Posts Tagged ‘Mt 4:16’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 12, 2019 — “He must increase; I must decrease.”

January 11, 2019

Here John shows the essence of humility, which has many forms. In what ways do I exemplify humility?

Image result for Jesus and his disciples in Judea,, art, pictures

Detail of “The Charge to Peter” by James Tissot.

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Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 JN 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.
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Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a)  The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R.  Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JANUARY, 2019, Saturday after the Epiphany

THE JOY OF RECONCILING MAN WITH GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 JOHN 5:14-21PSALM 149:1-69JOHN 3:22-30 ]

Christmas celebrates the gift of God to us in the person of Jesus.  In assuming our humanity, Jesus reveals to us our identity as children of God.  Indeed, God became man so that man could become god.  However, many of us fail to recognize our dignity as children of God and as a consequence do not live as one.   This is because of sin.  Indeed, our sins prevent us from being conscious of our identity as sons and daughters of God.

St John in the first reading warns us of the danger of sin.  “Every kind of wrong-doing is sin, but not all sin is deadly.”  The truth is that a man begins by committing small sins.  If such things spring from his wounded nature and the manifestation of his human weakness, it is a venial sin.  Such sins are normally committed because of temptations and the weakness of the will to resist sin.   Such sins can be forgiven through prayers and the reception of the sacraments.  This is why, St John says, “If anybody sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner – not those who commit a deadly sin; for there is a sin that is death, and I will not say that you must pray about that.”

However, the sins that really destroy us are those deliberate sins which we purposefully seek to commit, knowing full well that it is a sin.  When such sins are planned and a person chooses to go against God’s will and hurt his neighbours, it is a serious sin leading to death.  Hence, we call them mortal sins.  St Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:23)  The truth is that one begins with a small sin and then we become more daring and commit bigger sins because our hearts and minds are clouded by our sins and selfishness.  After some time, what is sinful and serious is no longer felt in our conscience.  We become dead to sin and as the consequence of sin, we hurt ourselves more and more by hurting others.

Once we commit a serious sin, unless we repent and turn to God in contrition, it will lead to a repetition of our sins.  This is what the Lord warns us.  That is why a sin of lust will lead to another and more serious sin of lust. Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Mt 5:27f)  An act of anger will lead to revenge and eventually killing.  “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Mt 5:21f)

Prayers will help a person to grow in holiness and be attuned to the will of God.  “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”   St John is saying that Christ will hear our prayers if we pray in accordance with His will.  Indeed, all prayers are directed towards finding and doing the will of God.  Many of us think that prayer is to change the mind of God.  Rather, prayer is to align ourselves with His holy will, which is always best for us.  That is why, if our prayers are to be answered, we need to be obedient to His will.  Indeed, we must ask whatever the Lord wants of us.  Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  (Jn 14:13f) To ask in the name of Jesus is to ask everything for His sake and for the glory of His name.  Therefore, there is nothing more effective in growing in holiness than through prayers and intimacy with the Lord.

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Prayers will help us to know Jesus.  Knowledge of Jesus is the key to overcoming our sins because using our will is not sufficient because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  St Paul struggled with sin himself.  “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Rom 7:21-25)  Indeed, through our own strength alone, we cannot be delivered from sin except in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus’ love and mercy helps us to conquer sin, not out of fear of punishment but out of love for the Lord.

This is what St John meant when he wrote that if we are baptized, we will not sin.  “We know that anyone who has been begotten by God does not sin, because the begotten Son of God protects him, and the Evil One does not touch him.”  It does not mean that Christians can no longer sin.  What St John meant is that we do not sin deliberately because of God’s spirit in us.  But we will still sin out of weakness.  However, we do not fall into despair but continue to trust in the mercy of God, knowing that He has won victory over sin.  “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One. We know, too, that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.”   This is what baptism is all about.  We have Jesus in the gospel baptizing in the river Jordan.  To be baptized is to ask for forgiveness of our sins and most of all, to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus so that we can share in His sonship.

Today, like John the Baptist, we are called to direct sinners to the Lord.  Today, it is very difficult to convince people of the truth because of relativism.  We are bombarded with all kinds of philosophy and reasoning.  There is so much information and so many viewpoints on any issue that many of us are more confused than ever after reading all the different views.  We no longer know what is right or wrong anymore.  When reasoning and all arguments fail, the sure way to get people to accept Jesus is to lead them to Him.  If they know Jesus and if they fall in love with Him, then they will be able to see everything from the perspective of our Lord in the scriptures.  So instead of seeking to reason out with those who are disagreeable, although, it still might be necessary at times to defend our faith, yet, the better approach is through the testimony of our lives and our faith. Only through a life of holiness and faith in our Lord, can we convince others to come to Him so that He can be the Lord of their lives.

For this reason, we must pray for sinners even as we seek to reach out to them in compassion and love.  Our Lady, in all her apparitions, constantly urged us to repent and pray for sinners.  If words cannot change them, then prayers will change their hearts through God’s grace.  It is not enough just to pray for physical health and material needs.  If the body is important, how much more important is the soul because that soul is destined for eternal life.  We need to pray for the salvation of souls so that united with the Lord, they are saved for eternity, not just for this world.  If God answers prayers for material and physical needs, more so, He will hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners.

Indeed, like John the Baptist, great is our joy when we bring a sinner to Jesus to be reconciled with God.  “The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete.”  In bringing sinners back to God, we also save our own souls.  St James wrote, “My brothers and sisters, 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)  Indeed, like John the Baptist, we must be conscious of our role as mediator to Jesus.  Once that is done, we should move aside and not be an obstacle for others to come to know the Lord.  With John the Baptist, we say, “I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him. He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

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

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Reflection from Lectio Divina

Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus, after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created His own movement. He baptized  people  in the Jordan River when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

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• Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification,” that is, concerning the value of baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus.

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• John’s  response to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. He uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God. If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3:27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3:28). c) In the end, he uses a comparison taken from the wedding feast.

At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride, John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds. At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in Him the voice of their bridegroom! And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must increase, I must decrease!” This statement is also the program for anyone  who follows Jesus.

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• At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19:3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cf. Mt 3:1-2; 4:17). There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important.

The four Gospels are concerned about transmitting the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, John’s response, “He must increase but I must decrease” was valid not only for the disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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Homily By Pastor Mark Driscoll

How odd would it be if you attended a wedding in which the star of the show was one of the groomsmen? Imagine if he demanded to be at the center of the photos, stood in front of the pastor for the ceremony, cut the cake, and had the first dance.

That would be incredibly awkward and wrong. Why? Because that is not his place.

Humility literally means, “to know your place.” Being humble requires knowing and accepting your place. None of us can say we are humble, but we should seek to say that we are pursuing humility by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus started His ministry, John the Baptizer’s ministry began and got off to a rocket-ship launch. Before long, some of the people and leaders following John left him and started following Jesus instead. Some of John’s leaders were a bit miffed, so they brought their concerns to John. John’s response is amazing. In humility, he says that Jesus is the groom, the Church is the bride, and he was just the groomsman there to help – he’s not the star of the show.

The phenomenon of people leaving one ministry for another is nothing new. When someone transitions, some people immediately think it’s a bad thing and start to blame others. Sometimes the leader, ministry, or person leaving is tagged as bad.

John reveals that sometimes it is good for a person to transition from one ministry to another. Jesus and John the Baptizer were both good leaders with good ministries, and the people moving to Jesus’ ministry from John’s were seemingly good people. John rightly saw this as a good thing.

At the end of the day, people belong to God, not to the human leaders in a ministry. Sometimes, God moves people from one ministry to another because they are needed. This is precisely what John is saying – that the people were being sent by God to help Jesus, which is a good thing. This is a healthy model for handling transition in a godly way.

Are you more prone to encourage or criticize other ministries? If God calls you to move from one ministry to another, how can you do that in a healthy and godly way?

https://markdriscoll.org/he-must-increase-i-must-decrease/

Related:

More later….

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Bishops Describe Retreat With Father Raniero Cantalamessa

By Carol Zimmermann 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the weeklong retreat for U.S. Catholic bishops emphasized quiet reflection, several bishops spoke out on social media during the retreat and after it wrapped up Jan. 8 with positive reaction about it and to give shoutouts to the retreat leader, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has preached to popes and top officials of the Roman Curia for nearly 40 years.

One bishop said listening to Father Cantalamessa was akin to being in the presence of the early Christian theologians. “Clear, intensely filled with the Holy Spirit, and all for the Kingdom of God,” Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Boulette of San Antonio said in a tweet. “Let us continue to pray for one another, our church and our world. A blessing to be here!”

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the papal household, delivers the homily to U.S. bishops during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mundelein Seminary during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, tweeted that the retreat leader was a “true instrument of the Lord” and that the Holy Spirit was at work during the retreat.

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie, Pennsylvania, described Father Cantalamessa’s talks and homilies as “powerful and engaging.”

He tweeted that he was glad they had time to reflect and pray about their role as shepherds, stressing: “We must start there to be able to offer healing. I am taking this very seriously but feeling positive.”

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Mark W. O’Connell said it was a “truly blessed experience” to be on retreat with Father Cantalamessa and fellow U.S. bishops.

“The Holy Spirit was powerfully present, and I was quite moved,” he tweeted. He also thanked the pope for giving the bishops this gift.

Pope Francis suggested the bishops hold the retreat and offered the services of the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household since 1980. The time of prayer Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago was planned largely in response to last summer’s revelations of allegations of sex abuse that reached the highest levels of the U.S. church.

In a Jan. 8 column for Angelus News, the archdiocesan news outlet of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the bishops’ retreat leader focused “our attention on the vocation and responsibility of bishops in this moment in the church.”

“We are praying together as a visible sign of our unity as bishops and our communion with the Holy Father. There is a collegial spirit here and a firm commitment to address the causes of the abuse crisis we face and continue the work of renewing the church,” he added.

The archbishop said Father Cantalamessa asked them to “trust more in the Holy Spirit. We need to have confidence that we are always living in God’s loving presence.”

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services listens to the homily during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote a few blog posts about the retreat with some reflection about the retreat leader’s message.

 

He said they heard about the need to emphasize in their preaching the fundamental belief in Jesus before delving into his message and teachings.

He also said Father Cantalamessa emphasized the need to root out “love of money” and all that it implies, including material possessions, honor or power.

“If this pursuit for ‘money’ needs to be rooted out from our Christian lives, then we need to embrace a true spirit of detachment,” the bishop wrote, adding that he would add more to that topic in the days ahead.

The theme of the U.S. bishops’ retreat was “the mission of the apostles and of their successors” drawing from Mark 3:14, which says Jesus “appointed 12 — whom he also named apostles — that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach.”

Reflections from the retreat do not seem to be about the crisis in particular, maybe for a reason.

In an email to Catholic News Service weeks before the retreat, Father Cantalamessa said he would “not talk about pedophilia and will not give advice about eventual solutions; that is not my task and I would not have the competence to do so.”

“The Holy Father asked for my availability to lead a series of spiritual exercises for the episcopal conference so that the bishops, far from their daily commitments, in a climate of prayer and silence and in a personal encounter with the Lord, can receive the strength and light of the Holy Spirit to find the right solutions for the problems that afflict the U.S. church today,” he added.

In a Jan. 9 column for the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said the pope’s intention for the retreat went beyond “this particular moment or challenge facing us bishops.”

“We are not leaving this retreat with all the answers to the important questions facing the church in these days,” he wrote, but he said the bishops now have a renewed sense of the importance of taking their cues from “Christ’s spirit rather than our own efforts.”

Another blessing from the week, he said, was being drawn closer to each other and to the pope.

“I have no doubt that just as the early church relied on Peter’s unique ministry to meet the challenges of the day, so we will draw strength and insight from our unity with his successor,” he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

Source:https://cnstopstories.com/2019/01/10/bishops-describe-their-retreat-as-inspiring-spirit-filled/

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Prayer and Meditation, for Sunday, January 28, 2018 — “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” — Jesus cures a man with an unclean spirit — Finding the meaning of life outside of ourselves

January 27, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 71

Image may contain: 5 people

Jesus Drives Out An Evil Spirit From A Man In Capernaum

Reading 1 DT 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 1 COR 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

Alleluia MT 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light;
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death,
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MK 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
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From The Abbot at The Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

God’s authority in our daily lives is important.  Who speaks for God?  Do we want to listen to God?  Are we interested at all in finding the meaning of life outside of ourselves?  The challenges of the readings today keep pointing us outside of ourselves and toward a divine authority who wants to communicate with us but who will never force Himself upon us.

The first reading today, from the Book of Deuteronomy, is really strong.  God’s people have told God Himself that they do not want to hear His voice directly!  So God tells them that they will hear him now only through prophets.  But real prophets, not the fake ones.

We may think that there is something odd in not wanting to hear God, but so often we ourselves do not want to hear God in His Word, in His Scriptures and in His Church.  Yet at times, if a really strong and charismatic personality comes and is able to preach the Word of God, there are times when we listen.  We are no different from the people of the time of Moses!  We need prophets when we don’t listen to God.  We need also to listen to God’s words about false prophets—for they will die!

The second reading is from the First Letter to the Corinthians.  We are told that the unmarried person is able to be more concerned to listen to the Lord and to seek the Lord’s will.  This does not mean such an unmarried person is better than a married person or even that such an unmarried person will actually be more concerned about the things of the Lord.  Our holiness and our value before the Lord is in doing the Lord’s will and surely many married people are more concerned about the Lord than some unmarried.  On the other hand, it is clear that an unmarried person who truly seeks the Lord is able to be more concerned solely about the things of the Lord because of the lack of spouse and children.  The point, however, is always the same:  listen to the Lord!

The Gospel brings us back again to this them of listening to the Lord.  The people in the Gospel are totally amazed at Jesus and his power over unclean spirits.  They could see that Jesus spoke as a person having authority on His own.  But did the people of the Gospel follow the Lord?  Not always!  Even when the Word of God is right in front of us, we are still able to resist.  God has given us this freedom to choose and so often we choose against God and thus also against ourselves.

Let us pay attention today to the many ways that God comes into our lives.  Let us seek to be faithful to the voice of the Lord as it comes to us in Scripture and in the Church.  Let us pay attention to the things of God and rejoice when God sends us the strength to be faithful.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

Whenever people approach my priest friend, asking how they can be fee from suffering, he asks them: “When last did you go to Confesssion? And when last did you consume the Body of Christ at Mass?”

Many people are stunned.

The purpose of many religions is to help us find Peace and Freedom.

Anyone who looks around the world can see that there seems to be war, death and chaos all around.

Why isn’t the world more full of people cherishing Peace and Freedom?

Because human beings never lose their free will!

No matter how often our spiritual leaders suggest we follow the Word and the Will of God — many of us never “get it.”

So we suffer and are filled with anxieties and fear.

But the Scripture tells us “Do Not Be Afraid!”

Why can’t many of us FOLLOW.

Another priest friend tells us that many want to “put off until the last minute” their work on a spiritual life.

He always says to them, “WHY WAIT.”

We think cocaine might make us feel better than following Jesus. Yet scores of folks tell us we are wrong. Still, we have to know for ourselves.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Jesus saves. Jesus cures. Seeking Him always makes life better. WHY WAIT?

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 JANUARY, 2018, Sunday, 4th Week, Ordinary Time
TEACHING WITH AUTHORITY REQUIRES RIGHT MOTIVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 18:15-20PS 95:1-26-91 COR 7:32-35MARK 1:21-28 ]

Today, we look for witnesses rather than teachers.  Words are hardly trusted, especially from politicians and even religious leaders!  Children are distrustful even of their parents.  This is because many no longer believe in what they say.  In truth, many of us have lost our authority to teach.  Our words are no longer taken seriously by our hearers.  In fact, the credibility of leaders is at stake in today’s world.

This was equally true in the Old Testament during the time of the prophets.  There were many false prophets.  As Moses warned the people, “But the prophet who presumes to say in my name a thing I have not commanded him to say, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”  Indeed, there were many false prophets in the history of Israel.  The prophet Elijah sought to clean Israel of the false prophets of Baal.  (cf 1 Kg 18:20-40)  These false prophets often operated from selfish motives.  Their motivation was not to speak the Word of God but to gain favour from kings and countrymen.  They were prompted to say nice things and to say bad things in politically correct language so that no one got hurt or offended.

This was the case during time of Jesus.  The religious leaders, scribes and Pharisees lacked authority in teaching.  They taught for the wrong reasons.  But the people until then had no other option but to listen to them because there were no credible teachers around.  Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.”  (Mt 23:2-7)

However, Jesus showed us what it takes to be a true prophet or teacher.  It is having the right motive in what we do and what we say.   In the gospel, Jesus taught with authority and “his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught with authority.”  What was the reason?  Simply because Jesus taught from the depth of His heart.  He spoke what He believed in and what He was utterly convinced of.  He did not speak from His head but from His heart.  It was an inner conviction that came from the depth of His being.  Unlike Him, the religious leaders quoted from their forefathers, but Jesus would preface His teaching by saying, “You have heard it was said but now I say to you.”  Jesus as the Word of God did not need any reference for His teaching because He spoke the Word of the Father.   “For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.”  (Jn 12:49)

Secondly, Jesus performed the works of God for the right motive.   He did not perform miracles in order to draw attention to Himself.  He did it purely out of compassion and empathy for those who were suffering either from the bondage of the Evil One or from illnesses or from the oppression of the laws.   His motive for healing and deliverance were selfless.  In fact, when asked to demonstrate His power and majesty by working miracles, He would not, as in the case of King Herod who wanted to be entertained or the crowd who challenged Him to come down from the cross to prove His divinity.  In fact, whenever a miracle of healing was done, He would tell the one who was healed to tell no one about it.  “And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.”  (Mk 7:36)

This was also the case of the exorcism story in today’s gospel.  When the unclean spirit revealed Jesus’ identity, saying, “what do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God”, Jesus sharply said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Jesus wanted the people to discover for themselves who He was, rather than from a secondary source; and to learn the power of God in human lowliness, not in spectacular demonstrations.  Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love and mercy, not to put up a show.

This was the same motivation for St Paul when he encouraged celibacy.  It is not a question of whether celibacy is of a higher state than marriage.   In fact, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”  (Gn 2:18)  “And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’” (Gn 1:28)   Whether we live a married state or a celibate life, it is a question of having the right motivation in wanting to devote ourselves in serving the Lord totally.  He said,  “An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord’s affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord; but a married man has to bother about the world’s affairs and devote himself to pleasing his wife: he is torn two ways.”  One can be a celibate but live the life of a bachelor, caring for himself, seeking freedom for himself and not for the service of love of fellowmen and of undivided attention to the Lord.

Thirdly, because Jesus spoke from an inner conviction and without ulterior motive, the devil feared Himbecause he knew that Jesus could not be manipulated or be tempted to do God’s work for the wrong motive of gaining honour and praise.   Only when leaders do things out of pure motives and inner conviction can they command respect and obedience from the people they lead.  When leaders feed themselves or are concerned about their own image and interests, they will be exposed eventually.

This was the example that Moses showed as well.  That is why Jesus is portrayed in the New Testament as the New Moses by the evangelist.  In the first reading, he assured the people, “Your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves, from your own brothers; to him you must listen.”   The Lord said to Moses, “All they have spoken is well said. I will raise up a prophet like yourself for them from their own brothers; I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell all I command him. The man who does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, shall be held answerable to me for it.”  Moses became the measure of what a true prophet is.  Moses did not mince his words when he had to confront Pharaoh to let his people leave Egypt.  He did not keep quiet when the people apostasied, unlike Aaron who gave in to their wishes by making a golden calf for them.  (cf Ex 32)  Finally, when he was told that he would not be able to enter the Promised Land but see it from afar, he did not insist on crossing the river Jordan even though he had hoped to enter the Promised Land.

Thus it was said of Moses at the end of his life, “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Dt 34:10)  until the coming of Christ.  Jesus fulfilled the role preeminently of the prophet whom Moses spoke about. No one dared to claim this role, not even John the Baptist, for when he was asked by the Jewish leaders if he were “the prophet” the one that Moses announced, his reply was firmly negative. (cf  Jn 1:22)  But later on St Peter and St Stephen confirmed that Jesus was the one whom Moses prophesied.  St Peter quoted Moses saying, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren as he raised me up. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.”  (Acts 3:22; cf 7:37)

The secret of Jesus’ authority came from the fact that He, like Moses, saw the Father face to face.  It was Jesus’ intimacy with the Father that gave Him the courage to be authentic to Himself, for the Father loved Him as He was.  Jesus said, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  (Jn 10:37f)   Seeking to do the Father’s will in all things and giving glory to His Father was the motivation for Jesus’ works.  In many instances, He spoke of His desire to serve the Father.  “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.  (Jn 4:34)  “I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do. (Jn 17:4)   “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  (Jn 17:26)   Indeed, seeking the Lord alone and giving ourselves totally to Him and for His greater glory by serving His people with all our heart is what gives us true joy and meaning.  This is what a true prophet and teacher is, by his witnessing and not so much by his words.

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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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Related:
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While walking on the water, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” So why is everyone full of anxiety?
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 Many of us struggle with ego, false pride and self-esteem issues. Many of us constantly worry about money, our jobs, our future security, our health or health care.
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Yet Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.” Again and again the theme in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.”
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A basic teaching of Christianity is: With Jesus we are OK. Do not be afraid.
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“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
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In other words: stay in the present moment.
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How come we refuse to believe?
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It is interesting to me that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches newcomers to believe in what they were often taught as very young children — but they somehow refused or neglected to believe.
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The Twelve Steps of AA start with “We admitted that we were powerless…” The very start of AA suggests humility and self-abandonment. By the Third Step, alcoholics are taught to put all their trust in a Higher Power.
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Self-abandonment can also be thought of as surrender. Each of us knows in our heart when its time for that…
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Humility, self abandonment, trust in God and the “Christian way of life”  are the tonic used by patient, kind, forgiving, useful people to keep their lives in order.
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The readings also remind us today of an old friend, now gone to his heavenly reward, who often said, “God won’t give us more than is equal to the strengths of the gifts he has given us.” In other words, “Fear not, God is on our side.”
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I have come to ask myself at the start of each day: What are we seeking — and What are we using to get there?
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Third Step Prayer:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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Our Thanks to Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R. — His books can be very helpful if you are seeking God in your life …..

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The most frequently said line in the Bible may be “do not be afraid.” So why is everyone complaining about anxiety and depression? No person of faith need ever die of suicide, depression or addiction…. But we have to remember: We are ETERNAL spiritual beings with a physical part. We are not physical beings alone. In fact, our physical part may be the smallest and the shortest…. Nurturing our spiritual life often makes everything better. More peaceful. More free.

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, February 1, 2015 — Be free of anxieties; Do not be afraid

January 31, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 71

Reading 1 Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.’”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

R. (8) If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”
R. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Reading 2 1 Cor 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

Alleluia Mt 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light;
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death,
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue (Jésus dans la synagogue déroule le livre) by Tissot

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Gospel Mk 1:21-28

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Jesus Unrolls the Book in the Synagogue (Jésus dans la synagogue déroule le livre) by Tissot

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Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

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Homily from the Abbot
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,
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The connection between the first reading today and the Gospel is so very strong. Moses, in the first reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy,tellsthepeople that God Himself will raise up a prophet for them, one who is their own relative and one to whom they should listen. We who follow Jesus come to recognize that He, Jesus, is the fulfillment of this prophecy–and even more than we could have imagined. He is our relative, a human like us in all things except sin. He shares our humanity with us and speaks to us about God. The challenge–and this also comes from Deuteronomy, is to listen to Him and to follow His words.The Gospel of Mark today tells us about Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum. Jesus teaches as one having authority and the people recognize that immediately. Even more, Jesus commands unclean spirits and they obey Him. This scares the people and they are no longer certain that Jesus comes from God. They have become accustomed to a safe practice of their faith and the actions of Jesus begin to challenge their sense of security.Jesus challenges us! Faith in God is not about being secure. Faith in God is about having a living relationship with God, a personal relationship–and because of that relationship, doing the will of God in every aspect of our life. Far too often we hope that if we just do the right things, we can somehow achieve salvation. We need to become acutely aware of the difference between performing actions to appease God and acting out of a deep, personal relationship with the living God.The second reading, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, shows us the advice of Saint Paul. This is advice to people about how to live. Saint Paul wants the followers of Jesus to be free of anxiety and so counsels chaste celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom. We know that Saint Paul never imposed chaste celibacy as a requirement. Rather, Saint Paul counsels women and men that chaste celibacy might be a better way to live in order to give one’s energies to the living God. Counsel to others is to help them seek God with all their being. Counsel is to help others live fully because of their personal relationship with God.

The Christian traditional recognizes both chaste celibates and married women and men as saints: those who have followed God as completely as possible in this life. When we read an honest life of a saint, we begin to understand a bit what it means to live out of a deep, personal relationship with God.

God has raised up a prophet for us, Jesus the Christ. God has given us His own Son to be our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is this Jesus who challenges us today to see His presence in our world and to respond with our whole being to that presence. You and I can convert the whole world, if we live from that relationship.

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http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

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.Art: Jesus casts out the Devil by Carl Bloch
http://www.carlbloch.com/php/artwork.php?artwork=982
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Commentary on Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28 from Living Space

ON THE PAST TWO SUNDAYS we have seen Jesus baptised, he has announced the meaning and purpose of his work and he has called his first disciples. In today’s Mass we see him beginning that work.

The words of Deuteronomy (First Reading) are being fulfilled. “Yahweh your God will raise up a prophet… from among yourselves, from your own brothers; to him you must listen.” Jesus has appeared, a Jew of Palestine like all those around him. And he is a prophet. Not in the current sense of someone who can foretell the future but rather as one who speaks the word of God. For that reason, he should be listened to.

A day in the life…

Today’s passage from Mark is really the beginning of a busy day (and night) for Jesus in which are contained, one might say, all the main characteristics of his public life. He joins in public worship, he teaches, he heals, he drives out evil spirits – and he prays privately. There is also the astounded reaction of the ordinary people.

(In Mark’s gospel we find three kinds of people, all of whom react differently to Jesus – his own disciples, the religious leaders, and the ordinary people. Usually, it is only the ordinary people who come off with any credit and insight.)

This first reported day in Jesus’ public life is a Sabbath day. And we find Jesus with his fellow townsmen in the synagogue. It is important for us to realise that Jesus was a practising Jew and he normally observed the requirements of the Jewish faith, as did his disciples even after the resurrection. He never criticised that faith. What he did criticise were what he saw as distortions, hypocrisies and other corrupting elements. Jesus’ message is, as he says himself in Matthew, not an abrogation of the Jewish faith but carrying it to its logical fulfilment (Matthew 5:17).

In the synagogue

The synagogue service was basically a Scripture and prayer service. There was no sacrifice; that was confined to one place, the Temple in Jerusalem. Most Jews very seldom went to the Temple for the simple reason that, for most of them, it was too far away. We see Jesus apparently going there about once a year or, like his compatriots, for some of the major feasts.

However, on every Sabbath (Saturday to us) they went to their local synagogue for common worship and prayer. The service was simple: some prayers, reading from the Scripture (the Hebrew or Old Testament, of course) and someone preached. There were no formal clergy or priests in the synagogue. (Again, these were confined to the Temple; John the Baptist’s father was one of them. It is only when Jesus goes to Jerusalem that he comes in confrontation with them. They are not to be confused with either the Pharisees or the Scribes.)

In the synagogue, then, anyone could be invited to get up and preach. On this particular Sabbath day, Jesus was invited. Perhaps he already had a name as a speaker. In any case, as soon as he opens his mouth the people feel immediately that here is someone who is different.
When the Scribes, the experts in the Law, preached, they were primarily explaining the given meaning of the Jewish Law in the sacred books. But when Jesus spoke it was with ‘authority.’ Somehow the people realised that he was not giving out someone else’s teaching. He was giving out his own. As we hear it in Matthew’s gospel: “You have heard it said … but I say…”

A man possessed

But Jesus not only spoke with authority. He also acted with authority. Right there as he spoke there was a man with an ‘evil spirit.’ What exactly does that mean? Have you ever encountered a person with an ‘evil spirit’? Have you ever met a so-called ‘possessed’ person? We need to remember that in the time of Jesus, people believed that the world was full of spirits – some good, some bad. They were everywhere and could attack people in all kinds of ways. You could even ask that evil spirits attack other people, for instance, people you wanted to take revenge on.

This is by no means a thing of the past. Such beliefs are still very much alive in many parts of the world, not least in parts of Southeast Asia e.g. Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines. Even in sophisticated ‘developed’ societies it is often difficult to find someone who will walk calmly through a cemetery in the dark. Amid the glass and steel skyscrapers of Hong Kong and Singapore, how careful people are in choosing a wedding date or how anxious they are about the fung shui, the propitious orientation of their house or office.

In the time of Jesus, if any person was sick, or acted in an ‘abnormal’ way, they were said to have an evil spirit. It was natural to think that people such as epileptics, spastics, mentally disturbed people were the victims of some force that had invaded their bodies. Because of the spirit, people seemed to lose control of their speech and movements. The spirit had taken over. Were these evil spirits real? It is difficult to say. Obviously, some would have a simple medical diagnosis today. But one does meet people in some parts of the world who are convinced that there are forms of possession. The point is that they were healed, made whole again, by Jesus and liberated from their affliction.

The evil spirits of our own day

That there are evil forces in our world today is difficult to deny. Some of the appalling sufferings that people are made to endure by the inhuman behaviour of individuals and groups are hard to explain otherwise. And, while we often look on helpless, somehow we are part of it ourselves.

What is important is that, in the time of Jesus, people really believed in the existence of all kinds of forces. These forces were the source of great and even paralysing fears. What Jesus does is to liberate people from their fears. It was not the evil spirit that was the problem so much as the victim’s fear of that spirit. It is not objective reality that limits our freedom and effectiveness but the way it is seen by us. (Have you ever tried the trick of putting a rubber snake in a friend’s bed and waited for the reaction? What made them scream? The piece of rubber? Or their fear?)

Jesus shows no fear in the face of the spirit in the synagogue. “Be quiet! Come out of him!” The man is thrown into convulsions but he is free. And what is really important is that he feels free.

What are our fears? What spirits are we afraid of? What are the things, the persons, the places which prevent us from doing what we really want to do, from being the person we really want to be? It is important that we identify our fears and that we see them within ourselves and not simply blame others for them. Once we recognise them within ourselves, we can ask Jesus to help us drop them. Let us put ourselves under his authority and he will liberate us.

The people in the synagogue are simply astounded. “Here is teaching that is new and with authority behind it. He gives orders even to unclean spirits – and they obey him.” No wonder his name rapidly becomes known all over the countryside. (The rural grapevine works faster than any fax machine!)

Jesus, a man of authority

We can see here how powerfully Mark presents the impact that Jesus makes. His work of salvation has begun. The Kingdom of God is near when he acts like this. People experience the power. But what kind of power is it?

It is the power of authority. The word authority comes from a Latin verb augere, which means to make something increase. Its root can be found in words like ‘authority,’ ‘author.’ Its root is also found in the English verb ‘to wax’ (as the moon ‘waxes’ and wanes).

So real authority is not just, as we often interpret it, having power over people so that we can make them do what we want them to do. Genuine authority is the ability to en-able people, to em-power them. To enable them to transcend themselves, to grow as persons, to be more effective in the development and use of their innate gifts.

Authority as service

This is the kind of authority which Jesus wields. Jesus did not come to rule and control people. He came, he said, not to be served but to serve. He came, above all, to make people free. So that in their freedom, they could generate all the productive and growth energies within them and be alive with the life of God within them. He freed them from all the ‘evil spirits’ of fear, compulsions, narrow self-centredness, anger, resentment, hostility and violence which prevent people from truly enjoying the experience of being alive. “I have come that they may have life, life in abundance.”

How sad it is then that so many people see being faithful to the Christian faith as a burden to be sloughed off so that they can be “free” of oppression and limitation. To what extent is the Church responsible for giving this image which is such a contradiction of the Gospel message?

So, let us all pray today that Jesus, with his growth-inducing authority will be a real source of liberation for us. May he free us from all those spirits which make us deaf, dumb, blind and lame in life – and paralysed by fear.

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/OB041/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection.Sequence of the Gospels of the days of this week. Yesterday’s Gospel informed us concerning the first activity of Jesus: he called four persons to form the community with them (Mk 1, 16-10). Today’s Gospel describes the admiration of people before the teaching of Jesus (Mt 1, 21-22) and the first miracle when he expels the devil (Mk 1, 23-28). The Gospel of tomorrow narrates the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mk 1, 29-31), the healing of many sick persons (Mk 1, 32-34) and the prayer of Jesus in an isolated place (Mk 1, 35-39). Mark gathers all these episodes which had been transmitted orally in the communities and he joins them together like bricks of one only wall. In the years 70’s, the year in which he writes, the Communities needed orientation. By describing how Jesus began his activity, Mark indicates what they should do and how, to announce the Good News.

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Mark gives them a catechesis, by telling the Communities the events of the life of Jesus.

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Jesus teaches with authority, differently from the way the Scribes do it. The first thing that the people perceive is the diverse way in which Jesus teaches. It is not so much the content, but rather the way in which he teaches that impresses the people. For this reason, by his different way, Jesus creates a critical conscience in people concerning the religious authority of that time.

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The people perceive, they compare and says: He teaches with authority, in a way different from the way the Scribes do it. The Scribes of that time taught quoting the authority. Jesus does not quote any authority, but he speaks beginning with his experience of God and of his life. His word is rooted in the heart..

You have come to destroy us! In Mark, the first miracle is the expulsion of the devil. Jesus struggles and expels the power of evil which takes possession of persons and alienated them from themselves. The man possessed by the devil shouts: “I know who you are: You are the Holy One of God!” The man repeated the official teaching which presented the Messiah as the “Holy One of God”, that is as a High Priest, or like a King, Judge, Doctor or General.

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Even today also, many people live alienated from themselves, deceived by the power of mass media, means of communication, by propaganda of business. They repeat what they hear others say. They live as slaves of consumerism, oppressed by the power of money, threatened by debtors. Many think that their life is not as it should be if they cannot buy what the propaganda announces and recommends.

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Jesus rebuked the evil spirit: “Be quiet! Come out of him!” The spirit threw the man into convulsions, and with a loud cry went out of him. Jesus restores the person to himself. He gives him back his conscience and his liberty. He makes the person recover his complete judgment (cf. Mk 5, 15). Then it was not easy, it was not easy yesterday, it is not easy today to do in such a way that a person begins to think and to act in a way diverse from the official ideology.

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A new teaching! He commands even the evil spirits. The first two signs of the Good News are these: his different way of teaching the things of God, and his power over evil spirits. Jesus opens a new road in order that people can attain purity. At that time, a person who was declared impure could not present himself/herself before God to pray and to receive the blessing promised by God to Abraham. He/she should first purify himself/herself. These and many other laws and norms made the life of people very difficult and marginalized many persons who were considered impure, far from God. Now, purified by the contact with Jesus, persons could present themselves before God. This was for them a great Good News!

Personal questions

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Could I really say: “I am fully free, master of myself? If I cannot say it of myself, then something in me is possessed by other powers. What do I do to expel this strange power?

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Today many people do not live, but are lived. Do not think, but they are thought by the means of communication, by mass media. Do not have a critical mind or way of thinking. They are not masters of themselves. How can this “devil” be expelled?

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Concluding prayer

Yahweh our Lord, how majestic is your name throughout the world!

What are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him? (Ps 8,1.4)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-mark-121b-28

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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EXERCISING THE GIFT OF PROPHECY AUTHENTICALLY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: DT 18:15-20; 1 COR 7:32-35; MARK 1:21-28
http://www.universalis.com/20150201/mass.htm

One of the greatest challenges in our times today is the lost of credibility of religious leaders.  People in the world today are skeptical of religious leaders.  They no longer trust them.  The loss of credibility is of course related to that of authority.  However, the authority of a leader today can no longer rest on institutional authority, not even academic authority but personal authority.  Indeed, in the gospel, we have Jesus who taught with authority.  The evangelist noted that “his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught with authority.”

As priests and leaders today we are called to teach with authority.  In the first reading, the Lord said to the people, “I will raise up a prophet like yourself for them from their own brothers; I will put my words into his mouth and he shall tell all I command him. The man who does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, shall be held answerable to me for it.”  Indeed, the Word of God often comes to us through the prophets that He sends to us.  It could be our siblings, parents, friends or Church. God sends prophets to help and enlighten us.  The task of the prophet is to speak the Word of God.  But how can we speak the Word of God in such a way that even the demons fear us?

What is the basis of Jesus’ authority?  Jesus must have taught with such personal conviction and authority that the people came to believe Him for they knew that He spoke from the depths of His heart and His relationship with the Father.  The authority of Jesus did not come from education but from His personal relationship with His Father.  This explains why He could preach with such authority since He spoke from His personal experience and not from some books that He studied or traditions passed down to Him as was the case of the scribes and the Pharisees.

Secondly, the basis of His authority lies in the actions.  Jesus did not only preach the Word of God but established that He has the Word of God by the way He commanded the Demon to leave the man.  When the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him, they said, “Here is a teaching that is new,” they said, “and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.”  Being a true prophet is more than just proclaiming the Word of God but living out the Word of God in one’s daily life.  Without living the Word of God, our preaching cannot inspire people for long, for they know that we are not being sincere with what we say.  Hence, the prophet not only teaches and proclaims, but in the final analysis, a true prophet can be distinguished from a false prophet by the way He conducts his life, the way he relates with others and the way he shows his devotion to God.

Jesus gives us the true model of a prophet.  He never acted out of selfish motivation.  He did not use His Divine Power for His own benefit but always for the good of His people.  He worked miracles only to express His compassion and love for them.  He never worked miracles for Himself.  In the gospel, Jesus demonstrated His compassion for the man who was possessed by the demon.  He was in deep sorrow that the man was suffering and afflicted by the demon.  Hence, in a stern command, He ordered the demon to “Be quiet! Come out of him!”  Jesus’ only concern was to do His Father’s will, and be at the service of His people.  We too must exercise the gift of prophecy in this manner, never for ourselves or to use the Word of God to get people to do the things we want them to do, but rather solely for their good and their good alone. 

How can we teach with the same authority of Jesus?  We need to give undivided attention to the Lord.  This is what St Paul is urging us.  St Paul’s letter must be read within contextHe was not condemning marriage life or disdaining the beauty of marriage.  The bible sanctifies marriage and Christ even raised it to a sacrament, the sign of God’s love.  But it was said in context in view of the nearness of the Second Coming of Christ.  Surely, one can devote oneself to God whether we are married or single.  It is a question of focus in what we do.  Are we doing everything for the Lord or for ourself?  What is our motivation?  Even choosing the single state of life can be for selfish reasons because we only want to love ourselves and not be responsible to others. We want to have our freedom and enjoyment.  Marriage also can be entered into for selfish reasons too, not so much to love our spouse or even to have children but purely for security.

So St Paul is not advocating marriage singlehood, but that we do everything for the Lord and His people.  If we devote what we do regardless of whether we are doing work within the or outside the Church, so long as we are doing for the glory of God and for His service, we are certainly focused.  The only problem is when we forget that we are serving the Lord and this can well happen even whilst serving in Church ministry.  This is why St Paul urges us to have singularity of purpose in life.  If we are divided within ourselves, we cannot hope to find peace and joy.  So long as there is division within us, so long as we are being torn by two desires, it would be impossible to find peace and integrity. 

Undivided attention to the Lord means first and foremost giving time to Him in prayer and intimacy.   We must cultivate a personal relationship with the Father through Jesus in the Spirit.  We cannot rely on institutional authority or on our office or even our theological knowledge.  Unless we know the Father intimately, we can speak with authority.  Only when we speak with a personal knowledge of the Father, can we also act with authority like Jesus, such that not only were people impressed by Him but even the devil obeyed Him.  Otherwise, not even our listeners will listen to us, much less the demons!

Undivided attention also means that we must be imbued with the Word of God.  Precisely because we are torn between worldly affairs and selfish needs, we need to hear the Word of God so that we do not lose focus in what we do in life.  To find direction and purpose in life, we must first be enlightened by the Word of God as to how we should direct our lives and live it in accordance with the gospel.  This was what the Lord told the people of Israel when they were unfaithful to the Covenant.  The psalmist says, “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.” 

Unless we know the Lord personally, we cannot hear His words clearly for us and for His people.  Otherwise, we can even become false prophets and the Lord warns us, “But the prophet who presumes to say in my name a thing I have not commanded him to say, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” We must be careful that whilst exercising the gift of prophecy, we must also be clear of our motives, otherwise not only will we harm others but we will also cause harm to ourselves.  True prophets therefore must seek to live holy lives and be attentive to His word at prayer so that they can truly speak the Word of God and not their own ideas or worse still, use and manipulate the Word of God for their personal benefits and interests.  It is a great sin to use the Word of God especially to attack people for personal reasons.  At any rate, our listeners will know that we speak from our own agenda rather than the voice of God.  As sheep, they know the voice of a true shepherd that cares for them and not for himself. 

If we are attentive to the Word of God, it will help us to discern and diagnose the cause of our unhappiness and misery.  Listening to the Word enables us to enter into the depths of our souls, unmask the true motives of what we do and the fears that prompt us to take certain actions or follow certain directions in life.  Many of our sins and illnesses spring from unconscious motives.  A true prophet is not only responsible for helping people to discern right from wrong but to urge the good to be better and even to challenge those who are good for the wrong reasons.  It is not enough to come to consciousness of our flagrant sins but to discern whether we are doing the right thing for the right reasons.  Do we use God and religion for our benefit or really for the glory of God and for the service of His people?  Is our work really a service to our country and our family or merely for our selfish interests and aspirations?  Those of us who serve in the Church or in public service and voluntary organizations must enter deeper into the motives of what they do.  The necessity of living an authentic life is paramount in preventing us from hurting ourselves through repeated and reactive sins.

Finally, true prophets are not only of words but of deeds.  In our very life, let us seek to do His Will, to strive to live out what we preach so that our very lives become a demonstration of the power of God at work in us.  Let our very lives glorify God and be prophetic in itself.  When others see how we live out what we preach, they will then listen to what we say; and through listening, they can be enlightened and begin the process of their own healing through our words and testimony of the power of God at work in us and the liberating truth of the Word of God. We need to have prophets today who are courageous in proclaiming the Word of God.  However, it is not enough to proclaim the Word of God, it must be done with authority, personal, institutional and academic authority.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/1-february-2015-4th-sunday-in-ordinary-time/#sthash.bxI0IkNY.dpuf

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