Posts Tagged ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 15, 2016 — What is the reason for losing the joy of the Lord? What are the enemies of our joy? “Your life does not belong to you…”

August 14, 2016

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 622

The Visitation, By Antonio de Pereda y Salgado

“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction and persevere in prayer.”

 

Reading 1 REV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10AB

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 45:10, 11, 12, 16

R. (10bc) The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,
forget your people and your father’s house.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

Reading 2 1 COR 15:20-27

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death,
for “he subjected everything under his feet.”

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Mary is taken up to heaven;
a chorus of angels exults.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the infant leaped in her womb.’

Gospel LK 1:39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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14 AUGUST 2016, Sunday, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary*
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ASSUMPTION CELEBRATES THE GRACE OF CERTAIN VICTORY

SCRIPTURE READINGS:

[  REV 11:19; 12:1-6.10; 1 CORINTHIANS 15:20-26; LUKE 1:39-56 ]

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Life on this earth is always a battle between good and evil as we read in the first reading. In the book of Revelation, we read how the Church, represented by the woman, was harassed by the Evil One, represented by the huge red dragon.  This woman of course also represents Mary, the Mother of the Church.  The reality is that all of us are fighting against evil all the time.  Day in and day out, we are being challenged to remain faithful to the gospel values.  At times, we are able to overcome the temptations of the Evil One.  But there are also many times when we succumb to his temptations. The more we try to be faithful to the gospel, the more we fall.  This can be rather trying and disappointing, especially when we have just gone for a good confession.  Indeed, the Devil wants us to give up trying to be good and holy. He wants us to feel discouraged and condemn ourselves as hopeless recalcitrants.

When we feel defeated and want to give up fighting against evil, we can take courage on this solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  The promise of final victory over the Evil One is most consoling.  We read in the first reading, “The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron scepter, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne.  Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God and all authority for his Christ.”  Jesus Christ truly has won victory for us and He has conquered the Evil One.  So we need not feel that we have lost the battle against the Devil. Rather, our faith remains in Christ who has won that victory for us.

This certain victory has been claimed for Mary, for we read that “the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready.”  This is what the Assumption is celebrating; that Mary has now shared in the glorification of our Lord.  She was given the special privilege of sharing the fullness of resurrection that has already been anticipated in Christ.  She is now in heaven waiting for the rest of the Church, the Body of Christ to join her.  While she remains there, she is also interceding for the Church so that the full body of Christ can be complete.   The assumption of Mary therefore is meant to be a source of hope for the Church, that where she is, we will be there too; and that we too will share in the glorification of the body when we die.

Our destiny after death is clear.  Unlike many in the world who fear death because it is seen as annihilation, we need not fear death because death has been overcome forever in the resurrection of Christ.  St Paul says that Christ “must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.”  Death, which is the cause of every sin on this earth and gives rise to selfishness and self-preservation, having been conquered once and for all by Christ dying to death and rising again, gives us confidence not to fear death as well.  We now know for certain that death is not the final word, or hatred and selfishness brought upon by death.  Love conquers death because love is stronger even than death.  Even after death, when we love someone, love lives on.  Nothing can overcome the power of love in terms of passion and in terms of time.  It is God’s love for us in Christ that overcomes death forever.

Mary’s assumption is the guarantee of our sharing in the resurrection.  Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, and Mary’s assumption of body and soul into heaven, we know where we will also be after death.  St Paul makes it clear that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is “the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.”

So this feast of Mary’s assumption is an important celebration to remind us that we should not subscribe to the materialistic world view that like the rest of the creatures on earth, when we die, we will be reduced to nothing or that we would be left with only an immortal soul.  Rather, Christian faith affirms the value of the body and hence the glorification of the body after death.  As human beings, we are constituted of body and soul; and whilst separated temporally at death, our body and soul will be reunited on the last day.

Accordingly, when we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, we need also to share with her the life she lived in Christ if we are to share in the resurrection as well.  If Mary was granted that privilege of sharing the resurrection of Christ before us, it was because she was sinless and intimately shared in the suffering of Christ on the cross. Mary was associated with Jesus in His redemptive work right from the beginning of her fiat to God’s will and throughout her life until the death of Christ on the cross, where she surrendered her only Son to the Father.  Beyond His death, Mary, given to the Church as the Mother when Christ was glorified at His death, played the role of giving encouragement to the primitive Church at prayer, interceding for her.

Concretely this means being receptive to grace, like Mary, all the time.  Salvation is not the work of man but principally the work of God.  That is why the Assumption of Mary is called a privilege, not a merit that Mary gained for her work.  It is purely a gift from God on account of God’s generosity.  The Church perceived it as fitting for her to be glorified based on tradition and scripture.  This was what Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”  Her blessedness is purely due to God’s mercy and grace.

Mary is called ‘full of grace’ because God has not only bestowed upon her grace, but she has always been receptive to grace all her life.  In truth, God too has given us His grace but we are not always that responsive.  When we fail to be docile and receptive to His grace, this is where we fail and fall.  If we lack docility to His grace, it is because, unlike Mary, we are proud and arrogant.  This is what Mary again said, “He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.”  Humility is the way to obtain the grace of God to live a holy and blessed life.  Pride has been the downfall of the Devil and so is ours.  Many of us rebel against God, thinking we know everything instead of obeying His divine will for us.

So today, let is in faith cling to God’s promise given to Mary, realized in her and also given to us.  We need to be like Mary – carry Jesus in our hearts as she did in both her womb and her heart.  Like Mary, we are called to never doubt in God’s love and forgiveness but ”believe in the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”   Indeed, during this year of mercy, “He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

*Traditionally the Assumption of the B.V.M is celebrated on 15 August. By decree of The Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei this solemnity is being celebrated on Sunday, 14 August this year.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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A Word About The Sanctity of Human Life

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Catholics are taught that all life is sacred from conception until natural death, and the taking of innocent human life, whether born or unborn, is morally wrong. The Church teaches, “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, Who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (Donum Vitae, 5). This puts Catholics at odds with many people on issues of abortion and euthanasia.

Related:

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brass_ring

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

 

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What keeps us locked up and unable to learn? Lack of faith, too much pride, insisting upon self-sufficiency, not enough gratitude …. So if we have lost our joy, we need to come back to the Lord…

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Partial Homily:  Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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From 31 MAY 2016

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Indeed, when the Lord is with us, we are free from slavery and bondage, like the Israelites.  The Lord has given us new purpose, new hope and meaning.  So the Good News is proclaimed to the downtrodden, the lowly and the poor.  God has come to assure us that He is with us.  This explains the joy of Mary, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.  So, too, in the resurrection appearances, the disciples were filled with joy when the Lord appeared to them.  To have Jesus so near to them, in their womb and in their midst gave them joy that was incomparable.  Indeed, whoever knows that the Lord is with him or her will no longer fear about tomorrow!   St Paul wrote, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom 14:8)   We too are filled with joy whenever we are at prayer and feeling His healing and assuring presence.

But for some of us, we have lost this joy.  What is the reason for losing the joy of the Lord?  What are the enemies of our joy?  In truth, unlike the Israelites, our real enemies are not external enemies. It has to do with ourselves.  

Our enemy, as the Magnificat tells us, firstly is the lack of faith. We lack faith in the Lord and therefore we live in fear and anxiety.  Mary was called to be the mother of the Saviour.  Of all peoples, we would expect Mary to be full of fear and anxiety at the prospect of her pregnancy; how she would have to explain to Joseph and her family, and her community.  But we read that upon receiving the message of the angel, she left everything into the hands of the Lord.  Instead of focusing on her needs and her future, she turned outwards and immediately went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who too was pregnant with John the Baptist, in her old age.  Indeed, the remark of Elizabeth captures the spirit of Mary when she said, “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Secondly, it is the enemy of pride.  Mary said, “He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.”  Only the humble and lowly, the anawim can receive the blessings of God.  Many of us rely on our own strength, on our wealth, power and talents.   That explains why the modern man and woman are so proud of their achievements.  They think that their success is all due to their hard work, ingenuity and intelligence.  Such people are arrogant and look down on others who are not as successful as them.  But the day they are struck down, with a marriage failure, an incurable illness, a tragedy or an accident, they will come to realize their nothingness and finiteness.

Thirdly, it is the enemy of self-sufficiency.  “The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.”  Many of us cannot feel the presence of God in our lives because we do not need Him.  We think we can manage by ourselves.  This is what the humanist is saying to us.  We do not need God.  We can solve all problems by ourselves.  We have intelligence and with will, we can conquer the sky.  There is nothing we cannot do, no problem we cannot solve.  Such self-sufficient people cannot feel with others.  They lack the humility to know their limitations.  That is why God only comes to those who need Him and acknowledge that only He is sufficient.  When we are self-sufficient, we live in fear of losing what we have.  But if our sufficiency is in God, we live a life of freedom and detachment.  St Paul wrote, “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:12f)

Fourthly, it is the enemy of ingratitude.  When we are proud and self-sufficient, we lack gratitude for what we have because we feel that we have earned them and hence there is no one to whom we need to be grateful to.  An ungrateful person is an unhappy person because he is not appreciative of what he has.  Mary was a woman who felt blessed, not because of her merits but by the grace of God.  And so with great joy, she could say, “Yes, from this day on all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.” Her greatness, she knows, comes from God and therefore she did not rejoice in herself and become proud, but instead she remained always humble before the Lord and His people, for she did not merit her position as the Mother of the Savior, or whatever she has been blessed with.  For her, everything is pure grace.

So if we have lost our joy, we need to come back to the Lord.  The Lord wants to be with us but we must welcome Him like Mary, Elizabeth and St John the Baptist.  He wants to fill us with His joy and peace.

We begin this process by recounting the wonderful things that the Lord has blessed us with.  Like Mary, we must recall the good things that the Lord has done for us.  As the psalmist says, “Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name! Make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!  Declare the greatness of his name. Sing a psalm to the Lord for he has done glorious deeds; make them known to all the earth!  People of Zion, sing and shout for joy, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” Giving thanks and praise for all that He has done for us like Mary is the way to recover that joy which we have lost.

Secondly, we must then pass that joy to others, the same way that Mary did.  St Paul invites us to live a life of charity like Mary in reaching out to others.  He said, “Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of Spirit.”  (Rom 12:8-11)  When we share the joy that we have received from the Lord, that joy multiplies and increases.  Mary in bringing the joy to Elizabeth and John the Baptist augmented her own joy.  Whenever joy is shared, joy increases.  We do not keep joy to ourselves.  The sign of true joy is that of spontaneity in sharing that joy with others, just like the outbursts of Mary and Elizabeth and John the Baptist in thanksgiving. Again St Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor.” (Rom 12:15f)

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 12, 2015 — Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe — “Now have salvation and power come.” — Are we too attached to the world?

December 11, 2015

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Lectionary: 690A

Reading 1 ZEC 2:14-17

Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion!
See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD.
Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day,
and they shall be his people,
and he will dwell among you,
and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
The LORD will possess Judah as his portion in the holy land,
and he will again choose Jerusalem.
Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD!
For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling.

Or  RV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10AB

God’s temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed.”

Responsorial Psalm JUDITH 13:18BCDE, 19

R. (15:9d) You are the highest honor of our race.
Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all the women on earth;
and blessed be the LORD God,
the creator of heaven and earth.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.
Your deed of hope will never be forgotten
by those who tell of the might of God.
R. You are the highest honor of our race.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, holy Virgin Mary, deserving of all praise;
from you rose the sun of justice, Christ our God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Or LK 1:39-47

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”

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Commentary on Luke 1:26-38 From Living Space

For us Christians, the heart of today’s Gospel passage – continuing immediately from yesterday’s text – is a turning point in the history of the world. As it is also even for those who do not know Christ or who refuse to believe in his origins.

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As the story is told by Luke, Mary must have been truly alarmed at the words of her unexpected visitor. Her cousin Elizabeth is now pregnant six months. The incident is taking place in Nazareth, not exactly the centre of the earth, or even of Palestine. A future disciple of Jesus will be heard to say with some cynicism, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Truly in the eyes of the more sophisticated it was something of a backwater. Yet this is the place God chooses to enter our world – not Rome, not Athens, not Alexandria nor any of the other great centres of power, culture and learning in the world of the time.

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“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” is the greeting of the angel Gabriel, the same one who spoke to Zechariah. How did Mary react to such an extraordinary salutation? The Gospel says that she was “greatly troubled” and well she might be. As a young girl in an obscure little town what could the words possibly mean? “Full of grace” really means that she is being showered with God’s special favours. It is more something that is happening to her than something she already has. The nature of that favour is expressed in what follows – she is to become the mother of a Son whom she is to call Jesus (meaning “God saves”) and who will be a King “of whose kingdom there will be no end”.

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What really disturbs Mary is that, although she is already betrothed to Joseph, she is not yet married to him. In other words she is not sleeping with him as his wife. How can she become a mother? It will happen because the conception will be the work of God, the “overshadowing of the Spirit” so that the child who is born will be, in a very special sense, the Son of God. He will also, of course, be the son of Mary. In this way we have the deep mystery of the Incarnation expressed in the language of a story. Jesus will be at the same time someone who is fully divine and fully human. Jesus will be the unique bridge between God and his creation. He will be human “like us in all things but sin”. He will also, through his whole life, his words and actions, be the “splendour of the Father”.

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In a great leap of faith and trust in the angel’s message, Mary says ‘Yes’. “Behold, I am the slave girl of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” For us Christians, the moment of that ‘Yes’ is a turning point in the history of the world. As it is also even for those who do not know Christ or who refuse to believe in his origins. It is the moment of Incarnation, when the Word became flesh and began to live among us as one of us. The world would never be the same. In a way, this is a more important moment than Christmas but it is understandable that we should tend to celebrate more the visible presence of God in Jesus at Bethlehem.

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Mary had yet to learn what that ‘Yes’ involved but it was made unconditionally and it was never withdrawn. Through a life of trials and tribulations, of which we can know surely only a fraction, right up to those terrible moments as she stood beneath the Cross and saw her only Son die in agony and shame as a public criminal, she never once withdrew that ‘Yes’.

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There is a clear message there for us. We too have been called in our own special way to give birth to Jesus in our lives and in our environment. We too have been called to say ‘Yes’, an unconditional ‘Yes’ to following Jesus. Now is the time for us to renew that pledge with Mary’s help and example.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/a1220g/

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More than a saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe represents Mexican identity
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By David Agren
Catholic News Service December 11, 2015
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MEXICO CITY — Jonathan Gonzalez lugged a large statue of St. Juan Diego into the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a recent Sunday, showing no signs of strain as he moved through the masses at the world’s most-visited Marian shrine.

A farmhand from the outlying state of Hidalgo, he makes the 100-mile trip annually to the basilica on Tepeyac Hill in northern Mexico City, where a dark-skinned Mary appeared to indigenous farmer Juan Diego in 1531. Gonzalez makes the trip mostly out of faith, saying, “She’s the mother of all Mexicans.”

But he also goes to the basilica to give thanks for “miracles that have happened,” although this year Gonzalez arrived with a special sense of gratitude and wanting to seek intercession for his wife, who he says is suffering from cancer.

“Thanks to God, (my wife) is still here,” said Gonzalez, 37. “(Guadalupe) has really helped a lot.”

Gonzalez’s story is similar to many in Mexico, where the population views their national patroness as more than a saint and often as a mother, intercessor, and icon whose importance transcends religion.

Millions of Mexicans descend annually on the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, especially for the feast day Saturday (Dec. 12), with many making pilgrimages on bike or arriving on foot from the surrounding states. Some arrive from abroad.

The faith shows few signs of fading, according to observers, while growth in the United States, through immigrant communities, is strong. A telenovela is also introducing Our Lady to Guadalupe to millions more in Central and South America, where, along with the Philippines, the devotion has deep roots.

Even Pope Francis has spoken of her importance and will visit the basilica on his February trip to Mexico, telling reporters recently, “If it weren’t for Our Lady of Guadalupe, I wouldn’t go” to Mexico.

Visitors arrive at the basilica throughout the year in pueblo and parish pilgrimages, as curious tourists and day-trippers on work- and club-related processions — arriving in everything from clown costumes to mariachi suits.

Some Mexicans, though, call themselves “Guadalupanos” (followers of Guadalupe), despite misgivings with the Church — or not being Catholic at all — and find a sense of belonging and identity in the patroness.

“It’s a symbol of national identity,” said Jesuit Father David Velasco Yanez, a professor at Jesuit-run ITESO university in Guadalajara. “People might not be believers, not that faithful, not that participative in Church life, but Guadalupano to the bone marrow.”

Former Mexican President Felipe Calderon summed up the sentiments in a trip to the basilica, in which he said, “We’re all Guadalupanos.”

The patroness is deeply ingrained in the national mythology and history; her image appears on items as mundane as phone cards and lottery tickets. The independence and revolutionary movements marched behind images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, even though the latter were staunchly anti-clerical. More recently, perpetual anti-system candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has tried tapping the same ability to unify the masses by naming his upstart political party: MORENA — or dark skinned lady and a common name for patroness.

“When people want to keep their religiosity, without maintaining loyalty to the Church hierarchy, they become Guadalupano,” said Ilan Semo, political historian at the Jesuit-run Iberoamerican University.

A 2014 survey by Gabinete de Comunicacion Estrategica found 66 percent of respondents said Our Lady of Guadalupe was “very miraculous.” Another 49 percent acknowledged attending church on Dec. 12, her feast day. Local officials put annual attendance at the basilica in December at around 8 million.

Father Hugo Valdemar Romero, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, said he sees signs of an expanding devotion as the number of pilgrimages and trips to the basilica increases each year.

He said the devotion has grown abroad, too, as Mexicans take images of the virgin everywhere they travel and the telenovela “La Rosa de Guadalupe” gains audiences in other Spanish-speaking countries, despite being “simple” and “banal” in many moments.

“It’s grown the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe a lot in Latin America, through the transmission of its programs,” Valdemar said.

The commercialization of Our Lady of Guadalupe presents potential problems, analysts say. The basilica grounds expanded in the last decade after donations by the Mexico City government and billionaire businessman Carlos Slim Helu, causing conflicts with vendors in the local area.

The soap opera also presents the faith in a problematic way, portraying Our Lady of Guadalupe as little more than a miracle worker.

“It’s a caricature of the cult, of asking that she helps you when you’re in an extreme situation of vulnerability,” said Bernardo Barranco, an academic and author on Catholic matters in Mexico.

“The biggest risk isn’t Mexicans’ faith. It’s not the devotion of the communities that organize the devotion, but mainly the usage by broadcasters and the archdiocese itself. It’s the commercialization.”

St. Juan Diego’s canonization has not been well-received by Guadalupanos, with analysts saying an auxiliary figure was never going receive the same support.

“The virgin is the mother of God,” said Gonzalez, who was lugging the St. Juan Diego statue, while his friends carried an image of Guadalupe.

At the basilica, most interviewees expressed simple, nonpolitical motives for making their trips.

“We come to give thanks for everything: work, family, health,” said Jesus Romero, a driver for the mayor of a town in Hidalgo state.

Romero rode with 66 other cyclists for six hours to the basilica for the 18th straight year, though he has traveled there at other times and once moved toward the sanctuary on his knees to ask for “family unity.”

Rafael Camacho and his wife, Sofia Palomar, give away 100 free tacos every month at the basilica as a way of repaying a “manda” (petition) in which they asked for Palomar’s mother to recover from a coma induced by a heart attack three years ago.

“She’s everything,” Camacho said of the virgin and her role in the country. “Everyone admires her.”

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More at Wikipedia:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 DECEMBER 2015, Saturday, 2nd Week of Advent
TURNING BACK TO THE LORD AND PREPARING TO RECEIVE HIM
SCRIPTURE READINGS: ECCELSIASTICUS 48:1-4, 9-11; MT 17:10-13To appreciate today’s gospel reading, we must first appreciate the person of the prophet Elijah.  He is one of the two greatest prophets of the Old Testament, the other being Moses.   The latter was seen more as a symbol of the Law since it was through him that God gave the Law to Israel.  Elijah was considered to be the unparalleled prophet Israel had ever seen.  Appropriately, just before the death of Jesus, both Moses and Elijah, one representing the Law and the other the Prophets, appeared in the transfiguration scene with the transfigured Jesus in His glory.  They were seen talking to Him.

As the prophet of all times, he was remembered as the one who was zealous for the purity of the faith of Israel. He was fearless in preserving the pristine faith of Israel, even if it meant going against the King of Israel.  Indeed, he was sent “to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.”  So much so, he was persecuted by Queen Jezebel who was a pagan queen and responsible for introducing pagan practices in the kingdom.  His prayers were efficacious and through him, miracles were wrought.   The author of the book of Sirach recounts him as one who “arose like a fire”, his word flaring like a torch.  It was he who brought famine on them, and who decimated them in his zeal. “By the word of the Lord, he shut up the heavens. He also, three times, brought down fire. How glorious you were in your miracles, Elijah! Has anyone reason to boast as you have?” Finally, he ended his magnificent career with a glorious ending when he was “taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses.”

It was within this context that the Jews believed that before the Messiah comes, Elijah will come again.  That is why after having witnessed the Transfiguration and on coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?”  The reply of Jesus implied that He was the Messiah that they were expecting when He said, “True, Elijah is to come to see that everything is once more as it should be; however, I tell you that Elijah has come already and they did not recognise him but treated him as they pleased; and the Son of Man will suffer similarly at their hands.”   And we have the footnote supplied by the evangelist when he wrote, “the disciples understood then that he had been speaking of John the Baptist.”

As we come to the end of the second week of Advent and as Christmas draws nearer, John the Baptist becomes more prominent, for he is seen as the precursor of the Lord.  As a true and distinguished prophet like Elijah, he preached salvation through repentance to his people.  Like Elijah, he had no fear of man, not even King Herod and his wife, Herodias.  He spoke the truth and did not mince his words.  Sanctified at birth in the womb of Elizabeth by Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, he was intimately one with the Lord.  He lived in the desert in total dependence on the Lord, surviving on locusts and wild honey.  He knew his mission as a messenger of the Lord.  Regardless of what others thought of him, even as the Messiah, he declared in no uncertain terms that he was only the voice of the Lord crying out in the desert, not the Word of God.  His mission was to prepare the way for the Lord.  He was the bride waiting for the bridegroom.  Once the Messiah came, he faded away from the scene, for his job was done since his master must increase and he must decrease.  Truly, at his preaching, many repented for fear of the punishment waiting for them.

Unfortunately, many did not take heed, especially the Jewish leaders.  It was not that they could not recognize Christ as the Messiah; they were simply not ready to accept Christ for fear of losing their status quo.  Their pride and self-righteousness hindered them from hearing the call to repentance.  They repeated the same mistake of their forefathers who murdered the prophets.   Hence, when Jesus came, they rejected Him.  They were hostile to Jesus and sought to destroy Him as He was becoming too popular.  Most of all, Jesus was upsetting their status quo and challenging the institutions of the day, especially the customs that kept the people poor and marginalized.

Christ our Messiah is coming soon.  Have we paved the way to receive our Lord and Saviour?  Are we any better than the Israelites and the Jews?  Do we treat the messengers of God any better than the Israelites and the Jews?  Have we also turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the messengers of God calling us to repentance and conversion?

Who are these messengers of God that He has sent along our way to invite us to true repentance of heart so that the Lord can come into our lives?  They could be our priests who preach the Word to us and counsel us.  They could be our friends or even family members and colleagues.  Are we receptive to their advice?  Sometimes, God’s Word comes through a sharing or an email or even when we read the newspaper.  So what is preventing us from listening to them?  Why are we so blind that we do not see and so deaf that we do not hear?

Is it pride or fear? More often than not, regardless of whether we consider ourselves active in the Church ministry or even good Catholics, we tend to fall into the sin of pride, like the Pharisees and the Scribes.  Many of us think too highly of ourselves.  We do not see our blindness, like the Jewish leaders.  We tend to perceive ourselves as holy and devout Catholics, and that others are sinners.  The very fact that we tend to condemn others and pass judgement on them shows our spiritual pride.  Most of all, we cannot bear to hear that we need conversion or that we do not know about God or that our spiritual life is weak and inadequate.  Indeed, those of us who are holding Church positions often fall into the same trap of the Pharisees and the Scribes.  This explains why Jesus reserved all the harsh criticisms for the Jewish leaders but demonstrated compassion and gentleness to sinners.

Of course, there are many of us who are still too attached to the world.  We are engrossed with the pleasures of life, our ambition, and our pursuits.  We do not resist the temptation of the Evil One, the Flesh and the World.  We fail to realize that the Devil is tempting us to sin and to turn away from the Lord.  Because we lack discernment, we cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.  At any rate, we prefer to listen to the Evil One who tempts us to commit sins of the flesh and follow the pursuit of the world, striving for glory, power, status and wealth.

Finally, if we are not receptive to the prophets of God, most likely, it is because our ignorance causes us to resist changing our comfortable status quo for fear that we lose power and control over others and compromise our self-interests.  Many of us are afraid to give up our sins for fear that we might lose our friends or the little joys we have.  We prefer to remain where we are in spite of the fact that we are not really happy either.  It is just like those living in irregular relationships.  They are caught in a bind.  They are afraid to let go on one hand but on the other hand, they are not at peace either.

So we must pray for the grace of conversion and repentance.  Like the psalmist, we pray for wisdom, enlightenment and strength.  We too must cry like the psalmist, “O shepherd of Israel, hear us, shine forth from your cherubim throne. O Lord, rouse up your might, O Lord, come to our help.  God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see. Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted.  Lord of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.”    As Penitential services will be held soon in most parishes, let us prepare ourselves well for a meaningful celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation by making time for prayer, entering into ourselves so that we can surrender those areas of sin and wounds for the Lord to heal us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, May 31, 2013: Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

May 30, 2013

The Visitation, from Altarpiece of the Virgin — Art By Jacques Daret (c. 1404 – c. 1470)

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Lectionary: 572

Reading 1 Zep 3:14-18a

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart,  O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

Or Rom 12:9-16

Brothers and sisters: Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.

Responsorial Psalm Is 12:2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

R. (6) Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior. With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation. R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name; among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name. R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel. Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth. Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel! R. Among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Gospel Lk 1:39-56

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
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And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
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He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
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Homily Ideas for the Visitation
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I treasure this reading commonly known as “The Visitation” for many reasons.  For one thing, the story prominently features two women – Mary and Elizabeth.  What a refreshing change from the Patriarchal bias found all over the Bible that tends to push the women into the margins of the story. (A tendency that continues on into the Church…. but that’s a tale for another day.)

Notice the intimate experience of God and relationship in the story.  Elizabeth is so “filled with the Holy Spirit” she can’t help but cry out in joy.  Mary, too, is overwhelmed with God’s presence, moving her to profess one of the great prayers of praise in the Catholic tradition (The Magnificat) which begins with the words: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”

The connection between the two women, described by Luke as “cousins”, is so deep that Elizabeth instinctly knows the miracle that has happened to Mary (“the baby leapt in my womb”) before Mary does or says anything.   The story concludes by simply stating that Mary “remained with Elizabeth for three months” – presumably, in a spirit of deep and abiding friendship.

No coincidences there.  An intimate relationship with God inevitably leads us to intimate relationships with others.  And intimate relationships with others inevitably leads us into an intimate relationship with God.  Such a circle of abiding Love can’t help but produce within us into a deep concern for and commitment to the poor and lowly – a major theme of the entire Magnificat!

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

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http://3rdmillenniumpilgrim.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/gospel-reflection-luke-139-56-assumption-of-mary/

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