Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 26, 2017 — Never Give Up!

July 25, 2017

Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 397

Reading 1 EX 16:1-5, 9-15

The children of Israel set out from Elim,
and came into the desert of Sin,
which is between Elim and Sinai,
on the fifteenth day of the second month
after their departure from the land of Egypt.
Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel
grumbled against Moses and Aaron.
The children of Israel said to them,
“Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt,
as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!
But you had to lead us into this desert
to make the whole community die of famine!”

Then the LORD said to Moses,
“I will now rain down bread from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow my instructions or not.
On the sixth day, however, when they prepare what they bring in,
let it be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Tell the whole congregation
of the children of Israel:
Present yourselves before the LORD,
for he has heard your grumbling.”
When Aaron announced this to the whole assembly of the children of Israel,
they turned toward the desert, and lo,
the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud!
The LORD spoke to Moses and said,
“I have heard the grumbling of the children of Israel.
Tell them: In the evening twilight you shall eat flesh,
and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread,
so that you may know that I, the LORD, am your God.”

In the evening quail came up and covered the camp.
In the morning a dew lay all about the camp,
and when the dew evaporated, there on the surface of the desert
were fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground.
On seeing it, the children of Israel asked one another, “What is this?”
for they did not know what it was.
But Moses told them,
“This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 78:18-19, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28

R. (24b) The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
They tempted God in their hearts
by demanding the food they craved.
Yes, they spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the desert?”
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Yet he commanded the skies above
and the doors of heaven he opened;
He rained manna upon them for food
and gave them heavenly bread.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
Man ate the bread of angels,
food he sent them in abundance.
He stirred up the east wind in the heavens,
and by his power brought on the south wind.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.
And he rained meat upon them like dust,
and, like the sand of the sea, winged fowl,
Which fell in the midst of their camp
round about their tents.
R. The Lord gave them bread from heaven.

Alleluia

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

Gospel MT 13:1-9

Image result for jesus near the sea, art

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

26 JULY, 2017, Wednesday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

SURRENDERING TO THE MYSTERY OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 16:1-59-15Ps 78:18-19,23-28Mt 13:1-9]

In the first reading, we read of the trials of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sin.  They had left Egypt for 45 days, wandering in the desert.  The provisions would have run out and thus they “began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.”  In their frustrations they began to exaggerate how good their life was in Egypt.  They said, “Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!”

Before we condemn them, it is important to put ourselves in their shoes. Life in the desert was certainly not easy.  They had to combat the extreme heat and cold and strong winds.  They had to look for water.  Nothing can grow in the desert.  The land is rocky and sandy.  They had to protect themselves from wild beasts and from peoples from other tribes.  So leaving the sheltered life in Egypt and going to a land of nowhere must have been extremely trying for them.  They were not too sure when they would ever reach the Promised Land.  At the same time, they had to contend with their daily needs.

We too are often like them.  But their situation is much worse than ours!  We have food, clothing and lodging.  We might not have as much luxury as we want, but most of all, we have our basic needs in life.  Most of us can be gainfully employed if we are not choosy over the work we do.  Health wise, we are quite well taken care of.  We might be able to afford the most advanced medical treatment, but we can get by in our sickness.  Yet, we are also not happy.  Whether we are earning lots of money, having a great career, we remain dissatisfied, always lamenting and comparing.   Rich or poor, healthy or sick, famous or ordinary, smart or average, we are never happy.  We are envious of others and we want more and more.  When we get what we want, we desire something more.   We are never contented.  This is the reality of life.  This was the case of the Israelites.  They asked for water and that was given.  They asked for bread and it was also given.  Then they asked for meat, which was also given.  But they remained a people that were always grumbling, complaining and testing the patience of Moses and the Lord.

Indeed, we often lament why our life is this way and not that way.  The parable of the Sower in today’s gospel illustrates the mystery of the grace of God.  The sower sowed the seeds.  Unfortunately, not all the seeds fell at the right place.  Some “fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away.  Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”  Indeed, the question is, why did not all the seeds fall on good soil.  If they did, then all the seeds would have attained their ends, which is to grow and to flourish.

The parable of the Sower and the seeds tells us that life is a mystery.  It is but the grace of God.  Why some seeds fell on poor ground and some on good ground is not for us to ask.  It just happens and this is not within our control.  Why are our children not as smart as others?  Why is it that the other person who is less capable or intelligent promoted over me?  Why am I not born into a rich family?  Why am I not given the opportunities to further my studies or career?  Why am I born with poor health?  These are questions that we often ask but these are vain questions as there is no answer.  God has made us all different kinds of soils.  He gives His seed, that is, His grace, equally to all.  So it is about the soil, which is us.

In the final analysis, regardless whether we are the path, the rocky ground, a patch of thorns or fertile soil, we can make the best of the situation we are in.  It is self-defeating and destructive to adopt an attitude of envy and resentment at the situation we are in. Whining and lamenting over the so-called disadvantages of life will get us nowhere except make us vindictive and self-pitying. Such attitudes towards life will not make us grow.

Hence, we are called to turn our disadvantages into moments of opportunities and grace.  Those of us who are born on the path, the edge of society, can rise above others because we know what it is to be marginalized.  That should help us to struggle against where we are so that when we are able to get out of the situation, we too can help those who are on the margins of society.   Similarly, if we are that rocky patch, hardened by life’s suffering and trials, we need not be closed to the grace that comes from God and the many opportunities in life that people offer us. Rather, we should use the bad experiences of life, the failures, the mistakes and the injustices we have suffered to help us reach out to others who are still hardened to the grace of God.  And if we come from the thorny patch of life, choked by the burden of responsibilities, the demands of daily life and our work, the temptations of the world to dishonesty, power, wealth and glory, then we should make use of these thorns that choke us to make us see life in perspective.  When we feel choked, we should free ourselves from these thorns by finding what the essentials of life are and what the real happiness that we are seeking in life is all about.

Conversely, it does not mean that only those who are blessed with fertile soil can produce good harvest. In fact, quite often, those blessed with opportunities, talents, wealth and resources take them for granted.  They do not recognize the blessings that they receive.  It is just like the Israelites.  They prayed for food and God sent them manna.  “And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp: in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp.  When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground.”  Observe their reaction to the miracle.  They “said to one another, ‘What is that?’ not knowing what it was.  ‘That’ said Moses to them ‘is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.’”  They failed to recognize the grace of God when it was given. This is the tragedy of life.

Truly, we are called to surrender our lives to the Lord.  As the Lord said, “Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens.  Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not.”  The Lord wants to test whether we will follow His ways, trust in His divine providence, and stay focused.  The Lord is not deaf to our pleas.  He knows our pains and our struggles.  But He wants us to let Him be the Lord of our lives.  We should not presume that we have the last word and are able to manage our lives without Him.  They did not trust Him.  “In their heart they put God to the test by demanding the food they craved.  They even spoke against God.  They said: ‘Is it possible for God to prepare a table in the desert?”  Hence, “the Lord spoke to Moses and said, ‘I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel.  Say this to them, ‘Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content.  Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.’”

To trust in the Lord is to let the Lord be our God!  The psalmist urges us to rely on the goodness of God instead of putting Him to the test.  “Yet he commanded the clouds above and opened the gates of heaven.  He rained down manna for their food, and gave them bread from heaven. Mere men ate the bread of angels.”  God has given us Jesus the bread of life, the bread from Heaven.   This is the greatest blessing we can have.   Jesus shows us the way to live a life of fecundity, by giving ourselves in love and service to others and by walking in faith and in obedience to the Father’s will.  We too can share in this life if we follow Jesus, cooperating with God’s grace as He did, walking by faith and not by sight.

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

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Bible Gateway: Parable of the Sower
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The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers.
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Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so much pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully.
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So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground. Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon, who do not profit by it.
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They are told of free salvation, of the believer’s privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Saviour, or the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance.
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But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system. Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned, Heb 6:8.
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Worldly cares are great hinderances to our profiting by the word of God.
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The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed. What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites.
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Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns;but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit. The sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God’s word; and let us look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are. (Mt 13:24-30)
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 Freedom in Christ: Parable of the Sower
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In this parable, one observes four different conditions associated with the soil of the land.
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In essence, Jesus is calling attention to the condition of one’s heart, which determines one’s receptivity to the truths of God. Jesus wants His listeners to listen with receptive hearts. The design of this parable is intended to illustrate the causes of rejection and acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God.
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Jesus drew upon an agricultural image in order to convey why some would reject and others would accept His teachings. It is through this parable that Jesus draws attention to His own ministry. In this parable the soil represents the various conditions of the human heart.
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One objective of this study is to draw attention to the “now” as well as to the “then.” The question that confronts every believer is: How can Christians relate this parable to their own lives?
Every individual should search his or her heart for an examination of the following question: How do you relate yourself in your study of the various conditions in the sowing by the sower? What kind of soil is your mind?
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Commentary on Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15

Give us this day our daily bread…and meat.

Anyone who has ever led a large group of people through unfamiliar territory is sure to have heard complaints — often over trivial matters — from some or even many members of the group. The complaining can quickly sour relationships and provoke the leader to regret that he or she took the group away in the first place.

The complaining is loud and clear in this Exodus passage. Moses, Aaron and God get an earful. For us as readers, it is tempting to adopt the position of story outsider and treat the complaining as whiners, condemning the Israelites as faithless.

No one likes listening to complaint. Individuals in power or in the majority can often choose to ignore a complaint, dismiss it as mere whining, or punish the complainant. In contrast, to listen to a complaint involves seeing the world from another’s position and hearing a call to act.

Thus, to condemn the Israelites for complaining in Exodus 16 would be to introduce a judgment that the text itself does not make, sending the message that complaint has no place in life with God.

This, of course, is not true. The laments in the Book of Psalms give voice to the human experience of abandonment, suffering, fear, and danger. The laments call upon God to see, arise, and act (e.g., Psalm 10, 13, 89). In the Book of Job, Job rejects an attitude of resignation toward his suffering. Instead, he unleashes a lengthy and detailed complaint against God’s treatment of the righteous and God’s management of the world. From the cross, Jesus cries out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1).

At its core, complaint is a turning to God — not away — trusting that God the Almighty does not ignore, dismiss or punish those who call out in fear, anger, suffering, and need.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites are beginning their second month of wilderness walking (16:1) following their deliverance from Egypt. The dangers of the wilderness are real — the Israelites have already faced thirst (Exodus 15:22-25), now hunger, and later they will face attack (Exodus 17:8-13). They do not exaggerate their predicament. They are no longer part of the system of labor that fed them in the past. They cannot supply their own needs. They are hungry. Their situation is dire and there is no visible way out.

The complaint that there is no food, the fear of the present, and the longing to be back in an earlier time are not constrained to the pages of Exodus. The situation is the same for the world’s poor today, and they are joined by increasing numbers of people losing homes, jobs, health care, pensions, dignity, property, and savings in the wake of global economic turbulence.

Exodus 16 offers the assurance that the wilderness of want is not a God-forsaken time or place. As Moses instructs Aaron to say to the Israelites: “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining” (16:9).

It must be acknowledged that a complaint does not always contain the best solution. In their complaining, the Israelites declare it would have been better to have died in Egypt than be facing hunger in the wilderness. In recalling Egypt, they think not of death but of food, specifically meat and bread. In their complaint, Egypt sounds like the good life as they remember how they “sat by the fleshpots and ate [their] fill of bread” (16:3). In their real fear for the future, the Israelites look back to Egypt as the way of life that sustained them.

The wilderness is a place of danger and want. It is also a space for learning new ways of relating that are not based on the identity the Israelites had and the life they lived in Egypt.

In Egypt, the Israelites’ lives and service benefitted Pharaoh. In the wilderness, their lives begin to be reordered. In the Sinai Covenant (Exodus 20:1-17) the loyalty of the Israelites is redirected from Pharaoh to Yahweh. Their service no longer benefits Pharaoh but goes towards building a community characterized by integrity, honor, care and compassion.

The wilderness is also the place where the Israelites come to know the God who has demanded and accomplished their release from slavery. In the dispute with Pharaoh, Yahweh claims the Israelites as Yahweh’s own (“Let my people go so that they may worship me” Exodus 9:13). God demonstrates power over humans in defeating Pharaoh and power over creation in delivering the Israelites.

What is unknown as the Israelites exit Egypt is how this powerful God will relate to them in the future. Exodus 16 offers a glimpse of this emerging relationship.

God hears the complaining of the Israelites. God recognizes not only their need for sustenance — daily bread — but their desire for a life beyond scarcity — meat. God responds by sending quail for meat and manna for bread. God proves to be a different type of lord than Pharaoh.

What an awesome scene as the dew lifts and the sun rises: the wilderness ground is covered with a “flaky substance, as fine as frost” (16:14). It is unfamiliar to the Israelites and they are puzzled, perhaps even fearful, as they ask each other: “What is it?” (16:15).

It is, Moses explains, bread from Yahweh given to them. As the Israelites move into their wilderness journey God has found new ways to provide for them. The manna supplied to the Israelites may offer hope to people today that God can and does provide in new and fitting ways in changed and uncharted conditions.

There is another amazing surprise in this passage. As the people “looked toward the wilderness…the glory of the LORD appeared” (16:10). It is not just on a mountaintop or just to Moses and Aaron that God appears.

God is near and listening to those whom we might be tempted to call faithless: those who complain to God because they are hungry, anxious, dislocated, in unfamiliar territory and without a clear plan for the future. There God is present. For them the glory of the LORD is revealed in daily bread…and meat.

https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=354

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 25, 2017 — “The surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” — “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”

July 24, 2017

Feast of Saint James, Apostle
Lectionary: 605

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Art: James & John, Sons of Zebedee – John Chrysostom

Reading 1  2 COR 4:7-15

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 126:1BC-2AB, 2CD-3, 4-5, 6

R. (5) Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing.

Alleluia  SEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 20:20-28

The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons
and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something.
He said to her,
“What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.”
Jesus said in reply,
“You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”
They said to him, “We can.”
He replied,
“My chalice you will indeed drink,
but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
When the ten heard this,
they became indignant at the two brothers.
But Jesus summoned them and said,
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and the great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JULY 2017, Tuesday, St James, Apostle

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REMOVING THE OBSTACLES FROM SEEING AND HEARING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 19:1-29-1116-20DANIEL 3:52-56MT 13:10-17]

Why do some have faith and some don’t?  The same message is given to all and yet not all receive it.  This was the same question St Paul asked. “But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.  But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’” (Rom 10:16-18)  Obviously, therefore faith does not depend on one’s intellectual capacity to grasp the message.  We have as many great scientists, doctors, and political leaders who believe in God, and as many who also do not.

So why do some people believe in God and some do not?  Jesus said, “So in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:  You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing.”  Many see and not perceive; hear and do not understand.  This is inevitable.  That is why some are converted and more convinced of something than another.  Again, as Jesus underscored, faith is not a matter of knowledge that comes from hearing or seeing, but understanding of the heart.

What are the causes that hinder us from perceiving with the heart? We have grown coarse because of sin and the temptations of the world.  The world is consumed by consumerism and ruled by materialism.   It is about satisfying the comforts of the human body.  The world wants immediate gratification of comfort and pleasure.  It cannot wait.  That is why there are so many products in the world that entice the eyes, the minds and the body.  We want to taste, see and experience all the good things of this world.  When we live like animals, merely attending to the insatiable needs of our body, we tend to neglect the Spirit.  We live the life of an animal, eat, work, enjoy and sleep, without real meaning and purpose, now and after death.

We grow coarse also because of routine, both in our religious practices and in our daily life. It is true that daily life is normally a routine but it is different to just go through the routine and not grow in depth in assimilating the richness of what we do every day.   Take the example of those attending mass daily or pray the Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet.   We can go through the routine of saying these prayers and yet not really benefiting from them because it is a routine that we go through.  We do not pause to understand more deeply what we are celebrating or doing each day.  This applies to the other areas of our life as well, be it the practice of customs, mundane tasks at home or work in the office.  Routine practices when not assimilated and reflected upon become a chore and reduce us to an automaton.

Thirdly, we become coarse because of indifference and neglect.  Why do we lose taste for God and for prayer or praying the Word of God?  This is because of neglect.  We begin by missing one Sunday mass, or skipping part of the Liturgy of the Hours and very soon, we will stop going for mass all together and the other pious practices as well.  We do not lose faith overnight.  But indifference sets in when we are no longer connected with God regularly.  So routine practices do have a role in our lives to keep us connected with God and with the meaning of life.  However, as I have said earlier, without deepening our understanding of what we do, they become meaningless and gradually we will fall into neglect and indifference because of a lack of appreciation and understanding.  Clearly, whether it is the temptations of the world, the sin of the flesh, or neglect and indifference or routine and perfunctory practices, when brought together, lead us to become distant from God.

What about those who are dull of hearing?  Today, many are dull of hearing because there is information overload.  There is so much information in the Media that we are simply spoilt for choice and even paralyzed by the plethora of choices.  We do not have time to consume all the information before us.  On the other hand, many of us do not make informed choices on what to read.   We end up reading fake news, sensational news and some are indoctrinated by radical ideologies. No wonder, in spite of mass communication, today there is a communication breakdown because there are simply too many emails to read, too much information to absorb.  As a consequence, whether it is on religious matters or others, people no longer have time to read serious and in-depth reflections.  This explains why Twitter and Instagram have taken over the other platforms of communication.

The second reason why we are dull of hearing is because of pride and intellectualization.  We think that knowing God is a matter of logical argument based on empirical science and experimentation.  At times, the study of theology and knowledge of science can become obstacles to come to know and encounter God.  This is not to say that theology and sciences are not important because they help us to purify our faith in God so that faith will not become a myth or some superstitious belief.  Faith in God must also be reasonable, that is to say, a human way to encounter Him.  But many of us mistake our knowledge of theology and sciences as real knowledge when they are means to encounter the Sacred and the Ultimate of life.  When we seek just to defend our clever arguments to win our case, then Jesus would say to us, “they have shut their eyes for fear they shall see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and be converted and be healed by me.”

The third factor that causes us to shut our ears is because of skepticism due to scandals and impropriety, injustices and mismanagement.  This by far is the most prevalent factor, especially those who have been hurt by religious leaders or believers.  They are bitter with God and with them.  They lose confidence in God and in the institution.  All are seen to be hypocrites, untrustworthy, uncaring, insincere and mercenary.   Indeed, many have left the Church because they have been hurt by the unjust practices of the Church and organizations and most of all, when they do not agree with the Church leaders.   They feel that the Church does not care except for herself, her institutions and structures.

Indeed, if we were to see and hear clearly today, then we must be disposed to seeing and hearing.  Moses told the people to prepare themselves and to consecrate themselves if they want to hear the voice of God.  To consecrate is to set apart all our preoccupations and our ideas, and be docile to the voice of God.  The Lord told Moses, “Go to the people and tell them to prepare themselves today and tomorrow.  Let them wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people.”   But this external purification of oneself must be an expression of the inner disposition of the purity and openness of one’s mind and heart and not something purely external.

Only when the people were prepared, did Moses then lead “the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain.”   To stand at the bottom of the mountain means to be receptive, to be open and to be ready to act when the Word is spoken to them.  This is the kind of disposition needed if we are to hear the voice of God and perceive His presence and instructions.

When God comes, He will not come through logic and theories.  He comes through an event.  As the first reading tells us, He manifests Himself in nature, under the signs of peals of thunder, clouds, smoke and lightning.  Indeed, the reality of God and our conviction of Him will not come from intellectual faith or human wisdom and philosophy but from an encounter with Him in the mysteries of life.  This was why our Lord taught in parables.  “’Because the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them.’”   Parables are not meant to be rationalized or be explained away.  They are meant to enable us to enter into the experience that the parable is seeking to convey.  Only when we can identify with that experience, can we then relate with God who comes to visit us through the daily events of life.  This is what the Lord said, “The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding.”  The problem with many people is that they try to rationalize about God and hence are never able to encounter Him in their daily life.  The understanding that is needed is not of the mind but of the heart.

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

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St. John Chrysostom

John Chrysostom on James and John, the Sons of Zebedee, and their mother’s famous request that her sons sit at Jesus’ right and left in the kingdom.  St. James was born at Bethsaida and was martyred by Herod around the year 42. He is especially honored at Compostela, Spain, where a special church is dedicated in his name (“Santiago”).

The sons of Zebedee press Christ: Promise that one may sit at your right side and the other at your left. What does he do? He wants to show them that it is not a spiritual gift for which they are asking, and that if they knew what their request involved, they would never dare make it. So he says: You do not know what you are asking, that is, what a great and splendid thing it is and how much beyond the reach even of the heavenly powers. Then he continues: Can you drink the cup which I must drink and be baptized with the baptism which I must undergo? He is saying: “You talk of sharing honors and rewards with me, but I must talk of struggle and toil. Now is not the time for rewards or the time for my glory to be revealed. Earthly life is the time for bloodshed, war and danger”.

Consider how by his manner of questioning he exhorts and draws them. He does not say: “Can you face being slaughtered? Can you shed your blood?” How does he put his question? Can you drink the cup? Then he makes it attractive by adding: which I must drink, so that the prospect of sharing it with him may make them more eager. He also calls his suffering a baptism, to show that it will effect a great cleansing of the entire world. The disciples answer him: We can! Fervor makes them answer promptly, though they really do not know what they are saying but still think they will receive what they ask for.

How does Christ reply? You will indeed drink my cup and be baptized with my baptism. He is really prophesying a great blessing for them, since he is telling them: “You will be found worthy of martyrdom; you will suffer what I suffer and end your life with a violent death, thus sharing all with me. But seats at my right and left are not mine to give; they belong to those for whom the Father has prepared them.” Thus, after lifting their minds to higher goals and preparing them to meet and overcome all that will make them desolate, he sets them straight on their request.

Then the other ten became angry at the two brothers. See how imperfect they all are: the two who tried to get ahead of the other ten, and the ten who were jealous of the two! But, as I said before, show them to me at a later date in their lives, and you will see that all these impulses and feelings have disappeared. Read how John, the very man who here asks for the first place, will always yield to Peter when it comes to preaching and performing miracles in the Acts of the Apostles. James, for his part, was not to live very much longer; for from the beginning he was inspired by great fervor and, setting aside all purely human goals, rose to such splendid heights that he straightway suffered martyrdom.

This excerpt from a homily on the gospel of Matthew by Saint John Chrysostom (Hom 65, 2-4: PG 58, 619-622) discusses Saints James and John, the Sons of Zebedee.  It is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the Feast of St. James, Apostle, on July 25 aka Santiago de Compostela.

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/media/articles/sons-of-zebedee-st-john-chrysostom/

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Early Church Fathers of the 5th Century, was born around 347 AD.  St. John became a monk and was ordained a priest to serve the Church in Antioch where his eloquent preaching on the Sacred Scriptures earned him the title of“Chrysostom,” meaning golden-mouthed.”  In 398, Chrysostom was called upon to assume the responsibilities of the Patriarch Archbishop of Constantinople, much to his chagrin.  This reluctant patriarch nevertheless fulfilled his duty with extraordinary energy and courage.  St. John Chrysostom’s call to repentance and moral reform won him the enmity of the nominally Christian Empress who had him deposed and exiled on trumped-up charges.  But his preaching and intrepid boldness inspired the hearts of the people of Constantinople who held him in great affection.  His devotion to the written Word of God was matched by a love of the Eucharist and of divine worship.  To this day, the principal “Byzantine” liturgy celebrated by most Slavic, Greek, and middle-eastern Christians is known as the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.  St. John Chysostom, who died under the harsh conditions of his exile in 407, will always be remembered as one of the greatest of the Early Church Fathers and one of the greatest preachers of all time.  Due to his holiness and beautiful but always practical bible teaching, St. John Chrysostom is regarded as a “Doctor of the Church” by Catholics and one of the three Holy Hierarchs and Ecumenical teachers by Eastern Orthodox Christians.  (bio by Dr. Italy)

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
.• Jesus and the Disciples are on the way toward Jerusalem (Mt 20,17). Jesus knows that he will be killed (Mt 20,8). The Prophet Isaiah had already announced it (Is 50,4-6; 53,1-10). His death will not be the fruit of a blind destiny or of a pre-established plan, but it will be the consequence of the commitment freely taken of being faithful to the mission which he received from the Father together with the poor of the earth. Jesus had already said that the disciple has to follow the Master and carry his cross behind him (Mt 16,21.24). But the disciples did not understand well what was happening (Mt 16,22-23; 17,23). Suffering and the cross did not correspond to the idea that they had of the Messiah.
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• Matthew 20,20-21: The petition of the mother of the sons of Zebedee. The Disciples only not understand but they continue to think about their personal ambitions. The mother of the sons of Zebedee, the spokesperson of her sons John and James, gets close to Jesus to ask for a favour: “Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your Kingdom.”
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They had not understood the proposal of Jesus. They were concerned only about their own interests. This shows clearly the tensions in the communities, both at the time of Jesus and of Matthew, as also we see it in our own communities.
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• Matthew 20,22-23: The response of Jesus. Jesus reacts firmly. He responds to the sons and not to the mother: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? It is a question of the chalice of suffering. Jesus wants to know if they, instead of the place of honour, accept to give their own life up to death. Both answer: “We can!” This was a sincere response and Jesus confirms it: “You shall drink my cup”. At the same time, it seems to be a hasty response, because a few days later, they abandon Jesus and leave him alone at the hour of suffering (Mt 26,51). They do not have a strong critical conscience, and they are not even aware of their own personal reality. And Jesus completes the phrase saying: “But it is not mine to grant that you sit at my right hand and my left, these seats belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father”. What Jesus can offer is the chalice of the suffering of the cross.
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• Matthew 20,24-27: “Among you this is not to happen”. “When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with the two brothers”. The request made by the mother in the name of the sons, causes a heated discussion in the group. Jesus calls the disciples and speaks to them about the exercise of power: “The rulers of nations, you know, dominate over them and the great exercise their power over them. Among you this is not to happen: anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave”. At that time, those who held power had no interest for the people. They acted according to their own interests (cf. Mc 14,3-12).
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The Roman Empire controlled the world submitting it with the force of arms and, in this way, through taxes, customs, etc., succeeded to concentrate the riches through repression and the abuse of power. Jesus had another response. He teaches against privileges and against rivalry. He overthrows the system and insists on the attitude of service which is the remedy against personal ambition. The community has to prepare an alternative. When the Roman Empire disintegrates, victim of its own internal contradictions, the communities should be prepared to offer to the people an alternative model of social living together.
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• Matthew 20,28: The summary of the life of Jesus. Jesus defines his life and his mission: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. In this definition of self given by Jesus are implied three titles which define him and which were for the first Christians the beginning of Christology: Son of Man, Servant of Yahweh and older brother (close relative or Joel). Jesus is the Messiah, Servant, announced by the Prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 42,1-9; 49,1-6; 50,4-9; 52,13-53,12). He learnt from his mother who said: “Behold the servant of the Lord!” (Lk 1,38). This was a totally new proposal for the society of that time.
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Personal questions
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• James and John ask for favours. Jesus promises suffering. And I, what do I seek in my relationship with God and what do I ask for in prayer? How do I accept the suffering that comes to my life and which is the contrary of what we ask in prayer?
• Jesus says: “May it not be like that among you!” Do our way of living in the Church and in the community agree with this advise of Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Then the nations kept saying,
‘What great deeds Yahweh has done for them!’
Yes, Yahweh did great deeds for us,
and we were overjoyed. (Ps 126,2-3)
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Related:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JULY 2016, Monday, St James, Apostle
EARTHENWARE JARS BEARING THE MERCY OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  2 COR 4:7-15; MT 20:20-28 ]

Many of us are happy and excited to follow Jesus in the ministry.  We too are inspired by the life of Jesus who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Like the apostles who followed Jesus in the gospel, we have goodwill and apparently good intentions.  Indeed, in the Church, we have thousands of volunteers giving themselves generously in service, time and resources to the Christian community and society, especially the poor and the underprivileged.

But, often there is much infighting and competition among ministry members and even among priests and religious.  There is jealousy when others do well, or when others are appointed to positions and offices of power. Because of envy there is competition, sometimes leading to slander and backbiting.  This was the case of the apostles in today’s gospel.  Not only were James and John and their mothers seeking glory and power, but so were the other apostles. “When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers.” So we should not be surprised that even within the Christian community, many are also fighting for recognition and power and benefits, even though many claim that they are serving God and the Church freely and without expectations of return.

The truth is that many of us lack self-awareness.  Most of us are sincere in wanting to serve the Lord and His people.  Very few in the ministry render their services with the intention of serving themselves.  But most of us are unaware of our human imperfections and hidden motives. We lack the depth of self-realization. This was true with the apostles.  Clearly, they were not following Christ for His sake and the Kingdom, but for their own personal agenda.  They were seeking for power, security and recognition. They wanted to rule over others in Christ’s Kingdom.  When we search deeply and honestly in our hearts, we, too, are no different from them.  All of us want to be loved, to be known and to have security and freedom.  That is why we seek recognition, power and status.

As Catholics, at times we do not really have a deep spiritual life or a good doctrinal understanding of our faith.  Fresh from RCIA or from a Conversion Experience, we have this deep desire to serve God.  We are enthusiastic but we are quite naïve about who Jesus is to us, the realities of life; the truth about ourselves as sinners; and what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  Doctrinally, many of us are weak in understanding our faith, the teachings of the Church and have only a superficial knowledge of the scriptures.  The disciples were like that before the passion and the resurrection of Christ.  They were still thinking of Jesus as the earthly and political Messiah.  Hence, they held political ambitions.

What is this Kingdom that Jesus is offering to us if not the kingdom of lowliness in the service of truth and love?  In no uncertain terms, the Lord taught, “You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave.”  The kingdom that Jesus preached is not so much an earthly kingdom but a kingdom of love, truth and justice expressed in compassion, lowly and humble service, and selflessness even unto death.  It is to love and care for our brothers and sisters to the end, to the extent of suffering, often unjustly, being misunderstood, unappreciated, misjudged, slandered and rejected by the very people we love and give our lives to.

Many of us are too weak to love in this manner.  In truth, our love is so imperfect.  Our love for others is more like that of the pagans, loving those who love us, serving those who appreciate us.  Even if we have no material motives in service, we seek affective recognition and appreciation.  To love our enemies, to love strangers, to love those who do not love us or cannot repay us is much more difficult.  Most of our so-called Christian love is confined to our loved ones, family members and friends.  But this is not the only kind of love that Jesus is asking of us.  He wants us to love beyond our circle of friends and community.  We are called to reach out to the marginalized, the wounded, the broken, those without friends and those abandoned by society.

Yet, the Lord accepts the fact that we cannot love purely and unconditionally like Him.  He knows we are weak.  Just as He accepted Peter’s inadequate love for Him and his mixed motives in serving Him, He too accepts our limited love.  He does not demand that we either love selflessly or not at all.  He did not give up on the apostles simply because they were jostling for power and status.  Instead, He continued with them on that journey.  The Lord knows, as St Paul says, “We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us.”  The Lord wants to work not through perfect people but through our brokenness and fallen nature.  St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:4f)  Indeed, rather than be scandalized at the sins of priests, religious leaders, lay or clerical, or ministry members and active Catholics, we should give praise to God that in spite of their sinfulness and imperfections, God could use them in some way to give glory to Him and to serve His people.  

God has chosen us weaklings to be His messengers of Divine Mercy so that His glory can shine in and through us.  Only in weakness will we depend on the power of God and recognize our nothingness before Him.  This is what St Paul experienced when he wrote that this is “to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed.”  Until we have tasted the power of God, we will never be able to trust Him or surrender our lives to Him.  Even in ministry, we tend to rely on our powers, ingenuity and knowledge rather than on God.  This explains why few in the ministry really pray, intercede or rely on God’s grace.  It is all about planning, strategy, techniques, organization, except the importance and necessity of prayers!

Secondly, He chose us sinners to be His vessels of divine mercy because only in our sinfulness do we learn humility and compassion.  In the letter of Hebrews, the author wrote, “Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.”  If God has chosen sinners to be His priests and leaders, it is so that we can learn to be more humble and compassionate towards others.  Those who have gone through difficult times or faced tremendous challenges and misfortunes in life will become great evangelizers and proclaimers of God’s mercy when they get out of their difficulties. They will come to understand the power of God and also the helplessness of man with regard to sin and temptation.  Because they are aware of their own sins and weaknesses, they do not condemn others or judge them.  Instead, they will reach out to them, healing them with the healing that they themselves had received.  Conversely those who are self-righteous, arrogant and proud are those who never know the power of God or recognize their finiteness and sinfulness.  They only know how to despise, condemn and judge. 

We must never forget that although we are baptized, we are not yet saints.  We are pilgrims along the way, growing in perfection.  As St Paul says, each day, “we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown.”  Every day is a call for us to die to self a little more, until eventually we, like St James and the other apostles, come to a stage when we are ready to die totally for the Lord, even in martyrdom.  So the path to martyrdom is not an instant decision but a gradual confidence and trust in the Lord, and letting go and letting God take over our lives.

Let us therefore never be afraid of making mistakes in life.  This is a necessary path to growth in virtues, in love and truth.  The only way to learn is to make mistakes.  Like the apostles, we learn as we go along with the Lord.  So if we find ourselves inadequate and imperfect in serving the Lord because of our sins and weaknesses, we must not be too harsh on ourselves.  We should be understanding and compassionate like Jesus towards His ignorant and self-centered apostles.  The only thing that we must not forget is that we need to grow in grace each day.  Whilst we should accept and learn from our mistakes, we must always be humble to fix our eyes on the Lord and seek His grace to grow in holiness, in truth and in love, so that at the end of our lives, we could also say with the psalmist, “When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage, it seemed like a dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, on our lips there were songs.   The heathens themselves said:  What marvels the Lord worked for them!’’  What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad. They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing; they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Homily By Rev. Andrew Eckert
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church
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Wellston, Oklahoma.Are you ready to drink the cup of the Lord?  The cup I am talking about is not a pleasant cup.  It is a cup of suffering.  To drink the cup of Christ is to carry your cross in humiliation, pain, and death.  It is to suffer the loss of your honor.To drink the cup of Christ is to be a slave.  It would be much easier to be a paid servant rather than a slave.  Then there would be some dignity and some recognition of your skills and service.But a slave is lower than low.  A slave might be whipped at the least provocation.  Beat him, take away his food, lock him up in isolation, remove friends and family, remove the pleasures of life.

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Christ Jesus tells you, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

Most people are willing to put in their time of service, even sometimes work hard for others.  But Jesus is not talking about occasional volunteer work.  He has called you to be a slave of all men.

He may also call upon you to be ridiculed and mocked.  He may send all manner of hardship into your life.  He may call upon you to give up your life.

Suffering separates the slave from the willing volunteer.  The slave must be emptied of all pride and self-worth, so that he is only the property of someone else.  There is no labor union for the slave to protest low wages or unsatisfactory work conditions.  The slave only suffers.

This is what you are for whomever God places in your life to serve.  You must be ready to give, ready to be hurt, ready for death itself if necessary, for the sake of Christ.

Those others are not only the nice people in your life.  You are to be a slave also to enemies, the wicked, those whom you do not like, those who annoy you, anyone at all whom Christ calls you to serve.

Who can truly live up to this?  This is a tall order, and a harsh burden.  Your sinful nature shrinks away from that bitter cup.  Your Old Adam might take a sip, but not too much!  Your flesh would rather have some other cup, perhaps the cup of mild irritation or the cup of slight unpleasantness, rather than the cup of suffering.

In fact, Christ only gives you a little of His cup.  Mortal flesh cannot drink too deeply.  Only He could drain it to the last drop upon Calvary, and no one can imagine His agony there.  You do not drink to atone from sin or drain the wrath of God.  You cannot do that.  Yet you must suffer in the image of Christ, if only in a lesser way.

So you need not be too upset if you suffer the loss of your honor and reputation.  No matter how much it is trampled in the dust, you will not descend as far as your Lord descended.

Do not fear the loss of your honor.  Be ready to be humbled, since in this way your honor is actually exalted even more in the Kingdom of God.  But if you desire to appear great in a visible, earthly way, then you shall not be great.

Everywhere Jesus turned things upside down for the disciples.  James and John tried to seek the first and highest place.  But they did not understand what that actually meant.  Jesus gave them what they desired, but in ways they did not expect.  James and John had to learn that the path to glory passes through cross and shame.

We also must learn this lesson.

Your flesh asks, “Where is the joy and comfort and peace of the Christian life if we can expect suffering and shame?” Many fall away from the faith because they cannot endure the pain and dishonor of drinking this bitter cup.  They did not sign on for this religion to carry a cross.  They wanted to escape suffering inside these doors and instead found it waiting for them.  Again, everything is turned upside down.

The true peace and joy are found even in the midst of strife.  It is not a fleshly joy, all giddy and happy, with never a tear.  Christians rejoice in Christ even as they weep.  They are at peace even when torn apart.  Your heart may be broken, yet Christ is your joy.

So be comforted in this, that you participate in Christ’s sufferings.  He chooses you, even you, a sinner, to drink from His own cup.  What sounds like a curse is actually the greatest blessing, for what is higher than to be like Christ?

You cannot earn this likeness to your Lord.  Can you be righteous as He is?  Certainly not!  Can your love equal His?  Can your works outshine the angels themselves for glory?  Hardly!

So when Christ makes you like Him in that you also taste His sufferings, it is not earned.  You do not choose your afflictions, but they are set for you in advance by your Father’s hand.  In this way He treats you like Christ, since He also sent Christ into the flesh to suffer.

Nothing is more central to the life of Christ than His passion and death.  These things He knew even before their unfolding.  He saw the betrayal, the mocking, the flogging, the crucifixion.  He knew the awfulness of His cup, and even prayed that He might not drink it.  Yet He submitted Himself to His Father’s will and drank it to the last drop as He went up to the Cross.

There is the true Slave, making His life expendable, to be struck and whipped and pierced and killed at the whim of sinful men.  In His suffering, He rendered the greatest service ever.  In His Blood, He showed Himself the faithful Slave who serves all mankind.

So the King of the powers above submitted Himself to be despised and spitefully treated.  Not even with this lowliness was He satisfied, but He submitted to death itself, the shameful death of a slave.

He chose the last place and became the first of all – the Firstborn from the dead, the First and the Last, and the Lord of all.  By paying the ransom for you, He became your Lord and King, just as He also paid the ransom for the vast number of all sinners.  Christ paid the price for the rebellion of mankind, who had violated and abused God’s holiness and righteousness.

In other words, it was not for an innocent damsel in distress that Christ died.  It was for His enemies, for you and me.  His life, the life of the Son of God, was exchanged for your life.

The deep descent of one Man has become the lifting up of us all.  When He submitted to pain and torture and crucifixion, His glory shone forth upon you.  Indeed, His majesty did not become less when cruel nails pinned Him to shame and horror and death.  His majesty was seen more clearly than ever there, since by His death He bought for Himself a kingdom, even His beloved Bride.

All glory be to this God of your salvation alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

http://lutheransermon.com/index.php?sn=1772

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 24, 2017 — “We wish to see a sign from you.” — Moses answered the people, “Fear not! Stand your ground!”

July 23, 2017

Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 395

Image result for Pharaoh's whole army his horses chariots and charioteers, bible, art, pictures

Reading 1 EX 14:5-18

When it was reported to the king of Egypt
that the people had fled,
Pharaoh and his servants changed their minds about them.
They exclaimed, “What have we done!
Why, we have released Israel from our service!”
So Pharaoh made his chariots ready and mustered his soldiers
six hundred first-class chariots
and all the other chariots of Egypt, with warriors on them all.
So obstinate had the LORD made Pharaoh
that he pursued the children of Israel
even while they were marching away in triumph.
The Egyptians, then, pursued them;
Pharaoh’s whole army, his horses, chariots and charioteers,
caught up with them as they lay encamped by the sea,
at Pi-hahiroth, in front of Baal-zephon.

Pharaoh was already near when the children of Israel looked up
and saw that the Egyptians were on the march in pursuit of them.
In great fright they cried out to the LORD.
And they complained to Moses,
“Were there no burial places in Egypt
that you had to bring us out here to die in the desert?
Why did you do this to us?
Why did you bring us out of Egypt?
Did we not tell you this in Egypt, when we said,
‘Leave us alone. Let us serve the Egyptians’?
Far better for us to be the slaves of the Egyptians
than to die in the desert.”
But Moses answered the people,
“Fear not! Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory the LORD will win for you today.
These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again.
The LORD himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the children of Israel may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers.”

Responsorial Psalm  EX 15:1BC-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Alleluia  PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 12:38-42

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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24 JULY, 2017, Monday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

FAITH OVERCOMES FEAR AND DOUBT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 14:5-18Ex 15:1-6Mt 12:38-42]

We live our lives in fear.  It is natural to fear for our safety and our needs.  We all have an instinct for survival.  We fear pain, suffering and death.  So in the face of danger, we panic.  When we become anxious and frightened, we become irrational and say or do things without thinking.  This was the case of the Israelites.  We can imagine their fears.  Hence, they began to complain and lament.  “Were there no grave in Egypt that you must lead us out to die in the wilderness?  What good have you done us, bringing us out of Egypt? We spoke of this in Egypt, did we not? Leave us alone, we said, we would rather work for the Egyptians! Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!”  They started to blame Moses and accuse him of leading them to their death.  They even preferred to live in slavery than to suffer in the desert or die in the hands of the Egyptians.

In our straits, we tend to forget all the great things that happened to us before.  How true, in bad times, we forget the good times.  Even in friendship, when there is a misunderstanding, we forget all the other good times we have had.  We cannot forgive the person for the one mistake he has made when he had done many good things for us.  We just pick on the fault, disregarding all the good the person has done.  This is also true in times of adversity.  We begin to doubt His love for us when we are going through difficult times or trials in life.  In good times, we praise and thank God for His love but in bad times, we forget all His blessings.

Fear drives us to hopelessness. But doubt will cause us to be unresponsive.  This was the situation of the scribes and the Pharisees.  They had doubts about Jesus as the Messiah.  “Master, we should like to see a sign from you.”  Again, this request was not unreasonable.  It is necessary that there be signs for credibility before we commit ourselves to belief.  All throughout the scriptures, a true prophet must be able to give signs that his prophecy is from God.  So it was not wrong for them to ask Jesus for a sign that they should believe in Him.

Perhaps, we must ask whether our doubts come from the sincere desire to know the truth or from pride or obstinacy.  This too was the obstinacy of Pharaoh.  “When Pharaoh, king of Egypt, was told that the Israelites had made their escape, he and his courtiers changed their minds about the people. ‘What have we done,’ they said ‘allowing Israel to leave our service?’ So Pharaoh had his chariots in Egypt, each manned by a picked team.  The Lord made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, stubborn, and he gave chase to the sons of Israel as they made their triumphant escape.” He saw the miracles worked by Moses.  He relented and let them go but his pride and ego was hurt.  He could not accept defeat.  So he changed his mind about letting the Israelites go.

God is not against us seeking signs because the act of faith must be responsible. When Jesus remarked, “It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign!”  He was not reprimanding the people for seeking a sign but for their refusal to be receptive and open to the signs that He had given. The religious leaders were not asking for signs for verification but signs to disprove the claims of Jesus.  They came with a closed mind.  They lacked openness, sincerity to find the truth.  Their minds were already made up.

Even in the case of Moses when he demanded faith from the people, he had already given them some signs.  He worked the miracles of the Ten plagues.  But the greatest of all signs was yet to come.  It was the crossing of the Red Sea. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me so? Tell the sons of Israel to march on.  For yourself, raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and part it for the sons of Israel to walk through the sea on dry ground.  I for my part will make the heart of the Egyptians so stubborn that they will follow them.  So shall I win myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, of all his army, his chariots, his horseman.  And when I have won glory for myself, at the expense of Pharaoh and his chariots and his army, the Egyptians will learn that I am the Lord.’”

Jesus too, as the New Moses, had given them signs through His miracles of healing and exorcism.  He had showed them the love and mercy of God.  He is the wisdom of God in person.  “On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”  In other words, He is the true prophet of God.

But the greatest of all signs will be His passion, death and resurrection.  This was already anticipated in the Exodus experience. But it is also given in the sign of Jonah.  “For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.  On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with the generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.” In His passion and resurrection, He is vindicated by the Father as His Son.

So the Lord is not asking us to make an irrational act of faith. The signs have been given.  Now we must make an act of faith to see the fullness of the power of God.  This was what was asked of the Israelites.  “Have no fear! Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you to-day: the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again.  The Lord will do the fighting for you: you have only to keep still.” And God showed His power and fidelity.  Thus the people sang for joy. “I will sing to the Lord, glorious his triumph! Horse and rider he has thrown into the sea! The Lord is my strength, my song, my salvation. This is my God and I extol him, my father’s God and I give him praise. The Lord is a warrior! ‘The Lord’ is his name. The chariots of Pharaoh he hurled into the sea, the flower of his army is drowned in the sea.”

So too by His death and resurrection, Jesus shows forth His glory as He leads us through the waters of baptism, from death to sin and new life in His spirit.   Jesus shows Himself to be the New Moses by His preaching and feeding us with the bread of life.  He conquered sin and death by His victory in the resurrection.  So we are called to have faith in Jesus on account of the resurrection.

What about us?  We have seen all the signs. We have seen how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophets.  We have seen how the apostles witnessed to His resurrection by signs and powers, of healing and exorcism, and most of all the testimony of life, even unto death.  We continue to see His mighty works even in our days.  We see the miracles of the sacraments which bring about effects in our lives.  Hence, we do not live in fear or doubt but in faith in Christ our Saviour. Our faith in Christ is real and well substantiated.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 12:38-42 From Living Space

Today’s passage follows two others, which we have not read. In the first Jesus is accused of doing what he does by the power of Satan. An accusation which he easily shows is self-contradictory and makes no sense. In the second he says that a tree that is rotten inside cannot produce good fruit. Goodness comes from a person’s interior. The words are directed at his accusers whom he more than once accuses of being hypocrites: pious and law-abiding on the outside and full of malice inside.

It is these same people who approach him today. It is difficult to know their mood as they ask Jesus for a sign. Is it a genuine request for Jesus to indicate the source of his authority and power or is it a hostile demand for Jesus to present his credentials?

In response, Jesus first says that “it is an evil and unfaithful (literally, ‘adulterous’) generation that asks for a sign”. Yes, evil and unfaithful, because for anyone with an open mind, Jesus has been giving nothing but signs ever since he began his public life. The ordinary people have been full of praise and amazement at what Jesus is doing and say that “God has visited his people”. But these leaders, blinded by their own prejudice, are even saying that the teaching, exorcisms and healings of Jesus are the work of Satan.

In addition to all this they are going to get an unmistakable sign of who Jesus really is. They will be given the “sign of Jonah”. Just as Jonah spent three days buried in the belly of the sea monster so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. This is a clear reference to Jesus’ resurrection – the conclusive sign of his identity and power.

Mention of Jonah leads Jesus to say that the people of Niniveh who repented after hearing Jonah will fare better at the last judgment than the people that Jesus is speaking with. And Jesus is of far more significance than Jonah.

Similarly, the Queen of the South, that is, the Queen of Sheba, who came from a far distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon will fare better than the unbelieving listeners to Jesus, who is greater by far than Solomon.

We, too, have the privilege of listening to Jesus and we know the sign of his resurrection. Is it not possible that there are many people around us who, not knowing Jesus but following the guidance of their consciences, will find themselves going before us into the Kingdom? Complacency is probably one of our biggest temptations. “I am good enough; I observe the basic requirements of my religion.” Is that all that Jesus expects of me?

Related:

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Reflection on Exodus 14:5-18

Remember: Sanctification is the idea of being set-apart for God. To be pursue holiness as He is holy.

Context: Before we get too far, lets just remember what the scene is here at this point in Exodus:

The people have been in bondage in Egypt for over 400 years.

This bondage was preceded by a season in which Joseph held a high position in Egypt because of his ability to interpret the dreams that the Pharaoh was having. He instructed that there was going to be a big famine and that Egypt should prepare. As a result, the Pharaoh put him as 2nd in command. Israel benefitted from this because this preparation would preserve them during this famine.

Over time the Egyptian dynasty changed, and turned on Israel by putting them into bondage.

Finally, Moses was born. He was to be thrown into the Nile, but instead was adopted into the Egyptian household.

Long story short, Moses was called by God to the instrument to call Pharaoh to release the Israelites. Pharaoh repeatedly said no, and God poured out 10 plagues upon Egypt to change Pharaoh’s heart.

We are now at the point in the story where the people have been set free. They are stepping out on to a NEW JOURNEY with God, but this journey is not going to be a easy “walk in the park” (no pun intended). God will still use some pretty amazing events to grow them in their faith.??

What does your journey look like? If your anything like me, the journey that God has you on hasn’t included any “writing on the wall”, or “burning bush” experiences. Instead it has been a journey of faith where the clarity has been all but clear at times.?

 

Read the rest:

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-journey-chad-finch-sermon-on-exodus-206119?ref=SermonSerps

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore from July 21, 2014
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What is the primary indictment that God made against His people?  It is their ingratitude.  In anguish and deep disappointment, the God of Love and Compassion cried out, “My people, what have I done to you, how have I been a burden to you? Answer me. I brought you out of the land of Egypt, I rescued you from the house of slavery; I sent Moses to lead you, with Aaron and Miriam.”  In His mercy, God saw the miseries of His people and called Moses to lead them out of the slavery of the Egyptians.   Yet in spite of what He had done for them, they turned against Him and worshipped false gods, disobeyed the Covenantal Laws which were given to them so that the People of God could live in peace and harmony based on the principles of justice and charity; truth and love.  Alas, this was not the case.  Not only did they turn against Him, but they had taken advantage of the poor and the weak whom the Lord loves as His own.

Isn’t this the way we regard God as well?  God has blessed us with riches and success.  Have we used them for His glory?  Have we thanked Him by proclaiming Him as our Lord and God?  Do we put Him as the center of our lives, or do we allow pleasures and success to crowd Him out of our lives?  Most of all, do we use our success, power, influence, money and resources for the service of His people?  More often than not, we only care about ourselves, and even if we do help the less fortunate, it is but a meager percentage of what we are enjoying in life.  And God is also asking us the same question as well, “Are we grateful for what we have been given?”

The second charge leveled against us is the failure to repent.  Even in our sinfulness, God does not give up on us.  He is always patient with us, awaiting our repentance.  He does not want to punish or destroy us.  If He allows us to suffer the consequences of sin, it is in order that we may come to the realization of the state of our souls.  Most of all, God sent us His only Son, Jesus, the Word of God, the Greatest of all prophets to call us to repentance.  Yet, like the Jews, our ears are deaf to His call to repentance; our hearts remain hardened in our stubbornness and sinfulness.  This is particularly true for Catholics because we have all the means to be reconciled with God and yet we are lukewarm in our response to His call for a change of heart.  Ironically, just like the so-called pagans, the Ninevites, non-Catholics and sinners are more responsive to the invitation to repent and seek conversion and reconciliation.

Those of us who are lukewarm in our faith are the most resistant to the grace of conversion.  We are contented to drift along with a nominal faith, like the Israelites. We try to soothe our conscience by fulfilling the basic duties of a Catholic, like attending Mass on Sundays and saying a few prayers upon waking up and before going to sleep; and perhaps occasionally, give a few dollars to the Church and to the poor.  However, in our daily lives, whether at work or at home, we are abusive, intolerable, dishonest and unreasonable in our dealings with our fellowmen.

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 23, 2017 — “For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved.”

July 22, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 106

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Reading 1  WIS 12:13, 16-19

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
For your might is the source of justice;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16

R. (5a) Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship you, O LORD,
and glorify your name.
For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds;
you alone are God.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me, and have pity on me;
give your strength to your servant.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Reading 2  ROM 8:26-27

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.

Alleluia  CF. MT 11:25

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

Gospel  MT 13:24-43

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

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

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

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

OrMT 13:24-30

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Letter to the Romans tells us in the second reading today:  “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  That is pretty strong!  Because our world is so messed up, we are often confused about what is right and what is wrong—so we don’t know how to pray as we ought.

The first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us that God is all powerful and because of that, God can love and judge and deal with us with leniency and mercy and forgiveness.  Those who are powerful can be generous!  This can remind us that our own personal power should always reflect in mercy, generosity and forgiveness.

The Letters to the Romans reminds us that our prayers are very often just our own prayers and not the will of God.  Instead, we can allow the Spirit to pray within us so that the prayer is God’s prayer.  It is easy to do this.  All we need say is “O God, may I do your will and pray for what you want.”

The Gospel from Saint Matthew today, in the longer version, gives us three parables.  The shorter version gives us only one parable and without its explanation by the Lord.  All three parables are about the kingdom of God.  We can understand from these parables that it is difficult in this life to separate the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds.  We can see that the Kingdom is a small seed that can grow enormously.  And we can understand that if we live the Kingdom, it becomes like leaven in bread in our lives and in the lives of others.

The teaching today is that we must be slow to judge others, slow to think that we understand the Kingdom and how it is present and slow to presume that we know the ways of God.  Rather, we must look at others as possible Kingdom bearers, we must be still before the mystery of God so that we can begin to be aware of the Kingdom and we must look for God in all that happens to us and to others.

When Jesus tells us parables, it is because He wants us to look at life in ways that are different from our normal ways.  We should never think that we are the wheat and that others are the weeds!  Rather we need to pay attention to the weeds of our lives and be aware of the wheat in the lives of others.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like a small seed that can grow into a large tree, we should be aware of the gifts of others and aware that we are still small.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like leaven, we should strive to be aware of how others are leaven already and that we can become leaven.

Let us be aware of God’s love for others and reflect God’s love for others in our own lives through mercy and forgiveness.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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23 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

EMBRACING IMPERFECTIONS IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ WIS 12:13,16-19PS 85:5-6,9-10,15-16ROM 8:26-27MT 13:24-43 OR MT 13:24-30]

The Church is supposed to be the budding of the Kingdom of God.  All of us are called to holiness of life.  The early Christians called themselves saints of God.  Indeed, the Church is called to be different from the rest of the world.  We are called to be the sacrament of Jesus in the world, the sacrament of love and unity.  Unfortunately, many who join the Church fail to realize that although the Church aspires to be the community of saints, we are still pilgrims on earth.  The Church is both a community of saints and sinners.  We have not yet arrived but are on the way to the fullness of life in the heavenly kingdom.

As such, the Church, being a pilgrim church on the way to perfection, must learn to accommodate the sinfulness of her members and the imperfections of community life and the institution at large.  Failure to realize this reality will cause much disillusionment, disappointment, anger and resentment against the Church.  Indeed, many Catholics labour under the false notion that all Catholics are perfect, holy, loving, considerate, kind, giving, gentle, compassionate, forgiving, etc.   And when they find that their brothers and sisters, and most of all, the Church leaders, laity or clergy or religious are not manifesting the compassion and love of our Lord, they are easily scandalized. They are shocked that Catholics are not behaving in the way Christ asks of us in the gospel.  As a result, many leave the Church and join other churches or other religions, or give up on God completely.

The irony of such a reaction is that all other Catholics seem not to be good enough, except themselves.  Often, such people who are judgmental, intolerant of others’ weaknesses, whims and fancies, dissatisfied with the institutions, condemning everyone else except themselves, fall into the sin of presumption.  We are quick at passing sweeping judgements on the actions of others without trying to understand the person, his struggles, his constraints, circumstances and limitations.  The truth is that no one is perfect and we cannot expect others to live up to our standards when we ourselves have failed miserably as Catholics, if not in the particular area we are not pleased about, surely in other areas of our life.

St Paul and James warned us about the foolishness of pronouncing  judgement on others instead of leaving the judgement to God.  (Cf. 1 Cor 4:3-5; Jms 4:11f)  In fact, if we are not careful, we can become the enemy itself who would be sowing darnel among the wheat.  When we judge, condemn and criticize others destructively, we are destroying them and also the community.  Instead of promoting unity through compassion, understanding and patient meditation, we circulate on social media the sins and imperfections of others and the community or the organization.  This is tantamount to helping the Evil One to sow seeds of division in the community.  We should be sowing good seeds; not making the situation worse than it already is.

Today, we take the cue from the scripture readings as to how we should see the imperfections of community, whether at church, in our homes or in our offices.  Unless we integrate such stark realities in our lives, we will end up destroyed by the evils that we hate.  Those of us who cannot accept the sins and imperfections of the members of the community will end up frustrated, resentful and even vindictive.  This is particularly true when we belong to a religious order, or any closely knit Catholic cell group or organization.  By embracing both the strength and weaknesses of the individuals and the organization, we can grow as individuals and as a community to be more like Christ.  We must remember that grace is also at work in disgrace.

For this reason, Jesus told the disciples the parable of the Darnel and the Wheat.  This was what the servants said to the master.  “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from? Do you want us to go and weed it out?”  This is unfortunately the impatience reflected in every Christian community.  As the bishop, I receive countless letters of complaint against priests and fellow Catholics; even from non-Catholics.  All express anger, disappointment and disenchantment with what is happening in the Church, the conduct of both the lay faithful and the Church leaders.  They write to me, expecting and even demanding that I exercise my juridical authority to immediately weed out such people from the Church.  They hope that I will shame them publicly, make them lose face and discredit them.  Most are not seeking to help those who are wayward in their Catholic way of life but to see them punished, humiliated and excommunicated.  There is so much lack of charity, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance among Catholics.

Clearly the gospel tells us that we should allow good and evil to co-exist.  We should not be in a hurry to weed out all those who fail and have shortcomings.  The master said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”  In other words, we must allow sin and grace to co-exist.  If we are intolerant and impatient, not only might we lose all the sinners but we might even hamper the growth of those who are seeking holiness of life.

The truth is that we all grow through our weaknesses and our strengths.  It is through our interaction with others that we learn to discover more about ourselves, our likes, attitudes, fears, inadequacies and our charisms and potentials as well.  Only through difficult situation are we challenged to our limits.  This is just like the trees in the forest.  They all strive against each other to seek sunlight.  Even the creepers in the forest know how to find their way to the top.  So we must take fellow Catholics as spiritual benefactors, helping us to purify our faith and our love for God and for humanity.  Instead of seeing them as obstacles to our faith, we must see them as persons allowed by God to test us in generosity, in forgiveness, in mercy and in patience.  Instead of marginalizing them, we must be ready to continue to reach out to them in humility and love in spite of their hostility towards us.

In the first reading, we read how God manifests His mercy and love for all.  Although He is a God of justice, He cares for all and is just to all.  “There is no God, other than you, who cares for everything, to whom you might have to prove that you never judged unjustly.  Your justice has its source in strength, your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.” This is how God has taught us to exercise love and mercy.  The author says, “By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men, and you have given your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.”  So we must not give up on others because they fail in their Christian life.  Rather, recognizing our own failures and imperfections, we must also grant them the same mercy and compassion that God has for us in our sinfulness.

Most of all, we must pray in our weakness.  This is what St Paul urges the Christian community.  “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.”  Only prayer can change lives.  Only prayer can give us the patience, the magnanimity and power to forgive those who have hurt us or failed us.  When we face such nasty parishioners or uninspiring priests in our lives, rather than condemning them, we must pray for them earnestly. We have no right to correct them if we have not yet prayed for them.

If we follow this principle, then indeed, in its own time, the Kingdom of God will flourish. This is the promise of Jesus in the parable of the mustard seed and the dough. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.”  Indeed, with perseverance we will see the full flowering of the tree.  So let us be good dough doing our little part and our best to contribute to the growth of the community and our personal life.  Instead of seeking to marginalize and exclude those who are not living a good Christian life, we must show mercy and compassion.  No one should be excluded from the Church, the divorced, those with same-sex attraction, the addicts, etc.  We must welcome them to the Church and help them to experience the unconditional love and mercy of Jesus through us.  God will heal them through us.  We only need to be docile to the Lord and allow Him to make use of us.

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

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Why let the bad mix with the good?

“…if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest…” (Matthew 13:29-30).

I read our Gospel today, and I remember the spicy surprise that met a Jesuit who transplanted sprigs of basil beside some sili. After a few weeks, the basil was not just basil anymore. It had acquired a peppery flavor and required a new name: ba-sili.

Scientifically, this incident provides too small a sample size for any conclusion, but our Scripture today prompts me to ask, “Should we let the weeds grow with the wheat?” What if the weeds change the wheat? Why let the bad mix with the good?

One might attack this differently and counter, “What if the wheat changes the weeds?” Maybe the good can influence the bad and make everyone better. But for this possibility, should we be willing to risk the bad just turning everything worse? Why let the bad mix with good?

Five chapters after our Gospel today, Jesus will say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea… If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (see Matthew 18:6-9). In the body that is our community, if a member leads others to sin, should he or she not be cut off? Why sacrifice the saint for the sinner? Why let the bad continue to mix with good?

Why should we let the weeds grow with the wheat? To answer this, let us look at the two other parables in the longer version of our Gospel today.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, Jesus says. It is the smallest of seeds, but it becomes the largest of plants. The dramatic change in size is what we usually focus on in this parable, and so we miss an important detail about the mustard bush: “the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (Matthew 13:32). It is not just the doves and the pigeons and the other gentle and beautiful birds that come. One can imagine crows and ravens – aggressive and not as aesthetically pleasing avian creatures – coming and dwelling as well. Jesus makes no distinctions. All are welcome. And when birds of paradise perch with vultures – as when wolves and lambs feed together in Isaiah’s vision – then the kingdom of God is in our midst.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? Because that is how God envisions his kingdom.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour. Scholars say that three measures equals 50 pounds. That is a lot of flour! Again, the contrast between the pinch of yeast and the mountain of flour makes us miss an important detail: the woman kneading the yeast in. She wrestles with the dough. (Can you imagine yourself elbows deep in 50 pounds of flour and the I-don’t-know-how-many liters of water needed to make it dough?) There can be bread enough for a banquet only because there is a woman who painstakingly labors.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? The saint and the sinner come together in the kingdom of God, and our Lord, the Master Baker, continues to work on them because this is how he prepares a feast.

That the weeds are allowed to grow with the wheat – this is Good News for us! Many times, we are not the purest and finest wheat. Many times, we are the weeds strangling those around us, competing for what we think are limited resources when in truth, God’s mercy abounds. God allows us weeds to grow without making distinctions as we sprout out of the ground. God works on us and kneads his grace into us.

If this is how God deals with us, then it should also be how we deal with others around us. Have we let weeds into our lives? Or have we cultivated friendships only with those we know do not come with thorns and only with those we know will bear good fruit? Do we continue to gently massage even just the pinch of yeast we possess into our relationships with others so that we can all slowly rise together? Or overwhelmed, have we just given up on people?

The time for the harvest will come, when stubborn weeds who refuse God’s grace will be pulled up and burned. But the pulling up and the burning will not be our task. That will belong to God. Who is this God? Read again Wisdom 12:13-19, our First Reading today, and get to know him as the master of might who judges with clemency and governs with lenience. Encounter him as the father who gives his children good ground for hope because he allows us to repent. Learn to trust him as the teacher who by his own deeds imparts the important lesson that “those who are just must be kind.”

From 2014

Homily from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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Those who are just must be kind. This small kernel of wisdom from the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today, is a wonderful teaching about God as well. Far too often there have been images of God as being just–but as a stern taskmaster who really intends to put most people into hell. Instead, this small gem of a teaching speaks of kindness. Justice and kindness are linked, not justice and sternness or justice and meanness.

Of course we know from the teachings of our Lord Jesus that God is love and that God loves all that has been created in Him. God loves us, even with our sinfulness. God invites us to share eternal life and to leave our sinfulness aside, knowing that to leave that sinfulness aside will cost us our whole lifetime.

We can hear this teaching clearly in the Gospel today, where there are many images for us to ponder. One of them is that the wheat and the weeds are always together and we need to leave the sorting out to the Lord. Did not create everything good? Then where did the evil come from? We don’t need to answer that question. We need only to keep striving to live in the good and to do good and to speak good and all shall be well. That we fail to live completely in the good, that we fail to do good always and that we fail to speak the good is part of our human condition. Every day we need to start afresh, living the joy and the love of our Lord Jesus, no matter what our previous failings.

When we are completely worn out and see only the evil in ourselves and our failures. The second reading today can help us: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. The same is true when we do not do the good which is possible because it seems impossible in the moment. The Spirit is there and will take our hands and help us do what we can.

The challenge of living a truly Christian life is a very simple challenge: trust completely even when it seems hopeless. Trust always and in every situation. Call to the Lord when we fail and when we fall. Keep asking the Lord to help us. All of this is so simple and even small children realize its truth.

For sure there is a punishment for those who cause others to sin and there is a sorting out of the weeds and the evils at the end of time. We are all guilty and so we belong to that category as well. We need not fear. God love is a consuming fire and will purify us with love if we only call out to Him. Let us practice calling on the Lord today and always.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/07/23/1720615/why-let-bad-mix-good

 

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 22, 2017 — “The love of Christ impels us.” — “He indeed died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves.”

July 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

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Reading 1  SGS 3:1-4B

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

OR  2 COR 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

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Christ and Mary Magdalene by Albert Edelfelt

Responsorial Psalm  PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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“She thought it was the gardener.”

Mary Magdalen at the Tomb. By Rembrandt

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

22 JULY, 2017, Saturday, St Mary Magdalene

MOVEMENT FROM SACRAMENTAL TO MYSTICAL LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SONG 3:1-4, or 2 COR 5:14-17PS 63: 2.3-4.5-6.8-9JN 20: 1-211-18]

Why is there a lack of fervor in the faith today?  Sad to say, many have left the Church but those who stay are lukewarm and tepid in their faith.  Many lack evangelical zeal and the desire and enthusiasm to spread the Good News about Jesus.  The practice of faith is reduced to the practice of religion.  It has become a routine in life.  It has even become an iron rice bowl for those in priestly and religious life. No wonder, so many have left the Church or some have joined other religions or Protestant churches where faith seems to be more alive and vibrant.

The cause of the indifference towards the faith is due to a lack of the consciousness of the love of God in our lives.   Rationalism is the first cause for distancing from God. With the emphasis on science and reasoning, there is a tendency towards rationalism.  Our faith in God is very much on the level of intellectual knowledge rather an affective experience of His love.  Theologians can be very knowledgeable in theology but yet lack a real faith in Christ because of the lack of a conscious experience of His personal love.   The danger for those who are engaged in theological study is that they think they know about God’s love and yet in truth they do not know it in their personal life.  It is a deceptive way of pretending to know lots about God.

The second reason is activism.  Many are very active in the apostolate and in the ministry.  Today, the emphasis is on work and activities.  People are afraid to stay still and do nothing.  We must always be doing something and multi-tasking as well.  We are afraid of silence and contemplation.  So we are busy with our projects and activities, doing things for people and for the Church.  It is all about output without any input.  As a consequence, we become edgy and irritable when overworked.  We begin to focus on results and efficiency and no longer on the needs of the people.   It is not surprising that many who are involved in Church ministry or those in priestly life become jaded, lose interest and enthusiasm after a while and instead get themselves engaged in squabbling over rules and control.

The third reason is the loss of the Sacred.  They lack devotion and the presence of the sacred.  Religious things are reduced to the level of the profane.  Many no longer respect the sacredness of the Church, the Eucharist, or the sacramentals.  Holy things are treated with irreverence.  When the line between the sacred and profane is blurred, there is no sense of God’s presence.  This is not to say that they are so clearly distinguished, for we know that God could also be found in ordinary things and the ordinary events of life as well.  But to arrive at this realization, we must begin with the experience of God in the sacred.  Without a real encounter of the Sacred, we can no longer feel the presence of God in our lives.

When we read the bible or study the history of the Church, the growth of the Church was always the result of people and charismatic leaders who were deeply in love with Christ and for His people.  In the Old Testament, it was the great love for God in leaders like Moses, King David and the prophets that the faith was kept.  The prophets, Elijah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Isaiah, were all consumed by their love for God.  During the time of Christ, it was His deep love and intimacy with His Father that was the motivating factor in His mission.  It was for the love of His Father that Christ emptied Himself in the incarnation.  During the time of the apostles, it was their love for the Lord that made them give up their life to follow Jesus in the mission.  They were willing to abandon their family and trade to follow after Jesus.

In the gospel today, we read of Mary Magdalene’s deep devotion to the Lord.  Love enabled her to do all things.   When we are in love with someone, there is nothing that can prevent us from giving ourselves to that person.  When we love, we are consumed by love.   Mary Magdalene was so in love with the Lord she could not wait for the sun to rise to visit Him in the grave.  When she arrived in the dark, the stone was already moved away.  Without checking what was inside the tomb, her fear was that His body was taken away.  And later when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she was so absorbed in her attachment to Jesus’ body that she only could say that the body was taken away.  And when Jesus spoke to her, thinking that He was the gardener said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”   She never thought for a while how she could ever remove a dead body which is too heavy for one person to lift, much less by a woman!  The point is that when we are deeply in love, using all our energy and might, we are able to do things beyond human imagination.

Isn’t this true for all the saints and the missionaries of the early Church and those before the 18th century?  Many of them, for the love of Jesus and their fellowmen, would leave their homeland to far distant countries to spread the gospel.  Many were persecuted and killed or died because of hunger, poverty, poor hygiene and illnesses.   Many died as martyrs for their faith, after being cruelly tortured for their belief.  Saints like St Francis of Assisi left everything and sold all he had for the poor and lived in simplicity because of his love for the Lord.   St Francis Xavier travelled to the Far East to spread the gospel.  Indeed, the Church in the East, Africa and in South America was the result of the sacrifices of the missionaries. This was why St Theresa of the Child Jesus remarked, “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was aflame with Love. I understood that Love alone stirred the members of the Church to act… I understood that Love encompassed all vocations, that Love was everything”.

However, their love for Christ and His Church came from a prior experience of His love for them.  It is not that we love Him but that He loved us first.  This is what St Paul wrote about his passion for Christ and the gospel.  In the letter to the Corinthians, he said, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14f) St John also reiterated the primacy of God’s love for us.  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”  (1 Jn 4:10)

For this reason, if we want to renew the fervor of the faith of our Catholics, we must lead them to a personal experience of Christ’s love for them.  We need to renew our thirst for the Lord’s love as the Bride did in the Book of Song of Songs.  She cried out, “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him.”   The responsorial psalm also speaks of this thirst for God in his life.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”

But it must proceed from the way of human love before we can arrive at mystical love.  There is a danger of Catholics who lack the experience of God’s love but seek a mystical encounter with Him, bypassing the humanity of Christ through some kind of centering prayer.  It has always been the teaching of the Church and of the mystics that the only way to encounter the mystical Lord is through the humanity of Christ.  Hence, it is important to recount how Mary Magdalene made the progress from loving the Jesus of Nazareth before reaching the maturity of loving the Christ of Faith.  The reason why Mary Magdalene could not find the Lord was because she was still attached to the earthly Jesus of Nazareth.

So Jesus invited her to transcend the level of sensual love to a spiritual love for Him.  He said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   St Paul in the same vein urged the Christians to do likewise.  “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”

In other words, whilst spiritual life begins with an encounter with the Lord through the human way, that is, by tangible and sacramental means, yet we must not just cling to such devotions.  There are many of these devotions, charismatic worship, healing services, Divine Mercy, Novenas and devotions to the saints in the Church.  They are not to be despised or thought to be for the uneducated.  Such devotions help us to cultivate a human love for God and the saints.  It helps us to experience their love affectively.  But if our love for the Lord is just focused on devotions and the sacramentals, we can become overly superstitious.   Nevertheless, they are important means to lead us to into a deeper encounter with the Lord in contemplative prayer, in silence and in charity.  In the final analysis, the height of love for God is both a contemplative and mystical experience of His love leading us to share His love with others.

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

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Reflection from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
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Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the
Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
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It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little”
(Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Meditation: Do you recognize the presence and reality of the Lord Jesus in your life? How easy it is to miss the Lord when our focus is on ourselves! Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize the Lord Jesus after he had risen from the grave because her focus was on the empty tomb and on her own grief. It took only one word from the Master, when he called her by name, for Mary to recognize him.

Recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that every Christian know something about the Lord, but that each one of us know him personally and intimately. It is not enough to argue about him, but that we meet him. Through the power of his resurrection we can encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares his glory with us.

The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope – the hope that we will see God face to face and share in his everlasting glory and joy.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, in his word, in the “breaking of the bread”, and in his church, the body of Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence in your saving word.”

Daily Quote from the early church fathersMary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, by Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

“Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner in the city (rf. Luke 7:37), loved the Truth and so washed away with her tears the stains of wickedness (rf Luke 7:47). Her sins had kept her cold, but afterward she burned with an irresistible love.… We must consider this woman’s state of mind whose great force of love inflamed her. When even the disciples departed from the sepulcher, she did not depart. She looked for him whom she had not found.… But it is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search. She looked for him a first time and found nothing. She persevered in seeking, and that is why she found him. As her unfulfilled desires increased, they took possession of what they found (rf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4)… Holy desires, as I have told you before, increase by delay in their fulfillment. If delay causes them to fail, they were not desires.… This was Mary’s kind of love as she turned a second time to the sepulcher she had already looked into. Let us see the result of her search, which had been redoubled by the power of love. (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 25)

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, By Rembrandt

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Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888) — He said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

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She mistook him for the gardener — And he said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JULY 2016, Friday, St. Mary Magdalene
PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SG 3:1-4 or 2 COR 5:14-17; PS 62(63):2-6.8-9; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18  ]

How can we know God?  Most people want to know God through reason.  In the bible, it is clear that the way to know God is through faith rather than through reason.  It is the way of the heart, not the head.  The difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of God through the head is because our minds keep changing.  Reasoning has no end because our minds are always curious and searching for the fullness of truth which can only be arrived at when we find God.  The way to God is always through the heart.  But how can we have faith?  Faith comes through love.  We can place our faith in God only because of love.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Dt 6:4f)

Indeed, this has always been the case of all those who have found God.  Very few have come to know God through an intellectual process.  The way of St Paul was that of love.  In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14)  All the disciples, including Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today, followed the Lord because they were moved by His love for them.  This is true for all the saints and mystics.  Even St Thomas Aquinas abandoned his great project, the Summa Theologica, upon encountering God whilst celebrating Mass.  He refused to complete his works saying, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.  I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”  His vision of heaven or of God cannot be compared to anything else, so that all things on earth appeared to be worthless to him.

Indeed, when we have fallen in love with God, everything changes.  This is what St Paul says again, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  (2 Cor 5:16-17)  When we love, we see things and people differently.  We no longer see them as they are but we see them with the eyes of love.  Both the lover and the beloved are transformed by love.  All religions are based on faith, a personal encounter with the Lord or a mystical experience.  This explains why different people have different faiths, and why some do not have faith in any religion at all.   This is true in all human relationships.  When we fall in love with someone, we perceive the person with the eyes of love and that colours our judgment of the person.  We see beyond what the person is externally.

Mary Magdalene is the exemplar of a disciple who was deeply in love with the Lord. She had been delivered from the seven demons by Jesus.  Apparently, she was a wealthy lady.  From then on, she, with the other women, travelled with Jesus in his itinerant ministry.  They were ministering and taking care of Jesus and the disciples in the background.  Her love for Jesus could be seen in the way, she went to look for Jesus at the tomb early in the morning before all others.  She was with Jesus at the foot of the cross at His death.  All she wanted was to be with the Lord.  And so, upon discovering that the tomb was empty, she went to inform the disciples.  What was significant was that only John who went to the tomb, upon seeing the linen cloths that were left behind, believed that the Lord was risen.  Peter saw but could not make sense of it.  And so he went back still mystified.  However, the faithful Mary Magdalene stayed outside near the tomb weeping and waiting for Jesus.  She did not give up hope.

Mary Magdalene is for us an example of one who waits actively for her beloved to appear.  As the Song of Songs says of the bride who not only waits for her bridegroom but with expectant faith and hope, goes in search for him. “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares. I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. The watchmen came upon me on their rounds in the City: ‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them than I found him whom my heart loves.”

For those of us who have no experience of God’s love or find it difficult to allow God to love us, then we are called to follow the path of Mary Magdalene.  We must abandon the way of reason and take the path of love.  How can we empty our minds when we are so used to reasoning and proofs? 

We must be like Magdalene, be ready to keep on waiting patiently for the Lord.  But we do not simply just wait for Christ to appear. We need to search for Him. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Mt 7:7f)  Waiting for the Lord is necessary, just like Mary Magdalene who remained outside the tomb when the other disciples left after finding no one there.

Secondly, if we want to encounter Him, then we are called to be like Mary Magdalene whose desire for the Lord is beautifully expressed in the responsorial psalm.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”  By longing for the Lord, we increase our capacity to love Him even more so that when He appears, we can enjoy a deeper experience of His love.  The deeper the desire, the bigger the capacity to receive His love.  This explains why when the Lord appeared to Magdalene He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She replied, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”   This act of asking Magdalene is to strengthen and deepen her desire for Christ.

Thirdly, we need to wait till we hear Him calling us by name.  This was what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene.  “‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  Until we hear the Lord calling us by name, we will never know His love.  Before that when Jesus addressed her as woman, she was not able to recognize Jesus:  “’Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’” To hear the call of Jesus and to recognize Him requires that we are called by name, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.”  (Isa 49:15f)  Those of us who have heard Him calling our names are set free and feel loved again. Only then are we convinced that He really loves us.

Finally, we must also avoid falling into the same mistake as Magdalene when she allowed her grief to blind her to the presence of Jesus.  Quite often our pains, hurts and resentments prevent us from looking for the Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, we want to cling on to the past instead of allowing the new creation to work in us.  Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene could not see the Risen Lord because she was looking for the Historical Jesus.  But Christ is a New Creation. We must look beyond ourselves to the Lord, to focus on Him rather than on ourselves.  In this way, we can then recognize the Lord coming into our lives in so many ways.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 21, 2017 — “Something greater than the temple is here — I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”

July 20, 2017

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 393

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Reading 1  EX 11:10—12:14

Although Moses and Aaron performed various wonders
in Pharaoh’s presence,
the LORD made Pharaoh obstinate,
and he would not let the children of Israel leave his land.

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,
“This month shall stand at the head of your calendar;
you shall reckon it the first month of the year.
Tell the whole community of Israel: On the tenth of this month
every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb,
one apiece for each household.
If a family is too small for a whole lamb,
it shall join the nearest household in procuring one
and shall share in the lamb
in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it.
The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish.
You may take it from either the sheep or the goats.
You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then,
with the whole assembly of Israel present,
it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight.
They shall take some of its blood
and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel
of every house in which they partake of the lamb.
That same night they shall eat its roasted flesh
with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
It shall not be eaten raw or boiled, but roasted whole,
with its head and shanks and inner organs.
None of it must be kept beyond the next morning;
whatever is left over in the morning shall be burned up.

“This is how you are to eat it:
with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand,
you shall eat like those who are in flight.
It is the Passover of the LORD.
For on this same night I will go through Egypt,
striking down every first born of the land, both man and beast,
and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt—I, the LORD!
But the blood will mark the houses where you are.
Seeing the blood, I will pass over you;
thus, when I strike the land of Egypt,
no destructive blow will come upon you.

“This day shall be a memorial feast for you,
which all your generations shall celebrate
with pilgrimage to the LORD, as a perpetual institution.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 116:12-13, 15 AND 16BC, 17-18

R. (13) I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
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. I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
I am your servant, the son of your handmaid;
you have loosed my bonds.
R. I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
To you will I offer sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
R. I will take the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.

Alleluia  JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord,
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gleaning

Gospel  MT 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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21 JULY, 2017, Friday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time

THE VALUE OF RITUALS AND CUSTOMARY LAWS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EX 11:10-12:14PS 116:12-13,15-18MT 12:1-8 ]

In every society and religion, there is a need for signs, symbols and rituals.  Every nation too, has its own rituals and symbols, as seen in the installation ceremonies and funerals for those in public office, national events, etc.  As human beings, we need signs and symbols to remind us of past achievements or the sacredness of the moment.  We are incarnational beings and therefore we communicate our thoughts and feelings through tangible signs and symbols. Rituals celebrate or commemorate a past event and bring it into the present experience of the participant through a series of signs and symbols. This is also the context for religious rituals and customs as well.  All religious and human rituals have anthropological basis.

All signs and symbols are connected with some historical events as they are reminders of the past.  Otherwise, they are connected with some human realities.  Consequently, all the signs we use in religions are expressive of the experience which we seek to impress upon the present generation.  But they are also related to a past event or just a human action that is given a new meaning.  For example, circumcision was originally for hygienic reasons, especially in the desert when people did not shower so often.   Later it was given a religious significance of being members of the Chosen People of God.  It is true also for all Jewish and Christian festivals.  Most of them were agricultural celebrations but later adopted as religious commemorations and thus given religious significance as well.

This is true with regard to the first reading when God gave instructions to Moses as to how the Passover was to be celebrated.   Firstly, they were told that “it must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats.”   A young male animal without blemish is considered pure and innocent and the best offering one could give to the Lord.  Secondly, they were asked to take some of the blood and “put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten.”   It was a sign that they were saved by the blood of the lamb which was a symbol of sacrifice offered to God.   Consequently, this image was later taken up by Jesus and the Christians with John the Baptist calling Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (cf Jn 1:29)  Next, they were instructed that “the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails.  You must not leave any over till the morning:  whatever is left till morning you are to burn.”   The partaking of the lamb roasted is seen as a holocaust offered to God.  The only difference is that the participants ate of it.  It was also eaten with unleavened bread symbolizing the purity of the bread and the bitter herbs to remind them of the sufferings that they were being liberated from.  Of course, for practical reasons, as they were leaving Egypt, there was no time for them to make leavened bread.   Finally, they were told to eat “with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand.  You shall eat it hastily.”   Historically, they were in a hurry to move out of Egypt.  But symbolically, it was a reminder that they were pilgrims and ready to make the Passover from Egypt to the Promised Land, from slavery to freedom.

What is said of the Passover is also true for the Sabbath.  Humanly, we all need to rest from work.  To provide a religious reason for it, the book of Genesis speaks of God as the creator and how He rested on the seventh day.  Of course, God does not need to rest.  In fact, Jesus said, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” (Jn 5:17)  But man needs to rest and remind himself that he is not the creator of this world.  The world is not dependent on man’s ingenuity and hard work alone but on God who is the creator.  For Christians, the Sabbath is transferred to Sunday because we celebrate not only God as the creator but the re-creator or redeemer of creation by Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

So with respect to both the most solemn religious events of the Sabbath and Passover, they are meant to bring to mind the mercy, love and the wonders of God at work in our lives.  By celebrating these festivals and others, we recount the love and mercy of God in our history.   The conscious memory of what the Lord had done for our forefathers should inspire hope, gratitude and confidence in God.  Indeed, as the Lord told Moses, “It is a Passover in honour of the Lord. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt.  This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour.  For all generations, you are to declare it a day of festival, forever.”

With the psalmist, we pray, “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me? The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name.  O precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful. Your servant, Lord, your servant am I; you have loosened my bonds. A thanksgiving sacrifice I make; I will call on the Lord’s name. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil before all his people.”   So the rituals are to render our thanksgiving to God for the salvific work He has done for His people.  They are ways to remind us of the goodness of God in our lives and His power to see us through all our struggles.  Through these celebrations, we find inspiration, hope and encouragement in times of trials and difficulties.

Indeed, all rituals and celebrations are not so much for the sake of God but for the sake of us.   The Sabbath is certainly not for God because He does not need to rest.  But it is important for man not to spend his life simply working, forgetting the more important things of life, such as relationship with our loved ones, rest for our body and mind, enjoying God’s creation and most of all, that God is the Creator and source of life.  All religious festivals and celebrations are subordinated to the end, which is for the well-being and salvation of humanity.

This is the point of Jesus’ message when He defended His disciples who were picking ears of corn to eat, breaking the Sabbath Law.  Jesus argued that the Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath.   He provided two instances when the Sabbath laws were broken by King David and the priests in the Temple.  “Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone?  Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it?”

Obviously, for a greater good, the Sabbath cannot be observed according to the letter except in the Spirit.  That is why, for essential public services, for example, hospitals, public transport, etc must continue regardless whether it is Sunday or Sabbath because it is for the greater good of all.  Otherwise, everything would come to a standstill!  Even the priests break the Sabbath Law because it is the busiest day of the week for them!  Thus, Jesus remarked, “Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple.  And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.  For the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath.”  We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  To take care of our bodies is to honor the Lord as well!  St Paul wrote, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”  (1 Cor 6:19f)

Even this consideration for the needs of man was taken into account when the Lord asked them to make the sacrifice.  “Each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household.  If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour,  the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires.  You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number of the animal.”  In other words, the animal must not be wasted but all should have a share of it, and if too big, others should be invited to share in the meal.   It is a meal of sacrifice and of love for our neighbours.

Consequently, we must remind ourselves that when we celebrate rituals or observe the laws of the Church, we must never forget the spirit of the action we do.  The end must be clear, which is the love of God and the love of our neighbours.  If our worship and observance of the laws do not help us to love our neighbours more, then our worship is in vain for the Lord says, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings”. (Hos 6:6)   The Lord says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is mine.  Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High.”  (Ps 50:12-14)  So let our worship be pure and our sacrifices make us more loving and compassionate people.   Only such sacrifices will please the Lord.  “He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!”  (Ps 50:23)

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

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

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Commentary on Matthew 12:1-8 From Living Space
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Today’s story follows immediately on yesterday’s words of Jesus inviting those carrying heavy burdens to come to him for comfort and relief.  Those burdens were understood to be the yoke of the Law which could weight so heavily on the ordinary person. Today we see what kind of burdens it entailed.
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Jesus and his disciples are walking through a cornfield.  The disciples were feeling a little hungry so they began plucking ears of corn to eat.  Nothing wrong with that.  Gleaning, especially where the poor were concerned, was not regarded as stealing.  “When you go through your neighbour’s grainfield, you may pick some of the ears with your hand, but do not put a sickle to your neighbour’s grain” (Deuteronomy 23:26).
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Yet the Pharisees criticised the disciples’ behaviour before Jesus.  They were not upset by the plucking of the corn but because it was done a sabbath day.  Most manual work was forbidden on the sabbath, including for instance, reaping.  So we read in Exodus: “For six days you may work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; on that day you must rest even during the seasons of ploughing and harvesting” (Exodus 34:21).  The question that would come immediately to the legalistic mind would be what exactly constituted harvesting.  In the minds of the Pharisees, who would put the strictest interpretation in order to be on the safe side, what the disciples were doing contravened the Sabbath requirements.
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Jesus would have none of this nonsense.  He gave two examples which the Pharisees would find difficult to criticise:
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First, David’s soldiers, because they were hungry, went into the house of God and ate the loaves of proposition, that is, bread which was laid out as an offering to God.  According to the law, only the priests were allowed to eat this bread.
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Second, he pointed to the priests on temple duty who not only worked on the sabbath but did more work than usual on that day (like priests today!).  Yet no one found fault with them.
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Jesus has two further and more powerful arguments:
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– He calls his accusers’ attention to a saying from the prophet Hosea (Hos 6:6): “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.”  What this means is that the measure of our behaviour in God’s eyes is not our observance of law but the degree of love and compassion we have for our brothers and sisters.  Laws are for people; people are not for laws.  That is why a truly loving act always transcends any law.  If the Pharisees had fully understood the meaning of Hosea’s words, they would not have “condemned these innocent men”.
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– Finally, Jesus simply says, “The Son of Man is indeed the Lord of the sabbath.”  Jesus as Lord is not bound by even the God-given laws of Israel.  If, in the eyes of Jesus, his disciples are innocent, then they are innocent.
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Every time we read texts like this we have to look at how we as Christians behave both individually and corporately.  Legalism and small-mindedness can very easily infect our Catholic life.  We can start measuring people – including ourselves but especially others – by the observance or non-observance of things which really have little to do with the substance of our Christian faith.  Of course, we can also go to the other extreme of having no rules at all.
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There is a very demanding law to which we are all called to subscribe and that is the law of love.  It allows of no exceptions.  But its practice can only benefit both the giver and the receiver.
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Gleaning by Arthur Hughes.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Gospel today has two parts bound between them: (a) It describes the diverse reactions of the Pharisees and of the people who listen to the preaching of Jesus; (b) it describes what Matthew sees in these diverse reactions: the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Servant of Yahweh, announced by Isaiah.
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• Matthew 12,14: The reaction of the Pharisees: they decide to kill Jesus. This verse is the conclusion of the previous episode, in which Jesus challenges the malice of the Pharisees, by curing the man who had a withered hand (Mt 12,9-14). The reaction of the Pharisees was to hold a Council meeting against Jesus. Thus, they arrive to the breaking of the relationship between the religious authority and Jesus. In Mark this episode is much more explicit and provoking (Mk 3,1-6). He says that the decision to kill Jesus was not only that of the Pharisees, but also of the Herodians (Mk 3,6). Altar and Throne joined together against Jesus.
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• Matthew 12,15-16: The reaction of the people: to follow Jesus. When Jesus learnt the decision of the Pharisees, he went away from the place where he was. People follow him. Even knowing that the religious authority has decided to kill Jesus, the people do not go away from Jesus, rather they follow him. Many followed him and he cured them all, but warned them not to make him known. People know how to discern. Jesus asks not to diffuse the news, not to say what he is doing. A great contrast! On the one side, the conflict of life and death, between Jesus and the religious authority, and on the other the movement of the people who were desirous to encounter Jesus! They were above all, the marginalized and the excluded who presented themselves to Jesus with their illness and their infirmities. They, who were not accepted in society, and in the religious field, were accepted by Jesus.
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• Matthew 12,17: The concern of Matthew: Jesus is our Messiah. This reaction, different from that of the Pharisees and of the people, moved Matthew to see here the realization of the prophecy of the Servant. On the one hand, the Servant was persecuted by the authority which insulted him and spat on his face, but he does not turn back. He presents his face hard as a rock, knowing that he will not be disappointed (Is 50,5-7). On the other hand, the Servant is sought and expected by the people. The crowd coming from far is waiting for his teaching (Is 42,4). This is exactly what is happening to Jesus.
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• Matthew 12,18-21: Jesus fulfils the prophecy of the Servant. Matthew presents the entire first Canticle of the Servant. Read the text slowly, thinking of Jesus and the poor who today are excluded:
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“Look! My Servant whom I have chosen; my beloved in whom my soul delights,
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I will send my Spirit upon him, and he will present judgment to the nations;
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He will not brawl or cry out; his voice is not heard in the streets,
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He will not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick.
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Until he has made judgment victorious; in him the nations will put their hope”.
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Personal questions
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• Do you know some case in which the religious authority, in the name of religion, decided to persecute and kill persons who, like Jesus, did good to people?
• In our community are we servants of God for the people? What do we lack?
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Concluding Prayer
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How precious, God, is your faithful love.
So the children of Adam take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the bounty of your house,
you let them drink from your delicious streams. (Ps 36,7-8)
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From 2015

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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LOVE NEEDS THE LAWS AND THE LAWS NEED LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 11:10-12:14MT 12:1-8

What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”  These words of Jesus are often misinterpreted as if there is a dichotomy between law and love, worship and mercy.  Taken out of context, it appears that Jesus was saying that sacrifice and, by extension, the laws are not necessary.  All that matters is the exercise of mercy and compassion.  If that were the case, why do we celebrate the Passover, as instructed in the first reading, or the Paschal feast every year, or even the Eucharist daily?  If love and mercy is sufficient, then there is no need for the Eucharist and other religious observances.

Yet, it is clear that Jesus did not come to abolish the laws or sacrificial worship.  He comes to fulfill the laws by perfecting them with love.  The issue is not whether the laws or works of mercy are more important.  What distinguishes the laws from mercy is whether it is motivated by love or not.  One can fulfill the religious observances without any love but merely because of fear or simply to gain merits.  Similarly, this applies to works of mercy as well.

Having made this clarification, there is another consideration as well in that the laws and love are complementary.  The truth is that the laws need love, for without love, the application of the laws can be against the interest and well- being of humanity.  A case in point is today’s incident in the gospel when the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking the Sabbath law by plucking the ears of corn and eating them.  As far as Jesus is concerned, by being enslaved to the letter of the law of the Sabbath, it becomes an act lacking in charity.  For the original purpose of the Sabbath law is to enable man to recognize the sovereignty of God by refraining from work that simply focuses on oneself rather than the good of their fellowmen.

Interestingly, Pope Benedict XVI made a significant observation regarding the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “The Sermon on the Mount is not a social program per se, to be sure. But it is only when the great inspiration it gives us vitally influences our thought and our action, only when faith generates the strength to renunciation and responsibility for our neighbor and for the whole of society, only then can social justice grow.”  In other words, in order to fulfill either the Old or the New Laws, we need first to be inspired by love and faith.  So without love, the laws cannot be fulfilled in the spirit that they are intended.

Nevertheless, love needs the Laws to protect it.  Without the laws, men would forget how to love, or at times in their weakness, when their feelings are down, they would not have the capacity to love.  So when the enthusiasm weakens, the laws will help the person to fulfill his obligation to love.  In this way, laws ensure the exercise of mercy and love, regardless of the feelings of a person.  That is why we take vows and promises and we have rules, whether Church rules or organizations’ rules. Nevertheless, there is a priority between the laws and mercy.  It is love.  Without love, we cannot fulfill the laws.  The real exercise of the laws must flow from love and mercy.

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, July 20, 2017 — God is not in any way bound by human wisdom and expectation — Our faith requires unconditional commitment — Our reward is unconditional love

July 19, 2017

Thursday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 392

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

Reading 1 EX 3:13-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alleluia MT 11:28

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

Gospel MT 11:28-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest:

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

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

FEELING WITH GOD AS THE KEY TO OVERCOMING OUR PAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 19, 2017 — God says to Moses, “I will be with you.”

July 18, 2017

Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 391

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Reading 1 EX 3:1-6, 9-12

Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.
Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb,
the mountain of God.
There an angel of the LORD appeared to him in fire
flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush,
though on fire, was not consumed.
So Moses decided,
“I must go over to look at this remarkable sight,
and see why the bush is not burned.”

When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely,
God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
God said, “Come no nearer!
Remove the sandals from your feet,
for the place where you stand is holy ground.
I am the God of your father,” he continued,
“the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.
The cry of the children of Israel has reached me,
and I have truly noted that the Egyptians are oppressing them.
Come, now! I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people,
the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God,
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh
and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
He answered, “I will be with you;
and this shall be your proof that it is I who have sent you:
when you bring my people out of Egypt,
you will worship God on this very mountain.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 103:1B-2, 3-4, 6-7

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
The LORD secures justice
and the rights of all the oppressed.
He has made known his ways to Moses,
and his deeds to the children of Israel.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

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

Gospel MT 11:25-27

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 JULY, 2017, Wednesday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time
THE FATHER REVEALS HIS MERCY TO US IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 3:1-69-12Ps 102:1-4,6-7Mt 11:25-27 ]

The responsorial psalm speaks about God”s mercy, love and compassion.  The biblical people experienced God as justice and compassion. “The Lord is compassion and love.  It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion. The Lord does deeds of justice, gives judgement for all who are oppressed.  He made known his ways to Moses and his deeds to Israel’s sons.”  Indeed, this God whom we worship is not a distant God who is indifferent to the injustices and sufferings of humanity.

This is the same God that Israel encountered when God revealed Himself to Moses.  The Lord said, “And now the cry of the sons of Israel has come to me, and I have witnessed the way in which the Egyptians oppress them.”   Such is the goodness of our God who sees us in our suffering.  He is not indifferent.  When we are suffering, we only need to believe that God hears us in our pain, anxiety and fear.  He feels with us and desires to help us.  He is the same God throughout the ages. “I am the God of your father,  the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”  God is faithful to His covenant He had made with the people of Israel.

In a special way, God reveals His mercy especially in Christ.  Jesus makes it clear.  “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Jesus is the fullness of God’s mercy and love.  Jesus told Philip when he asked the Lord to show them the Father, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (Jn 14:8-10)  After the raising of the son of the widow of Naim, “Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has risen among us!’ and ‘God has looked favorably on his people!’”

Christ is shown to be God’s mercy only because the Father revealed His love for His Son.  Twice throughout His life, He received the affirmation and love of His Father – at His baptism and at the Transfiguration.  The heavens opened and a voice said,  “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”   All through the ministry and life of Jesus, the Father affirmed the Son in His love.   Only in His love could Jesus be empowered to share His Father’s mercy and love for everyone.

Jesus could show us the Face of the Father only because He knew the Father intimately.  He was always in intimacy with Him.  Every morning, He would make time to converse with His Father.  Everything He did, He did it in union with the Father.  He identified Himself with the Father’s love and mercy for humanity.   He came simply because He identified himself with His Father’s heart.  He willed what the Father wills for humanity.  So too Moses. Because he encountered God the Father radically and heard His voice, he, like the Lord, was taken up in his mission to show the Father’s love for His people.

There is no way to see the Father’s face other than through our Lord.  Moses covered his face before the Lord.  “At this Moses covered his face, afraid to look at God.”   We cannot see the Lord’s majesty directly.  It is too  much for us.  We can see His face through the humanity of Christ.  So all that Jesus did and taught are means to show us God’s face.  That is why St John Paul II in his apostolic letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, encouraged us to come to know the face of God by contemplating on His life, passion, death and resurrection. To be ignorant of the scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ.  He cautioned us that unless we see Christ’s face, we cannot be given the same passion for the mission.

There are some Catholics who seek to bypass the humanity of Christ to reach God by speaking of the cosmic Christ of St Paul.  They are mistaken. St Paul’s understanding is that the cosmic Christ is found at the end of the full meditation on the mystery of Christ.  The reason for Christ’s incarnation is in order that we can see the heart of the Father and understand the depth of His love by contemplating on the person and life of Christ.  Otherwise, Christianity is not much different from the rest of the great monotheistic religions.  The distinctiveness of the Christian’s claim is that in Christ we see the fullness of God.  He is therefore, the way, the truth and the life.  “No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  (Jn 14:6bf)

We who have seen the face of God in Jesus are called to do the same.  Like Moses and the Lord, we too are sent.  The Lord told Moses, “I send you to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel, my people, out of Egypt.”  Jesus is the New Moses sent by God to reveal His face to us.  We who have contemplated on the face of Christ can now reveal God’s goodness and mercy to others.   Unless we have seen His face, we would not be able to reveal His face to others.  So too, unless a Christian has seen the face of God in Christ’s life, passion, death and resurrection, would not be able to speak about God’s mercy and forgiveness to others.

The work of revealing the love and mercy of God cannot be undertaken as a personal enterprise.  We never do this work alone.  We need to work with the Lord.  When Moses asked, “‘Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?’ ‘I shall be with you,’ was the answer ‘and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you … After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer to God on this mountain.’”   It is this assurance that we are not alone that will sustain us.  When we remember that we are sent, then we will always remember that we are the ambassadors of Christ and that whatever we do or say, we are called to act in the name of the Lord.   At the same time, consciousness of being sent means that we rely not on ourselves but on the power of God.

We need to be childlike in coming to the Lord to experience His Fatherly love.  Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.”  It is not through intellectual knowledge but a personal knowledge of Christ that enables us to know the heart of the Father.  Unless, we experience His love like a child, we would not be able to speak confidently of the Father’s mercy.  

To encounter the Fatherly love of God, we must learn to pray in a childlike way using the lectio divina and Ignatian contemplation.  We must pray in a simple way by immersing and absorbing the Word of God until a certain phrase or word receives our attention.   As we meditate on the Word of God, chew on it, and engage in a dialogue with the Lord.  The end result is that we begin to hear God speaking personally to our hearts.  The other way of entering into the heart of God is through the method taught by St Ignatius, which is to pray the scriptures using fantasy, that is, putting ourselves in the characters of the Bible as we enter into their feelings, thoughts and mind of each character.  In this way, we make the gospel scenes come alive.  

Finally, we must pray in the way of the psalmist. “My soul, give thanks to the Lord all my being, bless his holy name. My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.”  The psalmist’s way of praying is very authentic and sincere.  He does not hide his fears, anxieties and even anger against the apparent injustice and silence of God.  He would utter how he feels, but he would end up confessing his faith in the Lord, and surrendering his life to Him.   We too must pray in this manner if we are to encounter the Father’s love and mercy.   In this way, we would then be able to reveal and share with others our own experience of His Fatherly love.

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

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“But today’s society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores the value of all those who are otherwise, and in so doing blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual’s value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler’s program, that is to say, ‘mercy’ killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer. Confounding the dignity of man with mere usefulness arises from conceptual confusion that in turn may be traced back to the contemporary nihilism transmitted on many an academic campus and many an analytical couch.”
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By Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy.”
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Commentary on Matthew 11:25-27 From Living Space
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Yesterday we saw Jesus severely chiding the people of three cities where he had shown many signs of his divine origin for their slowness to believe in and accept him. Today he speaks with warmth and praise of those who have become his followers.
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He remarks, in a prayer he makes to his Father, that it is not the learned and clever, the Scribes and Pharisees, the religious experts, but “the merest children”, his disciples, who have been graced with understanding the secrets of the Kingdom.  They are children not only in their lack of learning and sophistication but also in their openness to hear and learn, a virtue lacking in those who regarded themselves as intellectuals.
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This was in fact a reflection on the actual development of the early Church.  It was a grassroots movement which spread most among the lower levels of society and among slaves.  It would not be until later that Christianity spread to the higher echelons and become the faith also of the ruling elite and the intellectual classes.  As Jesus says today, “Yes, Father, for that is what is pleased you to do.”
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In growing and spreading in this way, Christianity showed, first, that it was really the work of God.  It worked against powerful forces which tried very hard to obliterate it but in the end the power of truth and love were too strong for even the strongest opponents.
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Second, it revealed the truly catholic nature of the Christian faith.  It was never an exclusive domain of either the political or educated elite.  It has appealed and continues to appeal to people at every level of society from intellectual giants like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and John Henry Newman to the totally illiterate.  Both can sit side by side and together hear the Gospel and celebrate the Eucharist.
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Finally, Jesus suggests that knowing him and, through him, knowing the Father is a gift that he gives.  We can all, of course, open ourselves to that gift.  Why some of us do and others do not is something we cannot understand in this life.  It is a gift which is offered, never imposed and again no one can know who are those who have been offered it and turned it down.
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Let us today thank God that we have been among those who have listened and accepted and been graced. But we know we have a lot more listening and accepting yet to do.  Jesus stands at our door and knocks today and every day.  It is up to me to what extent I open that door and let him come in.
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)
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Are we like little children? Do we feel dependent upon God?
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At the Cross, Jesus gives his Mother to the “Disciple that Loved Him Best.” But he also gives the Disciple a Mother. They are meant to care for each other — just as we in our families are meant to love, support and sustain each other.
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We are told that John takes the Virgin Mother into his home for the rest of her life.
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Can we do that? Can we “pour ourselves out” for the family entrusted to us? Can we love and care for even those most troublesome in our families?
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 18, 2017 — God saves us so that we can save others.

July 17, 2017

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 390

Image result for Pharaoh's daughter finds a basket by the river, art, photos

Pharaoh’s daughter finds a basket by the river

Reading 1 EX 2:1-15A

A certain man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman,
who conceived and bore a son.
Seeing that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months.
When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket,
daubed it with bitumen and pitch,
and putting the child in it,
placed it among the reeds on the river bank.
His sister stationed herself at a distance
to find out what would happen to him.

Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe,
while her maids walked along the river bank.
Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it.
On opening it, she looked, and lo, there was a baby boy, crying!
She was moved with pity for him and said,
“It is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter,
“Shall I go and call one of the Hebrew women
to nurse the child for you?”
“Yes, do so,” she answered.
So the maiden went and called the child’s own mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,
“Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will repay you.”
The woman therefore took the child and nursed it.
When the child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter,
who adopted him as her son and called him Moses;
for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

On one occasion, after Moses had grown up,
when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor,
he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen.
Looking about and seeing no one,
he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting!
So he asked the culprit,
“Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?”
But the culprit replied,
“Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Then Moses became afraid and thought,
“The affair must certainly be known.”

Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put Moses to death.
But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34

R. (see 33) Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
I am sunk in the abysmal swamp
where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths;
the flood overwhelms me.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me;
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

AlleluiaPS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt

Gospel MT 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 JULY, 2017, Tuesday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time
THE TRAGEDY OF INDIFFERENCE AND INGRATITUDE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 2:1-15Ps 68:3,14,30-31,33-34Mt 11:20-24   ]

God is our deliverer and He is our savior.  Indeed, it is God’s desire to save us.  He has always wanted to save His people.  It is significant that God saves us so that we can save others.  God saved Moses so that he could save His people.   The name given to Moses means “I draw you out of the waters.”  In the responsorial psalm, the psalmist also prayed, “I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold.  I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me. This is my prayer to you, my prayer for your favour.  In your great love, answer me, O God, with your help that never fails.”   We too were in our sins and sunk deep in the mess of life.  But Christ saved us through the waters of baptism when we died to our sins.  Through the passion and death of Christ, we are raised with Him in the resurrected life.

But we are not saved for our sake.  We are always saved for others.  When God delivers us, He has in mind for us to deliver others as well.  That was the case of Moses when he was saved from the waters so that he could lead the people across the waters from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land.  This was true of Peter and Paul as well.  They were saved by the Lord, forgiven and set free.  In turn they became great evangelizers.  This is something we must never forget.  God does not bless us just for our sake but for the sake of others.  Moses likewise responded by protecting his countryman from being bullied by an Egyptian.  He saw one of them being ill-treated and his natural instinct was to fight for his rights. Having been rescued himself, he did the same for others.

Only those who have suffered much can empathize much.   We tend to champion the underdogs only because we were once underdogs ourselves.  Those who have gone through difficult times can better identify with those who are suffering.  That was why Jesus became man.  He assumed our humanity, born into the poverty of His people and shared in the humanity of His people.  For this reason, Jesus was a compassionate high priest.  He understands our pains and our struggles.  He feels with us in our sickness, alienation and rejection.  We too, especially when we become better off and or have recovered from our struggles or illnesses, should learn to be more compassionate with those who are suffering.  The call to mission always springs from a desire to save and heal those who have suffered much like us.

But seeking to save others does not mean that we should right a wrong with another wrong.  Quite often in the world, we see much violence in the name of justice.  So called ‘religious people’ kill in the name of God.  Those who champion justice would kill others to fight for their rights.   We must be careful that we do not fall into extremes in the desire to help those who are in the same situation as were in.  That would be only a reaction, not an action on our part, in the face of suffering.  In the case of Moses, instead of helping the situation, he made it worse by killing the Egyptian.  In his disgust, he allowed his anger against injustice done to his countryman to be expressed in violence.  He took things into his own hands.  He did not follow the right way in his desire for justice.  To take a life was not in accordance with the plan of God. This was not the way to right a wrong.  We cannot overcome evil with evil.  “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”  (Rom 12:17) St Paul made it clear.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:19-21)

As a result he had to flee “from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.”  Perhaps, God needed to teach Moses the right way to deliver others from their misery.  He had to understand the ways of God.  He had to be healed of his old wounds first before he could heal others.  Otherwise, when we act out of our raw wounds, we tend to be excessive and reactive towards the oppressors or in undertaking certain actions. St Paul preached at Damascus soon after his conversion and almost got himself murdered as well.  (cf Acts 9:23-25) He too went away to Arabia to reflect on his conversion experience and grow in his relationship with the Lord. “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.”  (Gal 1:17)  It is always dangerous when one acts from one’s wounds as many do in their attempts to fight for the marginalized.  It is said that oppressors were once a victim.  So much so that in helping those who are suffering, we act from the raw wounds that are still hurting us.

On the other hand, there are those who, although have been helped and delivered, remain inward-looking.  They take their privileges for granted, like the townsfolks from Chorazin and Bethsaida.  “Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.” In spite of the miracles that Jesus performed for them, they were not responsive to the Good News.  Their lives were not changed or transformed.  Perhaps Jesus’ remark in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine’s, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you” (Mt 7:6), came from such encounters.

There are many who have taken for granted the blessings they received in life.  Instead of being grateful and thankful to God and to those who have blessed them, they remained indifferent.  This is the tragedy of life.  There are some people who are so grateful for the little things we have done for them.  They remember our kindness for life and in turn want to bless others with whatever blessings they have received.  Indeed, we hear stories of those who have been helped by the Church when they were poor.  Now that they have become rich, they recount their stories of their gratitude to the Church for standing by them in those difficult times.  They remain eternally grateful to God and the Church and seek to help those who are less fortunate.

Then there are others we have helped much, financially and in so many other ways.  They take us for granted, remain unappreciative and demanding.  What is most hurting is that those people whom we have sacrificed our lives for, given all we could and supported them in every way, would later turn against us.   For such people, we do not condemn them.  They deserve our pity rather than judgment.  This was the way Jesus felt for those people in Chorazin and Bethsaida.  He spoke out of sorrow for them rather than anger at their ignorance and indifference. At the end of the day, they were the ones who deprived themselves of the fullness of the grace of God’s blessings.

Today, we are called to be like the psalmist who is ever so grateful to God for delivering him from the troubles of life.   “I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold.  I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me.  In your great love, answer me, O God, with your help that never fails.  As for me in my poverty and pain let your help, O God, lift me up.  I will praise God’s name with a song; I will glorify him with thanksgiving.  The poor when they see it will be glad and God-seeking hearts will revive; for the Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains.”  The Lord listened to the prayers of the needy and those in the depths of their pains.  Filled with gratitude and joy, they glorify God in their lives.  Let us not receive the grace of God in vain, like the people in the towns that Jesus preached.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

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

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Exodus 2:1-10 . BIRTH AND PRESERVATION OF MOSES.

1. there went a man of the house of Levi, &c. Amram was the husband and Jochebed the wife (compare Exodus 6:2 , Numbers 26:59 ). The marriage took place, and two children, Miriam and Aaron, were born some years before the infanticidal edict.

2. the woman . . . bare a son, &c. Some extraordinary appearance of remarkable comeliness led his parents to augur his future greatness. Beauty was regarded by the ancients as a mark of the divine favor.
hid him three months–The parents were a pious couple, and the measures they took were prompted not only by parental attachment, but by a strong faith in the blessing of God prospering their endeavors to save the infant.

3. she took for him an ark of bulrushes–papyrus, a thick, strong, and tough reed.
slime–the mud of the Nile, which, when hardened, is very tenacious.
pitch–mineral tar. Boats of this description are seen daily floating on the surface of the river, with no other caulking than Nile mud (compare Isaiah 18:2 ), and they are perfectly watertight, unless the coating is forced off by stormy weather.
flags–a general term for sea or river weed. The chest was not, as is often represented, committed to the bosom of the water but laid on the bank, where it would naturally appear to have been drifted by the current and arrested by the reedy thicket. The spot is traditionally said to be the Isle of Rodah, near Old Cairo.

4. his sister–Miriam would probably be a girl of ten or twelve years of age at the time.

5. the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river–The occasion is thought to have been a religious solemnity which the royal family opened by bathing in the sacred stream. Peculiar sacredness was attached to those portions of the Nile which flowed near the temples. The water was there fenced off as a protection from the crocodiles; and doubtless the princess had an enclosure reserved for her own use, the road to which seems to have been well known to Jochebed.
walked along–in procession or in file.
she sent her maid–her immediate attendant. The term is different from that rendered “maidens.”

6-9. when she had opened it, she saw the child–The narrative is picturesque. No tale of romance ever described a plot more skilfully laid or more full of interest in the development. The expedient of the ark, the slime and pitch, the choice of the time and place, the appeal to the sensibilities of the female breast, the stationing of the sister as a watch of the proceedings, her timely suggestion of a nurse, and the engagement of the mother herself–all bespeak a more than ordinary measure of ingenuity as well as intense solicitude on the part of the parents. But the origin of the scheme was most probably owing to a divine suggestion, as its success was due to an overruling Providence, who not only preserved the child’s life, but provided for his being trained in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Hence it is said to have been done by faith ( Hebrews 11:23 ), either in the general promise of deliverance, or some special revelation made to Amram and Jochebed–and in this view, the pious couple gave a beautiful example of a firm reliance on the word of God, united with an active use of the most suitable means.

10. she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter–Though it must have been nearly as severe a trial for Jochebed to part with him the second time as the first, she was doubtless reconciled to it by her belief in his high destination as the future deliverer of Israel. His age when removed to the palace is not stated; but he was old enough to be well instructed in the principles of the true religion; and those early impressions, deepened by the power of divine grace, were never forgotten or effaced.

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he became her son–by adoption, and his high rank afforded him advantages in education, which in the Providence of God were made subservient to far different purposes from what his royal patroness intended.

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she called his name Moses–His parents might, as usual, at the time of his circumcision, have given him a name, which is traditionally said to have been Joachim. But the name chosen by the princess, whether of Egyptian or Hebrew origin, is the only one by which he has ever been known to the church; and it is a permanent memorial of the painful incidents of his birth and infancy.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/exodus/exodus-2.html

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Commentary on Matthew 11:20-24 From Living Space
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After the apostolic discourse of chap 10, Matthew goes back to narrative.  In two passages preceding today’s Jesus reassures the disciples of John the Baptist that he is indeed the “one who is to come”, that is, the Messiah and Saviour-King.
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This is followed by a passage where Jesus complains of those who close their minds to God’s word.  John the Baptist led the life of an ascetic in the wilderness and they did not listen to him.  Jesus socialised freely with all kinds of people and they accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.
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So today Jesus warns three towns where he spent much of his time: Chorazin, Bethsaida and especially Capernaum.  If Jesus had done in the pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon what he had down in these predominantly Israelite towns, they would have converted long ago. Even Sodom, the biblical image of the very worst in immorality, would have done better.
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It is important for us to realise that, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is primarily speaking to us today.  If many non-Christians had been given the opportunities that we have received through our membership of the Christian community, they could very well be living much more generously than we do.  To what extent are we listening to God’s word?  How much of it do we try to understand?  And how much of it is reflected in our lifestyle?  Are we clearly and obviously followers of Christ and his Way?
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Discourse of the Mission occupies charter 10.  Chapters 11 and 12 describe the Mission which Jesus carried out and how he did it. The two chapters mention how the people adhered to him, doubted the evangelizing action of Jesus, or rejected it.
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John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, does not succeed in understanding him (Mt 11, 1-15). The people, who looked at Jesus out of interest, were not capable to understand him (Mt 11, 16-19). The great cities around the lake, which listened to the preaching of Jesus and saw his miracles, did not want to open themselves up to his message (this is the text of today’s Gospel) (Mt 11, 20-24). The wise and the doctors, who appreciated everything according to their own science, were not capable to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11, 25). The Pharisees, who trusted only in the observance of the law, criticized Jesus (Mt 12, 1-8) and decided to kill him (Mt 12, 9-14).
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They said that Jesus acted in the name of Beelzebul (Mt 12, 22-37). They wanted a proof in order to be able to believe in him (Mt 12, 38-45). Not even his relatives supported him (Mt 12, 46-50). Only the little ones and the simple people understood and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).  They followed him (Mt 12, 15-16) and saw in him the Servant announced by Isaiah (Mt 12, 17-21).
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• This way of describing the missionary activity of Jesus was a clear warning for the disciples who together with Jesus walked through Galilee. They could not expect a reward or praise for the fact of being missionaries of Jesus. This warning is also valid for us who today read and meditate on this discourse of the Mission, because the Gospels were written for all times.  They invite us to confront the attitude that we have with Jesus with the attitude of the persons who appear in the Gospel and to ask ourselves if we are like John the Baptist (Mt 11, 1-15), like the people who were interested (Mt 11, 16-19), like the unbelieving cities (Mt 11, 20-24), like the doctors who thought they knew everything and understood nothing (Mt 11, 25), like the Pharisees who only knew how to criticize (Mt 12, 1-45) or like the simple people who went seeking for Jesus (Mt 12. 15) and that, with their wisdom, knew how to understand and accept the message of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).
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• Matthew 11, 20: The word against the cities which did not receive him. The space in which Jesus moves during those three years of his missionary life was small; only a few square kilometres along the Sea of Galilee around the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin. Only that!  So it was in this very reduced space where Jesus made the majority of his discourses and worked his miracles.  He came to save the whole of humanity, and almost did not get out of the limited space of his land.  Tragically, Jesus has to become aware that the people of those cities did not want to accept the message of the Kingdom and were not converted.
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The cities become more rigid in their beliefs, traditions and customs and do not accept the invitation of Jesus to change life.
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• Matthew 11, 21-24: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are worse than Tyre and Sidon. In the past, Tyre and Sidon, inflexible enemies of Israel, ill treated the People of God. Because of this they were cursed by the prophets. (Is 23, 1; Jr 25, 22; 47, 4; Ex 26, 3; 27, 2; 28, 2; Jl 4, 4; Am 1, 10). And now Jesus says that these cities, symbols of all evil, would have already been converted if in them had been worked all the miracles which were worked in Chorazin and Bethsaida.
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The city of Sodom, the symbol of the worse perversion, was destroyed by the anger of God (Gn 18, 16 to 19, 29). And now Jesus says that Sodom would exist up until now, because it would have been converted if it had seen the miracles that Jesus worked in Capernaum. Today we still live this same paradox.  Many of us, who are Catholics since we were children, have many solid and firm convictions, so much so that nobody is capable of converting us. And in some places, Christianity, instead of being a source of change and of conversion, becomes the refuge of the most reactionary forces of the politics of the country.
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Personal questions
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• How do I place myself before the Good News of Jesus: like John the Baptist, like the interested people, like the doctors, like the Pharisees or like the simple and poor people?
• Do my city, my country deserve the warning of Jesus against Capernaum, Chorazion and Bethsaida?
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Concluding Prayer
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Great is Yahweh and most worthy of praise
in the city of our God, the holy mountain,
towering in beauty,
the joy of the whole world. (Ps 48,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (July 14, 2015)
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St John captured it so poignantly when he wrote “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  (Jn 1;11)  Jesus who loved His people so much and who came for them even instructed His disciples “not to go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.  Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt 10:5f)

 

The failure to respond to grace is the gist of today’s gospel.  The scripture readings invite us to consider the graces that we have received from God.  Like the Chosen People of God, we fail to take cognizance of the many wonderful graces we have received from Him with respect to our faith, life, health, material sufficiency, loved ones and friends.  Miracles are happening all around us every day and yet we are so blind to the wondrous works that God is doing for us and with us.  We fail to see these as signs from God, tokens of His love and mercy for us.

Instead, most of us take God and His graces for granted.  In Singapore, we are so fortunate in that there are ample avenues for those of us who are serious about deepening our faith.  We have the daily Eucharist celebrated at our parishes, and as if these are not near enough, we even have the Eucharist brought to the vicinity of our work place.  We have plenty of Adoration chapels open for us to pray in comfort.  There is even one, the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at CSC, which is open 24 hours throughout the year.  For those of us who are internet savvy, there are plenty of websites that offer scripture reflections for the day.  In terms of faith formation, we have talks, seminars and retreats in the parishes and our retreat houses.  And if we need community, there are neighbourhood groups and numerous movements and organizations to join, according to the charisms God has bestowed us with.  But how many of us avail of these resources?  More importantly, how many of us are making full use of the graces given to us so that we can deepen our faith and grow in charity for ourselves and for each other?

Not only do we take God and our faith for granted, we take our loved ones for granted as well.  It is ironical that we are more grateful to strangers and acquaintances who help us with small favours now and then, rather than to our friends and loved ones who spend much time and resources on us.  The love and kindness shown to us by our spouse and intimate friends seem to be something owed to us and not perceived as graces given to us.  When we take people for granted, especially those who are close to us, we do not grow in our love for them.  We are not appreciative because what is supposedly a gift from their goodness is seen as a right due to us.

Finally, most of us have received the blessings of God in vain.  God has blessed us with talents, wealth, health, career and success, yet we do not use our resources to help others, to contribute to the Church and society.  Instead of using what the Lord has blessed us with for the good of humanity, we use them only for ourselves.  Worse still are those who use their talents and resources for evil purposes, to manipulate others, to acquire more power and wealth for themselves.

If we have received the grace of God in vain, there will be serious repercussions. Jesus has this to say to us, “And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard as the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.” In warning them about the imminent judgment, He was not saying that God is a vindictive and merciless God.  On the contrary, Jesus was trying to express the lamentation of God who could not bear to see the self-destruction of His people.  The truth is that what we sow will be what we reap.  The disastrous consequences will be brought upon by ourselves.  For failing to use the graces of God responsibly and gratefully, we will cause ourselves and even our innocent loved ones to be destroyed by our sins.

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You can read all of Bishop Goh’s sermon from last year in our archives:
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O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small…

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, July 17, 2017 — Serving God First — “Let The Dead Bury the Dead”

July 16, 2017

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 389

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Reading 1 EX 1:8-14, 22

A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
He said to his subjects, “Look how numerous and powerful
the people of the children of Israel are growing, more so than we ourselves!
Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase;
otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies
to fight against us, and so leave our country.”

Accordingly, taskmasters were set over the children of Israel
to oppress them with forced labor.
Thus they had to build for Pharaoh
the supply cities of Pithom and Raamses.
Yet the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and spread.
The Egyptians, then, dreaded the children of Israel
and reduced them to cruel slavery,
making life bitter for them with hard work in mortar and brick
and all kinds of field work—the whole cruel fate of slaves.

Pharaoh then commanded all his subjects,
“Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews,
but you may let all the girls live.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 124:1B-3, 4-6, 7-8

R. (8a) Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Had not the LORD been with us–
let Israel say, had not the LORD been with us–
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept
the raging waters.
Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us
a prey to their teeth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
We were rescued like a bird
from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

AlleluiaMT 5:10

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

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Gospel MT 10:34—11:1

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
17 JULY 2017, Monday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time
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17 JULY, 2017, Monday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time
DRIVEN BY FEAR OR BY LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 1:8-1422Ps 123:1-8Mt 10:34-11:1   ]

All living things have this natural instinct to preserve their life and protect their interests.  So we should not be surprised that human beings as part of this animal kingdom behave similarly.  We dread suffering, pain and especially death.  So we will fight to defend our freedom and our needs.  When we perceive danger to our well-being or interests because of perceived or potential enemies, we take steps to eradicate our fears.

This was the case of the new Pharaoh in the first reading “who knew nothing of Joseph.  ‘Look,’ he said to his subjects ‘these people, the sons of Israel, have become so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us.  We must be prudent and take steps against their increasing any further, or if war should break out, they might add to the number of our enemies. They might take arms against us and so escape out of the country.’”  As a king, he had to consider the potential threats to their nation because of the growing strength of the Hebrews.  This situation is not new.  In our times, governments have to deal with global migration.  Because of globalization, mass communication, increased trade and improvements in transportation, migration is a reality that is here to stay.  There are serious demographical changes in most countries in the world.  What are the implications of welcoming migrants?  These are the questions that governments have to deal with, on the immediate front and the future of the nation.

The normal reaction to fear and threat is always suppression.  That was what the Pharaoh did. He tried all ways to control the growth and the strength of the Hebrews.  “Accordingly they put slave-drivers over the Israelites to wear them down under heavy loads.  The Egyptians forced the sons of Israel into slavery, and made their lives unbearable with hard labour, work with clay and with brick, all kinds of work in the fields; they forced on them every kind of labour.”  And when those measures were not effective enough, Pharaoh issued an order.  “Throw all the boys born to the Hebrews into the river, but let all the girls live.”

In the same vein, the early Christians were also persecuted by the Jews initially, and then by the Romans.  In the gospel, Jesus prophesied to the Twelve.  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”  What Jesus said actually happened by the time of the evangelist.  By this time, the Jews had prohibited the Jewish Christians from entering the synagogues.  Right from the start of the early Church, the Jewish Christians, especially St Paul, had a hard time explaining and convincing the Jews how Christ was the promised Messiah.  This problem was further complicated by the admission of Gentiles into the Christian Faith as it caused religious and cultural tensions. The early Christians were considered troublemakers and were responsible for dividing the family and the nation.

Later on, the Romans also began to take the Christians seriously.  Initially, they perceived it simply as a religious squabble between the Jews and the Christians.   If ever they were concerned about the Christians or the Jews, it was for political reason as they needed to ensure that law and order were observed in the country.  Otherwise, there could be social unrest due to rebellion.  But when the Roman Emperor began to assert its religious authority over the subjects and demanded to be worshipped as god, the conflicts began.   When Christians refused to acknowledge the Roman Emperor as God or worship him, or take part in their sacrifices, it was seen as treason and a rebellious act.   Of course, it did not help that there were rumors of Christians practising cannibalism and incest.

Yet, the lesson we can learn both from Pharaoh and the Romans is that persecution only makes matters worse.  Instead of stifling the rebellion or destroying the group, it only caused it to grow faster, stronger and more resilient.  We read that “the more they were crushed, the more they increased and spread, and men came to dread the sons of Israel.”  Through the hard labour they were subjected to, they became stronger and even more rebellious because of the injustices done to them.  This is true in the current turbulent world today.  When certain groups of people are oppressed, marginalized and not given the opportunities for a better life, they would align themselves and become a potent force against the establishment. Terrorists are always born out of poverty, injustice and marginalization. Terrorist leaders need to justify their actions by formulating an ideology rooted in God’s command to destroy their enemies and the rewards of martyrdom.  The more we seek to sideline an organization or a movement, the more offensive they would become; not just defensive.  They defend themselves by attacking others.  Most of all, they will put fear into the hearts of people.

In the early Church, we know that the blood of the Martyrs was the seed of the Church.  The Catholic Church did not grow out of a peaceful environment.  Many Christians in the first four centuries had to die for their belief.  Many of them were cruelly tortured and martyred to death.  Many were separated from their families.  They took the words of Jesus to heart.  “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.  Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”  By making Christ the center of their life, they had to carry the cross like Jesus.  In the process, they came to find life.

Consequently, the way to protect our common interests cannot be driven by fear.  When we act from fear, we tend to apply actions that are detrimental to the well-being of others.  When it is a matter of “I-win, you lose”, such a principle would create resentment and anger.  We must seek to find a win-win solution so that everyone’s interests are taken care of.  Regardless of what religion we have or do not have, whatever political inclinations, we all desire peace, love and unity.  That is why dialogue is the only way out of conflict.  No peace can be built through weapons and wars.  Terrorism cannot win their battle against the rest of the world.  It only strengthens the resolve to get rid of terrorists.  But then it would be a tit for tat world.

So we must engage in dialogue so that there could be a better understanding of each other’s position; and then see whether some compromises could be made.  Let us not imagine that dialogue is a simple exercise.  It requires tremendous openness, listening skills, and the sincerity to enter into each other’s fears and desires.  Often, minds are already made up or there is no breakthrough in opening each other’s mind.  Some of us hold such deep-seated views that no one can change us.   Regardless, we still must restart dialogue when it breaks down because this is the only way out.

But the most effective way to ensure peace and unity is to build friendships even before trouble and misunderstandings happen.  We must welcome each other in Christ.  “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.”  We are called to welcome a prophet and a holy man.  Indeed, “if anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, he will most certainly not lose his reward.”   Indeed, when we welcome each other as friends, then all issues can be discussed openly and with respect, but most of all with love and a sincere desire to bless each other.  In Singapore, we thank God that all religious leaders are friends with each other and always in dialogue among themselves and also with the government who sees religions as partners in the development of the country for the good of all peoples.

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

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Commentary on Matthew 10:34-11 From Living Space

We come to the final part of Jesus’ apostolic discourse in chapter 10.

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At a first reading, today’s passage could be puzzling, not to say highly disturbing, to some. Jesus seems to contradict everything that he has said and done so far.  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring but the sword.”  But do we not call Jesus the Prince of Peace?  Does Jesus not say during the Last Supper discourse in John’s gospel that he has come to give his peace to his disciples, a peace that no one will ever be able to take away from them? (John 14:27)

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And Jesus goes on to apply to himself a passage from the prophet Micah (7:6): “For I have come to set ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be those of his own household’.”  It sounds a terrible thing for Jesus our Saviour to be saying.  But it expresses not what he wants to happen but what he sees as an inevitable outcome of his message of love.  It says more about us than about him.

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Unfortunately, what Jesus says has only been confirmed again and again.  We have mentioned before the paradox that the message of Jesus about truth, love, justice and freedom for people everywhere is seen by some as highly subversive and dangerous.  And people who subscribe to this vision of Jesus and try to implement it in their lives are likely to run into headlong opposition with those who have a totally different vision of life and who see Jesus’ vision as a real threat to their interests.  In a world of conflicting ideologies, philosophies, cultures, traditions, ethnic and religious identities, to declare that one is opting for the Way of Jesus is often to invite opposition, persecution and even death.

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What Jesus says here is a fact – and was already a known experience when this gospel was written.  Christianity divided families and, in some places, it still does.  But people who see and understand and accept the vision of life that Jesus offers know they have no choice but to follow it, even if close family members object.  To go with Christ is to enter a new family, with new bonds.  A family which, for its part, does not at all reject those who reject it.  The Christian may be hounded and hated and expelled by family members but that is not the way he/she is going to respond to them.  On the contrary, the dearest wish of the new Christian is that his family members will be able to see what he sees and, until they do, he will pray for them, bless them and love them.

Image result for Christ and the Children by Harry Anderson

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Jesus then goes on to lay down the conditions necessary to be a genuine disciple.  “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me.”  In many cultures – in Asia for instance – this is a hard saying and seems to fly in the face of the filial piety and respect for the authority of elders which is at the heart of such societies.

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It is not, in fact, in conflict.  Love and respect for family members is a very high value for the Christian but there are even higher values which may take precedence.  Filial piety and parental authority can be very inward-looking, too centred on just this group of people.  Racial, national and religious identity can also be very narrow and intolerant in its understanding.

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Christianity is outward-looking and realises that there are people out there whose needs are even prior to those of my family.  To the Christian his blood family are only some among many brothers and sisters who have to be loved, served and cared for.   One is also never bound to follow family requirements which would be against truth, love, justice, honesty… As a Christian, I cannot obey a parent or other family member who practices dishonesty in business, who cheats, who sexually abuses, who practices racism or narrow-minded nationalism and the like and urges me to do the same.

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Jesus, as the Word of God, stands for a level of truth and integrity and love which is the ultimate measure of all that I do and say.  I cannot conform to the wishes of anyone, however close, who falls short of that measure.  But my Christian love and concern for that person will not be diminished, in spite of how I may be treated.

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To live like this can at time involve pain, separation, intense suffering and even death. This, I think, is what Jesus means when he says that I am not worthy of him unless I am willing to take my cross and walk with him.  There is a price to be paid for being true and loving and just.  This also is what he means by ‘finding’ live and ‘losing’ my life.  To ‘find’ life is to take the easy way of accommodation and compromise, not to mention material gain and pleasure; to ‘lose’ is to let go and let Jesus take charge.

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Of course, as Jesus points out, in the long run it is the ‘losers’ who find and the ‘finders’ who lose.

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The discourse ends with some advice about finding Jesus in other people, especially his own followers. Anyone who welcomes a follower of Jesus, whether that person is a ‘prophet’ (a missionary) or a ‘holy man’ (an ordinary Christian) welcomes Jesus himself and welcomes the Father also. Even to give a cup of cold water to a Christian because he is a Christian will not go unrewarded.

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The discourse is then clearly brought to an end by Matthew saying, “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples he moved on from there to teach and preach in their towns.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2152g/

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Today’s Gospel is Related to “Let The Dead Bury the Dead” and “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

One day Jesus invited a man to follow Him and become His disciple—but the man refused. He said he would follow Jesus later, but first he wanted to go bury his father. Jesus responded, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22).

What did He mean by this? Jesus wasn’t saying that people who were physically dead should bury other dead people; as you say, that wouldn’t make sense. Instead He was speaking of those who were spiritually dead—those who were alive physically but dead toward God in their souls. We may be very strong and healthy physically, and yet be spiritually dead—which is far more serious.

To us Jesus’ words to this man might sound harsh—but that is because we don’t understand what the man was really saying. When someone in Jesus’ day said they wanted to go bury their father, it didn’t necessarily mean he was already dead. Instead they really were saying that they wanted to stay with their father until he died—something that might be years away. This man was simply looking for an excuse to avoid becoming Jesus’ disciple.

What keeps you from following Jesus as you should? Almost anything can come between us and God; the devil will make sure of that. But Jesus’ call has not changed: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

https://billygraham.org/answer/what-did-jesus-mean-when-he-said-to-let-the-dead-bury-the-dead/

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Israel’s Enslavement

Beginning of Oppression

Joseph and his brothers died, and the children of Israel multiplied in the land of Egypt. They held important positions and played an important role in the political, cultural, and economic life of the country. It is not surprising that they stirred the jealousy of the native Egyptians who felt outshone by the “foreigners.”

Old King Pharaoh died, too, and a new king ascended the throne. He had no sympathy or love for the children of Israel, and chose to forget all that Joseph had done for Egypt. He decided to take action against the growing influence and numbers of the children of Israel. He called his council together, and they advised him to enslave these people and oppress them before they grew too powerful. Pharaoh limited the personal freedom of the Hebrews, put heavy taxes on them, and recruited their men into forced labor battalions under the supervision of harsh taskmasters. Thus the children of Israel had to build cities, erect monuments, construct roads, work in the quarries, and hew stones or make bricks and tiles. But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, and the harder the restrictions imposed upon them became, the more the children of Israel increased and multiplied. Finally, when King Pharaoh saw that forcing the Hebrews to do hard work did not succeed in suppressing their rapidly growing numbers, he decreed that all newly born male children of the Hebrews be thrown into the Nile River. Only daughters should be permitted to live.

Thus Pharaoh hoped to end the numerical increase of the Jewish population, and at the same time to eliminate a danger which, according to the predictions of his astrologers, threatened his own life in the person of a leader to be born to the children of Israel.

The Levites

The only group of Jews that escaped enslavement was the tribe of Levi. Levi was the last of Jacob‘s sons to die, and his influence over his tribe was great and lasting. They had taken over the Torah academy Jacob had established in Goshen, and they instructed the children of Israel in the knowledge of G‑d and His holy teachings. Thus they were occupied with spiritual matters and did not mix with the Egyptians, while many of their brethren had given up their old customs and way of life. Except for their language, clothing, and names, many of the children of Israel had become assimilated into the social and cultural environment of their Egyptian neighbors, and they were the ones to arouse the wrath of the Egyptians. Only the children of Levi were, therefore, spared the slavery and oppression which the Egyptians imposed upon the rest of Israel.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1551/jewish/Israels-Enslavement.htm

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“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
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Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.
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• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?At some places in the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?”
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Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but will you take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?Commitment to Christ means to take up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26).So, the idea that all you have to do is have faith, faith which doesn’t work through love, faith that sits there dumbly and blindly, faith that ignores the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the orphan – is a false idea of the faith Jesus taught.He did not teach dead faith and He has promised to judge every one of us according to our deeds.
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Art: Gleaning by Arthur Hughes.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 JULY 2016, Monday, 15th Week in Ordinary Time

A COMPROMISED FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 30:10-14; COL 1:15-20; LK 10:25-37  ]

Many of us, like the Israelites during the time of Isaiah, pay only lip service to God.  In truth, we do not take seriously the implications of confessing our faith in Christ as our Savior, Lord and God.  In our prayer and worship, we worship Jesus as our Lord and profess our loyalty and fidelity to Him.  But in our lives, Jesus is anything but the Lord and the center of our lives.  Many other things take priority over Jesus.  He is not always the main consideration in all our decision-making.  Other people and things are often chosen over Jesus. Many of us have hardly any time for Him, much less to think about Him and to hold Him in our heart wherever we go, whatever we do and say.

This hypocritical profession of faith hurts the Lord even more than those who do not believe in Him because of ignorance.  The words used by the Prophet evoke the deep pain and anguish of God when we betray Him by our words and actions. He said, “New Moons, Sabbaths, assemblies – I cannot endure festival and solemnity. Your New Moons and your pilgrimages I hate with all my soul. They lie heavy on me. I am tired of bearing them.”   It is not too difficult to feel with the Lord.  How do we like people who appear to be nice to us, say all the nice things about us when they are with us, give us presents and gifts but behind our back do all the things to hurt us, talking bad about us, slandering us, gossiping about us, and going against all our plans.

Such double-faced people are even more dangerous than our enemies.  At least with our enemies, we can be on guard but with them, thinking that they are our friends, we let our guard down and allow them to manipulate and destroy us.  For this reason, the Lord told the Israelites, “What are your endless sacrifices to me? I am sick of holocausts of rams and the fat of calves. The blood of bulls and of goats revolts me. When you come to present yourselves before me, who asked you to trample over my courts? Bring me your worthless offerings no more, the smoke of them fills me with disgust.”  Indeed, for such insincere people, we would say the same thing.  Please don’t put up a mask in front of us.  We are not interested in your gifts and your sweet word from your glib tongue.

But there is nothing more heartbreaking when our so-called friends betray us by hurting those people that we love and care for.  Indeed, we have many cases when those entrusted with responsibility betray our confidence and trust.  Sometimes priests, lay leaders, uncles, aunts, guardians, teachers included, betray our trust when they molest or take advantage of our children under their care.   Others steal our money or company secrets when we thought that they could be relied on absolutely.  More so, when we have treated these people well and given them many privileges and benefits.  To hurt our loved ones hurt us most deeply because we do not want our loved ones to suffer.  This exactly was how the Lord felt for His people when He told the Israelites, “Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.”  In the gospel too, Jesus also identified Himself with His disciples when He said, “If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.”

Indeed, in the gospel, Jesus invites us to give our total allegiance to Him.  We are called to give ourselves entirely to Him and His gospel, without compromise, without diluting the demands of discipleship, without hesitation and without fear of suffering.  A worthy disciple is one who is willing to accept the demands and the responsibilities of discipleship.

This entails first and foremost making Him the most important person in our life.  It calls for total commitment and He must be chosen above all others.  Without mincing His words, He said, “Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me.  Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me.”   This is a tall order.  In reality, most of us put our spouse, our children and our fiancée before God.  When choosing between Jesus and our future spouse, we would choose our spouse before the Lord.  For many Catholics, having a common faith in Christ is not an important criterion in looking for a future spouse.   It is true for a person who is called to serve the Lord.  Often, he or she is hindered from serving the Lord wholeheartedly because of his or her attachment to her loved ones.

Secondly, it means that we are willing to suffer for the Lord and with Him.  Jesus said, “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me.  Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”   To be a true disciple of the Lord requires that we walk the same path He trod.  We are not exempted from carrying the cross to Calvary.   This cross comes about when we die to ourselves, our selfishness, our needs and our interests as we pour out our lives as a libation for the service of our Lord and His people. Only when we take risks, suffer and empty ourselves completely, can we find life.  That is why those who are not ready to suffer, to take risks, and to seek adventure, cannot live fully.

Thirdly, to be a disciple of the Lord is to be ready to accept rejection even from our own kind, especially our loved ones.   Jesus warns us, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  A man’s enemies will be those of his own household.”   These words of Jesus are not just empty threats but He was speaking from His own life.  He too was rejected by His family members who thought He was out of His mind.  He was also rejected by some of His disciples who left Him when they could not accept His teaching on the real presence of the Eucharist.  Most of all, He was betrayed by His own people and those whom He helped when He was unjustly condemned to death.

Quite often today, when a convert chooses the Lord, he or she is often considered an outcast in his or her family and her community.  Many converts have to make the hard choice of choosing our Lord over and above their family, their clan and their community.  But because of the sacrifices they had to make in order to be a Catholic, they tend to value their faith much more than cradle Catholics.  As it is said, anything that is given to us freely and without cost is hardly appreciated.  Those of us who have been brought up in their faith or are able to practice their faith freely do not understand the great privilege we have until one day when they are persecuted for their faith and that freedom to worship is taken away.

Other times, it takes the form of rejection by our community because we want to serve the Lord as called by Him.  When we are ready to speak out against the wrong practices and infidelities in our community like Isaiah and all the prophets, we too will be persecuted.  It is always difficult to do the will of God because we will face opposition.  Most of us would just resign or withdraw rather than do the will of God for the good of the community.  We are afraid of rejection, alienation and loneliness.  But this is the sad reality of life.  Our greatest enemies, as Jesus remarked, come from our own household and our community.

How can we then give the Lord such unreserved allegiance?  It depends on whether we truly believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and God.  Only because He believed Himself to be our Lord and Saviour, could He then demand that we love Him wholeheartedly as commanded by Moses when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  This was reiterated in the gospel of yesterday when He told the lawyer how one could find eternal life.

It was significant that He connected the love of God with the love of neighbor and self. (cf Lk 10:27)  Loving God and loving neighbor and self are linked together in one single thread.  But the primacy goes to God first, then to neighbor and self.  Accordingly, Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.  Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.”  In truth, choosing the Lord does not mean giving up on our loved ones or our careers or our businesses or our hobbies.  On the contrary, choosing the Lord first will help us to see everything in perspective so that we can love them rightly with the love of God in our hearts.