Posts Tagged ‘mustard seed’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 30, 2018 — Make the Kingdom of God Present

July 29, 2018

This wicked people who refuse to obey my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods to serve and adore them …

are good for nothing….

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Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 401

Reading 1 JER 13:1-11

The LORD said to me: Go buy yourself a linen loincloth;
wear it on your loins, but do not put it in water.
I bought the loincloth, as the LORD commanded, and put it on.
A second time the word of the LORD came to me thus:
Take the loincloth which you bought and are wearing,
and go now to the Parath;
there hide it in a cleft of the rock.
Obedient to the LORD’s command, I went to the Parath
and buried the loincloth.
After a long interval, the LORD said to me:
Go now to the Parath and fetch the loincloth
which I told you to hide there.
Again I went to the Parath, sought out and took the loincloth
from the place where I had hid it.
But it was rotted, good for nothing!
Then the message came to me from the LORD:
Thus says the LORD:
So also I will allow the pride of Judah to rot,
the great pride of Jerusalem.
This wicked people who refuse to obey my words,
who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts,
and follow strange gods to serve and adore them,
shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.
For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins,
so had I made the whole house of Israel
and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD;
to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.
But they did not listen.

Responsorial PsalmDEUTERONOMY 32:18-19, 20, 21

R. (see 18a) You have forgotten God who gave you birth.
You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you,
You forgot the God who gave you birth.
When the LORD saw this, he was filled with loathing
and anger toward his sons and daughters.
R. You have forgotten God who gave you birth.
“I will hide my face from them,” he said,
“and see what will then become of them.
What a fickle race they are,
sons with no loyalty in them!”
R. You have forgotten God who gave you birth.
“Since they have provoked me with their ‘no-god’
and angered me with their vain idols,
I will provoke them with a ‘no-people’;
with a foolish nation I will anger them.”
R. You have forgotten God who gave you birth.

AlleluiaJAS 1:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:31-35

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”He spoke to them another parable.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.

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“No life is complete without pain, suffering and death.” — Viktor Frankl
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First Thought From Peace and Freedom
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St. Ignatius of Loyola believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God-centered and less self-centered existence.
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Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by Ignatius to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
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Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
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When the Big Book was first published, Fr. Eddie Dowling bought a copy in St. Louis to read. He was so taken by the book, he took the train to New York City to meet Bill Wilson, whom people said had written the book. When Fr. Dowling met Bill W. he asked him, “Where did you get all this Ignatian teaching?”
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For indeed, we too start as small as mustard seeds….
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Parable of the Mustard Seed
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The interpretation of the parable lies almost on the surface. Here again the sower is the Son of Man; but the seed in this case is not so much the “word,” as the Christian society, the Church, which forms, so to speak, the firstfruits of the word. As it then was, even as it was on the day of Pentecost, it was smaller than any sect or party in Palestine or Greece or Italy. It was sown in God’s field of the world, but it was to grow till it became greater than any sect or school, a tree among the trees of the forest, a kingdom among other kingdoms (comp. the imagery of Ezekiel 31:3Daniel 4:10), a great organised society; and the “birds of the air” (no longer, as before, the emblems of evil)—i.e., the systems of thought, institutions, and the like, of other races—were to find refuge under its protection. History has witnessed many fulfilments of the prophecy implied in the parable, and those who believe that the life of Christendom is an abiding life will look for yet more.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 JULY, 2018, Monday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time
A CHURCH THAT REACHES OUT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [JER 13:1-11DT 32:18-21MT 13:31-35  ]

What does it mean to be “church”?  The Church is an assembly of believers.  But the Church does not exist for herself.  She comes together so that the Church could be the light of the World and the salt of the earth.  The Church by its very nature is missionary and outward going.  The Church exists for the world and to bring all into fellowship with the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit so that we all can become one family of God united in love and peace.

Today’s parables in the gospel speak of the two-fold nature of the Church, one is inward and the other is outward.  In the first parable of the mustard seed, the Lord described the Church as the budding of the Kingdom of God.  The Church is not identical with the Kingdom of God but she seeks to make the Kingdom of God present in her. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it is grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.”

The Church therefore is called to be a visible body in the world.  She is to be the tree so that all can come and take shelter in it.  Indeed, the Church exists for the world, to draw people to Christ.  As the Lord said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Mt 11:28-30)  She is an oasis for those who yearn for God, those who need to be refreshed and strengthened.  She is a hospital for those who are sick, wounded spiritually and emotionally or discouraged in life.  Indeed, the Church is for all those who are weary and seeking consolation.

She is the Light of the World.  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Mt 5:14)  The Church as the Body of Christ therefore seeks to give direction and purpose to those who are seeking the meaning of life by leading them to the truth and growing in authentic love. St Paul described it as “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”  (1 Tim 3:15)

However, the Church cannot be inward-looking, simply attending to the needs of her members, as if it is an exclusive club.  The Church must be out in the world, immersed in the lives of people, whether they are believers or not.  This is what the Lord meant when He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a women took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.”  As yeast, we are called to be a transforming agent in the world.  Christians must therefore be involved in the lives of people.  They cannot isolate themselves from the rest of society if they are to be a transforming agent in society.  That is why the proper mission of the laity is in the world.  The laity is called to be the salt of the earth.  (cf Mt 5:13)  They are to make the presence and love of Christ present in society.  If today the world is so secularized, it is because Christians have failed to evangelize the world.  Either we change the world to become more Christ-like or we allow the world to transform us.  To be the yeast is to transform society by our participation in the lives of the people in the social, economic, political and cultural fields.

In the light of how Jesus described the nature of the Kingdom of God, which the Church is called to be, we must therefore examine how we as Catholics, both as individuals and as a collective body, whether as a diocese, parish or organization, function as Church.  Can we honestly say that our Church has shown itself to be the shelter for the lonely, the troubled, the lost and the marginalized?  In fact, we seem to be offering our services to those who are healthy, those who are well off, and those who do not give us trouble or make themselves a nuisance.  We come to serve the healthy, not so much the weak.  But this is contrary to what the Lord asks of us.  “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  (Mt 9:12f)

Jesus demonstrated this reaching out to the sick and lost in His ministry.   “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  (Mt 9:35-36)  If we have not shown ourselves to be a compassionate, tolerant, forgiving and all-embracing Church, then we have failed in our calling to be the light to the world.  If we claim to be that light of Christ to the world, then we need to ask whether our community is growing not just in strength and in numbers but in depth.  If we have been a light in the world, why is it that in an average parish of 6000 Catholics, we have hardly forty adult baptisms a year?  Where is the impact of our witnessing?

Secondly, in terms of outreach in society, again we need to ask whether as a Church we are reaching out to those living around us, in our parish boundary or even beyond.  There is a danger of us being too parochial-minded to the extent that we have lost our real purpose as Church.  Some Catholics are very contented to just build up their parish, their church organizations and their neighbourhood groups.  It is about growing their church, making it vibrant and active.  Of course it is necessary to grow the faith of the members, but it must be for the sake of mission. Otherwise, it would be like building an enclave without any real interaction with people outside the church.   Such a church is self-centered, self-seeking and cares more for herself than the world.

When we do not take the trouble to invite our friends and our neigbours to church, or to join us for our social and cultural activities, then we are not acting as a transforming agent of society.  Just focusing on ourselves, our needs and our growth without caring for the larger community, seeking to know them, establishing friendships, mutual understanding and respect, and even working together on social projects, is to have failed in our service to the bigger community.  Most of our parish projects and activities are targeted only at our parishioners.  There is a lack of consciousness of the obligation to reach out beyond the confines of their parish.  The parish cannot just take care of herself, neglecting the larger Church, the needs of the diocese, the larger society within their parish and the nation at large.  So to be a transforming agent, as a parish, a church, a diocese and as individuals, we must make it a point to make new contacts who are not Catholic so that we can share the Good News with them in words and in deeds and, most of all, by our exemplary life of dedication to our work, to the poor and the suffering.

Today, the first reading reminds us that we are the “loincloth” of the Lord.  The loincloth is the most intimate part of a man’s clothing.  It is like our underwear.  Israel was supposed to be God’s loincloth.  Instead, the loincloth was hidden in a hole in a rock.  Jeremiah was instructed to retrieve it after some time. “I searched, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. The loincloth was spoilt, good for nothing.”  Indeed, when we keep our faith hidden from others, we will become that loincloth, good for nothing.  This was what happened to Israel.  The Lord says, “I will spoil the arrogance of Judah and Jerusalem. This evil people who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the dictates of their own hard hearts, who have followed alien gods, and served them and worshipped them, let them become like this loincloth, good for nothing.”

This parable also reminds us that if we do not keep ourselves close to the Lord, like the loincloth, we will lose our fervor for the mission, and our intimacy with Him.  By not staying close with the Lord, we will end up inward- looking, self-centred and caring for our interests rather than the Lord’s flock.  “For just as a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I had intended the whole House of Judah to cling to me to be my people, my glory, my honour and my boast. But they have not listened.”

Indeed, let us not forget our calling to be God’s instruments of peace and love, not just to our brothers and sisters but also to all peoples who are seeking peace, love and truth.  The psalmist warns us, “You forget the Rock who begot you, unmindful now of the God who fathered you. The Lord has seen this, and in his anger cast off his sons and his daughters. ‘I shall hide my face from them,’ he says ‘and see what becomes of them. For they are a deceitful brood, children with no loyalty in them.”   Grateful that the Lord has chosen us to be His children, we must now invite the rest of humanity to acknowledge Him as their Lord, God and Father.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 17, 2018 — “For we walk by faith, not by sight”

June 16, 2018

We need to spend some time with the Lord, listening to His words, and wondering what the words mean.  When we do this, we begin to understand Jesus and the Kingdom.

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I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree … Ezekiel

Sounds like: “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 92

Reading 1 EZ 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. (cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

Reading 2 2 COR 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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People used to talk a lot about extrasensory perception or ESP, also called sixth sense or second sight. That’s the powerful feeling about where to go, what to do and how to proceed.
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Christians would be more comfortable talking about the Holy Spirit — a God centered type of guidance system informed by scripture, prayer and even God Himself.
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After all, ESP could be fueled by heroin or cocaine… or lust, selfishness, greed or maybe anger.
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God wants us to choose the right path.
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“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
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There will be an accounting. And to reach a life that will “pass muster,” we start as small as a mustard seed and try to grow in the way of the Lord.
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This takes work and prayer and dedication.
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Our choice is to pick God’s Way or the Highway.
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But remember, the Highway is full of disorder even if we manage to avoid the worst of it — the opiates, prostitutes and the rest.
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God’s way, even with the required work, is still easier than the Highway — especially when it’s time to give our accounting!
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Reflection By The Abbot, Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Parables!  Jesus is often speaking to us in parables.  Often we don’t spend enough time thinking about the parables, about the images that He gives us.  We need to spend some time with the Lord, listening to His words, and wondering what the words mean.  When we do this, we begin to understand Jesus and the Kingdom.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel.  We have many images in this reading.  However, the message is clear:  “All the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”  The message is simple:  God is God and we humans are not God and cannot control our world or anything in it.  We have the appearance of control, but the world spins out of control when we humans no longer respect God nor respect the ways of God for us.  This has happened over and over in human history and we humans seem incapable of learning the lesson:  follow the Lord and life is very good!  Abandon the Lord and life becomes unbearable.

The second reading is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  The small passage that we read today repeats the lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel:  “We walk by faith, not by sight.”  When we walk by faith, we listen to the Word of God and strive to form our lives by that Word.  If we walk by sight, we no longer believe in the Lord because the present world tells us that God is not necessary, is only a foolish thought of humans, and that life is much better without God.

Once again we are confronted with the truth:  With God there is mercy!  Without God, all becomes useless and without meaning.  The only meaning without God is the human being.  The human being is always fickle, always seeking its own good, always looking for please and wealth and power.  As our world continues to abandon God, we can expect worse things yet to happen.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint Mark and brings us back to parables and images.  What is the Kingdom of God like, Jesus asks?  Well, it is something that we cannot control.  It is like planting a field and not understanding why the plants grow.  The Kingdom of God is all around us and is within us—but we have a choice to recognize it or to ignore it.  Whether we recognize the Kingdom or ignore the Kingdom, the process of the Kingdom is still at work:  time is given to us to give ourselves to God.

The Kingdom of God is very small and that is why so many cannot see it.  Small.  Not small in size but small in its beginnings within us and within our communities.  Yet it can grow and become so powerful.  God never forces Himself upon us.  We can always invite God to grow within us and within our communities.

When we see the grass grow or when we see a tree grow, we can think of the Kingdom of God!  When we see birds fly in the air, we can think of the Kingdom of God.  God is always at work and always loving us.  May we open our eyes and our hearts to Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, January 26, 2018 — “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, it is the smallest seed on earth … But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants … “

January 25, 2018

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops
Lectionary: 520/321

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Reading 1  2 TM 1:1-8

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.
I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.or
Ti 1:1-5

Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones
and the recognition of religious truth,
in the hope of eternal life
that God, who does not lie, promised before time began,
who indeed at the proper time revealed his word
in the proclamation with which I was entrusted
by the command of God our savior,
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.

For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 7-8A, 10

R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Give to the LORD, you families of nations,
give to the LORD glory and praise;
give to the LORD the glory due his name!
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Alleluia  SEE MT 11:25

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

Gospel  Mk 4: 26-34

 Image result for mustard seed, photos

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Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.Image result for mustard tree

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Commentary on Mark 4:26-34 from Living Space

Here we have the two last parables told by Mark in this part of his gospel. They are both images of the Kingdom of God, of God’s truth and love spreading among people all over the world. They are both taken from the world of agriculture, a world that would have been very familiar to Jesus’ listeners.
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In the first, God’s work is compared to a farmer planting seed. As in the parable of thesower, the seed is the Kingdom.
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Night and day the process of growth continues without any human intervention. Whether the farmer is awake or asleep the process of growth continues. The seed sprouts and grows and he does not know how.
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The outcome is certain. Once the seed is ripe, it is for the farmer to bring in the harvest. And that is our task: to bring in the harvest which has been planted in the hearts of people. In the words of the other parables, to throw the light which helps people see the truth and love of God already in their deepest being.
In the second parable the Kingdom is compared to a mustard seed. Although one of the tiniest of seeds, it grows into a sizeable shrub in which even birds can build their nests.
Both of these parables are words of encouragement to a struggling Church, living in small, scattered communities and surrounded by hostile elements ready to destroy it.
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How amazed would the Christians of those days if they could see how the seed has grown and spread to parts of the world of whose very existence they were totally unaware. We today still need to have their trust and confidence in the power of the Kingdom to survive and spread.Mark says that Jesus spoke many parables, in fact, he only spoke in parables. But the full meaning of his teaching was explained to his inner circles of disciples. Those staying “outside” were not ready to take in the message. They are the ones who were not “hearing”, as Jesus told his disciples to do. How sensitive is my hearing?
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 JANUARY, 2018, Friday, 3rd Week, Ordinary Time
THE MYSTERY OF EVIL AND THE MYSTERY OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 SM 24:3-21MK 3:13-19  ]

The theme of today’s scripture readings concerns the mystery of evil and the mystery of grace.  In the first reading, the mystery of evil is illustrated in the life of King David.  The reality of evil is that if it is not dealt with, it will grow from strength to strength until it envelops and destroys the person.  This was the case with King David who, in a moment of weakness, lusted after the wife of Uriah.  From lust, he became possessive and committed adultery.  But the evil did not stop there.  He became manipulative, malicious and destructive and finally murdered an innocent man.

Such is the power of evil in our own lives too.  This is evident in our inter-personal relationships for example.  We begin by simply having a dislike for a person.  But because we allow that aversion to grow in us, we begin to harbour grudges, bitterness and resentment against that person until finally it develops into hatred, which can lead to harmful words and actions.  Yes, evil if not dealt with, will inevitably consume and destroy us.

In the face of such oppression, either within ourselves or from the evil around us, we cannot but feel dismayed.  We wonder why God does not intervene.  This was the predicament the early Christians were in.  Being a small minority, they were threatened by persecutions from both the Jews and the Romans.  Confronted by scandals, injustices, oppression and innocent suffering, they asked the same question: why is it that God does not care?

It is in response to this question that St Mark narrated the parable of the seed growing by itself.  The point of this parable is that God does care.  He is guiding us by His providence, just as he takes care of the seed.  Everything is in control and is sustained by the providence of God.  This is the mystery of grace.  We need not grow impatient or anxious because God will see to it that everything will be in accordance with His plans.  Grace is always working in our lives even though we cannot see it.  But we can be certain that it is working because if we remain patient and have faith, the results will come one day.

This imperceptible working of grace can be verified in our own lives.  Very often we feel that God is not helping us in our struggles.  Perhaps, we are contending with some personal weaknesses, and we try our best to overcome them.  But we feel hopeless because we keep falling again and again in spite of the fact that we pray fervently.  At times we feel like giving up because the situation does not seem to improve, notwithstanding our prayers and efforts to change.  Yet, the truth is that if we persevere, we will one day emerge from this seemingly vicious circle considerably stronger.  When we look back at our struggles, we will recognize the hand of God at work in our lives and say, “Thank you Lord for the trials that have come my way!”

However, if it were true that the grace of God is working imperceptibly in our lives, how is it that we do not feel its power and we cannot see the changes?  In other words, if the grace of God is so powerful, how is it that it appears to be so small and insignificant in our lives?  The second parable of the mustard seed speaks of the power of grace.  It tells us two things.

Firstly, the grace of God will overcome evil in the end.  It might begin in a small way, but it will end in a mighty way, just like the mustard seed that becomes a giant tree, giving shelter to all.  This is portrayed in the life of King David.  It is true that King David appeared to have had the upper hand initially when he killed Uriah.  But in the end, justice and truth prevailed.  We know that the ensuing episode shows how David had to pay a price for his sins through the death of his son.  The morale of the story is that evil does not have the last word but grace.   That is why we must take heart and learn to trust in God even when we do know how God is working in our lives.

Secondly, the parable also teaches us that there is grace in disgrace.  No matter how evil we are; no matter what mistakes we make in life; we need not feel disheartened nor condemn ourselves.  So long as we are ready to repent, then even sin and human weaknesses can mould us to be better people.  Again this is shown in the life of David.  After his repentance, David became a better and more devout king.  His foolish deed had taught him the greatest lesson of his life.  We too can transform disgrace into grace.  We need not see our mistakes as obstacles to growth, but as stepping-stones for life.  If we do, then, like the mustard seed that became a shelter for all, we too will be able to use our past mistakes for the growth of others as well.  This is the way that grace works.

Yes, we can feel encouraged today that even when things do not seem to change, they are in fact changing.  The grace of God is imperceptible but powerfully at work in us, transforming our weaknesses into agents of growth for our holiness.  His grace will never fail us so long as we co-operate with Him as much as is humanly possible, for God will then do the rest.

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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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Harmony of the Gospels

 

Famous Parables of Sower, Seed, Tares, Mustard Seed, Leaven, Treasure, Pearl, Net, Lamp

 

Introduction

The parables of Jesus are given in three of the Gospels; John is the only Gospel that doesn’t record any of His parables. Jesus used things that people were familiar with as the subject for the parables. In the first three, He used farming as the theme, and He talked about sowing seed, the types of soil and the weeds which choke the grain. You need to understand what the seed, soil and weeds, and so forth, are symbols of, before you can understand the message. And by the way, the message is also for us today. In the Old Testament, Joel used the symbolism of the harvest to illustrate God’s judgment of the wicked.

Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great.–Joel 3:13 (KJV)

This verse is talking about God’s judgment of the wicked; His wrath. When their wickedness has fully matured, He will encourage them to destroy one another. God doesn’t cut off the wicked at once, but waits until their wickedness is at its worst. In that way, we can see that He is long-suffering with those who have abused His justice for so long. In Genesis 15:16, we are told that God waited for the iniquity of the Amorites to come to its full ripeness, But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. God waited until, in His opinion, they had been given enough opportunities to repent and turn from their evil practices to faith in Him, and then He dealt with them. Have you ever met or heard of an Amorite? I don’t think so, because God removed them from the earth. In Revelations, we are told of God’s final judgment upon the earth, and He uses the symbolism of the harvest here also.

15And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.

16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.

18 And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.

19 And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

Rev 14:15-19 (KJV)

Here in these verses, through the symbolism that John used, we get a picture of the wrath of God, applied to unrepentant men. Notice that it is a harvest, and what is being reaped-mankind. There will be an end to God’s patience. I’m thankful that I will not have to stand against the wrath of God, because I have placed my faith in the Son of God.

The Parable of the Sower

The first parable that we will look at is the “Parable of the Sower”; it is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke.

-Matthew-

1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:

15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;

21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

The Gospel of Matthew is probably the key Gospel to the Bible, and chapter 13 is the key to this Gospel; therefore this chapter is very important. It provides us with a better understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven than any other passage. Here, Jesus for the first time speaks in parables; called the Mystery Parables. His teaching reveals the condition of the Kingdom of Heaven in our present time.

Remember, Jesus followed John the Baptist in preaching “,….. Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) And Jesus talked about the laws that would be applied to that Kingdom, when He gave the Sermon on the Mount. Then He demonstrated, through miracles, that He had the power to rule the kingdom; after which He sent His disciples out with the message. The message was met with rejection-Israel rejected its King. Therefore, Our Lord handed down a judgment against the cities where His mighty works had been done, and He also pronounced judgment against the religious rulers. When they asked Him for a sign, He said that no sign would be given them, except that of Jonah. He was speaking of His resurrection, and they were to have that fulfilled in Christ shortly after this. Finally, He gave a very personal invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Now the question arises: What will happen to the Kingdom of Heaven? It is apparent that He did not establish it on the earth at His first coming. So what will happen to the Kingdom of Heaven during the interval between His suffering on the cross and His glory that will be revealed at His second coming? Well in the Mystery Parables, and there are eight of them, He sets forth the Kingdom of Heaven conditions on earth during this interval; the time in which we are currently living.

They are called Mystery Parables because in the Word of God a mystery is something hidden or secret up to a certain time and then revealed. According to this definition, the church is a mystery, since it was not revealed in the Old Testament. It was revealed after the death and resurrection of Christ. Actually, there could be no church until Christ died and rose again. Ephesians 5:25 says that “…..Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Other mysteries are Christ’s incarnation, His intersession for us, our justification and sanctification, and indeed the whole work of redemption. These things are difficult to understand, but are made clearer by the action of the Holy Spirit. Those lacking the Holy Spirit, are numb to spiritual things, so they think they are tall tales or just entertainment.

It is important to note that the Kingdom of Heaven is not the same as the church. The Kingdom of Heaven today is all Christendom (the portion of the world in which Christianity is predominant can be considered Christendom). Obviously, the church is in Christendom, but is not all of it by any means.

The Mystery Parables show the course of the kingdom after it had been offered, and then rejected by Israel. They reveal what is going to take place between the time of Christ’s rejection, and the time when He returns to earth as King. With these parables, Our Lord covers the entire period between his rejection by Israel and His return to the earth to establish his Kingdom; therefore these parables are very important.

….

Great multitudes were gathered together to hear him, and He went into a ship and began to talk to them as they stood on the shore. “And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” (v. 3) In this parable our Lord answers a very obvious and a very important question. The same sower, Christ, and the same preachers sent by Him, always sow the same seed: so why doesn’t it always have the same effect? Why doesn’t this seed do as well in one as in another? Christ said publicly through this parable that the reason for this is that men for the most part, either do not receive it, or do not permit it to ripen. Let’s go ahead and look at Christ’s interpretation of sower. He will tell us later that the sower is the Son of man, the name that Jesus applied to himself, and that the seed represents the Word of God. When He continued His teaching, He said, “And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” (v. 4-8)

Sowing seed is a familiar sight in Palestine. They would sort of scratch the surface of the ground with a very crude plow. Sometimes they didn’t even do that much. Then the sower would go out and fling the seed upon the earth. Even today in our land in the springtime, all the way from California to South Carolina, and from Minnesota to Florida, you will see farmers sowing wheat, corn and cotton. It is a very familiar sight-of course; we use machines to sow the seed, while in that day it was sown by hand.

….

The seed represents the Word of God. The field symbolizes the world. Notice that it is the world, not the church. We are talking about the state of affairs of our world. I think the picture is something like this: Here is the church in the world, and outside there are multitudes of people who have not received Christ. The Word of God is given to this one, and the word is given to that one, and the word is given to another. One accepts, another does not accept. Our business is to sow the seed, although not everyone will receive it.

The parable of the mustard seed is an illustration of the rapid growth of Christianity, from insignificant beginnings, to a great place on earth.

The illustration of the fouls of the air finding shelter in the branches of the mustard tree may have been drawn from Daniel 4:20-22.

20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;

21 Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:

22 It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/-famous-parables-of-sower-seed-tares-mustard-seed-leaven-treasure-pea-john-lowe-sermon-on-parable-of-sower-210727?page=1

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 31, 2017 — Transformational Change in Life — Toward God, Away from Self

July 30, 2017

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
Lectionary: 401

No automatic alt text available.

Art: The Adoration of the Golden Calf (detail) by Nicolas Poussin

Reading 1  EX 32:15-24, 30-34

Moses turned and came down the mountain
with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands,
tablets that were written on both sides, front and back;
tablets that were made by God,
having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God himself.
Now, when Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting,
he said to Moses, “That sounds like a battle in the camp.”
But Moses answered, “It does not sound like cries of victory,
nor does it sound like cries of defeat;
the sounds that I hear are cries of revelry.”
As he drew near the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing.
With that, Moses’ wrath flared up, so that he threw the tablets down
and broke them on the base of the mountain.
Taking the calf they had made, he fused it in the fire
and then ground it down to powder,
which he scattered on the water and made the children of Israel drink.

Moses asked Aaron, “What did this people ever do to you
that you should lead them into so grave a sin?”
Aaron replied, “Let not my lord be angry.
You know well enough how prone the people are to evil.
They said to me, ‘Make us a god to be our leader;
as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt,
we do not know what has happened to him.’
So I told them, ‘Let anyone who has gold jewelry take it off.’
They gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

On the next day Moses said to the people,
“You have committed a grave sin.
I will go up to the LORD, then;
perhaps I may be able to make atonement for your sin.”
So Moses went back to the LORD and said,
“Ah, this people has indeed committed a grave sin
in making a god of gold for themselves!
If you would only forgive their sin!
If you will not, then strike me out of the book that you have written.”
The LORD answered, “Him only who has sinned against me
will I strike out of my book.
Now, go and lead the people to the place I have told you.
My angel will go before you.
When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

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

R. (1a) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

AlleluiaJAS 1:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:31-35

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”

He spoke to them another parable.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:

I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
Monday, July 31, 2017
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31 JULY, 2017, Monday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time
LEADERSHIP IS TO STEER PEOPLE AWAY FROM IDOLATRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 32:15-2430-34Ps 105:19-23Mt 13:31-35 ]

We can imagine how angry Moses was with the infidelity of the people to the Lord.  He had just returned from meeting the Lord at Mount Horeb.  He came down from the mountain “with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, tablets inscribed on both sides, inscribed on the front and on the back.  These tablets were the work of God, and the writing on them was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.”  And as he arrived, he heard the chanting of the people, the dancing and worship of the golden calf.  We read that “Moses’ anger blazed.  He threw down the tablets he was holding and broke them at the foot of the mountain.  He seized the calf they had made and burned it, grinding it into powder which he scattered on the water; and he made the sons of Israel drink it.”

Was his anger justified?  Perhaps such anger would not be justified today.  We read that he even ordered the sons of Levi “Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’”  The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day.” (Ex 32:27bf)  Yet, in the ancient days, such anger was justified because it was such a grave sin and could destroy the whole community if it were not checked.   The purity of faith was something that the prophets sought for the People of Israel, as they could be easily influenced by their pagan neighbours.  This is true in our situation today.

With globalization, migration and mass media, we are being secularized.   As a result, today the purity of faith in many of our religions are compromised or are undergoing great changes, forced by situation to adopt values that seem to contradict the Word of God.   Indeed, once the evils of society penetrate our faith, especially the hierarchy and leadership of the Church, the values are compromised.   This is the stark reality of the Church today.  Many of our leaders are making false compromises to please the crowd.  This was precisely the mistake of Aaron.  When Moses confronted him for misleading the people, his excuse was, “You know yourself how prone this people is to evil.  They said to me, ‘Make us a god to go at our head; this Moses, the man who bought us up from Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Who has gold?’ and they took it off and brought it to me.  I threw in into the fire and out came this calf.”

Like Aaron, many leaders today are no longer shepherding their flock, teaching them right from wrong.  Rather, they seek popularity and are acting more like coordinators, allowing the people to lead them, and to choose what they will.  This is the downside of democracy, where decisions are decided based on the whims and fancies of the community, depending on how they are indoctrinated, influenced or bought over.   This explains why it is so difficult for the Holy Father to revamp the Church, or the bishop his diocese, as the infiltration of alien values and doctrines contrary to the Church have been imbibed by weak leaders.  They want to feel loved and accepted by the people and so give in to their desires and wishes.

Moses however would take no nonsense from his people.   He was very clear about the costs of allowing idolatry to take root in the people.  He took action immediately and his actions appeared to be rather harsh in our assessment today.  But it was necessary to deter the people from being so easily swayed by the foreign gods of the lands around them.  He punished the people and he ordered them to be killed.  Why were such measures necessary?   Why was the sin of idolatry such a grievous offence against God in the Old Testament?  Because it the sin of all sins.  By turning away from God, the living reality to an illusion, we worship nothingness.

St Paul in his letter to the Romans called the sin of idolatry the ultimate sin, the sin that leads to all other sins.“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.”  (Rom 1:18-21 cf Rom 1:22-31)  When we reject God and make our own gods, we make ourselves our own gods, worshipping creatures, our passions and living a debased life.   Relativism is the consequence of agnosticism.  Amorality is the consequence of relativism.

Indeed, the first commandment of the Decalogue clearly states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents.”  (Ex 20:2-5a)  Images are prohibited simply because God cannot be captured in such images.   God is beyond images.  He is pure Spirit.

To reduce God to an image of this world is to reduce the dynamism of God.  He is not a static God but a trek God, always on the move and always with His people, “I am who I am.”  He cannot be placed in a little temple even.  That was what the Lord told King David when he wanted to build Him a temple.  The Lord said, “Are you the one to build me a house to live in?  I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.  Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”  (cf 2 Sm 7:5b-7)

The prohibition against images of God does not preclude the images to express our devotion to God, which we call sacramentals.  Signs and symbols are necessary to help us to encounter the presence of God, as in the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple of Jerusalem, the Sacred Scriptures, the Crucifix and the cross, other images and icons of Christ and saints, because these are means by which we remember the goodness and mercy of God.  So it is not wrong to make use of images and icons of those people who lived in our midst, just as we keep photos of our loved ones with reverence.   Christ, for us, is the greatest image of God as St Paul tells us.  “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;  for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible – all things have been created through him and for him.”  (Col 1:15f)

Yet, in the final analysis, we must safeguard what we wish to inculcate for our community, the values and the beliefs.  In the gospel, Jesus, makes it clear that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed and the leaven in the dough. Everything begins small, good or bad.  If we plant good values, then “when it is grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.”   But if we plant wrong values, then, like the yeast which is also a symbol of evil and impurity, it can cause the Church to grow in the wrong way.  The Lord is warning us, especially leaders, educators, parents and those in authority, how we want to influence the world, for good or for evil.  What we sow today will be what we reap tomorrow.  “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.” (Gal 6:7) Are we sowing the seeds for the Kingdom or the weeds of the Evil one? “If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” (Gal 6:8)

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

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We all know what pleases self: Gold and Bull.
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But what pleases God? And if we do what pleases God, what do we attain?
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Peace.
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And how do we start?
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“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
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A detail from Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt, 1659. Wikipedia.
A detail from Moses with the Ten Commandments by Rembrandt, 1659.
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What should we learn from the golden calf incident in Exodus 32
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The story of the golden calf is found in Exodus 32:1–6. The children of Israel had been in bondage in Egypt for over two hundred years. God called Moses, the deliverer, and told him that He had heard their cries and was about to deliver them (Exodus 3:6–8). During their time in Egypt, the Israelites had apparently begun to doubt the existence of the God their fathers worshiped because Moses anticipated some hard questions from them (Exodus 3:13). To help Moses prove the existence and power of God, he was given a number of miraculous signs to help the Israelites believe. After all of these miracles were done, including the ten plagues on the Egyptians, the Israelites came out of Egypt with a renewed belief in the God of their fathers. They passed through the Red Sea on dry land, while the Egyptian army was drowned, and they were brought to the mountain of God to receive His laws.

The people of the Middle East were very religious, but they also worshiped many gods. The ten plagues God brought on the Egyptians were judgments against specific gods they worshiped and showed that the Lord was greater than all of them. Even Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, who was the priest of Midian and a worshiper of the true God, was impacted by the religious pluralism of the people around him. When Moses and the people arrived at Mount Sinai, and Jethro heard of all God’s works, he replied, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, because in this affair they dealt arrogantly with the people” (Exodus 18:11). When God gave His laws to the Israelites, He began by addressing this religious pluralism. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:2–5).

While Moses was up on the mountain receiving God’s laws, the people were getting anxious down on the plain. Moses spent forty days (Exodus 24:18) up on the mountain with God, and by the end of that time, the people were beginning to think Moses had died or left them. The people urged Aaron, their temporary leader, to make gods for them to follow. Since they were accustomed to having visual representations of gods, this was the natural (but sinful) result of their thinking. Aaron took their gold earrings, which they had brought from Egypt, and melted them down to make a golden idol. The idol he crafted for them was a calf, but Aaron maintained the name of the Lord in connection with it (Exodus 32:5). He was merging the pagan practices they were familiar with and the worship of the God they were just beginning to be re-acquainted with. Aaron called the people together and told them that the golden calf was the god who delivered them from Egypt. The people offered sacrifices and then engaged in pagan rituals, including orgies (Exodus 32:25) to worship this new god.

Why did Aaron do this? Scripture doesn’t give us the full answer, but we can put certain clues together and get a fairly good picture. First, the people’s long familiarity with idol worship would incline them to follow that method in the absence of clear direction otherwise. It is likely that the people had not yet received the commands against idol worship, since Moses was yet to come down with the tablets of the law. Second, they were already in the habit of merging their beliefs with those of the people around them, a practice that would continue to plague them throughout the kingdom years. Third, Aaron was faced with an unruly crowd that placed a demand on him. The solution of making an idol and calling it by God’s name seemed fairly reasonable.

Why did he choose a calf/bull? His lame excuse to Moses—“It just came out of the fire like this!” Exodus 32:24)—was just a feeble attempt to dodge blame. He fashioned it with a graving tool (Exodus 32:4) and took great care to form it that way. Some have tried to show that the bull represented one of the gods of Egypt, but that doesn’t fit the text, because Aaron called a feast to the Lord (Yahweh) and said that it was the god(s) which brought them out of the land of Egypt. The bull was a symbol of strength and fertility, and the people were already familiar with bull gods from Egypt. Bulls were also typical animals of sacrifice, so to use their image as a symbol of the god being worshiped was a natural connection. Aaron’s bull was a mixture of the powerful God who delivered the people through mighty works and the pagan methods of worship that were borrowed from the people around them.

Even though there are reasonable explanations for why Aaron and the people began to worship the golden calf, those explanations do not excuse the sin. God certainly held the people accountable for their corruption (Exodus 32:7–10) and was ready to destroy them for their sin. Moses’ personal intercession on behalf of his people saved them. Moses indicated that Aaron at least should have known that his actions were sinful (Exodus 32:21) and didn’t let him off the hook. As with any other sin, the punishment is death, and the only proper response is repentance. Moses called for those who were on the Lord’s side to come stand with him (Exodus 32:26). The Levites stood with him and were commanded to go through the camp and kill anyone who persisted in the idolatry. Three thousand men were killed that day. The next day, Moses went up and confessed the people’s sins before God, asking for His forgiveness. God declared that the guilty ones would yet pay with their own deaths and be blotted out of His book. These were the same ones who, on the verge of entering the Promised Land, would deny God’s promises and be sent into the wilderness to die for their sins. Their children would be the ones to receive God’s promised blessings.

Their experiences are a lesson to us today. Even though we might justify our actions through reason or logic, if we are violating God’s clear commands, we are sinning against Him, and He will hold us accountable for those sins. God is not to be worshiped with images, because any image we make will draw more attention to the work of our hands than the God who made all things. Also, there is no way we can ever fully represent the holiness and awesomeness of God through an image. To attempt to do so will always fall short. On top of this, God is a spirit (John 4:24), and we cannot form an image of a spirit. We worship God by believing His Word, obeying it, and declaring His greatness to others.

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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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IMPATIENCE WITH GROWTH IN HOLINESS AS A LACK OF FAITH IN GOD’S GRACE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 32:15-2430-3428MT 13:31-35
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We all want to grow in holiness and be successful in our projects but, quite often, we cannot wait.  We have no patience, not only with ourselves but also with those around us who are slow in living up to the life of Christ, or slow in their work. This is even more so in community living.  How often do we bemoan the fact that our community is not as united and loving as it should be?  At times when we see the failings and weaknesses of our fellow brothers and sisters, we cannot help but judge and condemn them.  Sometimes, we even wish that they be removed from the community.  Yes, if only such difficult people are removed from our community then our life would be so wonderful and godly.
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If we are feeling this way, then we can easily identify ourselves with the impatience exhibited by Moses and the Israelites in today’s first reading.  The narrative tells us that the people were impatient in waiting for Moses who went up to the mountain to receive instructions from Yahweh. In their impatience, they pressurized Aaron to make for them a god who could be their leader.  They simply could not wait.  Aaron in his rashness acted without thinking of the consequences and gave in to their demands and made for them a golden calf, a symbol of power and strength.Similarly, Moses too was impatient.  He projected his intolerance onto Yahweh, making God appear as if He were also impatient and angry.  Moses’ deep encounter with God made him feel great shame for his people who turned against Yahweh when He had delivered them from the slavery of the Egyptians.  Thus, when he came down from the mountain, and when he saw the calf, the scripture says, “Moses’ anger blazed.”  Fuming mad, “he threw down the tablets he was holding and broke them at the foot of the mountain.  He burned the calf into powder which he scattered on the water and forced the Israelites to drink it.”

But the truth is that God is patient and merciful.  If God were portrayed otherwise, it is due to a mistaken perception due to fear and guilt.  Indeed, when Moses later interceded for the grievous sin of his people, the Lord forgave them, albeit not without the need to repair the damage done.  As if to reassure Moses to leave this matter behind him, He commanded him, “Go now, lead the people to the place of which I told you.  My angel shall go before you.”  Yes, God is patient with us in our sinfulness.  At the same time, we cannot avoid running away from the consequences of our sins.  This is made clear when Yahweh said, “but on the day of my visitation, I shall punish them for their sin.”

Today, Jesus in the gospel affirms the patience and grace of God for us sinners.  In the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast, Jesus wants to remind us that the kingdom of God is not built in a day but gradually with the grace of God.  Three qualities are needed if we were to recognize the process of growth,namely, patience, humility, and faith in the power of God.

Like the mustard seed, we must recognize that growth in holiness takes time.  We need to reckon with the natural law of human growth.  We need to allow people, including ourselves, time to grow out of our immaturity, ignorance and selfishness.  We must therefore be patient and learn to wait.  It is necessary to give people the benefit of the doubt that they want to change their lives and that they are trying, albeit with much struggles and difficulty.  To condemn and pass judgment on them is to rule out any possibility of growth or the power of God’s grace.

To have patience, we must be humble, like the mustard seed.  Just as the mustard seed begins in a small way and later blossoms into one of the biggest shrub and becomes a tree, so too it would be foolish of us to despise small efforts in beginning something good.  Be it a project or a good practice, we must begin small and start from somewhere. The danger is that quite often, in the face of evil and sin, as in community living, we tend to give up hope and say to ourselves, “Oh, it has been like that for years.  Nothing can be done.  So do not waste time doing anything good!”  When we adopt this kind of negativity then it shows that we are impatient with growth.  In giving up hope on people, we give up hope on ourselves too.

More than just impatience, it is also our failure to recognize the power of God at work in transforming our lives.  In the final analysis, conversion and growth is not a human effort but the grace of God at work in us.  This is what the parable of the leaven is illustrating.  The leaven is the grace of God at work in us, secretly and invisibly transforming us from within.  It is that same inner divine power that enables the mustard seed to become a tree.  So too, we cannot rely on our human strength to grow in holiness and perfection but on the grace of God.  But we must be patient, since holiness is ultimately a grace and a gift.

If we are patient and learn to wait, then the grace of God will gradually but surely transform us, as the leaven transformed the dough and the growth of the mustard seed.  When that happens, then the glory of God will be visible in us for all to see, so much so that we will attract others to see the glory of God at work in our lives.  In this way, like the mustard tree, we become a refuge whereby people can take shelter in us.  As a result, more and more people are able to embrace the kingdom for themselves until one day, the whole earth is filled with the glory and power of God.

Let us therefore pray for this patience, humility and faith in the power of God’s grace.  Our task is to be open to His grace; but the work of conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We must abide by His time, knowing that God will definitely be faithful to His promises and that He will transform us into a community of grace and love just as He transformed the Israelites into the people of God.  We must have hope, not despair; patience, not condemnation; faith, not self-reliance.

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“No life is complete without pain, suffering and death.” — Viktor Frankl
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First Thought From Peace and Freedom
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St. Ignatius of Loyola believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God-centered and less self-centered existence.
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Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by Ignatius to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
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Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
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When the Big Book was first published, Fr. Eddie Dowling bought a copy in St. Louis to read. He was so taken by the book, he took the train to New York City to meet Bill Wilson, whom people said had written the book. When Fr. Dowling met Bill W. he asked him, “Where did you get all this Ignatian teaching?”
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St. Ignatius Loyola
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Related:
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“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)
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Conversion of St. Paul by Michelangelo

Who else in our “modern world” said “scales fell from my eyes”?

In November 1934, a man named Ebby Thacher visited Bill Wilson and sat with Bill in the kitchen of the Wilson’s Brooklyn apartment, and talked about the way this new spiritual answer to alcoholism had gotten him sober.  Bill W.’s fundamental conversion experience took place while he was talking with Ebby, as “the scales fell from his eyes” and he became willing for the first time to turn to the experience of the holy in prayer and meditation, and let its healing power begin to restore his soul.

The scales fell from the eyes….

Bill’s Story, p.12, Big Book

“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)

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Ebby Thacher (on the right) with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

Do you pray? Saint John Paul II said, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” If you aren’t talking to God who are you talking to when you pray? Yourself?  See also:

John Paul II Said no faith, no miracles….

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“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.

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Fr. Edward Dowling, SJ,  a friend of Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was convinced that the Spiritual Exercises influenced the 12 Steps of AA (which guide many other 12-step programs).  Bill Wilson said he had never heard of Ignatius or the Exercises. He said he sat down at his kitchen table one day and wrote out the 12 Steps in about 20 minutes. To this Fr. Dowling said, “If it were twenty weeks, you could suspect improvisation. Twenty minutes sounds reasonable under the theory of divine help.”

I recently ran across an article Fr. Dowling wrote showing the parallels between the Exercises and the 12 Steps.  A sample:

St. Ignatius starts with a presumption that our power of faculties are bound by sinful tendencies and addictions to the wrong things. The Spiritual Exercises, therefore, work on the soul in both a negative and positive way. The first section, the consideration of my sins and of their effects in hell, is the negative part. It aims by self-denial to release our wills from our binding addictions, to enable the will to desire and to choose rationally.

The second part of the Spiritual Exercises, start in with a consideration of the Incarnation and going through the Passion and Resurrection, is an effort to see how Christ would handle various situations.

A priest alcoholic, who has written with discernment on the Spiritual Exercises, first pointed out to me the similarity between them and the twelve steps of A.A. Bill, the founder of A.A. recognized that those twelve steps are pretty much the releasing of myself from the things that prevent my will’s choosing God as I understand Him.

Like the Spiritual Exercises, like Christian asceticism in general, the twelve steps are not speculative ideas. They are practical steps. May I suggest some of the parallels between the Spiritual Exercises and the twelve steps.

If you are interested, read more at:

http://venerablematttalbotresourcecenter.blogspot.com/2009/09/catholic-asceticism-and-twelve-steps_27.html

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Jim Harbaugh’s book is the best among several on this topic….

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Fr. James Martin, S.J., is a modern follower of St. Ignatius. His book, “The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything — Spirituality for Real Life,” is a must read for those who, like Ignatius, want a life transformed by a better way of living.

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The Venerable Matt TalbotOFS (2 May 1856 – 7 June 1925) was an Irish ascetic and alcoholic revered by many Catholics for his pietycharity and mortification of the flesh.

Talbot was an unskilled labourer. Though he lived alone for most of his life, Talbot did live with his mother for a time. His life would have gone unnoticed were it not for the cords and chains discovered on his body when he died suddenly on a Dublin street in 1925.

Though he has not been formally recognized as a saint, Talbot may be considered a patron of men and women struggling with alcoholism. He is commemorated on 19 June.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Talbot

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Ideas of Matt Talbot 

 

“The Problem of Pain and Suffering,” focusing on:

 ”(1) Emmet Fox and New Thought: pain and suffering are caused by wrong thoughts. If we change the way we think, the pain and suffering will disappear. As can be seen, Fox preached many radical New Thought ideas, but he had been born in Ireland, was brought up as a Catholic, and had been trained by the Jesuits. God as Creative Intelligence and the power of Being Itself.

(2) Matt Talbot and self-punishment, the very different path taken by another Irish Catholic, a laboring man in Dublin. Wearing chains around his body, sleeping on a bare wooden plank, and so on. We must atone for our sin and guilt by deliberately inflicting pain and hardship on ourselves before God will forgive us. The self-torture game.

(3) In Ignatian spirituality: pain and suffering exist because life in this fallen world is a war. As a good soldier, you must continue to do your duty and fight for the good down to your last breath, even when surrounded on every side by death and horror. The central Ignatian teaching of the Two Standards (Las Dos Banderas), choosing which of these two battle flags you will follow in the war between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. Choosing between the way of Pride and the way of Humility. St. Augustine and the two cities: the City of God vs. the Earthly City, surrender of my ego to God vs. trying to play God myself.”

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Venerable Matt Talbot and the Blessed Mother Figurine by Timothy Schmalz

The overall outline of this 247 page manuscript can be viewed at http://www.hindsfoot.org/inProgr.html and worth reading first.

The section that addresses Matt Talbot is found on pages 63-69 at  PDF file or as MS Word DOC file.
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The Light Shines on in the Darkness — Transforming Suffering Through Faith By Robert Spitzer
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This is the best book on Catholic interpretation of pain and suffering. Every AA would benefit from Fr. Spitzer’s insights….. Spitzer knows about suffering, as he has become almost totally blind over the course of his life.
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Viktor Frankl was a prisoner in Nazi death camps. He survived the experience and came to believe that pain and suffering are crucial in every life — offering each of us the opportunity to decide which way we will go….
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Frankl teaches that we always have the free will to decide how we will conduct ourselves — even in a “death camp.”
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, November 6, 2015 — The Unjust Steward — Do We Give More or Take More? — Plus: Parables of Jesus for Dummies

November 5, 2015

Friday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 489

Reading 1 ROM 15:14-21

I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters,
that you yourselves are full of goodness,
filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.
But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you,
because of the grace given me by God
to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles
in performing the priestly service of the Gospel of God,
so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable,
sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God.
For I will not dare to speak of anything
except what Christ has accomplished through me
to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed,
by the power of signs and wonders,
by the power of the Spirit of God,
so that from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum
I have finished preaching the Gospel of Christ.
Thus I aspire to proclaim the Gospel
not where Christ has already been named,
so that I do not build on another’s foundation,
but as it is written:Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4

R. (see 2b) The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
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Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
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R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.
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All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
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R. The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.

Alleluia 1 JN 2:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever keeps the word of Christ,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 16:1-8

Jesus said to his disciples, “A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
‘What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.’
The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one.
To the first he said, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
Then to another he said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of wheat.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.’
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than the children of light.”
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Commentary on Luke 16:1-8 from Living Space

After the three wonderful parables about God’s mercy and longing for the reconciliation of the sinner, Luke swings back again in chapter 16 with two parables and related teaching about our use of material possessions and puts some of the responsibility for our salvation back on ourselves.

The first is a story about a rather dishonest steward or manager. His responsibilities were to handle all the business affairs of his employer. However, he had been mishandling his employer’s funds and was about to be fired. One thinks of the prodigal son who utterly wasted the inheritance his loving father had given him.

Immediately the steward begins to think of his future. He does not have the strength to do manual labour and to go begging would be a terrible loss of face. So he thinks of a stratagem by which he calls in all his employer’s debtors and reduces the amounts they owe.

Art: The Unjust Steward

The debts incurred were considerable. One hundred measures of olive oil was equivalent to about 800 gallons or the yield of 450 olive trees, while 100 measures of wheat was equal to about 1,000 bushels or the yield of 100 acres. Very few farmers would have had anything like that kind of land in Jesus’ time.

By doing this favour, the steward hopes to be able to find alternative employment with one of them. Surprisingly, his employer, far from being angry, praises the farsightedness of his corrupt steward .

Some commentators question whether the steward was actually acting dishonestly. Was he actually denying his employer money which he was really owed or was he rather writing off the ‘commission’ which was being usuriously charged, thus inflating the proper amount owed? The Mosaic law forbade taking interest on loans from fellow Jews so one way of getting round this was to overcharge debtors. By reducing the debts to the proper level the steward was correcting an injustice and, at the same time, making these debtors favourably disposed towards him. Whatever the interpretation, the point Jesus is making is the same: the steward acted with shrewdness and intelligence to guarantee his future.

Jesus concludes by pointing out that the worldly are far more astute in providing for their future than are those who are regarded as spiritual, the ‘children of light’. Jesus is in no way condoning the steward’s dishonest and corrupt behaviour. What he does praise is his clear-sighted preparation of his future.

The lesson for us is clear. If a man can do that for his earthly career, what about our future in the life to come? If we want to guarantee our future life with God then we, too, need to take the necessary steps. Those steps are clearly laid out in the Gospel and, in general, they involve a life which is built on truth and integrity, and on love, compassion and justice with regard to the people around us. Our task is to work with God in making his will our own and in building up the Kingdom.

If we do this on a daily basis, then we have nothing to worry about and our future is assured.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2316g/

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Commentary on Rom 15:14-21 From Living Space

We begin today the reading of the epilogue to Paul’s rather long letter.  As he comes to the end of his message he makes some general remarks about issues touching on his evangelising work.

He begins by saying that he is sure they will understand the reason for his writing to them even though the Roman church is not one founded by him and even though they are “full of goodness, fully instructed and capable of correcting each other”.   But he wants to refresh their memories on a few points.  Does this mean that he had written to them earlier or that he is just referring to general points of Christian teaching known to all?

He reminds them that he had been given a special grace to proclaim the Gospel of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, so that they could become “an acceptable offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit”.  He always sees this as his special calling.  He sees this apostolic calling almost as a liturgical function in which the offerings are those people whom he has brought to Christ and offers to God.  Paul’s priestly function differed from that of the levitical priesthood which involved sacrifices in the Temple.  Paul’s apostolate was to bring Gentiles into the Christian family through preaching the Gospel and making the Gentile churches an offering in Christ to God.

He then reminds the Romans of what he has achieved, “so I can be proud, in Christ Jesus, of what I have done for God”.   He is not bragging for he knows that all he has done has been done through the power of Christ working in and through him.  And he only speaks of his own personal achievements.  “I can dare to speak only of the things which Christ has done through me to win the allegiance of the Gentiles, using what I have said and done, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God”.   Some of these ‘signs and wonders’ are described in the Acts of the Apostles.

He was not the only evangelist and there were, of course, all those who consolidated the work which he began in each place.

And his evangelising has extended all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum – these were the two extremes of his missionary journeys at the time of writing this Letter.  Jerusalem was the home of the mother church and from where the preaching of the Gospel originated.  It is not certain whether he actually entered Illyricum because there is no mention in the Acts of Paul being there.  It was at this time a Roman province, north of Macedonia (where Paul certainly had gone) in what is now Albania and the former Yugoslavia.

In saying that he has “fully proclaimed the Gospel” in the eastern Mediterranean does not mean that evangelising work has been completed but only that he has fulfilled his personal mandate which will, of course, have to be continued by the new Christians resident in each place.

He mentions another principle which he strictly observed.  He only preached the Gospel in places where it had not been already preached.  “I do not build on another’s foundations.”  We know that there were other evangelisers and they are mentioned by Paul in his letters.  Paul was guided by a saying from the prophet Isaiah:

Those who have never been told about him will see him,

and those who have never heard about him will understand (Is 52:15).

It is something that we might seriously reflect on in our own Church and in our own parishes today.  We would have to admit that a great deal, if not nearly all, of our pastoral energies are directed at the already converted.  Yet there are growing numbers of people even in so-called “Catholic” countries who have never heard the Gospel proclaimed.  And, as Paul says earlier in this Letter, “How can they believe if they have never had the message spoken to them?”

We too could reflect profitably on some of Paul’s words in today’s reading:

– We too have been called to be evangelists, to share the Gospel message with others.

– Whatever we accomplish in bringing others to Christ will be his work and not ours alone.  Yet we may be the necessary instruments he needs to use.

– There are places and people which will never hear the Gospel message unless we speak and act. It may even be in our home, in our working place or with our friends.  Let us not deprive them of this grace which could transform their lives.

A question we might ask is: How many adults are baptised in our parish every year?  How many ‘lapsed’ members have been brought back in the past year?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1316r/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 NOVEMBER 2015, Friday, 31st Week in Ordinary Time
THE RESOURCES IN PROCLAIMING CHRIST IN THE POWER OF HIS SPIRIT
SCRIPTURE READINGS: ROM 15:14-21; LK 16:1-8When we read St Paul’s letter to the Romans, we cannot but be struck by his enthusiasm and commitment to his ministry.  He is conscious of his responsibility as an apostle and as a priest of Jesus Christ.  He wrote, “the reason why I have written to you, and put some things rather strongly, is to refresh your memories, since God has given me this special position.  He has appointed me as a priest of Jesus Christ, and I am to carry my priestly duty by bringing the Good News from God to the pagans, and so make them acceptable as an offering, made holy by the Holy Spirit.”  St Paul is singular minded with respect to his calling.  He used all and whatever resources he had for this work of proclamation.  Indeed, he vouched that “all the way along, from Jerusalem to Illyricum, I have preached Christ’s Good News to the utmost of my capacity.”

What about us?  Are we conscious of our responsibility as the priest of Jesus Christ by virtue of our baptism to proclaim the gospel to all of humanity?  As members of the royal priesthood, we too are called to share the Good News so that all are made acceptable to God and sanctified in the Holy Spirit.  And we must employ all resources to this end without reservation, just as St Paul did.  How can this be done and what does it entail?

Firstly, the proclamation of the Good News must begin with ourselves. That is to say, we must first be salted with the Good News before we can proclaim to others.  For this reason, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome in spite of the fact that he knew for certain that they “are full of good intentions, perfectly well instructed and able to advise each other.”   Nonetheless, he felt the necessity to refresh the memories of their hope.  We who are proclaimers of the gospel too must continually refresh our faith in Jesus Christ, both intellectually and spiritually.

Yet we must bear in mind that our study of Christ is not simply to acquire more knowledge about Him so that we can feel more superior to others.  An intellectual faith in Jesus Christ alone will not bring us very far.  It might only boost our ego but it does not necessarily transform our lives.  Neither can such intellectual faith save us or strengthen us in times of crisis.  What is equally important is that, hopefully, through our intellectual knowledge of Jesus, we might be led to know Him personally.  Indeed, the purpose of faith formation, theological studies and doctrines of the Church is not simply to impart information but in order that such knowledge might lead us to the same experience that the early Christians had of Jesus in their lives.

What is of utmost importance therefore is that we might be in union with Jesus, just as Paul was.  It was his union with Jesus that empowered him to do what he did for God.  Unless and until we come to a personal knowledge of Jesus through our personal encounter with Him especially in prayer, we cannot claim to have known Jesus yet. Only a personal faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour can protect us when the storms of life set in. Accordingly, the proclamation of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him presupposes that we experience Him concretely in our lives as our Saviour.  If not, we will only be proclaiming words without conviction and without signs.  Indeed, Paul tells us in the first reading that he could proclaim Christ only because of what Christ had done for Him.

Consequently, Paul was not simply imparting some doctrines that he had learnt about Christ, but he was speaking in his own personal capacity.  In the same way, for those of us who have come to know Christ personally and have experienced Him in our lives, especially His unconditional love for us, and also enlightened by His Word and Wisdom which have transformed our lives, we too have something to offer to others.  We can confidently proclaim Jesus as our Way, the Truth and the Life, not simply because the bible says so, but because we have truly found Him as the Way to Truth about ourselves, God and the world, thus enabling us to find Life and live life to the fullest.

However, even an experience of Christ is still not sufficient for us to proclaim the Good News adequately.  We need to employ all the modern means and resources to proclaim Christ to the world. We are called to be more ingenious in proclaiming Christ as the Kingdom of God in person.  Some people think that it is only wrong if we are unethical in our daily lives, but when it comes to faith and religion we can use unethical means to manipulate others.  Such questionable means include coercing people to baptism, slandering the religions of others and belittling their practices or misinterpreting the faith of others.  This is surely against the spirit of the gospel and the spirit of Jesus.  Never for once did we hear Christ condemning the religions of others, even while proclaiming Himself as the way to the Father.  Instead of using such coercive, fanatical means to proclaim Christ, we must consider how we can best effectively proclaim Christ to them in freedom.

But the proclamation of the gospel is more than just communication and techniques and words.  St Paul advised us to proclaim Christ by the power of the Spirit.  He tells us that he has managed to win the non-believers over because Christ confirmed his words through signs and wonders which he performed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  What are these signs and wonders?  Namely, the use of  the charisms that God has given to the Church, such as prophecy, teaching, healing, miracles, gift of tongues, administration of sacraments, etc.  Of course, besides these spectacular gifts of the Holy Spirit, we must also live the life of Christ according to the beatitudes as taught to us at the Sermon on the Mount.  Effective proclamation of Jesus means that people must see that coming to know Christ does make a difference in our lives. If they do not see us living more meaningful and fulfilled lives, it simply does not make sense to accept Jesus.  Indeed the sure testimony of Christ is not so much by what we say or even by what we do, but by what we are.  When they see us living the life of the Spirit, they too will be attracted to Jesus.

Indeed, we are told that even Jesus’ mission was undertaken in the power of the Spirit.  Without the Holy Spirit, Jesus could not have fulfilled His mission.  Clearly, we cannot proclaim Christ except by the power of the Holy Spirit.  St Paul in no uncertain terms said that his capacity to proclaim the gospel was because of what God has done in him, rather than what he had done for Him.  He said, “I think I have some reason to be proud of what I, in union with Christ Jesus, have been able to do for God.”

Of course, working in the power of the Holy Spirit does not mean that we need not co-operate with Him fully by utilizing all the human resources that are available to us. On the contrary, in the parable of the dishonest steward, Jesus is challenging His disciples to be as resourceful as the people of the world.  Jesus is saying that if only His disciples would bring their skills and knowledge that they have to God’s business, just as the people in the world would bring to their worldly businesses, then the gospel would be have been more effectively proclaimed.

Yes, we must be adventurous in proclaiming the Good News.  St Paul himself is our model in courage and creativity in mission.  He told us that he has an unbroken rule never to preach where Christ’s name had already been heard.  The reason was that he “had no wish to build on other men’s foundations.”  In other words, Paul is one person who would not allow himself to fall into complacency.  He could easily have settled down comfortably in any of the Christian communities that had been established.  Instead, he continued to move on until the gospel was preached to all the nations.  We too can fall into elitism.  Some of us are so comfortable in being members of certain Church movements, so much so that we want to take refuge in the groups that we belong.  This is dangerous because we will end up building cliques and factions in the Church. Instead of reaching out to others to share the Good News, we keep it for ourselves.  If that is so, very soon, we will find that what is Good News will one day become stale news because of our complacency and the lack of enthusiasm to evangelize.

So let us not waste the grace that God has given us.  What is left for us now, is to ask for a deeper understanding of how the Holy Spirit worked in the life of Jesus so that we too might be filled with the Spirit of Jesus. Only in the power of His Spirit, can we be truly transformed into His living witnesses.

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Question: “What is the meaning of the Parable of the Unjust Steward / Shrewd Manager (Luke 16:1-13)?”

Answer: The Parable of the Unjust Steward can be found in Luke 16:1–13. The text can be broken down into two parts: the parable (verses 1–8) and the application (verses 9–13). Luke 16:1 identifies that Jesus is speaking to His disciples, but there is a suggestion that His audience is mixed—disciples and Pharisees. Luke 16:14 states that the Pharisees “heard all these things and ridiculed [Jesus].” We also see in verse 1 that Jesus “also” said to the disciples; the “also” would suggest that this parable is connected to the previous three in Luke 15 and that the audience was a mixed crowd of disciples and Pharisees.

It is important to know to whom Jesus is addressing this parable. The parable is for the benefit of the disciples, but there is also a not-so-subtle critique of the Pharisees, as was evident in Luke 15. Verse 14 is Luke’s commentary on the motivation of the Pharisees, and in verse 15 we see our Lord condemn their motives. And what was the Pharisees’ motivation? They were those who were “lovers of money” and who “justify themselves before men” and who exalted that which was an “abomination before God.”

With that as a backdrop, let’s look at the parable. It’s a fairly simple, if somewhat unorthodox, parable from Jesus. The story is simple, but the setting is unusual. In most of Jesus’ parables, the protagonist is either representative of God, Christ, or some other positive character. In this parable the characters are all wicked—the steward and the man whose possessions he manages are both unsavory characters. This should alert us to the fact that Jesus is not exhorting us to emulate the behavior of the characters but is trying to expound on a larger principle.

The parable begins with a rich man calling his steward before him to inform him that he will be relieving him of his duties for mismanaging his master’s resources. A steward is a person who manages the resources of another. The steward had authority over all of the master’s resources and could transact business in his name. This requires the utmost level of trust in the steward. Now, it may not be apparent at this point in the parable (but is made more evident later on), but the master is probably not aware of steward’s dishonesty. The steward is being released for apparent mismanagement, not fraud. This explains why he is able to conduct a few more transactions before he is released and why he is not immediately tossed out on the street or executed.

The steward, realizing that he will soon be without a job, makes some shrewd deals behind his master’s back by reducing the debt owed by several of the master’s debtors in exchange for shelter when he is eventually put out. When the master becomes aware of what the wicked servant had done, he commends him for his “shrewdness.”

In His application of the story in the remaining verses, Jesus begins by saying, “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8). Jesus is drawing a contrast between the “sons of the world” (i.e., unbelievers) and the “sons of light” (believers). Unbelievers are wiser in the things of this world than believers are about the things of the world to come. The unjust steward, once he knew he was about to be put out, maneuvered to put others’ debt to himself. He did so by cheating his master (who more than likely was cheating his customers). He made friends of his master’s debtors who would then be obligated to care for him once he lost his job.

What does this have to do with believers being wise about the life to come? Let’s look at verse 9: “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” Jesus is encouraging His followers to be generous with their wealth in this life so that in the life to come their new friends will receive them “into eternal dwellings.” This is similar to Jesus’ teaching on wealth in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus exhorts His followers to lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19–21).

The term unrighteous (or worldly) wealth seems to strike readers the wrong way. But Jesus is not saying that believers should gain wealth unrighteously and then be generous with it. “Unrighteous” in reference to wealth can refer to 1) the means in acquiring wealth; 2) the way in which one desires to use the wealth; or 3) the corrupting influence wealth can have that often leads people to commit unrighteous acts. Given the way in which Jesus employs the term, the third explanation seems the most likely. Wealth is not inherently evil, but the love of money can lead to all sorts of sin (1 Timothy 6:10).

So, the principle that Jesus is trying to convey is one of a just steward rather than an unjust one. The unjust steward saw his master’s resources as a means for his own personal enjoyment and advancement. Conversely, Jesus wants His followers to be just, righteous stewards. If we understand the principle that everything we own is a gift from God, then we realize that God is the owner of everything and that we are His stewards. As such, we are to use the Master’s resources to further the Master’s goals. In this specific case, we are to be generous with our wealth and use it for the benefit of others.

Jesus then goes on to expand in verses 10–13 the principle given in verse 9. If one is faithful in “little” (i.e., “unrighteous” wealth), then one will be faithful in much. Similarly, if one is dishonest in little, he will also be dishonest in much. If we can’t be faithful with earthly wealth, which isn’t even ours to begin with, then how can we be entrusted with “true riches”? The “true riches” here is referring to stewardship and responsibility in God’s kingdom along with all the accompanying heavenly rewards.

The climax of Jesus’ application is verse 13: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (see also Matthew 6:24). If God is our Master, then our wealth will be at His disposal. In other words, the faithful and just steward whose Master is God will employ that wealth in building up the kingdom of God.

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http://www.gotquestions.org/parable-unjust-steward.html

Parables of Jesus for Dummies

Recommended Resources: Parables of Jesus by James Montgomery Boice and Logos Bible Software.

Related Topics:

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful Servant?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Rich Fool?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Mustard Seed?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Sower?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Talents?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Ten Minas?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Fig Tree?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Ten Virgins?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Vineyard?

What is the meaning of the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Wedding Feast?

What is the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Two Sons?

What is the meaning of the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price?

What is the meaning of the parable of the friend in need (persistent neighbor)?

What is the meaning of the parables of fasting at the wedding feast, the old cloth, and the wineskins?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Dragnet?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24)?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Leaven?

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 27, 2015 — God is hidden in the ordinary and common things of daily life — The Discourse of the Parables

July 26, 2015

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 401

Christian communities must never separate themselves from their surroundings — but not embrace evil or the current fashions.

Art: The Adoration of the Golden Calf By Nicolas Poussin

Reading 1 EX 32:15-24, 30-34

Moses turned and came down the mountain
with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands,
tablets that were written on both sides, front and back;
tablets that were made by God,
having inscriptions on them that were engraved by God himself.
Now, when Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting,
he said to Moses, “That sounds like a battle in the camp.”
But Moses answered, “It does not sound like cries of victory,
nor does it sound like cries of defeat;
the sounds that I hear are cries of revelry.”
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As he drew near the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing.
With that, Moses’ wrath flared up, so that he threw the tablets down
and broke them on the base of the mountain.
Taking the calf they had made, he fused it in the fire
and then ground it down to powder,
which he scattered on the water and made the children of Israel drink.Moses asked Aaron, “What did this people ever do to you
that you should lead them into so grave a sin?”
Aaron replied, “Let not my lord be angry.
You know well enough how prone the people are to evil.
They said to me, ‘Make us a god to be our leader;
as for the man Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt,
we do not know what has happened to him.’
So I told them, ‘Let anyone who has gold jewelry take it off.’
They gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out.”On the next day Moses said to the people,
“You have committed a grave sin.
I will go up to the LORD, then;
perhaps I may be able to make atonement for your sin.”
So Moses went back to the LORD and said,
“Ah, this people has indeed committed a grave sin
in making a god of gold for themselves!
If you would only forgive their sin!
If you will not, then strike me out of the book that you have written.”
The LORD answered, “Him only who has sinned against me
will I strike out of my book.
Now, go and lead the people to the place I have told you.
My angel will go before you.
When it is time for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

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

R. (1a) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

Alleluia JAS 1:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Father willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:31-35

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”He spoke to them another parable.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:

I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.

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Commentary on Matthew 13:31-35 From Living Space

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Parables of the Kingdom (cont’d):

Two short parables which reflect both the experience of the early Church and also highlight features of the Kingdom. Considering when they were written, they exude an extraordinary level of trust and confidence in God’s power, a trust which was not disappointed although the results were not seen for generations.

The first is the parable of the mustard seed.

The mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed known today, but it was the smallest seed used by Palestinian farmers and gardeners. Nor did it, strictly speaking, produce the largest of trees but, under favourable conditions, it could reach some 10 feet (or 3 metres) in height, big enough to provide shelter for birds.

The early Church, scattered in tiny communities, largely cut off from each other, all over the Mediterranean area must have felt very small, very vulnerable. The idea that in time it would become the central cultural influence all over Europe, Roman and barbarian, must have been beyond the wildest dreams of those early Christians. But that tiny seed did become a large tree providing shelter and comfort to millions and, from the Mediterranean, spread to every corner of the world.

The parable of the yeast in the dough is similar but with a different nuance.

In the Bible, yeast is usually a symbol of that which is evil and corrupt. Jesus warned his disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees (Mk 8:15). Similarly, at the Passover, the Jews eat unleavened bread, that is, bread free from leaven or yeast. In this parable, however, it is presented as a symbol of growth.

A tiny amount of yeast put into a large batch of dough produces striking results. (The 3 measures would produce enough to feed 100 people!) A dough batch, over a matter of hours, can swell to twice its original size as the process of fermentation takes place. The effects of the yeast, quite invisible, reach to every corner. Again, when this was written, that was not yet the case. The Church had made very little impact on its surrounding societies. But, over the years, its influence grew until Christianity became the prevailing faith and cultural influence of the whole of Europe and then continued to spread out to other parts of the world.

This parable points to a very important element in the life and work of the Church. It only exerts its influence when it is totally immersed in the society it wishes to reach and influence. And it can do this while still being only a small part of the whole. While never identifying itself with many of the prevailing ideologies and values of our societies, Christian communities must at the same time never separate themselves from their surroundings. There is a danger that we become inward-looking and spend most of our energies on the already converted. There is a strong evangelising element in this parable which cannot be ignored.

We need to remember that these are primarily parables of the Kingdom and not just of the Church, which is the imperfect sign of the work of the Kingdom going on in our world. And what these parables say applies first of all to the work of building the Kingdom in our world – it is a work which will go on inexorably, because it is based on truth, love and justice, and which slowly penetrates every corner of every society.

We can become aware to the point of depression at the amount of evil that we see around us and yet there is a gradual forward movement at all levels. But, as the previous parable reminds us, the wheat has always to co-exist with the weeds – both inside and outside the Church, both inside and outside the Kingdom.

Today’s reading concludes with a repetition of the statement that Jesus only spoke to the crowds in parables. And Matthew sees this as the fulfilment of a prophetic text from the Old Testament. It is in fact a quotation from Psalm 78:2 – “I will open my mouth in a parable.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2172g/

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Lectio Divina From the Carmelites

Reflection
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• We are meditating on the Discourse of the Parables, the objective of which is that of revealing, by means of comparisons, the mystery of the Kingdom of God present in the life of the people. Today’s Gospel presents to us two brief parables, the mustard seed and the yeast. In these Jesus tells two stories taken from daily life, which will serve as terms of comparison to help the people to discover the mystery of the Kingdom. When meditating these two stories it is not necessary to try to discover what each element of the stories want to tell us about the Kingdom. First of all, one must look at the story itself, as a whole and try to discover which is the central point around which the story was constructed. This central point will serve as a means of comparison to reveal the Kingdom of God. Let us try to discover which is the central point of the two parables.
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• Matthew 13,31-32: The parable of the mustard seed. Jesus says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed” and then immediately he tells the story: a mustard seed which is very small is cast into the ground; being very small, it grows and becomes larger than other plants and attracts the birds which come and build their nests on it. Jesus does not explain the story. Here applies what he said on another occasion: “Anyone who has ears to hear, let him hear!” That is, “It is this. You have heard, and so now try to understand!” It is up to us to discover what the story reveals to us about the Kingdom of God present in our life. Thus, by means of this story of the mustard seed, Jesus urges us to have fantasy, because each one of us understands something about the seed. Jesus expects that the persons, all of us, begin to share that which each one has discovered. Now, I share three points that I have discovered on the Kingdom, beginning with this parable:
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(a) Jesus says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed”. The Kingdom is not something abstract, it is not an idea. It is a presence in our midst (Lk 17,21). How is this presence? It is like the mustard seed: a very small presence, humble, which can hardly be seen. It is about Jesus, a poor carpenter, who goes through Galilee, speaking about the Kingdom to the people of the towns. The Kingdom of God does not follow the criteria of the great of the world. It has a different way of thinking and of proceeding.
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(b) The prophecy evokes a prophecy of Ezekiel, in which it is said that God will take a small twig of the cedar and will plant it on the mountain of Israel. This small twig of cedar “will bring forth branches and will bear fruit and will become a magnificent cedar. Under it all the birds will live, every kind of birds will rest under it. All the trees of the forest will know that I am the Lord, who humiliated the tall tree and exalted the low one; I dry the green tree and make the dry tree come to life. I the Lord have spoken and I will do it” (Ez 17,22-23).
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(c) The mustard seed, even if very small, grows and gives hope. Like the mustard seed, in the same way the Kingdom has an interior force and it grows. How does it grow? It grows through the preaching of Jesus and of the disciples in the towns of Galilee. It grows up until today, through the witness of the community and becomes good news of God which radiates light and attracts persons. The person, who gets close to the community, feels welcomed, accepted, at home, and builds in it her nest, her dwelling. Finally, the parable leaves in the air a question: who are the birds? The question will receive an answer later, in the Gospel. The text suggests that it is a question of the pagans who will be able to enter into the Kingdom (Mt15,21-28).
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• Matthew 13,33: The parable of the yeast. The story of the second parable is the following: A woman took a bit of yeast and mixed it with three measures of flour, till it is leavened all through. Once again, Jesus does not explain, he only says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast…” Like in the first parable, it is up to us to discover the significance which this has for us today. The following are some points which I have discovered and which have made me think:
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(a) What grows is not the yeast, but the dough.
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(b) It is a question of something of a house, well known to a woman in her house.
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(c) The yeast is mixed up with the pure dough of flour, and contains something fermented. (d) The objective is to have all the dough fermented, and not only one part. (e) The yeast is not an end in itself but serves to make the dough grow.
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• Matthew 13,34-35: Why Jesus speaks in parables. Here, at the end of the Discourse of the Parables, Matthew clarifies the reason which urged Jesus to teach the people using the form of parables. He says that it was in order that the prophecy would be fulfilled which said: “I will open the mouth to use parables; I will proclaim hidden things since the creation of the world”. In reality, the text that has been quoted is not of a prophet, but rather it is a Psalm (Ps 78,2).
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For the first Christians the whole of the Old Testament was a great prophecy which announced in a veiled way the coming of the Messiah and the fulfilment of the promises of God. In Mark 4,34-34, the reason which urged Jesus to teach the people by means of parables was to adapt the message to the capacity of the people. With these examples taken from the life of the people, Jesus helped the persons to discover the things of God in the life of every day.
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Life then became transparent. He made them perceive that what was extraordinary in God is hidden in the ordinary and common things of daily life. People understood the things of life. In the parables they received the key to open them and to find in them the signs of God. At the end of the Discourse of the Parables, in Matthew 13,52, as we shall see later, another reason will be explained why Jesus chose to teach with parables.
Personal questions
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• Which point of these two parables did you like best or which struck you more? Why?
• Which is the seed that without being aware has grown in you and in your community?
Concluding Prayer
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I will sing of your strength,
in the morning acclaim your faithful love;
you have been a stronghold for me,
a refuge when I was in trouble. (Ps 59,16)
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Jesus’ Parable of the Leaven is found in two of the Gospels. It is a very simple story—a snapshot of life, really: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33; cf. Luke 13:20-21).Jesus uses this story as an object lesson to illustrate the kingdom of heaven. A woman takes yeast (leaven) and mixes it into dough. Eventually, the whole of the dough is leavened. What does it mean?

First, it’s important to define “kingdom of heaven.” By this, Jesus is referring to His domain as the Messiah. In the current age, the kingdom of heaven is spiritual, existing within the hearts of believers (Luke 17:21). Later, the kingdom will be manifest physically, when the Lord Jesus establishes His throne on this earth (Revelation 11:15).

In the Parable of the Leaven, we learn several things about the working of the kingdom in our present age. Each of these lessons stems from the nature of yeast.

First, the kingdom of God may have small beginnings, but it will increase. Yeast is microscopic in size, and only a little is kneaded into the dough. Yet, given time, the yeast will spread through all the dough. In the same way, Jesus’ domain started with twelve men in an obscure corner of Galilee, but it has spread throughout the world. The gospel makes progress.

Second, the kingdom of God exerts its influence from within, not from without. Yeast makes dough rise from within. God first changes the heart of a person, and that internal change has external manifestations. The gospel influence in a culture works the same way: Christians within a culture act as agents of change, slowly transforming that culture from within.

Third, the effect of the kingdom of God will be comprehensive. Just as yeast works until the dough has completely risen, the ultimate benefit of the kingdom of God will be worldwide (Psalm 72:19; Daniel 2:35). “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14).

Fourth, although the kingdom of God works invisibly, its effect is evident to all. Yeast does its job slowly, secretly and silently, but no one can deny its effect on bread. The same is true of the work of grace in our hearts.

The nature of yeast is to grow and to change whatever it contacts. When we accept Christ, His grace grows in our hearts and changes us from the inside out. As the gospel transforms lives, it exerts a pervasive influence in the world at large. As we “reflect the Lord’s glory, [we] are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Recommended Resources: Parables of Jesus by James Montgomery Boice and Logos Bible Software.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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IMPATIENCE WITH GROWTH IN HOLINESS AS A LACK OF FAITH IN GOD’S GRACE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 32:15-24; 30-34, 28; MT 13:31-35

We all want to grow in holiness and be successful in our projects but, quite often, we cannot wait.  We have no patience, not only with ourselves but also with those around us who are slow in living up to the life of Christ, or slow in their work. This is even more so in community living.  How often do we bemoan the fact that our community is not as united and loving as it should be?  At times when we see the failings and weaknesses of our fellow brothers and sisters, we cannot help but judge and condemn them.  Sometimes, we even wish that they be removed from the community.  Yes, if only such difficult people are removed from our community then our life would be so wonderful and godly.

If we are feeling this way, then we can easily identify ourselves with the impatience exhibited by Moses and the Israelites in today’s first reading.  The narrative tells us that the people were impatient in waiting for Moses who went up to the mountain to receive instructions from Yahweh. In their impatience, they pressurized Aaron to make for them a god who could be their leader.  They simply could not wait.  Aaron in his rashness acted without thinking of the consequences and gave in to their demands and made for them a golden calf, a symbol of power and strength.

Similarly, Moses too was impatient.  He projected his intolerance onto Yahweh, making God appear as if He were also impatient and angry.  Moses’ deep encounter with God made him feel great shame for his people who turned against Yahweh when He had delivered them from the slavery of the Egyptians.  Thus, when he came down from the mountain, and when he saw the calf, the scripture says, “Moses’ anger blazed.”  Fuming mad, “he threw down the tablets he was holding and broke them at the foot of the mountain.  He burned the calf into powder which he scattered on the water and forced the Israelites to drink it.”

But the truth is that God is patient and mercifulIf God were portrayed otherwise, it is due to a mistaken perception due to fear and guilt.  Indeed, when Moses later interceded for the grievous sin of his people, the Lord forgave them, albeit not without the need to repair the damage done.  As if to reassure Moses to leave this matter behind him, He commanded him, “Go now, lead the people to the place of which I told you.  My angel shall go before you.”  Yes, God is patient with us in our sinfulness.  At the same time, we cannot avoid running away from the consequences of our sins.  This is made clear when Yahweh said, “but on the day of my visitation, I shall punish them for their sin.”

Today, Jesus in the gospel affirms the patience and grace of God for us sinners.  In the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast, Jesus wants to remind us that the kingdom of God is not built in a day but gradually with the grace of God.  Three qualities are needed if we were to recognize the process of growth,namely, patience, humility, and faith in the power of God.

Like the mustard seed, we must recognize that growth in holiness takes time.  We need to reckon with the natural law of human growth.  We need to allow people, including ourselves, time to grow out of our immaturity, ignorance and selfishness.  We must therefore be patient and learn to wait.  It is necessary to give people the benefit of the doubt that they want to change their lives and that they are trying, albeit with much struggles and difficulty.  To condemn and pass judgment on them is to rule out any possibility of growth or the power of God’s grace.

To have patience, we must be humble, like the mustard seed.  Just as the mustard seed begins in a small way and later blossoms into one of the biggest shrub and becomes a tree, so too it would be foolish of us to despise small efforts in beginning something good.  Be it a project or a good practice, we must begin small and start from somewhere. The danger is that quite often, in the face of evil and sin, as in community living, we tend to give up hope and say to ourselves, “Oh, it has been like that for years.  Nothing can be done.  So do not waste time doing anything good!”  When we adopt this kind of negativity then it shows that we are impatient with growth.  In giving up hope on people, we give up hope on ourselves too.

More than just impatience, it is also our failure to recognize the power of God at work in transforming our lives.  In the final analysis, conversion and growth is not a human effort but the grace of God at work in us.  This is what the parable of the leaven is illustrating.  The leaven is the grace of God at work in us, secretly and invisibly transforming us from within.  It is that same inner divine power that enables the mustard seed to become a tree.  So too, we cannot rely on our human strength to grow in holiness and perfection but on the grace of God.  But we must be patient, since holiness is ultimately a grace and a gift.

If we are patient and learn to wait, then the grace of God will gradually but surely transform us, as the leaven transformed the dough and the growth of the mustard seed.  When that happens, then the glory of God will be visible in us for all to see, so much so that we will attract others to see the glory of God at work in our lives.  In this way, like the mustard tree, we become a refuge whereby people can take shelter in us.  As a result, more and more people are able to embrace the kingdom for themselves until one day, the whole earth is filled with the glory and power of God.

Let us therefore pray for this patience, humility and faith in the power of God’s grace.  Our task is to be open to His grace; but the work of conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We must abide by His time, knowing that God will definitely be faithful to His promises and that He will transform us into a community of grace and love just as He transformed the Israelites into the people of God.  We must have hope, not despair; patience, not condemnation; faith, not self-reliance.

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, January 30, 2015 — We are not among those who draw back and perish but among those who have faith and will possess life

January 29, 2015

Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 321

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Mustard tree
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Reading 1 Heb 10:32-39

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened,
you endured a great contest of suffering.
At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction;
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.
You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.For, after just a brief moment,
he who is to come shall come;
he shall not delay.
But my just one shall live by faith,
and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him.

We are not among those who draw back and perish,
but among those who have faith and will possess life.

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Responsorial Psalm Ps 37:3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40

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R. (39a) The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
By the LORD are the steps of a man made firm,
and he approves his way.
Though he fall, he does not lie prostrate,
for the hand of the LORD sustains him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord.

Alleluia See Mt 11:25

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

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Gospel Mk 4:26-34

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Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”He said,
“To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

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Commentary on Mark 4:26-34 from Living Space

Here we have the two last parables told by Mark in this part of his gospel. They are both images of the Kingdom of God, of God’s truth and love spreading among people all over the world. They are both taken from the world of agriculture, a world that would have been very familiar to Jesus’ listeners.
In the first, God’s work is compared to a farmer planting seed. As in the parable of the sower, the seed is the Kingdom. Night and day the process of growth continues without any human intervention. Whether the farmer is awake or asleep the process of growth continues. The seed sprouts and grows and he does not know how. The outcome is certain. Once the seed is ripe, it is for the farmer to bring in the harvest. And that is our task: to bring in the harvest which has been planted in the hearts of people. In the words of the other parables, to throw the light which helps people see the truth and love of God already in their deepest being.

In the second parable the Kingdom is compared to a mustard seed. Although one of the tiniest of seeds, it grows into a sizeable shrub in which even birds can build their nests.

Both of these parables are words of encouragement to a struggling Church, living in small, scattered communities and surrounded by hostile elements ready to destroy it. How amazed would the Christians of those days if they could see how the seed has grown and spread to parts of the world of whose very existence they were totally unaware. We today still need to have their trust and confidence in the power of the Kingdom to survive and spread.

Mark says that Jesus spoke many parables, in fact, he only spoke in parables. But the full meaning of his teaching was explained to his inner circles of disciples. Those staying “outside” were not ready to take in the message. They are the ones who were not “hearing”, as Jesus told his disciples to do. How sensitive is my hearing?

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Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1601), by Caravaggio
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Who can say when and how one’s real beliefs or conversion occurred? Our moment of truth, the moment of a flash a light that knocked us  from our  horse — as happened to Saul, later called St. Paul — is sometimes not a moment at all. For many Christians, our deepest belief in Christ and our total commitment to the Life of Crist takes time and lots of experience.
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I like to say, “I’ve had hundreds of messengers.”
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But like Saint Augustine, who lived in his mother Monica’s house along with his pregnant lover/slave, many of us miss or seem to miss many of the messengers God sends us in our youth.
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In the gospel today, Jesus uses a parable to tell us that the growth of the kingdom of God — and often time the growth of our own personal spirituality, starts with the “mustards seed” — a very tiny carrier of life and light. Our participation in God’s plan is important. But God knows well that with the free will he has given us — our participation in his body the Church and in His way of life has many ups and downs. God is the one who is in control. He always sends us what we need to grow, when we need it, so we can flower and bear fruit — just like the mustard tree.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related:
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Conversion of Saint Paul by Caravaggio

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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It is always beautiful to see Jesus, who sought in life and in events, new elements and images which could help people to perceive and experience the presence of the Kingdom In today’s Gospel, once again, he narrates two brief stories which take place every day in the life of all of us: “The story of the seed that grows by itself” and “the story of the small mustard seed which grows into the biggest shrub”.
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The story of the seed which grows alone. The farmer who plants knows the process: seed, the green sprout, leaf, spike, grain. The farmer knows how to wait, he does not cut down the grain before it is time. But he does not know how the soil, the rain, the sun and the seed have this force or strength to make the plant grow from nothing until it bears fruit. This is how the Kingdom of God is. It is a process, there are stages and moments of growth. It takes place in time. It produces fruit at the just moment, but nobody knows how to explain its mysterious force. Nobody, not even the landlord. Only God!
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The story of the small mustard seed which grows and becomes big. The mustard seed is small, but it grows and at the end, the birds make their nests in its branches. This is how the Kingdom is. It begins very small, it grows and it extends its branches. The parable leaves an open question which will receive a response later on in the Gospel: Who are the birds? The text suggests that it is a question of the Pagans who will not be able to enter into the community and participate in the Kingdom.
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Because Jesus teaches by means of the Parables. Jesus tells many parables. All are taken from the life of the people! In this way he helped persons to discover the things of God in daily life, a life which becomes transparent. Because what is extraordinary of God is hidden in the ordinary and common things of daily life. People understood the things of life. In the parables they received the key to open it and to find in it the signs of God.

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Personal questions
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Jesus does not explain the Parables. He tells the stories and awakens in others the imagination and the reflection of the discovery. What have you discovered in these two Parables? .\
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The objective of the words is to render life transparent. Has your life become more transparent throughout the years, or has the contrary taken place?
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Concluding Prayer
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Have mercy on me, O God, in your faithful love, in your great tenderness wipe away my offences; wash me clean from my guilt, purify me from my sin. (Ps 51,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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