental advantages, if some difficulties, arose from the jubilee law (which will be the more appreciated if we compare the evils resulting from slavery and the accumulation of land in a few hands, found in the history of Rome or any other ancient nation); but its essential features, so far as the laud was concerned, was its inculcation of the lesson of the proprietorship of the Lord. Palestine was God’s land: he divided it once for all in the time of Joshua among his people, and every fifty years he required that recourse should be had to that original division, in order that in each generation the people might feel themselves to be his tenants, not independent owners, possessores, not domini.

Leviticus 25:25-28

The right of redemption of land sold continued always alive, and might be exercised by the original owner or his kinsman. If not exercised, the owner returned into his possession at any rate in the jubilee year. If a man had to sell his laud, he was bound to offer it to his nearest kinsman first (see Jeremiah 32:7Jeremiah 32:8).

Leviticus 25:29-31

Houses in walled cities are not subject to the law of restoration at the jubilee, as that law applies only to lands and to men; but houses in the country are subject to the law, as they are regarded only as appurtenances of the land. Houses in cities, being occupied by artisans and built by human industry, not originally assigned in the territorial division, arc not considered in so strict a sense the property of the Lord as the soil is, and may be parted with more readily. Yet the owners, if obliged to part with them, are allowed a year’s grace, during which they are to have the right of buying them back. The expression, within a full year, would be more literally rendered during a fixed time, that fixed time having just before been declared to be a year.

Leviticus 25:32-34

The houses of the Levites are, by an exception, subject to the law of jubilee. They constituted the share of the national property which was assigned to the tribe of Levi, and so far stood in the same relation to them as the land did to the other tribes. They therefore returned to the original possessor or his representative in the year of jubilee, and might at any earlier time be redeemed. The words, Notwithstanding the cities of the Levites, should rather be rendered, But in respect to the cities of the Levites. There is a difficulty also as to the translation of the clause, And if a man purchase of the Levites, for the word rendered purchase menus elsewhere redeem; but here the Authorized Version would seem to be correct. The sense that it gives is that if any one bought a house of the Levites, he had to render it back in the year of jubilee, just as though it had been land. On the other hand, the land belonging to the Levites, in the suburbs of the Levitical cities, which was used for the pasturage of the flocks of the Levites, could not be sold except to a Levite, and therefore no question between the Levites and members of the other tribes could arise regarding it. The phrase, the house that was sold, and the city of his possession, must be understood, by a hendiadys, to mean, the house that was sold in the city of his possession (see Gesenius, ‘Lex.,’ s.v. לְ i.b.).

Leviticus 25:35-38

Slavery. It is presumed that no Hebrew will become a slave except on the pressure of poverty, and this poverty his brethren are commanded to relieve; but foreseeing that either want of charity on the part of the rich or unthrift on the part of the poor would certainly bring about slavery, the legislator makes regulations so as to soften its character as far as possible. The literal translation of Leviticus 25:35 is as follows: If thy brother becomes poor, and his hand faileth by thee, thou shalt lay hold of him; a stranger or a sojourner that he may live with thee. The translation of the latter clause adopted by the Authorized Version, yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee, makes the duty of giving charitable support and loans of money to apply to the case of the stranger and sojourner as well as of the Israelite. The other and more probable rendering confines its application to native Israelites. If thy brother becomes poor, and his hand faileth, thou shalt support him as a stranger or a sojourner, that is, treat him with the forbearance shown to resident foreigners, to whose state he had reduced himself by the loss of his land. The command in Leviticus 25:36Take thou no usury of him, or increase, does not bear upon the general question of taking interest for money when lent to wealthy men or companies for business purposes. It simply forbids the taking of interest or increase of a brother Israelite who had become poor. The history of Rome shows how much cruelty and revolution such an injunction may have prevented. The words, or increase, added to usury, forbid the exaction of any greater quantity of food or clothing (a method of evading the law against usury) than that which had been lent. The injunction was transgressed in the time of Nehemiah, when “he rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother … . Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer” (Nehemiah 5:7Nehemiah 5:8).

Leviticus 25:39-42

We see the way in which a poor Israelite might become a slave in the case of the sons of the widow whose oil was multiplied by Elisha. “Thy servant my husband is dead; (and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord:) and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen” (2 Kings 4:1). And in the time of Nehemiah, “Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.… And, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards” (Nehemiah 5:3-5). But the fact that an Israelite could not be kept in slavery for more than six years (Exodus 21:2), and that the period of his service had to be still shorter if the jubilee fell before the seventh year, and the further fact that at the time of the jubilee he would not only he free, but recover any ancestral property that he had forfeited, so that he might become once more on an equality with his master, would have made his position totally different from the hopeless, helpless state of the Greek or Roman slave, even without the positive command that he was to be treated, not as a bondservant: but as an hired servant, and as a sojourner. All alike, master and bondsman, were the slaves of God, and therefore not only were they, so far, on an equality one with another, but the master would be encroaching on the right of God if he claimed God’s slaves for his own inalienably.

Leviticus 25:43

Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God, is paralleled by the New Testament injunction, “And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him” (Ephesians 6:9).

Leviticus 25:44-46

Slavery is not forbidden in respect to non-Israelites. The world was not yet ready for it, as it was not ready in the days of St. Paul.

Leviticus 25:47-55

Rules are laid down for the case of an Israelite who has sold himself for a slave to a non-Israelite. In this case he is not set free at the end of six years, as he would be if his master were a countryman, but in other respects his treatment is to be like that of the man with an Israelite master. He may be redeemed by the value of his work down to the jubilee being paid by himself or his kinsman; he is to be set free when the jubilee comes at any rate; he is to be treated kindly while continuing in his master’s service, and his countrymen are to see that no over-severity is used.

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/leviticus-25.html

 

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, August 4, 2017 — “You shall proclaim a sacred assembly … on the festivals of the LORD.”

August 3, 2017

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest
Lectionary: 405

Image result for the carpenter's son, Jesus, art, pictures

Is he not the carpenter’s son? — “Seeing God in the ordinary…”

Reading 1 LV 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34B-37

The LORD said to Moses,
“These are the festivals of the LORD which you shall celebrate
at their proper time with a sacred assembly.
The Passover of the LORD falls on the fourteenth day of the first month,
at the evening twilight.
The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD’s feast of Unleavened Bread.
For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.
On each of the seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD.
Then on the seventh day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.”

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel and tell them:
When you come into the land which I am giving you,
and reap your harvest,
you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest
to the priest, who shall wave the sheaf before the LORD
that it may be acceptable for you.
On the day after the sabbath the priest shall do this.

“Beginning with the day after the sabbath,
the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf,
you shall count seven full weeks,
and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day,
you shall present the new cereal offering to the LORD.

“The tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement,
when you shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves
and offer an oblation to the LORD.

“The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD’s feast of Booths,
which shall continue for seven days.
On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly,
and you shall do no sort of work.
For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD,
and on the eighth day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and offer an oblation to the LORD.
On that solemn closing you shall do no sort of work.

“These, therefore, are the festivals of the LORD
on which you shall proclaim a sacred assembly,
and offer as an oblation to the LORD burnt offerings and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11AB

R. (2a) Sing with joy to God our help.
Take up a melody, and sound the timbrel,
the pleasant harp and the lyre.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
For it is a statute in Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob,
Who made it a decree for Joseph
when he came forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.

Alleluia1 PT 1:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of the Lord remains forever;
this is the word that has been proclaimed to you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth, by Greg K. Olsen

Gospel  MT 13:54-58

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Matthew’s Gospel today bears a striking resemblance to John 14:6.
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Matthew record the doubters of Jesus saying, “Is he not the carpenter’s son?”
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John quotes the doubters saying, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
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These two lines bring us back to, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
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What Did Jesus Mean When He said, “Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged” (Matthew 7:1)?
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Most of us know the answer to THAT! We all judge others too quickly, too harshly and too often. Jesus seems to be teaching us, “Live and let live.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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04 AUGUST, 2017, Friday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time
SEEING GOD IN THE ORDINARY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ LEV 23:1-37MT 13: 54-58]

In our lives, we must have come across many great, famous and charismatic people.  And we have been impressed by them.  Yet, who are those people that are really great? Are they those who are highly gifted; making themselves so awesome to approach; making us feel small when we speak to them? Or are they those who are highly gifted and yet appear and relate to us as if they are normal and ordinary people?  Indeed, the truly, truly great are those who are great per se but make themselves so ordinary; are so humble in their ways, making us feel that we are somebody before them.  I was told by the helpers of MC that when Mother Teresa came, she lived among the sisters and lived as one of them without any special treatment accorded to her.  That is indeed someone really great.

Yes, this is the theme of today’s gospel.  God comes to us in ordinary ways, in very human ways.  Unfortunately, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, many of us cannot accept that God can manifest Himself to us that way.  The people could not accept Jesus because they knew Him too well.  He was so ordinary, He was one of them.  They knew His family and relatives too.  How could one with such a village background be the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament? And so they rejected Him, as they would again at the crucifixion.  They wanted God to appear in more fantastic and spectacular ways.  Yes, Jesus was a scandal to them.

But that is not the way of God.  In fact, God has always revealed and related to us in ordinary and human ways.  The first reading from the book of Leviticus prescribes the three great festivals of Israel, viz, the Passover, Weeks or Pentecost; and Tabernacles.  The lives of the Jews were structured around these three great feasts.  The origin of the Passover was a pastoral festival which celebrates the spring firstlings.  The Feast of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, is simply the harvest festival, the feast of the first-fruits of the grain harvest.  The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated at autumn is actually a harvest festival for the fruits of the threshing floor and wine press.  Like Passover and Pentecost, Tabernacles combines an agricultural motif and a historical motif which developed later on.

What, then, are the implications for us with regard to our own lives and in our relationship with others?

Firstly, with regard to ourselveshow should we live our lives?  We should live ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.  That is to say, we should just be.  There is no need to make a show of what we do or who we are.  When we are natural with ourselves, we will radiate the love of God and the presence of God.  But when we attempt to exaggerate the uniqueness in us, we become artificial and phony.  Being ordinary does not mean to be mediocre.  Mediocre people are those who pretend to be what they are not and, worst of all, fall short of what they pretend to be.  Precisely, Jesus was so ordinary that people who lacked the faith-vision or God-vision could not see His divine presence.

Secondly, with regard to others, we should not be too impressed by what they do and who they are.  Quite often, we are easily impressed by how the person speaks and dresses, and the credentials and offices he holds.  And we tend to treat those who are more impressive with greater respect and honour.  But let us not be deceived.  Not all of them are truly great people.  They might be impressive, but behind the mask of their externals, they could be hiding deep insecurities and inferiority.  Rather, the great man is one who is truly great but thinks that he is ordinary.  He does not want to be treated differently and prefers to be just ordinary.  They are the people who are wise and great and who live happy lives.  These are people whom we should really look up to so that we too can live full lives.

But to think and live that way takes faith. Jesus told us in the gospel to see how God is working in our ordinary lives.  Without faith, we cannot see the prophetic signs of God working through the lives of others and in our ordinary events.  And like the people of Jesus’ time, we will deprive ourselves of experiencing the miracles of God in our lives.  So the question is:  do we see the world with the vision of God and Jesus, or through the eyes of the world?

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 13:54-58 From Living Space

Immediately following the discourse on the parables of the Kingdom, we see Jesus going to his home town of Nazareth. TheNew American Biblemarks this as the beginning of a new section in Matthew’s gospel which it calls ‘Jesus, the Kingdom and the Church’. It ends with chapter 18, which contains the fourth of the five discourses which are distinctive to Matthew.

As was his right, Jesus spent some time teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. The townspeople were quite amazed to hear the local carpenter’s son speaking as he did. “Where did he get his wisdom and his miraculous powers?” (The New International Version says that the word usually translated ‘carpenter’ could also mean ‘stonemason’.) All his family were well known to the people and they knew he could not have got it from them but they failed to make the next step as to the real origin of what he was saying and doing.

And, in the contrariness of human nature, they were so impressed that they rejected him! He was just too much. A perfect example of familiarity breeding contempt and blinding the eyes to the obvious. And Jesus sadly comments that a prophet can get a hearing everywhere except among his own. Probably all of us have had some experience, directly or indirectly, of this! We Irish, in particular, are well known for our ‘begrudgery’!

It might be helpful for us to see how often and where we ourselves have been guilty of this. How often have we written off what people we know very well, or think we know very well, suggest to us? It is important for us to realise that God can communicate with us through anyone at all and we must never decide in advance who his spokespersons will be.

Finally, we are told that Jesus could not do in Nazareth any of the wonderful things he had done elsewhere “because of their lack of faith”. His hands were tied. Jesus can only help those who are ready to be helped, those who are open to him. How open am I?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/O2176G/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
.• The Gospel today tells us the visit of Jesus to Nazareth, his native community. Passing through Nazareth was painful for Jesus. What was his community at the beginning, now it is no longer so. Something has changed. Where there is no faith, Jesus can work no miracles.
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• Matthew 13, 53-57ª: The reaction of the people of Nazareth before Jesus. It is always good for people to go back to their land. After a long absence, Jesus also returns, as usual, on a Saturday, and he goes to the meeting of the community. Jesus was not the head of the group, but just the same he speaks. This is a sign that persons could participate and express their own opinion. People were astonished. They did not understand Jesus’ attitude: “Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” Jesus, son of that place, whom they knew since he was a child, how is that now he is so different? The people of Nazareth were scandalized and do not accept him: “This is the carpenter’s son, surely?
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The people do not accept the mystery of God present in a common man as they are, as they had known Jesus. In order to speak about God he should be different. As one can see, not everything was positive. The persons, who should have been the first ones to accept the Good News, are the first ones to refuse to accept it. The conflict is not only with foreigners, but also with his relatives and with the people of Nazareth. They do not accept because they cannot understand the mystery envelops Jesus: “Is not his mother, the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?” They are not able to believe.
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• Matthew 13, 57b-58: Reaction of Jesus before the attitude of the people of Nazareth. Jesus knows very well that “no one is a prophet in his own country”. And he says: A prophet is despised only in his own country and in his own house”. In fact, where there is neither acceptance nor faith, people can do nothing. The prejudice prevents it. Jesus himself, even wanting, can do nothing. He was astonished before their lack of faith.
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• The brothers and sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes much polemics between Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves in this and in other texts, the Protestants say that Jesus had many brothers and sisters and that Mary had more children! Catholics say that Mary did not have any other children. What can we think about this? In the first place, both positions, that of Catholics as well as that of Protestants, contain arguments taken from the Bible and from the Tradition of their respective Churches.
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For this reason, it is not convenient to discuss this question with arguments which are only intellectual, because it is a question of profound convictions, which have something to do with faith and with the sentiments of both and of each one. The argument which is only intellectual cannot change a conviction of the heart! It only irritates and draws away! Even if I do not agree with the opinion of others, I have to respect it. In the second place, instead of discussing around texts, all of us, Catholics and Protestants, should unite ourselves much more to fight for the defence of life, created by God, a life so disfigured by poverty, injustice, lack of faith.
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We should recall some other phrases of Jesus. “I have come so that they may have life and life to the full” (Jn 10, 10). “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that you, Father, has sent me” (Jn 17, 21). “Do not prevent them! Anyone who is not against us is for us” (Mk 10, 39.40)
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Personal questions
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• In Jesus something changed in his relationship with the Community of Nazareth. Since you began to participate in the community, has something changed in your relationship with the family? Why?
• Has participation in the community helped you to accept and to trust persons, especially the more simple and the poorest?
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Concluding Prayer
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For myself, wounded wretch that I am,
by your saving power raise me up!
I will praise God’s name in song,
I will extol him by thanksgiving. (Ps 69, 29-30)
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 3, 2017 — “The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea….” — “Take him seriously and listen to him with all your heart.”

August 2, 2017

Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 404

Image result for apostles haul in net with fish

Reading 1  EX 40:16-21, 34-38

Moses did exactly as the LORD had commanded him.
On the first day of the first month of the second year
the Dwelling was erected.
It was Moses who erected the Dwelling.
He placed its pedestals, set up its boards, put in its bars,
and set up its columns.
He spread the tent over the Dwelling
and put the covering on top of the tent,
as the LORD had commanded him.
He took the commandments and put them in the ark;
he placed poles alongside the ark and set the propitiatory upon it.
He brought the ark into the Dwelling and hung the curtain veil,
thus screening off the ark of the commandments,
as the LORD had commanded him.

Then the cloud covered the meeting tent,
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Moses could not enter the meeting tent,
because the cloud settled down upon it
and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling.
Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward.
In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling;
whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud
by the whole house of Israel
in all the stages of their journey.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 84:3, 4, 5-6A AND 8A, 11

R. (2) How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young–
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed the men whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!
I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!

Alleluia SEE ACTS 16:14B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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The Second Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1894) by James Tissot.

Gospel MT 13:47-53

Jesus said to the disciples:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom
both the new and the old.”
When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 AUGUST, 2017, Thursday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time
ARE CATHOLICS IDOL WORSHIPPERS?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 40:16-2134-38Ps 83:3-6,8,11Mt 13:47-53 ]

Catholics are often accused of not being faithful to the bible and branded as idol worshippers.  This is because of the rich sacramentals, icons, images and symbols that we use for our worship, devotion and liturgy.  Are we breaking the first commandment as some accuse us of?  What does the first commandment forbid?  “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.”  (Ex 20:3f)

If that were so, it would seem contradictory that Moses, having punished the Israelites for making the golden calf, ordered the construction of a Tabernacle to house the Ark where the Ten Commandments were kept and where they could offer burnt offerings.  (cf Ex 35-40)  This Tent of Meeting would become the sacred place where God was present in a very special way. “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the cloud that rested on it and because of the glory of the Lord that filled the tabernacle.”   Not only was it the Sacred Presence of God, we read that the Tabernacle accompanied and guided them along their journey.  “At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the tabernacle the sons of Israel would resume their march.  If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did.  For the cloud of the Lord rested on the tabernacle by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night, for all the House of Israel to see.  And so it was for every stage of their journey.”

The truth remains that in spite of the anger that God and Moses felt with the people who made the golden calf, there was still the human need to remember the presence of God.  That was what Aaron said to Moses. “Let not the anger of my Lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’”  (Ex 32:22f)  Human beings are not pure spirit and we need tangible things to see and feel to help us feel the closeness of God and of our loved ones.  Human beings need signs, symbols and things to convey the deeper reality of their experiences.   We need sacred symbols.  Hence, since time immemorial, shrines have been constructed so that God could be remembered and worshipped.

This explains why the Tabernacle was replaced 500 years later by the Temple built by King Solomon.  Jesus Himself would visit the Temple yearly for worship.  The Temple was most sacred to the Israelites and the Jews.  In their history, the destruction and desecration of the Temple was considered the most heinous crimes that could be committed.  The Maccabean brothers died to purify the Temple as we read in the book of Maccabees.  It was one of the charges against Jesus when he was brought to trial before the High Priest. (cf Mt 26:61)  In years to come, the Torah was considered the most holy book of the Jews.  The psalmist felt the presence of God in the Temple.  He said, “How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord, God of hosts.  My soul is longing and yearning, is yearning for the courts of the Lord. They are happy, who dwell in your house, forever singing your praise.  They walk with ever-growing strength, they will see the God of gods in Zion. One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. The threshold of the house of God I prefer to the dwellings of the wicked.”  So we cannot deny the need of human beings to create symbols and things to remind them of God’s presence.

Thus, in the Catholic Church, we make use of many signs and symbols to mediate God’s presence so that people could be led to contemplate on the greatness and splendor of God.  Just like in the Old Testament where Moses ordered the people to establish an elaborate liturgy with the intricate vestments and sacred vessels to enhance the awesomeness of God’s presence, so does the Church as well in her liturgy.  No one can deny that such sacramentals employed by the Church enrich and bring out the liturgical celebration and help the worshippers to experience interiorly what they express externally.

This is where there is a thin line between idolatry and sacramentals.  Idolatry is to make an image and worship it as a god.  To render homage to something that is of the earth, created by God who is the source of everything is to deny that there is only one God. This is what the first commandment seeks to emphasize that God is One.  There is also the historical context where the pagan neighbours of the Israelites worshipped many other gods that they had carved for themselves.  To worship a thing as if it is a god, is to worship an illusion and to worship nothingness.  In other words, idols are not real.  As the psalm says, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them are like them; so are all who trust in them.”  (Ps 115:4-8)

Sacramentals are different.  They are instituted by the Church.  They are not identified with the reality but put us in a right disposition to receive God’s grace.  Sacramentals “are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them, men are disposed to receive the chief effect of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1667). They are firstly not carved images of God who is pure Spirit, but they are images of people and things that we have seen, for example, the image of the cross, the crucifix, our Lord, Mary and the Saints.   These images help us to focus our eyes on God.  Catholics do not identify the sacred things as the reality itself but as means by which God works so that we can experience tangibly His presence, as in the Temple or the Ark of the Covenant which the Israelites brought with them to win battles against their enemies.

At its highest level, the Church uses Sacraments instituted by Christ which are outward signs that give grace to those who receive them worthily.  The Eucharist is par excellence of the presence of Christ because He transformed bread and wine to be His body and blood.  Another sacrament is the Sacrament of the Sick. Even Jesus asked the disciples to use oil to heal the sick.  “And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.”  (Mk 6:13)  St James exhorted the Christians to do the same.  “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”  (Jms 5:14)

Of course, these are means to the endwhich is to experience God’s healing grace and His presence.  As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, it is not which mountain we should worship “but true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Jn 4:23f)  In other words, it is the motive, the intention and the disposition of the heart and mind that matters.  The externals are merely means for us to create the right disposition for us to encounter God.  They are necessary means because human beings need to communicate and encounter reality through the incarnational means.  Sacraments and sacramentals are based on the Incarnation of our Lord.  God became man so that we can see Him as Jesus told Philip, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.’  (Jn 14:9)

The gospel puts everything in perspective.  In the parable of the dragnet, Jesus speaks about the need to sort out what is good and what is bad.  In the same way, we need to be vigilant with regard to the use of sacramentals, that popular piety does not fall into superstition but means to encounter God and the sacred.  The Church has this grave responsibility to ensure that they are used rightly.  “Manifestations of popular piety are subject to the jurisdiction of the local Ordinary. It is for him to regulate such manifestations, to encourage them as a means of assisting the faithful in living the Christian life, and to purify and evangelize them where necessary. He is also to ensure that they do not substitute for the Liturgy nor become part of the liturgical celebrations.”  (CDF, Directory On Popular Piety, no 21)

Indeed, Jesus encourages us to appreciate the past traditions and yet be open to new developments as well because faith is dynamic and circumstances are changing.  If the Church were to just insist on past traditions, we would be out of sync with the world.  When our symbols cannot mediate God’s presence anymore, we would have dead symbols which are useless and superstitious.  But we must be careful not to throw out all old traditions because they have much to teach us and are of use to us in our faith.  Truly, “every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Reflection on Exodus 40
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Today’s Old Testament reading offers a helpful corrective as we reconsider our image of God. Moses knew him as a God of love, with a proven readiness to forgive and heal, feed and liberate. But he also knew that God should not be trifled with. Incidentally, that’s what we mean by “fearing” the Lord: taking the Lord seriously at all times and in all places.

Moses had learned the meaning of “holy ground” when he took off his shoes before approaching the burning bush, and he knew it later as God made his presence felt within the Holy of Holies the people had built to honor him. Moses knew how to be quiet in God’s presence and how to listen.

Every place in the universe is God’s holy ground, for there is no place where God is not. Take him seriously. He wants to walk with you and be your mentor. Take him seriously and listen to him with all your heart.

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Commentary on Matthew 13:47-53 From Living Space

We come to the seventh and last of the parables in this discourse. Of course, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus did not speak them one after the other as they are presented here. They are the work of the author’s editing, putting matters with a common theme into one place.

Today’s Kingdom parable points to the end of time. There will come a time for the end of the Kingdom on earth and then those who belong and those who do not will be clearly distinguished and separated from each other. That is something which cannot and should not be done now as the parable of the weeds indicated.

When will that end be? That, of course, we do not know – fortunately! But one thing we do know is that our own end will come in a relatively short time, even if we live to be 100. And when that happens, it will be clear to God, if not to others, whether we are leaving this world in the Kingdom or outside it, that is, whether we are with God or against him.

How can we make sure we are in the right place? By making sure that I get confession and the ‘last sacraments’ before I die? Don’t bet on it! The best guarantee is to enrol in the Kingdom today and every day, to live, with Christ’s help, in the way he has shown us. If we do that on a day to day basis the future will take care of itself and there is no need to worry.

The whole discourse is then brought to an end by Jesus asking his disciples if they understand what he has been saying and they say they do.

Then Jesus gives a description of the truly learned disciple. He is a “scribe”, an interpreter of God’s Word, who can bring from his storeroom “both the new and the old”, someone who has both the wealth of the Old Testament as well as the vision of the New. “This picture of a ‘scribe who has become a disciple’,” comments the Jerusalem Bible, “sums up the whole ideal of the evangelist and may well be a self-portrait.” The author of this gospel is clearly a Jew who has become a Christian.

As Jesus said earlier, he had not come to destroy the traditions of the ‘old’ Hebrew covenant but to fulfil it with a new covenant. He would equally reject those who abandoned the Hebrew tradition as well as those who rejected the new insights which he brought. This is a process which goes on today in the Christian faith. There is a continuing and creative tension between what has been handed down in the past and the new understandings which arise with changing circumstances. We all have to be both conservative and progressive at the same time!

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2175g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE CONCLUSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 40:16-2134-38MT 13:47-53

Today’s scripture readings provide us with two apparently different conclusions.  The first reading from the Book of Exodus concludes with the installation of the tabernacle.  It would henceforth be in this place that God would specially meet His people.  It would be at the Tabernacle that His presence would be felt strongly.  “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because of the cloud that rested on it and because of the glory of the Lord that filled the tabernacle.”  It would also be the way the Lord would guide His people for the rest of the journey through the desert.  “At every stage of their journey, whenever the cloud rose from the tabernacle the sons of Israel would resume their march.  If the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did.”

In the gospel too, we have another conclusion to the parables of the Kingdom of God.  In the structure of St Matthew’s gospel, chapter 5-7, we have the Sermon on the Mount which presents the perfect ideal of the Kingdom of God.  Chapters 8-10 concretize the kingdom of God in the miracles performed by Jesus, and chapters 11-13 expound on the hidden nature of the kingdom by means of parables.  Appropriately, the end sums up the message of judgment illustrated in the parable of the dragnet, where the good would then be separated from the bad.  After judgment, those not found worthy of the kingdom would be cast “into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”

At first glance, perhaps, we do not see the close connection between these two endings.  Yet, both are very much related to the presence and the reign of God.  The presence of God that filled the Tabernacle was a local presence in a place.  The reign of God that Jesus preached in the New Covenant is not located in a place but in the hearts of all men and women.  Whenever God reigns in our hearts, there God is present.  There will be joy and freedom for those who live under the New Law of the Kingdom, because we have God ruling our lives.  Unlike the Law of the Old Covenant, the New Law as summed up by the Sermon on the Mount goes beyond the Mosaic Law.  It spells out the true spirit of the laws given to us.

In a real sense therefore, the kingdom of God is already present in different degrees in us whenever we open ourselves to the grace of the Kingdom.  So the expectation of the kingdom cannot be relegated to the end of time.  Rather, at every moment of our lives, we are either rejecting the life of the kingdom or living under the Spirit of the Kingdom.  When we see the end of the kingdom in this perspective then the final judgment is not something to be feared but to be longed for.  If we find ourselves fearful of the judgment as portrayed in today’s gospel, it is because we tend to interpret the parable of the final judgment literally, as if we are appearing before God to be judged, like in a human court, and then after receiving our due sentence, sent to hell or to heaven.  Rather, the parable must be understood as a vehicle to make us realize that the decision for the fullness of life here and now will have an impact on our final decision.

From this perspective, the final judgment is not something to be feared. Rather, the judgment must be seen as the permanent establishment of the reign of God in our lives where there will be no more pain or sorrow.  With His reign, there will be peace, joy and love forever.  Where could this place be if not in the heart of God Himself?  Heaven, a state of eternal bliss and joy and love should be where we all hope to arrive.  Death is not a punishment but the passage to new life and the fullness of life.

For this reason, the psalmist declares, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord, mighty God!  My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Blessed they who dwell in your house! Continually they praise you. I had rather one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”  We all have had a taste of this state of heaven, of living in the Tabernacle of God when we come before His presence in prayer, in intimacy and especially when we receive Him in the most Holy Eucharist. To dwell in the presence of God gives us a joy and a peace that no human being can give us.

But the fact remains that sin and God are incompatible, like light and darkness.  You cannot have God and Satan.  If we desire to come to the Lord, we need to purify ourselves in all sincerity.  Of course, we know that perfection is not something within our will, but it depends on the grace of God.  What is important is that we cooperate with His grace as much as we can.  When we fail, we simply have to turn to our merciful God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, trusting in His mercy and coming to realization that our sins hurt God as much as ourselves and the people around us.  So there is no reason to fear judgment because we know that God’s judgment will be tampered by mercy and forgiveness.  Of course this does not mean that we become presumptuous of His mercy and continue to sin without a real desire for repentance.  Without a contrite heart, we would then be consciously rejecting the kingdom of God, which is quite different from one who desires to live the kingdom life but on account of his weakness and ignorance fall into sin.

So what would our conclusion be like? Have you considered your conclusion at the end of your life?  Is it going to be one of liberation, joy and satisfaction, knowing that you have lived your life to the fullest with a clear conscience before God and man?  Would you be able to say with St Paul, “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:6-8)

St Paul could look forward to the fullness of the coming of God’s kingdom only because he had chosen to be with the Lord every day and every moment of his life.  He was always living in the presence of God, in His dwelling place, whether he was awake or asleep, at work or at rest, in prayer or with people.  We too can already have a share in this kingdom life to come when we live in full consciousness of His presence and love in a life of service, charity, forgiveness and compassion.  This is what the Lord is asking of us.

Just as God was with His people at every stage of their journey by making His presence felt in the Tabernacle, signified by a cloud and fire, so too, we must allow His presence to guide us.  At every stage of our life, we must rest and ponder the direction we are taking, like the people of God during the Exodus.  We read that “if the cloud did not rise, they waited and would not march until it did.  For the cloud of the Lord rested on the tabernacle by day, and a fire shone within the cloud by night, for all the House of Israel to see.  And so it was for every stage of their journey.”

So too, Jesus urges us to respond rightly at every moment when He advised us, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.”  We must learn from our mistakes, from our past, whilst working towards the future.  From the storeroom, that is, the past and the present, we must maximize the lessons from our failures and the good we have done. From the storeroom of our history and our faith, let us, whilst appreciating and valuing the past, also be receptive to the new ways the Lord wants to work in our lives.  Forgetting our past will hurt us as much as living in the past, and forgetting the grace of the present moment coming our way will hinder us from allowing the future to take its full effect in our lives.  By bringing the past, the present and the future together in Christ, we will gradually make progress in the life of the kingdom.  As the author of Hebrews tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)

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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

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor

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.”

Related image
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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