Posts Tagged ‘Peter’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, June 29, 2017 — Saints Peter and Paul — The Lord stood by me and gave me strength

June 28, 2017

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 591

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Liberation of St. Peter by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1667

Reading 1 ACTS 12:1-11

In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them.
He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword,
and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews
he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
–It was the feast of Unleavened Bread.–
He had him taken into custody and put in prison
under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each.
He intended to bring him before the people after Passover.
Peter thus was being kept in prison,
but prayer by the Church was fervently being made
to God on his behalf.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial,
Peter, secured by double chains,
was sleeping between two soldiers,
while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison.
Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him
and a light shone in the cell.
He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying,
“Get up quickly.”
The chains fell from his wrists.
The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.”
He did so.
Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.”
So he followed him out,
not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real;
he thought he was seeing a vision.
They passed the first guard, then the second,
and came to the iron gate leading out to the city,
which opened for them by itself.
They emerged and made their way down an alley,
and suddenly the angel left him.
Then Peter recovered his senses and said,
“Now I know for certain
that the Lord sent his angel
and rescued me from the hand of Herod
and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (5) The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The angel of the Lord will rescue those who fear him.

Reading 2  2 TM 4:6-8, 17-18

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me,
but to all who have longed for his appearance.

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat
and will bring me safe to his heavenly Kingdom.
To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Alleluia MT 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Saint Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

Gospel  MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

29 JUNE, 2017, Thursday, 12th Week, Ordinary Time

CAN THE CHURCH WITHSTAND THE ONSLAUGHT OF THE WORLD?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 33:2-9; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 17-18; Mt 16, 13-19  ]

We are living in a world of rapid changes.  The world is moving and changing so fast that what we see today was unimaginable 30 years ago.  Technology, mass media and digital communications have changed the world radically.  The way we communicate, the way we live, our lifestyles, whether it is at work, in the family, social or religious life have changed.  

But it is not just changes in technology; economic, political and social life, and ideology have changed as well.  Indeed, today, we are paralyzed by the many choices in life.  Even buying a phone is not an easy decision as there is a whole range of choices, all with different capabilities.   Watching television or going for a movie is equally daunting as there are a plethora of choices to choose from. So too with regard to the different ideologies of how life should be lived. All opinions seem to have their valid points.  With so much information it is difficult to make sense of what is truly right or wrong.  In a society that is so steeped in relativism, it has become difficult for anyone to talk about morality.  Pragmatism and individualism rule the day.  At the other extreme end of the pendulum, those who resist change express themselves in fundamentalism which can become violent, especially among religious fanatics.

In the midst of these changes, the Church presents herself as the spokesman for what is truth in the world.  The Church in the person of the Holy Father is seen as the moral spokesman for humanity.  The Church regards herself as the bulwark and pillar of truth.  But the Church is also under attack from the onslaught of those who disagree with the teachings of the Church.  There is much opposition not just from without but also from within.

Can the Church withstand the change of time in the light of extreme ideologies such as relativism, secularism and fundamentalism? The common lamentation of our young people is that the Church is no longer relevant in their lives.  We seem to be speaking a different language and they cannot sync with the Church’s language both in terms of style, content and communication.   Indeed, will the Catholic Church be reduced to a minority, as Pope Emeritus Benedict warned us during his pontificate?  We have the new Herods persecuting the Church today for political gains.  In the first reading we read that King Herod “beheaded James the brother of John, and when he saw that this pleased the Jews he decided to arrest Peter as well.”

Many political and even religious leaders are pandering to the wishes of the majority regardless of whether those things they ask for are good or bad for them.  Instead of leading the people into the fullness of truth, they are being led by the people.  This is the consequence of democracy, truth by consensus.   Or rather, a pragmatic approach to life.  Give them whatever they want.  The leader is reduced to a coordinator, no longer one who leads.   The truth is that most people behave like little children.  In a world of technology and consumerism, we must get what we want quickly.  We cannot wait.  So, do we pander to the desires of our children even when they ask for things that could harm their future?  But this is what we do for the so-called adults in the world today.  The world is no longer ruled by truth but by consensus and desires.

So as leaders, how can we lead if we do not know the truth, what is truly good for our people, not just for today but for tomorrow?  As in the gospel, the people during the time of Jesus held different views about Him.  We get nowhere if we base the truth on consensus.  Reason is important for finding the truth, but truth has its limits and must be supplemented by faith.

How can we be sure that we have the truth to life and love if not because of our faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God?  This is the foundation of truth.   Jesus assured Peter, “So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”  Unless our faith is founded on the Church’s faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God, we cannot claim that we have the truth.  Anything less than this confession of faith expressed by Peter will not give us the courage to withstand the onslaught of the world and the diverse worldviews.

By extension, as Catholics, we also believe that the rock that Jesus refers to is not just the rock of faith but Peter as the leader among the apostles.  He is also that little pebble, “Petra” in which the Church is built upon.  This is because the Lord has entrusted the keys of heaven, that is the authority, to St Peter to decide on matters pertaining to faith and morals for the Church.  The Lord said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”  For this reason, good Catholics will abide by the teachings of the Pope, together with the bishops. The magisterium is considered as the authentic, authoritative teacher of the Church.  When Jesus promised the Church that He would be with us until the end of time, obviously, it cannot be merely with the individual but the Church as a whole, led by the apostles and their successors.

Indeed, if obedience is lacking today, it is because faith is lacking.  This is the cause of disobedience at every strata of life.  Today, obedience to authority is no longer taken seriously even in priestly and religious life.  Everybody trusts only in his or her opinions and claims to have personal revelation from God.  There is a distrust in authority because of scandals and corruption.  So, whilst it is understandable why people have lost faith in authority, none of us must lose faith in Christ.  We must hold fast to the promise of Christ that He will somehow protect His Church from the Evil One.  Hence, obedience requires us to surrender in faith even when we do not understand.

Faith in Christ can overcome all things.  Christ will protect His Church.  This was the faith of Peter in Christ.  We read how the Lord sent an angel to deliver him from his enemies.  The angel set him free from his chains and led him out into safety.  It was such a miraculous event that caught Peter by surprise.  So, too, the Lord came to Paul’s aid in his trials. “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”  So we might suffer a temporary setback and have to deal with some scandals affecting the Church.  But we can be sure that the Lord will also set us back and lead us forward to the future with even greater zeal and growth in holiness and in strength.

But Peter and Paul’s faith in Christ is not limited to being delivered only in this life but in the life to come.  Although their lives ended in death, they knew that even death could not overcome them because the last word is life eternal.  Life and love will triumph over death and hatred.  That was why they were also not afraid of death. St Paul was confident of final victory which is even more important than temporary victory.  He wrote, “All there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day.”

As we celebrate the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, we are called to imitate them for they are the pillars of the Church.  Like them, we are called to be faithful to the Lord even unto death.  In the first reading, we have St Peter who was ever ready to witness to the Lord even when threatened with imprisonment by King Herod and the Jews.   St Paul too spoke of his life as a libation offered for Christ and the Church.  He wrote, “My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.”  Both Peter and Paul gave their life for Christ and His Church.  Both were martyred in Rome.

If we want to have the same courage and fidelity to Christ, then we need to strengthen our faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God.  This faith is given through grace, for the Lord said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  We can only pray for this faith of revelation.  But we must, like Sts Peter and Paul, cooperate with His grace given to us, doing all that we can within our strength and then surrender everything else unto the Lord who will complete the task for us.

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

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St. Peter – Prince of the Apostles

Peter became the leader of the apostles, after Jesus’ ascension.

So many people want signs and miracles and yet even what is evidently happening in history and the present times, there is still spiritual blindness. Sometimes what we really need to know is already there in front of our eyes. It might mean that we must open our mind so we can understand from a different perspective. Our world is more than two dimensional. Our thought process is not lineal although help to connect information together. With the right information, we can see how everything fits together. We can expand on this as you will see here. There are layers of awareness and so nothing is every straightfoward. Nothing is ever quite as it seems. Nothing is coincidence either.

A previous article shows St. Peter’s and how this reveals a key. In this statue St Peter is holding Keys and also a scroll. There are two keys in his right hand. One key is silver plated and the other is gold plated. The scroll indicates that Peter received Divine Revelation and was guided directly from God with making decisions. For this reason he became an important figurehead of the church.

Old Saint Peter’s Basilica stood from the 4th to 16th centuries where the Basilica of Saint Peter stands today in Rome. Construction of the Basilica was built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero. Work began during the reign of emperor Constantine I ordered the contstuction between 326 and 333; that took 30 years to complete. The name Old Saint Peter’s Basilica to distinguish between the buildings of the Old and present time Bassilica.

“The altar of the Old St. Peter’s used several Solomonic columns. According to tradition, Constantine took these columns from the Temple of Solomon and gave them to the church; however, the columns were probably from an Eastern church. When Gian Lorenzo Bernini built his baldacchino to cover the new St. Peter’s altar, he drew from the twisted design of the old columns. Eight of the original columns were moved to the piers of the new St. Peter’s.”

Fresco of Constantine’s Old St. Peter’s Basilica as it looked in the 4th century.

Since the crucifixion and burial of Saint Peter in 64 A.D., the Basilica is said to be the location of the tomb of Saint Peter. The structure housed tombs of saints and popes. Bones were still being found as late as February 1544. In the design of the new basilica attempted to reconsecrate these remains as much as possible.

“It is stated in the Liber Potitificalis, written by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the eighth century, that the Emperor Constantine after his miraculous conversion caused the body of St. Peter to be exhumed in presence of Pope St. Sylvester, and enshrined in a case of silver enclosed within a sarcophagus of Cyprian brass. Over this he placed a large cross of gold weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, and bearing the inscription : “Constantinus aug. et Helena aug. hanc doraum regalem (auro decorant quam) simili fulgore coruscans aula circumdat.” The body was then restored to its original tomb, over which he erected an altar and a vaulted chamber (in place of St. Anacletus’ memoria) faced interiorly with plates of gold. This chamber was, and still is, right under the high-altar of St. Peter’s basilica, and on the Apostle’s tomb still lies the cross of gold, as will be shown later.”

The Destruction of Old Basilica of St. Peters

“Old St. Peter’s had lasted some 1126 years (i.e., from A.D. 324 to 1450), when the walls began to settle down on the side where the masonry of Nero’s circus had been retained. Lanciani says the destruction of this venerable basilica is “one of the saddest events in the history of the ruin of Rome,” yet it was considered a necessity, for in Nicholas V’s time (1447—1455) the structure was found to be in a damaged state, and the roof threatened to fall. He conceived the idea of entirely rebuilding it, but did little or nothing because of the enormous sums required. Pope Benedict XII (1334—1342) had spent 80,000 gold florins (i.e., some ,£480,000 of our money) in repairing the roof; but a century later it was found to be again unsafe, thousands of rats having made holes in the beams, and the southern wall was leaning three feet seven inches to the side, so that the pilgrims, who came to the Jubilee of 1450, were naturally alarmed.”

St. Clements with St. Peter of Alexandria – who is seen here holding the scepter. According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter, and he is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century. Pope Clement I also known as Saint Clement of Rome (in Latin, Clemens Romanus), is listed from an early date as a Bishop of Rome. He was the first Apostolic Father of the Church.

St. Peter is seen holding a book and the keys. We also see that he is illumined (by God) His crown chakra is open to recieve divine revelation and this provides evidence of him being sanctified.

History has been mapped out to the finest detail – so has today. There is no cheating to attain spiritual enlightenment. No one can buy or sell this realisation within our being. The people who have strived to maintain lofty places and kept people down, might never realise a higher consciousness. However, in this time there are more people from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths who are ready to experience higher consciousness.

The Golden Age is the age of enlightentment – for everyone.

By research, we can learn about history in context. Visual evidence helps to support factual information. Ancient buildings, ruins of temples and churches give evidence of history and people who have lived before. In the ancient times war, fire and natural disasters, floods and earthquakes have been reasons why ancient buildings have been destroyed. At different times throughout history, people have been divinely inspired and this is not to create division between people – but to unite people together in peace. Today the churches are uniting in peace and it is important that no one is excluded from this opportunity and understanding. Today there is a golden opportunity for everyone to realise a higher consciousness. You decide your process.

Physical locatons can change, buildings can change even people can change – however truth does not change. Peter is written about in the Holy Bible. Nothing is hidden from anyone!

Peace, love and best wishes
Pauline Maria

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http://paulinemaria.blogspot.com/2012/06/st-peter-prince-of-apostles.html
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From Last Year:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JUNE 2016, Wednesday, Ss Peter and Paul, Apostles
SUPPORTING OUR HOLY FATHER’S VISION OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLESHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 33:2-9; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 17-18; Mt 16, 13-19 ]  Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is bringing much needed renewal to the Church and the world.  Indeed, he is truly visionary and courageous.  He has undertaken radical reforms in the Church, especially the Curia and the different Church organs.  He has given a new face to the papacy by his simplicity, ordinariness and compassion, especially for the poor and the ordinary people. He is also very much in touch with the struggles of ordinary Catholics, whether in family life, in marriage and especially those who are divorced.   He feels with those with a different sexual orientation, the marginalized and the outcast.   He has also made radical changes in the liturgy to make it simpler and connected to life. He reaches out beyond the Church to peoples from other Christian communions and other religions as well.  His speeches and homilies are straight from the heart and not couched in nice political language.  Indeed, because of his authenticity and genuine love for all, many outside the Catholic Church admire him and find him truly the face of Christ for them.  Because of him, the Church has become more missionary and evangelical and he has changed the image of a cold, indifferent and outdated Church fazed by scandals, especially pedophilia to a Church of compassion and mercy.  

Indeed, Pope Francis shows himself to be a true shepherd of the flock of Christ and a true missionary in bringing Christ to all, especially the poor and the marginalized.  He seeks to exercise both roles by modelling his life after St Peter and St Paul.  St Peter is the symbol of the call to be a shepherd to the flock of Christ, whereas St Paul reminds us of our missionary call to proclaim Christ to the earth.  Every Pope, bishop and priest and lay person is also called to be both a shepherd and a missionary.  The mission of the Church consists of both ad intra and ad extra; within, as we renew ourselves in the faith and without, by being evangelical minded.  Pope Francis seeks to bring both these aspects into his ministry by being the shepherd of the universal Church by governance and teaching on one hand, and on the other hand, by being creative and proactive in reaching out to those who have left the Church, those outside the Church and those who are unreached.  And he is doing this at the risk of being misunderstood and opposed by his own. 

What should our attitude be with respect to the changes that Pope Francis is undertaking for the Church? What if some of us cannot agree with him and feel confused with the developments in the Church, especially with regard to time immemorial doctrines and practices, particularly liturgical practices?  Indeed, for those of us who are happy with the changes, they have all but praise for him and thanksgiving to God.  But for those who sincerely object to the innovations and initiatives of our Holy Father, particularly in seeking to make the faith more real and relevant in the lives of our people, especially those who feel ostracized by the Church, how should we handle this dilemma? 

The real question at the end of the day is:  do you have faith in St Peter and his successors, the college of bishops, the magisterium?  Do you believe that the Holy Spirit that is promised to the Church guarantees the infallibility of the teaching of the Church?  At the end of the day, it is a matter of faith, not logic or understanding, or even finding consensus.  As the Vicar of Christ and the pastor of the universal Church, the Holy Father has full and supreme authority over the Church.  When he teaches in matters of faith and morals, we must give a religious assent to His teachings; if ex cathedra, submission in faith; and if ordinary teaching, the submission of the intellect and will.  (Cf LG 22,25)   Precisely, in matters of faith, reason is not sufficient to establish but revelation is required.  Otherwise, faith is reduced to mere reason alone.

The scripture readings of today assure us that St Peter is under the protection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the first reading, we read how St Peter was miraculously released from jail by an angel who could simply be a messenger of the Lord.  At first he thought it was a dream, but later when Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”

In the gospel too, we read how the Lord assured St Peter of divine assistance.  In the first place, his declaration that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is through divine revelation given to him. The Lord said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  Furthermore, the Lord entrusted St Peter with the authority to govern the Church of Christ.  He said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  Not only St Peter but He also protects His apostles.  St Paul too experienced God’s protection when he recounted, “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”

Based on this promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church has consistently professed the supreme teaching authority of St Peter and his successors throughout the ages.   His teaching when declared ex cathedra is to be accepted in faith; and when taught ordinarily, it must be accepted with the religious submission of the intellect and will.

Today, when we celebrate the re-dedication of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, we want to reaffirm our faith in Christ according to the mind of the Church as declared on our behalf by St Peter.  The rock that Jesus spoke about is both St Peter as the rock on which His Church is built, that is, under His guidance.  But it is also a reference to the faith of Peter in Christ as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Unless, we make St Peter’s faith our own, both in mind and in heart, we cannot find salvation.  We too must be able to declare personally that Christ is the Son of God.  It is not enough therefore simply to rely on the faith of St Peter or the Church but it must also be our own.   Without this faith in Christ as the Son of God, we cannot profess our faith in the teaching of the Holy Father as well.

But this personal faith in Christ as the Son of God has its implications.  All of us are called to nurture the faith of those Catholics under our care.  We are called to look after the faith of our loved ones, especially our young.  The reason why the faith of many of our Catholics is weak is because many are poorly instructed in their faith.  Doctrinally, they know so little and spiritually, they do not read the Word of God or share the Word of God with their brothers and sisters.  Their faith in Christ at most is an intellectual faith but not the personal faith demanded of Christ when He asked the disciples the question, “Who do you say I am?” We cannot be missionary minded unless we take our discipleship seriously.

At the same time, this feast also reminds us that it is not sufficient just to look into the interests of the Catholic community; we are called to be like St Paul, sharing this faith with the whole world.   His whole life was given for the spread of the gospel, especially to those who do not know him.  He wrote, “As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish.”  With St Paul, we are reminded that the Church does not exist for herself but for the world.  So whilst it is important to follow St Peter in shepherding our Catholics and looking after our Catholic community, in our parish and in the diocese, we must not forget the missionary thrust of the Church.  As Pope Francis often reminds us, we are always missionary disciples.  We need to look after our faith and strengthen our faith, but this is for the sake of the mission.

When we celebrate this feast of Ss Peter and Paul, we must never forget that we are called to imitate both St Peter and St Paul.  With St Peter, we must take part in the life of the community, serving the community and learning from each other so that we can deepen our faith in the Lord.  We must never forget that we need to deepen our faith each day so that we can arrive at the faith of St Peter, making his faith our own personal conviction.  So it is not enough to serve in the ministry but we need to be disciples of Christ through prayer, study and fellowship.  With St Paul, let us be missionaries and evangelists for Christ so that the world will know Him as Saviour and Lord.  We need to actively reach out beyond our community and bring Christ to the world directly or indirectly through works of mercy and charity.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 11, 2017 — The Lord Calls Us From Birth — My Reward is With Him — “One of you will betray me.”

April 10, 2017

Tuesday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 258

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Reading 1  IS 49:1-6

Hear me, O islands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
Yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 71:1-2, 3-4A, 5AB-6AB, 15 AND 17

R. (see 15ab) I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
R. I will sing of your salvation.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
R. I will sing of your salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

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Last Supper, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1524

Gospel  JN 13:21-33, 36-38

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.
One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved,
was reclining at Jesus’ side.
So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant.
He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him,
“Master, who is it?”
Jesus answered,
“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
son of Simon the Iscariot.
After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.
Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him,
“Buy what we need for the feast,”
or to give something to the poor.
So Judas took the morsel and left at once. And it was night.

When he had left, Jesus said,
“Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.
You will look for me, and as I told the Jews,
‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Master, where are you going?”
Jesus answered him,
“Where I am going, you cannot follow me now,
though you will follow later.”
Peter said to him,
“Master, why can I not follow you now?
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”

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Judas with his money bag

Lectio Divina For Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reflection

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• This is the third day of Holy Week. The texts of the Gospel of these days place before us the terrible facts which will lead to the imprisonment and condemnation of Jesus. The texts not only present the decisions of the religious and civil authority against Jesus, but also the betrayal and the negotiations of the disciples which rendered possible for the authority to arrest Jesus and contributed enormously to increase the suffering of Jesus.
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• John 13, 21: The announcement of the betrayal. After having washed the feet of the disciples (Jn 13, 2-11) and having spoken about the obligation that we have of washing each other’s feet (Jn 13, 12-16), Jesus is profoundly touched. And it is no wonder. He was fulfilling that gesture of service and total gift of self, while at his side one of the disciples was planning how to betray him that same night. Jesus expresses his emotion saying: “In all truth I tell you one of you is going to betray me!” He does not say: “Judas will betray me”, but “one of you”. It is one of his group who will betray him.
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• John 13, 22-25: The reaction of the disciples. The disciples are frightened. They did not expect that declaration, that is, that one of them would be the traitor. Peter makes a sign to John to ask Jesus which of the twelve would be the traitor. This is a sign that they did not know one another well, they could not succeed in understanding who could be the traitor. A sign, that is, that the friendship among them had not as yet reached the same transparency that Jesus had with them (cf. Jn 15, 15). John reclined near Jesus and asked him: “Who is it?”
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• John 13, 26-30: Jesus indicates Judas. Jesus says: It is the one to whom I give the piece of bread that I dip in the dish. He took a piece of bread, dips it in the cup and hands it over to Judas. This was a common and normal gesture which the participants at a supper used to do among themselves. And Jesus tells Judas: “What you are going to do, do quickly!” Judas had charge of the common fund. He was in charge of buying things and of giving the alms to the poor. This is why no one perceived anything special in the gesture and in the words of Jesus. In this description of the announcement of the betrayal is evoked the Psalm in which the psalmist complains about the friend who betrays him: “Even my trusted friend on whom I relied, who shared my table takes advantage of me” (Ps 41, 10; cf. Ps 55, 13-15). Judas becomes aware that Jesus knew everything (cf. Jn 13, 18). But even knowing it, he does not change his mind but keeps the decision to betray Jesus. This is the moment in which the separation between Judas and Jesus takes place. John says at this moment Satan entered him. Judas rises and leaves. He places himself at the side of the enemy (Satan). John comments: “”It was night”. It was dark.
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• John 13, 31-33: The glorification of Jesus begins. It is as if history had waited for this moment of separation between light and darkness. Satan (the enemy) and darkness entered into Judas when he decides to carry out what he was planning. In that moment the light was made in Jesus who declares: “Now the son of man has been glorified, and in him God has been glorified also. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon!” Everything which will happen from now on will be in the regressive way. The decisions had already been taken by Jesus (Jn 12, 27-28) and now by Judas. The facts follow one another hastily. And, Jesus announces it: “Little children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and, as I told the Jews, where I am going you cannot come”. There is little time left before the Passover.
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• John 13, 34-35: The new commandment. Today’s Gospel omits these two verses on the new commandment of love, and begins to speak about the announcement of the denial of Peter.
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• John 13, 36-38: Announcement of the denial of Peter. Together with the betrayal of Judas, the Gospel also speaks of the denial of Peter. These are the two facts which contribute the most to Jesus suffering and pain. Peter says that he is ready to give his life for Jesus. Jesus recalls and reminds him of reality: “You are ready to lay down your life for me? In all truth I tell you, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times”. Mark had written: “Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times” (Mk 14, 30). Everybody knows that the cock crows rapidly. When in the morning the first cock begins to sing, almost at the same time all the cocks crow together. Peter is more rapid in his denial than the cock in crowing.

Personal questions

• Judas, the friend, becomes the traitor. Peter, the friend, denies Jesus. And I?
• I place myself in Jesus’ situation and I think: how does he face the denial and the betrayal, the contempt and the exclusion?

Concluding Prayer

You are my hope, Lord,
my trust, Yahweh, since boyhood.
On you I have relied since my birth,
since my mother’s womb you have been my portion,
the constant theme of my praise. (Ps 71,5-6)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-1321-3336-38

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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COMMITTING OUR CAUSE TO THE LORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 49:1–6; JOHN 13:21-38]

Like the Suffering Servant, all of us are called by the Lord to serve Him by being His witnesses of light and love in the world.  This was what He told the Suffering Servant.  “It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Our call to serve the Lord goes beyond serving our own kind, that is, our loved ones, but our fellowmen as well.   Many of us are willing to serve God but in truth we are serving ourselves.  We only care for those whom we love, especially our family members.  But we are blind to the needs of the community, especially those who are suffering and in need.  The love that we have is confined only to our dear ones.  This is not the kind of service that Christ envisaged.  It is a service to all.   Our love must be inclusive.  This is the love and service of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah and our Lord.

Secondly, this call was given to us even before we were born.  “The Lord called me before I was born; from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.” Every call and vocation is unique.  There is no basis for comparison.  Vanity it is for us to ask why I am not a doctor or a teacher or a priest, etc.  It is the Lord who calls us and He has a special role for us to fulfill in His divine plan.   To each, He provides us the necessary charism to do our work.  The Suffering Servant said, “He made my mouth a sharp sword, and hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.” In this way, he could be a true prophet of His word and strike the hearts of the people by his preaching and prophecy.  Indeed, the Lord has formed him “in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him.” So our vocation is not by chance nor is our life meant to be lived in vain, without a purpose or without a role for the service of His people.  We are not created to live for ourselves but to live for others.  Otherwise, life has no meaning or purpose.  We are created by love and for love.

In a special way, Jesus took upon Himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant.  He taught many times in the gospel that He had come as a servant to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.  (cf Mk 10:45)  St Paul in his letter to the Philippians described Him as a servant as well. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8)

Thirdly, our vocation must be seen in the overall context of a bigger plan of God.  This is true of the Suffering Servant and also true of Jesus and all of us.   Within this context, we can appreciate why the bible often sees the enfolding of the history of Israel as all within the plan of God, including the death of Jesus.  He enlightened the disciples at Emmaus,  “’Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” (Lk 24:25-27)  So in the plan of God, nothing happens by chance.  God works everything to our good if we cooperate with Him.   St Paul wrote, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28-30)

Fourthly, we must realize that our task is simply to fulfill the plan of God and to do His will.  To be a servant does not mean to be ambitious like the apostles who were seeking for power and places of honour.   It does not matter whether we are successful in worldly terms or failures in the eyes of the world.  We should not be too concerned what kind of name we are crafting for ourselves in history.  What is more important is that we are faithful.  Indeed, when the Suffering Servant was lamenting his failure, thinking that he had “toiled in vain” and exhausted himself “for nothing”, the Lord assured him, “You are my servant (Israel) in whom I shall be glorified.”  The truth, as the Suffering Servant discovered, was that God was with him.  He might seem to have lost the battle but God was winning the battle for him.  He said, “all the while my cause was with the Lord, my reward with my God. I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.”
For this reason, in all that we do, we must entrust our cause to the Lord, since that calling came from Him.  We should not allow disappointments and failures to upset us too easily.   If we are called to do the Lord’s will and if we seek His will, not ours, then there is no failure, even when the world considers it a failure.  It is only a failure when we do not cooperate with His grace, regardless how successful we are in the world.   Consequently, in whatever we do, we must trust in the Lord who is our refuge and strength.  He is the Lord of Hosts.  As the psalmist says, “In you, O Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue me, free me: pay heed to me and save me. Be a rock where I can take refuge, a mighty stronghold to save me; for you are my rock, my stronghold.”

Like Jesus, although troubled in spirit, He did not flinch from doing the will of His Father.  Humanly, He felt the pain of betrayal by Judas, one of the Twelve.  There is no greater pain than that of being betrayed by people closest to us and those whom we trust most.  Even St Peter who professed his love and loyalty failed Him like the rest. He did not stop Judas from going against the plan of God. Jesus accepted the weaknesses of His apostles.  Like St Peter, we all make great professions of love and loyalty, but when it comes to living out our promises, we fail.  This is true in marriage and even in priestly and religious commitments.  We take beautiful vows only to break them.  Jesus was not idealistic.  He knew the weak nature of us all.  And so with St Peter, Jesus remarked, “Lay down your life for me? I tell you most solemnly, before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.”

But He knew that somehow God would have the upper hand, not Judas or wicked men.  On the contrary, He saw this in the light of faith, for He said, “Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon.”  Through the betrayal of Judas and His death, He would glorify the Father by showing us His love and mercy; and in turn the Father will glorify Him by raising Him from the dead.  He knew that after the threefold denial of Peter, there will be a threefold affirmation of His love.  So in confidence, let us follow the path of the psalmist and pray confidently when we feel like giving up or when we feel so helpless. “Free me from the hand of the wicked. It is you, O Lord, who are my hope, my trust, O Lord, since my youth. On you I have leaned from my birth, from my mother’s womb you have been my help.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 22, 2017 — “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” — Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly

February 21, 2017

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle
Lectionary: 535

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

Art: Saint Peter, 1634 By Guido Reni

Reading 1 1 PT 5:1-4

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

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R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

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R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

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R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

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R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia MT 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 FEBRUARY, 2017, Wednesday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
FORTITUDE IN MINISTRY DEPENDS ON FAITH IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 22:1-6; Matthew 16:13-19]

St Peter wrote, “I have something to tell your elders: I am elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ.”  Clearly, anyone who wishes to assume leadership in the Church, regardless of which level of leadership, is asking for a share in the sufferings of Christ.  In the gospel the Lord told His disciples in no uncertain terms, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  (Lk 9:23)  To the apostles specifically, Jesus told them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I will drink, or be baptized with the baptism I will undergo?”  (Mk 10:38)

Often, people think that the call to ministry in the Church is one of pure joy without suffering.  Some want to enter the priesthood or religious life so that they can escape from the temptations of the world; and the worldly politics, competition and anxieties.  Those who seek to flee from the world because of fear of the world will only come to realize that they are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire!  Working and serving in the Church does not mean that we are protected from worldly temptations, ambitions and challenges.  That is why Pope Francis always warns us, especially those in priestly and religious life, of the traps of spiritual worldliness.

To think that we can escape from sin is naivety.   The problem is not with the world or society but the inner man and woman.  We are sinners to the core.   Jesus said, “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mk 7:21-23)  We carry our sins with us whether we live in the world or in the religious life.   So it is the individual; not the structure or society.

Indeed, being a priest and religious could be difficult, but living out the priesthood and religious charisms is even more difficult.  So, too, for a Christian. Getting baptized involves some sacrifices but living an authentic Christian life requires much courage and perseverance. The sufferings of a Christian, and especially of a Christian leader, is real.  If we are just contented to be a mediocre priest, or religious, or a Christian, then it does not take much to be one.   Such people will not make a difference in the lives of anyone.

The call to service always entails suffering, regardless whether we are serving in the parish or the poor.  It calls for sacrifice because there will be conflicts, division and disagreements when it comes to approaches, policies and decisions.  Many walk out or remain defiant against authority when they cannot agree with them.  It must be their way and no other way.  In a world of relativism and individualism, getting people to agree on anything calls for grace.  Even within the Church, the call to obedience to authority is, most of the time, just talk.   Volunteers choose where they like to serve; not what God wants them to do.  That is why they walk out easily when things are not to their liking.  Priests and religious are also volunteers.  Can they walk out as they like when they disagree with the authorities or their superiors?  That they do not does not also mean that they are happy because often obedience is given with much resentment and bitterness. This is counter-witnessing to sharing the sufferings of Christ because Christ carried His sufferings and rendered His obedience to the Father willingly and with faith.  He did not harbor anger at His Father for not making His ministry fruitful and successful.  He did not blame His Father for His having to carry the cross and being abandoned on the cross.  But with Jesus, He commended everything to the Father in obedience to His holy will.

However, we must clarify that is it not all pure suffering but there is also much joy in the ministry, provided we see our sufferings in context.  This was the attitude of St Paul when he wrote, “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”   Christian joy is paradoxical joy.  It is joy in suffering.   This joy comes from the heart of love and compassion.  When we suffer for love and because of love, there will be a deep interior joy that the world cannot give.  Jesus did not simply come to give us joy but godly joy.

So if there is no love in our hearts, we cannot be a witness to Christ’s suffering. Instead, we will cause others to suffer because of our arrogance and self-centeredness.  Peter warns us against becoming a dictator, using our power to oppress the lives of others and suppressing those who disagree with us.  In the face of sufferings, we will become even more resentful and vindictive.  If you are not ready for self-sacrificing and humble love for the Lord, then don’t aspire to Christian leadership or even service.  Priests are always reminded at mass that we are not just priests who offer the sacrifice of Christ but we are victims, for Jesus tells us at the Eucharistic meal, “Do this in memory of me.”  When we choose to become His priests, cleric or laity, we are called to make ourselves a living sacrifice to the world.  St Paul appeals to us “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  (Rom 12:1)

That is why St Peter exhorts us to be good shepherds purely out of love and service; “Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it.”  The only motive for aspiring to leadership, whether in the Church or in the world is because we recognize the talents given to us by God and we assume the responsibilities that God entrusts to us in looking after His sheep.  Servant leadership has nothing to do with gain, whether glory, power or even monetary gains.  When a Church leader serves with such motives, he or she has already lost focus.  Instead of being “an example that the whole flock can follow”, we become counter-witnesses.

So what is needed for us to stay on course?  In the final analysis, it depends on our personal relationship with the Lord.  In a most critical moment of His ministry, Jesus asked the apostles, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  What was their response? “Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophet.” Jesus retorted, “But you, who do you say I am?”  Who Jesus is to us will determine our fortitude and perseverance in serving the Lord and His people.  If we know Jesus personally as our Good Shepherd, then we will walk with Him even in the valley of darkness because “Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose.  Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.  He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name.  If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear.  You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.”  Jesus remains our source of strength, courage and guide.  With Jesus as our shepherd “there is nothing I shall want.”

Secondly, it depends on whether we have faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God, which was the confession of St Peter.  Unless we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, (cf Rom 10:9) we will not be able to withstand the onslaughts of the world, especially in the face of relativism and secularism.  This is the rock that we are called to stand on.  Jesus said to Peter,  “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”  This rock is the confession of faith in His divinity and sonship.  Without which, our faith is built on sand and we cannot stand with Jesus especially when our faith and morals are being challenged by the world.

To receive this key, that is the authority that comes from faith in His divine sonship is a gift from God.  Jesus remarked, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  So when we see priests, religious and lay leaders lacking in faith and in Christian leadership and example, perhaps, we should learn to be forgiving.  Perhaps, they never really had a deep and life-changing encounter with the Lord.  They have faith but their faith is founded on tradition, culture, upbringing, transmission from their elders and study.  They have yet to encounter Jesus personally.  It is a gift from the Father.  We can only pray for this experience because it is not given even through study and theology.

Finally, let us have hope and confidence in the Lord.  Jesus asked this critical question to prepare the apostles ahead of His passion.  We must in times of suffering look beyond the here and now towards the future and the life that is to come.  Hope of a better world and a share of His fullness of life should keep us going. This was what St Paul wrote, “I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed.”   And to his fellow elders, he assured them, “When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.”  So do not think our sufferings for the Lord and His Church are given in vain. They are the seeds of the new Church and the kingdom of God.

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

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St. Peter – Prince of the Apostles

Peter became the leader of the apostles, after Jesus’ ascension.

So many people want signs and miracles and yet even what is evidently happening in history and the present times, there is still spiritual blindness. Sometimes what we really need to know is already there in front of our eyes. It might mean that we must open our mind so we can understand from a different perspective. Our world is more than two dimensional. Our thought process is not lineal although help to connect information together. With the right information, we can see how everything fits together. We can expand on this as you will see here. There are layers of awareness and so nothing is every straightfoward. Nothing is ever quite as it seems. Nothing is coincidence either.

A previous article shows St. Peter’s and how this reveals a key. In this statue St Peter is holding Keys and also a scroll. There are two keys in his right hand. One key is silver plated and the other is gold plated. The scroll indicates that Peter received Divine Revelation and was guided directly from God with making decisions. For this reason he became an important figurehead of the church.

Old Saint Peter’s Basilica stood from the 4th to 16th centuries where the Basilica of Saint Peter stands today in Rome. Construction of the Basilica was built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero. Work began during the reign of emperor Constantine I ordered the contstuction between 326 and 333; that took 30 years to complete. The name Old Saint Peter’s Basilica to distinguish between the buildings of the Old and present time Bassilica.

“The altar of the Old St. Peter’s used several Solomonic columns. According to tradition, Constantine took these columns from the Temple of Solomon and gave them to the church; however, the columns were probably from an Eastern church. When Gian Lorenzo Bernini built his baldacchino to cover the new St. Peter’s altar, he drew from the twisted design of the old columns. Eight of the original columns were moved to the piers of the new St. Peter’s.”

Fresco of Constantine’s Old St. Peter’s Basilica as it looked in the 4th century.

Since the crucifixion and burial of Saint Peter in 64 A.D., the Basilica is said to be the location of the tomb of Saint Peter. The structure housed tombs of saints and popes. Bones were still being found as late as February 1544. In the design of the new basilica attempted to reconsecrate these remains as much as possible.

“It is stated in the Liber Potitificalis, written by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the eighth century, that the Emperor Constantine after his miraculous conversion caused the body of St. Peter to be exhumed in presence of Pope St. Sylvester, and enshrined in a case of silver enclosed within a sarcophagus of Cyprian brass. Over this he placed a large cross of gold weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, and bearing the inscription : “Constantinus aug. et Helena aug. hanc doraum regalem (auro decorant quam) simili fulgore coruscans aula circumdat.” The body was then restored to its original tomb, over which he erected an altar and a vaulted chamber (in place of St. Anacletus’ memoria) faced interiorly with plates of gold. This chamber was, and still is, right under the high-altar of St. Peter’s basilica, and on the Apostle’s tomb still lies the cross of gold, as will be shown later.”

The Destruction of Old Basilica of St. Peters

“Old St. Peter’s had lasted some 1126 years (i.e., from A.D. 324 to 1450), when the walls began to settle down on the side where the masonry of Nero’s circus had been retained. Lanciani says the destruction of this venerable basilica is “one of the saddest events in the history of the ruin of Rome,” yet it was considered a necessity, for in Nicholas V’s time (1447—1455) the structure was found to be in a damaged state, and the roof threatened to fall. He conceived the idea of entirely rebuilding it, but did little or nothing because of the enormous sums required. Pope Benedict XII (1334—1342) had spent 80,000 gold florins (i.e., some ,£480,000 of our money) in repairing the roof; but a century later it was found to be again unsafe, thousands of rats having made holes in the beams, and the southern wall was leaning three feet seven inches to the side, so that the pilgrims, who came to the Jubilee of 1450, were naturally alarmed.”

St. Clements with St. Peter of Alexandria – who is seen here holding the scepter. According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter, and he is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century. Pope Clement I also known as Saint Clement of Rome (in Latin, Clemens Romanus), is listed from an early date as a Bishop of Rome. He was the first Apostolic Father of the Church.

St. Peter is seen holding a book and the keys. We also see that he is illumined (by God) His crown chakra is open to recieve divine revelation and this provides evidence of him being sanctified.

History has been mapped out to the finest detail – so has today. There is no cheating to attain spiritual enlightenment. No one can buy or sell this realisation within our being. The people who have strived to maintain lofty places and kept people down, might never realise a higher consciousness. However, in this time there are more people from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths who are ready to experience higher consciousness.

The Golden Age is the age of enlightentment – for everyone.

By research, we can learn about history in context. Visual evidence helps to support factual information. Ancient buildings, ruins of temples and churches give evidence of history and people who have lived before. In the ancient times war, fire and natural disasters, floods and earthquakes have been reasons why ancient buildings have been destroyed. At different times throughout history, people have been divinely inspired and this is not to create division between people – but to unite people together in peace. Today the churches are uniting in peace and it is important that no one is excluded from this opportunity and understanding. Today there is a golden opportunity for everyone to realise a higher consciousness. You decide your process.

Physical locatons can change, buildings can change even people can change – however truth does not change. Peter is written about in the Holy Bible. Nothing is hidden from anyone!

Peace, love and best wishes
Pauline Maria

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http://paulinemaria.blogspot.com/2012/06/st-peter-prince-of-apostles.html
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From Last Year:
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JUNE 2016, Wednesday, Ss Peter and Paul, Apostles
SUPPORTING OUR HOLY FATHER’S VISION OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLESHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 33:2-9; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 17-18; Mt 16, 13-19 ]Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is bringing much needed renewal to the Church and the world.  Indeed, he is truly visionary and courageous.  He has undertaken radical reforms in the Church, especially the Curia and the different Church organs.  He has given a new face to the papacy by his simplicity, ordinariness and compassion, especially for the poor and the ordinary people. He is also very much in touch with the struggles of ordinary Catholics, whether in family life, in marriage and especially those who are divorced.   He feels with those with a different sexual orientation, the marginalized and the outcast.   He has also made radical changes in the liturgy to make it simpler and connected to life. He reaches out beyond the Church to peoples from other Christian communions and other religions as well.  His speeches and homilies are straight from the heart and not couched in nice political language.  Indeed, because of his authenticity and genuine love for all, many outside the Catholic Church admire him and find him truly the face of Christ for them.  Because of him, the Church has become more missionary and evangelical and he has changed the image of a cold, indifferent and outdated Church fazed by scandals, especially pedophilia to a Church of compassion and mercy.  

Indeed, Pope Francis shows himself to be a true shepherd of the flock of Christ and a true missionary in bringing Christ to all, especially the poor and the marginalized.  He seeks to exercise both roles by modelling his life after St Peter and St Paul.  St Peter is the symbol of the call to be a shepherd to the flock of Christ, whereas St Paul reminds us of our missionary call to proclaim Christ to the earth.  Every Pope, bishop and priest and lay person is also called to be both a shepherd and a missionary.  The mission of the Church consists of both ad intra and ad extra; within, as we renew ourselves in the faith and without, by being evangelical minded.  Pope Francis seeks to bring both these aspects into his ministry by being the shepherd of the universal Church by governance and teaching on one hand, and on the other hand, by being creative and proactive in reaching out to those who have left the Church, those outside the Church and those who are unreached.  And he is doing this at the risk of being misunderstood and opposed by his own. 

What should our attitude be with respect to the changes that Pope Francis is undertaking for the Church? What if some of us cannot agree with him and feel confused with the developments in the Church, especially with regard to time immemorial doctrines and practices, particularly liturgical practices?  Indeed, for those of us who are happy with the changes, they have all but praise for him and thanksgiving to God.  But for those who sincerely object to the innovations and initiatives of our Holy Father, particularly in seeking to make the faith more real and relevant in the lives of our people, especially those who feel ostracized by the Church, how should we handle this dilemma? 

The real question at the end of the day is:  do you have faith in St Peter and his successors, the college of bishops, the magisterium?  Do you believe that the Holy Spirit that is promised to the Church guarantees the infallibility of the teaching of the Church?  At the end of the day, it is a matter of faith, not logic or understanding, or even finding consensus.  As the Vicar of Christ and the pastor of the universal Church, the Holy Father has full and supreme authority over the Church.  When he teaches in matters of faith and morals, we must give a religious assent to His teachings; if ex cathedra, submission in faith; and if ordinary teaching, the submission of the intellect and will.  (Cf LG 22,25)   Precisely, in matters of faith, reason is not sufficient to establish but revelation is required.  Otherwise, faith is reduced to mere reason alone.

The scripture readings of today assure us that St Peter is under the protection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the first reading, we read how St Peter was miraculously released from jail by an angel who could simply be a messenger of the Lord.  At first he thought it was a dream, but later when Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”

In the gospel too, we read how the Lord assured St Peter of divine assistance.  In the first place, his declaration that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is through divine revelation given to him. The Lord said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  Furthermore, the Lord entrusted St Peter with the authority to govern the Church of Christ.  He said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  Not only St Peter but He also protects His apostles.  St Paul too experienced God’s protection when he recounted, “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”

Based on this promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church has consistently professed the supreme teaching authority of St Peter and his successors throughout the ages.   His teaching when declared ex cathedra is to be accepted in faith; and when taught ordinarily, it must be accepted with the religious submission of the intellect and will.

Today, when we celebrate the re-dedication of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, we want to reaffirm our faith in Christ according to the mind of the Church as declared on our behalf by St Peter.  The rock that Jesus spoke about is both St Peter as the rock on which His Church is built, that is, under His guidance.  But it is also a reference to the faith of Peter in Christ as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Unless, we make St Peter’s faith our own, both in mind and in heart, we cannot find salvation.  We too must be able to declare personally that Christ is the Son of God.  It is not enough therefore simply to rely on the faith of St Peter or the Church but it must also be our own.   Without this faith in Christ as the Son of God, we cannot profess our faith in the teaching of the Holy Father as well.

But this personal faith in Christ as the Son of God has its implications.  All of us are called to nurture the faith of those Catholics under our care.  We are called to look after the faith of our loved ones, especially our young.  The reason why the faith of many of our Catholics is weak is because many are poorly instructed in their faith.  Doctrinally, they know so little and spiritually, they do not read the Word of God or share the Word of God with their brothers and sisters.  Their faith in Christ at most is an intellectual faith but not the personal faith demanded of Christ when He asked the disciples the question, “Who do you say I am?” We cannot be missionary minded unless we take our discipleship seriously.

At the same time, this feast also reminds us that it is not sufficient just to look into the interests of the Catholic community; we are called to be like St Paul, sharing this faith with the whole world.   His whole life was given for the spread of the gospel, especially to those who do not know him.  He wrote, “As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish.”  With St Paul, we are reminded that the Church does not exist for herself but for the world.  So whilst it is important to follow St Peter in shepherding our Catholics and looking after our Catholic community, in our parish and in the diocese, we must not forget the missionary thrust of the Church.  As Pope Francis often reminds us, we are always missionary disciples.  We need to look after our faith and strengthen our faith, but this is for the sake of the mission.

When we celebrate this feast of Ss Peter and Paul, we must never forget that we are called to imitate both St Peter and St Paul.  With St Peter, we must take part in the life of the community, serving the community and learning from each other so that we can deepen our faith in the Lord.  We must never forget that we need to deepen our faith each day so that we can arrive at the faith of St Peter, making his faith our own personal conviction.  So it is not enough to serve in the ministry but we need to be disciples of Christ through prayer, study and fellowship.  With St Paul, let us be missionaries and evangelists for Christ so that the world will know Him as Saviour and Lord.  We need to actively reach out beyond our community and bring Christ to the world directly or indirectly through works of mercy and charity.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 20, 2017 — “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

February 19, 2017

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 341

Image may contain: 8 people, people sitting

Art: Part of The Transfiguration of Christ By Raphael — Showing the young boy consumed with convulsions

Reading 1 SIR 1:1-10

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.

Responsorial Psalm PS 93:1AB, 1CD-2, 5

R. (1a) The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed:
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

Alleluia 2 TM 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

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The transfiguration

Raphael (Raffaelo Santi, 1483-1520)

Vatican Museums, Rome (Photograph Calvi)

According to present estimations, there are between 300,000 and 600,000 people in the U.K. who have epilepsy. Of these, over half are under 20 years of age. In the Renaissance, this disease was just as common as it is today, although in those days people made no clear distinction between obsessions, the plague and epilepsy. The Renaissance viewed the human being who fitted harmoniously into the cosmos, as the measure of all things. Therefore people reacted with great irritation to anything that seemed unusual or strange and looked to the heavens to find an explanation for it. In the Christian Middle Ages, as in ancient Greek and Roman times, epilepsy was regarded as the ‘unnatural, mysterious illness which is not of this world.’

The most famous painting of a person with epilepsy is the one by Raphael (Raphaelo Santi, 1483-1520) :

Raphael’s last picture, the ‘Transfiguration of Christ‘, is divided into two parts: the upper part depicts the transfiguration of Christ, the lower part portrays the healing (or rather the scene immediately preceding it) of the boy with an evil spirit (epilepsy). This story comes immediately after the description of the transfiguration in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). The lower part of this painting, which was never completely finished, is based on the following passage in the Bible:
‘…Teacher, I brought my son to you, because he has an evil spirit in him and cannot talk. Whenever the spirit attacks him, it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grits his teeth and becomes stiff all over.’ (Mark 9, 17-18)

The Transfiguration of Christ (detail)

The scene shows the father (wearing a green robe to symbolize hope) bringing his son to the disciples. The painting shows the boy having a seizure: his father has to support him as he cannot stand upright. The boy’s limbs are stiff (tonic) and twisted, his mouth is slightly open, his lips are blue, his eyes are fixed in a squint. It is clear to see that during such a convulsion the ‘demon‘ would throw the victim ‘into the fire or into the water‘ (Mt 17, 14) if he were not under the care of his family.

Jesus heals the boy by driving out the evil spirit. This passage in the Bible led people in the Christian Middle Ages to believe that epilepsy was caused by demons, and this opinion was one of the main reasons why the falling sickness was called ‘morbus daemonicus‘ (the demonic disease) at that time.

Art historians have repeatedly pointed to the symbolism of the themes portrayed in this masterpiece: they believe that Rafael intentionally included the simultaneous depiction of the transfiguration of Christ and the healing of the epileptic boy in one painting. In so doing he consciously created a link between the transfigured Christ and the epileptic boy – a symbolic incongruity between the later crucified and then risen Christ and the epileptic boy who falls to the ground in a seizure, lies there as if dead and then ‘rises’ up again. It is notable that in the painting, the only link between the two parts of the picture is made by the epileptic boy, who is the only person in the lower half of the picture whose face is turned to the transfigured Christ in the upper part of the painting.

http://www.epilepsiemuseum.de/alt/raffaelen.html

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 FEBRUARY, 2017, Monday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
INSPIRING OTHERS IN FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10; Ps 92(93):1-2,5; Mk 9:14-29 ]

“The father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith.  Help the little faith I have!’”  This cry of the father is the cry of everyone.  We too feel like him.  We have some faith in God but for most of us our faith is weak.  Certainly, we do not even have faith in God to heal us when we are sick, much less a faith that could move mountains!  In times of trial, we give up faith in God.  We prefer to rely on ourselves, our ingenuity, science and technology to solve our problems.  God is always the last resort when all things fail and there is no further recourse.  But deep down in us all, we do want to increase in faith.  But we are weak.

How, then, can we grow in faith?  Firstly, by contemplating on the magnificent creation of God.  In the first reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus, the wisdom of God is praised through pondering on the wonders of God’s creation.  When the author considered “the sand of the sea and the raindrops, and the days of eternity, who can assess them?  The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?”   No one could do all these but God the creator who alone is all wise.  “He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her, and poured her out on all his works to be with all mankind as his gift, and he conveyed her to those who love him.”

If God is the creator of all, then following Jesus we can trust in His divine providence.  “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?”  (Mt 6:26-30)

If we do not trust Him, who else can we trust when “before all other things wisdom was created, shrewd understanding is everlasting.  For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?  Her resourceful ways, who knows them?”  So the conclusion of Sirach and the psalmist is this, that God is our King, Lord of heaven and earth.  “One only is wise, terrible indeed, seated on his throne, the Lord.”  To Him we submit ourselves.  “The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed; the Lord has robed himself with might, he has girded himself with power.  The world you made firm, not to be moved; your throne has stood firm from of old.  From all eternity, O Lord, you are. Truly your decrees are to be trusted.  Holiness is fitting to your house, O Lord, until the end of time.”

Secondly, to grow in faith, we need the faith of others to inspire us.  Obviously, the child under possession could not exercise his faith.  Likewise, the father of the child was so desperate that he had lost almost all faith except the little he had left.  The disciples were supposed to be channels of God’s grace.  They were supposed to help the little faith of the father of the child.  Instead, they made him lose the little faith he had.  He asked his “disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.”  The reply of Jesus was swift.   In frustration, He remarked, “You faithless generation.  How much longer do I have to be with you?  How much longer do I have to put up with you?  Bring him to me.”   Jesus was clearly disappointed that even His own disciples lacked the faith to deliver the boy from the Evil One. They must have tried to exorcise the boy but their lack of faith was clearly manifested so much so the Devil was not afraid of them.  Like many people who pray without faith, the devil knows that they are weak in faith.  He would not bother about them because their prayers would not work.

Jesus was truly a man who could inspire faith. Even the sight of Him was enough to move people to faith.  In today’s gospel, we read that “the moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him.”   We also read elsewhere, “After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him  and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”  (Mt 14:36)   Even at His death, the centurion remarked, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mt 27:54) He was seen as the visitation of God.  After raising the widow’s son at Nain, we read that “a sense of awe swept over all of them, and they glorified God saying, “a great prophet has appeared among us.  God has visited His people.”  (Lk 7:16)

All of us too are called to inspire people in faith.  Parents have a responsibility to inspire faith in their children.  It is not enough to teach them about God or bring them to church and catechism classes.  More importantly, they must inspire them by their lives of faith, devotion and love for God.  It is not what they say but what they do.  This is of course true for all, whether we are priests, religious, teachers, elders or seniors.  We are called to inspire faith in the lives of those people under our charge or are living or working with us.  Can we say that through our lives, people are inspired to find faith in Christ as well?  The sad reality is that often we put people off and become a scandal to their faith because of our arrogance, insensitivity, discrimination or sinful and worldly lifestyles. Many have left the church because they encountered bad witnessing by Catholics who are rude and selfish.

How, then, can we be the light of faith to others so that they can be inspired to grow in their faith?   If faith is lacking in us, it is because, as Jesus said, “This is the kind, that can only be driven out by prayer.” What is needed is more than just doing things in the name of Jesus or for Jesus.  We need to share the mind and heart of Jesus so that we can pray and act with faith in God like He did.  It was just after the Transfiguration experience when this incident happened.  The people noticed the transformation in Jesus and that explained why they were struck with amazement upon seeing Him.  It was in the intimacy with His Father, that the Lord, was transformed.  Filled with the Father’s love and assurance of His presence, He could confidently come down from the mountain filled with renewed power and strength to deal with the challenges ahead of Him, particularly the imminent passion in Jerusalem.  We, too, if we want to be sure that we can manage the trials and challenges of life at home, at work or in ministry, then we need to pray as much as we work.  Only prayer can strengthen our personal faith in Christ, without which, the work we do will be hollow and not transform anyone.  We will end up quarreling and debating with each other as many church groups do because the members hardly pray together and as individuals.  This was what happened at the scene.  “They saw a large crowd around them and some scribes arguing with them.”  When there is no faith, we can only argue and prove each other wrong.  But if we believe in the power of prayer, then prayer changes us and changes the way we relate with others. With faith, nothing is impossible.  When the man told the Lord, “But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”  Jesus retorted, “If you can? Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.”

So let us increase in our faith through prayer in our relationship with the Lord, through contemplation of His works in our lives and in creation; and through the inspiring faith of our brothers and sisters. It is therefore important that we support each other in faith using the various means and opportunities available to us. Not only by praying individually, but we must also come together to worship as a community of faith; and coming together in smaller groups to share the Word of God and how the Lord is working in our daily life.  Through such fellowship, our faith will grow from strength to strength.  If we walk alone in our faith, we will surely lose it one day because no one can grow in faith by himself.  We need the church and the faith of our brothers and sisters to support us.

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

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Lectio Divina from The Carmelites

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Reflection
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• The Gospel today informs us that the disciples of Jesus were not able to cast out the devil from the body of a boy. The power of evil was greater than their capacity. Today, also, there are many evils which surpass our capacity to face them: violence, drugs, war, sickness, jobless people, terrorism, etc. We make great efforts in life, but it seems that instead of improving, the world becomes worse. What good is there in struggling? Keeping this question in mind, let us read and meditate on today’s Gospel.
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• Mark 9, 14-22: The situation of the people: despair without solution. Coming down from the mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus met many people around the disciples. A parent was in despair, because an evil spirit had taken possession of his son. With great detail, Mark describes the situation of the possessed boy, the anguish of the father, the incapacity of the disciples and the reaction of Jesus. Two things strike us in a particular way: on one side, the confusion and the powerlessness of the people and of the disciples in the face of the phenomenon of possession, and on the other hand, the power of faith in Jesus before which the devil loses all his influence.
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The father had asked the disciples to drive out the devil from the boy, but they were not able to do it. Jesus becomes impatient and says: “Faithless generation! How much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me”. Jesus asks information regarding the sickness of the boy. And from the response of the father, Jesus knows that the boy, “from childhood”, was affected by a serious illness which endangered his life. The father asked: “But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us!” The phrase of the father expresses a very real situation of the people: (a) they are faithless; (b) they are not in a condition to solve the problem, but (c) have such good will.
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• Mark 9, 23-27: The answer of Jesus: the way of faith. The father answers: Lord, I believe! But help my lack of faith! The response of the father has the central place in this episode. It indicates that this should be the attitude of the disciple, that, in spite of his/her limitations and doubts, he/she wants to be faithful. Seeing that many people were coming, Jesus acted rapidly. He ordered the spirit to get out of the boy and not to return “again ever!” This is a sign of the power of Jesus on evil. It is also a sign that Jesus did not want any popular propaganda.
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• Mark 9, 28-29: Deepening this with the disciples. In the house, the disciples want to know why they were not able to drive out the devil. Jesus answers: This is the kind of evil spirit that can be driven out only by prayer! Faith and prayer go together. One does not exist without the other. The disciples had become worse. Before they were capable of driving out the devil (cfr. Mk 6, 7.13). Now, no more. What is lacking? Faith or prayer? Why is it lacking? These are questions which come from the text and enter into our head in a way that we can proceed also to a kind of revision of our life.
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• The expulsion of the devils in the Gospel of Mark. During the time of Jesus many persons spoke of Satan and of the expulsion of the devils. People were afraid and, there were some persons who profited and took advantage of the fear of the people. The power of evil had many names: Demon, Devil, Beelzebul, Prince of Demons, Satan, Dragon, Domination, Power, Beast-wild animal, Lucifer, etc. (cfr. Mk 3, 22-23; Mt 4, 1; Rv 12, 9; Rm 8, 38;; Eph 1, 21).
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Today also, among us the power of evil has many names. It is enough to consult the dictionary and look for the word Devil or Demon. Today, also, many dishonest people enrich themselves, profiting of the fear which people have of the devil. Now, one of the objectives of the Good News of Jesus is, precisely, to help people to free themselves from this fear. The coming of the Kingdom of God means the coming of a stronger power. The strong man was an image which indicated the power of evil which maintained people imprisoned by fear (Mk 3, 27). The power of fear oppresses persons and makes them lose themselves. He does in such a way that they live in fear and death (cfr. Mk 5, 2).
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It is such a strong power that nobody can stop it (Mk 5, 4). The Roman Empire with its “Legion” (cfr. Mk 5, 9), that is, with its armies, was the instrument used to maintain this situation of oppression. But Jesus is the strongest man who overcomes, seizes and drives out the power of evil! In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul gives a list of all the possible powers or demons which could threaten us and he summarizes everything in this way: “I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord!” (Rm 8, 38-39). Nothing of all this! And the first words of Jesus after the Resurrection are: “Do not be afraid! Rejoice! Do not fear! Peace be with you!” (Mk 16, 6; Mt 28, 9-10; Lk 24, 36; Jn 20, 21).
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Personal questions
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• Have you ever lived an experience of powerlessness before some evil or violence? Was this an experience for you only or also for the community? How did you overcome it?
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• Which is the type of evil today which can only be overcome with much prayer?
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 18, 2017 — The Essential Role of Faith For Man — “Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”

February 17, 2017

Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 340

Image may contain: one or more people

The Transfiguration Jesus by James Tissot

Reading 1 HEB 11:1-7

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,
so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.
By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s.
Through this, he was attested to be righteous,
God bearing witness to his gifts,
and through this, though dead, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death,
and he was found no more because God had taken him.
Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him,
for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who seek him.
By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen,
with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household.
Through this, he condemned the world
and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 10-11

R. (see 1) I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

AlleluiaMK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:2-13

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him.”

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Transfiguration of Jesus. Source – Orthodox Metropolitanate Of Singapore And South Asia
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Why Peters, James and John were Chosen Witnesses of the Transfiguration
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According to the explanation of St. John of Damascus, “the Lord took Peter in order to show that His testimony truly given to him will be affirmed by the testimony of the Father and that one should believe him in His words, that the heavenly Father revealed this testimony to him (Mt. 16:17). He took James as the one who before all the Apostles would die for Christ, to drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism (Acts 12:2). Finally, He took John, as the virgin and purest organ of Theology so that he, after having beheld the eternal glory of the Son of God, has thundered these words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn. 1:1). Besides this on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter who hadn’t yet spread the ideas about the suffering and death of his Teacher and Lord (Mt. 16:22), might mature in the truth of His glory, which forever remains inviolable despite all hostile efforts; James and John, awaiting the opening of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah and pursued the first places in this kingdom (Mk. 10:37), might behold the true majesty of Christ the Savior, surpassing every terrestrial power. The three disciples were under the law (Deut. 19:15) sufficient witnesses of the revelation of the glory of God and, according to the expression of St. Proclus, ‘in spirit personally represented all the others’.”
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 FEBRUARY, 2017, Saturday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
FAITH AND VISIONS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEBREWS 11:1-7; MARK 9:2 -13  ]

If you have paid attention to the scripture readings, you would wonder why after taking a break from the letter to the Hebrews to focus on the Book of Genesis, we return to  the Letter to the Hebrews.  This is because this chapter sums up the faith of those characters mentioned in the book of Genesis.  Why is faith critical in the Christian Religion?  This is because faith entails trust in God’s love, fidelity to His promises and His omnipotence. “Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who try to find him.”  Without total trust in God, our human ego will become an obstacle for God to work in and through us.   Accordingly, the author declares that “only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.”

And he added, “It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.”  Then he went about to describe the necessary faith in the creation of the world by God who brought all things into existence; the faith of Abel who “offered God a better sacrifice than Cain”; the faith of Enoch who “was taken up and did not have to experience death”; and the faith of Noah who was asked by God to build an Ark outside his house.  All of these who placed their faith in God were counted as righteous before God and were well rewarded.

But then this call to faith in God seems to be in conflict with the visions that God also gives to man, as in today’s story of the transfiguration or the vision given to the unbelieving St Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus.  Hence the question is: does it mean that Jesus and the disciples were dispensed from faith, since faith implies believing without seeing?  On the surface it appears to be this way.  Yet, in truth, faith is presupposed before visions, and greater faith is required after visions.  How is this so?

Faith is a pre-requisite to being receptive to the signs that God gives to us.  Signs are not proofs.  There is no pure naked faith that is not supplied by some signs.  Otherwise we can fall into the danger of fideism, which is to believe without a reasonable basis for doing so.  Credulity is as dangerous as rationalism, the latter which demands that things must be proven beyond doubt before one would believe.  Credulity is not faith, but sloth and irresponsibility.  Rationalism is against faith, because one trusts only in one’s knowledge and wisdom.  One reduces the power and wisdom of God to his limited knowledge and wisdom.  Fideism is against faith because it fails to respect the gift of intellect given to man.

Truly, all the visions found in the Bible and our own visions remain at best signs to point us to a greater mystery, namely, God Himself.  At Jesus’ baptism, and once again at the Transfiguration, faith is required to perceive that what they saw and heard is from God.  It could be their imagination or even a hallucination and mass hypnotism.  So without faith, we can try to explain away any marvelous events that happen in this life.  And when confronted with the totally inexplicable, without faith, we can respond like many atheists do, that we will find the scientific answer one day.  But with faith, like the disciples, we will view these visions or works of wonders as means by which God elicits our response in faith and love.  With faith, we begin to see and hear more than what the person without faith could.

Nevertheless, visions cannot be substituted for faith. Vision presupposes faith, and once perceived, it calls for a greater contemplation on the mystery experience.  We can be sure that for Jesus and the disciples, after the revelation of the Father at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration, they continued to contemplate and draw out the deeper meaning of the vision that took place.  It is significant that Jesus purposely began His public mission after His baptism when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, having experienced in a radical manner, Himself as the Son of the Father and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah.  In the same manner, it was after the Transfiguration that Jesus again resolutely took the road to Jerusalem, the place of His suffering and glory.

In truth, visions invite us to a deeper faith.  More often than not, after encountering a vision, things become even more confused.  That visions invite us to grow in faith can also be glimpsed from the reaction of the disciples.  “As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’”  Indeed, understanding one’s vision takes time.

Vision does not clarify everything all at once, and clearly.  It is only a vehicle to make us deepen our faith further by ongoing study, contemplation and prayer.  One begins to ask more questions and seek clarification. Quite often, understanding the full significance of the vision might take years, if not a lifetime.  And if a vision commands us to act, it is even more daunting, as one is called to act by faith, not by sight.  Only because they asked and inquired further, seeking to understand their vision and grow in faith, did Jesus instruct them that “Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’”  Even then, they could not understand what Jesus told them.  Otherwise, how do we explain the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus when He was arrested by the soldiers, or their disbelief when told of Jesus’ resurrection?   Similarly, Jesus, too, in spite of the Father’s affirmation of His Sonship and mission, had to endure the agony in the garden of Gethsemane and surrender in faith to the Father’s will.

Finally, those who have received visions are expected to have a greater faith by surrendering their lives to God. This was true of Abraham and all the prophets of the Old Testament when, after being called, they were asked to prophesy to the people of God at the risk of death.  So, too, the apostles, after encountering the Lord, were sent out to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth.  One can say that no one receives a vision just for himself or herself, but it is at the service of a mission which requires much faith, perseverance and endurance, because the mission entails suffering and even martyrdom.  Indeed, one can be certain that one has a real vision when the vision inspires him to give his life entirely to God who gave that message to him.  Unless vision is followed by action, that vision is placed in doubt.  In a nutshell, an authentic vision must manifest the fruits and actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his or her life.

How should we be disposed to vision?  A vision cannot be engineered by us.  That would be hallucination, as it lacks objective reality.  Vision, if ever given, is the sheer grace of God at work in us.  We can of course be disposed to vision by being docile to the Lord.  Of course, not all have great visions.  In many ways, all of us have our mini-transfiguration experiences, especially in prayer.  Through our intimacy with God, in listening and dialogue, we can encounter Him speaking to us, directing and through inspiration.  That is what the Father says to us when He told us, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”  Like the Psalmist, if we ponder the wonders of God in our lives, we will encounter the majesty and glory of God.

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

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Gospel Reading – Mark 9,2-13
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Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain on their own by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became brilliantly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.
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Then Peter spoke to Jesus, ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened.
And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
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As they were coming down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
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He said to them, ‘Elijah is indeed first coming to set everything right again; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of man that he must suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’
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Reflection
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• Today’s Gospel speaks about two facts linked between them: the Transfiguration of Jesus and the question of the return of the Prophet Elijah. At that time people were waiting for the return of the Prophet Elijah.
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Today many people are waiting for the return of Jesus and write on the walls of the city: Jesus will return! They are not aware that Jesus has returned already and is present in our life. Some times as a sudden lightening, this presence of Jesus bursts into our life and enlightens it, transfiguring it.
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• The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place after the first announcement of the death of Jesus (Mk 8, 27-30). This announcement had disturbed or upset the mind of the disciples, especially of Peter (Mk 8, 31-33). They were among the poor, but their mind was lost in the ideology of government and of the religion of the time (Mk 8, 15). The Cross was an obstacle to believe in Jesus. The Transfiguration of Jesus will help the disciples to overcome the trauma of the Cross.
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• In the years 70’s when Mark wrote, the Cross continued to be a great impediment for the Jews, to accept Jesus as Messiah. They said: “The Cross is a scandal!” (1 Co 1, 23). One of the greatest efforts of the first Christians consisted in helping persons to perceive that the cross was neither a scandal, nor madness, but rather the expression of the power and the wisdom of God (1 Co 1, 22-31). Mark contributes to this. He uses the texts and the figure of the Old Testament to describe the Transfiguration. In this way he indicates that Jesus sees the realization of the prophecies and the Cross was a way toward Glory.
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• Mark 9, 2-4: Jesus changes appearance. Jesus goes up a high mountain. Luke says that he goes up to pray (Lk 9, 28). Up there, Jesus appears in the glory before Peter, James and John. Together with him appear Moses and Elijah. The high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where in the past, God had manifested his will to the people, handing them the Law. The white clothes remind us of Moses with a radiant face when he spoke with God on the Mountain and received the Law (cfr. Ex 43, 29-35) Elijah and Moses, the two greatest authorities of the Old Testament, speak with Jesus. Moses represents the Law, Elijah, the prophecy. Luke informs on the conversation concerning the “exodus of Jesus”, that is, the Death of Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 9, 31). It is then clear that the Old Testament, both the Law as well as the prophecy, already taught that for the Messiah Servant the way to glory had to go through the Cross!
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• Mark 9, 5-6: Peter is pleased, likes this, but he does not understand. Peter is pleased and he wants to keep this pleasant moment on the Mountain. He offers to build three tents. Mark says that Peter was afraid, without knowing what he was saying, and Luke adds that the disciples were sleepy (Lk 9, 32). They were like us: they had difficulty to understand the Cross!
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• Mark 9, 7-9: The voice from Heaven clarifies the facts. When Jesus was covered by the glory, a voice came from the cloud and said: This is my Son the Beloved! Listen to him! The expression: “Beloved Son” reminds us of the figure of the Messiah Servant, announced by the prophet Isaiah (cfr. Is 42, 1). The expression: “Listen to him!” reminds us of the prophecy which promised the coming of a new Moses (cf. Dt 18, 15). In Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. The disciples can no longer doubt. Jesus is truly the glorious Messiah whom they desired, but the way to the glory passes through the cross, according to what was announced by the prophecy of the Servant (Is 53, 3-9). The glory of the Transfiguration proves this. Moses and Elijah confirm it. The Father guarantees it. Jesus accepts it. At the end, Mark says that, after the vision, the disciples saw only Jesus and nobody else. From now on, Jesus is the only revelation of God for us! Jesus is alone, the key to understand all of the Old Testament.
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• Mark 9, 9-10: To know how to keep silence. Jesus asked the disciples to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead, but the disciples did not understand. In fact, they did not understand the meaning of the cross which links suffering to the resurrection. The Cross of Jesus is the proof that life is stronger than death.
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• Mark 9, 11-13: The return of the Prophet Elijah. The Prophet Malachi had announced that Elijah would return to prepare the path for the Messiah (Ml 3, 23-24): this same announcement is found in the Book of Ecclesiasticus/Ben Sira (Si 48, 10). And then, how could Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah had not yet returned? This is why the disciples asked: Why do the Scribes say that before Elijah has to come?” (9, 111). The response of Jesus is clear: “But I tell you Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the Scriptures say about him” (9, 13). Jesus was speaking about John the Baptist who was killed by Herod (Mt 17, 13).
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Personal questions
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• Has your faith in Jesus given you some moment of transfiguration and of intense joy? How do these moments of joy give you strength in times of difficulty?
• How can we transfigure today, our personal and family life as well as our community life?
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Concluding Prayer
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All goes well for one who lends generously,
who is honest in all his dealing;
for all time to come he will not stumble,
for all time to come the upright will be remembered. (Ps 112,5-6)
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, February 16, 2017 — God’s covenant with man — I will demand an accounting — From one man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life — There is suffering in every life

February 15, 2017

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 338

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Jesus Pulls Peter from the Sea by Walter Rane

Reading 1 GN 9:1-13

God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them:
“Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.
Dread fear of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth
and all the birds of the air,
upon all the creatures that move about on the ground
and all the fishes of the sea;
into your power they are delivered.
Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat;
I give them all to you as I did the green plants.
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.
For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting:
from every animal I will demand it,
and from one man in regard to his fellow man
I will demand an accounting for human life.

If anyone sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
For in the image of God
has man been made.

Be fertile, then, and multiply;
abound on earth and subdue it.”

God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
God added:
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 AND 22-23

R. (20b) From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion,
and his praise, in Jerusalem,
When the peoples gather together,
and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

Alleluia JN 6:63C, 68C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

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Why did Jesus say to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan’?

Answer: The command “Get behind me, Satan,” spoken to Peter by Jesus, is recorded in Matthew 16:23 and Mark 8:33. “Get behind me, Satan” seems harsh and out of character for Jesus, especially when addressing Peter, one of His most devout disciples. Why did Jesus say this? What was it Peter did to deserve such a rebuke? Without knowing it, Peter was speaking for Satan.

Jesus had just revealed to His disciples for the first time the plan: He was to go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and be raised to life (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31). Contrary to their expectations of Him, Jesus explained that He had not come to establish an earthly Messianic kingdom at that time. The disciples were not prepared for this new revelation of the Messiah’s purpose. Though Peter understood His words, he simply could not reconcile his view of the conquering Messiah with the suffering and death Jesus spoke of. So Peter “began to rebuke Him” for having such a fatalistic mindset.

Unwittingly, Peter was speaking for Satan. Like Jesus’ adversary, Peter was not setting his mind on the things of God—His ways, His plans, and His purposes (Colossians 3:2; Isaiah 55:8-9). Instead, his mind was set on the things of man, the things of the world and its earthly values. Jesus was saying that the way of the cross was God’s will, the plan of redemption for all mankind. Peter’s reaction was most likely shared by the other disciples although, as always, it was Peter who spoke first. Peter was inadvertently being used of Satan in thinking he was protecting Jesus. Satan had purposely tempted Jesus in the wilderness to divert Him from the cross, from fulfilling the grand design of the Father and the Son (Mark 1:12-13). Innocently, Peter was doing the same thing. He had not yet grasped Jesus’ true Messianic purpose.

Although Peter had just moments before declared Jesus as the Christ, he turned from God’s perspective and viewed the situation from man’s perspective, which brought about the stern rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus went on to explain: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33).

At the time, Jesus’ stern reprimand did not make sense to Peter. However, Jesus’ indictment presents a profound message for us. We can easily see that Peter had the wrong perspective of God’s plan for Christ’s suffering and death. But we must also see how easily we can become an unwitting spokesperson for Satan. This is especially true when we lose sight of God’s plan for us. This comes about when our focus is on our careers, our possessions, our security, the things of the world rather than upon sacrifice and service and the proclaiming of God’s message. When Peter’s focus shifted to his own desires and plans, Jesus rebuked him in order to get him back on track. May our focus always be on God and His plans, that we may never experience a similar rebuke from our Lord.

https://www.gotquestions.org/get-behind-me-Satan.html

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

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Christs Charge To Saint Peter by Giuseppe Vermiglio

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 FEBRUARY, 2017, Thursday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
THE FIDELITY OF GOD TO HIS CREATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 9:1-13; PS 101(102):16-21, 29, 22-23; MK 8:27-33  ]

What is the most important lesson in the story of Noah?  It is not about the Flood because there were many floods in the history of humanity and no doubt, there will be many more.  Rather, the story brings out the increasing infidelity of man to God’s creation because of the sins of man.   At the same time, even when sin increases, God’s fidelity to His creation remains.  Nothing can change God’s love for His creation.  Even when sin increases, His grace remains constant.  God does not ever and will never withdraw His love for His creation.

Indeed, when we look at creation, the situation only seems to get worse.  It began with the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  It was then followed by Cain’s envy leading to killing of his own brother.   As the human race populated, more sins were committed, sins of every kind.  It is significant to note that even the way human beings treated creation changed over time.  In chapter 1, the Lord said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”  (Gn 1:29)  Man was first a vegetarian.  Only plants and seeds were given to men because animals were His companions.  “The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.”  (Gn 2:20)

But by the time we arrive at Genesis Chapter 9, we read that this unity between animals and humanity was broken.  Instead of being our friends, they now fear and dread us.  “Be the terror and the dread of all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven, of everything that crawls and the ground and all the fish of the sea; they are handed over to you.”  (Gn 9:1f)  Not only that, we are given permission to eat the flesh of animals, but not its blood.  “Every living and crawling thing shall provide food for you, no less than the foliage of plants.  I give you everything, with this exception:  you must not eat flesh with life, that is to say blood, in it.  I will demand an account of your life-blood.”  (Gn 3:3f)  The reason was simply because blood was a symbol of life and only God is the source of life.  Furthermore, the killing of man is absolutely forbidden because man is the image and viceroy of God.  Thus to kill another fellowman is a very serious sin that demands punishment by death. “I will demand an account of every man’s life from his fellow men.  He who sheds man’s blood, shall have his blood shed by man, for in the image of God man was made.”  (Gn 3:5f)

The permission given to man to eat the flesh of animals was certainly a compromise to the growing and weakening harmony between animals and human beings.  Yet this breakdown between human beings and animals is due to the disharmony among human beings due to sin.  This is traced to man’s disobedience and separation from God.  Once again, we see that human ecology is the basis for the ecology of nature.  Indeed, in the New Testament, all food was proclaimed clean by the Lord and by the apostles Peter and Paul and could be consumed accordingly.

God’s fidelity to His unchanging commitment to His creation is brought out in the covenant with Noah. He said, “See, I establish my Covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; also with every living creature to be found with you, birds cattle and every wild beast with you: everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth.  I establish my Covenant with you: no thing of flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood.  There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.”  In truth, the threat of God to destroy the earth was never carried out, for creation was not destroyed.  Even in the case of the flood, the remnant of creation was saved and so we cannot speak of the destruction of creation.

The sign of this Covenant with Noah was the rainbow.  God said, “Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth.”   Yet, the rainbow has always been there.  It is not a new phenomenon.  Again the same message is underscored.  God is faithful to His creation.  He will never abandon His creation even when everything seems to go awry.  The rainbow is a sign of His fidelity to creation. The truth is that when we think that the world is coming to an end because of the atrocious sins and evil of humanity, the rainbow will reappear after the apparent storm, once the upheavel has settled.  In other words, there is always hope.  The beauty of God will shine again through the darkness of man’s sins.  God will not allow Himself to be defeated by the sins of humanity regardless how grave the situation might be.

From this Covenant with Noah, God demonstrated that His grace is greater than the sin of man. No matter how much evil man could do to His creation, God will continue to show us His grace and mercy.  Beginning from Adam and Eve, we see how God promised man ultimate victory over evil even though he banished them from paradise. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  In the case Cain who murdered Abel, the Lord promised Cain that sevenfold vengeance would be taken on the man who tried to kill him,  “And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him.”  (Gn 4:15)  In Noah’s circumstances, the Lord gave them a rainbow as a sign of His irrevocable covenant with humanity.

God’s fidelity to His creation is only possible because of His fidelity to Himself. If we are so confident that God will be faithful to His word, it is because He Himself will not and cannot do anything that is contrary to Himself.  In the gospel, Jesus showed His fidelity to Himself by rejecting any titles that sought to qualify Him.  He asked the disciples, “’Who do people say I am?’  And they told him, ‘John the Baptist,’ they said, ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’” The truth is that none of the titles, regardless how lofty they might be, could not fit the Lord.  Hence He asked them, “’But you, who do you say I am?’  Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’”

Again, it must be noted that although Peter gave the right answer, the injunction of Jesus was to give “them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.” For Jesus, understanding the meaning and implications of a title is more important than just getting the correct answer.  This was clearly seen when Peter rejected the idea of a suffering messiah as prophesied by the Lord. So Jesus “rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan!  Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’”  Indeed, Peter, like everyone else, sought to impose his image of what the messiah should be on the Lord. But Jesus would not allow others to change His identity as the Son of the Father and the suffering messiah.

Jesus was clear of His identity as the Son of the Living God.  He came to show the Father’s love even unto death.  He was not like any of the worldly conquerors.  He came not with power and might but as a servant in human lowliness. He conquered the world through gentleness, compassion and forgiveness. He remained faithful to His identity as the God of mercy and compassion.  In this way, He could truly maintain His identification with the Father.  To Philip, He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn 14:9)  Whatever the Father does, He will do.  “I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.”  (Jn 5:19)

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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Today’s Gospel speaks about Peter’s blindness who does not understand the proposal of Jesus when he speaks about suffering and of the Cross. Peter accepts Jesus as Messiah, but not a suffering Messiah. He is influenced by the “yeast of Herod and the Pharisees”, that is, by the propaganda of the government of that time in which the Messiah was a glorious Messiah. Peter seemed to be blind. He was not aware of anything, but wanted Jesus to be as he wished. To understand well the importance and weight of this blindness of Peter it is well to consider it in its literary context.
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Literary context: The Gospel of Mark transmits to us three announcements of the Passion and death of Jesus: the first one in Mark 8, 27-38; the second one in Mark 9, 30-37 and the third one in Mark 10, 32-45.
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This whole which goes up to Mark 10, 45, is a long instruction of Jesus to the disciples to help them to overcome the crisis produced by the Cross. The instruction is introduced by the healing of a blind man (Mk 8, 22-26) and at the end it is concluded with the healing of another blind man (Mk 10, 46-52). The two blind persons represent the blindness of the disciples. The healing of the first blind man was difficult. Jesus had to do it in two stages.
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The blindness of the disciples was also difficult. Jesus had to give a long explanation concerning the meaning of the Cross to help them understand why the cross was producing blindness in them. Let us consider closely the healing of the blind man:
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Mark 8, 22-26: The first healing of a bland man. They took a blind man before Jesus, asking Jesus to cure him. Jesus cures him, but in a different way.
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First, he takes him outside the village. Then he put some of his saliva on the eyes of the blind man and, laid his hands on him and asked him: Can you see anything? The man answered: I see persons; they look like trees that walk! He could only see one part. He exchanged trees for persons, or persons for trees! Jesus cures him only in the second time. This description of the cure of the blind man introduces the instruction to the disciples, in reality the blind man is Peter. He accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but a glorious Messiah. He saw only one part! He did not want the commitment of the Cross! The blindness of the disciples is also cured by Jesus, in different stages, not all at once.
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Mark 8, 27-30: The discovery of reality: Who do people say I am? Jesus asks: “Who do people say I am?” They answered expressing the different opinions: “John the Baptist”. “Elijah or one of the Prophets”. After having heard the opinions of others, Jesus asks: “And you who do you say I am?” Peter answers: “The Lord, the Christ, the Messiah!” That is, the Lord is the one whom the people are expecting! Jesus agrees with Peter, but forbids him to speak about that with the people. Why? Because at that time all expected the coming of the Messiah, but each one in his own way: some expected the king, others the priest, doctor, warrior, judge, prophet! Nobody seemed to be expecting the Messiah, Servant and Suffering, announced by Isaiah (Is 42, 1-9).
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Mark 8, 31-33: First announcement of the Passion. Then Jesus began to teach saying that he is the Messiah Servant and affirms that, as Messiah Servant announced by Isaiah, he will soon be condemned to death in carrying out his mission of justice (Is 49, 4-9; 53, 1-12).
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Peter is horrified; he calls Jesus apart to rebuke him. And Jesus said to him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do.” Peter thought he had given the right answer. In fact, he had said the correct word: “You are the Christ!” But he does not give it the correct sense. Peter does not understand Jesus. He was like the blind man. He exchanged people for trees! The response of Jesus was very hard: “Get behind me, Satan!” Satan is a Hebrew word which means accuser, the one who leads others away from the way to God. Jesus does not allow anyone to lead him away from his mission. Literally the text says: “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter has to follow Jesus. He must not change things and intend that Jesus follows Peter.
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For Personal Confrontation
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We all believe in Jesus. But some believe that Jesus is in one way, others in another way. Which is today the most common image that people have of Jesus? Which is the response which people today would give to Jesus’ question? And I, what answer do I give?
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What prevents us today from recognizing the Messiah in Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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I will praise Yahweh from my heart; let the humble hear and rejoice. Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh, let us acclaim his name together. (Ps 34,2-3)
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Related:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
From 2014
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There used to be a program called “face to face”, which was a public forum for open discussion on contemporary issues.  In one of the episodes, the topic was, “Do parents have favorites?”  The conclusion of the whole discussion was that it is quite normal for anyone to have favorites.  It is only being human. We have our preferences, likes and dislikes.  Of course, expressing it openly, especially to our loved ones or our subordinates, is a different thing.  Not only parents, but all of us, according to our circumstances, are always tempted to practise favoritism.

But is favoritism all that wrong?  Even the Church apparently advocates favouritism, since we always speak of the preferential option for the poor, the marginalized and the weak.  Isn’t this favoritism of sorts?  Nay.  The special attention given to the poor cannot be seen as discrimination since we are simply righting what is imbalanced.  Hence, our compassion for the poor must not be mistaken as favouritism when it is based on justice and fair play.  Compassion does not exclude justice but precludes it.

Partiality is seen as such only when it springs from selfishness or self-love.  On the surface we appear to love those whom we favor, but it is really the love of self.  St James illustrates this reality with a concrete example, namely, making the distinction between the poor who are shabbily dressed and the rich that are well dressed and according them different treatment.  Such discrimination based on one’s status is therefore against the gospel.

Indeed, we must ask why we pay more attention to the rich instead of the poor man and give more respect to the educated man than one who is illiterate. Isn’t it true if we search our motives that it is because there is something to gain from that kind of relationship?  Of course favouritism is not always on account of riches but it could be due to one’s attraction to something or someone that gives us a nice feeling or make us happy.  Whatever it is, we are the ultimate beneficiaries. By so doing, St James asked, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?”

This was true also for Peter.  Although he got the answer right with regard to the person of Jesus, he got the meaning wrong.  When Jesus spoke of His imminent passion and death, he could not accept the Suffering Christ. Instead, he took Jesus aside and “began to rebuke him.”  Apparently he wanted to protect Jesus because he loved Him, but the underlying motive is fear because he had vested interests.  The only Christ that he wanted to follow was the Triumphant Christ, not a suffering or crucified Christ.  He was repugnant to such a possibility.

Hence the response of Jesus was swift and incisive.  “At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’”  Indeed, favouritism is the result of our selfish thinking.  It comes from a broken and selfish man, not from God.

Because of selfishness, favoritism leads to blindness.  This was the theme of the gospel of the last few days taken from Mark 8 when the evangelist portrayed the blindness of the Pharisees who were unable to see the signs of Jesus; the deaf and dumb man who could not hear; the disciples who, after the miracle of the loaves, were still unable to see the signs, then the cure of the blind man leading to Peter’s profession of faith.  The gradual cure of the blind man is a portrayal of how the disciples grew in understanding and acceptance of the suffering Messiah.

Consequently, if we are to overcome our tendency to favoritism, then we must contemplate on the Suffering Christ.  The Suffering Christ reveals to us the face of God.  In Peter, the Church expresses her faith in Christ.  “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to Him in reply, “You are the Christ.”  But what is the full import of confessing in Jesus as the Suffering Christ.

Firstly, faith in the Suffering Christ means to recognize Jesus as the Son of Man, and therefore identified with every man in His suffering, humiliation and rejection.  To see the face of the Suffering Christ is to see the face of Christ in the poor, those who are rejected, discriminated and ill-treated like Jesus who suffered in the hands of His enemies.  By contemplating on the suffering Christ, we learn how to identify ourselves with the poor.

Secondly, faith in the Suffering Christ means that we are called to understand the heart of the Father in Jesus.  God has this special love for the poor, as the psalmist tells us in the responsorial psalm.  “When the poor one called out, the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him.  The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”  In truth the poor and the common people have much to teach us about faith, love and suffering, especially the sick.  St James asked, “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he promised to those who love him?”  Today we need to pray for the gift of spiritual sight to see the role of the poor in our lives as gifts of God to us.  If there are poor among us, whether spiritually, emotionally or physically poor, they are invitations to us to share our love with them.  Through them, we learn compassion and empathy.

Thirdly, faith in the Suffering Christ means to know that Jesus loves usunconditionally.  As mentioned earlier, favoritism springs from our insecurity and lack of love for self and hence the need for others to fulfill us.  Only the realization of God’s unconditional love for us can heal our blindness and insecurity.  Hence, St James remarked, “However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  Loving oneself authentically is the presupposition to an authentic love for others without discriminating them since the love flows out from within us and not drawn out from us.

Fourthly, faith in the suffering Christ means to walk the way of Jesus who came to die not just for His friends but His enemies as well.  Jesus’ death on the cross manifests His love for us.  We too are called to love without self-interest, even when we face rejection and death.  Hence, tomorrow, the gospel text speaks on the need of the disciples of Jesus to carry the cross.  True love always entails the cross because it is selfless.  Indeed, we must search our motives, whether our love and service and treatment of others is based on disinterested or self-centered love.  True love is to be like Jesus to accept the cross.

Faith in the suffering Christ means to see life and people through the eyes and heart of God.  When we walk the way of Jesus, we will come to realize that favouritism imprisons us and make us slaves to them.  In our preferential treatment of the rich and powerful, quite often they control our lives.  St James asked, “Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?”  Hence, to be free from the temptation to favoritism is to be free for love and free in love.  This is the kind of freedom that enables us to live the transcendent life of God.

http://www.csctr.net/20-february-2014-thursday-6th-week-in-ordinary-time/

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 16, 2016 — “It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.”

April 15, 2016

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 278

Healing of the Cripple and Raising of Tabitha by Masolino da Panicale, 1425.

Reading 1 ACTS 9:31-42

The Church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria
was at peace.
She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord,
and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers.As Peter was passing through every region,
he went down to the holy ones living in Lydda.
There he found a man named Aeneas,
who had been confined to bed for eight years, for he was paralyzed.
Peter said to him,
“Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.”
He got up at once.
And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him,
and they turned to the Lord.Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha
(which translated is Dorcas).
She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving.
Now during those days she fell sick and died,
so after washing her, they laid her out in a room upstairs.
Since Lydda was near Joppa,
the disciples, hearing that Peter was there,
sent two men to him with the request,
“Please come to us without delay.”
So Peter got up and went with them.
When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs
where all the widows came to him weeping
and showing him the tunics and cloaks
that Dorcas had made while she was with them.
Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed.
Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.”
She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.
He gave her his hand and raised her up,
and when he had called the holy ones and the widows,
he presented her alive.
This became known all over Joppa,
and many came to believe in the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 116:12-13, 14-15, 16-17

R. (12) How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
or:
R. Alleluia.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD
R. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
or:
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
R. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaSEE JN 6:63C, 68C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 6:60-69

Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
It is the Spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer walked with him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
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The Good Samaritan By Walter Rane

“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you”

Jesus urges us to discover the wisdom and the principles underlying the laws … and He asks us to live by these principles in all our affairs.

In the Gospel today we see Jesus speaking to his followers and asking them if they can really accept what He has been saying.  This is still Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John.  What Jesus has been saying is about the Holy Eucharist, about His presence in the bread, about His relationship to the Father—and basically about how God loves us.  The teaching of Jesus was too difficult for many of his disciples and they left Him at this point.  The teachings of our Catholic Church are also difficult for many.

You and I are all challenged to keep struggling with the Scriptures so that we can encounter the living God present there.  We must also struggle with our Catholic Church because it is the living presence of Christ present in our world today.  In order to struggle, we must be humble and accept that I personally do not have all the answers and that even my way of thinking may need conversion.

May the Lord help us today so that we may walk with Him and not just by our own light.

Your brother in the Lord,
Abbot Philip, OSB

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Related:
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(“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you”)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 APRIL 2016, Saturday, 3rd Week of Easter
THE BASIS FOR ACCEPTING THE DIFFICULT TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 9:31–42; JOHN 6:60-69   ]

The context of the gospel is Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist as truly His body and blood.  This discourse was a great scandal to the Jews, especially the idea of drinking blood, which was strictly forbidden, much less to eat His flesh.  Blood, a symbol of life, is reserved only for God who is the author of life.  So we should not be surprised that “After hearing Jesus, many of his followers said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’”

But this is where it is necessary for us to broaden our understanding.  We are invited to think big and outside the box, even the impossible.  Like the Jews who could not accept the power of God to work beyond the confines of man’s understanding, we too limit the power of God at work in our lives.  Often, miracles do not happen in our lives simply because of our lack of faith and narrowmindedness.  Jesus was aware that His followers were complaining about it and said, “Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?”  The point remains that with the resurrection, nothing is impossible for God. That is why the Eucharist presupposes faith in the Incarnation and is the extension of the resurrection, for the Eucharist makes present the resurrected Christ in His glorified body, soul and spirit under the species of bread and wine.

Indeed, faith in Jesus is the Key to demonstrating the power of the gospel.  The miracles wrought by Peter in healing the cripple and even raising the dead is the consequence of the Easter faith.  It is faith in the name of the Risen Lord that the miracle was performed.  Jesus of Nazareth continues to work in and through the disciples.  So following Jesus, Peter said “Aeneas, Jesus Christ cures you: get up and fold up your sleeping mat”.  We read that in the power of the Risen Lord, “Aeneas got up immediately.” The consequence is conversion of the hearts of all.  We read the importance of miracles and testimony to the power of the Risen Lord at work in their lives.  Indeed, “Everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they were all converted to the Lord.”  Further on, we read, “The whole of Jaffa heard about it and many believed in the Lord.”

How can we, as St Peter and the apostles, come to Jesus and place our faith in Him?   Of course it is by grace alone!  Indeed, Jesus remarked, “’This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him’.” Jesus assured His disciples that it is His heavenly Father who invites us all to come to Him and who gives the grace to follow Him even in the “hard sayings”.   Without the grace of God, it would be difficult to understand or to accept in faith the Word of Jesus.  That was why many, we are told, left Him because they could not accept His teaching.  “After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.”

Although, coming to encounter the Risen Lord is by grace through faith, we must make ourselves available to this grace through our relationship with Jesus.  This was what St Peter did.  He was able to render his profession of faith and loyalty to the Lord because of his personal encounter with Him, especially in those moments when he was inadequate, as when he could not catch any fish and when he was became conscious of his unworthiness and sinfulness.  However, his belief was not simply based on his knowledge of Jesus.  At the end of the day, he surrendered in faith because somehow he knew that in Jesus, God is present.

Through the gift of faith Peter came to believe that Jesus was the true Messiah, the Holy One of God.  “Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’”  St Peter took the words of Jesus as truth because he believed in Jesus.  

We too must deepen our faith in Jesus through the Word and the Eucharist.   This is what Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”   Faith is not simply a blind trust in the Lord.  We are to grow in understanding as well.  The Holy Spirit will lead us to understand deeper when we are docile to the Word of God.  If we want to deepen our faith in the Risen Lord, we cannot do without the Word of God. That is why in the Eucharist, the sacrament is preceded by the Word.   Before we can receive His body and blood, our minds and hearts must be attuned with the Lord by listening to His words and teaching because He has the words of eternal life.

The question that is asked of us is whether we are willing to give ourselves to the Lord.  Like the disciples, we might have our fears and reservations because of our upbringing, the culture and traditions we were brought up with.  We tend to be slaves of our past. This is not surprising because we are sociological animals.  Some Catholics are not able to accept the Holy Father, Pope Francis’s exhortation to make the gospel more relevant to our people today and truly proclaim it as the Good News of joy, compassion and forgiveness.   Many of us are afraid to adapt for fear that we are abandoning the truths of the Catholic teaching.   As a result, the Church is crippled and dead.  This is not to say that we must discard our past completely.  There is a close relationship between tradition and progress.  To be faithful to our traditions does not mean being a traditionalist in the sense that we keep the same practices without change.  Fidelity to traditions means to be faithful to the essential message and principles which have kept us in the faith in the past.  In order to stay faithful, tradition requires progress in creative fidelity to the past.  We must adapt in order to be relevant.  This is the true meaning of progress.   We need to believe that the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church under the leadership of St Peter who was inspired by the Holy Spirit when he made the confession of faith on behalf of the Church.  We too must have confidence that Jesus’ promise to be with His Church remains with Pope Francis leading the Church to a real renewal.  

So in the final analysis, can we accept Him even when things do not turn out the way we want?  Can we accept the Lord even when we cannot understand Him fully?  The greatest obstacle today is that man wants God to fit into his mind, rather than he fit into the mind of God.  Like the disciples, we reject God simply because we cannot agree with the teachings of the bible and the Church. So it is not surprising that many non-Christians cannot accept the Church’s teachings.  Even many of our so-called Catholics have no faith in the Word of God, much less the authoritative guidance of the Church as their moral compass in life.  They prefer to listen to the advice of the world than our Lord!  Hence, the Lord is asking us again, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”  Can we answer from our heart with conviction, “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.”  Or would we, like the others, also abandon Him upon finding that we cannot agree with the Word of God?

If we take the risk and believe in the Lord, then Jesus can change our life because He has the words of everlasting life.   Just as He transformed the bread and wine into His body and blood, we too will be transformed to be like Him when we eat His flesh, drink His blood and become one with Him and in Him.   So let us ask the Lord to increase our faith so that we may grow in our relationship with Him and in the knowledge of His love for us.   Chesterton once said, “Christianity is difficult and therefore has not been tried not because it has been tried and found difficult.”   Even when the teachings of our Lord are hard to accept, He will give us the grace to do His holy will so that we can find peace and true happiness in life.   Let us in faith, in the face of so many confusing trends and voices in the world, listen to our Lord through His Vicar, St Peter and His successors who have been entrusted to ensure that the Word of God remains alive and active in His Church.

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 22, 2016 — Witness to the sufferings of Christ — “Who do you say that I am?”

February 21, 2016

Lectionary: 535

Photo: The statue of St. Peter holding the keys of heaven in St. Peter’s square, Rome

Reading 1 1 PT 5:1-4

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Verse Before The Gospel MT 16:18

You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Gospel MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
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Commentaries on the Readings: 1 Peter 5:1-4; Ps 22; Matthew 16:13-19 From Living Space

The Gospel from St Matthew records a dramatic moment in the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.  They are at Caesarea Philippi, an area which significantly was home to both Jews and Gentiles, and Jesus begins by asking them what they heard people saying about him.  They gave various answers, such as that he might be John the Baptist (returned from the dead after his beheading by Herod), or Elijah (who was expected to return to earth to herald the imminent coming of the Messiah), or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.  Jesus then asks them: “But who do you say I am?”  It is Simon who speaks up: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  It was a very special moment for all of them.  Up to this the man whom they had simply called ‘Rabbi’ or ‘Teacher’ was now acknowledged as no less than the Messiah, the Christ, the one anointed as the Saviour-King of Israel.

In reply, Jesus tells Simon that what he has said are not simply his own words but are a revelation of God to him.  “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  There then comes the solemn mandate and promise.  Simon is now given a new name.  “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld will not prevail against it.”  There is a play on the words ‘Peter’ and ‘rock’.   The word for ‘rock’ in Greek is petra (petra) and Peter is ‘Petros (petros).   There is an irony in the name because it carries more than one meaning.  For Peter is called to be the firm foundation of the new community but, before that happens he shows himself to be a stumbling block trying to frustrate the mission of his Master, showing himself to be one of the weakest of the disciples.

Nevertheless, Jesus gives him his mission: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven (of God).  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven (i.e. by God); and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (i.e. by God).”  After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, it is his community under the unifying leadership of Peter which will have the mandate to continue the work and mission of Jesus.  They will be, literally, the voice of Jesus.

In the First Reading which is from the Second Letter of Peter (although almost certainly not written by him) we have advice on how Church authority is to be exercised.   Peter speaks to community leaders as a “fellow presbyter (or elder)” and as one who was a personal witness of the sufferings of Jesus and hence looking forward to share in his risen glory.  He tells them to take care of their flocks as good shepherds, drawing them but not forcing them and not pursuing their own personal gain but with enthusiasm for their well-being.  “Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock.”  Words applicable to every position of leadership in the Church be it pope, bishop, priest or lay leader.  Then “when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

So, the over all message of today’s feast is of generous and eager cooperation of all members of the Christian community in building up the Body of Christ as a sacrament of the Kingdom throughout the world.

We should all  be moving from “getting stoned to “getting the right corner stone.” The ROCK!

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

What is your corner stone in this life? What is it you cannot live without? Sex? Drugs? Money?

Lent gives us a time, the time, to reflect upon our spiritual as well as out earthly existence.

“Do not be afraid.”

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This simple prayer was part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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“Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
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Over and over again in the scripture we hear the message: “Do not be afraid.”
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Jesus says, “Do not be afraid” was he encourages Peter to walk with Him across the water! (Matthew 14: 22-30)
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Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)
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Not too long ago while I was assisting a homeless man, he looked me square in the eyes and said:  “We have everything we need.”
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Actually, this man travels around the neighborhoods near where I live with no possessions most of us would care anything about. He has few articles of clothing and he often cuts up old trash bags to make himself a hat, a cap, or a kind of serape. He never begs or asks for anything.
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I offered him a crisp new twenty dollar bill on Easter Sunday morning. He rushed inside the first convenience store and gave that money to the charity collection jar!
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I asked him why.
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And he said, “We have everything we need.”
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Indeed I have experienced what Jesus tells the disciples: “We have everything we need.”
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In his book, “Joseph’s Way,” author Devin Schadt talks to us about how we can translate the The Word — and the lessons of Jesus and the saints —  into the best kind of a Christian life; especially for fathers.
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Today’s scripture readings reminded me of this passage in Schadt’s book, “Joseph’s Way” — “Both Adam and the New Adam establish the pace for the dynamism of love, or absence thereof. The former established the paradigm of neglect, selfishness and lust while the latter set the paradigm of responsibility, of self giving, of complete self-donation.”
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How do we, each of us, become the rock? How do we keep the keys to heaven? (Matthew 16:18-19). How do we become “the cornerstone” even if we were once sinful and felt rejected? (Psalm 118:22). How do we “pour ourselves out” (Isaiah 58:10) and become people of self-donation?
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Over and over again, Christ urges us to “go the extra mile,” (Matthew 5:41) and He tells us that through faith and prayer, He will always meet our needs — giving us what we need when we need it to complete our mission for Him.
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John Francis Carey
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Related:
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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!

Amen.

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Saints Peter and Paul by Jusepe de Ribera
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 FEBRUARY 2016, Chair of St Peter, Apostle
CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP IS AN OFFICE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 22:1-6; Matthew 16:13-19

The feast of the Chair of St Peter was celebrated in the Church as early as the 4th century.  This feast celebrates the election of St Peter as the Bishop of Rome and as the Chief Shepherd of the universal Church by virtue of being the successor of St Peter, the Vicar of Christ.  The Chair of St Peter is therefore a celebration of the Office of the Bishop of Rome and the Pope. It is not the celebration of a person but the office, what it signifies and what is intended.

The word, “office” is derived from the Latin word, “officium” which connotes the meaning of service, duty and a function.   Implied in this word therefore is “power and resources.”  One cannot perform a service without the accompanying authority, power and resources.  So it is clear that the authority that comes with the office is for the sake of service and not to boost the ego of the person in office.  A person holding a religious and public office is given respect and honour not on account of himself or herself but it is given to the office, the public capacity that the person is acting in.   In this respect, when we give respect to the Pope and the Bishops who are the successors of Christ, it is to the office and what it symbolizes rather than to the persons, especially when Catholics traditionally kiss the episcopal ring of the Pope and the bishops.

What, then, is the nature of this office of the Holy Father and by derivation, the office of the Bishops, priests and all those in Christian leadership?  It is an office of servant leadership.  One must never forget that the office with the accompanying power given to us is not for our glorification or for our benefit, or for us to do whatever we like according to our whims and fancies.  On the contrary, all leaders must always remember that they are first and foremost religious and public servants entrusted with authority for the service of the common good.  No leader must ever allow the honour and privileges of leadership to get into his head, making him feel great and proud.  St Peter wrote, “Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it.”

If the office of the Holy Father and all Christian leaders is that of service, so the next question is, what kind of service?  Today, we do not speak so much of the papacy but the Petrine service of the Holy Father.  In other words, we want to underscore not so much the power of the Holy Father but the service of the Holy Father to the Church and to the world.

Firstly, the Holy Father has the duty to preserve the deposit of faith handed down in scripture and tradition.  He is called to be a defender of the Catholic Faith in its pristine condition.  To do so is to ensure that the truths revealed by God are properly taught and passed on in the Church.  It is for this reason that the Holy Father has been given the gift of infallibility. All Bishops teaching in union with the Holy Father too possess the gift of infallibility in teaching.  Without this guarantee, the Church would be in chaos as we do not know where the truth is to be found.  This is particularly so in an age of relativism and individualism and humanism, where truth has become subjective and individualistic.   The Holy Father as the defender of the truths of Christ must therefore assume the role of teacher and prophet.  What is said of the Holy Father is also applicable to the bishops who are the chief teachers in their own diocese.   This also explains why only the Magisterium together with the Holy Father can teach authentically and authoritatively.  This is what Jesus said to St Peter, “So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”

Secondly, the office of the Holy Father is that of preserving unity in the Church.  This perhaps is the most challenging task in today’s world.   With the erosion of authority in both the religious, political and corporate world because of scandals, trying to preserve unity is a very daunting task.  Most people today are educated and all think that they know best.  If they agree, well and good, they follow the shepherd, but if they do not agree, they will go their own way.  Few faithful believe in the religious authority of the Pope and the bishops.  The element of faith and trust in the authority of the Pope and bishops is weak.  If the Pope and bishops cannot convince them, then they would not listen.  Rationalism has crept into the Church as well.  People doubt that the promise of Christ is true when He said to St Peter, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”   We no longer trust in divine revelation or the promise of Christ that He would be with His Church until the end of time.  For this reason, criticizing our leaders, the Holy Father and our bishops, or even leaders in public, will not bring about unity or help the leaders to be more effective because it only destroys credibility and sows distrust.  It only helps those who are our enemies to ride on such resentment and use them for their own agenda.  We must use the proper forum to express our views and help our leaders to govern well.  Truth must be spoken but we must make sure that it is the truth and secondly, it must be spoken in charity and humility.

Thirdly, the office of the Holy Father is to be a brother that empowers, encourages and offers fraternal correction.  In the first reading, we have St Peter writing to the other elders to encourage them in their ministry.  He wrote, “I have something to tell your elders: I am elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed.”   Indeed, as a leader, the authority invested on us is not for us to be a dictator, as St Peter reminded the elders, “Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow.”   It is in order that we can empower others and give them encouragement in their difficult tasks.  The most damaging thing a leader can do is to discredit his leaders in public or to shame them, because once they lose their authority, they can no longer govern effectively.  A leader must show himself to be a true servant of all and be at their service, rather than to make use of others to serve his interests.  His task is to get others to work with him for the greater good of everyone, but not for his own gain.

If we were to be true Christian leaders, we need to find our bearing and source of strength.  Christian leaders therefore must look to Christ for direction.  We are called to imitate the faith of St Peter.  The rock that Jesus built His Church on was not simply Peter but Peter’s faith in Him.  It was Peter’s faith in Christ as “the Son of the living God” that Jesus could confidently place the Church under his care.   He knew that if we have this faith in Him, nothing can rock or destroy the Church as He promised, “on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”   Unless we have this faith in Christ, Christian leaders will waver and falter because in the face of difficulties, they will cave in to the demands of others.   Leaders must find fortitude in Christ so that they can remain firm in their faith and leadership, without fear and the need for approval.

Secondly, leadership is a call to suffer.  So we should not be surprised when we have to carry the cross of rejection, criticism, slander, false accusations and being misunderstood as leaders.   If we are afraid of unpopularity, we cannot be a leader.  We are here to serve the truth and to serve God; not to bend to the whims and likes of people who are only concerned for their own interests and needs.

Yet, we also must remember that leaders are imperfect because they are human.  They have their frailties and weaknesses.  It is important to collaborate with the leaders.  They too need much encouragement and support.  Without the love, support and encouragement of the members, the leader will not be able to do much.  That is why in the Catholic liturgy, we always pray for the Holy Father and the bishops who are still in office, not those who are retired.   The reason is simply because we are not praying for them as individuals but because of the public office they hold, their leadership, decisions and conduct will affect the rest of the Church.  Hence, it is not enough to complain and lament about the weaknesses of our leaders.  It would be more effective and productive to pray and fast for their conversion if we want them to change for the better.

In this way, with us working with the leaders, encouraging them, and they in turn working selflessly for the greater good of the community, everyone will get to share in the joy and fruits of unity in service.  St Peter assures us, “When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.”  This glory is already ours when we work together with our leaders for the growth of the community.  Today, as we celebrate the chair of St Peter, let us renew our love and support, respect and obedience to our Holy Father, regardless of whether we agree with him or not.  Today as I celebrate my 3rd anniversary of my episcopate, I too ask for your prayers, that I may grow in holiness by living a life of prayer, compassion, humility and selfless service.  Pray that I have fortitude and perseverance to lead the Church in spite of the many difficulties and challenges we face in renewing the People of God and our leaders.  Pray for me and my priests; that we will work together as one Church for the greater good of our people.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, January 22, 2016 — Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

January 21, 2016

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Lectionary: 315

If we kill millions of unborn human children each year — how can we say we are for “human rights”? And as we continue to kill these unprotected — will we soon be killing the elderly that are not protected too?

Reading 1 1 SM 24:3-21

Saul took three thousand picked men from all Israel
and went in search of David and his men
in the direction of the wild goat crags.
When he came to the sheepfolds along the way, he found a cave,
which he entered to relieve himself.
David and his men were occupying the inmost recesses of the cave.David’s servants said to him,
“This is the day of which the LORD said to you,
‘I will deliver your enemy into your grasp;
do with him as you see fit.’”
So David moved up and stealthily cut off an end of Saul’s mantle.
Afterward, however, David regretted that he had cut off
an end of Saul’s mantle.
He said to his men,
“The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master,
the LORD’s anointed, as to lay a hand on him,
for he is the LORD’s anointed.”
With these words David restrained his men
and would not permit them to attack Saul.
Saul then left the cave and went on his way.
David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul,
“My lord the king!”
When Saul looked back, David bowed to the ground in homage and asked Saul:
“Why do you listen to those who say,
‘David is trying to harm you’?
You see for yourself today that the LORD just now delivered you
into my grasp in the cave.
I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead.
I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my lord,
for he is the LORD’s anointed and a father to me.’
Look here at this end of your mantle which I hold.
Since I cut off an end of your mantle and did not kill you,
see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion.
I have done you no wrong,
though you are hunting me down to take my life.
The LORD will judge between me and you,
and the LORD will exact justice from you in my case.
I shall not touch you.
The old proverb says, ‘From the wicked comes forth wickedness.’
So I will take no action against you.
Against whom are you on campaign, O king of Israel?
Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog, or a single flea!
The LORD will be the judge; he will decide between me and you.
May he see this, and take my part,
and grant me justice beyond your reach!”
When David finished saying these things to Saul, Saul answered,
“Is that your voice, my son David?”
And Saul wept aloud.
Saul then said to David: “You are in the right rather than I;
you have treated me generously, while I have done you harm.
Great is the generosity you showed me today,
when the LORD delivered me into your grasp
and you did not kill me.
For if a man meets his enemy, does he send him away unharmed?
May the LORD reward you generously for what you have done this day.
And now, I know that you shall surely be king
and that sovereignty over Israel shall come into your possession.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 57:2, 3-4, 6 AND 11

R. (2a) Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Have mercy on me, O God; have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
In the shadow of your wings I take refuge,
till harm pass by.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
I call to God the Most High,
to God, my benefactor.
May he send from heaven and save me;
may he make those a reproach who trample upon me;
may God send his mercy and his faithfulness.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
above all the earth be your glory!
For your mercy towers to the heavens,
and your faithfulness to the skies.
R. Have mercy on me, God, have mercy.

Alleluia2 COR 5:19

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 3:13-19

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted
and they came to him.
He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles,
that they might be with him
and he might send them forth to preach
and to have authority to drive out demons:
He appointed the Twelve:
Simon, whom he named Peter;
James, son of Zebedee,
and John the brother of James, whom he named Boanerges,
that is, sons of thunder;
Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus;
Thaddeus (Jude), Simon the Cananean,
and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.
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The over 56 million abortions since the 1973 decisions of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton reflect with heartbreaking magnitude what Pope Francis means by a “throwaway culture.” However, we have great trust in God’s providence. We are reminded time and again in Scripture to seek the Lord’s help, and as people of faith, we believe that our prayers are heard.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no. 373, designates January 22 as a particular day of prayer and penance, called the “Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children”: “In all the Dioceses of the United States of America, January 22 (or January 23, when January 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person committed through acts of abortion.”

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A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.

Pope Saint John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, no. 100*
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As individuals, we are called to observe this day through the penitential practices of prayer, fasting and/or giving alms. Another way to take part is through participating in special events to observe the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Call your local diocese or parish to find out what events might be taking place in your area.
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Merciful Transformation in God — What is grace?
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CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island CatholicThomas Aquinas tells us, “Although man is inclined to an ultimate end by nature, yet he cannot attain that end by nature, but only by grace and this because of the exalted character of the end.”

What is this purpose? It is the direct knowledge of God as he is in himself in heaven. Why is this man’s purpose? It is because he has intelligence. Why is grace necessary for this purpose? Man cannot arrive at the infinite by his own power. There is simply no means. The human will and the human soul are not able to attain heaven just by willing it.

In fact, all creation is motivated by the “desire” to return to the unity of God from which the panoply of the created order took its origin. The universe was created from unity into the diversity of all things, and the primary moving force for all those different marvelous things from the electron to supernovas is to return to the unity of God. The love of God in the Holy Spirit is the foundational force and energy which drives the movements of nature. The Holy Spirit is a creator: “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest.”

Yet, without man, who has a spiritual soul and a physical body, the universe would be frustrated in this design. This is because man by his spiritual life is also called to have God as one with whom he can enjoy the communion of friendship here on earth and the blessedness of the direct knowledge of heaven. Man is called to know as God knows and to love as God loves. But he must receive the ability to carry out in action this destiny from God himself. He does not possess it by nature.

Some people think that grace is only needed for human life to avoid sin or be converted from sin. This is true. But before sin, and indeed in heaven where there is no sin, grace is still needed. Before the first sin, Adam and Eve enjoyed an intense intimacy with God and understood themselves and all creation as a result of a gift from God. They needed mercy then because they could not desire heaven without a gift from God. This was despite the fact that there was no sin. No finite creature can arrive at the infinite by his own power.

Adam and Eve were created with the ability to experience communion with God and to arrive at heaven because they were created in what we now call sanctifying grace. St. Peter says in his second epistle, “He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you may come to share in the divine nature” (1:4). How does one participate in divine nature as opposed to human nature? As a gift from God, and in redemption He also gives us a plus added to our souls. This plus is a quality which from God’s point of view is infinite, but from our point of view it is finite and created by which we are elevated to a friendship with God. Grace is not just God overlooking sin. It is also not just a help to nature which allows us to do something we could do on our own more easily. It is a true kind of being, a divine being, which not only frees those who receive it from sin, but also make them like God.

Interior Change

The Catholic doctrine of grace thus emphasizes a true interior change in the engraced soul by which the engraced person is elevated to experience a loving conversation with the Trinity and to acquire a supernatural point of view toward the world. Man is not, of course, corrupted and changed into God. The engraced person remains a created being. However, the very nature of his soul receives a quality of life which is divine and allows him to get beyond the vagaries of time to see them from the new perspective of eternity. This can only be the result of divine mercy. In the original creation of Adam and Eve this was a stupendous sign of the love of God.

 

In the condition of original sin God gives an even greater mercy than the original creation of Adam and Eve in grace. To remedy the Fall, God gives His only-Begotten Son, the Word made flesh, to the world so that by His atoning death on the cross He could bring grace back to a wounded human race. This new grace is caused by the grace of Christ (which He himself does not merit as man) in which human nature is now united to God in person. In light of this union, Christ’s human nature becomes the means by which we return to grace. The grace of the union of nature to the person of the Word, called the hypostatic union, is unique to Christ. Yet, in light of it, sanctifying grace is brought back to the world. The grace of Adam and the grace of Christ are the same. They both sanctify, but the grace of Christ also heals.

Art: Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Our spiritual nature comes from God.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sanctifying grace: “Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love” (No. 2000). By this gift, the soul is truly made holy. Though man still has a tendency to sin, this tendency is not efficacious and is certainly not identified with the act of sin. Moreover, because grace is the very life of God in the essence of the soul, man can grow in communion of life with God just as he can grow in communion of life with other human beings.

The presence of this divine indwelling presence in the soul gives the engraced person a completely different perspective on the world. But to experience this — and indeed to persevere to death in the friendship with God this engenders — is not something a person can get or keep by his own power. He must continually pray to God for his aid in doing this. This aid consists in God inspiring the person by enlightening the mind and strengthening the will. This is not an interior quality like sanctifying grace but an exterior aid given constantly by God if the person asks for it. This is called actual grace because by it God inspires the person to live his constant union, and in the case of us who live as redeemed from sin to avoid sin.

The Catechism defines it this way: Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God’s call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God’s interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification” (No. 2000, emphasis in original). Examples of the desire for this grace are the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer such as: “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from evil”; and the scriptural verses which begin most of the hours in the Liturgy of the Hours: “God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.”

Art: John and Peter racing to the tomb on Easter morning – By Burnard

Finally, not only does the Lord sanctify the person by a true sharing in his life, but He also chooses to allow one person to cooperate in the sanctification of another. This is called charismatic grace. This grace, unlike sanctifying grace, is not a quality in the soul and can be possessed without holiness. It may even be active in people in the state of mortal sin, for God is not stymied in giving his gifts by the weakness of His instruments. Examples of ordinary charisms would be the infallibility of the pope and the ability of the priest to consecrate at Mass and forgive sins. Extraordinary charisms are given by God in the times when they are needed and normally are connected to proving the truth of teaching. These are things like preaching, healing, the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues.

The Catechism explains: “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church. There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments. There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning ‘favor,’ ‘gratuitous gift,’ ‘benefit.’ Whatever their character — sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues — charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church” (No. 2003, emphasis in original).

The marvelous and extensive mercy of God demonstrates that the love of God is both like and unlike human love. It is like human love in the sense that it is approval of a good and recognition of a similarity in being between the lover and the beloved. The lover rests in another as pleasing. It is unlike human love because the love of God creates the good and the similarity in what He loves. In the case of all creation, this good is primarily the goodness of existence and action. In the case of man, this likeness goes further. God elevates us to be like Him in knowledge and love and so to be His children. As St. Augustine preached, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

Father Brian Thomas Becket Mullady, O.P., received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) from the Angelicum University in Rome. He is an author, professor, retreat master and preacher and has hosted several series on the EWTN television network.

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Father Brian Mullady is also the author of “Christian Social Order.”

Many in all parts of the world these days are pushing away “established religions” for something, new, attractive and (they hope) better.

Yesterday, I noticed the man in the car behind me sucking on some kind of hose. Further down the road the police pulled him over and gave him a citation.

All around us we can see beheadings, atrocities and all sorts of disorder.

What has given society order, justice and a place we want to live in for the past two thousand years?

Fr. Mallady answers that question.

Thomas Aquinas said that all men seek the future because over time they realize nothing in this world brings them to fulfillment.

Mallady agrees, drawing from Catholic doctrine that says no person can fully realize their potential until they give themselves to others fully as a disinterested gift.

This is also the key teaching of many 12-Step Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Robert Curtis, a life-professed Lay Dominican, gives this quick run-down on Fr. Mallady’s “Christian Social Order.” —

The social doctrine, formed over 19-plus centuries, details the foundation of human life and nature, giving us guidance to form our consciences.

Fr. Mullady states that it is natural for human beings to live in societies. The fundamental nature of society is to foster the common good. The common good, however, is rooted in natural law, i.e. the law of the nature of things, and is not subject, by reason, to mere whim. This means, according to Church teaching, that an objective truth lay at the heart of social interaction.

Fr. Mullady traces the decline of objective truth in its various manifestations from the Enlightenment through the modernist period through to our present day. As an example, he writes, “The beginning of the 20th century also saw the full implications of the denial of personal responsibility which was heralded by Sigmund Freud in his discovery of neurosis. Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis sounded the death knell for the responsibility of the personal conscience in moral actions since it basically attributed moral behavior to a series of unconscious forces which ranged from repressed sexuality to the death wish.”

This problem literally surrounds us, in education, work, and especially in the news, and, as we can see, Fr. Mullady has named names.

One of our biggest problems today is that this denial of personal responsibility is partly responsible for radical change in the view of the human person as a unique individual to the mechanistic view that the human being is but a cog in a machine. With that, we have collectivism, or the centralizing of control over economics (i.e. over-regulation) and social action (i.e. welfare, healthcare, etc.). We can see this in all facets of our society. Because the Church teaches that the human person is created in the image of God – imago dei – and that all dignity is derived from Him, this modernist and post-modernist view is directly contrary.

Fr. Mullady also points out that the denial of personal responsibility has led us to a wrongful view of the conscience. A mechanistic view means that our consciences are formed merely by necessity, expediency, and what is useful. Absolute truth fades away and the whole society shudders. Abortion becomes the norm. Those of us who do believe, find our consciences bound to the truth which the Church teaches. Our natural freedom has allowed us the free-choice to follow the truth and avoid the free-for-all.

One really interesting find in Fr. Mullady’s book is the foundation of the idea of inalienable rights as illustrated in the Declaration of Independence. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine wrote a work called De Laicis in which he posited that power in government comes from the people and its authority is only actual if agreed upon by the people. This work was quoted in a book by a proponent of the divine right of kings as an argument. The passage from Bellarmine was underlined in the book and found in Thomas Jefferson’s personal library.

Fr. Mullady further discusses right and rights as part of the social order and then he turns Church teaching toward the actual practice in a magnificent defense of marriage.

A great and clear read.

http://www.catholicsun.org/2015/07/20/books-christian-social-order-the-authority-of-the-churchs-teaching/

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JANUARY 2016, Friday, 2nd Week in Ordinary Time
CHOOSING OUR COLLABORATORS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 SM 24:3-21; Ps 56:2-4, 6, 11; Mk 3:13-19

In the gospel, we read how “Jesus went up into the hills and summoned those he wanted.”  It was time for Him to form a community of disciples and collaborators for the mission.  He knew that He could not accomplish this mission all by Himself.  Thus, in order to grow the community and ensure that the mission would continue even after His death, He chose the twelve apostles.  As leaders too, we need collaborators.  Leaders cannot achieve much when they work alone, because we are limited in many ways.  The question is, how do we choose our collaborators?  What criteria should we use for selecting people to help us achieve our goals?

Right from the outset, before we can even think of choosing our collaborators, the leader must be clear about himself and what he wants to offer to his people.  He cannot be a leader unless he has a clear vision and a powerful message and mission.  Jesus was a visionary.  He wanted to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.   He wanted to bring all men into one big family of God.  His message was simple; that God loves us and has reconciled us to Himself. This love and mercy of God would be demonstrated by the miracles of healing, exorcism and most of all, forgiveness.  As leaders, we too must first ask ourselves and clarify for ourselves what is our vision for humanity, and the message that we want to put across; and how this message must be proclaimed more than just by word but by actions.  Without an inspiring vision and a strong message, we would not be able to find any collaborators, for no one is going to waste their time on us.

Secondly, the leader must be willing to empower and delegate.  Finding collaborators is not the same as servants who will carry out our orders and be at our beck and call.  Collaborators are different from servants, as Jesus said in the gospel, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”  (Jn 15:15)  Indeed, the gospel underscores this difference by saying that “they were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils.”  Indeed, Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”  (Jn 15:16)  Collaborators therefore share in the authority and power of Christ to do what He did.

Once the leader is clear about his vision and message, he could then go about finding his collaborators.  In the gospel, Jesus shows us that the most important criterion is not whether they are educated, intelligent, influential, rich or powerful.  Indeed, the motley crowd that He chose to be His apostles included fishermen, tax-collectors, revolutionaries and physicians. They were people of diverse personalities. Thus, let us not be too impressed by externals, remembering that “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  (1 Sm 16:7)  So what are the most important attributes that we should be looking for in a potential collaborator, besides skills and talents?

Firstly, our collaborator must share in our vision, mission and message.  If he or she is not aligned with our vision, nor excited with our mission and message, we cannot make much progress.  Indeed, very often, failure in Church today is caused by a lack of alignment.  Bishops must align themselves with the Holy Father.  Clergy and religious must align themselves with the local bishop.  The laity must align themselves with the parish priest.   Only in this way, sharing in the same vision, mission and message, can we accomplish the task of building the community of Christ’s disciples. In truth, what is happening in our churches is that we are working against each other.  Instead of helping us, our collaborators often work against us. The team players we select must therefore be people who are convinced and excited about the leader’s vision and message.  The disciples of Jesus were indeed enthusiastic about Jesus’ message and vision for humanity.  That was why they left everything to follow Him.

Secondly, our collaborators must be loyal to us.  In the gospel, the text ended with a tone of sadness, for the evangelist recorded that Judas Iscariot was “the man who was to betray him.”   Indeed, a leader cannot succeed when his team members are working against him, betraying his confidence.  A good leader must find those who are loyal to him and can help him to accomplish the mission.  The disciples were ready to die for Jesus and suffer with Him because they were convicted of His mission.  That was the loyalty and fortitude they displayed. St Peter said to the Lord, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”  (Lk 22:33)

David’s absolute loyalty to King Saul was evident although Saul tried to kill him. “David said to Saul, ‘Why do you listen to the men who say to you, “David means to harm you”?  Why, your own eyes have seen today how the Lord put you in my power in the cave and how I refused to kill you, but spared you.’”  He even called Saul, his father.  “O my father, see, look at the border of your cloak in my hand.  Since I cut off the border of your cloak, yet did not kill you, you must acknowledge frankly that there is neither malice nor treason in my mind.  I have not offended against you, yet you hunt me down to take my life.  May the Lord be judge between me and you, and may the Lord avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be laid on you.”

Thirdly, our collaborators must have respect for us if we as leaders are to accomplish our tasks.  When our collaborators or subordinates have no regard for us, they will not listen to whatever we say, much less carry out our instructions.  David held King Saul with deep respect in spite of Saul’s insecurities and wrong judgment of him.  He did not take things into his own hands.  David knew that Saul was the Lord’s anointed and therefore, regardless of what decision Saul made, he had to respect legitimate authority. This explains why at the ordination, the Bishop asks the Ordinand, “Will you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?”   The answer of course is “yes.”   Unfortunately when this promise is merely a lip service and not from the heart, that collaborator will not work with him but for himself.  But David was so respectful of Saul that he even felt remorse for cutting a piece of the royal robe from Saul as it was tantamount to disrespect for his office. “Afterwards David reproached himself for having cut off the border of Saul’s cloak.  He said to his men, ‘The Lord preserve me from doing such a thing to my lord and raising my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord.’  David gave his men strict instructions, forbidding them to attack Saul.”

Fourthly, our collaborators must be people who are magnanimous, sincere and forgiving.  This was the case of David when even Saul acknowledged that he had what it takes to be a good king and shepherd.  Saul said to David, “You are a more upright man than I, for you have repaid me with good while I have repaid you with evil.  Today you have crowned your goodness towards me since the Lord had put me in your power yet you did not kill me. When a man comes on his enemy, does he let him go unmolested?  May the Lord reward you for the goodness you have shown me today.  Now I know you will indeed reign and that the sovereignty in Israel will be secure in your hands.”  When our collaborators lack forgiveness, generosity and sincerity in their hearts, they will not be able to command others.  Those who are vindictive, insecure and violent, like King Saul, will only destroy what we seek to build and create enemies.  Good leaders must be like David, ever ready to let go, forgive, to seek dialogue, peace and reconciliation.

Finally, a good collaborator must be a team player.  Indeed, Jesus deliberately chose a diverse group of apostles because He needed the different skills and talents for the mission.  But because team members come with different skills, talents and temperament, the greatest challenge of a leader is to foster unity and alignment among themselves.  Helping and getting the members of the team to work in unison with each other for the common good and for the greater good, remains the most daunting task of a leader.  Often our team members work for themselves and allow their ego to get the better of them.  Such competition and egoistic outlook bring about division.  Thus, in looking for a good collaborator, we look for one who is humble, gracious, receptive and able to work as a team.

How, then, can leaders ensure that their team members remain cohesive, united and aligned at all times?  The key is for the leader to be with them, sharing his vision, message and mission.  This was what Jesus did.  Before He sent them out, He first called them to be with Him, to be His companions, so that as a leader, He will know their strengths and weaknesses; and conversely, the disciples will know His heart and mind intimately.  Leaders therefore must always be with their collaborators, sharing with them their vision and mission so that as the gatekeeper of the vision, this passion for the mission will stay alive.  Spending time with each other, building communion, being together in prayer, in play and in work is important to build communion, trust, fraternal love and support for each other. Only then can we become a potent force in bringing about transformation in society.   Hence, success is dependent on whether we have a good leader with vision and passion, and a good team of collaborators to carry out the mission.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 4, 2015 — We Put Ourselves into God’s Hands and Receive the Holy Spirit

August 3, 2015

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest
Lectionary: 408

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Art: Jesus Walking On The Water By Norbert Mcnulty

Reading 1 NM 12:1-13

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on the pretext
of the marriage he had contracted with a Cushite woman.
They complained, “Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks?
Does he not speak through us also?”
And the LORD heard this.
Now, Moses himself was by far the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam,
“Come out, you three, to the meeting tent.”
And the three of them went.
Then the LORD came down in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.
When both came forward, he said,
“Now listen to the words of the LORD:Should there be a prophet among you,
in visions will I reveal myself to him,
in dreams will I speak to him;
not so with my servant Moses!
Throughout my house he bears my trust:
face to face I speak to him;
plainly and not in riddles.
The presence of the LORD he beholds.Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?”So angry was the LORD against them that when he departed,
and the cloud withdrew from the tent,
there was Miriam, a snow-white leper!
When Aaron turned and saw her a leper, he said to Moses,
“Ah, my lord! Please do not charge us with the sin
that we have foolishly committed!
Let her not thus be like the stillborn babe
that comes forth from its mother’s womb
with its flesh half consumed.”
Then Moses cried to the LORD, “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 6CD-7, 12-13

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense;
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned;
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
That you may be justified in your sentence,
vindicated when you condemn.
Indeed, in guilt was I born,
and in sin my mother conceived me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not off from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

AlleluiaJN 1:49B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 14:22-36

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side of the sea,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret.
When the men of that place recognized him,
they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought to him all those who were sick
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak,
and as many as touched it were healed.

Or MT 15:1-2, 10-14

Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?
They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”
He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand.
It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man;
but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”
Then his disciples approached and said to him,
“Do you know that the Pharisees took offense
when they heard what you said?”
He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted
will be uprooted.
Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.
If a blind man leads a blind man,
both will fall into a pit.”

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Commentary on Matthew 14:22-36 From Living Space

As soon as the people had been filled with the food that Jesus gave them, Jesus packs his disciples off in the boat to the other side of the lake. He sends the crowds away and then retreats to the mountain to pray all by himself.

We know from John’s account that the people wanted to make him a king. If Jesus wanted to take control of the crowd this was the moment; they were ready to follow enthusiastically. Jesus was indeed their king but not the kind they were expecting. He would draw the crowds to him in a very different way, hanging in shame on a cross.

It looks too as if he did not want his disciples to get any wrong ideas either. They must have been elated at their role in the extraordinary event of feeding more than 5,000 people. So, perhaps with a lot of grumbling, they are sent off even before the excited crowds have dispersed.

As they make their way across the lake in this dark mood, things get even worse. They run into a big storm and their boat is being tossed about like a cork. Then, out of the darkness, between 3 and 6 in the morning hours, they see Jesus approaching them across the water. Far from being delighted, they are terrified out of their wits. Superstitious men that they are, they think it is a ghost. Ghosts were very much a part of their world.

Words of encouragement come across the water: “Courage! It is I [Greek, ego eimi, ‘ego ‘eimi] = I AM]. Do not be afraid.” Jesus gives himself the very name of Yahweh; this is all the reassurance they need. Their God is with them.

Only in Matthew’s account of this story do we have Peter’s reaction. “Lord, if it really is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”

“Come!”

Peter gets out of the boat and goes towards Jesus. It is an act of love and faith/trust. But not quite enough. The power of the wind and waves gets stronger than his desire to be with Jesus. He begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” Jesus lifts him up, “How little faith/trust you have!”

As soon as Jesus and Peter get into the boat, there is a complete calm.

The rest of the disciples are overwhelmed: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

We have here behind this story an image of the early Church, of which the boat and the disciples are a symbol. The surrounding water is the world and the wind and waves, the forces which threaten the tiny community. Jesus seems to be far away but he is not and he appears in the midst of the storm. Once he steps inside the boat, there is calm, not only because the surrounding storm has stopped but also because of the peace which the awareness of Jesus’ presence gives.

There is an added element in this story in that Peter, the leader of the community, comes hand in hand into the boat with Jesus. In time, the authority of Jesus will be passed over to him.

There is also, of course, in the calming of the storm an indication of Jesus’ real identity, expressed in the awe-filled words of the disciples, “Truly, you are the Son of God”, echoing Jesus’ own statement of “I AM”.

There is a brief epilogue at the end of our passage. The boat reaches the area of Gennesaret. The name refers either to the narrow plain, about four miles long and less than two miles wide on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee, north of Magdala, or to a town in the plain. Significantly for the work that Jesus was about to do, the plain was considered a garden land, fertile and well watered.

As soon as Jesus reaches the shore the crowds again gather in huge numbers especially to have their sick cured. So great was their faith that they asked only to touch the fringe of his garment. All those who did so (in faith) were healed.

Jesus had sent away the crowds earlier probably because of the late hour but also perhaps because of the mood of the crowd which was taking on political overtones not wanted by Jesus.

But now they are back to seek from him what he came to give them: healing and wholeness.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2183g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Today’s Gospel tells us again to keep in mind one of the most often repeated lessons from Jesus: DO NOT BE AFRAID.
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The Gospel tells us “Do not be afraid” — but today the saints tell us also to “speak the truth.” These are rare things in the world today. Having a real relationship with God allows us to overcome our fears, ourselves and the drag of our modern society. Be alive and joyful as God expects from us. It seems as if “Do Not Be Afraid” is one of the most frequent messages in the Gospels. Link to some of the other scripture references to do not be afraid:
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If we love God we follow God’s commandments. Once we are doing those things we seek a stronger and stronger personal relationship with Jesus — and everything is OK.
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St. John Vianney is one wonderful saint we can all follow: just work hard and pray. Live simply. He ate small meals and slept on a small cot. Mostly he heard confessions and served as God’s instrument of forgiveness. We should all go to confession more and keep ourselves ‘clean.”
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From Catholic OnLine:
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Accustomed to the most severe austerities, beleaguered by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic manifested a imperturbable patience. He was a wonderworker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity, and he remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

He heard confessions of people from all over the world for the sixteen hours each day. His life was filled with works of charity and love. It is recorded that even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word. He died August 4, 1859, and was canonized May 31, 1925.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=399

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Thomas Merton: You should want to be a saint.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is — to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. Every one can do just enough to get by. It’s not hard.

But many of us are challenged to do more….

One of our favorite stories of Thomas Merton is here:

See also:

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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The Gospel today describes the difficult and tiresome crossing of the sea of Galilee in a fragile boat, pushed by a contrary wind. Between the discourse of the Parables (Mt 13) and of the Community (Mt 18), there is once again, the narrative part (Mt 14 to 17). The discourse of the Parables calls our attention again on the presence of the Kingdom. Now, the narrative part shows the reactions in favour and against Jesus provoked by that presence. In Nazareth, he was not accepted (Mt 13, 53-58) and King Herod thought that Jesus was a sort or reincarnation of John the Baptist, whom he had murdered (Mt 14, 1-12).
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The poor people, though, recognized in Jesus the one who had been sent by God and they followed him to the desert, where the multiplication of the loaves took place (Mt 14, 13-21). After the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus takes leave of the crowd and ordered the disciples to cross the lake, as it is described in today’s Gospel (Mt 14, 22-36).
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• Matthew 14, 22-24: To begin the crossing asked by Jesus. Jesus obliges the Disciples to go into the boat and to go toward the other side of the sea, where the land of the pagans was. He goes up to the mountain to pray. The boat symbolizes the community. It has the mission to direct itself toward the pagans and to announce among them the Good News of the Kingdom also, which was the new way of living in community. But the crossing was very tiring and long. The boat is agitated by the wave, because the wind is contrary. In spite of having rowed the whole night, there is still a great distance left before reaching the land.
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Much was still lacking in the community in order to be able to cross and go toward the pagans. Jesus did not go with his disciples. They had to learn to face together the difficulties, united and strengthened by faith in Jesus who had sent them. The contrast is very great: Jesus is in peace together with God, praying on the top of the mountain, and the Disciples are almost lost there below, in the agitated sea.
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• The crossing to the other side of the lake symbolizes also the difficult crossing of the community at the end of the first century. They should get out of the closed world of the ancient observance of the law toward the new manner of observing the Law of love., taught by Jesus; they should abandon the knowledge of belonging to the Chosen People, privileged by God among all other peoples, for the certainty that in Christ all peoples would be united into one Only People before God; they should get out from isolation and intolerance toward the open world of acceptance and of gratitude. Today also, we are going through a difficult crossing toward a new time and a new way of being Church.
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A difficult crossing, but which is necessary. There are moments in life in which we are attacked by fear. Good will is not lacking, but this is not sufficient. We are like a boat faced with the contrary wind.
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• Matthew 14, 25-27: Jesus comes close to them but they do not recognize him. Toward the end of the night, that is between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus goes to meet the Disciples. Walking on the water, he gets close to them, but they did not recognize him. They cried out in fear, thinking that it was a ghost. Jesus calms them down saying: “Courage! It is me! Do not be afraid!” The expression “It is me!” is the same one with which God tried to overcome the fear of Moses when he sent him to liberate the people from Egypt (Ex 3, 14). For the communities, of today as well as for those of yesterday, it was and it is very important to be always open to novelty: “Courage. It is me!. Do not be afraid!”
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• Matthew 14, 28-31: Enthusiasm and weakness of Peter. Knowing that it is Jesus, Peter asks that he also can walk on the water. He wants to experience the power which dominates the fury of the sea. This is a power which in the bible belongs only to God (Gn 1, 6; Ps 104, 6-9). Jesus allows him to participate in this power. But Peter is afraid. He thinks that he will sink and he cries out: “Lord, save me!” Jesus assures him and takes hold of him and reproaches him: “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?” Peter has more strength than he imagined, but is afraid before the contrary waves and does not believe in the power of God which dwells within him. The communities do not believe in the force of the Spirit which is within them and which acts through faith. It is the force of the Resurrection (Eph 1, 19-20).
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• Matthew 14, 32-33:Jesus is the Son of God. Before the waves that come toward them, Peter begins to sink in the sea because of lack of faith. After he is saved, he and Jesus, both of them, go into the boat and the wind calms down. The other Disciples, who are in the boat, are astonished and bowed before Jesus, recognizing that he is the Son of God: “Truly, you are the Son of God”. Later on, Peter also professes the same faith in Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Mt 16,16). In this way Matthew suggests that it is not only Peter who sustains the faith of the Disciples, but also that the faith of the Disciples sustains Peter’s faith.
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• Matthew 14, 34-36: They brought all the sick to him. The episode of the crossing ends with something beautiful: “Having made the crossing they came to Gennesaret. When the local people recognized him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all who were sick to him, begging him just to let them tough the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were saved”.
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Personal questions
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• Has there been a contrary wind in your life? What have you done to overcome it? Has this happened sometimes in the community? How was it overcome?
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• Which is the crossing which the communities are doing today? From where to where? How does all this help us to recognize today the presence of Jesus in the contrary waves of life?
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Concluding Prayer
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Keep me far from the way of deceit,
grant me the grace of your Law.
I have chosen the way of constancy,
I have moulded myself to your judgements. (Ps 119,29-30)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE BASIS FOR EXERCISING AUTHORITY WITH CONFIDENCE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: NUM 12:1-13; MT 14:22-36

We know very well that leaders are not perfect.  The decisions that we make will not always please those people that we serve.  Of course, there are times when we will make sincere mistakes.  Even in such situations, we tend to receive harsh criticisms.   This was true of Moses as well.  In spite of his greatness, it seems that Moses made a decision that was displeasing and unacceptable to some members of his community, represented by Aaron and Miriam.  Scholars are not very clear as to why Aaron and Miriam spoke against him.  Perhaps, it was because he divorced his first wife or took a woman from among the Cushites not accepted by the community.

Voicing our unhappiness with the decisions of our superiors in itself is not wrong.  However, when our criticisms are no longer constructive but become personal attacks on their personal integrity and even at their office and authority, then such reactions can no longer be justified.  This could imply that we are no longer objective, and our dissent could spring from jealousy, personal interests or lack of knowledge.  This precisely was the real mistake committed by Miriam and Aaron. They became vicious in their opposition against Moses and said things against him in a disparaging manner, “Has the Lord spoken to Moses only? Has he not spoken to us too?”  Passing this remark was tantamount to challenging the appointment of Moses by God as the leader of the community and even doubting the wisdom and sovereignty of God’s choice.

So the Lord called three of them to the Tent of Meeting.  But it was not meant to be a meeting to discuss the problem.  Rather, it was a meeting to reprimand and punish Miriam and Aaron. God said, “How then have you dared to speak against my servant Moses? The anger of the Lord blazed out against them.  He departed, and as soon as the cloud withdrew from the Tent, there was Miriam a leper, white as snow!”  Ironically, instead of isolating Moses from the rest of the people, the Lord punished Miriam with leprosy.  In rejecting His appointed leader, they had also rejected the authority of God in the final analysis.

What then should we do in the face of opposition to our authority?  Like St Peter who lost his self-confidence in the authority the Lord had given him to walk on the sea, in the face of the storms in our lives, quite often we, too, are shaken in the office we hold because of difficult and unpleasant criticisms.  How can we remain firm and confident, upholding the office the Lord has given to us?

Firstly, we can learn something from Moses.  We must remain calm and humble.  The first reading told us “Moses was the most humble of men, the humblest man on earth.”  To be humble does not mean that we are spineless.  Meekness is to be calm and yet firm in our dealings with people who oppose us.  It also presupposes that we are ready to admit our mistakes, to reconsider our decisions, that we could be judgmental or fail to see the whole problem.  What is significant about Moses was his silence before their charges and accusation.  He did not take things into his own hands.  He must have prayed over it but he did not react with anger and resentment.  He left it to the Lord! 

Secondly, we must pray. That was what Jesus did.  The gospel told us “after sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray.” Jesus must have felt the need to discern and to take direction from His Father in the prospect that the people wanted to make Him king.  We, too, must pray before we make any decision.  When the work becomes difficult; when, like the disciples, we are “battling with a heavy sea” and “a head-wind”, all the more we must cling on to Jesus.  Prayer helps us to recover our identity as His appointed servants, purify our motives for service and, most of all, through the criticisms, discern His will as to whether it comes from the Lord or from the selfishness of the human heart.

Thirdly, we must realize that all legitimate authority comes from God.  The authority that we exercise is on His behalf and not for ourselves.  That was what God told Aaron and Miriam.  He said, “If any man among you is a prophet, I make myself known to him in a vision, I speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses: he is at home in my house; I speak with him face to face,    plainly and not in riddles, and he sees the form of the Lord. How then have you dared to speak against my servant Moses?”  Indeed, the sin of Aaron was a misplaced disloyalty, questioning the unique position of Moses.  He was chosen by God, not by men!  This is what differentiates our appointment from the secular world.  They are chosen by popularity, credentials, qualifications, and by their fellowmen.  As such, they can be deposed from their office if they are found to be disagreeable or when they fall out of favour.  The Sacrament of Holy Orders particularly, is by divine election; not by human choice.  No one can demand to hold an office except when the community discerns it as coming from God’s choice.

Once we have these dispositions, we can then consider how we should respond to our detractors.  When we are confident that it is the Lord who bestows the authority on us, we can afford to be more forgiving and compassionate with those who do not understand our position.  We must forgive those who, in their folly, have misjudged us.  The magnanimity of Moses is seen in the prayer he interceded on behalf of Aaron and Miriam who turned against him.  “Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God,’ he said ‘please heal her, I beg you!’”  One of the most important qualities of a leader is to forgive those who hurt him and be humble sufficiently to ask for forgiveness as well.

Secondly, as leaders, we must be people who encourage those who have failed us, especially those who have been judgmental towards us.  Jesus was sympathetic with Peter and the disciples.  When the disciples were terrified and cried out in fear, “at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I!  Do not be afraid.’” When Peter lost faith “as soon as he felt the force of the wind…and began to sink” he cried, “Lord!  Save me!” Jesus “put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’  And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.”  Jesus knew that they needed time to come to realization that He is truly the Son of God.  Let us be patient with our detractors and slanderers.  When God enlightens them and makes them aware of their selfishness or ignorance, they will repent and change their attitude towards us.

Finally, we must pray for those who oppose us. Just as Moses pleaded for Aaron and for Miriam, we too mustleave judgment to the Lord.  Moses prayed for the one who challenged him and asked God to bless his oppressors. We can be sure that God will honor His servant in the face of challenges and troubles. By praying for our enemies, we will become less resentful, more compassionate and understanding.  If not, we might nurse grudges and hurts in our encounters with them, leading to vindictiveness and hatred.  This will make us lose all objectivity and eventually lose the moral authority to lead on behalf of God. Yes, we must pray for calmness and a detached objectivity to the decisions that we make for those under our care.

In this way, we can become fearless and compassionate leaders, serving without vested interest, conscious only that we are exercising authority on behalf of God for the good of the community.  God who appoints us for the office will ensure that He gives us the necessary graces to accomplish His task, so long as we are receptive and docile to His grace.  Like St Paul we should also pray, “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:3-6)

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St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars
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St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars and patron saint of priests, is well known for being a confessor who could see into others’ souls and for taking great penances upon himself for the conversion of sinners. Less known, though, is his wisdom. John Vianney may have had difficulties learning Latin and passing his seminary exams, but he preached beautiful insights:

“To approach God you should go straight to Him, like a bullet from a gun.”

“Prayer is the conversation of a child with his Father.  Of a subject with his King.  Of a servant with his Lord.  Of a friend with the Friend to whom he confides all his troubles and difficulties.”

“A pure soul is with God, as a child with its mother.  The child caresses and embraces her, and its mother returns all its endearments.”

“Just as a mother holds her child in her hands to cover it with kisses, so does God hold the devout person.”

“Our Lord takes pleasure in doing the will of those who love him.”

“God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

“You must accept your cross.  If you bear it courageously it will carry you to heaven.”

“Here is a rule for everyday life: Do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”

And as we turn now towards the Eucharist, let us keep this final thought in mind: “To content his love, God must give Himself to us separately, one by one.”

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For many years, around 300 people would travel by train each day to a small town of 230 people. Why did they come? They came because they sought the mercy and counsel of Christ in the confessional of John Marie Vianney. Why did Father John 12 to 17 hours a day sitting in his confessional? He was there because he believed that this sacrament was that important.

Today we often hear people say, “Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest when I can just pray to God directly? It’s like the complaint of Aaron and Miriam in the first reading,  “Is it though Moses alone that the Lord speaks?”

Jesus, in the upper room, breathed on his apostles and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Did Jesus give them this authority and power for no purpose at all?

Jesus gave us the sacrament of reconciliation because we need it. Confession prevents my sins from just being between me and myself. It prevents me from making mountains into molehills, and molehills into mountains. It allows me to know with absolute confidence that this sin of mine is forgiven forever. When we go to confession we acknowledge the Incarnation, that Christ redeemed us in His flesh, not merely by composing a prayer to the Father.

If you are too shy to admit your sins to a priest, who won’t know who you are, and couldn’t tell another soul even if he did, then what makes you think you will have the poise to stand face to face with Christ at the judgment?

When Miriam and Aaron sinned, they turned for mercy to the Lord’s servant, Moses, and their sin was healed. If you have neglected confession, please come. There is mercy, peace, and God’s help awaiting you.

If you already go to confession with some frequency, then please offer a penance today for the conversion of sinners. St. John Vianney did penances for conversions because he was convinced that it made a difference.

In the Gospel we heard that every sick person who came and touched Jesus’ cloak was healed, but those sick people first had to be brought to Jesus. Help carry them.

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There are many delightful and worthwhile books to help us “get to know” St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars
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Jesus Christ’s Holy Mass

“The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.” —St. Thomas Aquinas

“Man should tremble, the world should vibrate, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” —St. Francis of Assisi

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” —St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

“One single Mass gives more honor to God than all the penances of the Saints, the labors of the Apostles, the sufferings of the martyrs, and even the burning love of the Blessed Mother of God.” —St. Alphonsus Liguori

“All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.” —St. John Vianney

“If the Angels could envy, they would envy us for Holy Communion.” —St. Pope Pius X

“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you–for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart.” —St. Thérèse of Lisieux

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