Posts Tagged ‘MT 11:28’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, November 6, 2018 — Give Yourself Away — Pour Yourself Out — Fulfill Your Vows

November 6, 2018

Image result for pouring water from a pitcher, photos

Bring in the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame….

The last shall be first and the first last.

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 486

Reading 1 PHIL 2:5-11

Brothers and sisters:
Have among yourselves the same attitude
that is also yours in Christ Jesus,Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and, found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
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Image result for pouring from a pitcher, , bible, art, pictures

Responsorial Psalm  PS 22:26B-27, 28-30AB, 30E, 31-32

R. (26a) I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him.
The lowly shall eat their fill;
they who seek the LORD shall praise him:
“May your hearts be ever merry!”
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
All the ends of the earth
shall remember and turn to the LORD;
All the families of the nations
shall bow down before him.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people. 
For dominion is the LORD’s,
and he rules the nations.
To him alone shall bow down
all who sleep in the earth.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
To him my soul shall live;
my descendants shall serve him.
Let the coming generation be told of the LORD
that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born
the justice he has shown.
R. I will praise you, Lord, in the assembly of your people.
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Image result for pouring from a pitcher, , bible, art, pictures

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 LK 14:15-24

One of those at table with Jesus said to him,
“Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.”
He replied to him,
“A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many.
When the time for the dinner came,
he dispatched his servant to say to those invited,
‘Come, everything is now ready.’
But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.
The first said to him,
‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen
and am on my way to evaluate them;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have just married a woman,
and therefore I cannot come.’
The servant went and reported this to his master.
Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,
‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town
and bring in here the poor and the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out
and still there is room.’
The master then ordered the servant,
‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and make people come in that my home may be filled.
For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'”
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Image result for Jesus, art, Akiane Kramarik
Art By Akiane Kramarik
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 NOVEMBER, 2018, Tuesday, 31st Week, Ordinary Time

OUR PRIORITIES IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11LUKE 14:15-24 ]

“Happy the man who will be at the feast in the kingdom of God!” Indeed, like the one who uttered this remark to Jesus, we too hope that we can partake in the feast of the Kingdom of God.  But what is this kingdom if not a communion of life and a communion of love?  Hence, the imagery for the kingdom life is always presented in terms of a banquet.  Indeed, Christian life is supposedly a foretaste of this kingdom.  Such a kingdom life would entail a balanced life where there is time to eat, play, rest, read, pray and fellowship.  This is what heaven on earth is like, and truly a foretaste of the life that is to come.  This is what the psalmist says, “My vows I will pay before those who fear the Lord. The poor shall eat and shall have their fill. They shall praise the Lord, those who seek him. May their hearts live for ever and ever!  All the earth shall remember and return to the Lord, all families of the nations worship before him for the kingdom is the Lord’s; he is ruler of the nations. They shall worship him, all the mighty of the earth.”

But we all know very well that life is not a bed of roses.  Relationships are fragile.  Work is demanding.  Ministry is filled with frustrations even when one is seeking to do good or to help.   We have lots of demands on us.  We try to fulfill our obligations and our duties to our bosses and our family and at the same time do our part to contribute generously to the community, especially the poor.  We are always so busy that we do not have time for rest, much less for prayers.   When we live such a hectic and stressful life, the warning of the master might apply to us when he said, “not one of those who were invited shall have a taste of my banquet.”  Life is reduced to work and achievements.  We are chasing one laurel after another whilst our relationship with God and our loved ones are weakening each day.  Without God, everything is out of focus.

For this reason, we are called to make time for communion with God.  It is not enough just to work and be preoccupied with our personal interests or even give ourselves entirely to our career at the expense of forming meaningful relationships.  This was what happened to those who were invited for the feast.  They had no time for God or for fellowship. “But all alike started to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it. Please accept my apologies.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please accept my apologies.’ Yet another said, ‘I have just got married and so am unable to come.’”  We are just like those people who were invited for the banquet.  We have legitimate excuses for not making time for Jesus.  We have our personal needs to attend to, such as our rest and recreation, homework and household chores.  We have commitments to our family, our spouse, children and in-laws.  Besides, we have our work and other mundane matters and administrative duties to handle.  As a result, many of us are so busy that we are so burnt out, leaving us no time for others and for God.  We have no time for fellowship with our loved ones and friends, to share their joys and sorrows.  But most of all, we do not have time for God in prayer.

The question that the gospel is confronting is one of priorities.  What is our priority in life? The excuses given by those who were invited to the banquet were valid excuses.  It was necessary for the man who bought the land to go and inspect to ensure that everything was in order.  It was right for the man who bought five oxen to make sure that they were healthy and fit to work in the fields.  It was right that the man who was just married spent time with his wife.  But the point was that the invitation was sent out long ago and they had already accepted the invitation.  Instead of giving priority to the commitment made, they were more preoccupied with their own interests.

So what is really important?  It is to be focused on building the kingdom of God, which is a life of service and communion with everyone, beginning with God.  Unless we put God as the center of our life, we will displace Him with all the other things we do and own.  Work will begin to consume us until we lose our health and loved ones.  Money will preoccupy us day and night and in all that we do.  Power and status will enslave us so that we lose our freedom to do the right thing.  Our loved ones will become the gods that we worship and seek to possess.  We will live in fear of losing them one day and become obsessed with controlling their lives.  Without God, everything we do will become the idols that we worship.  We will destroy the very things that we seek in our career; which is to serve humanity, money to take care of our loved ones, power and influence for greater service.   It would be unfortunate to be listed as those who have been invited to the banquet but never “taste of my banquet.”

The gospel wants us to remember that everything is the grace of God.  It is not just our doing alone.  We cannot control life but we are called to surrender our life to Him.  Indeed, in the second part of the gospel, we have the master inviting everyone who was not worthy to come to the banquet.  “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ said the servant, ‘your orders have been carried out and that there is still room.’ Then the master said to his servant, ‘Go to the open roads and the hedgerows and force people to come in to make sure my house is full.”  God invites all to His banquet, the sinners, the marginalized, including the gentiles.  All that was needed for them to enjoy the banquet was to respond.   We, too, if we want to enjoy the banquet of life, love and communion, then we must make time for the Lord first and foremost in our life.  He must be our priority above all others.  When we make a place for Him, then we will have a place for everyone and everything that we do.

This calls for self-emptying and trust; to put away our reliance on self and our strength and to trust in God requires humility.  This was the way of our Lord.  This is where St Paul directs us to find focus and unity in life.  He said, “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus: His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.”  Jesus emptied Himself twice, first of His divinity to assume the condition of a slave and then accepting death on the cross.  In emptying Himself, Jesus was truly like God, and even in that self-emptying, Jesus showed Himself to be truly divine because God is precisely One who pours Himself out for us, inviting us to share in His image and likeness, and giving us a share of His life and love in His kingdom.  Here, divine weakness, although a divine scandal, is the glory of God.  Indeed, “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”  (1 Cor1:22-24)

Will we trust in the power of God to act in our lives instead of wanting to be in control?  We must recognize our human limitations, if not we will only put unnecessary stress on ourselves and others under us.  Humility requires us to be careful not to allow our ministry or our work to become our ambition.  When we are ambitious, we turn the work of God into the work of man.  Like Jesus, we are called to accept failures in our lives, especially when we have done our best.  Jesus gave Himself totally to the project of his Father and had to learn to accept failure as part of the divine plan.  Can we be open to the fact that just as God uses the suffering and death of Jesus to raise Him high “and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord”, He will also do for us, if we allow His grace to work in us?  In this way, we would feel free in doing the work of God with joy and enjoy every moment of what we do because we are focused on the Lord and not working for our ambition or glory but for the service of all.

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, November 7, 2017 — Parable of the Great Banquet

November 6, 2017

Tuesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 486

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The Great Banquet by Eugene Burnand (1850-1921)

Reading 1 ROM 12:5-16AB

Brothers and sisters:
We, though many, are one Body in Christ
and individually parts of one another.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,
let us exercise them:
if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;
if ministry, in ministering;
if one is a teacher, in teaching;
if one exhorts, in exhortation;
if one contributes, in generosity;
if one is over others, with diligence;
if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.Let love be sincere;
hate what is evil,
hold on to what is good;
love one another with mutual affection;
anticipate one another in showing honor.
Do not grow slack in zeal,
be fervent in spirit,
serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
endure in affliction,
persevere in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,
exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you,
bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
weep with those who weep.
Have the same regard for one another;
do not be haughty but associate with the lowly.

Responsorial Psalm PS 131:1BCDE, 2, 3

R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O LORD, my heart is not proud,
nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things,
nor with things too sublime for me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted
my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.
O Israel, hope in the LORD,
both now and forever.
R. In you, O Lord, I have found my peace.

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 LK 14:15-24

One of those at table with Jesus said to him,
“Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.”
He replied to him,
“A man gave a great dinner to which he invited many.
When the time for the dinner came,
he dispatched his servant to say to those invited,
‘Come, everything is now ready.’
But one by one, they all began to excuse themselves.
The first said to him,
‘I have purchased a field and must go to examine it;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have purchased five yoke of oxen
and am on my way to evaluate them;
I ask you, consider me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have just married a woman,
and therefore I cannot come.’
The servant went and reported this to his master.
Then the master of the house in a rage commanded his servant,
‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town
and bring in here the poor and the crippled,
the blind and the lame.’
The servant reported, ‘Sir, your orders have been carried out
and still there is room.’
The master then ordered the servant,
‘Go out to the highways and hedgerows
and make people come in that my home may be filled.
For, I tell you, none of those men who were invited will taste my dinner.'”

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Parable of the Great Banquet
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Though the church has had debates on the topic of what has been called “Lordship Salvation,” Jesus never seemed to have much trouble deciding whether or not people needed to be fully devoted God to be a part of His kingdom. His parable illustrated what is required of those who want to participate in this heavenly kingdom. Everyone had excuses for why they couldn’t commit themselves to the “great banquet;” every one of those excuses meant that none of those people would be able to have any part of what the master was offering. Pastor Daniel speaks to the truths in this text by explaining how “those who truly desire God attend the banquet.” Looking at the context that brought about the telling of this parable, he then pulls out the application points of 1) Don’t say silly things that are pleasant but untrue (things that detract from the hard truths people need that lead them to repentance and trust in Christ), 2) Realize that to desire the world is folly and an insult to God, and 3) Desire God and accept His gracious invitation.

Summary by Seth Kempf, Bethany Community Church Staff

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-85-parable-great-banquet-luke-1415-24

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Who does Jesus Invite?  — Everyone

Jesus has been invited for Sabbath dinner to the home of a prominent Pharisee. The house is filled with the Pharisee’s socially prominent guests who are all experts in the Law. Jesus heals a man suffering from dropsy and then comments on the social-climbing proclivities of guests who take the best seat to advance their social status.

“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ ” (14:12-15)

Invite those to can’t repay you, Jesus says, for then you have an opportunity to receive a reward from God. Just inviting those of the same or higher social standing is its own reward. You have an opportunity to receive a blessing from God, he tells his host. Don’t blow it.

This prompts one of the pious guests at the table to comment on the great banquet, voicing a common expectation of Judaism at the time concerning salvation in God’s Kingdom.[1]

Parable of the Great Banquet (14:16)

“Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.’ ” (14:16)

Two elements to note here: (1) This was to be a “great” banquet, and (2) many guests were invited. The host has planned a large feast with room for a great number of guests. This is no small, intimate gathering.[2]

Come, Everything is Ready (14:17)

“At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ ” (14:17)

While it may seem strange in light of invitation practices in the Twenty-First Century, in First Century world the invitation was two-fold: (1) the initial invitation some time ahead, and (2) the actual summons to the meal when it is ready, and is attested both in Jewish and Roman settings.[2]

The host has planned the feast based on the number of guests invited — and those who had not previously indicated that they would not be present. Once the host has determined how many guests have accepted his invitation, then he is able to determine how many animals are to be killed and cooked. Bailey gives us an idea of the decisions involved. A chicken or two would suffice for 2 to 4 guests, a duck for 5 to 8, a kid for 10 to 15, a sheep for 15 to 35 people, or a calf for 35 to 75 people.[4] In our passage Jesus is referring to a large feast where the host had invited “many guests.”

Not to come to a banquet where one had previously indicated acceptance was a grave breach of social etiquette. It was an insult to the host. In a society where one’s social standing was determined by peer approval — who is invited to whose dinners — this was an act of social insult as well. For a whole series of guests to reject the final summons appears to be a conspiracy to discredit the host. Joel Green says: “In this instance, the socially elite of the host’s community close ranks against him and shame him publicly. Whatever one makes of their excuses, their refusal to join the great dinner is a social strategy the effect of which is the host’s defamation.”[5]

Excuses, Excuses (14:18-20)

“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ ” (14:18-20)

In the story Jesus tells, all the invitees now begin to make excuses. The Greek phrase used, apo mias pantes, means “from the first, all …” The rejection was unanimous. But the excuses are lame, and the three Jesus mentions are representative of the rest.

The first has just bought a field and must inspect it. But surely no one buys a field sight unseen. The second has just bought five pairs of oxen and must try them out. But no one buys five pairs of oxen without testing them first. These two excuses are flimsy on the surface. Both indicate men of wealth. Purchasing property is a wealthy man’s luxury. Five yoke of oxen are for an estate, one or two pairs of oxen would be adequate for a small farm.[6]

The third excuse, that the guest has just been married, also is lame. When he accepted the invitation he would have known of his wedding plans. That was the time to politely decline. But to back out at the last minute is an act of calculated rudeness.

Bring in the Poor and Crippled from the Streets (14:21)

“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ” (14:21)

You can’t blame the host for being angry when he hears of this rude affront and unanimous rejection by his social peers. He is livid! So he tells his servant to do what would have been social suicide had he not have already been rejected — invite the lower classes. But now it is an act that says, “I’ll show them!” The host will NOT have an empty house at his feast. He will have guests!

The list of guests to be invited is identical to the list Jesus had suggested to his Pharisee host in verse 13 — those who could not repay him by inviting him in return — the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

Compel Them to Come from the Country Roads (14:22-23)

But the servant knows his master and has anticipated his command

” ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’ ” (14:22-23)

The first sweep was in the town, and included “broad, main streets or public squares” (Greek plateiai) and “narrow streets, lanes, alleys” (Greek rume).[7] The second sweep was outside the town in the rural areas, the, “road, highway” (Greek hodos)[8] and “fences, hedges” (Greek phragmos).[9] Inside the town would be the poor, the beggars, the indigent. But outside the town would be the vagabonds and sojourners, those who were shunned and unwelcome in the towns.

Such people would have felt very uncomfortable at the feast of a rich man, socially very out of place. Additionally, it was a custom to politely refuse to come until pressed to — kind of like politely refusing to take a second helping at a meal until the host says, “Oh, but you must!” and then passing your plate happily to receive more. The Greek word used is anagkazo, ” ‘compel, force,’ of inner and outer compulsion, and then weakened, ‘strongly urge/invite, urge upon, press.’ “[10] The rich man hasn’t sent out soldiers to sweep the area, round up everyone, and march them to his house. But he has instructed his servants not to take “No” for an answer. To encourage and strongly urge everyone they meet to accept this invitation.

The host’s house must be full. He will NOT be made a fool of. He WILL have a full house!

None of Those Invited Will Taste the Banquet (14:24)

Jesus closes the parable in a curious way, almost as if he is voicing the words of the host himself.

“I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” (14:24)

It is a sentence that is filled with hurt and anger at rejection. It is a resolution not to give into this social slight. But as we read it we almost hear the voice of the Father at the rejection of his rebellious people.

What Does the Parable Mean?

In interpreting the parable we need to be careful not to over-allegorize, that is, to find a correspondent meaning for every detail of the story. But this parable IS an allegory, and has a similar message to the Parable of the Tenants (20:9-19).

The host is God the Father, inviting his people Israel to the messianic banquet in the Kingdom of God. The rich and socially elite who reject at the last minute the host’s invitation are the Pharisees and Jewish religious establishment who begin to plot against Jesus and eventually render the ultimate insult of having Jesus executed as a common criminal. The poor and downtrodden are the common people, considered unclean by the Pharisees. Perhaps those inside the town are the Jews while those in the outlying areas are the Gentiles. But beyond that level of allegory I don’t believe we should go.

http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/14_12-24.htm

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The lost Son By Eugene Burnand

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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7 NOVEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 31st Week, Ordinary Time
BUILDING A LIFE OF COMMUNION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Rom 12:5-16Ps 131:1-3Lk 14:15-24 ]

In the gospel, Jesus spoke about this banquet to whom the master invites us all.  In biblical terms, the banquet is a symbol of heaven.  When we think of a banquet, we think of good food, wine, music, dancing, joy, fun and most of all, good company.  Indeed, a meal eaten alone is never as satisfying as when we eat with others, especially our loved ones.  So to be invited to the banquet of God is to enjoy a life of love and fellowship.   This is what heaven is all about.

And the Good News is that the banquet is extended not only to Jews, as they wrongly thought, but to all gentiles.  This is the point of the parable in the gospel.  The Lord invited the Jews; they were the first guests, but unfortunately they repeatedly rejected His invitation.  As such, the invitation was issued to us directly.  Jesus wanted as many as possible, even non-Jews, to share in His life, love and joy.  He said, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” And when the master heard that there was still some room left, he ordered his servants to “Go to the open roads and the hedgerows.”  This is the generosity of God.  His banquet excludes no one.

But we got our priorities all wrong.  The first man put all his efforts into his business. He excused himself saying, “I have bought a piece of land and must go and see it.  Please accept my apologies.”  Indeed, it is not wrong to be dedicated to our business because we need to ensure that the business grows.  But to be so focused on our business and to forget the larger and more important interest, which is relationship with God and with others, is to forget the purpose of doing business.   Life is more than doing well in business and making money.  It is to use our business to do good and to provide jobs for our workers and for the betterment of our countrymen.   Unless our business is creating opportunities to help our families to grow from strength to strength, then all the money we make will be in vain.   Many are so taken up by their career and making money that they forget the true purpose of why they do it, which is to build communion with our loved ones at home, our friends and most of all, with God.

Secondly, we can be so taken up by new things that come our way that we do not have time for God and for others.   Another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out.  Please accept my apologies.”  Indeed, we live in a world of consumerism.   We always have new gadgets to work on, the latest mobile phone, the latest TV set, the new car we just bought.   So we are so engrossed in our newfound hobby that we misplace our responsibilities in life, towards God, our family and our friends.   Some modern gadgets, instead of bringing us closer to one another, are being used and manipulated by us to distance ourselves from others or even to commit crimes.

Thirdly, we may have the right priorities but the order wrong, because we put God as the last in love.  The third man said, “I have just got married and so am unable to come.”  Getting married and being with our loved ones is indeed a blessed thing.  There is nothing wrong with making time for our loved ones and our families.   But the claims of family life and friendship with others cannot overtake the claim from God for our attention.  Because we fail to include God in our relationships, we lose focus and end up either abusing them or worshipping them.  As a result, we become manipulative and possessive.  We have no freedom in love and we do not allow others to love us freely. Instead, we threaten, intimidate and use authority to force people to submit to us.  Without Jesus as the centre of our lives and our relationships, such love cannot last.

St Paul gives us the motivation to build up communion among ourselves for the glory of God and for our salvation.  He said, “All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other.”  Clearly, the basis for communion among us is because we are the body of Christ, with Him as our head.  We are interdependent for our happiness.  No one is independent and no relationship is fully dependent.  A healthy relationship can exist only when we are independent because we are conscious that we are lovable by ourselves and we are dependent because we know that we are called to rely on each other.  That is why, to become members of the body of Christ is to live in inter-dependence so that we will not make use of each other, but together work to become more the presence of Christ in the world through our mutual love and support for each other.

This explains why Pope St John Paull II always advocated the principle of communion in mission.  But he made it clear that our communion must begin with Christ, first and foremost.  “It is an essential demand of life in Christ that whoever enters into communion with the Lord is expected to bear fruit: ‘He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit’ (Jn 15:5). So true is this that the person who does not bear fruit does not remain in communion: ‘Each branch of mine that bears no fruit [my Father] takes away’ (Jn 15:2). Communion with Jesus, which gives rise to the communion of Christians among themselves, is the indispensable condition for bearing fruit; and communion with others, which is the gift of Christ and his Spirit, is the most magnificent fruit that the branches can give. In this sense, communion and mission are inseparably connected. They interpenetrate and mutually imply each other, so that ‘communion represents both the source and fruit of mission: communion gives rise to mission and mission is accomplished in communion’”.  (Ecclesia in Asia, No 24)

How do we build communion among ourselves?  Firstly, our gifts must be for the service of the community.  St Paul said, “Our gifts differ according to the grace given us.  If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching.  Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.”  Every gift is given to us by God for a purpose.  Besides using the gifts of God for ourselves, we must exercise them for the greater good of the community without any selfish and self-centered motive.  We use them for the glory of God.  “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.”  (Col 3:23f)

Secondly, we must choose good over evil.  “Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other.”   Indeed, we must not overcome evil with evil because we inherit a double curse.   “Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow.  Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.”   Only by blessing others, do we inherit a double portion in return.  We must do this genuinely so that we can identify with our fellowmen.  Every one of us is called to observe the Golden rule, which according to Jesus is, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”  (Mt 7:12)

Finally, in all things, work for the glory of God, with fortitude and perseverance.  “Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit.  If you have hope, this will make you cheerful.  Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying.  If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.”  We know that dealing with people is always the greatest challenge in life.  But we must persevere and never give up on each other.  So long as there is life, there is hope.  And so long as our hope is founded in Christ, we will have a foretaste of heaven on earth when we share His love and peace and joy with everyone else around us.   By building bridges, communion, sharing of life, love and faith, we will make this place a better place to live in.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, November 1, 2017 — Feast of All Saints — “Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven.”

October 31, 2017

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

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Reading 1 RV 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.  After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:”Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:”Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

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

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Reading 2 1 JN 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

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 5:1-12A

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:”Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
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From Abbot PhilipThe Gospel from Saint Matthew today gives us what we call the Beatitudes.  The sayings of Jesus reflect what it is to follow the Lord:  poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ.  This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!

The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God.  We must follow Jesus with all of our strength.  When we fail, we must get up and start again.  Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

https://christdesert.org/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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1 NOVEMBER, 2017, Wednesday, All Saints
BEING AND BECOMING SAINTS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ REV 7:2-49-14JN 3:1-3MT 5:1-12 ]

“Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?”  (Apoc 7:13).  This question demands an answer from each one of us.  Because the answer that we give indicates how we understand ourselves, our origin and destiny in life.  And unless we know, the celebration of All Saints Day will have no relevance in our lives.

Now if I ask ‘who are the saints’, the answer that most people would give is that they are those who have lived their lives in such a way that they have arrived at sainthood.  And this means that we are all in the process of becoming saints.  All Saints Day therefore is a celebration not only of those who have become saints but all of us who will become saints at the end of our journey.  However, such an answer is only partially correct.  It starts with the fact that we believe that we are sinners even before we were born.  Now this is not really true, and even contradicts scripture.

St John tells us that we are already the children of God because of His love that He lavished on us.  Regardless of the fact that we are baptized or not, it would not be really wrong even to say that all of us are God’s children by the mere fact of our coming into existence in this world.  After all, do we not believe that God is the Father of all humankind and not just Christians?   To be born into the world means that we share in the very being and love of God.   This is implied also in the answer given by one of the elders to the question that I quoted from Apocalypse at the beginning of this homily.  He said, “These are people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.”   Now, how can they wash their robes white again unless their robes were white before?  Unless you narrowly interprete these texts as referring to those who were baptized. If that were so, then it means to say that the unbaptized cannot be saved.  But this would not be in harmony with what the Church has taught us with regard to the salvation of the unbaptized.

However, one might raise the problem of original sin.  Isn’t it true that the Church teaches that we are all born with original sin?  This is undeniably true both theologically and existentially.  It is our own experience that everyone of us shares the sinful nature of Adam and are under the influence of the situation of sin in the world when we are born.  But let us also not forget that corollary to the doctrine of original sin, there is the doctrine of original justice.  What the Church wants to say also is that even before we were born, God has in His eternal plan meant for us to be saints.  In other words, our original nature before we were born is already saintly.  But somehow things have gone wrong from the very beginning.  In other words, all of us have had a bad start.

What are the implications that we can draw from this premise.  Firstly, the fact is that we are already saints even before we came into the world.   The problem is that from the moment we were born, we forget that we are actually saints.  We have forgotten about our real nature, namely, our sainthood.  This, then, is the difference between the baptized and the unbaptized.  The baptized understands and knows that their real nature is their sainthood, whereas those who are unbaptized do not know.  In the words of John, the unbaptized are those in the world who refuse to acknowledge God as their Father.

Secondly, since we are already saints, since our very being is already sainthood, it means to say that in history, our sainthood is coming to be.  That is to say that in history, the saint in us is being unfolded concretely.  It is in history that we work out and manifest the sainthood in us.  We are just like the seed that already contains the tree in us.  And the tree is nothing else but the externalization of the seed.  Unfortunately, due to our fallen nature and our forgetfulness of our nature as saints, we live unsaintly lives, contradicting our very being.

For this very reason, Jesus, who is the true God and true man, offers us His blueprint on how we can recover our essential nature, which is to be both divine and human like Him, although differing ontologically. In fact, this is what John said:  “we are already the children of God, but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him.”    And what is His blueprint for us?  It is spelt out in the beatitudes.  It is His program of life and for life.  The beatitudes help us to form a vision of life that is a Godly vision.  They are meant to help us to see ourselves, others, success and sufferings in the right perspective.   They will be the ways in which we will purify ourselves to be like Christ, as John tells us; and the way in which our tainted robes can be washed clean.  They are the necessary stages and process to help us to return home, namely, to our original nature even before we were born.

However, it is not enough to say that we were already saints before we were born.  To be purified does not mean simply to return to square one.  In that sense, we must also maintain that while it is true that our very being is saintly, and that we need to realize that sainthood in history, we must also in the same vein say that we can become saints.  In other words, we can become more than what we originally were.  In this sense, we are all becoming saints.  Sainthood, like love, can grow.  To become saints is similar to growing in love.  We cannot say that our love is no longer capable of growing at any point of time; so likewise in our sainthood.  We can become more and more like God.  And this would be an endless process and journey.  But this journey of becoming more and more saintly is not a frustrating process because it is not an implication that we are lacking fulfillment but simply pointing out the fact that we are capable of being enriched further and move on to a higher plane of life and love in God.

Yes, as we celebrate the Feast of All Saints, let us remember that we are celebrating the fact that we are already saints and that we are historically living out this sainthood on earth.  But more importantly, we are also celebrating the hope and the reality that we are called to greater heights in saintliness, by joining the communion of saints in fellowship and love which will lead us to ever greater and more enriching love now and for all eternity.  Finally, it means that in love and fellowship, we truly become more and more in God,  who ultimately is the one who can sustain and fulfill us completely.

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

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

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Homily for the November 1st – Solemnity of All Saints

by Fr. Tommy Lane

It is quite amazing that we who have faith and believe we will live forever can sometimes allow ourselves to be influenced or contaminated by the unspiritual viewpoint of western culture. We could have heaven on earth, but sometimes we create hell on earth. In my last parish in Ireland I said a number of times in homilies that the programs on TV do not reflect who we are. Who are we? St. John answers that beautifully in our second reading:

we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

We are not usually portrayed as spiritual beings in this fashion on TV. There is always somebody in some trouble. The TV does not reflect our deepest reality described by St. John in our second reading.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. (1 John 3:1)

If we know who we are, we will know how to act. If we know who we are, we will know how to act.

The Solemnity of All Saints today reminds us of who we are and what a bright future can be ours. As we celebrate today all the saints, both those canonized and those who are unknown, we are joyful that they have reached the goal of life, heaven. They remind us to keep our sights fixed high, to remember who we are and the glorious possibility that God offers us.

The saints encourage us in our own struggles because like us they also endured struggles, they grew from strength to strength, they matured in the Lord as they grew in years. We also see this journey of growth in the great people of the Bible. We could think of Abraham whom Genesis tells us pretended his wife was his sister because he was afraid but Abraham grew to become our father in faith. Moses had a speech impediment and had murdered and protested against being called by God but he led his people to the Promised Land. In the Gospels Peter is impulsive and doesn’t want the Lord to suffer but in Acts he is totally transformed and considers it an honor to suffer for the Lord. Interestingly in Acts even Peter’s shadow is a source of healing, something which is not said of Jesus in the Gospels. Obviously Peter’s Formation Adviser was out of this world!

The journey of growth in the great people of the Bible is also seen in the canonized saints. The Curé of Ars struggled with learning while in seminary but so many pilgrims went to Ars to confess to him that by 1855 there was a daily service of two horse buses between Lyons and Ars, and two other buses met the Paris train at Villefranche. The railway station in Lyons even had a special ticket office for people going to Ars, so many were the pilgrims.

St. Thérèse wrote in her autobiography that after the death of her mother, “I, once so full of life, became timid and retiring, sensitive to an excessive degree. One look was enough to reduce me to tears.” (Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition pp34-35) She went on to become the Little Flower of Jesus whose relics even stopped the traffic on Fifth Avenue New York because so many people came to venerate her, and three million people venerated her relics during their visit to Ireland in 2001, the same number of people who attended Papal Masses in Ireland in 1979.

St. Augustine struggled with impurity in his youth. As a teenager he was influenced by the loose living of his companions. When he was studying in Carthage he decided to take a mistress. He was such a scoundrel that he even once said to his mother St. Monica that there would be no problems between them if she gave up her faith! He underwent a conversion in Milan and went on to become a priest at the age of 36 and a bishop at the age of 41, and was Bishop of Hippo in North Africa for 35 years. One example of the influence Augustine has on the Church is that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church there are more quotations from St. Augustine than from any other writer.

St. Ignatius of Loyola had a colorful past before his conversion. In 1515 Ignatius and his brother Pedro Lopez were arrested and prosecuted for nocturnal misdemeanors that were outrageous. Ignatius says up to his twenty-sixth year he was given to worldly vanities. He was proud, sensuous, and driven by violent and powerful impulses, he demanded adventure and glory. But after his conversion he noticed that day dreaming about the saints brought him joy but not worldly matters. And thus gradually he developed the rules for discernment of spirits and established the Society of Jesus. He established a college in Rome for young men entering the Society of Jesus and also set up colleges in Jerusalem, Cyprus and Constantinople. At his death in 1556 the Society of Jesus had 1000 members with 100 houses throughout the world. We see this same journey of growth in the lives of all the saints.

(In another homily I discuss the growth of St Francis from his colorful past.)

The saints remind us of who we really are, the reality described by John in our second reading:

we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

Not only the saints’ lives but also their writings are precious gifts of grace to us to remind us of who we are and the glory that God is offering to us. We could think of St. Thérèse’s Story of a Soul with this beautiful excerpt:

“Charity is the most excellent way that leads to God. I finally had rest…I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places, in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my love, my vocation, at last I have found it, my vocation is love!” (Chapter 9, Clarke 194)

We treasure the Confession of St. Augustine with its words,

“You have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

We treasure the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the writings of all the saints. Although the saints had much room for growth early in their lives by the end of their lives we see that they were living the beatitudes of our Gospel today (Matt 5:1-12). Therefore they give encouragement to us as we are aware of our need for further growth. The saints were happy because they were poor in spirit, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful and clean of heart. Among the saints we venerate in a special way the martyrs. As our first reading from Revelation states:

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:14)

They remind us to keep our sights fixed high, to remember who we are and the glorious possibility that God offers us. We know that they are praying for us.

We hope and pray that all those near and dear to us who have departed are already or will be numbered among the saints and so we pray for them especially during this month. I conclude with our second reading:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/years_abc/all_saints4.htm

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 Friday, July 7, 2017 — Jesus said, “Follow me.” — “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.” — Reaching Out To The Marginalized

July 6, 2017

Friday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 381

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

The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.

Reading 1 GN 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67

The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years.
She died in Kiriatharba (that is, Hebron)
in the land of Canaan,
and Abraham performed the customary mourning rites for her.
Then he left the side of his dead one and addressed the Hittites:
“Although I am a resident alien among you,
sell me from your holdings a piece of property for a burial ground,
that I may bury my dead wife.”

After the transaction, Abraham buried his wife Sarah
in the cave of the field of Machpelah,
facing Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.

Abraham had now reached a ripe old age,
and the LORD had blessed him in every way.
Abraham said to the senior servant of his household,
who had charge of all his possessions:
“Put your hand under my thigh,
and I will make you swear by the LORD,
the God of heaven and the God of earth,
that you will not procure a wife for my son
from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live,
but that you will go to my own land and to my kindred
to get a wife for my son Isaac.”
The servant asked him:
“What if the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land?
Should I then take your son back to the land from which you migrated?”
“Never take my son back there for any reason,” Abraham told him.
“The LORD, the God of heaven,
who took me from my father’s house and the land of my kin,
and who confirmed by oath the promise he then made to me,
‘I will give this land to your descendants’–
he will send his messenger before you,
and you will obtain a wife for my son there.
If the woman is unwilling to follow you,
you will be released from this oath.
But never take my son back there!”

A long time later, Isaac went to live in the region of the Negeb.
One day toward evening he went out . . . in the field,
and as he looked around, he noticed that camels were approaching.
Rebekah, too, was looking about, and when she saw him,
she alighted from her camel and asked the servant,
“Who is the man out there, walking through the fields toward us?”
“That is my master,” replied the servant.
Then she covered herself with her veil.

The servant recounted to Isaac all the things he had done.
Then Isaac took Rebekah into his tent;
he married her, and thus she became his wife.
In his love for her, Isaac found solace
after the death of his mother Sarah.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 106:1B-2, 3-4A, 4B-5

R. (1b) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Who can tell the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or proclaim all his praises?
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Blessed are they who observe what is right,
who do always what is just.
Remember us, O LORD, as you favor your people.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Visit me with your saving help,
That I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
rejoice in the joy of your people,
and glory with your inheritance.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

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 9:9-13

As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

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First Thought from Peace and Freedom
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Jesus again shows us that ANYONE can be forgiven, and then follow Jesus’ Way — even unto the way of the Cross and eternal salvation.
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No matter where we find others or ourselves, we need always recall the many encounters Jesus had with people that were “unclean,” physically or mentally “distorted” or disturbed, or people suffering from other maladies both physical and spiritual.
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Jesus personally went about saving, healing and recruiting some of the true outcasts in life. Saint Matthew was a tax collector, one of the most hated men in the colonial rule of Rome.
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But Jesus also heals lepers, paralytics, the blind, the deaf, prostitutes, a women taken in adultery.
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Every “Prodigal Son” should know Christ’s promise. All we have to do is ask.
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And Jesus seems to want to show the disciples, and us, that if we pay attention and care for others, like Our Lord did, we too will see that the marginalized have meaning. And perhaps we all, due to our human nature, can expect some times in life  to become the marginalized ourselves. We all have opportunity through our free will to discover our dark side and to commit acts we are not too proud to recall. We are all potentially the Prodigal son or the unclean woman.
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Jesus is overjoyed when the Samaritan woman at the well draws her water from where Jesus himself took water to quench his thirst. He is delighted when the centurion comes to him begging for the life of his servant.
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Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Just say the word, and my servant will be cured.”
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The Gospels tell us, in no uncertain may, that we are all worthy, and we will be embraced as we return to Him.
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This message seems directly tied to the many times in scripture we see the words, “Do not be afraid.”
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The miracles of salvation occur, due to God’s great love and forgiveness for us. All we have to do is ask….
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Related:
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(“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you”)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 JULY, 2017, Friday, 13th Week, Ordinary Time
REACHING OUT TO THE MARGINALIZED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 23:1-41924:1-862-67PS 106:1-5MT 9:9-13 ]

Tax collectors were the most hated and despised of all peoples during the time of the Jews.  They were considered as traitors and outcasts of society.   They were worse than prostitutes because they not only cheated their own people in taxes but worked for their enemies.  So they were marginalized.  Any Jew involved in this trade was ostracized.  Nobody wanted to have anything to do with them.

But this is the same attitude we have towards sinners and broken people.   We are told to have nothing to do with them.  We are often told not to mix with bad company, and those who have no morals.  If it is because we know we are weak and are susceptible to their influence, it is understandable that we should avoid the occasion of sin.  So this in itself is not wrong.  It is a sign of humility to know that we might fall into temptations if we associate with them.  But it is a different matter when we stay away from these people because we think that we are superior to them.  When we have a disdain for them and are too proud to be among them, that is the sin of pride.

In the first reading, we can appreciate Abraham and those who were chosen to be people of the Covenant.  In the Old Testament, it was necessary to protect the Israelites who were living among the Canaanites, considered to be worse than pagans.  So when Abraham settled in Canaan, he gave specific instructions to his steward to find a wife for his son, Isaac, from among his kinsfolk.  “Abraham said to the eldest servant of his household, the steward of all his property, ‘Place your hand under my thigh, I would have you swear by the Lord God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live.  Instead, go to my own land and my own kinsfolk to choose a wife for my son Isaac.’” This is to ensure that the purity of the faith, the culture and the peoples would be preserved.  As Israel was still a small nation, it was always in danger of being contaminated by the pagan cultures surrounding them.  This was the reason for the insistence of keeping Israel apart from the rest of the peoples; not out of pride but out of fear.

Unfortunately, during the time of Jesus, the motive became one of superiority rather than self-protection.  The Pharisees considered themselves as the “Separated Ones”, that is, set apart for holiness.  They would not do anything that could make them unclean or unfit for rituals.  They were obsessed with ritual purity.  But they became presumptuous.   They began to look down on those who could not keep meticulously all the laws of Moses and the detailed elaboration of these laws in practical terms.  This explains why when Jesus “was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”

But this was not the attitude of Christ towards those who were sinners.  He replied, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.  Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.  And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.”   Jesus came to show the mercy of God.  He came for sinners.  He came for those who are struggling in their sins.  He knows we are weak.  He sees how much we are struggling.  He knows that we are born sinners with a wounded nature.  We are grasping for more because of the desire to preserve ourselves.   He also knows how we are entrapped by the culture around us, especially the secular, promiscuous, individualistic and consumerist environment.  It is not easy to transcend the culture we are in.

Above all, Jesus sees the saint in every sinner.   He has tremendous hope in man.  He knows that even though man is weak, he has great potential to be like Christ in love and in service.  When we fall, He raises us up because He knows that if we keep believing in ourselves, we will eventually become the person we are called to be.  That is why He does not condemn sinners.  He knows that we are sinners called to be saints in Him.  For this reason, when “he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up and followed him.”  He saw the great potential in Matthew even though the people would have written him off.  Yet, Jesus chose from among the most hated and despised lost souls, one to be His apostles.  Jesus believed that such people were not condemned.  This is the great faith Jesus has in us human beings, sinners that we are.

He saw sinners, broken people and those without faith and morals as sick people.  He said, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.”  What is our attitude towards the sick?  Do we condemn them? No!  We show mercy to the sick and the suffering.  Those who live in sin are also sick in their mind and in their heart. They too need our mercy and compassion, not our judgment and condemnation.  They are wounded and injured because of their past, the sins of society and their own fears and anger that caused them to sin further.  So to sick people, we are called to be compassionate, understanding and forgiving.  This was the case of Jesus when He saw the tax-collectors and sinners.  He had nothing but sorrow and compassion for them.

To such wounded and sick people, we are called to reach out to them.   That is why Jesus ate and drank with them.  The only way to heal them is to begin, not by moralizing or condemning them, or worse still to exclude them, but by loving them.  He gave Matthew his dignity as a son of God. He affirmed the goodness in Matthew.  Jesus brought out the inherent goodness and virtues in Matthew.   This was what He did with all sinners.  By accepting them for what they are, He showed them His genuine love and friendship for them.  He did not tell them to change their lives.  But He first demonstrated to them that they are loved by God by eating and drinking with them.  He offered them His friendship without conditions and reservations. In other words, Jesus was telling them that regardless of what we do, we are the children of God. He loves us for who we are; not for what we are.   Only when we are loved for who we are, and recognize the dignity of our sonship and daughtership in Christ, can we then begin to live like Christ.  Jesus did not come as judge but to offer us the unconditional love and mercy of God.

Unconditional love and acceptance is the first stage to the healing process.  Unless we are loved unconditionally, we will not be able to accept ourselves and our weaknesses.  The more wrongs we do, the more we hate ourselves.   And if we hate ourselves, we cannot love others as well.  We also become judgmental and presumptuous.  Those of us who do not live the life we are called to, do so because we do not believe that we are loved for who we are.  The more we try to prove ourselves, the more we fail.  But if we discover that we are loved as children of God, this realization will enable the doing to flow from our being.  Mattthew was accepted and loved.  Hence, he was transformed in love.

We too have been given the grace at baptism and anointed like Christ to bring God’s love and mercy to the poor, the sick, the wounded and all sinners.  Like Abraham who claimed his possession of Canaan by buying the burial plot for his wife, we too must claim our baptismal rights of being the anointed one of Christ.  We are called to be like the Messiah to bear the good news of salvation to all.  Abraham was convicted of God’s promise for him when he instructed his servant to bring the wife of Isaac back to Canaan.  “The Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, took me from the land of my kinsfolk, and he swore to me that he would give this country to my descendants.  He will now send his angel ahead of you, so that you may choose a wife for my son there.”

How can we exercise this mission of mercy and inclusivity?  We must recognize our own humanity and sinfulness.  But equally, we must accept first and foremost the love of God for us.  Hence, Jesus took upon our humanity to identify with us in our sinful humanity.  St Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21). He became man to assume our humanity.  He was baptised for our sake.  He carried our infirmities in His body.  “This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’” (Mt 8:17)  Jesus was identified with us in every way except sin.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb 4:15f).   We too when we can identify ourselves as one like Matthew, a tax-collector and an outcast, but now loved and accepted by God in Christ, we too will be able to reach out to other tax-collectors as Matthew did by inviting them to meet Jesus, the love of God in person.

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

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Matthew 9:9-13 From Living Space

The Gospel reading tells Matthew’s version of Jesus calling a tax-collector to be a disciple. Tax collectors have a very poor reputation in the Gospel. They are numbered among the groups of outcasts with whom no decent person would have any contact. In Palestine, most of them would have been Jews, employed by the Roman colonial power to collect taxes from their own people. Roman citizens did not have to pay taxes; only the conquered peoples had to do this.

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So they were seen both as renegades and traitors and also as people who were in gross violation of their Jewish faith in working for Gentiles in this way. Even Jesus, when speaking of members of the Christian community who refuse to change their sinful ways in spite of every effort made to help them reform, said that they should be treated “as a Gentile or a tax collector”. The Jewish tax collector was put on the same level as a Gentile, a person with whom no self-respecting Jew would have any relationship.

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And here, in today’s reading, we see Jesus inviting such a person to be his disciple! This tells us a number of things about Jesus. It means that he does not look at stereotypes. He does not say, “He is a tax collector, so he must be a very sinful person with whom I should have no contact.” No, he looks at the person and sees the potential there. And in Matthew he sees the potential for him to be one of his followers and indeed one of his Apostles, on whom the continuation of Jesus’ mission will depend. For Jesus, our past is not very important. What counts is where we are now and where we can be in the future.

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After Jesus says to Matthew, “Follow me”, the tax collector gets up and goes after Jesus, leaving all the paraphernalia of his occupation behind him. It is very similar to the Peter, Andrew, James and John leaving their boats, their nets and even their family to go with Jesus. It is an unconditional and total following.

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Matthew then decides to celebrate his new calling. He invites Jesus and his disciples and also the only friends he has – other sinners and tax collectors. They all sit down together in ‘his’ house. Whose house? It could be the house where Jesus is staying, a house mentioned a number of times in the Gospel and which is a symbol of the Christian community, the place where Jesus gathers with his disciples.

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Here, tax collectors and sinners are invited into the house to eat together with Jesus and his followers. This does not indicate that Jesus does not care about their behaviour but rather that they are being brought under his influence, they are the ‘lost sheep’ being brought back to the Shepherd.


Or it could refer to Matthew’s house. In that case, we see Jesus and his disciples unhesitatingly going into the house of a sinner and accepting his hospitality. Of course, the Pharisees are scandalized: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” As devout followers of the Law, they would never have contact with such people. How can Jesus as a rabbi behave like this?

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Jesus answers them very bluntly. “Those who are well do not need a doctor, only the sick do.” Matthew and his friends are people in need of healing. Jesus is there to give it to them. And he quotes from the prophet Hosea: “I desire compassion and not sacrifice.” Jesus and his true followers are measured by their compassion and care of those in real need. They are not measured by their observation of ritual laws.

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In fact, says Jesus, he has come with a special interest in the sinner. Genuinely good people do not really need the services of Jesus. They are the sheep who stay with the flock and close to the Shepherd. Jesus is interested in the stray sheep.

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This reading has many lessons for us living our Christian life today.

 

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0921r/

 

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From 2016

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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21 SEPTEMBER 2016, Wednesday, St Matthew, Apostle

MERCY BRINGS GOOD OUT OF EVIL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  Ephesians 4:1-711-13Ps 18:2-5Matthew 9:9-13 ]

Today, when we celebrate the Feast of St Matthew, we celebrate the mercy of God in Christ, a mercy that gives hope to those who are deemed useless and hopeless in the eyes of the world.  One can imagine how touched and moved St Matthew was to be called by the Lord to be His apostle.  In the eyes of his contemporaries he was considered an outcast, a sinner, a traitor of the Jews and most of all, a swindler and cheat.   As a tax collector, he was hated by the people.  No one in his time would want to be associated with such a person, lest one gets contaminated ritually by mixing with him.  Indeed, that was how the scribes and the Pharisees viewed him.  It was unthinkable for a supposedly holy man like Jesus to be seen in his company.  Hence, “when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”

What, then, is the answer to the question of Jesus fellowshipping with sinners and tax-collectors? The response of Jesus was swift and sharp.  He said, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.”  Jesus reckoned Himself as a doctor.  The vocation of a doctor is to give life and to give hope to the sick.  His task is to restore a person to health so that he can live again.  In the same way, Jesus came to give hope to us all, especially those who consider themselves outside the ambit of God’s love and mercy.   So, like all doctors, He came principally for the sick whilst keeping the strong healthy.

But how could He give life to those condemned as ‘outcasts’ by society?  Again, like the doctor, Jesus needed to approach the sick directly and personally.  What kind of doctor would He be if He were to stay away from the illness of the patients?  It is the task of the doctor to attend to the patients directly and diagnose their illness.  So if Jesus were to offer life to sinners, it was necessary for Him to go in their midst.  If the scribes and Pharisees really had mercy for the sinners, they would not have stayed away from them. They showed their selfishness in wanting to save themselves rather than those who were in need of God.  Indeed, we remember how many doctors gave up their lives to save those infected by SARS many years ago when Singapore went through the terrifying epidemic in our history.  So, too, Jesus the divine physician came to be with the sinners in order that He might feel with them, hear them out and be the light of God’s mercy to them. 

Secondly, a good doctor is one who always has hope of a cure.  If a doctor begins his job with a sense of hopelessness, he would never be able to go far except to prepare a person for death.  But a doctor, even though he is aware of his limitations, must also live with hope of finding a cure.  He would try all means possible to cure the patient.  If the procedure cannot work or the medication is not effective, he would resort to other methods and medication till the patient recovers.  This was the attitude of Jesus towards those who were incorrigible.  The world thought that besides prostitutes, tax collectors particularly had no hope in the eyes of God.  They would surely be condemned to hell.  But Jesus never saw sinners as people who had no hope.  In fact, He saw in Matthew the ingredients of a good apostle-to-be.  When we are merciful, we see the wicked person with hope and confidence; we see much goodness even in the difficult person whom the world has given up hope on.  Jesus had the gift to see the goodness and the sincerity hidden in Matthew despite the shady trade he was engaged in.

Indeed, when we see the goodness in the apparently evil person, we will help the person to begin the process of healing.  So when Jesus called Matthew, it was not a sudden response.  We can be sure that Matthew would have heard about Jesus or even heard Him teaching.  His heart was already open but he did not feel worthy to take another step.  He deemed himself to be an outcast and was certain that he would be rejected.  But lo and behold, Jesus read his heart, a heart that was filled with emptiness, loneliness and bereft of joy.  This is true in daily life, especially with difficult colleagues or students who do not perform.  We need the eyes of mercy to see the potential goodness and the hidden virtues in the person.

Thirdly, Jesus helped Matthew to find his true vocation in life.  Only when we find our vocation can we truly live meaningfully in life.  Those who live only for their career cannot find real happiness and meaning.  Success is empty when what we do only brings in money but not life and love.  Following Christ does not mean that we have to give up our career or what we like to do.  Rather, it is more about changing the motives than changing our circumstances.  Conversion is not about giving up one’s talents but rather to use them in the right way.  Jesus therefore encouraged St Matthew, who was probably one of the few educated ones in His band, to use his knowledge and writing skills to proclaim the gospel.  St Matthew did not have to give up all his knowledge and training but he could now use it for the service of the gospel.  So with St Matthew, instead of having a career that was directed at enriching himself, he changed his career and sought a vocation.  He now used his talents for the service of God and the gospel.  A career is about advancing oneself but a vocation is always for the service of God and humanity.  So from that day onwards, Matthew used all his resources for the glory of God.

Fourthly, a good doctor’s only desire is to help, to heal and to console.  We must avoid following the negative attitude of the scribes and Pharisees.  All they knew was to criticize Jesus and condemn the sinners.  Instead of seeking a solution to bring them back to God, they stayed away from them.  True doctors only think about how to help and relieve pain when they see their patients suffer. They do not stand around and lecture their patients for getting into trouble or falling sick.  So when we see people suffering or someone who has made a mistake in life, we do not keep on scolding the person and putting that person down.  Rather, our task is to lift them up through gentle correction, enlightenment and encouragement.  We should seek to help and not to condemn those who are already down and out. 

Finally, a good doctor of mercy not only has hope but will transform all obstacles into learning curves so as to be a better doctor.  All good doctors see obstacles as opportunities for learning. There are many things we learn through trial and error.  We all learn from mistakes.  That is why in every hospital there must always be case studies to see how we can learn from mistakes and new experiments and initiatives.  So too with Jesus; He saw Matthew as a great opportunity, not just to save, but to be put to use in reaching out to those whom Jesus would have found difficult to reach.  Being a convert and a former tax collector, Matthew was well placed to help Jesus make inroads with those who were ‘unreachable’.  We can be sure that with Matthew’s conversion, many other tax collectors, seeing him living a much happier and liberated life, would have also come to Jesus.  

Today as we celebrate the feast of St Matthew, let us never give up hope on those who are difficult, those who seem to be failures in life and the ‘incorrigibles’.  Before we write them off, let us remember that for Jesus, nothing is impossible.  We must continue to hope that God will give them the grace to be touched by His word and be transformed. All of us are called to this same hope.  “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called.”   To give up hope on them is to be lacking in mercy.  Look at them with eyes of mercy and they will find hope in themselves.

Let us help others as St Paul urged us; to live a life worthy of our vocation.  We are called to use our talents to help build up the Church and to build up the individual. “Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. … so that the saints together make a unit in the work of service, building up the body of Christ. In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.”   Let us follow the example of St Matthew and St Paul who gave up their lives for others after having been transformed, loved and forgiven by Christ.  Let everything we do in life be done for the good of humanity and the glory of God.

 

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, November 3, 2016 — “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”

November 2, 2016

Thursday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 488

Art: The Good Shepherd (Le bon pasteur) by James Tissot – Brooklyn Museum

Reading 1 PHIL 3:3-8A

Brothers and sisters:
We are the circumcision,
we who worship through the Spirit of God,
who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh,
although I myself have grounds for confidence even in the flesh.If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I.
Circumcised on the eighth day,
of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin,
a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage,
in observance of the law a Pharisee,
in zeal I persecuted the Church,
in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.But whatever gains I had,
these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.
More than that, I even consider everything as a loss
because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 105:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (3b) Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
R. Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. Let hearts rejoice who search for the Lord.
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 LK 15:1-10 (Printed Below) or LK 15:1-32

The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
So Jesus addressed this parable to them.
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one
would not light a lamp and sweep the house,
searching carefully until she finds it?
And when she does find it,
she calls together her friends and neighbors
and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’
In just the same way, I tell you,
there will be rejoicing among the angels of God
over one sinner who repents.”

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Above: God’s work — Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, at sunrise

Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico — From September 11, 2016

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

How much we must learn from today’s Gospel!  How much we must acknowledge that whatever good we have comes from the Lord!  How much mercy we must have for others!  Our love and our mercy must reflect that of God Himself, who is boundless love and mercy.

No matter how often we fail, we trust in Him to bring us back to Him.  We must do our part, but God is always faithful.

The Gospel of Saint Luke today gives us the story of the Prodigal Son, the son who asks for everything of his inheritance, goes off and wastes it, then returns and his father rushes to embrace him.  The ungrateful and unworthy son is contrasted to the other son, who is always faithful and yet who grows angry when the father shows his love for the first son, the son who wasted everything but at least came home.

Hardly any of us really want God to be this merciful!  We want some kind of measuring device so that we can say who is good and who is not.  Yet God Himself knows that the only way to live is with love:  love for those who love us and love for those who want to kill us; love for those who are nice and love for those who are not nice; love for those who do well and love for those who always fail.  We can be embarrassed by God’s enormous love because we often don’t want God to love others if they don’t seem to deserve it.

This challenges us today:  do I deserve God’s love?  We cannot answer that question by telling Him what we have done.  We must answer that question by the way that we live His love in our lives.  It is not just doing good things that can save us, but doing good because we know that we are loved.  We must return God’s love with our love and we must love others as God shows us He loves in this story today.

O God of love, change our hearts so that they reflect your heart, which loves everyone now and always:  let us be merciful as our Father is merciful

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 NOVEMBER 2016, Thursday, 31st Week of Ordinary Time
BRINGING BACK THE LOST SHEEP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  PHILIPPIANS 3:3-8; PS 104:2-7; LUKE 15:1-10 ]

The Catholic Church as a single Christian Church is the biggest in the world with more than one billion members.   In Singapore too, we have about three hundred and eighty-eight thousand people who claim to be Catholic.  While it is great to know that we have so many adherents to the Catholic Faith yet not many are practising their faith or even attending church services.

The irony of the Catholic Church is that we have quantity but we lack quality.  Many are not well formed in the faith.  Most do not have a sense of community or belong to any Catholic group, formal or informal.  Some do not even have Catholic friends to share their faith with, or have someone to journey with them in their faith.

Without encouragement and support, they either drop out of the faith or become nominal Catholics, coming for services only on special occasions.  They do not have any real relationship with the Lord other than uttering some formula prayers that they had learned.  Of course, when it comes to praying the scriptures, it is totally alien to them.  They are easily swayed by the arguments of other faith denominations when challenged on the Church’s doctrines, as they are not able to explain what they believe.  Unable to deal with the secularistic and relativistic views of the world, they fall easily into the snares that the world presents to them as sources of happiness in life, pleasure, money, power and status.

Indeed, negligence will lead to indifference and then hostility.  We find this situation happening before our very eyes but many of us chose to turn a blind eye to this reality.  We know that many young people leave the Church after the sacrament of confirmation.  Without ongoing formation in their faith, how can they ever grow in maturity in faith?  Without being involved in the Catholic community, who can give them support, especially for those who come from non-Catholic families?

Why are we indifferent to the stark reality in the Catholic Church?  Why is it that we cannot feel with the sadness of God and with Christ for those who are lost?   

Firstly, it is because we cannot identify with the pain, the suffering and the loneliness of our fellow Catholics.  We cannot feel with them in their struggles.  Some feel marginalized and rejected, especially those with same sex orientation, those who are divorced and those who are struggling with sins.  They feel judged, condemned and ostracized. We do not empathize with them when they feel the absence of God or when they feel the community had abandoned them.  Indeed, do we understand what it means to be lost and confused and rejected?  We only need to put ourselves in the position of the lost sheep.  How would the sheep be feeling, all alone, wandering, looking for direction home, and anxious over the wild animals hunting them for food?  How would a young boy who lost his mother feel?  Surely, we all have the experience of being lost and confused!  And worst of all, there is no one who is willing to give us direction, to help us or to show us that they care.

Secondly, we do not feel with the shepherd who lost one of his sheep or the woman in today’s parable who lost one of her drachmas.  When we lose something or someone whom we love dearly, it always brings us much pain and anxiety.  So we can imagine how worried the shepherd must have been, and the woman as well.  Those of us who have lost things know how frustrating it is when we cannot find them, especially when something is of great sentimental value.  The drachma might not have been worth much in monetary value but in terms of beauty and joy, it is worth everything.

So if we have not done anything to bring back the lost sheep, it clearly shows that we do not know the heart of the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  If we do, then we would quickly help to find the lost sheep as well.  It is natural for us to love those whom our loved ones love.  This is because we seek to do anything that can make our loved ones happy.  If we love Jesus as we claim, then we should also be loving all our brothers and sisters; especially those who have left us and are lost in their faith and direction in life.   To do nothing to bring them back to Jesus means that our love for Jesus is not sincere.  We only love ourselves and what Jesus can do for us, not what we can do for Jesus.

Thirdly, we do not make our brothers and sisters our own.   Our mentality is that they are not ours.  They belong to Jesus and so it is not our responsibility.  What if the one who is lost is our own child, would we not search for that child?  Every parent loves his or her child.  Even if there are twelve children, and if one is missing, the parent would feel anxious and look for the child till he or she is found.   The truth is that we always give attention to the weakest.   If a parent has ten children and one is weak because of illness or physical mobility, it is natural that the parent would give that particular child more attention, not that the others are not important but that child needs more help.  So too, when there are wounded sheep, lost ones, confused and led astray, these are the ones we have more responsibility towards rather than just taking care of only the healthy and strong ones.  Sadly in our community, we tend to care only for those who are active and neglect those who do not contribute to the church or do not come because they do not add value to our lives.  We cut them off like dead branches instead of attempting to reach out to them and help to revitalize their faith.

Today, the gospel invites us to go out and actively search for the lost members of our family.  They could be your immediate loved ones, your friends, your colleagues or former members of your church ministry.  With tact and compassion, we need to reach out to them, not so much to convert them but to give them the love of Jesus, to offer them the fullness of life and love in Jesus.  They are seeking for true meaning in life.  We who have Jesus can offer them the greatest of all gifts, faith in Him who is our life.

How can we do this?  We begin by being friends with them.   We need to connect with them and hear them out, their pains, struggles and aspirations.  When possible, we can invite them to join our Catholic community for fellowship.  Like Jesus, we must welcome sinners and tax collectors.   Like Jesus, we do not judge, condemn or label them.   We can encourage them as we get to know them better by sharing our personal faith with them, what Jesus means to us and how He has been a source of inspiration and strength in our lives.  When the occasion permits, gently invite them to join our renewal and conversion or healing retreats.  The last thing we should ever do is to approach them with doctrines and the laws or use threats.  St Paul tells us in the first reading that the laws could not save him.  It was the love of Jesus, His mercy and forgiveness.

Indeed, the joy of bringing someone back to the Lord and to the right path is worth the sacrifices.  That was how St Paul felt when he said, “But because of Christ, I have come to consider all the advantages that I had as disadvantages.  Not only that, but I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”   To give life and hope to someone is what is desperately needed in our times.  St James tells us, “if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  (Jms 5:19f)  The truth of course is found in Jesus.  Conversion is not just a change of opinions but to come to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.


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

 

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

Today’s Gospel gives us three parables to help us consider in depth our image of God. The image that a person has of God influences greatly his or her way of thinking and acting. For instance, the image of God as a severe judge frightens the person and renders that person too submissive and passive or rebellious and riotous. The image of God as patriarch or boss, was and still is used to legitimise relationships of power and dominion, in society and in the Church, in the family as well as in the community. In Jesus’ days, the idea that people had of God was of someone distant, severe, a judge who threatened with punishment. Jesus reveals a new image of God: God as Father, full of kindness for all and each one individually. This is what these three parables want to communicate to us.
As you read, try to pause on each detail and, above all, let the words penetrate and challenge you. Try to discover what they have in common and try to compare this with your image of God. Only then, try to analyse the details of each parable: attitudes, actions, words, place, atmosphere, etc.

The 15th chapter of Luke’s Gospel holds a central place in Jesus’ long journey to Jerusalem. This journey begins in Luke 9:51 and ends in Luke 19:29. The 15th chapter is like the top of the hill from which we can see the journey already travelled and the rest of the journey to come. It is the chapter of God’s warm kindness and mercy, themes that are Luke’s main concern. The communities must be a revelation of the face of this God for humanity.

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We have three parables here. Jesus’ parables have a precise purpose. These short stories taken from real life try to lead the listeners to reflect on their own life and discover there a particular aspect of God’s presence. In the parables there are two types of stories of life. Some stories are not normal and are not usual occurrences in daily life. For instance, the father’s goodness towards his younger son is not usual. Generally, fathers act much more severely towards children who behave like the younger son in the parable. Other stories are normal and are usual events in daily life, for instance the attitude of the woman who sweeps the house to look for the lost coin. As we shall see, these are different ways of urging people to think on life and on the presence of God in life.

 

Luke 15:1-2: The key to the meaning of the three parables

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The three parables in chapter 15 are preceded by this information: “The tax collectors and sinners, however, were all crowding round to listen to him, and the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!’” (Lk 15:1). On the one hand there are the sinners and publicans, on the other the Pharisees and scribes, and between the two groups stands Jesus. This was also happening in the 80’s when Luke was writing his Gospel. The pagans approached the communities, wanting to join and take part. Many of the brothers complained saying that to welcome a pagan was against Jesus’ teaching. The parables helped them discern. In the three parables we notice the same concern: to show what must be done to regain what was lost: the lost sheep (Lk 15:4-7), the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10), the two lost sons (Lk 15:11-32).

Luke 15:3-7: In the first parable you are invited to recover the lost sheep 

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Jesus speaks to his listeners: “If one of you has a hundred sheep…”. He says “one of you”. This means that you are challenged! You, he, she, all of us are challenged! We are asked to challenge ourselves with the strange and unlikely story of the parable. Jesus asks: “Which one of you with a hundred sheep, if he lost one, would fail to leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the missing one till he found it?” What is your answer to Jesus’ question? The way the question is put, we understand that Jesus thinks the answer must be positive. But will it be so? will it be positive? Would you run the risk of losing ninety-nine sheep in order to find the lost one? I hear a different reply in my heart: “I am very sorry, but I cannot do this. It would be silly to leave the ninety-nine sheep in the desert to find the lost one!” But God’s love is above all normal rules of behaviour. Only God can do such a crazy thing, so strange, so out of the normal behaviour of human beings. The background to this parable is the criticism of the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus (Lk 15:2). They considered themselves to be perfect and despised others, accusing them of being sinners. Jesus says: “I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance”. In another place he says: “Tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you!” (Mt 21:31) According to Jesus, God is happier with the repentance of one sinner than with ninety-nine Pharisees and scribes. God is happier with the repentance of one atheist who never goes to church than with ninety-nine who consider themselves practising and faithful Catholics and who despise atheists and prostitutes. This different image of God that Jesus presents to the doctors, Pharisees and all of us is quite disturbing!

Luke 15:8-10: In the second parable, the woman looks for the lost coin

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This parable is different. The short story of the lost coin alludes to the normal behaviour of poor women who do not have much money. The woman in the parable has only ten silver coins. In those days, a drachma was worth a day’s labour. For poor women, ten drachmas was a lot of money! That is why, if they lost one coin, they would look for it and sweep the whole house till they found it. And when they found it, they would be immensely happy. The woman in the parable talks to her neighbours: “Rejoice with me! I have found the drachma I had lost!” Poor people who were listening to the story would have said: “That’s right! That’s what we do at home! When we find the lost coin our joy is great!” Well, as comprehensible as the great as the joy of poor women is when they find the lost coin, much greater is God’s joy over one sinner who repents!

Luke 15:11-32: In the 3rd parable, the father tries to meet again his two lost sons

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This parable is well known. It reminds us of things that happen in life as well as of other things that do not happen. The traditional title is “The Prodigal Son”. In fact, the parable does not speak only of the younger son, but describes the attitude of both sons, emphasising the father’s effort to recover his two lost sons. The fact that Luke places this parable in the central chapter of his Gospel, tells us how important it is for the interpretation of the whole message contained in Luke’s Gospel.

Luke 15:11-13: The younger son’s decision

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A man had two sons. The younger son asks for his share of the inheritance. The father shares everything between them. Both the older son and the younger son receive their share. Inheriting something is no personal merit. It is a free gift. God’s bequest is shared as gifts with all human beings, Jews and pagans, Christians and non-Christians. All have some share in the Father’s bequest. Not all look after their share in the same way. Thus, the younger son goes off a long way and squanders his share by living a dissipated life and forgetting his Father. There is no mention yet of the older son who also received his share. Later, we shall know that he goes on staying at home, carrying on his life as usual and working in the fields. In Luke’s time, the older son represented the communities that came from Judaism; the younger son represented communities that came from paganism. Today, who is the younger and who the older son? Or may be both exist in each one of us?

Luke 15:14-19: The frustration of the younger son and the decision to go back to the Father’s house

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The need for food causes the younger son to lose his freedom and become a slave, looking after pigs. He is treated even worse than the pigs. This was this situation of millions of slaves in the Roman Empire in Luke’s day. This situation reminds the younger son of his Father’s house: “How many of my father’s hired men have all the food they want and more, and here am I dying of hunger!” He sees his life for what it is and decides to go home. He even prepares his speech to his Father: “I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired men!” A hired hand does what he is told, follows the law of servitude. The younger son wanted to follow the law, as the Pharisees and scribes wished to do in Jesus’ time (Lk 15:1). This is what the Pharisee missionaries imposed on the pagans they converted to the God of Abraham (Mt 23:15). In Luke’s time, Christians who came from Judaism wanted Christians who were converted from paganism to submit to the yoke of the law (Acts 15:1ff).

Luke 15:20-24: The Father’s joy at seeing the younger son

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The parable says that the younger son was still a long way off from the house, but the Father saw him, ran to him and kissed him tenderly. Jesus gives the impression that the Father had been waiting all the time at the window, looking at the road, trying to see whether his son would appear on the road! To our way of feeling and thinking, the Father’s joy seems to be overdone. He will not let his son finish his prepared speech. He does not listen! The Father does not want his son to become a slave. He wants him to be a son! This is the great Good News that Jesus brings! A new robe, new sandals, a ring for his finger, a lamb, a feast! In this great joy at the meeting, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the Father’s great sorrow at the loss of his son. God was very sad and now people begin to be aware of this when they see the Father’s great joy at seeing his son once more! This joy is shared with all at the feast that the Father orders to prepare.

Luke 15:25-28bThe older son’s reaction

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The older son comes back from work in the fields and sees that there is a feast in the house. He does not go in. He wants to know what is going on. When he is informed of the reason for the feast, he feels very angry and will not go in. Closed in on himself, he only thinks of his rights. He does not agree with the feast and cannot understand the Father’s joy. This implies that he did know his Father well, even though they lived in the same house. Had he known his Father, he would have been aware of the Father’s great sorrow at the loss of the younger son and he would have understood his joy at his return. Anyone who is too concerned with observing the law of God runs the risk of forgetting God himself! The younger son, even though he was away from home, seems to know the Father better than the older son who lived with him in the same house! Thus the younger son has the courage to go back to the Father’s house, while the older son no longer wants to go into his Father’s house! The older son does not want to be a brother, is not aware that, without him, the Father will lose his joy, because he too is son like the younger son!

Luke 15:28a-30: The Father’s attitude towards his older son, and the older son’s reply 

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The Father goes out of the house and begs his older son to go in. But the son replies: “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening!” The older son glories in his observance: “I have never once disobeyed your orders!” He too wants a feast and joy, but only with his friends. Not with his brother, not with his father. He does not mention his brother as such, he does not call him brother, but “this you son”, as if he were no longer his brother. It is he, the older brother, who speaks of prostitutes. It is his malice that interprets thus the life of his younger brother. How often does the older brother misinterpret his younger brother’s life! How often do Catholics misinterpret the life of others! The Father’s attitude is different. He goes out of the house for both sons. He welcomes the younger brother, but does not want to lose the older brother. Both are part of the family. The one must not exclude the other!

Luke 15:31-32: The Father’s final reply

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Just as the Father pays no attention to the arguments presented by the younger son, so also he pays no attention to the older son’s arguments and says to him: “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found!” Could it be that the older son was really aware of being always with the Father and to find in his presence the cause of rejoicing? The Father’s expression: “All I have is yours” includes also the younger son who has come back! The older son has no right to make distinctions. If he wishes to be his Father’s son, then he will have to accept him as he is not as he would like the Father to be! The parable does not give us the final answer of the older son. This concerns us, because we are all older brothers!

Further information:

The two economies: the Father’s House and the Master’s House

This parable is known as that of the prodigal son, and this implies the economic side of things. Prodigal means someone who spends freely, even though this is a secondary detail in the parable. Really, the main point of the text is found in the fact that the follower of Jesus will one day have to make a choice: the choice between the Father’s House or the system of sharing the master’s house or the system of accumulation.

The parable begins with a young man who asks the father to give him his share of the inheritance because he wants to leave home (Lk 15:12). To leave the Father’s house requires that the person have the one thing the world readily accepts: money. Without money the young man could not face the world. But the young man was not mature enough to administer the money and goes on a life of debauchery (Lk 15:13). To make things worse, when he had spent all his money, he goes through difficult economic times, which, in biblical language, are always described by the word “hunger”. In the biblical world, famine exists only when the economic structure has collapsed. So also the young man begins to be in need (Lk 15:14).

Difficulties faced generate maturity. The young man sees that he still needs money to survive in this world. So, for the first time in his life, he seeks employment (Lk 15:15). Thus he goes to theMaster’s House who sends him to look after pigs. He is very hungry, his wages are not sufficient and he tries to satisfy his hunger by eating the food given to the pigs (Lk 15:16). Meanwhile, in the master’s house things are not so simple: the pigs’ food is for the pigs. The worker must eat from the wages he gets for his service. Thus the master’s concern is not his worker’s hunger but to fatten the pigs. The young man discovers that in the master’s house food is denied, not shared, not even the food given to the pigs. Each for himself!

From his experience in the master’s house, the young man begins to compare his present situation with that in his father’s house. In his Father’s House the workers are not hungry because the bread is shared with all the workers. In the father’s house no one remains without food, not even the workers! The young man then decides to go back to his father’s house. Now he is sufficiently mature to know that he cannot be considered as son, so he asks his father for employment. In the father’s house the workers are not hungry because the bread is shared.

There are those who think that the son goes back because he is hungry. If so, his return would be opportunism. It is not this, but a choice for a particular kind of house. In the master’s house, nothing is shared, not even the pigs’ food. In the father’s house, no one is hungry because the mission of the Father’s House is to “fill the hungry with good things” (Lk 1:53). Sharing is the thing that keeps hunger away in the father’s house. But the young man discovers this only because he is hungry in the master’s house. Comparing the two models, the young man makes his choice: he prefers to be a worker in the father’s house, a place of sharing, a place where no one goes hungry and all are satisfied. So he goes back to the father’s house asking to be one of the workers (Lk 15:17-20).

By putting this reflection at the heart of his Gospel, Luke is warning the Christian communities that are organising themselves in the particular economic system of the Roman Empire. This system is symbolised in the parable by the master’s house, where pigs get more attention than workers, or, where investment is worth more than work. In the Father’s House, or in the house of Christians, this system cannot rule. Christians must concentrate their lives on sharing their goods. Sharing goods means breaking with the imperial system of domination. It means breaking with the master’s house. In the Acts of the Apostles we see that one of the beautiful characteristics of the Christian community lies in the sharing of goods (Acts 2:44-45; 3:6; 4:32-37).

Luke wants to remind us that the greatest sign of the Kingdom is the common table in the Father’s House, where there is room for all and where the bread is shared with all. Living in the Father’s House means sharing everything at the common table of the community. No one may be excluded from this table. We are all called to share. As we are constantly reminded in our celebrations: no one is so poor that he or she cannot share something. And no one is so rich that he or she may not have something to receive. The common table is built on sharing by all. Thus the feast in the Father’s House will be eternal.

The three parables have something in common: joy and the feast. Anyone who experiences the free and surprising entrance of the love of God in his or her life will rejoice and will want to communicate this joy to others. God’s saving action is source of joy: “Rejoice with me!” (Lk 15:6.9) It is from this experience of God’s gratuity that the sense of feasting and joy is born (Lk 15:32). At the end of the parable, the Father asks to be joyful and to celebrate. The joy seems to be dampened by the older son who does not want to go in. He wants the right to celebrate only with his friends and does not want to celebrate with the other members of his human family. He represents those who consider themselves just and think that they do not need conversion.

Source: http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-24th-sunday-ordinary-time-c

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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!

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, November 1, 2016 — “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted.”

October 31, 2016

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

Art: GOD is “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” (2 Corinthians 1: 3, 4)

Reading 1 RV 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

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

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Reading 2 1 JN 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

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.

Sermon On The Mount by Bryan Ahn

Gospel MT 5:1-12A

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”
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From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert

(This Reflection First Published November 1, 2015)

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Scripture Readings: Book of Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; First Letter of Saint John 3:1-3; Gospel According to Saint Matthew 5:1-12a

We honor this day all saints, those who now enjoy the glory of heaven with God.

Even if not canonized by name, “all saints” are recognized by God and the Church and form a “cloud of witnesses” (see Letter to the Hebrews 13:1) in God’s presence. Their dwelling with God is a source of inspiration and edification for us, literally meaning our being “built up” to follow in their footsteps.

The Solemnity of All Saints is intended in part to sustain and even raise our sense of hope in longing to “be with God” forever in heaven. This is what the saints, who have gone before us in faith, now enjoy and which we hope to experience as well as end our earthly existence, entering a new life in Christ beyond time and space.

This Sunday, and really every Sunday and day that we take time to ponder the mystery of God-with-us, we realize that it is not in vain that we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe so as to secure our steps in the way of love in this life and then to enjoy for eternity, “life on high,” as it is sometimes described, with the Holy Trinity, as well as all the angels and saints, in Paradise or Heaven. This we hold firm to as a matter of faith and dogma.

The number of the elect or saved, one hundred and forty-four thousand, described in the Book of Revelation is not to be understood as a literal number, but a figurative one. It indicates a perfect number, and we are certainly called to be among that number, however many it may actually be when all is said and done.

On one level, the actual number of “saved” is not so important as the fact that there are multitudes, coming from everywhere over the ages, who through a life of perseverance in the ways of the Lord are now enjoying the rewards of eternal life in God’s presence. A sublime and great mystery this is, but something we hold dear as believers in God and members of the Church.

The Apostle Saint John speaks in his letter assigned to this solemnity of All Saints of the certainty that is to characterize followers of Jesus, who are not just called to be, but really are children of God, awaiting the fullness of what that means in the life yet to come. Even in this life, though, we participate to some degree in God’s glory, part and parcel of a life of faith, hope and love in God’s Church.

We can say that in celebrating All Saints no one missing from the picture and there are no favorites. Sure, we may have our favorites, such as for me, Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Charles de Foucauld and others, but in God’s sight they are equal and all of them “full participants” in God’s life in heaven. So too no one saint has a head start on the others. All were called, as we are all called, to holiness, meaning nearness to God and conformed to God’s likeness by a life of loving service of God and neighbor.

The theme of growing in holiness or likeness to God continues in this Sunday’s Gospel passage from Saint Matthew, where Jesus gives his followers the “Beatitudes,” as they are usually called.

Jesus is seated, in the rabbinical manner of teaching, and gives instructions to everyone, no matter what may be their financial situation or age, and merely thirsting for holiness as the needed criterion to take up his teaching.

The Beatitudes make few demands but can be very demanding nonetheless. Daily interacting with others requires patience, tact, genuineness and many other virtues. We are to live openly and trustingly within our family and faith community, with co-workers or fellow-students, wherever we meet and rub shoulders with others. Therein lies the heart of our going to God.

We may tend to think of more dramatic actions are needed to become holy, such as going to the slums or the ends of the earth and ministering to the poor there. Some are indeed called to that and find holiness in so doing. For the vast majority of followers of Christ, though, the task is to live and love well in the ordinary places and ways that are required in daily living.

I like this quote from the late biblical scholar, Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, of the Passionist Order. He says, in commenting on the Beatitudes:

“In the bond of faith within the extended family of the Church or within our immediate family or neighborhood and community, we realize how our being poor in spirit has settled the reign of God in our midst; how consoling others in their sorrow brings the blessedness of forgetting one’s own sorrow; how sharing one’s goods with others soothes the hunger and thirst within ourselves. With such blessed single-heartedness in reaching outward, we become “children of God” and even “see God” (from “Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time, Weeks 23 – 34,” Paulist Press, 1984, page 412).

In other words, there are many opportunities for sanctity in our daily life. Openness to God’s presence and activity in our life is a path toward sharing one day with all the angels and saints the reward of eternal life.

Yes, All Saints Day is about the blessed who have gone before us, but also an invitation to be counted among them eventually, for therein lies true fulfillment and happiness.

We long to see God’s face. May we always eagerly walk in the ways that Jesus has taught, the path to wholeness and holiness open before us life, a mysterious and wonderful road that leads to God’s house.

All you saints of God, pray for us!

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 NOVEMBER 2016, Tuesday, All Saints
HOLINESS IS ONE BUT EXPRESSED IN MANIFOLD WAYS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  APOCALYPSE 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 JOHN 3:1-3; MATT 5:1-12 ]

Today when we celebrate All Saints Day, we rejoice with all the saints, known and unknown in heaven.  We rejoice in their victory over sin and the Evil One.  Indeed, they are the ones that St John wrote about in the first reading.  They are the perfect and countless number of Christians representing the 12 tribes of Israel, the new People of God who have been sealed as the “servants” of God.  They also belong to that “huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language.”  Indeed, now “dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

What we are celebrating now is what we are all called to be as well.  We too are included in that number in principle.  This is what John tells us.  “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”  To be a saint is to be a son and daughter of God.  By virtue of our baptism, we are all made children of God.   At our baptism, we are consciously informed and anointed as children of God.  All of humanity is children of God as well, but because they do not know Christ, they remain unaware of their calling to be adopted sons and daughters in Christ.  This is what St John said, “Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.”

Consequently, to be a saint is to become a true child of God.  We are called to share in the sonship of Christ.  The blueprint to becoming a child of God is given to us by Christ Himself in the beatitudes.  In these beatitudes, we are invited to live a blessed life.  Hence, the beginning of each of the beatitude begins with the word, “blessed!”  This is the kind of life that Jesus Himself lived, including Mary and all the saints.  The beatitudes could be considered as the principles of Christian living.

The apex of all the principles is to have a poverty of Spirit, that is, a total dependence on God for all that we are and all that we do.  But we are also called to be gentle, that is, meek, firm and yet diplomatic in our pursuit of the truth.  Meekness does not mean weakness.   Jesus and Moses were described as meek but they were certainly not weak leaders.   Meekness means to be in control of our strength.  A leader who does not know how to control his strength can over react in situations.   We seek to be peacemakers and reconcilers, not people who divide.  But what distinguishes us from others is that we remain aware of our own sinfulness and mourn for our sins and imperfections in life so that we will never become judgmental and harsh towards others.  A child of God is one who always lives in the truth, seeking justice for all; and yet remains merciful to those who fail in life.  Justice and compassion must always go together.

To ensure that we are walking in the right direction, what is of utmost importance is the purity of heart and the willingness to suffer for what is right.  The psalmist asks, “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?  Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things.”  St John says the same thing, “My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.  Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”   We need to be purified in our service of God and love for our fellowmen.  The persecution, trials and suffering that come along the way are means by which we are purified.  We must not take the oppositions we face in life as if we are innocent and the victims all the time.  More often than not, we are reacting from our pride and selfishness, even when apparently serving God and His people.  So through all the challenges of life, we learn to grow in purity of heart and mind so that we can truly serve God and His people with a love that is sincere, pure and generous.

However, these principles offered by the Lord need to be applied concretely in our situation.  Holiness is one and the same for all.  But there are manifold ways to live out that holiness in our lives.  There are many kinds of saints.  That is why the Church honours the different kinds of saints who are known to live the life of Christ according to their charisms, temperaments and situations in life.  To be a saint does not mean to replicate any particular saint.  Rather, it is to imitate their virtues and how they live out the Christian beatitudes according to their circumstances in life.  For this reason, the Church continually canonizes modern saints for today’s generation as our lives are very different from that of the saints who lived in their times.

Being a saint therefore simply means to live out the life of Christ according to our vocation.  We become holy not by withdrawing from the world and our responsibilities.  We become holy through living out our vocation in life, whether as a spouse, parent, son or daughter, a student, a worker, a professional or a priest.  We must never think that only those who are priests and religious have a greater chance to become saints.  Holiness is not determined by what vocation we have in life but how faithful we are to our calling.  Even in priestly and religious life, there are many temptations.  We have seen many priests and religious who are not living out their vocation but make use of their vocation to look after their own interests rather than the Church’s interests.  But this is true in any vocation.  As parents, are we responsible for the way we raise up our children and give ourselves to forming them to be sons and daughters of God in Christ?  For those of us who are married, have we been responsible to our spouse and live out the marriage vows we took on our wedding day?  As workers and professionals, have we made an honest living and shown ourselves to be exemplary workers, dedicated to our work, responsible in our tasks, and proactive in all that we do?

Holiness therefore is to become who we are, namely as children of God.  We grow in holiness by giving ourselves fully to what we are called to life.  If we are faithful to our vocation and our state of life, we become holy.  In every vocation and state of life, we will be confronted with the same principles that Christ gives us in the beatitudes.  We will be called to exercise humility, justice, compassion, mercy and to be mediators of peace in the midst of conflicts.   By exercising these principles in decision-making, we grow in grace and holiness.  Hence holiness is the common call for all but how we live out this holiness concretely in our life is dependent on what we are called to do.  If we are faithful to our calling and act according to the beatitudes, we become holy.  We can be just an ordinary worker, a homemaker or just a domestic helper but if we take our vocation seriously and live it out for the greater glory of God and service of our fellowmen, we can become great saints.

Yet in the final analysis, holiness is not mere effort alone.  We must remember that to be a Christian is to share in the victory of Christ that He has won for us.  St John wrote, “These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.”  In other words, holiness is also grace.  Inspired by the Lord, we need to turn to Him for strength and the capacity to share in His death and resurrection.  Only through the love of Christ and in the power of His Spirit can we imitate Him both in life and in death.  “Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.”

So if we truly want to grow in holiness, let us see the face of God.  The psalmist tells us, “He shall receive blessings from the Lord and reward from the God who saves him. Such are the men who seek him, seek the face of the God of Jacob.”  Holiness is not reducible to ethical living.  It is to allow Christ to live in us through His Spirit.  So without a deep prayer life, without constant contemplation of His face in the scriptures and receiving His Spirit in Holy Communion, we would deprive ourselves of the means to grow in holiness.  That is why St John Paul II urges us to train ourselves in holiness through the Word of God, prayer, the Eucharist and the Sacrament of reconciliation.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Jesus’ words on the Beatitudes that Matthew drew from his sources, were condensed in short and isolated phrases, and the Evangelist has placed them in a broader context, which Biblical scholars call the “sermon on the mount” (chapters 5-7). This sermon is considered like the statutes or Magna Carta that Jesus gave to the community as a normative and binding word that defines a Christian.

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The many themes contained in this long sermon are not to be seen as collection of exhortations, but rather as a clear and radical indication of the new attitude of the disciples towards God, oneself and the brothers and sisters. Some expressions used by Jesus may seem exaggerated, but they are used to stress reality and thus are realistic in the context although not so in a literary sense: for instance in vv.29-30: «If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away, for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell». This manner of speaking indicates the effect desired to be created in the reader, who must understand correctly Jesus’ words so as not to distort their meaning.

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Our focus, for liturgical reasons, will be on the first part of the “sermon on the mount”, that is the part dealing with the proclamation of the beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12).

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Some details:

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Matthew invites the reader to listen to the beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus with a rich concentration of details. First he indicates the place where Jesus proclaims his sermon: “Jesus went onto the mountain” (5:1). That is why exegetes call this the “sermon on the mount” even though Luke places this sermon on level ground (Lk 6:20-26). The geographic location of the “mountain” could be a veiled reference to an episode in the OT quite like ours: that is, when Moses proclaims the Decalogue on mount Sinai. It is possible that Matthew wishes to present Jesus as the new Moses who proclaims the new law.

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Another detail that strikes us is the physical posture of Jesus as he proclaims his words: “when he was seated”. This posture confers upon him a note of authority in the legislative sense. The disciples and the “crowd” gather around him: this detail shows what Jesus had to say was for all to hear. We note that Jesus’ words do not present impossible matters, nor are they addressed to a special group of people, nor do they mean to establish a code of ethics exclusively for his inner circle. Jesus’ demands are concrete, binding and decisively radical.

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Someone branded Jesus’ sermon as follows: «For me, this is the most important text in the history of humankind. It is addressed to all, believers and non, and after twenty centuries it is still the only light still shining in the darkness of violence, fear and solitude in which the West finds itself because of its pride and selfishness» (Gilbert Cesbron).

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The word “blessed” (in Greek makarioi) in our context does not say “softly” but cries out happiness found throughout the Bible. For instance, in the OT, those called “blessed” are those who live out the precepts of Wisdom (Sir 25,7-10). The prayerful person of the Psalms defines “blessed” as those who “fear”, or more precisely those who love the Lord, expressing this love in the observance of the precepts contained in the word of God (Sal 1,1; 128,1).

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Matthew’s originality lies in adding a secondary phrase that specifies each beatitude: for instance, the main assertion “blessed are the poor in spirit” is clarified by an added phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Another difference with the OT is that Jesus’ words proclaim a saving blessedness here and now and without any limitations. For Jesus, all can attain happiness on condition that they remain united to Him.

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The first three beatitudes:

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i) The first cry concerns the poor: “How blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs”. The reader may be shocked: how can the poor be happy? In the Bible, the poor are those who empty themselves of themselves and above all renounce the presumption of building their own present and future alone, and thus leave room for and focus on God’s project and his Word. The poor, always in the biblical sense, is not someone closed in on himself, miserable, negative, but someone who nurtures being open to God and to others. God is all his/her treasure. We could say with St.Teresa of Avila: happy are those who experience that “God alone suffices!”, meaning that they are rich in God.

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A great modern spiritual author described poverty as follows: «As long as one does not empty one’s heart, God cannot fill it with himself. As you empty your heart, so does the Lord fill it. Poverty is emptiness, not only in what concerns the future but also the past. Not a regret or memory, not a worry or wish! God is not in the past, God is not in the future: He is in the present! Leave your past to God, leave your future to God. Your poverty is to live the present, the Presence of God who is Eternity» (Divo Barsotti).

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This is the first beatitude, not just because it is the first of many, but because it seems to encapsulate all the others in their diversity.

ii)Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted”. One can mourn because of a great pain or suffering. This underlines the fact that we are dealing with a serious situation even though the motives or the cause are not mentioned. If we wish to identify today “those who mourn” we could think of all the Christians who hold dear the demands of the kingdom and suffer because of many negative aspects in the Church; rather than focus on holiness, the Church presents divisions and lacerations. They may also be those who suffer because of their sins and inconsistencies and who, in some way, slow down their conversion. To these, only God can bring the news of “consolation””.

iii)Blessed are the gentle, they shall have the earth as inheritance”. The third beatitude is about gentleness. This is a quality that is not so popular today. Rather, for many it has a negative connotation and is taken for weakness or the kind of imperturbability that knows how to control calculatingly one’s own emotions. What does the word “gentle” mean in the Bible? The gentle are remembered as those who enjoy great peace (Ps 37:10), are happy, blessed and loved by God. They are also contrasted with evildoers, the ungodly and sinners. Thus the OT gives us a wealth of meanings that do not allow for one single definition.

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In the NT the first time we meet the word is in Matthew 11:29: “Learn from me because I am gentle and humble of heart”. A second time is in Mt 21:5, when Matthew describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and cites the prophet Zechariah 2:9: “Behold your servant comes to you gentle”. Truly, Matthew’s Gospel may be described as the Gospel of gentleness.

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Paul too says that gentleness is an identifying quality of the Christian. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 he exhorts believers “I urge you by the gentleness and forbearance of Christ”. In Galatians 5:22 gentleness is considered one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers and consists in being meek, moderate, slow to punish, kind and patient towards others. Again in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12 gentleness is an attitude that is part of the Christian and a sign of the new man in Christ.

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Finally, an eloquent witness comes from 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Your adornment should be not an exterior one, consisting of braided hair or gold jewellery or fine clothing, but the interior disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and peaceful spirit, so precious in the sight of God”.

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How does Jesus use the word “gentle”? A truly enlightening definition is the one given by the gentle person of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini “The gentle person, according to the beatitudes, is one who, in spite of the fervour of his/her feelings, remains docile and calm, not possessive, interiorly free, always extremely respectful of the mystery of freedom, imitating God in this respect who does everything with respect for the person, and urges the person to obedience without ever using violence. Gentleness is opposed to all forms of material or moral arrogance, it gains the victory of peace over war, of dialogue over imposition”.

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To this wise interpretation we add that of another famous exegete: “The gentleness spoken of in the beatitudes is none other than that aspect of humility that manifests itself in practical affability in one’s dealings with the other. Such gentleness finds its image and its perfect model in the person of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. Truly, such gentleness seems to us like a form of charity, patient and delicately attentive towards others” (Jacques Dupont).

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The word enlightens me (to meditate)

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a) Am I able to accept those little signs of poverty in my regard? For instance, the poverty of poor health and little indispositions? Do I make exorbitant demands?

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b) Am I able to accept some aspect of my poverty and fragility?

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c) Do I pray like a poor person, as one who asks with humility the grace of God, his pardon and his mercy?

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d) Inspired by Jesus’ message concerning gentleness, do I renounce violence, vengeance and a vengeful spirit?

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e) Do I encourage, in families and in my place of work, a spirit of kindness, gentleness and peace?

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f) Do I pay back any small malice, insinuations or offensive allusions with evil?

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g) Do I look after the weakest who cannot defend themselves? Am I patient with old people? Do I welcome lonely strangers who are often exploited at work?

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To pray

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a) Psalm 23:

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The Psalm seems to rotate around the title “The Lord is my shepherd”. The saints are the image of the flock on the way: they are accompanied by the goodness and loyalty of God, until they finally reach the house of the Father (L.Alonso Schökel, I salmi della fiducia, Dehoniana libri, Bologna 2006, 54)

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Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.

In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.

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Closing prayer:

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Lord Jesus, you show us the way of the beatitudes so that we may come to that happiness that is fullness of life and thus holiness. We are all called to holiness, but the only treasure of the saints is God. Your Word, Lord, calls saints all those who in baptism were chosen by your love of a Father, to be conformed to Christ. Grant, Lord, that by your grace we may achieve this conformity to Jesus Christ. We thank you, Lord, for the saints you have placed on our way and who manifest your love. We ask for your pardon if we have tarnished your face in us and denied our calling to be saints.

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http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-all-saints-matthew-51-12a

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We at Peace and Freedom often read the daily suggested readings or homilies in the booklet “Pondering the Word, The Anawim Way.” Today’s suggested reading in the “Anawim” includes Pope Francis’ Homily of 2 October 2013 at follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the Creed, after professing: “I believe in one Church”, we add the adjective “holy”; we affirm the sanctity of the Church, and this is a characteristic that has been present from the beginning in the consciousness of early Christians, who were simply called “the holy people” (cf. Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rom 8:27; 1 Cor 6:1), because they were certain that it is the action of God, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Church.

But in what sense is the Church holy if we see that the historical Church, on her long journey through the centuries, has had so many difficulties, problems, dark moments? How can a Church consisting of human beings, of sinners, be holy? Sinful men, sinful women, sinful priests, sinful sisters, sinful bishops, sinful cardinals, a sinful pope? Everyone. How can such a Church be holy?

1. To respond to this question I would like to be led by a passage from the Letter of St Paul to the Christians of Ephesus. The Apostle, taking as an example family relationships, states that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her” (5:25-26). Christ loved the Church, by giving himself on the Cross. And this means that the Church is holy because she comes from God who is holy, he is faithful to her and does not abandon her to the power of death and of evil (cf. Mt 16:18). She is holy because Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (cf. Mk 1:24), is indissolubly united to her (cf. Mt 28:20); She is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms, renews. She is not holy by her own merits, but because God makes her holy, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and of his gifts. It is not we who make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his love makes the Church holy.

2. You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see them everyday. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation for some to say: the Church is only the Church of the pure, the perfectly consistent, and expels all the rest. This is not true! This is heresy! The Church, that is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her, she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity.

“Well! Father, I am a sinner, I have tremendous sins, how can I possibly feel part of the Church? Dear brother, dear sister, this is exactly what the Lord wants, that you say to him: “Lord, here I am, with my sins”. Is one of you here without sin? Anyone? No one, not one of us. We all carry our sins with us. But the Lord wants to hear us say to him: “Forgive me, help me to walk, change my heart!”.

And the Lord can change your heart.

In the Church, the God we encounter is not a merciless judge, but like the Father in the Gospel parable. You may be like the son who left home, who sank to the depths, farthest from the Gospel. When you have the strength to say: I want to come home, you will find the door open. God will come to meet you because he is always waiting for you, God is always waiting for you, God embraces you, kisses you and celebrates.

That is how the Lord is, that is how the tenderness of our Heavenly Father is. The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost. The Church offers all the possibility of following a path of holiness, that is the path of the Christian: she brings us to encounter Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, especially in Confession and in the Eucharist; she communicates the Word of God to us, she lets us live in charity, in the love of God for all. Let us ask ourselves then, will we let ourselves be sanctified? Are we a Church that calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? Are we a Church where the love of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the others?

3. A final question: what can I, a weak fragile sinner, do? God says to you: do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high, to let yourself be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us be infected by the holiness of God. Every Christian is called to sanctity (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, nn. 19-42); and sanctity does not consist especially in doing extraordinary things, but in allowing God to act. It is the meeting of our weakness with the strength of his grace, it is having faith in his action that allows us to live in charity, to do everything with joy and humility, for the glory of God and as a service to our neighbour. There is a celebrated saying by the French writer Léon Bloy, who in the last moments of his life, said: “The only real sadness in life is not becoming a saint”. Let us not lose the hope of holiness, let us follow this path. Do we want to be saints? The Lord awaits us, with open arms; he waits to accompany us on the path to sanctity. Let us live in the joy of our faith, let us allow ourselves to be loved by the Lord… let us ask for this gift from God in prayer, for ourselves and for others.

https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20131002_udienza-generale.html

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 14, 2016 — “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.”

July 13, 2016

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
Lectionary: 392

“My soul yearns for you in the night, yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you. It is you who have accomplished all we have done.”

“For your dew is a dew of light.”
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The morning dew light by Mitchell Phelps

Reading 1 IS 26:7-9, 12, 16-19

The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.
Yes, for your way and your judgments, O LORD,
we look to you;
Your name and your title
are the desire of our souls.
My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you;
When your judgment dawns upon the earth,
the world’s inhabitants learn justice.
O LORD, you mete out peace to us,
for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.O LORD, oppressed by your punishment,
we cried out in anguish under your chastising.
As a woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in her pains,
so were we in your presence, O LORD.
We conceived and writhed in pain,
giving birth to wind;
Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.
But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;
awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the land of shades gives birth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 102:13-14AB AND 15, 16-18, 19-21

R. (20b) From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
You, O LORD, abide forever,
and your name through all generations.
You will arise and have mercy on Zion,
for it is time to pity her.
For her stones are dear to your servants,
and her dust moves them to pity.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

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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Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30 From Living Space

In spite of what we at some times feel, both today’s First Reading and the Gospel remind us that our God is never far away, especially in times of trouble. In the Gospel Jesus makes this promise and gives an invitation. “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus reaffirms what Isaiah says, that we have a caring and tireless God who takes looks after his own. “I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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Jesus seems primarily to be referring to the burdens which the Mosaic Law laid on people, especially as interpreted by some of the Scribes and Pharisees. Under them, it was next to impossible not to put a foot wrong somewhere. And, as they saw it, perfection in the eyes of God was the scrupulous observation of the tiniest obligation.  us from all that. It does not mean that we do what we like but all is now reduced to simply one commandment, the commandment to love God and all our brothers and sisters unconditionally. That is not always easy but we will find that keeping the commandment of love has a liberating effect. It helps us to become the kind of people we were meant to be. In being a law-keeper, I take care of my own ‘perfection’. In following the law of love, I benefit but my brother or sister benefits too.

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Jesus does not say that if we go to him that we will have no more troubles, no more pain, no more disappointments… There will be “yokes” to carry but he will carry them with us.

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Someone has suggested that the ‘yoke’ that Jesus is referring to is a double yoke used for two oxen pulling together. Jesus then is saying that he carries the yoke together with us.

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Jesus never promises to take away pain. What Jesus does is to help us go through the pain. A life without any pain, without any failure or disappointment, a life without difficulty or challenge is no life.When children are so protected by doting parents that their every whim is answered and every negative feeling anticipated, what do we end up with? Spoiled brats.

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Jesus will not spoil us in that way. The challenges of life are necessary for us to grow and mature. But they are easier to bear when he carries them with us, when we know that we are never alone in our difficulties and sorrows. And, because of our own pains, we are in a much better position to help others carry their yokes of sorrow or pain or sickness. Strange as it may seem, it is probable that a world without pain would be a very selfish and individualistic one.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 DECEMBER 2015, Wednesday, 2nd Week of Advent
MAKING LIGHT OUR BURDENS IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 40:25-31; MATTHEW 11:28-30

How has life been treating you?  Do you find life to be nothing more than drudgery?  Are you heavily laden with the cares, anxieties and responsibilities of life?  Do you feel that your burden is too overwhelming and wish that the Lord would come and relieve you of your life soon?  Indeed, some of us are so weary, tired and weighed down by the struggles of daily life that we wish we could die soon so that we can rest in peace.   If you are feeling this way, then the prophet Isaiah assures us, “He gives strength to the wearied, he strengthens the powerless. Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble, but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.”

How could this be?  Will we not grow weary and tire of the burdens of this life? In the first place, we must ask what these burdens are that have caused us to feel a load on our shoulders and this heaviness in the heart. Burdens come from three areas of life.   Basically, they belong to the past and the future.  It is not the present that is difficult but when we take the past and the future together, it is immensely heavy and intimidating.  Unfortunately, many of us live in our past and the future, forgetting the present joys and the moment.

In the first place, we are burdened by sin and guilt.  We cannot forgive the mistakes we have made in life.  Hence, we cannot move on.  The past continues to haunt us and accuse us of the follies we have made in life.  We cannot let go of the hurts we have caused to others, the betrayals in love and friendship, especially of our loved ones and family.  But we are burdened not only by our own sins; we are equally, if not more, enslaved by the sins others have committed against us.  We cannot forgive those who have sexually abused us, those who have caused us to lose our dignity because of slander and gossip; and those who have acted unjustly towards us, cheating us of our money, business secrets, etc.

Secondly, we are burdened by the perfection demanded by Christian life.  We know that we all fall short of what a Christian should be.  We want to live a holy and exemplary Christian life.  But the Old Adam is deeply latent in us and waiting to resurrect the moment we are weary or vulnerable.   So we are beset with our struggles against the capital sins, especially of pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, lust and greed.   We find ourselves losing the battle against our human weaknesses so much so we feel hypocritical, especially when we are supposed to be “good and devout” Catholics.  We are ashamed that we have betrayed Christ.  But like St Paul, the more we try to meet the demands of the Law and what is expected of us, our faith become a religion, simply meeting the obligations of what the Church or the gospel asks of us.  When we break them, we live in fear of God’s displeasure, even punishment.  So religion is burdensome because it means having to do this and that, fulfilling this and that obligation.  Some of us in ministry also feel so burdened having to fulfill the conditions of membership.  With the demands upon our time from all sides, we simply feel like giving up completely and just let things be!

Thirdly, we are burdened by our responsibilities in life.  For those of us who hold responsibilities, the higher the office we hold, or the more people are dependent on us, whether as leaders, bosses or parents, the more we feel the load on our shoulders.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown.  There are always the anxieties for tomorrow.  We are aware that we need to protect and give our children a great future.  We worry about their studies, about their relationships and their health.  As parents, our worries for our family have no end.  Even when our children are married, we worry for their children and our grandchildren. There is no end to worrying! If we are leaders, we worry about how to grow the organization, how to strengthen the members and how to strategize.  Most of all, we have the headache of dealing with difficult members, be they family, colleagues at work or and church ministry.  We have to firefight in managing scandals, internal squabbling, jealousy, envy, backbiting and irresponsible people under us. This explains why people shy from holding office, especially public office because of the undue glare of the public’s eye and the accountability for everything that happens under their charge.  There is no peace for those who hold office, but then this is true for parents as well.

In the light of the burdens that we carry, how then can we be happy in life and not worry so much?  Jesus is our solution.  He invites us saying, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”   How does Jesus help us to lighten our load?  Does it mean that He will take away our crosses in life?  Surely not!  He Himself carried His own cross and instructed us to carry our crosses and follow after Him.  So the solution is not removing the crosses and the burdens in our lives.  The key is to consider how we carry them, our past, the future and our responsibilities.

The primary attitude that is required of us as Jesus said is to be gentle and humble of heart.  Humility, gentleness and love are the three keys to approaching the demands and trials of life.  Humility is the foundation.  Indeed, just earlier on, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father saying, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”  (Mt 11:25f)   We need to be humble if we want to see life through the eyes of God and to have the wisdom to look at life in the right perspective.

Only with humility, can we see the greatness, beauty and love of God in creation and in our lives.  It is because of our pride that we want things always to be done our way.  We dictate to God what we need and how things should work out according to our narrow-minded thinking.   The first reading invites us to contemplate on the intricacies of creation, the beauty of God’s work, His majesty, wisdom and power.  This is what the Lord says, “To whom could you liken me and who could be my equal?  Lift your eyes and look. Who made these stars if not he who drills them like an army, calling each one by name? So mighty is his power, so great his strength that not one fails to answer.”   Truly, even science cannot fathom everything in creation in spite of all its achievements.  Pondering on the power of God and the transient things of nature, we should surrender and resign our lives to God.  So in our trials and sufferings, we must think that God does not care.  This was what God said to the ingrates, “How can you say, Jacob, how can you insist, Israel, ‘My destiny is hidden from the Lord, my rights are ignored by my God’? Did you not know? Had you not heard?”

Consequently, we must surrender our lives, especially our worries, to Him.  When Jesus invites us to carry His yoke and learn from Him, He is saying that as a carpenter, He knows how to make the yoke fitting for us.  When we carry the yoke, we need to have the right fitting, otherwise we hurt ourselves.  So too, let us trust that God has given the right crosses for us to bear in life.  Each one has his or her cross to carry.  None of the other crosses fit us.  So when we try to run away from our crosses and seek other crosses instead, this is where the misfit comes in and we suffer more eventually.  So to carry the yoke of Jesus is to accept the cross like Him and when we carry them rightly, in faith, the crosses will no longer be that heavy.  God knows our limits and our strengths.  He does not give us the cross without giving us His grace and strength.  When you look at your life, you know that He has always blessed you and helped you, as the psalmist says, “My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.”

Secondly, we need the attitude of gentleness.  Most of us are not gentle with ourselves and therefore harsh with others as well.  To be gentle is to learn to love ourselves, accepting our mistakes and limitations.   Pride, ambition and envy cause us to be hard on ourselves.  Perfectionists are never happy because their self-acceptance depends on their performance and what others say of them.  So we need to love ourselves and recognized our human frailties.  The psalmist reminds us that God is always forgiving and tolerant.  “My soul, give thanks to the Lord.  It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion. The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. He does not treat us according to our sins nor repay us according to our faults.”  If God deals with us in this manner, then we should learn to forgive ourselves, our past mistakes and our sins.

Until we forgive our mistakes, we cannot forgive others who have hurt us.  A big part of our burden is not letting go of our hurts.  We continue to nurse the pain in our hearts and in our minds.  This is the most unnecessary burden.  It is not life-giving and it is not empowering.  We will not only destroy others around us because of the bitterness in our hearts but we will be a prisoner of our hatred and anger.  So let us know that our brothers and sisters, like us, are weak in different areas and vulnerable to the temptations of the Evil One.  If we do not feel that way, then we have fallen into the sin of presumption and self-righteousness.

Finally, the burden will be light when we carry all of them like Jesus, not just in faith, in gentleness, but in love.  When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest”, this is a not a rest from our duties and responsibilities, but the rest of the soul, because we carry them without fear of the future, the mistakes of the past and, most of all, with love in our hearts.  Anything that is done in life is still a sacrifice on our part, but it is a loving sacrifice.  Such sacrifices not only give life to those whom we serve but we give life to ourselves. Indeed, with faith, we will be like the Israelites, carried by the wings of the eagles knowing that “his understanding is beyond fathoming”; with humility, we will not stumble because we will walk in His ways; and with love, the Lord will renew our strength and we can “run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (July 14, 2016)
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14 JULY 2016, Thursday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time
CARRYING THE YOKE OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 26:7-9, 12, 16-19; MT 11:28-30  ]

We all carry many burdens in life. Some burdens come from our responsibilities and the anxiety of carrying them out, especially with regard to the needs of our family and children.  We are constantly worrying about their health, their studies, careers and relationships.  Some burdens come from our own sins and mistakes in life.  We cannot forgive our past mistakes and often we allow our guilt and past to haunt us.  We fear that God will not forgive us our sins.  We are worried that one day our sins and crimes would be exposed.  Then we also suffer from the onslaught of our opponents and enemies, either at work or in what we do. We have people who will oppose us, slander us, and misunderstand us.  Indeed, quite often, we feel like giving up because the burdens are so heavy.  We wish for an early exit from this earth and yet are not able to let go because we fear for our loved ones.  We love them too much to abandon them and yet at the same time, we feel that the crosses are too heavy for us.  Often times, we wish that God would change our cross for others.  We envy why others seem to have a better share of this world’s happiness and goods than us.

What needs to be changed is not the cross that we carry but the way we carry our cross in life.  This is what Jesus is telling us when He said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.  Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”   Today, we are invited to put on a different pair of lens in looking at our problems.  Indeed, happiness in life has to do with the way we look at life rather than the challenges of life themselves.  The truth is that all of us face struggles in life.  We all have to deal with difficult people around us and those who do not agree with us.  We all have our fair share of family squabbles, failed relationships, financial worries, etc. The difference between those who manage to stay afloat and keep themselves happy and joyful and those who fall into depression is simply a matter of how we look at our woes in life.

The question we need to determine is whether we see our problems and struggles from a narrow perspective or through the eyes of God.  Unfortunately, many of us cannot see beyond our sufferings, our pains and our needs.  We see every challenge from the eyes of self-centeredness and hence our reaction tends to be one of fear, anger and revenge.  When we become defensive, we are reacting to our problems.  What is required of us is to be more proactive and to see a bigger picture instead.  We need to realize that our sufferings are slight compared to what is ahead of us, both in this life and in the next.  When we view our struggles in the context of a greater good and outcome, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones and the good of humanity, we do not mind carrying the pain.   It is only when we carry the burden for ourselves, or for the burdens themselves, with reluctance and without understanding, that the burdens become even heavier than the actual reality.

For this reason, the gospel invites us to look at life from the perspective of Christ.  But what was Christ’s perspective? Jesus saw everything from the perspective of His Father. That was how He looked at life and ministry.  Yesterday, the gospel spoke of His intimate knowledge of the Father.  Indeed, in the gospel many times, Jesus spoke of the union of mind and will with His Father.  “The Father and I are one.”  (Jn 10:30)  The heart, the mind, the plan, the vision and the love of the Father was also that of Jesus.  So like the Father, Jesus suffered for the love of humanity, shared the same compassion and mercy with His Father for us all.

So if we want to view life like Jesus, we need to put on His yoke. This phrase ‘to put on His yoke’ is taken from the example of the yokes placed on the oxen so that they could plough the field.  The yoke however must be made to fit the neck of the oxen; otherwise they will suffer discomfort and pain.  This will only lessen their ability to perform the task happily and efficiently.  So when Jesus invites us to come to Him and “shoulder my yoke and learn from me”, He is showing the way to find rest for our souls by having a gentle and humble heart like His.   So we need to ask the next question.

How did Jesus carry His cross and burdens in life?  We read that He accepted His cross patiently, willingly and positively.  He embraced the cross as part of His mission to proclaim the mercy and goodness of God.  He saw it as the way to bring about the reconciliation between God and man.  Most of all, He trusted in the Father’s will and mercy.  He submitted Himself to the plan of His Father even though as a human being He might not always understand.  On the cross, we hear His cry for us and for His Father when He said, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.” (Lk 23:46) Regardless of the situation, even if incomprehensible and apparently ridiculous, Jesus never failed to trust in the Father’s love and wisdom.  He trusted that His Father knew best.  Hence, He chose to do His Father’s will at all times.

Happiness is to accept our lot in life.  It is to follow and accept the will of God in our lives.  Rather than fighting against His will, we are to cooperate with the Lord’s plan for us.   By not fighting against His will, we will have more energy to face up to the challenges of life, surmount them and grow through them.  But many of us spend our whole life fighting against the will of God so much so we have no more energy to sustain ourselves and to respond to the responsibilities of life.   By denying the will of God for us, we end up bitter, unprepared, and we suffer more in the end.  Rather, we must make the best of whatever situation we find ourselves in.  Every crisis is an opportunity.  Every obstacle is a stepping stone.  Every mountain is for us to scale and reach the heights of life.  This is what it means when Jesus says that His yoke is easy.  The moment we adjust ourselves to the will of God, our lives will become comfortable.  Rather than desiring what we want, let us desire what we already have and what the Lord wants to give us along the way.  We cannot choose the crown without the thorns.  They are part and parcel of life.  The glory of the crown comes only because of the thorns.  The greater the challenges, the greater the joy of the triumph and the greater the growth that takes place.

Secondly, Jesus carried His cross in love and for love of His Father and usWhen there is love, the burden is light.  Jesus did all things for the love of His Father and for us.  So too, when we carry our crosses, not for ourselves but for our loved ones and for the good of humanity, we will find that it is worthwhile.  We cannot find happiness only when our sufferings are carried in vain or just for ourselves.  But when we do it for the love of God and humanity, we are given special grace and strength to carry them cheerfully and joyfully for the Lord.  There is a spiritual joy that comes from a suffering love.   So we need to ask, for whom and for what are we carrying the cross?  If it is only for our selfish desires and ambitions, the cross will be heavier, but when carried for love of others, it is much lighter because of the joy of knowing that we are bringing life and joy to others.

Thirdly, we are called to see our sufferings positively as redemptive suffering, like Jesus the suffering servantThat was how the Israelites viewed their sufferings and their exile.  They knew that their sufferings were the consequence of their sins and that they were meant not to destroy them but to build them up and to help them to return to their senses and come back to God. When we begin to see our sufferings positively instead of negatively, then new life will begin.  We will then use our energy to rebuild our lives and with renewed joy and hope.  Otherwise, when we are negative and look at life with despair and anger, we will have no more strength and spirit to look beyond our sufferings which are meant to help us to purify ourselves and grow in grace, love and strength.

Thirdly, joy and peace in the final analysis has nothing to do with success and accomplishments but a clear conscience, knowing that we have done the right thing, even when the whole world is against us.  The world can be upset with us but in our hearts we know that God is pleased with us.  So we are at peace and we can sleep and die in peace because we have followed our conscience.  As the psalmist says, “The path of the upright man is straight, you smooth the way of the upright.”

Consequently, if we want to put on the mind and heart of Christ, to shoulder His yoke and learn from Him, then we must seek the Lord and come to Him to learn from Him, like the Israelites and the apostles.  Like the psalmist, we must desire to come to the Lord to find instruction, inspiration, wisdom and direction.  “At night my soul longs for you and my spirit in me seeks for you; when your judgements appear on earth the inhabitants of the world learn the meaning of integrity.”

When we put on the mind of Christ then the prophecy will come true for us that there will be a new life and resurrection.  Truly, as the prophet assures us, “Your dead will come to life, their corpses will rise; awake, exult, all you who lie in the dust, for your dew is a radiant dew and the land of ghosts will give birth.”

Our God is merciful and compassionate.  We must never doubt His love for us.  He will never abandon us if we come to Him and shoulder His yoke, seek His heart and His will.  We too will find peace in our sufferings and in our pains for we will find His yoke easy and the burden light because His will is now ours.  Now, from the perspective of faith and love, everything fits nicely and so the burden is made lighter because the yoke is just right on our shoulder.

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

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St Kateri Tekakwitha

http://kateritekakwitha.net/kateris-trail/

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Statue of Kateri Tekakwitha. Reuters photo by Lucas Jackson
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The tomb of Kateri Tekakwitha at St. Francis Xavier Church, in Kahnawake, Quebec. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 1, 2015 — All Saints

October 31, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

Sermon On The Mount by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Reading 1 RV 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

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

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
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R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
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Reading 2 1 JN 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

Alleluia MT 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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

Gospel MT 5:1-12A

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

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Sermon on the Mount, Getty Museum
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From Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Scripture Readings: Book of Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; First Letter of Saint John 3:1-3; Gospel According to Saint Matthew 5:1-12a

This year the Church’s liturgical festival to celebrate all of God’s saints, officially canonized or not, falls on a Sunday. Being a “big feast,” the celebration of All Saints takes the place of the usual Sunday in Ordinary time and becomes a focal point for this Sunday’s worship by God’s people in the Catholic Church throughout the world. We honor this Sunday all saints, those who now enjoy the glory of heaven with God.

Even if not canonized by name, “all saints” are recognized by God and the Church and form a “cloud of witnesses” (see Letter to the Hebrews 13:1) in God’s presence. Their dwelling with God is a source of inspiration and edification for us, literally meaning our being “built up” to follow in their footsteps.

The Solemnity of All Saints is intended in part to sustain and even raise our sense of hope in longing to “be with God” forever in heaven. This is what the saints, who have gone before us in faith, now enjoy and which we hope to experience as well as end our earthly existence, entering a new life in Christ beyond time and space.

This Sunday, and really every Sunday and day that we take time to ponder the mystery of God-with-us, we realize that it is not in vain that we believe in Jesus Christ. We believe so as to secure our steps in the way of love in this life and then to enjoy for eternity, “life on high,” as it is sometimes described, with the Holy Trinity, as well as all the angels and saints, in Paradise or Heaven. This we hold firm to as a matter of faith and dogma.

The number of the elect or saved, one hundred and forty-four thousand, described in the Book of Revelation is not to be understood as a literal number, but a figurative one. It indicates a perfect number, and we are certainly called to be among that number, however many it may actually be when all is said and done.

On one level, the actual number of “saved” is not so important as the fact that there are multitudes, coming from everywhere over the ages, who through a life of perseverance in the ways of the Lord are now enjoying the rewards of eternal life in God’s presence. A sublime and great mystery this is, but something we hold dear as believers in God and members of the Church.

The Apostle Saint John speaks in his letter assigned to this solemnity of All Saints of the certainty that is to characterize followers of Jesus, who are not just called to be, but really are children of God, awaiting the fullness of what that means in the life yet to come. Even in this life, though, we participate to some degree in God’s glory, part and parcel of a life of faith, hope and love in God’s Church.

We can say that in celebrating All Saints no one missing from the picture and there are no favorites. Sure, we may have our favorites, such as for me, Saint Benedict and Saint Scholastica, Saint Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Charles de Foucauld and others, but in God’s sight they are equal and all of them “full participants” in God’s life in heaven. So too no one saint has a head start on the others. All were called, as we are all called, to holiness, meaning nearness to God and conformed to God’s likeness by a life of loving service of God and neighbor.

The theme of growing in holiness or likeness to God continues in this Sunday’s Gospel passage from Saint Matthew, where Jesus gives his followers the “Beatitudes,” as they are usually called.

Jesus is seated, in the rabbinical manner of teaching, and gives instructions to everyone, no matter what may be their financial situation or age, and merely thirsting for holiness as the needed criterion to take up his teaching.

The Beatitudes make few demands but can be very demanding nonetheless. Daily interacting with others requires patience, tact, genuineness and many other virtues. We are to live openly and trustingly within our family and faith community, with co-workers or fellow-students, wherever we meet and rub shoulders with others. Therein lies the heart of our going to God.

We may tend to think of more dramatic actions are needed to become holy, such as going to the slums or the ends of the earth and ministering to the poor there. Some are indeed called to that and find holiness in so doing. For the vast majority of followers of Christ, though, the task is to live and love well in the ordinary places and ways that are required in daily living.

I like this quote from the late biblical scholar, Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, of the Passionist Order. He says, in commenting on the Beatitudes:

“In the bond of faith within the extended family of the Church or within our immediate family or neighborhood and community, we realize how our being poor in spirit has settled the reign of God in our midst; how consoling others in their sorrow brings the blessedness of forgetting one’s own sorrow; how sharing one’s goods with others soothes the hunger and thirst within ourselves. With such blessed single-heartedness in reaching outward, we become “children of God” and even “see God” (from “Biblical Meditations for Ordinary Time, Weeks 23 – 34,” Paulist Press, 1984, page 412).

In other words, there are many opportunities for sanctity in our daily life. Openness to God’s presence and activity in our life is a path toward sharing one day with all the angels and saints the reward of eternal life.

Yes, All Saints Day is about the blessed who have gone before us, but also an invitation to be counted among them eventually, for therein lies true fulfillment and happiness.

We long to see God’s face. May we always eagerly walk in the ways that Jesus has taught, the path to wholeness and holiness open before us life, a mysterious and wonderful road that leads to God’s house.

All you saints of God, pray for us!

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SAINTS ARE CALLED TO SHARE IN THE LIFE OF GOD BY LIVING OUT THE BEATITUDES OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: REV 7:2-4, 9-14; JN 3:1-3; MT 5:1-12

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”  This is truly a great privilege of ours to be called and chosen as God’s children.  In other words, John tells us that we are all created to share in the intimacy of God’s life.  Our origin and destiny lie in our relationship with God.  Our calling in life is therefore bound to our destiny as well.  It means therefore that our life on earth is but the flowering of the divine life that is already given to us at birth and especially at our baptism.  We are called to live out our divine sonship in this life.  In this way, we will one day attain the fullness of sonship when we will become like God since we share in His life fully, which is another way of saying that “we shall see him as he really is.”

This is indeed a real challenge because living out our sonship is not an easy task.  We are constantly meeting challenges, trials and sufferings in life and called to choose between sin and God.  The fact is that some of us have chosen against Him because we have forgotten our origin and destiny.  That is why St John says that “because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.”   By choosing against God, we have also chosen sin and evil and therefore death.  Thus, because none of us is truly living our life as we should, as children of God, we must therefore purify ourselves in love.  Like the saints and martyrs before us, who have had their robes washed white by the blood of the lamb, we too will also have to be purified by the blood of the lamb.

How then can we be purified by the blood of the lamb?  We must not take this expression too literally as if the blood of Jesus can wash us clean.  Rather, this is a metaphorical way of saying how Jesus in His life and in His death has shown us the way to be saints.  This way is given to us in today’s beatitudes, which is actually the blue-print Jesus has for us in our journey towards the Kingdom; one which He lived out in His very own life.  So what Jesus is teaching us is based on His very own convictions – which He ultimately paid with His own blood and life by surrendering His life for us on the cross.  What, then, is this blueprint?

Firstly, we are called to be poor in spirit.  This simply means that only those of us who are docile to the Spirit can truly be happy in life.  Docility calls for openness and a humble recognition of one’s limitations.  So long as we are open to growth and learning, then we will always be given opportunities to perfect our life to that of God’s.  Conversely, those of us who think that we know everything cannot grow because of our pride and self-sufficiency.

Secondly, we are called to be gentle.  Gentleness in the gospel means meekness and sensitivity.  Unless we are sensitive towards others and ourselves, we will not be able to be in communion with others.  To be sensitive is to be aware of what we are doing, how we are feeling.  In this way, we will also become sensitive towards the feelings, needs and dignity of our fellow human beings.  Without gentleness and sensitivity, we cannot treat others with love and respect.

Thirdly, in order to live in the communion of saints, Jesus says that we must mourn.   Those who mourn will be comforted.  To mourn is to be repentant of our sinfulness and lack of love in life.  It is recognizing one’s weaknesses and resolving not to commit them again.  Mourning requires that we understand the extent and depth of our sins so that conversion is brought about not because of guilt but because of true sorrow for one’s sinful actions.

Fourthly, the beatitudes of Jesus tell us that we must hunger and thirst for what is right.  Fighting for truth, justice and righteousness is truly a sign that we are in communion with the saints.  If we do not stand up for the oppression of our brothers, we have not yet really fulfilled our part in the communion of saints.  There will be no peace and joy in our lives, for how can we pretend that everything is all right when our fellow human beings are suffering?  Indeed, it is better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong.  And not doing anything to redress the rights of others would be a sin of omission.

Fifthly, we are told that “those who are merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.”   There is much truth in this beatitude.  We can experience the mercy of God only when we learn to be merciful towards others.  Being merciful is to be compassionate with our fellow human beings.  Compassion requires us to identify with others and to be with them in their sufferings.  And because we are merciful, we will also learn to appreciate and thank God for our present situations.  Compassion helps us to know that we are not alone in this world in our struggles in life.  That is why, in showing mercy to others, we also show mercy to ourselves for we recognize the mercy of God towards us.

Sixthly, the saints of God must be pure in heart.  Only then they can see God.  Purity of heart requires purity of mind.  When a person is pure in his intention and in his thinking, he is neither malicious nor judgmental.  A pure heart is therefore one who has a clear conscience and always lives according to the gospel life.  Those who are not pure in heart, those who live in guilt, will also necessarily live in fear.  That is why these people are not only afraid to see God but also afraid to look at others in the eye.  Deep within, they know that they are not truthful and honest in their dealings.  They suffer from guilt, greed and fear.  However, if a person has purity of mind and heart, he walks about freely, without anxiety of any sort.  He is always ready to die at any time because he carries no guilt in him.  Such a person, because he is liberated from within, will therefore be able to see the goodness of God in others and in his life.  Hence, those who are pure in heart see God in everyone and, most of all, within himself.

In the seventh beatitude, Jesus tells us that the saint must also be a peacemaker.  Why is that so?  Because being a member of the communion of saints, we do not live in isolation.  To be truly Christ is to be concerned for others.  And surely if one member of our family is not in union with the family, we would want to reconcile them.  Living the life of the communion of saints necessarily entails that we become peacemakers.  We do not bring disunity and sufferings to others by breaking up the unity of the family.  Instead, we strive to live in unity with others by respecting each other.  But more than that, we also have the responsibility to reconcile those members of the family that are alienated from each other or from God.   In this way, by being peacemakers we are called sons of God because Jesus as the Son of God is the bridge or mediator in our reconciliation with God.

Finally, Jesus tells us that happiness comes to those who are persecuted on His account.  To suffer persecution for the sake of truth is to suffer on account of the name of Jesus.   Even when we are persecuted for proclaiming the name of Jesus, for proclaiming the gospel life, we must be glad since we have done nothing wrong.  It is surely better to die in the service of life than to die a selfish death or as an accomplice of evil and social injustices.  Such is the great joy of knowing that we have suffered on account of Jesus because we know that ultimately the true joy of life is when we give up even our own lives for the salvation of others.  No greater love can a man give than to lay down his life for his friends and, better still, for his enemies.

Yes, today as we celebrate All Saints Day, let us thank God for this gift of divine life that He has already given to us.  We pray for His grace that we will bring to completion the good work He has begun in us; so that the seed of divine life in us will flourish into the Kingdom of God.  When that happens, we will share in the fullness of life, a condition that is just beyond our human imagination as John tells us.  But one thing is certain, there will be total joy, total love because we will live with God in God’s kingdom.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Jesus’ words on the Beatitudes that Matthew drew from his sources, were condensed in short and isolated phrases, and the Evangelist has placed them in a broader context, which Biblical scholars call the “sermon on the mount” (chapters 5-7). This sermon is considered like the statutes or Magna Carta that Jesus gave to the community as a normative and binding word that defines a Christian.

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The many themes contained in this long sermon are not to be seen as collection of exhortations, but rather as a clear and radical indication of the new attitude of the disciples towards God, oneself and the brothers and sisters. Some expressions used by Jesus may seem exaggerated, but they are used to stress reality and thus are realistic in the context although not so in a literary sense: for instance in vv.29-30: «If your right eye should be your downfall, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should be your downfall, cut it off and throw it away, for it will do you less harm to lose one part of yourself than to have your whole body go to hell». This manner of speaking indicates the effect desired to be created in the reader, who must understand correctly Jesus’ words so as not to distort their meaning.

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Our focus, for liturgical reasons, will be on the first part of the “sermon on the mount”, that is the part dealing with the proclamation of the beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12).

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Some details:

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Matthew invites the reader to listen to the beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus with a rich concentration of details. First he indicates the place where Jesus proclaims his sermon: “Jesus went onto the mountain” (5:1). That is why exegetes call this the “sermon on the mount” even though Luke places this sermon on level ground (Lk 6:20-26). The geographic location of the “mountain” could be a veiled reference to an episode in the OT quite like ours: that is, when Moses proclaims the Decalogue on mount Sinai. It is possible that Matthew wishes to present Jesus as the new Moses who proclaims the new law.

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Another detail that strikes us is the physical posture of Jesus as he proclaims his words: “when he was seated”. This posture confers upon him a note of authority in the legislative sense. The disciples and the “crowd” gather around him: this detail shows what Jesus had to say was for all to hear. We note that Jesus’ words do not present impossible matters, nor are they addressed to a special group of people, nor do they mean to establish a code of ethics exclusively for his inner circle. Jesus’ demands are concrete, binding and decisively radical.

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Someone branded Jesus’ sermon as follows: «For me, this is the most important text in the history of humankind. It is addressed to all, believers and non, and after twenty centuries it is still the only light still shining in the darkness of violence, fear and solitude in which the West finds itself because of its pride and selfishness» (Gilbert Cesbron).

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The word “blessed” (in Greek makarioi) in our context does not say “softly” but cries out happiness found throughout the Bible. For instance, in the OT, those called “blessed” are those who live out the precepts of Wisdom (Sir 25,7-10). The prayerful person of the Psalms defines “blessed” as those who “fear”, or more precisely those who love the Lord, expressing this love in the observance of the precepts contained in the word of God (Sal 1,1; 128,1).

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Matthew’s originality lies in adding a secondary phrase that specifies each beatitude: for instance, the main assertion “blessed are the poor in spirit” is clarified by an added phrase “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. Another difference with the OT is that Jesus’ words proclaim a saving blessedness here and now and without any limitations. For Jesus, all can attain happiness on condition that they remain united to Him.

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The first three beatitudes:

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i) The first cry concerns the poor: “How blessed are the poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is theirs”. The reader may be shocked: how can the poor be happy? In the Bible, the poor are those who empty themselves of themselves and above all renounce the presumption of building their own present and future alone, and thus leave room for and focus on God’s project and his Word. The poor, always in the biblical sense, is not someone closed in on himself, miserable, negative, but someone who nurtures being open to God and to others. God is all his/her treasure. We could say with St.Teresa of Avila: happy are those who experience that “God alone suffices!”, meaning that they are rich in God.

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A great modern spiritual author described poverty as follows: «As long as one does not empty one’s heart, God cannot fill it with himself. As you empty your heart, so does the Lord fill it. Poverty is emptiness, not only in what concerns the future but also the past. Not a regret or memory, not a worry or wish! God is not in the past, God is not in the future: He is in the present! Leave your past to God, leave your future to God. Your poverty is to live the present, the Presence of God who is Eternity» (Divo Barsotti).

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This is the first beatitude, not just because it is the first of many, but because it seems to encapsulate all the others in their diversity.

ii)Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted”. One can mourn because of a great pain or suffering. This underlines the fact that we are dealing with a serious situation even though the motives or the cause are not mentioned. If we wish to identify today “those who mourn” we could think of all the Christians who hold dear the demands of the kingdom and suffer because of many negative aspects in the Church; rather than focus on holiness, the Church presents divisions and lacerations. They may also be those who suffer because of their sins and inconsistencies and who, in some way, slow down their conversion. To these, only God can bring the news of “consolation””.

iii)Blessed are the gentle, they shall have the earth as inheritance”. The third beatitude is about gentleness. This is a quality that is not so popular today. Rather, for many it has a negative connotation and is taken for weakness or the kind of imperturbability that knows how to control calculatingly one’s own emotions. What does the word “gentle” mean in the Bible? The gentle are remembered as those who enjoy great peace (Ps 37:10), are happy, blessed and loved by God. They are also contrasted with evildoers, the ungodly and sinners. Thus the OT gives us a wealth of meanings that do not allow for one single definition.

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In the NT the first time we meet the word is in Matthew 11:29: “Learn from me because I am gentle and humble of heart”. A second time is in Mt 21:5, when Matthew describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and cites the prophet Zechariah 2:9: “Behold your servant comes to you gentle”. Truly, Matthew’s Gospel may be described as the Gospel of gentleness.

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Paul too says that gentleness is an identifying quality of the Christian. In 2 Corinthians 10:1 he exhorts believers “I urge you by the gentleness and forbearance of Christ”. In Galatians 5:22 gentleness is considered one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the heart of believers and consists in being meek, moderate, slow to punish, kind and patient towards others. Again in Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:12 gentleness is an attitude that is part of the Christian and a sign of the new man in Christ.

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Finally, an eloquent witness comes from 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Your adornment should be not an exterior one, consisting of braided hair or gold jewellery or fine clothing, but the interior disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and peaceful spirit, so precious in the sight of God”.

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How does Jesus use the word “gentle”? A truly enlightening definition is the one given by the gentle person of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini “The gentle person, according to the beatitudes, is one who, in spite of the fervour of his/her feelings, remains docile and calm, not possessive, interiorly free, always extremely respectful of the mystery of freedom, imitating God in this respect who does everything with respect for the person, and urges the person to obedience without ever using violence. Gentleness is opposed to all forms of material or moral arrogance, it gains the victory of peace over war, of dialogue over imposition”.

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To this wise interpretation we add that of another famous exegete: “The gentleness spoken of in the beatitudes is none other than that aspect of humility that manifests itself in practical affability in one’s dealings with the other. Such gentleness finds its image and its perfect model in the person of Jesus, gentle and humble of heart. Truly, such gentleness seems to us like a form of charity, patient and delicately attentive towards others” (Jacques Dupont).

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The word enlightens me (to meditate)

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a) Am I able to accept those little signs of poverty in my regard? For instance, the poverty of poor health and little indispositions? Do I make exorbitant demands?

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b) Am I able to accept some aspect of my poverty and fragility?

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c) Do I pray like a poor person, as one who asks with humility the grace of God, his pardon and his mercy?

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d) Inspired by Jesus’ message concerning gentleness, do I renounce violence, vengeance and a vengeful spirit?

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e) Do I encourage, in families and in my place of work, a spirit of kindness, gentleness and peace?

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f) Do I pay back any small malice, insinuations or offensive allusions with evil?

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g) Do I look after the weakest who cannot defend themselves? Am I patient with old people? Do I welcome lonely strangers who are often exploited at work?

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To pray

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a) Psalm 23:

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The Psalm seems to rotate around the title “The Lord is my shepherd”. The saints are the image of the flock on the way: they are accompanied by the goodness and loyalty of God, until they finally reach the house of the Father (L.Alonso Schökel, I salmi della fiducia, Dehoniana libri, Bologna 2006, 54)

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Yahweh is my shepherd,
I lack nothing.

In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.

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Closing prayer:

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Lord Jesus, you show us the way of the beatitudes so that we may come to that happiness that is fullness of life and thus holiness. We are all called to holiness, but the only treasure of the saints is God. Your Word, Lord, calls saints all those who in baptism were chosen by your love of a Father, to be conformed to Christ. Grant, Lord, that by your grace we may achieve this conformity to Jesus Christ. We thank you, Lord, for the saints you have placed on our way and who manifest your love. We ask for your pardon if we have tarnished your face in us and denied our calling to be saints.

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http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-all-saints-matthew-51-12a

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We at Peace and Freedom often read the daily suggested readings or homilies in the booklet “Pondering the Word, The Anawim Way.” Today’s suggested reading in the “Anawim” includes Pope Francis’ Homily of 2 October 2013 at follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the Creed, after professing: “I believe in one Church”, we add the adjective “holy”; we affirm the sanctity of the Church, and this is a characteristic that has been present from the beginning in the consciousness of early Christians, who were simply called “the holy people” (cf. Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rom 8:27; 1 Cor 6:1), because they were certain that it is the action of God, the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the Church.

But in what sense is the Church holy if we see that the historical Church, on her long journey through the centuries, has had so many difficulties, problems, dark moments? How can a Church consisting of human beings, of sinners, be holy? Sinful men, sinful women, sinful priests, sinful sisters, sinful bishops, sinful cardinals, a sinful pope? Everyone. How can such a Church be holy?

1. To respond to this question I would like to be led by a passage from the Letter of St Paul to the Christians of Ephesus. The Apostle, taking as an example family relationships, states that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her” (5:25-26). Christ loved the Church, by giving himself on the Cross. And this means that the Church is holy because she comes from God who is holy, he is faithful to her and does not abandon her to the power of death and of evil (cf. Mt 16:18). She is holy because Jesus Christ, the Holy One of God (cf. Mk 1:24), is indissolubly united to her (cf. Mt 28:20); She is holy because she is guided by the Holy Spirit who purifies, transforms, renews. She is not holy by her own merits, but because God makes her holy, it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and of his gifts. It is not we who make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his love makes the Church holy.

2. You could say to me: but the Church is made up of sinners, we see them everyday. And this is true: we are a Church of sinners; and we sinners are called to let ourselves be transformed, renewed, sanctified by God. There has been in history the temptation for some to say: the Church is only the Church of the pure, the perfectly consistent, and expels all the rest. This is not true! This is heresy! The Church, that is holy, does not reject sinners; she does not reject us all; she does not reject because she calls everyone, welcomes them, is open even to those furthest from her, she calls everyone to allow themselves to be enfolded by the mercy, the tenderness and the forgiveness of the Father, who offers everyone the possibility of meeting him, of journeying toward sanctity.

“Well! Father, I am a sinner, I have tremendous sins, how can I possibly feel part of the Church? Dear brother, dear sister, this is exactly what the Lord wants, that you say to him: “Lord, here I am, with my sins”. Is one of you here without sin? Anyone? No one, not one of us. We all carry our sins with us. But the Lord wants to hear us say to him: “Forgive me, help me to walk, change my heart!”.

And the Lord can change your heart.

In the Church, the God we encounter is not a merciless judge, but like the Father in the Gospel parable. You may be like the son who left home, who sank to the depths, farthest from the Gospel. When you have the strength to say: I want to come home, you will find the door open. God will come to meet you because he is always waiting for you, God is always waiting for you, God embraces you, kisses you and celebrates.

That is how the Lord is, that is how the tenderness of our Heavenly Father is. The Lord wants us to belong to a Church that knows how to open her arms and welcome everyone, that is not a house for the few, but a house for everyone, where all can be renewed, transformed, sanctified by his love, the strongest and the weakest, sinners, the indifferent, those who feel discouraged or lost. The Church offers all the possibility of following a path of holiness, that is the path of the Christian: she brings us to encounter Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, especially in Confession and in the Eucharist; she communicates the Word of God to us, she lets us live in charity, in the love of God for all. Let us ask ourselves then, will we let ourselves be sanctified? Are we a Church that calls and welcomes sinners with open arms, that gives courage and hope, or are we a Church closed in on herself? Are we a Church where the love of God dwells, where one cares for the other, where one prays for the others?

3. A final question: what can I, a weak fragile sinner, do? God says to you: do not be afraid of holiness, do not be afraid to aim high, to let yourself be loved and purified by God, do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us be infected by the holiness of God. Every Christian is called to sanctity (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, nn. 19-42); and sanctity does not consist especially in doing extraordinary things, but in allowing God to act. It is the meeting of our weakness with the strength of his grace, it is having faith in his action that allows us to live in charity, to do everything with joy and humility, for the glory of God and as a service to our neighbour. There is a celebrated saying by the French writer Léon Bloy, who in the last moments of his life, said: “The only real sadness in life is not becoming a saint”. Let us not lose the hope of holiness, let us follow this path. Do we want to be saints? The Lord awaits us, with open arms; he waits to accompany us on the path to sanctity. Let us live in the joy of our faith, let us allow ourselves to be loved by the Lord… let us ask for this gift from God in prayer, for ourselves and for others.

https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20131002_udienza-generale.html