Posts Tagged ‘pain’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 15, 2017 — Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows — “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me.” — “Because I live, you also will live.”

September 14, 2017

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Lectionary: 441/639

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Our Lady of Sorrows by Sassoferrato

Reading 1 1 TM 1:1-2, 12-14

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our savior
and of Christ Jesus our hope,
to Timothy, my true child in faith:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he considered me trustworthy
in appointing me to the ministry.
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.
Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1B-2A AND 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

mothercrucified3

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

Sequence (Optional) — Stabat Mater

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia)

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 19:25-27

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Image result for Our Lady of Sorrows, art, pictures

Our Lady of Sorrows by Tianna Mallett

Or LK 2:33-35

Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

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Our Lady of Sorrows – Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-9; Ps 30; Luke 2:33-35 or John 19:25-27 From Living Space

There are two choices for the Gospel reading. The first is from Luke’s account of the Presentation in the Temple. While they were in the Temple, Mary and Joseph met the holy man Simeon, who had been promised that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

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When he meets Mary and Joseph, he recognises the Messiah in the Baby she is holding. He then proceeds to make some prophecies about Jesus and, addressing Mary herself, tells her that a “sword of sorrow” will pierce her heart. He does not specify what that “sword” might be but now we can see that it particularly alludes to the suffering and death of Jesus which she witnessed. However, the “sword” can also be applied to the other painful experiences we remember in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

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The alternative Gospel reading is from John’s account of the Crucifixion where he mentions that the “mother of Jesus” was standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son died. With her were two other women, her sister called Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”.

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Seeing them there, Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to the care of his Mother, while telling the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ Mother is his also. Some would see in this scene the Mother of Jesus as symbolising the Christian community. There is to be a relationship of mutual support between the community and its dedicated members. The community exists for the well-being of the individual members and each member is committed in turn to the well-being of the community.

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The First Reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and speaks of Jesus’ passionate prayer to his Father that he not have to go through the terrible death of the Cross. And his prayer was heard, because of his total submission to his Father. It was precisely through the acceptance of his suffering that he learnt to be totally at one with the will of his Father. And, being made perfect through his obedience, he became a source of salvation for all others who unite themselves to him.

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And who was more united to Jesus than his Mother? It is because of her acceptance of and identification with the sufferings of her Son that we celebrate her memory today.

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Our Lady of Sorrows — The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From September 15, 2014)
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There are many ways to look at sufferings in life.   Those who are negative will look at sufferings as a curse from God.  Such an attitude can turn them bitter against God and the world.  When we try to run away from our sufferings or deny them, we will end up being miserable.

Fortunately, most of us assume a positive approach to suffering; seeing it as a pedagogy of life.  In other words, it teaches us about life and most of all, it purifies our attitude towards people.  It helps to sanctify us.  Indeed, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, Jesus Himself learned obedience through suffering.  In other words, we can embrace suffering as part of the mystery of life or fight it.  If we fight against suffering, then we open ourselves to greater pain, like when we harden our muscles when receiving an injection.  The way to overcome suffering is to let go and embrace it as God’s will for our growth, purification and strengthening of character.

However, it is not sufficient to see suffering in this manner as it is still very much focused on the self.  Rather, suffering should teach us to reach out, for it is only in reaching out that we are able to forget our own sufferings.  The clue to reaching out is found in the gospel of St John, when we are told that “the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  In other words, like John, we are called to feel with Mary, just as Mary felt with Jesus and identified herself with Him.

When St Paul tells us that if we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory, and that if we share in His death, we also share in His resurrection, he is not simply suggesting that if we suffer just like Jesus, we too will be glorified and raised like Jesus.  Of course, this is true, but there is a deeper significance to this exhortation of Paul.

St Paul is telling us that in sharing the sufferings of Christ, we will understand not only what Christ has gone through, but what He has suffered for us, for our sake and for our salvation.  In other words, by sharing in His sufferings, we can now identify with Him, not just in His sufferings, but also feel the depth of His love for us.  Only when we come to know how much He has loved us, can we come to love Him even more.  If we are called to know how much He suffered, it is so that we can appreciate the extent of His selfless love for us.  It is important that we understand the purpose of His sufferings.

Suffering in itself is not redeeming unless it is experienced for love of others.  So in sharing Christ’s sufferings and understanding His love for us, we are now ready to suffer for Him in return as our grateful response to His love.  Indeed, this was the way Christ suffered.  If He could suffer so much for us, it was because He had experienced the Father’s self-emptying love for Him.

Even in human relationships, we are inclined to be more sympathetic to people whom we encounter, and those who share their sufferings and pain with us.  Without understanding their struggles, the natural reaction would be for us to apply the laws to them objectively, without taking into consideration their existential context.  But justice, especially the justice of God, requires that we apply laws within the context and circumstances of each individual, as opposed to a legalistic manner.  Indeed, when we lack contact with a person and lack understanding of his or her personal struggles, we cannot empathize very much with the person.

That is why dialogue and communion enables us to feel with and for each other.  It is not in our nature to act objectively; only robots do that.  But neither do we act subjectively, for if we do, then we are not living out the truth.  Rather, we act objectively in a subjective manner, taking into consideration both the person and his circumstances.  Compassion and justice meet in God and in the Christian.  Once we recognize the person as a person and not a thing, then we too, can help the person to transcend his struggles.

Truly, if we feel with each other, then like Jesus, we will look upon others with compassion and sympathy rather than judgmentally.  In silent tears, we pray for those who are suffering and in pain, especially for our enemies, because like Jesus, we can understand why they are acting the way they do.  Like Jesus, we are called to forget our own sufferings but instead, to look towards the sufferings of others, so that no longer will we judge them with condemnation but with mercy.  For like Christ, we are called to share not just in His sufferings but we must also share in the sufferings of our enemies.

Today, Mary is our model.  If she is so associated with the redemptive suffering of Christ, it is because as a mother she must have felt with Jesus in His mission of love.  Most of all, if she could forgive the enemies of her Son, it was also because she could feel the way He felt for His enemies.  So, if we too, can feel with Jesus in His sufferings through our sufferings, we will repent of our own sins, return to Him in love and gratitude and undertake upon ourselves the same mission of love and mercy that we have received from Jesus.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/15-september-2014-our-lady-of-sorrows/#sthash.Z32XBVDT.dpuf

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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September 15, 2015
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SHARING THE SUFFERINGS OF OUR LOVED ONES IN SPIRIT
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Hebrews 5:7-9Luke 2:33-35

How often do we feel helpless in helping people, especially when they are suffering?  Not only are we unable to help them financially or physically, but even emotionally.  Indeed, we are often lost for words to encourage them.  We do not know what to say to comfort them.  We look at them and we feel so helpless and useless.  There is nothing we can do to relieve the suffering.  We use means in our power to help but to no avail.  We can only watch them suffer in pain and in depression.  We feel frustrated and even angry with God, besides being angry with ourselves.  In such a situation, what do we do?

Like Mary, we are called to simply stand by the cross of Jesus.  In celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we feel with Mary who stood by Jesus not just when He was rejected in His ministry and even thought to be mad by His relatives.  She had always stood by Him in good and in bad times.   Although alone and widowed, she did not prevent Jesus from leaving home for the work of His Father.  Mary was supportive of Jesus’ mission from beginning to the end.

But we have no sufferings that can be compared with Mary’s sufferings.  No one can and will ever be able to suffer the way Mary suffered with Jesus.  She was His mother.  He was her only son, her flesh and blood.  She was one in mind and heart with her Son.  At the wedding in Cana, she was one with the will of God and invited us to do the same, “Do whatever He tells you.”   When presented with a problem she did not once exert the obligations of filial piety on Jesus to solve it. She just informed the Son that “they had no wine” without instructing Him what to do.  She knew her Son better and trusted in His wisdom and judgement.  (cf Jn 2)

Hence, when we reflect on the death of Jesus on the Cross, it must be said, that although Mary did not suffer in body like Jesus, she suffered in spirit.  She was a martyr in spirit. St Bernard wrote, “Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.” She suffered not so much in her body but she suffered as much as what Jesus suffered on the cross morally.  Jesus suffered because of our sins, which He carried in His body. Not only did He carry our sins but He was also condemned for our sins. Like the Suffering Servant, He was crushed for our sins.

What went through the heart of Mary when she saw her Son carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem on His way to Mount Calvary?  We cannot imagine how much she would have suffered, seeing her Son bathed in blood, scourged beyond recognition, losing so much blood and with raw and open wounds, carrying the cross and being paraded as a criminal.  Yet, Mary stood bravely with Jesus and moved with the crowd as she watched helplessly her Son struggling all alone with the weight of the cross and enduring the ignominy of being ridiculed and shamed by the people and mocked by the soldiers.  Yet, Mary did not utter a word against God or against His enemies.  In sorrow and in pain she shared with Jesus His sufferings in her heart.  She must have been such a strong woman to carry such pain in her heart.  Her grief cannot be compared to ours even when we lose our own loved ones.

Most of all, when she was at the foot of the cross, she had to endure the last filial act of our Lord on the Cross when He gave His disciple to Mary, “Behold your son!”  And to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother!”  (Cf Jn 19:26f)  On the surface, Jesus was doing a filial act by entrusting the care of His mother to one of His disciples, since Jesus was her only son.  But how can the Son of God be replaced by the son of man; or a master by a disciple?  There is no substitute for Jesus.  This is true for us when we love someone dearly and deeply.  Can anyone replace our spouse, our boyfriend or girlfriend or even our dog?

Mary fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon who said that a sword will pierce her heart. “As the father and mother of Jesus stood wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’”  (Lk 2:33-35)  So deep is the wound and so sharp is the sword that no one can ever feel the way she felt.  After the death of Jesus, He no longer felt the pain in His body or in His soul, but her soul suffered the violence of sorrow.  For this reason, the Church gave her the title, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.  Beyond the prophecy of Simeon, she suffered when she had to flee for their lives to Egypt.  She suffered the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple.  She was filled with sorrow when she met Jesus on the way to Calvary.  Certainly, she must have been so overwhelmed at the way Jesus died on the cross.  As if it was not enough to see Him crucified, Mary had to see her Son pierced on the side by a soldier’s lance.  This last action would have pierced her heart even more.  Finally, all that was left for Mary was to receive the lifeless bloody body of Jesus in her arms and leave Him in the tomb.  Such were the seven sorrows of Mary.

Yet in all these events, she was not angry with God or vindictive of the enemies of her Son.  She stood by the cross in silence and joined her sufferings with that of her Son, forgiving those who killed Him.  There was no anger but only grief for her enemies because of their ignorance.  She was so full of love that she could love beyond herself and her own pain of seeing her Son suffering.   Like her Son on the cross, she would have uttered the same words of Jesus in her heart, “Father, forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.”  Like Jesus, Mary not only forgave her enemies but she prayed for them and made excuses for their actions, reducing them to ignorance.  Such was the magnanimity of Mary.  How many of us pray for our enemies with love and compassion, much less to make excuses for them for hurting us and making us suffer?

In the light of this feast of our Lady of Sorrows, we too are called to suffer in spirit with those who are suffering, especially when they suffer innocently and unjustly.  Our blessed Mother is asking us to suffer in silence and in love for them, whether they are our friends or our enemies.  If we feel helpless like her for her Son, let us offer that inadequacy in helping our loved ones with Mary to Jesus. With those who are the cause of our suffering, we must remember what St Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing.”  (1 Pt 3:9)  And again, he wrote, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”  (1 Pt 3:17f)

Indeed, following the example of Jesus in our weakness, we need to surrender everything to the Lord in faith and trust and in obedience.  If we surrender ourselves to Him in total obedience to His divine will and wisdom, the Lord will hear us and He will transform us.  This is all that is needed of us.  We cannot take things into our own hands.  We need to allow God to be God.  Just as He did the impossible by raising Jesus from the dead, He will do the same for us.   We only need to pray in faith.  We are called to stand by the cross like Mary.  We feel with them and for them.  Remaining helpless, we need to believe in the power and wisdom of God that He will act in His own time.

So let us obey Jesus and give a place to Mary in our home, in our spiritual life.  Like the beloved disciple, let us bring Mary to our home.  This means that we are called to accept Mary as our spiritual mother.  She is the mother of the Church represented by the unnamed disciple of the Lord.  We are called to learn from her to share the sufferings in spirit of those whom we cannot help in body.   We may not be able to take away the sufferings of the other person but we can always pray for them and offer them the hope of Christ.  Let us in faith take the assurance of Jesus to heart, “Because I live, you also will live.” (Jn 14:19)

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, August 11, 2017 — “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

August 10, 2017

Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin
Lectionary: 411

Reading 1  DT 4:32-40

Moses said to the people:
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with his strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
All this you were allowed to see
that you might know the LORD is God and there is no other.
Out of the heavens he let you hear his voice to discipline you;
on earth he let you see his great fire,
and you heard him speaking out of the fire.
For love of your fathers he chose their descendants
and personally led you out of Egypt by his great power,
driving out of your way nations greater and mightier than you,
so as to bring you in
and to make their land your heritage, as it is today.
This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart,
that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.
You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today,
that you and your children after you may prosper,
and that you may have long life on the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 77:12-13, 14-15, 16 AND 21

R. (12a) I remember the deeds of the Lord.
I remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I remember your wonders of old.
And I meditate on your works;
your exploits I ponder.
R. I remember the deeds of the Lord.
O God, your way is holy;
what great god is there like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
among the peoples you have made known your power.
R. I remember the deeds of the Lord.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the sons of Jacob and Joseph.
You led your people like a flock
under the care of Moses and Aaron.
R. I remember the deeds of the Lord.

AlleluiaMT 5:10

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

Gospel MT 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here
who will not taste death
until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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11 AUGUST, 2017, Friday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time

LIVING LIFE RADICALLY


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 4:32-40MT 16:24-28 ]

“What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?  Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?”  These are fundamental questions in life.  If we can answer these questions from the depths of our being, our fundamental option in life would change.  Indeed, when St Francis Xavier came upon this text, his whole life changed.  It suddenly dawned on him what life was all about!

So the truth is that if we want to live, we must live in the most radical manner. Unfortunately, most people always live on the superficial level.  They never bother to ask the ultimate questions of life.  They just drift and go through life without living it.  It is just like the way the greedy man eats.  The food is not tasted but goes straight from his mouth to the stomach.  He never tastes the joy of life.  When we live on the mundane level, we will never find satisfaction in life.

To drift along in life is equally disastrous.  Think of your life’s journey. When you get to where you’re going, where will you be? One year, five years, or even 20 years from now, if you keep heading in the same direction and keep doing what you are doing, what will your life look like? Not only vocationally and financially, but what kind of person will you be? Do you have a pretty clear picture of the way you would like things to turn out, or will you be as surprised when it happens as it does everybody else?  It has been my experience that most people do not spend much time with these questions. But as Henry David Thoreau once said, “In the long run, we only hit what we aim at.” To live aimlessly is to waste this precious gift of life. But to live with direction is to live fully.  Hence, the gospel challenges us to consider why and what we are living for.

In these questions, Jesus is inviting us to examine what is our greatest desire in life? What is it that can bring us real happiness?  Indeed, it is of utmost importance that each one of us must ask the question:  what is the ultimate security of my life or where do I put my security?  The answer to this question is vital since the decision we make will determine our character and our future.  If we place our hopes in material things, money and wealth or in other status symbol, can we find real happiness? Indeed, some have managed to attain what they set out to achieve but only to discover the vanity of it all.

Of what value is money or possessions if they cannot bring us happiness, peace in our heart, relationships with our fellowmen and most of all, our relationship with God?  But St Alphonsus Maria De Liguori said, “We do not fix our affections on borrowed goods, because we know that they must soon be returned to the owner. All earthly goods are lent to us: It is folly to set our heart on what we must soon quit. Death shall strip us of all. The acquisitions and fortunes of this world all terminate in a dying grasp, in a funeral, in a descent into the grave. The house which you have built for yourself you must soon give up to others.” Would we, as Jesus is asking us, exchange our lives for this temporal or illusive happiness?

In the final analysis, only living for God can bring us real happiness.  But how can one live for God unless one is convinced?  The Israelites could live for God only because of the experience of the majesty, power and love of Yahweh for them.  In order to live for God, Moses reminded the people that God is everything – our lives belong to him.   “This he showed you so that you might know that the Lord is God indeed and that there is no other.  He let you hear his voice out of heaven for your instruction; on earth he let you see his great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard his word.  Because he loved your fathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out from Egypt, openly showing his presence and his great power, driving out in front of you nations greater and more powerful than yourself, and brought you into their land to give it you for your heritage, as it is still today.”

Everything we have is an out-right gift from God.  We owe Him everything, including our very lives.  It’s possible for many of us to give God our money, but not our entire self.  What we give to God or even to our fellowmen is just a token, not even 10% of what we have received from Him!   More often than not, we pay Him only lip-service, but our hearts are far from Him.  A wise disciple gladly gives up all that he has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God.  Our God gives without measure and to share His life and joy means that we too must do the same.  When we give without measure, what we give actually is never given away.  The joy and happiness we give to others remain with us!  In fact, it is doubled.  We suffer no loss in joy but only material loss which cannot bring us real happiness anyway.

We must therefore make a decision to surrender our entire life to the plan of the Father, for He is our joy and life.  ‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.” He knows best.  We just have to walk in truth and love and He will take care of us.  “Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you forever.”

Hence, the responsorial psalm invites us to reflect on the deeds of God.  We cannot be convinced that living for God ultimately gives us life unless we experience His love for us.  The Israelites could commit their lives to the One and True God because they experienced His mighty power and love.  “I remember the deeds of the Lord, I remember your wonders of old, I muse on all your works and ponder your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is great as our God? You are the God who works wonders. You showed your power among the peoples. Your strong arm redeemed your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. You guided your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”

Similarly, if Jesus could live for God only, it was because of the experience of His Father’s love.  For Jesus lived a radical life for God and His kingdom even unto death.  Jesus did the Father’s will and lived according to the Father’s plan and vision.  His mission was rooted in the unconditional love of God as His Abba Father.  For us to do the Father’s will requires that we live according to our vocation, which is the vocation of love. To live life radically, one must lose one’s life, that is, to give up this present kind of life for the life of Christ.  “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

To live for God is to offer our lives to Him.  The cross that Jesus speaks about is the symbol of our total commitment and giving.  When we love we are ready to suffer.  Because Jesus loves the Father, He was ready to carry the cross.  Similarly if we love then we will be ready to carry the cross.  Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Of course, carrying the cross presupposes that we believe that that is the way to life; that the cross of Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death.  To carry our daily cross means to love our spouse, children, colleagues and bear with each other’s imperfections and negligence.  It means to keep on forgiving our brothers and sisters, tolerating their limitations and human frailties.  It entails living out our vocation faithfully each day, and being responsible in our duties.

To love means to carry the cross.  Those who cannot love are those who cannot suffer the cross of loving.  They only love themselves.  But when we love, we are ready to sacrifice ourselves, our pleasures and comforts for the greater joy of bringing happiness and love to other people’s life.  Do we seek true joy and happiness or passing pleasures and the happiness of life that comes from earthly things, like power, glory and pleasures?  So with St Ignatius, we pray, “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess.  You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your will.  Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.” (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

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

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Commentary on Matthew 16:24-28 from Living Space

Jesus has already shocked his disciples by telling them in advance what is going to happen to him as Messiah. Now he goes further and tells them that they, too, will have to have a part in his experience.

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They are to follow in his footsteps. Like him, they are to be ready to take up their cross, whatever it may be, and carry it behind him. For some, it will mean dying for Christ and the Kingdom. For others, it will mean living totally for Christ and the Kingdom. Notice, Jesus tells them to take up their own cross, not his. That cross will be different for each person; it takes the form of some difficult thing which it is clear we must accept and not run away from. It is not to be sought for; that would not be a healthy thing to do. It will come, unmarked and unchosen but clear.

The other way, to avoid all pain and seek only what brings pleasure and enjoyment, is to go down a cul-de-sac, a blind alley that leads nowhere. That is what we mean by trying ‘to save our life’. It is a sure way to lose it.

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What is the use of “gaining the whole world”, becoming a multi-millionaire and being profoundly unhappy? Living for oneself only is to end up finding one’s self dying. Letting go of one’s life to live for others, to live for truth, love and justice is to live a full life, even if shortened by physical death. Many of the saints died long before their time but achieved in a few years what most of us cannot do in a long life.

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“Consummatus in breve, explevit tempora multa” is a scriptural phrase applied to some of the saints who died relatively young. It says that, although their life came to an early end, they had filled it with many good things.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1186g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The five verses of today’s Gospel continue with the words of Jesus to Peter which we meditated on yesterday. Jesus does not hide nor lessen the demands of discipleship. He does not allow Peter to take the initiative and puts him in his place: “Far from me!” Today’s Gospel makes explicit these demands for all of us;

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• Matthew 16, 24: “Take up his cross and follow me”. Jesus draws the conclusions which are valid even until now: “If anyone wants to follow me, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”. At that time, the cross was the death sentence which the Roman Empire inflicted on marginalized persons and bandits. To take up the cross and carry it behind Jesus was the same as to accept to be marginalized by the unjust system which legitimized injustice. The Cross is not fatalism, nor exigency from the Father. The Cross is the consequence of the commitment freely taken up by Jesus to reveal the Good News that God is Father and that, therefore, we all have to be accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Because of this revolutionary announcement, Jesus was persecuted and he was not afraid to give his life. Nobody has greater love than this: to give one’s life for his friends (Jn 15, 13). The witness of Paul in the letter to the Galatians indicates the concrete significance and importance of all this: “But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”. (Ga 6, 14). And he ends by referring to the marks of the tortures which he suffered: “After this, let no one trouble me, I carry branded on my body the marks of Jesus” (Ga 6, 17).

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• Matthew 16, 25-26: “Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”.These two verses make explicit universal human values which confirm the experience of many Christians and non Christians. To save one’s life, to lose one’s life, to find one’s life. The experience of many is the following: Anyone who is always seeking goods and riches is never satisfied. Anyone who gives himself to others, forgetting himself, experiences a great happiness. This is the experience of the mothers who give themselves, and of so many people who do not think of self but think of others.

Many do this and live in this way almost out of instinct, as something which comes from the bottom of the heart. Others act in this way because they have had a painful experience of frustration which has led them to change attitude. Jesus is right in saying: “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. The reason is important: “For my sake”, or like Mark says: “For the sake of the Gospel” (Mk 8, 35).

And he ends saying: “What, then will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life? Or what can anyone offer in exchange for his life?” This last phrase recalls the Psalm where it is said that no one is capable of paying the ransom for his life: “But no one can ever redeem himself or pay his own ransom to God; the price for himself is too high, it can never be that he will live on for ever and avoid the sight of the abyss” (Ps 49, 8-10).

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• Matthew 16, 27-28: The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of the Father and he will reward each one according to his behaviour. These two verses refer to the hope regarding the coming of the Son of Man in the last times, as judge of humanity, as he is presented in the vision of the Prophet Daniel (Dn 7, 13-14). The first verse says: “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels and will reward each one according to his behaviour”. (Mt 16, 27).

This phrase speaks about the justice of the Judge. Each one will receive according to his own behaviour. The second verse says: “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom”. (Mt 16, 28). This phrase is an advertisement to help to perceive the coming of Jesus, the Judge of the actions of life. Some thought that Jesus would have come afterwards (1 Th 4, 15-18). But in fact, Jesus was already present in persons, especially in the poor. But they did not perceive this, Jesus himself had said: “Every time that you have helped the poor, the sick, the homeless, the prisoner, the pilgrim, you helped me, it was me!” (cfr. Mt 25, 34-45).

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Personal questions

What is “MY CROSS?”

• Anyone who loses his life will find it. What experience do I have regarding this?

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• The words of Paul: “As for me, instead, there is no other glory than the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified for me and I for the world”. Do I have the courage to repeat these words in my life?

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Concluding Prayer

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Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,
let us acclaim his name together.
I seek Yahwe4h and he answers me,
frees me from all my fears. (Ps 34, 3-4)

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-1624-28

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

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“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.”

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What are Christians called to do?

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Hit any of these search terms:

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Go the extra mile,  pour yourself out,  carry the cross,  do not be afraid,  service to others, When you are worried pray, Simon of Cyrene, be a beacon.

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,  ,  ,  , , 

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Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Clearly then, losing one’s life for the sake of Jesus is the way to make Jesus’ life our own.  What is the life of Jesus if not one of total self-emptying and carrying the cross?

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Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Clearly then, losing one’s life for the sake of Jesus is the way to make Jesus’ life our own. What is the life of Jesus if not one of total self-emptying and carrying the cross? For centuries men have learned how to do this from J.P. de Caussade, J.J.

De Caussade was born in Cahors, Lot, France. He was spiritual director at the Nuns of the Visitation at Nancy, France from 1733 to 1740. During this time and after he left Nancy, he wrote letters of instruction to the nuns. Some material ascribed to him was first published in 1861 by Henri Ramière (fr) under the title ” L’Abandon à la providence divine”.

However, according to research on The Treatise on Abandonment to Divine Providence, discussed in a paper by Dominique Salin SJ, emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Theology at the Centre Sèvres, published in The Way, 46/2 (Apr 2007), pp. 21–36, “it now seems almost impossible that the author was in fact the Jesuit Jean-Pierre de Caussade” as “[n]othing in de Caussade’s biography would suggest that this man was the author of a famous treatise” and the style of letters of spiritual direction that can genuinely be attributed to de Caussade “is far removed from the lyricism” marking it.

Whoever the author was, he or she believed that the present moment is a sacrament from God and that self-abandonment to it and its needs is a holy state – a belief which, at first glance, would appear to be heretical relative to Catholic dogma. In fact, because of this fear (especially with the Church’s condemnation of the Quietist movement), the work was kept unpublished until 1861, and even then they were edited by Ramière to protect them from charges of Quietism. A more authoritative version of these notes was published only in 1966.[1] In his writings, the author is aware of the Quietists and rejects their perspective.{{Section VIII of Abandonment to Divine Providence }} Abandonment to Divine Providence has now for many years been read widely and is considered a classic in the spiritual life by Catholics and many others.

De Caussade also spent years as preacher in southern and central France, as a college rector (at Perpignan and at Albi), and as the director of theological students at the Jesuit house in Toulouse, which is where he died.[

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

Has this man found the secret of happiness? — Man’s Search for Meaning

July 21, 2017

Image result for vintage Rolls-Royce, photos

  • Mo Gawdat personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations
  • He was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai
  • His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable
  • Death of Mr Gawdat’s son, Ali, 21, made him realise an equation for happiness

One click — and I had bought a vintage Rolls-Royce. Another click — and I bought a second. Just like that. It might sound like something from your wildest dreams, but this was just an average evening for me. Successful, wealthy and at the pinnacle of my career, I had every luxury you could imagine.

A top executive at Google, I had personally started close to half of the company’s worldwide operations. And even before I made it big at Google, you could certainly say that I was at the top of the tree. A former stock market trader, I had made a ton of money while working in Dubai.

I had a huge house. My colleagues and friends were similarly rich and successful. And to top it all, I had married my university sweetheart and had two beautiful children. My life had ticked every box.

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made 'a ton of money' in Dubai. His 'life had ticked every box' but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

Formula: Mo Gawdat was a former stock market trader, and made ‘a ton of money’ in Dubai. His ‘life had ticked every box’ but he was still feeling miserable (file pic)

My Rolls-Royces soon arrived. Exquisitely engineered, they were as perfect as my own existence appeared. I looked at them for 20 minutes. Then I left them in the garage without even opening a car door — and returned to my unhappy thoughts.

Yes, that’s right. Despite attaining all the things the modern world tells us we need for happiness, I was profoundly miserable.

The bitter irony of my situation was deepened by the fact that one of my personal side projects was developing a scientific formula for happiness.

I wanted to find a ‘code’ that could be applied to deliver happiness every time. I spent thousands of hours trying to apply logic to the issue of happiness, in the hope of finding an algorithm to summarise how the brain processes joy and sadness. My son Ali, then a teenager, helped me, vetting many of my ideas.

Eventually, in 2010, young Ali and I came up with a formula: a few letters and mathematical symbols that I thought nailed the art of happiness.

Little did I imagine that the sudden death of my beloved boy when he was just 21 — an earth-shattering, pointless event — would show me what fleets of cars and algorithms never could: the true meaning of happiness and how to be content, every day.

My path to finding the meaning of happiness began with a vision of unimaginable catastrophe.

Machines bleeped, tubes wove their terrible path in and out of my boy’s body — and Ali lay there, unconscious in an intensive care unit. It was 2014, and my son had been rushed to hospital for the most routine of operations, an appendix removal.

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google's worldwide operations

Mo Gawdat (pictured) personally started many of the Google’s worldwide operations

But something went wrong. A needle punctured a major artery and precious moments slipped by before the doctors realised the blunder.

Then a series of additional mistakes were made. The words ‘agony’ and ‘despair’ do not come even remotely close to how Ali’s mother and I felt at the moment we realised we were going to lose our precious son.

We stood helplessly by his bedside, and I kissed his forehead. He looked so handsome, even in that state — as peaceful as I’d ever seen him.

We’d endured the worst night of our lives, as Ali was hooked up to machines, his life hanging delicately in the balance. We were tormented by the thought he might be in pain as his organs failed one by one.

Then came the moment to say goodbye. And as we left the hospital, leaving our 21-year-old son behind, our minds collapsed as grief set in, and penetrated every cell in my body.

The pain was like a spear piercing my heart. There were countless hours of tears, guilt and anger about what had happened, as well as my fear about having to exist in a world I could no longer contemplate without my beloved son.

Ali was kind, clever, loving and in the prime of his life, and losing him unexpectedly to preventable human error seemed unbearably cruel. How was I going to cope?

My feelings were all the more painful because Ali was the one person I would ordinarily seek out for comfort when times were hard. But now he was gone. Nothing made sense.

Without my son to anchor me, my thoughts spiralled and became toxic. ‘That doctor murdered my son,’ I thought. Then: ‘What’s the point of living even a day without him?’.

I couldn’t stop wondering whether his death was somehow my fault. Could life be punishing me for something I’d inadvertently done? Was this a sort of karma for my success, for not realising how blessed my existence had been?

I spent excruciating days in this state, numb to the outside world. I was terrified of what might happen to my wife, my daughter — of what else this cruel life might take from me. How could I ever be happy again?

Someone suggested we pursue a medical negligence investigation and we were asked if an autopsy could be performed on Ali’s body. I asked my wife what she wanted to do. She paused, then uttered the words that saved us: ‘Will it bring Ali back?’

It was like a lighthouse cutting through the fog. Nothing we could do — nothing — would bring Ali back. Any thought beyond this simple truth was pointless.

It was the turning point I needed.

No doubt any parent reading this will wonder how I can say I am happy after I’ve lost a child. Of course, life today is nothing like what it was when Ali was alive. But I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death.

How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’.

In the purgatorial time after his death, I heard no other voice in my head but Ali’s repeating those sentences. So when a negative thought popped into my mind I asked myself: ‘What would Ali do or say in this situation?’ It became a healing process.

When I angrily thought, ‘That doctor murdered my son!’, I would hear Ali’s reply: ‘Is that true? What doctor wakes up in the morning and says: “Today is the day I’m going to kill someone”?’

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It's thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I'd asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, 'I've already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it'

I am happy, despite the tragedy of his death. How? It’s thanks to Ali. Deep down, I knew if I’d asked him Ali would say, with the precocious wisdom he was blessed with, ‘I’ve already died, Papa. There is nothing you can do to change that, so make the best of it’

To my despairing howl, ‘No one should die at such a young age,’ Ali would answer: ‘Is that true? Youngsters die by the thousands every hour of every day.’

As for the cry of all grieving parents, ‘This is the worst thing that could have happened!’, Ali’s voice echoed in my mind, saying: ‘Is that really true? I could have been diagnosed with a lingering cancer or drafted into the madness of war instead of leaving peacefully in my sleep.’

When I recriminated with myself, saying again and again, ‘I drove you to the hospital myself. I should have known better’, Ali would soothe me, saying: ‘Is that true? You did what you thought was right. You wanted me to recover. No one could have known this was going to be how things turned out.’

And to my most common thought of all, ‘I can’t bear this pain, it will torture me for years and years,’ Ali brought solace and clarity: ‘Is that really true? You will live, and time will pass. The days will be long, and the years will be short. Instead of thinking about the years to come, focus on now. Do the best you can. Make me proud.’

And so, 17 days after that terrible night, I began to write. I felt compelled to follow Ali’s advice and do something positive. Those writings eventually became a book, in which I sought to spread the true meaning of happiness — and it wasn’t to be found in flashy cars or expensive gadgets.

And as I wrote, it brought my mind back to that algorithm I’d created with Ali. Except now I finally understood the meaning of my equation for happiness.

Because, as I had found, the more successful I became, the more happiness seemed to elude me.

Each time I reached the next rung of the corporate ladder, there would always be another goal just out of reach. Yet I couldn’t stop myself working, striving to be better, wealthier, and ultimately, I hoped, happier.

I was driven by the misguided assumption that, sooner or later, all this effort would pay off and I’d find a pot of gold — happiness — at the end of my high-achievement rainbow. But it seemed like the more literal gold I accrued, the more miserable I became.

In the years where I worked myself into the ground in pursuit of more success, I was probably pushy and unpleasant — even at home. I spent too little time appreciating the remarkable woman I’d married and not enough time with my wonderful children or pausing to enjoy each day as it unfolded.

All the while I treated happiness as something I needed to succeed at, a puzzle that my rational brain needed to solve. I spent almost ten years investigating the mathematics behind happiness, and eventually developed an equation: a well-engineered model of happiness and how to sustain it.

Yet despite finding the ‘secret’ to happiness, I did nothing to implement this into my own life.

Then came Ali’s death — and my own moment of reckoning when I was forced to confront my secret equation head-on.

So what is the magic formula, I hear you ask. It’s H ≥ e – E. Or in other words: happiness is greater than or equal to the events of life, minus the expectations of life.

What I discovered was that, for most, happiness is the default setting. Children are born happy. But as we move through life, we grow out of that happy state.

As we strive for more, flashes of unhappiness appear every time life misses our expectations. The key to happiness, I concluded, lay in controlling the way we compare the events of our life with our expectations. It lay in being content with what we have in the present moment, rather than striving for the intangible ‘more’.

Until Ali’s death, I didn’t apply this discovery to my own life. But his departure forced my hand.

That’s not to say the pain of losing my son isn’t still very real. Indeed, it will never go away. Every time I remember Ali I weep.

But I have learned there’s a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is a mechanism the body uses to keep us alive — it protects us from further suffering. We learn from our pain.

Suffering, however, is not useful. It is a cycle where a thought causes more anguish through feelings of guilt. Pain should be enough of a motivation to improve your life.

And so, the minute I feel the pain of Ali’s death, which I feel every time I miss him, instead of self-flagellation and guilt, I think ‘What can I do about it? How can I make the world slightly better even though Ali is not in it?’. It has taught me that we are all in charge of our lives, our destiny and, ultimately, our happiness.

Because happiness really can be controlled. Anyone can be happy — even in the face of what appeared to be an unparalleled catastrophe like mine. Happiness is about filling your mind with beautiful memories, and finding reasons to be truly thankful, despite the pain life can bring.

And so sometimes I find it easier to think of Ali as a kind guest who was just visiting, but who brought light and happiness to our home.

The 21 years with him zoomed by, and if we’d had another 21 years together, they would have zoomed by just as fast. And even that wouldn’t have been enough.

So instead of thinking about losing him, I try to be grateful that we had him at all. I’ve changed my expectations. Rather than thinking that my son should never have died, I choose to be grateful for the times we had, rather than mourn the times we didn’t.

Happiness is not about what the world gives you — whether it’s a lottery win or the loss of a child — it’s about what you think about what the world gives you.

It’s not always easy, but it’s an exercise I run through many times a day. I think of it like going to the gym — I’m getting better at it all the time.

I’m glad to say I’ve helped many others, too; those who have found peace through mine and Ali’s discovery. One interview I did with Channel 4 has had 32 million hits and counting.

Yes, my heart aches. Yes, I want my son back by my side more than anything in the world. But I understand that I can’t have him — and so I have made the commitment and choose to be happy instead.

Interview by LOUISE ATKINSON

  • Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat, Bluebird, £10.49 on Amazon

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4716514/Google-executive-devises-scientific-formula-happiness.html#ixzz4nSJvVHqi
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 20, 2017 — God is not in any way bound by human wisdom and expectation — Our faith requires unconditional commitment — Our reward is unconditional love

July 19, 2017

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 392

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Art: God Appears to Moses in Burning Bush. Painting from Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Petersburg

Reading 1 EX 3:13-20

Moses, hearing the voice of the LORD from the burning bush, said to him,
“When I go to the children of Israel and say to them,
‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’
if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”
God replied, “I am who am.”
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the children of Israel:
I AM sent me to you.”

God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the children of Israel:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.

“This is my name forever;
this my title for all generations.

“Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and tell them:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
has appeared to me and said:
I am concerned about you
and about the way you are being treated in Egypt;
so I have decided to lead you up out of the misery of Egypt
into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites,
Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites,
a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Thus they will heed your message.
Then you and the elders of Israel
shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him:
“The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent us word.
Permit us, then, to go a three-days’ journey in the desert,
that we may offer sacrifice to the LORD, our God.

“Yet I know that the king of Egypt will not allow you to go
unless he is forced.
I will stretch out my hand, therefore,
and smite Egypt by doing all kinds of wondrous deeds there.
After that he will send you away.”

Image result for God Appeared to Moses in Burning Bush. Painting from Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Saint Petersburg

Responsorial Psalm  PS 105:1 AND 5, 8-9, 24-25, 26-27

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generationsB
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He greatly increased his people
and made them stronger than their foes,
Whose hearts he changed, so that they hated his people,
and dealt deceitfully with his servants.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He sent Moses his servant;
Aaron, whom he had chosen.
They wrought his signs among them,
and wonders in the land of Ham.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 11:28

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

Gospel MT 11:28-30

Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

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Reflection on Moses in the Desert With God by Mark A. Barber
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It was business as usual in all the rest of the world. The world was entirely ignorant of an event that was to take place in a remote desert. Yet it is what happened here that has changed the world and not whatever decrees might have come that day from the throne of Pharaoh or the talk in the street about politics, the economy, or some other subject. This often is the way that God works. Yet when He speaks to a fugitive in the middle of nowhere, His word comes to pass.

Moses was a miracle child, a type of the miracle child who would later be born in a mange in Bethlehem. The decree had gone forth from Pharaoh that all the Israelite male children were to be cast into the river (Exodus 1:22). His mother hid him for three months but eventually complied with the order. But Moses instead of being cast out into the river to drown was placed in a little boat and left to the mercy of God.

We read that this child floating in a boat was caused to be found by Pharaoh’s daughter whom God put pity in her heart. She knew this child was a Hebrew, yet had her raided in her house as her son. So Moses was raided as the Scripture says in all the learning and wisdom of Egypt. He would have learned about Egypt’s gods and his standing as part of Pharaoh’s family his being enrolled among them.

Moses who had to be nursed was providentially nursed by his own mother. From this he seems to have learned his true identity as an Israelite. When he was older, he saw a Egyptian taskmaster mistreating a fellow Hebrew and killed the man and hid his body. But he was found out and betrayed by one of his own countrymen and had to escape for his life. This was the occasion for his removal to the backside of the desert. Thus ended the first forty years of the life.

Moses would spend the next forty years of his life as a shepherd guiding sheep through the wilderness. It seems like quite a demotion in life. But in forty years, Moses knew where to find forage for his sheep and to know good water from bad. In order to survive, he had to be an expert.

Moses had probably seen dry bushes erupt into flames before in the dry hot desert, but today was different. The bush he saw on fire did not disintegrate into ashes. The fire kept on burning. God used Moses’ curiosity to attract him to this place.

What we see here is a magnificent encounter between the Lord and Moses. Moses was in no need of some sort of argument about the existence of God. He did not chance upon the ontological argument or teleological argument. Rather He was personal encountered by God Himself. What we learn here is that God is self-authenticating. Moses did not find God through his advanced learning and wisdom, not even the truths that his mother had shared about God. Rather God allowed Himself to be found.

God is not in any way bound by human wisdom and expectation. He cannot be found by such means. He only can be known by His revelation and only to the extent that He wishes to be revealed. The Lord did not reveal Himself to the world that day but just one person. And He did so to reveal to Moses that he was chosen by the Lord as His instrument to deliver them from the cruel bondage of Egypt and lead them out.

Read the rest:

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/i-am-that-i-am-mark-a-barber-sermon-on-moses-206569?ref=SermonSerps

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

20 JULY, 2017, Thursday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time

FEELING WITH GOD AS THE KEY TO OVERCOMING OUR PAINS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 3:13-20Ps 105:1,5,8-9,24-27Mt 11:28-30 ]

When we are going through difficult times, we can get rather discouraged.  We feel alone, lacking support and understanding.  We tend to focus on our pains.  We become depressed and resentful.  We feel like giving up because it is not worth the sacrifices and pains.  We begin to doubt whether what we are doing is benefiting  anyone.  We look for scapegoats and become angry with God and society.

If we are feeling burdened and discouraged, the Lord invites us to find rest in Him.  He said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.”  How can we deal with our pains? The key to overcoming our pains is to feel with God in His suffering and pains.  That is why Jesus invites us to come to Him to find rest by shouldering His yoke and learning from Him.  He said, “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”  He invites us to share in His pain and love for the People of God.  This is what it means to shoulder His yoke and to learn from Him. Only by entering into the mind and heart of the Father as Jesus did, can we become gentle and humble in heart and find rest for our souls.  Unless we carry the heart of God, we will not be able to look at others’ sufferings with gentle compassion and be able to surrender our responsibilities to God with humility, asking Him for divine assistance.

What is the yoke of God?  His yoke is to see us in our misery.  It is natural that when you love and care for someone, you identify with his pains and sufferings.  In fact, often, those who see their loved ones suffer, suffer more emotionally and psychologically.  To see our loved ones in pain because of an illness or  emotional distress causes us much anxiety and grief.  When we feel for our loved ones, we would do anything to help them.  If we are not moved by the sufferings of others, it is because we have no relationship with them and we do not feel with them enough to want to help.  We close our hearts to their sufferings.  But not for God. His heart is open to all and that is why He suffers most because whenever He sees us suffering, He suffers as much with us.

Indeed, God, who is love and created us in love, feels much with and for us.  He told Moses, “I have visited you and seen all that the Egyptians are doing to you.”  God could not bear to see His chosen people suffer.  Their anguish was also His anguish.  He is close to His people and feels for them.  So He told Moses, “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and tell them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers, has appeared to me, – the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.”   So love is the reason for one to act and to be moved.  God is moved by love and by our suffering.

God wanted Moses to let the people know that He has always been with them and is faithful to the covenant that He established with their forefathers.  “He remembers his covenant for ever, his promise for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac.  He gave his people increase; he made them stronger than their foes, whose hearts he turned to hate his people and to deal deceitfully with his servants.”  This has always been the testimony of the people of Israel.  God is faithful to the promises He made with the Fathers of Israel.

Most of all, God calls Himself “I Am who I Am.”  In other words, He is not so much a noun, something that is static.  He is dynamic and always in process.  He is a verb and therefore always present to His people in every new situation.  Hence, His reply to Moses was,  “This is what you must say to the sons of Israel: I Am has sent me to you.”   Furthermore, He reiterated, “This is my name for all time; by this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.”

But God does not only feel with us, He will act in love.  Many of us feel sorry for those who are suffering but are unable to act or not able to help. This is understandable because we feel inadequate. Of course, sometimes it is because we are selfish and do not wish to trouble or inconvenience ourselves.  We only pay lip service to those who ask us for our assistance or who need our intervention.  But God does not stand by to watch us in our helplessness.  He steps in to help us to get out of the situation.  “And so I have resolved to bring you up out of Egypt where you are oppressed, into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites. the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land where milk and honey flow.”  He acted by sending His special messenger to save His people.  God also said to Moses, “You are to say to the sons of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.”

Not only does He send His messengers but He empowers them as well.    The Lord assured Moses.  “They listen to your words, and with the elders of Israel you are to go to the King of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, of God of the Hebrews, has come to meet us.  Give us leave, then, to make a three days’ journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to the Lord our God.’”  The reponsorial psalm says, “Then he sent Moses his servant and Aaron the man he had chosen. Through them he showed his marvels and his wonders in the country of Ham.”  He will help us to do His work.  Moses did not find himself worthy to be the leader of Israel but God qualified Him.  He was the one who would ensure success, not by the strength and wisdom of Moses.  He assured Moses that through His mighty hand, the Egyptians would let them go.  “For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand, I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there.  After this he will let you go.”  We too will find rest for our souls if we have the humility of heart to entrust all our projects to God and wait for Him to act.  If God is for us, there is nothing to fear.  He will ensure our success.

Truly, every burden is heavy when we carry it alone without the grace of God and His divine assistance; and when we carry it without the love and compassion of God in our hearts.  Thus, the key that Jesus is offering to us all if we are feeling tired and weary because of our responsibilities, anxieties and fears for our work, family and church, is to see them and our challenges as means to share His love with them.  At the same time, we must not think we can accomplish all these by ourselves.  Rather, we must identify with Jesus for He accomplished His mission by being one with the Father in doing His will.

Finally, to find strength to continue believing in Him, we must, like the psalmist, “give thanks to the Lordtell his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.  Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, the judgements he spoke.”  By recalling all the great things He has done for us in the past, we will find hope and inspiration to carry on. We are not always successful in everything we do but He comes to bless us in different ways in accordance to His plan.  If it is His divine will, He will bring forth fruits from the work of our hands.  So by giving thanks to what we have received and been blessed by Him, we will find greater courage to continue to hope in His mercy and love.


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

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

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Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30 From Living Space

The Gospel in many of its passages is very demanding and requires an unconditional commitment to the following of Christ. We have seen that clearly in the contrast Jesus made between the demands of the Law and what he expected from his followers. But, again and again, that is balanced by the other side of God – his compassion and his understanding of our weakness and frailty.

Today he invites “all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest”. He seems to be referring to the burden of the Law and the many other legalistic observances which had accumulated over the generations. In fact there was a common rabbinic metaphor which spoke of the ‘yoke of the Law’. We will see some of this in the two remaining readings of this week. Jesus did not have much time for this kind of religion. He invites us to come to him instead and experience comfort and consolation.

Jesus invites us to take on his yoke instead. A yoke can be heavy but it makes it easier for the ox to pull the cart or the plough. Jesus’ yoke is the yoke of love. On the one hand, it restricts us from acting in certain ways but at the same time it points us in the right direction. In the long run, it has a liberating effect. It is not unlike the idea of the “narrow door” which Jesus invites us to go through rather than follow the wide road to nowhere.

Jesus asks us to learn from him in his gentleness and humility. This was in stark contrast to the severity and arrogance of other religious leaders. Not only are we to experience the gentleness of Jesus, we are also to practise it in our own dealings with others.

I think it is commentator William Barclay who offers another lovely idea. It was quite common to have double yokes when two animals pulled a vehicle together. Barclay suggests that Jesus is offering to share his yoke with us. He and I will pull together and he will share the burden with me. In either case, he assures us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Jesus expects us to give all of ourselves to him but, when we do so, we discover that what he asks is absolutely right for us. To follow Jesus is not to carry a great weight but to experience a great sense of liberation.

If we have not found that experience yet then we are not yet carrying the yoke of Jesus.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1155g/

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Thank Heaven Prayer for Little Children
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“I thank you Father,
Lord of Heaven and of earth,
for hiding these things from the learned and the clever
and revealing them to little children”. 
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• Certain texts of the Gospel reveal to us all their significance when we place them on the background of the Old Testament. This is how this very brief and very beautiful text of the Gospel of today is. In this text there are echoes of two themes greatly loved and recalled by the Old Testament, one from Isaiah and the other one from the so called Wisdom Books.
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• Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, the Servant and represents him as a disciple who is always looking for a word of comfort so as to be able to encourage those who are discouraged: “The Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple’s tongue, for me to know how to give a word of comfort to the weary. Morning by morning, he makes my ear alert to listen like a disciple”. (Is 50, 4). And the Messiah Servant launches an invitation: “Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money come! Buy and eat; come buy wine and milk without money, free” (Is 55, 1).
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These texts were present in the memory of the people. They were like the songs of our childhood. When people listens to them, souvenirs come to mind, there is nostalgia. The same with the word of Jesus: “Come to me!” revived the memory and brought close the nostalgic echo of those beautiful texts of Isaiah.
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• The Books of Wisdom represent the divine wisdom as a woman, a mother who transmits to her sons her wisdom and tells them: “Buy her without money, put your necks under her yoke, let your souls receive instruction. She is near, within your reach. See for yourselves; how slight my efforts have been to win so much peace” (Si 51, 25-27). Jesus repeats this same phrase: “You will find rest!”.
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• Precisely because his way of speaking to people, Jesus awakes their memory and thus the heart rejoiced and said: “The Messiah, so greatly awaited for has come!” Jesus transformed the nostalgia into hope. He made people advance a step forward. Instead of fixing themselves on the image of a glorious Messiah, king and dominator, taught by the Scribes, the people changed opinion and accepted Jesus, Messiah Servant. A humble and meek Messiah, welcoming and full of tenderness, who made them feel at ease, they the poor together with Jesus..
Personal questions
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• Is the Law of God a light yoke which encourages me, or is it a weight which gets me tired?
• Have I felt sometimes the lightness and the joy of the yoke of the Law of God which Jesus has revealed to us?.
Concluding Prayer
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Bless Yahweh, my soul,
from the depths of my being, his holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul,
never forget all his acts of kindness. (Ps 103)
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From 2015
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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EFFECTIVE PRAYER AND INTERCESSORY PRAYERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  1 Kings 18: 42b-45aPs 14:12-34Gal 4: 4-7Jn 19:25 – 27

We are living in challenging times.  Institutions, religious values and cultural practices and traditions are called into question.  The institution of marriage and family is being redefined.  Divorce and remarriage is accepted as not contrary to the gospel.  Abortion, euthanasia and stem cells research involving embryos are accepted forms of killing or destruction of life.  Surrogate motherhood and test-tube babies on the other hand are promoted to help couples to have children.  Among the Christian communions and within the Catholic Communion, the values of the gospel are compromised to fit the needs of the modern world.  Instead of humanity trying to be faithful to the values taught by Christ, we are attempting to manipulate the gospel to suit our needs.

Like Elijah, more than ever, we are called to preserve the purity of the gospel.  This was the context of today’s first reading.  The prophet Elijah was known to be a zealous prophet in keeping the faith of Israel uncontaminated.  He was a true prophet and servant of God in defending the true God of Israel.  Just earlier on, he confronted King Ahab and the false prophets.  He even went to the extent of killing the false prophets in obedience to Moses’ command as death sentence was imposed on those who apostatized.  Indeed, Elijah demonstrated his utter devotion and loyalty to God.  It showed his deep concern and protective love for his fellow Israelites who were being led astray by the false prophets.

What principal weapons did he use to purify the nation of Israel?   What can we learn from Elijah?  How do we preserve the purity of our faith and the health of society? 

Firstly, Elijah did not use weapons or force but the power of faith in God.  The secret of his courage in confronting the King and exposing the false prophets at Mount Carmel was his faith in God.  He had total confidence in Yahweh whom he believed would vindicate him.  True enough, the Lord allowed a severe drought in Israel at the command of Elijah.  And, unlike the false prophets who could not command their gods to consume their sacrifices, the Lord had the holocaust burn at Elijah’s command, even though it was deliberately drenched with water.  Finally, Elijah prayed for the rain to come and it became a storm.

Secondly, from Elijah, we learn that this faith in God must be expressed by fervent and persistent prayer.  His confidence in God’s power and fidelity was seen in the brevity and simplicity of his prayer.  He did not utter long and complicated prayers.  Elijah believed and his prayer was heard.  He never doubted the fidelity of God to his prayers.  His prayer was not only, fervent but it was also persistent.  “Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel and bowed down to the earth, putting his face between his knees.”  Elijah persevered in prayer, a prayer that was complete and total, symbolized by the seven times before the prayer was answered.  Even though Elijah received his prophetic word that God would send the rain, he persevered in prayer until the rains came.  (1 Kg 18:41-45)   If we want our prayers to be heard, we, too, should not give up too easily.  We must pray till it is given, search until we find and knock till the door is open.  (cf Mk 7:7)

Fourthly, he prayed with expectant faith that God would manifest His power.   Indeed, God manifested His power in response to his sincere prayer.   He sent fire to consume the sacrifice thereby showing Himself to be a living God and vindicating him as God’s prophet.   Through his persistent prayer, the rains came, symbolizing the renewed blessings of God for the nation.  We need to pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a spiritual renewal in the Church.  This is what the New Evangelization is inviting us to.  We should pray also for a God-encounter so that we too will know that our God is a living God who is not only to be believed but one who acts in our lives. Without an experience of His love in our lives and His mighty power, the world which believes only in science and technology, in empirical and experimental sciences, would not come to have faith in our God.

However, it is not enough to pray rightly.  The way and attitude in prayer is no less important than the motives and the life of the pray-er.   Elijah did not pray for himself.  He interceded for the people of Israel because of his sincere desire to reveal God’s grace to them so that they would repent and turn their hearts back to God.  He asked for God’s grace to deal with the false prophets and Baalism and Asherah, the pagan gods.   He was not seeking for his glory and honour but the restoration of God’s hour and glory.  Indeed, this is what the Lord asks of us when He taught us the Lord’s Prayer, to pray thus, “Holy be thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done!”

Besides having the right motives, we need to live a holy and righteous life.  St James reminds us that the prayer of the righteous man works wonders.  After saying, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed”, he added, “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.” (James 5:16f)   It is important that we keep ourselves pure and holy if we were to be effective in the lives of others.  Righteousness comes from faith in Christ who justifies us.  But it also means that having been justified and reconciled with the Lord, we need to continue living a righteous, holy and God-fearing life in obedience to His commandments.  The psalmist underscores this necessity for a righteous life in prayer when he says, “Lord who shall be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain?  He who walks without fault.  He who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart.”

Without putting on the mind of Christ, we will not be able to always ask according to His holy will.  And the Lord will give us what we ask provided we ask with the mind of Christ.  This is an indispensable condition if we want to receive what we ask.  St John wrote, “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (1 Jn 3:21f)

Hence, to pray according to His perfect will as the Lord asks of us in the Lord’s Prayer and as He did in the garden of Gethsemane, we must pray that we are not in the will or in the way of God because of our self-centered motives.  Like Elijah, we need to give our undivided attention to the Lord.  Just as he challenged the people earlier on to make a definitive choice between worshipping Baal or Yahweh, we too must with undivided heart render complete devotion to God.  Elijah, regardless of how he was taunted and ridiculed by the prophets of Baal and threatened by King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, he remained committed to the Lord to purify Israel from corruption and false compromises.  We, too, if we want our prayers to be heard must have undivided loyalty to God.

Within this context of prayer and the faith of Elijah and his spiritual warfare against the false prophets at Mount Carmel, we can now better appreciate why our Carmelite sisters are doing what they are doing.  Following the tradition of the spirituality of Elijah, they too seek to live a life of purity through penance and mortification in the monastery.  Through their sacrifices and self-denial, they unite themselves with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross so that they can do the will of God.  At the same time, this house is known as a house of prayer and, especially, a house for intercession.  The primary task of the sisters is to offer their whole life, not just at prayer but in their whole being, for the conversion of sinners and the petitions of the local church and the universal church and the world.  Their prayers, like Elijah’s, are effective because they are prayed with a purity of heart, with fervor, sincerity, persistence and most of all, with faith.   Indeed, we have much to thank our sisters for being our great intercessors.  We know that their prayers are effective because of their holiness of life and their faith.

Finally, we also take inspiration from Mary, our Lady of Mount Carmel in seeking to follow the spirituality of the Carmelite sisters.  The response in the responsorial psalm says, “Draw us after you, Virgin Mary; we shall follow in your footsteps.”  Indeed, let us follow Mary’s footsteps in doing the will of God and glorifying Him in our lives in obedience to His will.  She reminds us at Cana in Galilee, to do whatever He tells us if we want our prayers to be answered.  So through Mary, let us live out our sonship in Christ by living our lives not as slaves to the Law or to sin but truly as adopted sons and daughters in Christ, sharing in His life.  In this way, our prayers would be heard for we pray not just with the confidence as sons and daughters of God but with the same mind of Christ.

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 1, 2017 — “He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.” — The promises of Jesus

June 30, 2017

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 376

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

Jesus and the Faithful Centurion: “Lord, I am not worthy…”

Reading 1 GN 18:1-15

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the Terebinth of Mamre,
as Abraham sat in the entrance of his tent,
while the day was growing hot.
Looking up, he saw three men standing nearby.
When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them;
and bowing to the ground, he said:
“Sir, if I may ask you this favor,
please do not go on past your servant.
Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet,
and then rest yourselves under the tree.
Now that you have come this close to your servant,
let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves;
and afterward you may go on your way.”
The men replied, “Very well, do as you have said.”

Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah,
“Quick, three measures of fine flour!
Knead it and make rolls.”
He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer,
and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.
Then Abraham got some curds and milk,
as well as the steer that had been prepared,
and set these before them;
and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.

They asked him, “Where is your wife Sarah?”
He replied, “There in the tent.”
One of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year,
and Sarah will then have a son.”
Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years,
and Sarah had stopped having her womanly periods.
So Sarah laughed to herself and said,
“Now that I am so withered and my husband is so old,
am I still to have sexual pleasure?”
But the LORD said to Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say,
‘Shall I really bear a child, old as I am?’
Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do?
At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you,
and Sarah will have a son.”
Because she was afraid, Sarah dissembled, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”
But he replied, “Yes you did.”

Responsorial Psalm LUKE 1:46-47, 48-49, 50 AND 53, 54-55

R. (see 54b) The Lord has remembered his mercy.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.
“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.”
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.
“He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.”
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.
“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.”
R. The Lord has remembered his mercy.

AlleluiaMT 8:17

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ took away our infirmities
and bore our diseases.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 8:5-17

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven,
but the children of the Kingdom
will be driven out into the outer darkness,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
And Jesus said to the centurion,
“You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.”
And at that very hour his servant was healed.

Jesus entered the house of Peter,
and saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.
He touched her hand, the fever left her,
and she rose and waited on him.

When it was evening, they brought him many
who were possessed by demons,
and he drove out the spirits by a word and cured all the sick,
to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet:

He took away our infirmities
and bore our diseases.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 JULY, 2017, Saturday, 12th Week, Ordinary Time
IS ANYTHING TOO WONDERFUL FOR THE LORD?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 18:1-15Lk 1:46-50,53-55Mt 8:5-17  ]

In the first reading, we see the wonderful hospitality of Abraham in welcoming his guests.  Abraham was a man of generosity and hospitality.  We are told that he was very attentive and welcoming to his guests.  When he saw the three visitors, “he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and bowed to the ground.  ‘My Lord,’ he said ‘I beg you, if I find favour with you, kindly do not pass your servant by.’”  He was just happy to receive guests into his house.  His hospitality went beyond that of a normal host.

Instead of allowing his servants to attend to the guests, he personally served them.  He became a servant to his guests.  “As soon as he saw them he said, ‘A little water shall be brought; you shall wash your feet and lie down under the tree.  Let me fetch a little bread and you shall refresh yourselves before going further.  That is why you have come in your servant’s direction.’” Then “Abraham hastened to the tent to find Sarah. ‘Hurry,’ he said ‘knead three bushels of flour and make loaves.’  Then running to the cattle Abraham took a fine and tender calf and gave it to the servant, who hurried to prepare it.  Then taking cream, milk and the calf he had prepared, he laid all before them, and they ate while he remained standing near them under the tree.”  Indeed, Abram was attentive to the last point.  He was a person of sincerity in wanting his guests to feel comfortable in his tent.

We also read of the wonderful love of the centurion for his suffering slave.  “When Jesus went into Capernaum a centurion came up and pleaded with him.  ‘Sir,’ he said ‘my servant is lying at home paralysed, and in great pain.’”  He was only a servant.  In those days, servants were slaves and they did not mean much to the master.  They were at their beck and call.  Often they were expected to work all day and night.  But they had no rights.  So it was exceptional that the Centurion, hated by the Jews for being a Roman and an occupier of the land, should turn to the Lord to heal his servant. Such kindness of the Roman centurion who went out of the way to ask our Lord to heal his servant, and considering that he was a pagan, was certainly exceptional.

If human beings could be so wonderful, kind and generous, how much more God would be towards us?  God surely cannot be outdone in generosity.  When He sees us so generous and caring towards others, He will surely bless us abundantly.   God’s response to our goodness is even more wonderful.  This was precisely the question of the Lord.  The Lord asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Am I really going to have a child now that I am old?’  Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the same time next year I shall visit you again and Sarah will have a son.”  How could the Lord not be more wonderful in love and care for each one of us, more than anyone of us could ever be?

Indeed, we must not be skeptical like Sarah who was not too convinced that God’s love and power could make the dream happen, after all they waited for almost 24 years and nothing happened.  “Abraham and Sarah were old, well on in years, and Sarah had ceased to have monthly periods.  So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!’”  Precisely, this God is a God of surprises.  When we least expect Him, He is there.  So God, through the three men, promised that Sarah would conceive and have a child by next year.  He gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age.  What He did for Sarah and Abraham, He did for the servant of the Centurion who was in pain.  He healed the servant from afar even though He wanted personally to go down to Capernaum to see the servant.  “I will come myself and cure him.”   Nothing was too difficult for Him to do.

However, to receive the miracles of the Lord, we must be humble and trusting in the Lord.  We need to have faith for the miracle to happen.  That was why Sarah was reprimanded for laughing.  She was not convinced that such a promise could be fulfilled.  She was half believing and half wondering whether it could be real.  But the Centurion, in contrast, was a man of extraordinary faith.  He did not need Jesus to go to his house to heal the servant.  He was sensitive to the conventional customs that surrounded the Jews.  So he told the Lord, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured.  For I am under authority myself, and I have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.”  He was full of confidence that all that was needed was a word from the Lord for his servant to be well.  The Lord was full of praise for Him.  “When Jesus heard this he was astonished and said to those following him, ‘I tell you solemnly, nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go back, then; you have believed, so let this be done for you.’  And the servant was cured at that moment.”

Such faith in God’s power requires an act of humility.  Abraham and Sarah were humble servants to the three guests.  They were always ready to give and serve others.  This was in spite of the fact that they were rich.  But they were not living a high and mighty life.  Rather, they saw themselves as servants to their fellowmen.   So, too, the Centurion!  He humbled himself to ask for the healing of his slave.  Although, he was an officer, he did not feel embarrassed to ask the Lord for help.  He was not too proud to ask a favour from Him.  The gateway to God and all miracles is humility.  God only works on those who are humble of heart.  The responsorial psalm says we must rely on the power of God.   “He looks on his servant in her nothingness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed.  The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy his name! His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him.  He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty. He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy, the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons for ever.”

Indeed, today, the Lord wants to continue to heal us.  But we must grow in faith in His love and mercy.  Jesus is our healer.  He comes to take away our pains and our sorrows.  “And going into Peter’s house Jesus found Peter’s mother-in-law in bed with fever.  He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and she began to wait on him.  That evening they bought him many who were possessed by devils.  He cast out the spirits with a word and cured all who were sick.  This was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:  He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.”  He is ever ready to heal us provided we have the faith.  Like those people during the time of Jesus who could not afford any medical help, they looked to the Lord to find healing.  And we read that Jesus healed all those who came to Him in faith and love.

Indeed, there is a warning against pride and the lack of faith.  We will be put out of the kingdom.  Jesus said, “I tell you that many will come from east and west to take their places with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob at the feast on the kingdom of heaven; but the subjects of the kingdom will be turned out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”  Jesus came for the Jews but many did not open themselves up to them.  They were missing out the love and mercy of God through Christ Jesus.  Because of pride and selfishness, they were not receptive to His message and healing grace.

So let us never think that the Lord is not more wonderful than us.  He is a God who wants to show us His love and power.  But He would not force Himself on us.  He leaves it free for us to respond to His love.  In faith and trust, and in humility, let us turn to God, rely on His grace whilst doing all we can on our part.  When we cooperate with His grace, just like Abraham and Sarah, and the Centurion, the Lord shows forth His power and manifests His love for us.


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

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

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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” —
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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Related:
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Our Goal is Peace
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PRAYER TO ALLEVIATE ANXIETY
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Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all anxiety, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
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From The embolism in Christian liturgy
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THIRD STEP PRAYER of A.A.
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Commentary on Matthew 8:5-17 From Living Space

Today we read the second of the 10 miracles of Jesus described by Matthew after the Sermon on the Mount. It is a story also found in Luke and John but, strangely enough, not in Mark.

The significant element in this story is the fact that the person asking for help is a centurion, a soldier and presumably not a Jew. Yet he has this great faith in Jesus. It is a sign of the future role of Gentiles in the originally all-Jewish Christian community.

He asks Jesus to cure a servant who has become paralysed. Jesus immediately responds that he will go and cure him. “No, no,” replies the centurion. “I am not worthy that you should come to my house. Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” (Words very familiar to us from their paraphrase used in the prayers before sharing in Communion.) And he goes on to say that as an army officer, he just has to give commands and they are carried out on the spot. When it comes to healing, he knows that Jesus can do the same.

Jesus is astonished at the faith of this pagan: “Nowhere in Israel have I found faith like this!” And he foretells that this is a sign of what is going to happen in the future when Gentiles from all over the world will enter the Kingdom while many of Jesus’ own people will be left outside. What is more they will become God’s people sharing glory with the Jewish ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is a sad theme running through the whole of this gospel: the rejection of Jesus by so many of his own people and their self-chosen exclusion from the Kingdom.

The faith that Jesus expects is not an acceptance of religious doctrines. It is rather an act of total trust and surrender by which people commit themselves to the power of God – in this case, the power of God in Jesus. “Christ asks for this faith especially when he works his miracles, which are not so much acts of mercy as signs attesting his mission and witnessing to the kingdom; hence he cannot work miracles unless he finds the faith without which the miracles lose their true significance.” (Jerusalem Bible, loc. cit. Text references omitted.)

For this reason this faith was not easy to give, especially for many of Jesus’ hearers who could not see the presence of God in Jesus and hence could not commit themselves to him. Even the disciples were slow to believe. We see this especially in Mark’s gospel. But, once present, such a faith can bring about the transformation of a person’s life, as many converts to Christianity can attest.

Turning to the centurion Jesus says, “Go back home; you have believed, so let this be done for you.” The servant was cured at that very moment.

What is clear from this story and from many other healings by Jesus is the crucial element of faith in the one approaching Jesus. It is the only condition necessary – racial origins are irrelevant. Luke will tell us that Jesus was restricted in the help he could give to the people in his home town of Nazareth because they simply did not have faith in him.

Let us pray that we may never lose that gift of faith which has, in the mysterious ways of divine Providence, been given to us. And let us remember that, without that faith, God will be hampered in reaching out his healing love to us.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2127g/

Related:
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On Suffering — From Suffering With Joy

We hear the tale of the Roman centurion who is used to ordering others around and getting instant obedience.  But he, too, approaches Jesus with a humble heart full of compassion for his suffering servant and complete faith in Jesus’ power to heal, even at a distance.  From this encounter with the Lord we have the powerfully compelling words, “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed.”

From this passage in Matthew we draw the beautiful prayer we say together before receiving Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst come under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

In the traditional Latin Mass we say this prayer three times.  Why?  Because in Hebrew expression there is no comparative or superlative as we have in English.  Thus, the triple repetition of something signifies the greatest emphasis possible in what is being said.  Since much of the Traditional Mass originates from the time of the apostles, we find this custom retained in the Latin expression of the Hebrew culture.  Thus, we, in praying this prayer three times at Mass, emphasize our great lowliness in the face of Jesus, our helplessness to cure ourselves, and our great faith in Jesus.  A second reason for the triple repetition is acknowledgement of the triune God.  Jesus is the second Person who cannot be separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

I write a lot from the viewpoint of suffering in this world.  Often we suffer because our souls need healing.  We need God’s help to root out anger, resentment, envy, covetousness, and many other evils from our hearts/souls.  Often, physical suffering can be eliminated or greatly ameliorated by the healing of the soul. This prayer of the centurion prepares us to receive the healing power of Christ in Holy Communion when we say it at Mass.

When we are not at Mass but on a bed of pain, we can repeat this prayer as an offering to God as we unite ourselves to the Passion of Christ and seek His aid in conforming ourselves to the will of God.

Source: http://sufferingwithjoy.com/2012/01/23/the-leper-the-centurion-and-jesus/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 NOVEMBER 2016, Monday, 1st Week of Advent
LIVING IN HOPE OF A NEW CREATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: IS 2:1-5MT 8:5-11   ]

What a positive way to begin a new liturgical year with the vision of Isaiah in today’s first reading.   He prophesied a day will come when all of us, “peoples without number” will come to the Lord’s mountain, the place where God dwells where we will be instructed by the Lord so that we will all come under His Lordship and “walk in his paths.”  On that day, there will be no more wars and bloodshed but peace and unity.  This grandiose vision of Isaiah remains ours.

How is the vision being already realized?  Whenever we find ourselves growing in our spiritual life, we know that we are scaling to the top of the Lord’s mountain to meet Him face to face.  Whenever we find peace and joy as it is for those who have been to the mountaintop, we know that God is there in an awesome way.  Whenever we are able to reconcile conflicts and persuade warring parties to “hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles.” Whenever we are able to reconcile relationships in our family and in our workplace, we know that God has made it possible.  Whenever we see how the United Nations is working to ensure that “nation will not lift sword against nation”, we know that God is at work in a divided world.  In other words, when everyone comes under His Lordship where truth and love, justice and compassion, forgiveness and tolerance reign, we know we are nearer to the universal peace envisaged by the prophet Isaiah.

But this is not possible unless the Lord comes into our lives.  The season of Advent precisely celebrates His coming and invites us to receive Him.  When we speak of His coming, we are not limiting ourselves to His first coming at Bethlehem, nor even His Second Coming at the end of time, but also His present coming, here and now in our daily life.  Indeed, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” To the extent that we welcome the Lord Jesus into our lives, to that extent the vision of Isaiah is fulfilled in us, even now, if not perfectly, it surely can be felt.  He has taken the initiative at Christmas and He is still extending the same invitation.  In fact, if He had not first found us, we would not have been able to find Him.  However, He will not force Himself into our lives.  So we must first desire the Lord.  The Lord cannot come into our lives unless we actively seek Him, just like the gentiles in today’s scripture readings.

How, then, do we open our hearts to receive the Lord?  Firstly, we must realize our inadequacy. Although the Centurion was an officer and a respectable person, yet, he was conscious of his limitations.  He knew that he was not all that powerful and therefore he turned to Jesus for help to heal his slave.  The truth is that no one will seek the Lord earnestly unless he knows that he is incomplete and insufficient.  What is equally true is that many of us think so highly of our intelligence and talents, our power and influence, our office and position that we think we can do everything without God’s grace.  We think we can manage on our own.  If that is the case, we will never be earnest in seeking Him.

Secondly, we must come to realize our sinfulness.  When Jesus wanted to go to his house, the Centurion was fully aware that gentiles are seen as sinners and His coming would make Jesus unclean.  So in humility, he said, “Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured.” He knew that he was not worthy of Jesus, the holiness of God to come into his dwelling place.  If we want to prepare well for Christmas, the most important step to take is to purify our hearts and minds through the sacrament of reconciliation.  We must start the year on a clean slate instead of burdening ourselves with the sins of our past life that continue to haunt and condemn us.

Thirdly, we must be serious in wanting to live the life of truth and charity.  That is what the prophet asks of us, “O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  There is no question of experiencing the peace and joy of the Lord in our lives so long as we walk in darkness.  To think that we can continue in our sins and find peace and freedom in the Lord is an illusion.  We have to choose God or sin.  Psalm 24 asks, “Who may ascend the mountain of the “Lord?  Who may stand in his holy place?  The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” (Ps 24:3-4) So today, we need to make up our mind, as the Elijah tells us, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions?  If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kg 18:21)

Fourthly, we must begin to strengthen our spiritual life by opening ourselves to the Word of God.   We need to imbue ourselves with the Word of God.  Some think that they can deepen their prayer life without grounding themselves in the Word of God and coming to know God through the humanity of Jesus.   St. Teresa of Avila warns us that “the very care taken not to think about anything will arouse the mind to think a great deal” and therefore any attempt to separate the mystery of Christ from Christian meditation is always a form of “betrayal” (cf.  Letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation, no 10).  Pope St. John Paul II in his apostolic letter, “Novo Millennio Ineunte” says that the only way to see the Lord is to contemplate on the face of the Lord.  Furthermore, not only should we be more than ever firmly set on the face of the Lord” but that this “contemplation of Christ’s face cannot fail to be inspired by all that we are told about him in Sacred … so that Saint Jerome can vigorously affirm: ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.’  Remaining firmly anchored in Scripture, we open ourselves to the action of the Spirit (cf. Jn 15:26).”

So Christian Faith is one that turns to Jesus as our Lord, Saviour, Teacher and Guide as He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  It is through a deepening faith in Jesus that we come to realize who we are and what we are called to be.

Indeed, because the Centurion had encountered Jesus, he was able to submit in faith.  He told the Lord that He only needed to give the word and His servant would be cured.  He knew that the Word of Jesus was effective and efficacious.  Faith ultimately comes about when we know Jesus through His Word and teaching.  With faith, we can therefore trust in Him regardless of whatever situation we are in.  With faith inspired by the Word of God, we will find direction and inspiration from the Lord guiding us and helping us to walk in the light of God, which is the path of freedom in truth and love.  This was the faith of the Centurion, a faith that amazed Jesus even.  He had such confidence in Jesus that he did not even feel the necessity for Jesus to come personally to heal his slave.

If only we cultivate this faith of the Centurion, we would have been great evangelizers transforming the whole world, bringing them to Christ the Light of the world.  The reality is that many of us do not even know Christ because we do not read His Word. We can be truly the beacon of evangelization that Isaiah envisaged if we are personally connected with Jesus, imbued with His Word and walk in the path of truth and charity.

It behooves us at the beginning of the season of Advent to turn our eyes once again on the Lord.  Let us renew our personal relationship with the Lord, who “from the fullness of his love, addresses men as his friends (cf. Ex 33:11Jn 15:14-15), and moves among them (cf. Bar 3:38), in order to invite and receive them into his own company.” (Dei Verbum n. 2)  Together with the Centurion, let us intercede for each other, for those Catholics who do not yet have a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus and for those who do not yet know Him.  If we intercede for each other and the world the way the Centurion interceded for his servant, then we can be sure that our prayers would be heard.  With the same compassion and love for one another and for the world, let us keep the season of Advent, which is a season of waiting, a season of hope, in prayerful watching.  Let us not allow the festivities of this season to distract us from our primary focus, that is, on the Lord and not on the external trappings of Christmas, namely, the parties and gifts and the merrymaking.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 Image result for Art: The Roman Centurion by Nathan Greene
Art: The Roman Centurion by Nathan Greene
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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
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Reflection
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Today’s Gospel is a mirror. It reminds us of the words we say during the Mass at the moment of communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter my house, say but the word and I will be healed”.  Look at this text in the mirror, it suggests the following:
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The person who seeks Jesus is a pagan, a gentile, a soldier of the Roman army, which dominated and exploited the people. It is not religion nor the desire for God, but rather the need and the suffering which impels him to seek Jesus. Jesus has no prejudices. He does not demand anything first, he accepts and listens to the request of the Roman official.
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Jesus’ answer surprises the centurion, because it is beyond his expectation. The centurion did not expect that Jesus would go to his house.
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He feels unworthy: “I am not worthy”. This means that he considered Jesus a highly superior person.
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The centurion expresses his faith in Jesus saying: “Say only one word and my servant will be cured”. He believes that the word of Jesus is capable of healing. From where does he get this great faith? From his profession experience as a centurion! Because when a centurion gives an order, the soldier obeys. He has to obey! Thus he imagines Jesus: it is enough for Jesus to say one word, and things will happen according to his word. He believes the word of Jesus encloses a creative force.
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Jesus was surprised, astonished, and praises the faith of the centurion. Faith does not consist in accepting, repeating and decorating a doctrine, but in believing and trusting in the word of Jesus.
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Personal questions
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Placing myself in the place of Jesus: how do I accept and listen to the persons of other religions?
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Placing myself in the place of the centurion: which is the personal experience that leads me to believe in Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Come near to me with your saving power, let me share the happiness of your chosen ones, let me share the joy of your people. (Ps 106)
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Consoling Thoughts of St. Francis de Sales On Sickness and Death

“One of the ancients said that death ought not to be esteemed evil, or regarded as unpleasant, when it has been preceded by a good life; for nothing makes it terrible unless…..”

If we lead a good life we will find a perfect eternity….

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Peace of Soul by Fulton J. Sheen
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When people ask “Why do we need God?” we should always recall that our faith in God throughout time has brought us inner peace, which is indispensable, and achieved in no other lasting and not harmful way….
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Transforming suffering through faith… Robert Spitzer is going blind but he still believes God has more work for him to do here on earth. He writes about accepting pain and suffering with God’s help….

Christian Understanding of Pain and Suffering

June 24, 2017

By Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán

The Thinking and Theology of John Paul II

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Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, gave a lecture in July, in Aachen, Germany, on “Pain, an enigma or a mystery?”. Cardinal Barragán also visited several institutions connected with the Grunenthal Foundation for Palliative Care. The following is a translation from Italian of excerpts of the Cardinal’s lecture.

I have been asked to expound on John Paul II’s incomparable thinking on human pain. I shall first mention briefly several facts about the physiology of human pain. Then, given the Holy Father’s openness to all human values, it seems to me that it would be interesting to allude to and discuss certain key thoughts on four solutions from outside the Christian context.

The enigma of suffering

Pope John Paul II does not conceal the fact that suffering is something complex, enigmatic and intangible that must be treated with full respect and compassion and even with awe; but this does not justify the attempt to understand it, since only in this way will it be possible to come to terms with it.

He then briefly outlines the context of suffering, speaking of the vast field of suffering and of the suffering person. He notes from the outset that a misunderstanding of suffering can actually lead to the denial of God.

Pope John Paul II states: “Suffering is something which is still wider than sickness”, because there is a “distinction between physical suffering and moral suffering” (Salvifici Doloris, n. 5).

In addition to individual suffering, there is collective suffering due to human errors and transgressions, especially war. There are also times when this collective suffering becomes more acute.

Suffering has a subject and it is the individual who experiences it; yet it is not imprisoned within the person but gives rise to solidarity with others who are suffering; for the only one who has a special awareness of this is the person, the whole person. Thus, suffering involves solidarity (cf. ibid., n. 8).

It is far from easy to define the cause of suffering or of the evil connected with it. People put questions to God about its cause and frequently reach the point of denying him when they are unable to discover the reason for it (cf. ibid., n. 9).

One first needs to frame the enigma correctly and begin to seek its cause.

Suffering, the Pope says, consists in feeling cut off from good. Being cut off from good is an evil. Consequently, the cause of suffering is an evil; so, suffering and evil can be identified with each other.

As for evil, it is a deprivation; it has no positive value in itself and therefore cannot be a positive cause or principle, for its origin is a mere privation. There are as many evils as things that are wanting: an evil, according to its intensity, gives rise to pain, sorrow, depression, disappointment and even desperation; it exists in dispersion but at the same time entails solidarity. Since it originates in privation, the inevitable question is: “Why did this deprivation occur, what is its cause?”.

To respond, the Pope leaves the area of enigma and moves on to that of mystery. He does not attempt to do so with the nebulous obscurity of myth but penetrates to the very core of the Christian faith.

Mystery, in the Christian faith, is not darkness but dazzling brightness. The etymological root of the word helps us understand something about it: “mystery” derives from the Greek “Mυο” or “Mυєιν”, which means closing the eyes, not in the sense of going about blind, but of closing the eyes if they are dazzled, such as occurs, for instance, when we look directly at the sun. It is only the dazzling light, its excessive brightness, that prevents us from seeing anything in front of us, and it is in this that we car make out the mystery of suffering.

Furthermore, the Christian mystery is not only something contemplated but also experienced. Only by experiencing the mystery can we penetrate it with our minds. Only by living the mystery of Christian suffering can we get an idea of what suffering means and, as the Pope said previously, transcend it and overcome it. Let us now try to describe suffering.

The mystery of suffering

Three topics, among others, that the Pope addresses in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris with regard to suffering as a mystery are: “evil and suffering”, “Christ takes on suffering”, and “the value of human suffering”. To enter into the mystery, let us be guided by God himself. The Pope enables us to penetrate into Revelation in order to move on to ascension in the mystery.

The Holy Father tells us that in Old Testament biblical language, suffering and evil are at first identified with each other. Thanks to the Greek language however, a distinction is made particularly in the New Testament between suffering and evil. Suffering is a passive or active attitude to evil, or rather, to the lack of a good that it would be desirable to possess (cf. ibid., n. 7).

In fact, in the Book of Job and some other Books of the Old Testament the answer is that the cause of evil the transgression of the natural order created by God. Suffering and transgression were held to be the same, at least it was believed that suffering was caused by transgression. This the opinion of Job’s friends (cf. ibid., 10).

However, although God rejects this theory and approves Job’s innocence his suffering remains a mystery: not all suffering is consequential to transgression, which is proof of Job’s righteousness. It prefigures the Lord’s passion (cf. ibid., n. 11). It further affirms that suffering is a punishment inflicted for self-correction, since good follows evil, leading to conversion and to rebuilding goodness (cf. ibid., n. 12),

The Pope now goes a step further and reaches the heart of the mystery; in his mortal life, Christ put an end to pain by his miracles, He took upon himself the suffering of all and bore it with full consciousness on the Cross (cf. ibid., n, 16}.

The only answer [to the “why” of suffering] can come from the love of God in the Cross (cf. ibid., n. 13). It is God the Father who provides the answer to the problem of suffering: it consists in the fact that he “gives” his Son to the world. Evil is sin and suffering, death. With the Cross, he overcomes sin, and with his Resurrection, death (Jn 3:16; cf. ibid., n. 14).

In the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant in the Book of Isaiah, the meaning of Christ’s suffering in the passion is portrayed even more vividly than it is in the Gospels. His suffering is redemptive; its depth can be measured by the depth of the evil in the history of the world, especially since the person who suffers it is God (cf. ibid., n. 17).

Christ provides an answer to the problem of suffering by offering his unreserved availability and compassion; his presence is effective: he gives help and gives himself (cf. ibid., n. 28).

Through suffering, human beings are incorporated into the pain of Christ. Suffering gives rise to love for those who suffer, a disinterested love to help them by relieving it. This is now official and organized through health-care institutions and the professionals who work in them, and also through volunteers. It is a matter of a real vocation, especially when one is united to the Church with a Christian profession.

The assistance that families give their sick relatives is important in this area. Moreover, those who not only act to help the sick but also to drive away a whole series of evils, those who fight hatred, violence, cruelty and every type of physical and spiritual suffering, belong to the same category as the Good Samaritan.

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The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.

Every man and every woman should feel personally called to bear witness to love in suffering and must not leave those who are suffering to be cared for solely by official institutions (ibid., n.29). The Parable of the Good Samaritan corroborates what Christ said about the Last Judgment; “I was sick and you visited me”. Christ himself is the One who was cared for, and the one who fell into the hands of bandits is cared for and helped. The meaning of suffering is to do good by one’s suffering and to do good to those who suffer (cf, ibid., n.30).

The Pope ends by saying that the mystery of man is revealed in Christ, and the mystery of man is very specially connected to suffering. In Christ the enigma of pain and death is revealed. Only in love is it possible to find the saving response to pain. May the suffering of Mary and the saints help us discover this response. May pain and suffering be transformed into a source of strength for all humanity,

The comment

I think that the development of the Pope’s thought climbs six steps towards the fullness of the mystery of suffering and pain; we can sum them up as follows:

Suffering is not in itself evil but is the effect of a negative cause. Evil is not a positive entity but a privation. Deprivation does not demand a positive cause but the search for its origin.

The origin of the privation is sin. The sin committed by a person spreads by joint human liability. Sin can be eliminated through suffering itself in a very special context of solidarity.

Only God can bestow this solidarity upon us. This gift of solidarity is the meaning of the Incarnation and the meaning of Jesus Christ. For this solidarity, Christ brought the elimination of sin to completion through his suffering in his life, passion, death and Resurrection.

This divine action is an act of the Most Holy Trinity since the Eternal Father gave his Son to humanity so that he might redeem it through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Love of the Father and of the Son, and it is only through the Love of the Spirit that we can glimpse this mysterious, redeeming solidarity.

Through Christ’s solidarity with al humanity the human pain of all time; was suffered by Christ in his passion and his redeeming death. Thus, human pain and suffering are transformed from something negative into something positive, into a source of life, as it were because they become redemptive.

Each person in his or her suffering is united with the suffering of Christ, and thus this suffering mysteriously becomes a source of life and resurrection. Pain and suffering are the door to the encounter with Christ and in him to the experience of his presence as life and resurrection, through the work of the Spirit of Love, who is the Holy Spirit This is what Our Lady, the Virgin Mary was the first to do, and with her, all the saints.

This definitive destruction of suffering through suffering leads us to destroy our actual suffering with the whole panoply of means at our disposal, as in the case of the Good Samaritan.

The Pope thus situates us in the heart of the mystery whose light dazzles us. For we find ourselves in intimacy with the Blessed Trinity, in the loving reality of the unity of the Triune God and in the depths of this mystery. This is the central mystery of the entire Christian religion, not in the abstract nor in an immensely remote way, but in a closeness present in human history into whose temporal dimensions eternity bursts, through the historical Incarnation of the Word with his birth, life, passion, death and Resurrection.

This is a Trinitarian and Christological solidarity in which the absolute fullness of life is attained through death. It is called “cross” and “resurrection”. We find ourselves at the heart of the Christian mystery, inaccessible except through an experience of it: no one who does not know it can prove its efficacy or find its solution.

The solution to the mystery of evil is not only discovered through theological exposition but also by experiencing that something which, if steadily gazed at, darkens because of its excessive brightness yet is very real – we can say the most real reality -, for it is the only way to happiness.

In this way we are within the nucleus of salvation. This is the heart of Christianity. Tertullian said: “Credo quia ineptum“. By experiencing relief from evil through suffering, and through that cruelest form of suffering which sums up all imaginable forms of suffering, the Cross, this “ineptum“, becomes “aptum“, the most just and rational that we can imagine, for it is the only way to experience happiness.

This is why the mystery of pain shifts from pain in itself to the mystery of solidarity. Solidarity, as the foundation of the whole of existence, is not only sympathy with all, a way of being socially committed and aware that we all belong to the same race, culture, nationality, etc., but is also the experiencing of a bond with all other human beings so deeply within ourselves that it is not a qualification that comes to us as soon as we exist but constitutes our existence itself.

Solidarity belongs to divinized human life as a gift received which takes part in the mystery itself of God’s very life. The life of God is infinitely perfect in each one of the divine Persons through the internal solidarity between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This infinite solidarity is infinite Love, which is the Holy Spirit who has been poured out into our hearts, an infinite Love that is God himself. The mystery of suffering is contained in the mystery of Love, in the mystery of the Spirit.

In this way, the mystery of suffering-love enters into the very constitution of God incarnate, the Son made flesh through the work of the Holy Spirit. Since Christ is the most intimate model for every person, the Holy Spirit, the Love of God and redemptive suffering enter into the actual objective, and we might say ontological, constitution of humanity.

In contrast to cold objectivity, however, it is something that indeed belongs to the objectivity of our being, but with the maximum loving subjectivity, since it is and depends upon our free will in such a way that we can accept or reject it. In accepting it we become totally human through suffering-love; in rejecting it, on the contrary, we destroy ourselves as human beings through suffering and hatred.

The Pope is aware of the difficulty of reasoning in this way and therefore tells us that the reality of suffering in solidarity should only be understood through the Resurrection. From our solidarity with the essence of life which is the Risen Christ, we can understand our loving solidarity with Christ suffering on the Cross; just as the Risen Christ includes in his Resurrection the resurrection of humanity, of each and every one of us, so too the suffering of Christ contains the suffering and pain of each and every one of us. There is no separation between the Resurrection and the Cross but convergence, both in Christ and in us; the Pope says, therefore, that Christ contains the signs of his wounds in his glorified Body.

One can thus realize and understand what would otherwise be an untenable paradox, scandal and folly: the Cross is glorious; having been the evil most feared as total death, it becomes the glorious beginning of the whole of the second creation. The nothing from which this new world of happiness or the definitive Paradise flows is not an innocent nothingness but a guilty nothingness that is the greatest evil – sin – which leads definitively to the Cross. And from the Cross, not by virtue of the Cross but by virtue of the Father’s omnipotence and the Spirit’s solidarity and Love, the Incarnate Word recreates within us the authentic Adam, the man of truth, the model planned by God from all eternity so that we might be authentically human.

Conclusion

Love is the only key to deciphering the enigma of pain and suffering: love that can transform nothingness into full reality. The lack of meaning, the lack of direction, the radical anticulture, contradiction, death: in a fullness of meaning, of orientation, in an ascendant culture, in joyous affirmation, in life: folly and stupidity, in what is wisest and most sensible, it is the intimate solidarity of love triumphant that raises, in loving solidarity with the most atrocious suffering that kills. It is victory over death.

Thus, John Paul II leads us to scrutinize the meaning of human suffering in a mysterious and dazzling way, and which is also the only valid perspective; at last, the enigma becomes mystery. It is a joyful, shining mystery and full of happiness. It is the paradox that returns to being logical through the Omnipotent Love of God the Father who is his Spirit, and whose effectiveness is to be found in the culmination of human history when he grants to us the close solidarity of all peoples in the Pasch of the Incarnate Word.

from:
L’Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
7 September 2005, page 9

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Pope: Learning From Refugees’ Hopes and Pain Dissolves Fear — “Jesus never promised us a blessed life without pain or suffering.”

June 18, 2017

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is calling for the faithful to not only welcome refugees, but to personally learn from their stories as a way to curb fears and “distorted” ideologies about them.

Francis made the appeal Sunday as he marked the U.N.’s World Day of Refugees, which will be celebrated on Tuesday.

Speaking from his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Francis prayed for all those who have lost their lives fleeing war and persecution. He said their stories of pain and hope are actually an opportunity for reciprocal understanding.

He said: “In reality, personal meetings with refugees can dissolve fears and distorted ideologies and become paths for growth in humanity.”

Francis’ four-year papacy has been marked by his profound solidarity with refugees and demand that countries build bridges of welcome, not walls.

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One can never do justice to telling the story of Padre Pio except to say, I think about him every day. He taught me: “If you are worried: pray.  Once you are praying, you can stop your worry.” Padre Pio had the stigmata.

“Pray, pray to the Lord with me, because the whole world needs prayer. And every day, when your heart especially feels the loneliness of life, pray. Pray to the Lord, because even God needs our prayers.”

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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– St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
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A humble French priest is teaching me to find peace and growth in suffering

June 17, 2017

By Kimberly Cook | Jun 16, 2017

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If you haven’t started learning from him yet, you should

It was through several instances of spiritual struggle and discernment, sometimes in confession, that I heard mentioned again and again the name of a French priest and his very popular books on peace.

Fr. Jacques Philippe, a member of The Community of the Beatitudes since 1985, has dedicated his priesthood to spiritual direction, community formation, and preaching retreats.

And yet, Fr. Jacques’ consolidated treatises of these retreats are published in such small slim books, they hardly let on to the monumental lessons contained within.

It wasn’t until a priest actually put a copy of Searching for and Maintaining Peace into my hands that I began to understand just why the humble author’s words are touching so many lives. The manuscript of a mere 86 pages took me ages to complete, as the richness of each section was so intense, I often had to close the book for the night and digest the small portion I had just absorbed.

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I dog-eared many pages as a thought or enlightenment resonated so deeply within me that I knew I had to revisit it. The message was simple: I want and need peace, but peace can only be found in its fullness in Jesus Christ.

“As long as a person who must jump with a parachute does not jump into the void, he cannot feel that the cords of the parachute will support him, because the parachute has not yet had the chance to open. One must first jump and it is only later that one feels carried. And so it is in spiritual life.” – Searching for and Maintaining Peace, pg. 28

Providentially, this simple priest with his divine lessons came from France to speak at our parish just as I was finishing the book! His words came to life as he laid out the means to growing through trials and suffering. I found myself in a side pew writing feverishly and hoping I could absorb his wise words in person as well as I had in print.

Fr. Jacques’ message, again, was simple and clear: Although every trial in life is vastly different, each encounter is a trial of faith, hope or love.

Trials of faith cause me to ask why God has allowed this suffering to come to me. The difficulty can cause me to either rebel against God or trust and believe in him despite the darkness.

The trials of hope challenge my security. We so often put security in that which is fleeting or can change in an instant: health, ability, or even another person. Our trials expose our poverty. But this poverty is an opportunity to go beyond my human security and rely on God and his mercy.

The trials of charity challenge my capacity to love in truthfulness. Am I capable of loving another person regardless of their limitations and what I receive from them? If so, then I am able to experience a love that is more profound, greatly surpassing my love of self.

“Suffering makes us poor, but this is a grace because it destroys our pride.”

In every instance of suffering I am invited to accept the invitation for hope, deeper faith, and disinterested love. I must ask God what is the interior work he is calling me to do in the moment. My hope is found in the personal call addressed to me — an opportunity for deeper conversion.

God asks me to live and trust in the present moment alone, without trying to understand or resolve the past or future.

The hardest thing to accept in moments of trial is the lack of immediate answer or explanation. Yet in surrender and abandonment to God’s wisdom, I am able to attain peace and begin to understand how to live through the suffering. My capacity to love and understand others is deepened as well as my knowledge and acceptance of self. Regardless of my trials, I am still capable of loving, and all is not lost if I can still love.

“God can make very beautiful fruits grow through trials.”

Source: https://aleteia.org/2017/06/16/a-humble-french-priest-is-teaching-me-to-find-peace-and-growth-in-suffering/?utm_campaign=NL_en&utm_source=daily_newsletter&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=NL_en#link_time=1497587475

Interior Freedom Study Guide

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Jesus Knows About Your Mourning, Having Mourned Himself in The Human Flesh

March 30, 2017

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The following is from: “Strangers in a Strange Land, Living the Catholic Faith in a post-Christian World,” by Charles J. Chaput

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

When we think about mourning, we usually recall someone who has just died and the feeling of loss he or she leaves behind.We’ve all seen photos of a mother weeping over the death of a child. Her heart aches. Her body responds with tears. The life she birthed and nurtured is gone. Nothing, it seems, can ease her grief. Yet Jesus promises  that she — and the countless more like her — will be comforted. Mourning is a universal experience because death comes to all of us. Mourning honors the unrepeated beauty of a life that has passed away. But life in this world is not where the story of each person ends. Jesus will dry our tears. And he knows the pain of those tears because Jesus himself mourned. Scripture says he mourned over Jerusalem (Luke 19: 41) and wept over the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11: 35).

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And after the Last Supper, Jesus promised his disciples: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that the child is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16: 20-22)

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Art: Resurrection of Lazarus by Caravaggio

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Chris Christie appeared Wednesday morning, March 29, 2017, to talk about his new role working for President Trump in the effort to find solutions for America’s opioid epidemic. Christie said he believes in the worth of every human being and the sanctity of human life — that every human being has some spark of God within. He said this means he is pro-life and we, as a people, should not turn our backs on the addicted, the aged or anyone else.
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Hospital patient's hands folded in lap, close-up

“We cannot leave the elderly behind.”

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http://addictionblog.org/infographics/donald-trump-quotes-on-addiction-substance-abuse-and-the-war-on-drugs/

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March 20, 2017

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 238

Unmerciful Master and Wicked Servant

Reading 1 DN 3:25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud:

“For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever,
or make void your covenant.
Do not take away your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,
Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,
To whom you promised to multiply their offspring
like the stars of heaven,
or the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

http://catholic-resources.org/Art/Dore-NT.htm

Woodcut by by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)

Responsorial Psalm PS 25:4-5AB, 6 AND 7BC, 8-9

R. (6a) Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.
R. Remember your mercies, O Lord.

Verse Before The Gospel JL 2:12-13

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart;
for I am gracious and merciful.

Gospel MT 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

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Commentary on Matthew 18:21-35 from Living Space

This passage makes a crucial link between God forgiving us and our forgiving others. Peter asks how many times he should forgive another and offers what he regards as a very generous seven times. Jesus multiplies that by eleven. In other words our readiness to forgive should be without limit.

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The reason is that that is the way God himself acts towards us. Supposing we only had seven chances of being forgiven our sins in our lifetime? Supposing we were to confess our sins to a priest and were told: “Sorry, you have used up your quota.” Don’t we expect that every single time we genuinely repent we can renew our relationship with God?

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Jesus is simply telling us that, if we are to be his followers, we must act on the same basis with other people. To make his teaching clear he tells the parable of the two servants. The one with the huge debt is forgiven by the king. He then proceeds to throttle another servant who owes what is, in comparison, a paltry amount.
As indicated in the parable, there is no real proportion between the offence of our sins against an all-holy God and those made against us by others. And every time we say the Lord’s Prayer we commit ourselves to this: “Forgive us our sins JUST AS we forgive those who sin against us.” It is indeed a courageous prayer to make. Do we really mean what we say? Do we even think about it when we pray it?

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We could make a couple of extra comments:

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– This teaching does not mean turning a blind eye to a person who keeps on doing hurt to us. Forgiveness is more than just saying words; it involves the restoring of a broken relationship. It involves the healing of both sides. It may be necessary to make some proactive but totally non-violent response. Our main concern should not be ourselves but the well-being of the other person whose actions are really hurting him/her.

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– Forgiveness is not purely a unilateral act. It is only complete when there is reconciliation between the two parties. It is difficult for me fully to forgive when the other party remains totally unrepentant. Even God’s forgiveness cannot get through in such circumstances (remember the Prodigal Son whose healing only began when he came to his senses and returned to his Father). The injured party has to work on bringing about a healing of the wound of division between both sides. Only then is the forgiveness complete. That may take a long time.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1033g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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NO MERCY WITHOUT MERCY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Daniel 3:25-43; Ps 24:4-9; Matthew 18:21-35]

We are all in need of mercy.  This is because we are all sinners.  We are weak and often succumb to temptations, or simply because we have a wounded nature.   We get angry.  We are impatient.  We are envious of those who are better than us because we feel insecure.  We cannot control our appetites because we greedy.  We steal and hoard because we are afraid that we do not have enough. Because of our biological drive for sexual union and intimacy we cannot resist the sin of lust. We are proud because we want independence, respect and control over others.

Therefore, being a sinner is a fact.  Other than our Lord Jesus Christ and our Blessed Mother, no one is exempted from falling into sin.  To think that we are without sin is to call God a liar.  St John in no uncertain terms said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)  For this reason, we must be ever ready to forgive each other simply because we are fellow sinners.  Hence, when Peter asked the Lord,  “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.”  In other words, seven being the complete number, it means “always”, without exception.

Forgiveness is something we cannot withhold from anyone.  Firstly, God forgives us completely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 Jn 1:9) God is portrayed as the master who forgave the servant who owed him ten thousand talents, which is probably 7 billion US dollars in today’s terms.  Of course this is an exaggeration.  But it underscores the point that God loves us and has given us so much and have forgiven all our sins.  He has paid the price for our sins with the blood of His only Son.  (cf 1 Jn 1:7) So what audacity do we have to ask for God’s forgiveness for our many sins when we cannot forgive the weaknesses of our fellowmen?

Secondly, forgiving others is the only way to receive the full forgiveness given to us by God.  Indeed, the Lord warns us, “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”   By not forgiving, we are in truth not forgiving ourselves.  Many of us fail to realize that healing can be complete only when we forgive those who have hurt us.  Being forgiven by God is not enough.  We are to be reconciled with God and with others.  This explains why many go for confession asking for forgiveness for their sins and yet do not find true and lasting healing because they have not yet released their own grievances against those who hurt them.  This was basically the sin of the merciless servant.  The master forgave him for his enormous debt but he was not able to forgive the little debt his fellow servant owed him.  As a consequence, when the master heard of he said, “You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?”

How is it that we find it so difficult to forgive?  Firstly, it is because we are not fully aware of our own imperfections and sinfulness.  We tend to look at others who sinned against us.  Our eyes are always focused on others, judging them.  Again the Lord warns us, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”  (Mt 7:2)  St James also warned us, “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (Jms 2:13)  If “the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt”, it was because it was necessary for him to learn about his own sins so that he could forgive the sins of others.  The servant needs time to reflect for himself his own sins and God’s abundant mercy.  Only then, could he truly forgive his fellow servant.

Indeed, the season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on our sins.  If we find ourselves lacking forgiveness and not able to let go of our hurts, we should begin reflecting on ourselves, our own sins.  We must keep the words of Jesus in mind. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Mt 7:3-5)  Coming to consciousness of our many sins will help us to be more realistic in judging others.  We will come to realize that we are actually even a worse sinner than them!

This was what the Israelites did in the first reading.  Azariah reflected on the outcome of the sins of Israel.  “Lord, now we are the least of all the nations, now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins. We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince, no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense, no place where we can offer you the first-fruits and win your favour.”   Through the consequences of their sins, they came to realize their mistakes.   Instead of excusing themselves, he prayed, “may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you as holocausts of rams and bullocks, as thousands of fattened lambs: such let our sacrifice be to you today, and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly, since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.”

We too must make time to think through our own life.  The real obstacle to healing is that not many of us spend sufficient time to reflect on our mistakes in life.  When we have a break down in relationship, we only think of assigning blame to the other party.  We are always excusing ourselves but not others.  We only see things from our perspective and not from the other party.  We need to put ourselves in the shoes of others if we are to see everything more objectively.  Unless we learn from our lessons, we cannot grow in self-awareness and be purified in love.  We need to be contrite for true healing to take place.  With the Israelites, we pray, “And now we put our whole heart into following you, into fearing you and seeking your face once more. Do not disappoint us; treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle and very merciful. Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds, let your name win glory, Lord.”

We must also avoid applying double standards with respect to our sins and the sins of others.  Indeed, when it comes to our wrongs, we are ever ready to excuse ourselves and ask for leniency, like the unforgiving servant.  But when it comes to the sins of others, we would not make excuses for them.  We demand justice and punishment.  We have no mercy for them.  We are presumptuous and self-righteous. Indeed, those of us who use double standards in dishing out punishment to those who have done us wrong, but would forgive ourselves or our loved ones, show that we are partial in our judgements.  How many of us would be like the legendary Justice Bao who would render judgement equally to all, without regard for the rich or poor, the powerful or the ordinary man?

Even then, God is no Justice Bao!  He is not simply a just God but the God of mercy.  His justice is His mercy!  We can pray with confidence llike Azariah who say, “Oh! Do not abandon us forever, for the sake of your name; do not repudiate your covenant, do not withdraw your favour from us, for the sake of Abraham, your friend, of Isaac your servant, and of Israel your holy one, to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven and as the grains of sand on the seashore.”   God, like the master, is ever ready to excuse us as Jesus did on the cross when He prayed to His Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing!”  (Lk 23:34)  Truly, the psalmist says, “Remember your mercy, Lord, and the love you have shown from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth because of your goodness, O Lord.  The Lord is good and upright.  He shows the path to those who stray.  He guides the humble in the right path; he teaches his way to the poor.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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