Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, April 23, 2018 — “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

April 22, 2018

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 279

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Reading 1  ACTS 11:1-18

The Apostles and the brothers who were in Judea
heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God.
So when Peter went up to Jerusalem
the circumcised believers confronted him, saying,
‘You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.”
Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying,
“I was at prayer in the city of Joppa
when in a trance I had a vision,
something resembling a large sheet coming down,
lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me.
Looking intently into it,
I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth,
the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky.
I also heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.’
But I said, ‘Certainly not, sir,
because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
But a second time a voice from heaven answered,
‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’
This happened three times,
and then everything was drawn up again into the sky.
Just then three men appeared at the house where we were,
who had been sent to me from Caesarea.
The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating.
These six brothers also went with me,
and we entered the man’s house.
He related to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, saying,
‘Send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter,
who will speak words to you
by which you and all your household will be saved.’
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As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them
as it had upon us at the beginning,
and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said,
‘John baptized with water
but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us
when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,
who was I to be able to hinder God?”
When they heard this,
they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying,
“God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 42:2-3; 43:3, 4

R. (see 3a) Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
As the hind longs for the running waters,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
Then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!
R. Athirst is my soul for the living God.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Sheep and gate by Tim Green

Gospel  JN 10:1-10

Jesus said:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out .
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
I am the gate for the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
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From The Abbot in the Desert

Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

 

The Gospel of John today is about the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd always watches over those given to Him and draws them to follow Him because they know His voice.  On those who follow the Good Shepherd can enter the Kingdom.  “Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

Following the Good Shepherd is not about belonging to the Catholic Church or to any Church.  Following the Good Shepherd is about loving others.  Many people love others and serve them and have not found a Christian community in which they feel at home.  Or they have not found a Christian community that is so full of the life of Christ that they convert.  One of the great criticisms of Christianity is that so many of us Christians are poor witnesses to the present of the love, mercy and forgiveness of Christ.

To be strong witnesses, we have to be able to accept suffering!  We must be able to give our lives for others, not looking for comfort or good reputation or money or power or anything else:  only the love that Jesus has given to us.  And we must share that love with others by sacrificing ourselves.  That is what Jesus did and that is what Jesus asks of us.  We know the call:  Come to me, all you who are burdened!  But that means:  come to me, suffer with me for others, give your life for others.  In that you will find resurrection.  Alleluia.

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 APRIL, 2018, Monday, 4th Week of Easter

AUTHENTIC LEADERS PASS THROUGH THE GATE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 11:1-18PS 42:2-3,42:3-4JOHN 10:1-10 ]

Great leaders are those who lead and transform lives.  Many people aspire to be leaders.  But instead of leading their people to a higher level of life and in turn making them leaders rather than followers, they lead people to death.  This is what the Lord warns us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”   How do we distinguish between authentic leaders who serve the people and those who serve themselves?  How do we discern whether the leaders are leading us in the right direction and not to perdition?

Jesus in the gospel makes it clear that He is the Gate to the sheepfold. “I tell you most solemnly, I am the gate of the sheepfold.  All others who have come are thieves and brigands; but the sheep took no notice of them.  I am the gate.  Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding.”  In calling Himself as the Gate, Jesus is claiming that He is the only way to the Father.   Only He can lead us to the fullness of life.  Indeed, He declared, “I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Does this claim of Jesus sound rather triumphalist?  He seems to belittle all other leaders.  Firstly, to call Himself the gate is inevitable because of His identity.  None of us would be able to make this declaration as Jesus did.  This is because we all know that we are not the Ultimate Gate to life.  Christ is the Gate because He is the “I am”, the personal presence of God in our midst.   He is the Gate because He is the One that gives us access to the Father.  Hence, He told Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.’  (Jn 14:6f)  This truth for us Christians is made clear only from hindsight of His resurrection.  That Jesus who was crucified as a criminal and raised to life shows that He is Lord and God.  St Peter concluded, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

Secondly, we must see this imagery in terms of how we act as leaders on behalf of God.  Jesus was drawing from their daily life example of how shepherds would go through the gate and lead the sheep in and out.  Of course, if one were not the shepherd, they would not be able to enter the gate as the gatekeeper would not let him in.  “The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out.”

So those who are shepherds of their sheep must enter through the gate. This means that if we are to be authentic leaders for God’s sheep, we must go through the gate ourselves.  The psalmist says, “Know that the Lord is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”  (Ps 100:3)  Unless, we enter the gate, which is Christ Himself, we cannot encounter the fullness of the Father’s love and mercy.  Truly, we cannot be true leaders and shepherds of the flock of Christ unless we recognize Jesus as our shepherd.   Jesus in the gospel makes it clear, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  (Jn 10:11)  Christian leaders must stay close to Christ the Good Shepherd if they want to lead His sheep to greener pasture.

Indeed, without communion and intimacy with Christ the Good Shepherd and the Gate, we will not be able share the vision of Jesus with the People of God and the rest of humanity.  As shepherds after the heart of Christ, we must first listen to Him and be identified with Him in His love and passion for humanity.  This is what the Lord told His disciples.  “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”  (Jn 15:4-6)

This is where the mistake of our Christian leaders lies.  Many of our leaders are not in close communion with God.  They hardly spend time reading and listening to the Word of God.  They tend to hear their own voice and the voices of the world.  This explains why so-called Christian leaders are expounding truths that are alien to the gospel.  They twist and turn the gospel to suit their own agenda.  This is what St Paul warns us about. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”  (Gal 1:6f) By so doing, they confuse the faithful by their ideological slant, leading the People of God to perdition and eternal death.

We have the shining example of St Peter.  He was a man of deep prayer and communion with God.  He too sought to make the gospel more acceptable to those outside the Jewish traditions.  However, he did not take things into his own hands.  He was in prayer and the Lord spoke to him as he recounted.  “One day, when I was in the town of Jaffa, I fell into a trance as I was praying and had a vision of something like a big sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners.”   And the vision was to prepare him to accept the hospitality of the Gentiles in the person of Cornelius and his household.  He was told three times that “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.”  And so when the three men came from Caesarea to fetch him, the Holy Spirit told him “to have no hesitation about going back with them.”

He entered their house and whilst speaking, the Holy Spirit descended on them in the same way He did with the apostles.  Hence, St Peter’s conclusion was that “I realised then that God was giving them the identical thing he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; and who was I to stand in God’s way?”  In turn, his accusers and critics “gave glory to God, ‘God’ they said, ‘can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.’”  It was St Peter’s receptivity to the Holy Spirit and hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd that gave him the courage to open the Church to the Gentiles, preventing the primitive Church from being reduced to another sect within Judaism.

Indeed, his attentiveness to the prompting of the Holy Spirit opened the Church to many who are longing to find the truth and life. As the psalmist prayed, “Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God. My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life; when can I enter and see the face of God? O send forth your light and your truth; let these be my guide. Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.”   Many are seeking the light of God.  They yearn to see the face of God and they are waiting for God to quench their thirst in life.  Indeed, the Lord said, “I am the gate.  Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture.”  Jesus will give us the security and the peace that we are seeking in life.   With Jesus, we need not fear the future and with Him, we walk in freedom and in love.

The sheep too possess the sensus fidei, the sense of faith to distinguish the true voice of the shepherd and one that is not.   Jesus said “the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’”  Indeed, sheep must always be vigilant and not follow shepherds blindly unless they are followers of Christ.   We should take “no notice of them” if they are not one with the Shepherd.  All other shepherds must act in union with Christ the Good Shepherd.  Those who are called to be shepherds after the heart of Christ but must first enter the Gate of the sheepfold themselves, otherwise the sheep would either be misled by our ignorance or they simply would not follow us.  They will be deceived by us or would not recognize us.  We are called to bring them to Christ who gives us life abundantly.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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By C. H. SPURGEON
January 4, 1874
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“THE thief comes not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” False teachers, whatever their professions, seriously injure and endanger the souls of men and in the end cause their destruction. Their selfish ends can only be answered by the ruin of their dupes. The Lord Jesus, the true Teacher of men, causes injury to none, and brings death to no man’s door. His teaching is full of goodness, kindness and love. It works most effectually for human happiness and benefit. Error is deadly. The Truth of God is life-giving. The coming of the old serpent worked our death. The Advent of the woman’s Seed has brought us life. We shall omit all preface and ask you to note that, according to the text, Jesus Christ is come, first, that His people may have life. And, secondly, that where life is already given it may be enjoyed more abundantly.

The first Truth is that JESUS CHRIST HAS COME THAT MEN MAY HAVE LIFE. I will not dwell upon the thought that even the prolonged natural life of the sinner is due, in a large measure, to the coming of Christ. That barren tree would not stand so long in the garden of life if it were not that the dresser of the vineyard intercedes and cries, “Spare it yet another year, until I dig about it and fertilize it.” The interposition of the Mediator accounts for the lengthened lives of gross offenders whose crimes tax the long-suffering of Heaven. If the prayers of our great Intercessor should cease for a single hour, the ungodly among mankind would, perhaps, sink down quickly into Hell, as Korah, Dathan and Abiram did when the Lord’s anger broke forth upon them.

That, however, is not the drift of the text. Life, in the sense of pardon and deliverance from the death penalty, is a great result of Christ’s coming. All men in their natural condition are under sentence of death, for they have sinned, and they must be shortly taken to the place of execution, there to suffer the full penalty of the second death. If any of us are delivered at this time from the sentence of death and have now the promise of the crown of life, we owe the change to the coming of the Redeemer to be a Sacrifice for our sins. Every man among us must go down to the endless death unless, through Him who came to earth and hung upon the tree as the sinner’s Substitute, we obtain full remission for all offenses—and the verdict of life instead of death. There is life in a look at Jesus, but apart from Him, the sons of Adam are under sentence of death.

Moreover, we are all, by nature, “dead in trespasses and sins.” In the day when our first parents broke the Law, they died spiritually, and all of us died in them. And now, today, apart from Christ, we are all dead to spiritual things, being devoid of that living Spirit which enables us to have communion with God and to understand and enjoy spiritual things. All men are by nature without the Spirit which quickens to the highest form of life. Unregenerate men have physical life and mental life, but spiritual life they have not—nor will they ever have it except as Jesus gives it to them. The Spirit of God goes forth according to the Divine will and implants in us a living and incorruptible seed which is akin to the Divine Nature. He confers on us a new life, by virtue of which we live in the realm of spiritual things, comprehend spiritual teachings, seek spiritual objects and are alive unto God, who is a Spirit.

No one among us has any life of this kind by birth, neither can it be bestowed upon us by ceremonial rites, nor obtained by human merit. The dead cannot rise to life except by miracle—neither can man rise to spiritual life except by the working of the Spirit of God upon him, for it is He, alone, who can quicken us. Christ Jesus has come to call us from the graves of sin. Many have already heard His voice and live. This spiritual life is the same life which will be continued and perfected in Heaven. We shall not, when we rise again from the grave, obtain a life which we do not possess on earth—we must be alive unto God here or take our places among those whose worm dies not and whose fire is not quenched.

There beats within the Believer’s heart this day the same life which shall enjoy the fullness of joy in the Divine Presence. If you have only looked to Jesus a few minutes ago, yet there is now in your heart the blessed life. The incorruptible seed is sown in you which lives and abides forever. The heavenly life is within you and this Jesus Christ came to bestow upon us. The Truth that Jesus is the life-giver is clear enough in the text and it leads to the following practical reflection—life for your soul is only to be had in Jesus. If, then, you are, this day, seeking salvation, you are instructed as to the only source of it!

Spiritual life is not the result of working—how can the dead work for life? Must they not be quickened, first, and then will they not rather work from life than for life? Life is a gift and its bestowal upon any man must be the act of God. The Gospel preaches life by Jesus Christ. Sinner, see where you must look! You are wholly dependent upon the quickening voice of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life. “This,” says one, “is very discouraging to us.” It is intended to be! It is kindness to discourage men when they are acting upon wrong principles. As long as you think that your salvation can be effected by your own efforts, or merits, or anything else that can arise out of yourself, you are on the wrong track—and it is our duty to discourage you.

The way to life lies in the opposite direction. You must look right away from yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ! You must rely upon what He has done and not upon what you can do. And you must have respect not to what you can work in yourself, but to what He can work in you. Remember that God’s declaration is that, “Whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life.” If, therefore, you are enabled to come and cast yourselves upon the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, you have that eternal life immediately—which all your prayers, tears, repentance, church-going, chapel-going and sacraments could never bring to you!

Jesus can give it to you freely at this moment, but you cannot work it in yourself. You may imitate it and deceive yourself. You may garnish the corpse and make it seem as though it were alive—and you can galvanize it into a spasmodic motion—but life is a Divine fire and you can not steal the flame, or kindle it for yourself! It belongs to God, alone, to make alive, and therefore I charge you look alone to God in Christ Jesus! Christ has come that we may have life! If we could have obtained life without His coming, why did He need to come? If life could come to sinners apart from the Cross, why nail the Lord of Glory to the shameful tree? Why Your bleeding wounds, Immanuel, if life could come by some other door?

Yet, further, why did the Spirit of God descend at Pentecost, and why does He still abide among men if they can be quickened without Him? If life is to be obtained apart from the Holy Spirit, to what end does He work in the human heart? The bleeding Savior and the indwelling Spirit are convincing proofs that our life it not from ourselves, but from above. Away, then, from yourself, O Trembler! Seek not the living among the dead! Search not in the sepulcher of self for the Divine Life. The life of men is in yonder Savior and whoever believes in Him shall never die!

But we intend to spend the most of our time at this time upon the second Truth of God, namely, that JESUS HAS COME THAT THOSE TO WHOM HE HAS GIVEN LIFE MAY HAVE IT MORE ABUNDANTLY

Read more:

https://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons20.i.html

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 22, 2018 — “That we may be called the children of God.”

April 21, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 50

Image result for A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, bible, art, photos

Reading 1 ACTS 4:8-12

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said:
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
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Photo of Cornerstone Church - Portland, OR, United States

Responsorial Psalm  PS 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

R. (22) The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
for his kindness endures forever.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia. 

Reading 2  1 JN 3:1-2

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.

Alleluia  JN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord;
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep

Gospel JN 10:11-18

Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
A hired man, who is not a shepherd
and whose sheep are not his own,
sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away,
and the wolf catches and scatters them.
This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I will lay down my life for the sheep.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.
These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice,
and there will be one flock, one shepherd.
This is why the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.
I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.
This command I have received from my Father.”
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert,
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Reflection by The Abbot
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Saint John gives us these words of Jesus:  “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.”  God is seeking us out, just as a shepherd seeks out his sheep.  God wants us to be with him, just as the shepherd wants his sheep with him.  This Sunday we are invited and challenged to give our lives completely to the Lord.

The first reading today is from the Acts of the Apostles.  We could pay attention to just this one sentence:  “There is no salvation through anyone else.”  So often we want to work our own salvation.  Too often we have an idea of what our salvation might mean.  Today we are invited to recognize that God saves us in many, many ways.  God always invites us to share His life.  We are invited to let God be Saviour rather than constantly seeking to save ourselves.

Once we come to recognize Jesus as true Savior, we cannot stop talking about Him to others.  We want to share His presence in our lives.  We want others to recognize that there is nothing worthwhile in this whole world other than the presence of Jesus.  And, for many of us, we do not want to appear to be fanatics in the process.  Nevertheless, like the early disciples of Jesus, we will look fanatic whenever we speak about our belief in the Lord Jesus.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint John.  Saint John tells us:  “When it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  We shall see HIM as HE is.  This life is about seeking God and seeing only glimpses of the Lord Jesus.  Some seem to have more glimpses than others, but God always gives each of us what we need to continue in the seeking of God.  In the life of the world to come, we shall see Him as He is.

More importantly, Jesus will also see us as we are, with all of our brokenness, our sinfulness, our failures, our sins and all that we might want to hide from Him.  He will still say to us:  Come, you blessed of my Father.  Enter the Kingdom.

We come back to the Gospel of John.  Jesus lays down His life for us.  Jesus gives His live over to death in order that we can life forever.  We are invited to accept that salvation.  Even if we do not fully understand the Lord Jesus or His salvation, we are invited to accept Him and ask Him to save us.

Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, save us and draw us to yourself.  Be our shepherd and guide us in this life so that we may all be with you forever in the life of the world to come.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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The Cornerstone by Ray Pritchard
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“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Psalm 118:22).

The image comes from the ancient quarries where highly-trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used in construction. No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line. For that reason, builders inspected many stones, rejecting each one until they found the one they wanted. Rejected stones might be used in other parts of the building, but they would never become the cornerstone or the capstone (the first and last stones put in place).

When Peter preached to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8–12, he quoted Psalm 118:22 to show that Jesus is the rejected stone whom God made to be the cornerstone of salvation. They (the Jewish leaders) rejected him, but God not only accepted him but put him in the position of highest honor.

Peter pressed the point home with this powerful conclusion: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These words are utterly exclusive. There is no other hope, no other way, and no other name than the name of Jesus. If we would be saved, we must come God’s way or we won’t come at all.

Do not be like the builders who rejected God’s Stone of salvation! Do not reject Jesus Christ. Do not stumble over this rejected stone. The very stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. May God open your eyes to see Jesus as he really is—the Cornerstone of eternal salvation.

Taken from “Rejected Stone” by Keep Believing Ministries (used by permission).

http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/the-stone-that-the-builders-rejected-became-the-cornerstone.html

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

Today’s readings always remind me of, “Unless you CHANGE and become like little children.” ( Matthew 18:3 )

Indeed: we are the sheep of the Good Shepherd story. We must be docile, humble, teachable.

But most of us are proud, ego-centric, money grubbers. Even more reason God tells us to CHANGE and become better followers….

Unless You Become Like Little Children — God wants us to plunge into the unknown joyfully — reliant upon Him for strength and power and salvation.

Instead many people today are filled with fear and anxiety.

But there’s no need for that if we TRULY BELIEVE  in an all loving, all forgiving Father waiting to give us eternal life.

He tells us: “Do not e afraid.” He says this to the apostles while he is walking on water. He says it to Mary when she come to the tomb three days after the crucifixion. In fact, “Do not be afraid” is one of the more oft repeated lines in scripture.

So why are we afraid? Because we refuse to belive.

Finally, if we live long enough, most of us get to be both the stone rejected and the cornerstone! You get to my age you’ll know what I mean…

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 APRIL, 2018, Sunday, 4th Week of Easter
EXAMINING THE CAUSE FOR FAILURE IN LEADERSHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:8-121 JOHN 3:1-2JOHN 10:11-18 ]

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday.  All of us are called to be shepherds after the heart of Christ.  We exercise the office of shepherd as civil leaders, corporate leaders, teachers, priests, church leaders or even as parents.  Regardless how old or young we are, we will always be exercising some form of leadership.  We are not just being led but we also lead according to our capacity.

We all know how it is to be in leadership.   We can never please everyone.  It is extremely challenging to unite people with different personalities, interests, views and perspectives to work together.  No matter what we do, there will be people who oppose us, slander us and resist whatever we try to do for the greater good of the community.   But this is the trial and test of leadership as well.   Jesus as our cornerstone has been rejected by His own people as well.  Both the Acts of the Apostles and the responsorial psalm reiterate the same thing about the stone rejected by the builders.  So leaders should not be surprised when they are rejected as well.   But it is also important to examine the reasons why there are people who oppose us in leadership.

We can of course blame the sheep.  Most of us are into this blame game whenever things go wrong.  Instead of looking at the issues objectively, we look for scapegoats to blame for our failures, unhappiness and frustrations.  Instead of looking into ourselves, our tendency is to assign the fault to other people or the structures.  This could be the case for us as leaders.  We conclude that our failures and disappointments are all because they did not listen to our voice.  Instead they chose their own way.  They are self-willed and they chose to go astray.  The problem is with them and not with us.  We feel that they do not know us and cannot feel with us in our struggles. Most of all, they do not appreciate how much we have done for them.

But adopting the blame game will not solve the pain and frustrations we face as leaders!  We will only become more bitter and resentful.  So instead of picking at the faults of those sheep under our care, it would be more worthwhile that we look into ourselves and understand why our sheep are not hearing our voice and therefore not following us.  At the end of the day, there is a communication breakdown.  It might not just be at the information level, but at the level of the heart.  Can we truly say with Jesus when He said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep”?  I think it would be fair to say that we do not really know our sheep and they do not know us.  This is the reason for the miscommunication and lack of communication between leaders and the led.

Why don’t our sheep have confidence in us?  The reason is simply because they do not trust that we can lead them to greener pastures, or worse still, that we do not have their interests at heart.  So trust and confidence is not just a matter of competency and ability in leadership, but more than that, whether we really care for them.  In fact, our sheep can forgive us for the lack of leadership skills, but they cannot forgive us if we are self-serving, putting our interests and convenience before theirs.

What could cause the lack of trust and confidence?  It could be due to the lack of transparency.  They do not know what we are doing.  We do not take time to explain to them our vision, mission, our plans and concerns.  They are just receiving commands and orders from us.  They feel that we are making use of them like pawns for our ambition.  This is true even for parents.  Our children do not do what we tell them because they do not understand our concerns, our struggles, and our constraints, especially when they ask for favors or money. They are afraid to tell us the truth or share their problems and struggles for fear of rejection or being marginalized and falling out of favour with us.  They don’t see us as caring for them and that we are laying down our lives for them.

They do not know us perhaps because we do not let them know us.  We do not spend time with the sheep, like the shepherd who lives with them.  They feel that we regard them as a flock of sheep, as a mass rather than as individuals with different strengths and weaknesses, needs and difficulties.  We do not really know our sheep because we live in our ivory tower.  In a word, we are not in touch with their pains and dreams and aspirations.  We do not know them by name, that is, personally, and therefore cannot share their sufferings, hopes and expectations.

Accordingly, for effectiveness in leadership, the leader must take pains to explain to their members and share with them his vision and challenges so that they can better appreciate the limitations and the anxieties of their leaders.  Indeed, this was the case of Jesus the Good Shepherd.  The bible tells us that the shepherd always lives among his sheep, day and night.  He is often alone with his sheep.  He will talk to them, play with them, always leading and protecting them.  That is how the sheep come to recognize the voice of their shepherd.  Jesus always takes pains to share with His apostles and disciples His vision of life, God and creation.  He even prepared them for His eventual death and resurrection.  If there is a lack of trust, it boils down to the lack of communication and sharing.

Secondly, the lack of trust in leaders has to do with the way we exercise leadership.  Quite often, we exercise our leadership using an authoritarian style, where we rely heavily on the exercise of institutional authority, a style of command that is top down.  As a consequence, those under our charge see us as dictatorial, uncompromising, ambitious, insensitive and arrogant.  They feel we are judgmental and exacting, especially when they make mistakes. We lack compassion and understanding.  Instead of being forgiving and encouraging, we put them down. Such an approach will only hurt our sheep.  Instead of using the staff to guide them, to lead and correct them, we use the staff as a rod to beat them and punish them.  Without gentleness and meekness in leadership, we will destroy and wound them further and deeper.  Harshness and arrogance are not the ways Jesus dealt with His disciples.  It is always one of humble servanthood.  Compassionate leadership is the only way to gain trust and respect from our sheep.

Thirdly, they do not feel that we genuinely care for them as persons with feelings and needs.  We care more for our projects and ambitions.  Like the bad shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34, we only use them for our interests and to achieve our goals.  We take their wool to receive honour, recognition and respect for what we do.  We drink their milk, making use of them for our benefit.  So they feel used by us.  They do not see that we are more interested in their well-being and their happiness than the success of our projects.  Some of them are lost, but we do not take the trouble to seek them out.  Others are wounded but we do not have time to heal them.  Some are sick but we do not take the trouble to nurse them.  Some are hungry, overworked and tired but we do not feed them, give them formation and love.

Once we treat them like workers instead of brothers and sisters, we begin to regard them as our propertyto do as we like with them.  But that is against the truth that we share the same Heavenly Father, as St John tells us in the second reading.  We are all children of God. Indeed, although I have been using the term “our sheep” I must qualify this, for strictly speaking, those under our care, whether our children, employees or members, do not belong to us and they are not our sheep!  But they are the sheep of God since Jesus is the only Good Shepherd.  They are our sheep insofar as we are exercising shepherding on behalf of God.  If they were our sheep in the narrow sense, then we can do with them as we will, since they are our property.   But precisely as St John says, we are all children of God; we as leaders are accountable to God our Good Shepherd in the way we manage His sheep.

To gain confidence from those we lead, leaders are expected to walk the talk.  We are called to lead.  This means we must be ahead of our sheep.  To walk ahead is to show the way and walk the way.  We are called to be exemplars of the values that we hold.  In the final analysis, it is the lack of of integrity and fidelity to our calling that cause leaders to lose their credibility and hence, the distrust of our followers.  So long as we do not practice what we preach, do what we tell them to do, we cannot expect to command their respect and trust.  Using our office to coerce them to do what we want will only breed anger and resentment and even hatred.  If Jesus is our Good Shepherd, it is because He lived what He preached.  It was His fidelity to His Father unto death that earns Him our trust.  He walked before us before He asked us to follow after Him.  That is why He said, ‘The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will.”

In the light of our failure as leaders, or even when we, like Jesus, have truly been grossly misunderstood and rejected, let us come to the Good Shepherd for healing.  Not only do members need healing, but even more so leaders, because we bear the burdens of those under our care.   Unless we seek healing, we will only allow our wounds to hurt others, for indirectly and often unconsciously, our pain, anger, resentment, the sense of betrayal and injustice will lead us to be negative towards them, regard them as our enemies and even take revenge on them subtly.  Leaders are wounded healers.  This presupposes that they are healed before they can tend to the wounds of others.  Otherwise, we only expose our raw wounds, turning them away.  We cannot heal others unless we ourselves are constantly seeking healing from the Lord.  As parents and leaders, we need to turn to the Good Shepherd for healing.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, April 20, 2018 — “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” — “Scales fell from his eyes.” — The Founder of A.A.

April 19, 2018

Friday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 277

Image may contain: one or more people

The Conversion on the Way to Damascus by Caravaggio (c.1600-1)

Reading 1 ACTS 9:1-20

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him
for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that,
if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus,
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
He said, “Who are you, sir?”
The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
The men who were traveling with him stood speechless,
for they heard the voice but could see no one.
Saul got up from the ground,
but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing;
so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank.There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias,
and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.”
He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight
and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul.
He is there praying,
and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come in and lay his hands on him,
that he may regain his sight.”
But Ananias replied,
“Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man,
what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.
And here he has authority from the chief priests
to imprison all who call upon your name.”
But the Lord said to him,
“Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine
to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel,
and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
So Ananias went and entered the house;
laying his hands on him, he said,
“Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me,
Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came,
that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes
and he regained his sight.
He got up and was baptized,
and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus,
and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues,
that he is the Son of God.

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The Conversion of St.Paul.   1767.  Nicolas Bernard Lepicie. French 1735-1784. oil/canvas.

Saul blinded by the light by Nicholas-Bernard Lepicie, 1767

Responsorial Psalm  PS 117:1BC, 2

R. (Mark 16:15) Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise the LORD, all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
R. Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 6:56

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood,
remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 6:52-59

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying,
“How can this man give us his Flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my Flesh is true food,
and my Blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood
remains in me and I in him.
Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died,
whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
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“Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” (Acts 9:18)
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Conversion of Saint Paul (Michelangelo Buonarroti).jpg

Conversion of St. Paul by Michelangelo

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

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

The scales fell from the eyes….

Bill’s Story, p.12, Big Book

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

Ebby Thacher with Bill Wilson, the cofounder of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1955

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

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The story of how Saul, the devout Jew and zealous persecutor of the church, became Paul, a passionate preacher of the faith, begins along the road going northward from Jerusalem to Damascus. As Saul approached Damascus with plans to arrest those who “belonged to the Way,” he had a vision that totally changed the direction of his life. Luke describes the conversion three times in Acts (Acts 9:1-19Acts 22:3-16 and Acts 26:4-18), and Paul alludes to it in his letters to the churches in Galatia and Corinth (Galatians 1:16-212 Corinthians 11:22-23).

Saul was one of many Jews who felt that the followers of Jesus posed a threat to the Jewish religion. Earlier he stood by approvingly at the stoning of Stephen, one of the seven church deacons, for alleged blasphemy. Later, “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples, he went to the Jewish high priest for permission to arrest any followers of “the Way” in the synagogues of Damascus, where the Gospel was attracting converts.

The 150-mile journey from Jerusalem to Damascus can now be completed in one day, thanks to excellent roads. When Saul set out from Jerusalem with his escort, he had the choice of two routes: One went east down through the canyon called Wadi Qelt to Jericho, then turned north through the Jordan River valley. It crossed the river at Scythopolis (modern-day  Beit Shean). This route would have taken Saul around the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee and up to the mountain roads linking the Decapolis with Damascus. In summer time it is hot and uncomfortable, lying far below sea-level until the area east of the Sea of Galilee is reached.

The more frequented route moved through the khaki-colored hills of Samaria (the northern part of the West Bank/Palestine today), across the Jezreel Valley, then skirted the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, passing very near Capernaum, the base for Jesus’ three-year ministry (irony!).

Source: http://www.welcometohosanna.com/PAULS_MISSION ARY_JOURNEYS/0.2Conversion.html

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 19, 2018 — Go to any length to get it — Do not be afraid — Boldly go where others fear to go

April 18, 2018

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 276

Image result for Ethiopian eunuch, chariot, philip, art, pictures

Philip talks about the scripture with the Ethiopian eunuch

Reading 1 ACTS 8:26-40

The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip,
“Get up and head south on the road
that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”
So he got up and set out.
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace,
that is, the queen of the Ethiopians,
in charge of her entire treasury,
who had come to Jerusalem to worship, and was returning home.
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip,
“Go and join up with that chariot.”
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
“Do you understand what you are reading?”
He replied,
“How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the Scripture passage he was reading:Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who will tell of his posterity?
For his life is taken from the earth.
Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply,
“I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?
About himself, or about someone else?”
Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage,
he proclaimed Jesus to him.
As they traveled along the road
they came to some water,
and the eunuch said, “Look, there is water.
What is to prevent my being baptized?”
Then he ordered the chariot to stop,
and Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water,
and he baptized him.
When they came out of the water,
the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away,
and the eunuch saw him no more,
but continued on his way rejoicing.
Philip came to Azotus, and went about proclaiming the good news
to all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 66:8-9, 16-17, 20

R. (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Bless our God, you peoples,
loudly sound his praise;
He has given life to our souls,
and has not let our feet slip.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
When I appealed to him in words,
praise was on the tip of my tongue.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 6:51

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven,
says the Lord;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Related image

Gospel JN 6:44-51

Jesus said to the crowds:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:They shall all be taught by God.Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my Flesh for the life of the world.”
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Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch: Reflection on ACTS 8:26-40

We are fascinated by missionary tales of “chance” encounters. Along a lonely road in the African bush, a man suddenly appears and asks a missionary traveler, “Can you tell me who Jesus is?” Luke’s account of Philip’s divinely guided encounter with the Ethiopian would have been just as fascinating to first-century Romans or Greeks, for in their view Ethiopians lived literally at the southern edge of the earth (Homer Odyssey 1.23–eschatoi andron; see Acts 1:8).

God is actively fulfilling his purposes for the scope of the church’s mission (Lk 24:47; Acts 1:8). If it reaches an Ethiopian so soon after its beginning, Theophilus can know for sure that the gospel that is to be preached among all the nations is true. It is for him, and for us too.

This scene is a fitting climax to the Grecian Jewish Christians’ mission thrust, for here they complete the geographical aspects of the Acts 1:8 commission: Jerusalem (6:8-8:3), Judea and Samaria (8:4-25) and the ends of the earth (8:26-40). Further, it is a harbinger of the full-fledged Gentile mission to come (Acts 13–28).An Evangelist Guided by God (8:26-31)

Through his angel, God takes the initiative and directs Philip to take the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. The phrase translated south (kata mesembrian) may also be taken temporally, “at noon” (so regularly in the LXX). This would make the command all the more unusual, for few travelers would be on the road in the harsh midday sun. Desert road might be better translated “wilderness road.” This fits the topography of the northern route from Jerusalem to Gaza, which was paved (suitable for a carriage), was more direct and had abundant water at Ein Yael (Rapuano 1990:47; contrast Williams 1985:146).

In immediate obedience, with little information but complete trust in the God who guides, Philip sets out. For God to summon Philip from a thriving ministry in Samaria to the wilderness of the Judean hills is not an irrational move. God’s goal is not only “quantity” but also “quality,” in the sense of an ethnically diverse body of Christ (Rev 5:9). In a day when four of six billion have yet to hear the gospel within their own language and culture, we should not be surprised to see God calling our most effective evangelists to go to remote places. And like Philip, they should obey immediately and unquestioningly.

Philip encounters an Ethiopian eunuch and his retinue. He is at once exotic, powerful and pious. Greeks and Romans were particularly fascinated with dark-skinned Africans (Martin 1989:111; Diodorus Siculus Library of History 3.8.2-3; Strabo Geography 17.2.1-3). Although Ethiopian was used generally for anyone with these physical characteristics, here it refers to an inhabitant of the ancient kingdom of Meroe, which covered what is now northern Sudan south of Aswan to Khartoum (see NIV marginal note; compare Youngblood 1982:193; Crocker 1986). This man is powerful, the chief treasurer of a kingdom wealthy from its iron smelting, gold mining and trading position. It was a conduit for goods from the rest of the continent. Candace, queen of the Ethiopians (better “Queen Mother, ruling monarch of the Ethiopians,” since candaceis a title, not a proper name), cared for the duties of state. The king was regarded as a god, “child of the sun,” too sacred to engage in administration. The candace in this instance was Amanitare (A.D. 25-41; Wead 1982:197; Crocker 1986:67).

Luke does not identify the eunuch as either a proselyte, a Gentile convert to Judaism, or a God-fearer, a Gentile adherent to the Jewish monotheism, ethic and piety (compare Acts 2:11; 6:5; 10:2; 13:26, 43; Levinskaya 1990). He presents him only as pious according to the Jewish faith. The eunuch is returning to Meroe after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for one of the feasts, and he is sitting in his chariot reading Scripture. The chariot is probably a four-wheeled covered vehicle, like an oxcart, large enough to accommodate the eunuch, his driver, Philip and possibly another servant (who would be reading the manuscript aloud if the official is not doing so himself). The carriage is moving slowly enough to allow for reading and for Philip to approach it on foot. Reading aloud was the common practice in ancient times, and was especially necessary when words were strung together on a manuscript without spacing or punctuation (Bruce 1990:226).

Under the guidance of the Spirit (compare 10:19; 11:12; 13:2, 4; 16:6-7), Philip obediently overcomes any social reticence, approaches the wagon, walks briskly alongside and engages the eunuch in conversation about his reading. Luke consistently tells us that reading and understanding Scripture are not the same thing, especially for those who do not have the hermeneutical key (13:27; compare Lk 6:3; 10:26). Correct spiritual understanding is a gift (8:10; 10:22). The eunuch admits his need. His humble, teachable stance is the essential first step to achieving knowledge of salvation (compare Acts 17:11).

God in his mercy has provided not only the text but also the interpreter, a Spirit-filled teacher. The eunuch urgently, but politely, asks guidance (13:42; 16:9; contrast Lk 6:39). And today these two gifts are still present. Where are those of teachable spirit?Jesus Is Preached from the Scriptures (8:32-35)

Luke reports that the eunuch was reading the Septuagint of Isaiah 53:7-8 (Acts 8:32-33). Though the wording reflects “a gravely deviant translation” (Archer and Chirichigno 1983:123) at this point, the basic intention of Isaiah is not completely lost (Williams 1985:147). Luke is very interested in the content of this quote, introducing it with a phrase meaning the “content or wording of the passage” (compare v. 35; not passage of Scripture as the NIV). In it we have a description of the innocent, righteous sufferer, the objective basis for vicarious atonement. Luke has already portrayed Jesus in his passion in these terms: silent before authorities (Lk 23:9), deprived of justice, an innocent man condemned (Lk 23:4, 15, 22; 23:47; compare Acts 2:22-23; 3:14), his life taken (Lk 23:18; 22:2; 23:32; compare Acts 2:23; 10:39; 13:28).

The eunuch wants to know whether the prophet is talking about himself or someone else. For the Jew in the first century “someone else” was either the humiliated but vindicated “righteous sufferer” of the apocalyptic and wisdom traditions (Is 53:11; 1 Enoch 46, 62, 63; Wisdom of Solomon 2:12-5:23; Sirach 11:13/Is 52:15; Decock 1981:114). Or, as the targum has it, wicked Gentile nations suffer at the hands of the victorious Messiah, who vindicates his people (Targum of Isaiah 53:7-8; note Israel suffers in Targum of Isaiah 52:14; 53:2, 4, 10, and the wicked Gentile nations in 53:3, 7-9, 11). The messianic interpretation is original with Jesus (Lk 22:37/Is 53:12; Longenecker 1981:364; Bruce 1988:176).

Philip “opened his mouth” (NIV omits this phrase; compare 10:34) and beginning from this passage (compare Lk 24:27) tells the eunuch the good news about Jesus. Christ is the salvific key to the Old Testament. Does Philip simply expound Isaiah 53 and then show the fulfillment in Jesus’ life, vicarious death and victorious resurrection/exaltation (see E. F. Harrison 1986:152)? Does he continue a connected exposition through succeeding chapters of Isaiah, dealing with baptism at Isaiah 54:9-10 (compare 1 Pet 3:21) and the new day of salvation at 55:1, to 56:4-8, where a eunuch participates without hindrance in the people of God (Porter 1988)? Does he proceed from Isaiah 53 via early Christian testimonia on the suffering servant and righteous sufferer to show the Ethiopian how Christ and his salvation are preached in all the Scriptures (Is 42:1-44:5; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; Ps 22, 34, 69, 118; Longenecker 1981:365)?

Whatever the method, Philip both answers the eunuch’s question and points to Jesus’ saving significance. Just as a messenger fresh from the field of battle would “evangelize” the citizens with news of their army’s triumph (2 Sam 18:19-20, 26, 31), Philip evangelizes the Ethiopian that Jesus, the righteous sufferer, crucified and risen again, has won the victory over sin and death, and now repentance and forgiveness of sins are available in his name (compare Lk 4:18/Is 61:1; Acts 13:38-39).

See more:

https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Acts/Philip-Ethiopian-Eunuch

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First Thought From Peace and Freedom
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There are things in this world that we should really like to strive for….
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Many of us choose to chase after money, promotions and the things of this world. Yet scripture tells us we will never be fulfilled unless (and until) we shed out worldly desires and chase after “The One Thing.”
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What I need more than anything else in life is St. Philip’s passion for sharing The Good News along with the Ethiopian eunuch’s passion (and humility) which allows him to have a completely open heart ready to learn.
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Both Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch are “Going To Any Length To Get It!”
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We might also say, each is “Going The Extra Mile.” Even if that means transiting a bumpy cobblestone Roman road in a chariot!
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Oh God, “How can understand, unless someone instructs me?”
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Give me the open heart and mind of the Ethiopian eunuch and the passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ the way St. Philip teaches us!
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 APRIL, 2018, Thursday, 3rd Week of Easter
LEADING OTHERS TO CHRIST OUR TEACHER

 

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 8:26-40PS 66:8-9,16-17,20JOHN 6:44-51 ]

In the gospel, Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God.”  In saying this, Jesus was referring to the Prophet Jeremiah who said, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”  The prophet Isaiah also said a similar thing,  “All your sons shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons.”  (Isa 54:13)

How will they be taught by God?  Christ, precisely, is the fulfillment of this promise.  Only the one who came down from heaven and has gone up to heaven can reveal to us who God is. Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.”  (Jn 3:13)  In the gospel, Jesus reiterated this truth, “to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father.”  Hence, Jesus declared Himself to be “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”  (Jn 14:6)  He is the Shepherd and the Gate. (cf Jn 10:2,7)

He is the New Moses, the teacher, as Jesus hinted in today’s gospel.  “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die.”  Moses gave them bread from heaven.  Those who consumed the bread died because the bread was just physical sustenance.  But Jesus came to give us the Bread of life.   In the synoptics, Jesus presented Himself as the New Moses when He ascended the Mountain to teach His disciples. (cf Mt 5:1) And at the Transfiguration, Jesus summed up in Himself the Law and the Prophets represented by the appearance of Moses and Elijah.  (cf Mt 17:3f)

Consequently, if we want to find life to the fullest, we must come to Jesus who is the Bread of life.  As the bread of life, He came to speak to us of the goodness and mercy of His Father.  “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  (Jn 17:26)  He came to show us the way to live our lives so that we can find fullness of life by giving ourselves for the service of God and others.  “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:26-28)  The way of a blessed life is to live the Beatitudes, the blueprint for true happiness.  (cf Mt 5:1-11)

But Jesus revealed the Father to us not just through His teachings but His very life.  He said, “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”  His flesh refers to His humanity.  Jesus came to give His entire life and through His life and humanity, He showed us the face of His Father.  “He who 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 in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.”  (Jn 14:9-11)  In His works of mercy, His miracles, His conduct, relationship with people, the poor, sinners and marginalized, Jesus showed us the merciful and compassionate face of God, and most of all, by His death and resurrection.

But how can we come to Jesus?  In the first place, God has planted in the heart of each man a deep desire for God.  Jesus said to the crowd, “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  The Father draws us all to Him, regardless of who we are.  For in our hearts, we all long for eternal truth and love.  This desire for the fullness of truth and love is found in every human person.  Man seeks to find truth and love in their fellowmen but they are deeply disappointed.  No human person can reveal to us the fullness of truth or give us the fullness of love.  Only God can fulfill our thirst and hunger.   That is why St Augustine remarked that our hearts are restless until we rest in God.  There is nothing on this earth that is really satisfying, only God.

So the truth is that God is stirring in everyone’s heart a deep yearning for fulfillment.  Whenever we feel incomplete, it means we are looking for something more. Those of us who are wealthy and have everything we want, do we not feel there is some emptiness in our hearts and we wonder what it is?   It is our longing to rest in God.  Those of us who are successful in life, in our career or business, and have accomplished great things in life, how long can past achievements sustain our joy?  They came as quickly as they went.  Even human relationships cannot last, regardless how loving it is.  They too must come to an end.   That is why only God can fulfill our needs and our emptiness in life.

But to come to Jesus, we need to have guides to lead us to Him.  Philip proved himself to be a good guide in leading others to Jesus.   He took the opportunity when it presented itself, to explain to the Ethiopian about Jesus by enlightening him that the prophecy of Isaiah on the Suffering Servant was a reference to the Crucified Christ and Lord.  When the Ethiopian understood that Christ was the fulfilment of the prophecy, his heart and mind were opened and he sought baptism from Philip.  Indeed, Philip was truly a good instrument of the Lord to lead others to Jesus, seizing every opportunity that he had.

If Philip was a good pointer to the Lord, it was because he was led and moved by the Spirit.  He was completely docile to the Lord and did not keep anything for himself.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit and he allowed the Holy Spirit to lead him wherever He chose.  The first reading highlighted a few times how the angel of the Lord told him,  “’Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’ So he set off on his journey.”  And then after the baptism of the Eunuch, “Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea.”

If we want to be used by the Lord to lead others to Him, then we too must be available to the Lord like Philip.  We must not resist the Holy Spirit but be attentive to how He leads us.  The trouble is that we often want to lead the Holy Spirit instead.  We have all our plans set up and we expect God to follow our plans.  By all means, we must prepare and plan but we must also be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is one of surprises.  As Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.”  (Jn 3:8)

Finally, if we are to be true guides to others in bringing them to the Lord, we must not make ourselves the focus of attention.  This is what John the Baptist reminded us.  “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (Jn 3:2830)  Philip showed us his self-effacement too when he disappeared immediately after the baptism of the Ethiopian.  All he wanted was to make the Lord known and loved so that we too can say “this joy of mine is now full.”  (Jn 3:29) Preachers and teachers must be careful not to take over the limelight of our Lord.  They should be directing them to the Lord and not to themselves.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, April 18, 2018 — As For Death: It was not possible for him to be held by it

April 17, 2018

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 275

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Reading 1  ACTS 8:1B-8

There broke out a severe persecution of the Church in Jerusalem,
and all were scattered
throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria,
except the Apostles.
Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.
Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church;
entering house after house and dragging out men and women,
he handed them over for imprisonment.Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.
Thus Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed and crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 66:1-3A, 4-5, 6-7A

R. (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  SEE JN 6:40

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Everyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel JN 6:35-40

Jesus said to the crowds,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
But I told you that although you have seen me,
you do not believe.
Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”
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Reflection on Acts 8:1B-8

What was this preaching like? Whatever it was, it must be something a bit different than what we often hear in churches and pulpits when it comes to evangelism. Often we’re told that all we must do to share the gospel is share our own story. All we need to do is share of the marvelous things God has done in our lives to change our circumstances, our families, our jobs, and our general outlook on life.

In a sense, we’re told to share a story whose essential core is: “Sign up with Jesus! Look at how it worked for me!”  Some of this is due to our Evangelical history of sharing our testimonies of faith. Beyond that, though, it is reinforced by with our culture’s current emphasis on the power of personal stories and truth something we arrive at through our own narratives.

But how does that work for those who were “scattered” after Paul was “ravaging the church” in the midst of the persecution in Jerusalem? What about those devout men who buried Stephen and made a great lamentation over him? It’s hard to imagine them heading out into the hillsides and cities of Samaria and Judea saying, “Sign up with Jesus! Look at how it worked for me!” Losing your home, your job, your family, any and all social standing you might have had, freedom, security, or even physical health doesn’t really look like Jesus “worked” to most people.

No, there had to have been something more compelling than that. And indeed, if you look at the preaching in the book of Acts, there is. Take, for instance, Peter’s speech to the crowds in Acts 2 is paradigmatic:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

“Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:22-41)

What do we see here? A personal reflection on the way Jesus has changed Peter’s life? A recounting of Jesus’ personal forgiveness on the shores of Galilee? A narrative about Peter’s own relief and growing sense of personal confidence because of his encounter with Jesus? No. What we find is a recitation of the good news of Jesus’ story. Over and over again we see this discernable core message that God has kept his promises to save the world. He has done so by sending the Messiah, the King of Israel who is indeed the King of the Whole World. And this king has lived, taught, died a death for sin, risen again to new life, and is even now seated on the throne of heaven offering forgiveness for their rebellion and salvation to all who believe in him. This is the gospel message that comes with power even when the messenger seems outwardly weak, and their story doesn’t seem to “work” according to most outward, human principles.

This is the message that Luke talks about when he says that Philip went about after the dispersion:

Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did.  For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. (Acts 8:5-8)

And later, in his encounter with the Eunuch, we see him preach to him on the basis of Jesus’ fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah (Acts 8:26-40).

Where am I going with all of this? I don’t want to ignore, or deny the power that sharing our personal testimony has in leading someone to faith, or in encouraging the faith of other believers. Peter’s story (besides establishing his renewed apostolicity and place in the church) is a personal comfort and a demonstration of the gospel at work to transform an individual’s life. There is a proper place for our stories.

But what I want us to remember that there is another, deeper story that forms the heart of the gospel. Peter’s story only matters because it’s based on a prior story about God and God’s Messiah, Jesus, the Crucified and Resurrected Lord who is bringing the kingdom, making all things new and inviting sinners to be forgiven and participate in the process. That is the invitation that underlies all of our stories and the one that should be the focus of all of our sharing and evangelism.

In other words, the story that ultimately changes us is the one that says not, “Look at how Jesus has worked for me!”, but “Look at Jesus’ work for me!”

Soli Deo Gloria

Source:https://derekzrishmawy.com/2015/02/26/look-at-how-jesus-worked-for-me-a-reflection-on-testimony-and-gospel-preaching/

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Commentary on John 6:35-40 from Living Space

We continue yesterday’s reading by repeating its last words where Jesus tells his listeners very clearly that he is the Bread of Life. All those who partake of this Bread will never again be either hungry or thirsty. The whole life of Jesus – his actions and words and his relationships with those around him – are a rich source on which we can draw.

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In a sense, of course, we will always hunger and thirst for this full life but, by approaching and imbibing him and his spirit, our hunger and thirst are ever being satisfied while we continue to hunger and thirst for more. There will never be a time when we will want to stop eating and drinking from this Source and when we do we will stop living.

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Jesus reproves his listeners for their lack of faith in him. “Though you have seen me, you still do not believe.” The question is: how much of Jesus did they really see? How deep was their perception of who he truly was and is?

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That may be our problem too. Without a deep trust and total commitment to Christ and all he stands for, we may find that we do not have full access to that Bread of Life which we need so much. The search for the full Christ is one that we will never complete in this life. We only hope that we never stop searching. There will never be a day on this earth when we will be able to say: “I know Christ fully.” Not even the whole Church can make that claim.

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Yet Jesus intensely wants to share that Bread, that nourishment with us. “Indeed, it is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks upon the Son and believes in him, shall have eternal life.”

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Let us open our hearts today so that Jesus can fill them with his life-giving love. For he says: “I will not reject anyone who comes to me.”

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Jesus has a mission. “I came down from heaven [a phrase repeated six times in this chapter] not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” And what is the will of the Father? “It is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me but that I should raise it [on] the last day.

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This is a summary of what this whole chapter is about. God wants everyone to be with him “on the last day”. On our part, we have to learn how to “see the Son” and “believe in him”, so that one day we can say with St Paul: “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). When that happens we know that we have truly been filled with the Bread that is Christ.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1034g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
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Jesus tells his people — us — over and over again: “Do not be afraid. For I am with you.”
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But what happens after we fall? What happens when our humanness gets in the way of our spirituality?
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“The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” (Acts 4: 11 and Psalm 118: 22)
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Jesus tells us over and over again to just come back to him. Ask for help. He tells us of the prodigal son and the lost sheep. That’s me. That’s us!

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Above is Rembrandt’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” on the Cover of Henri Nouwen’s book of the same name….

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 APRIL, 2018, Wednesday, 3rd Week of Easter
LIVING WITH THE TENSION OF CHANGE AND GROWTH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 8:1-8PSALM 66:1-7JOHN 6:35-40 ]

We are all creatures of habit.  We like routine.  We live a robotic life, doing the same old thing day in and day out.   In this way, we do not have to expand much of our energy or use our brain.   We just drift through life each day, living in our comfort zone.  We do not like change because change involves adaptation.  It means going through the pain of adjustment.  We resist change unless the changes we are making promise to make our life more comfortable and pleasant.   The sacrifice of change must commensurate with the results of change.

But the reality is that nothing remains static.  Things are changing even if we do not want to change.   Even in our personal life, there will be deaths and new born babies.  We all get older each day.  Our needs and likes change with age and time.  There will be departures of our loved ones.  There will be new additions to the family.  Our career will change.  We will get married.  Businesses and managements often change.  So there is no way to prevent change from taking place.  Nothing is static but everything is dynamic. We are not independent but inter-dependent.  So when people and situations change, we will have to change to meet the new challenges.

This is true of the development of the Church as well. The early Church was rather complacent, living as a loving community.  They were quite contented to have the Church grow within Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem.  But then their security was threatened by the Jewish leaders.  In the first place, the early Christians challenged the Jewish religious and cultural institutions and unsettled them.  Hence, they reacted by persecuting them.  After the martyrdom of Stephen, “a bitter persecution started against the church in Jerusalem.  Saul then worked for the total destruction of the Church; he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison.”

Because of the persecution, they were forced to move out of Jerusalem.  St Luke noted that “everyone except the apostles fled to the country districts of Judaea and Samaria. Those who had escaped went from place to place preaching the Good News. One of them was Philip who went to a Samaritan town and proclaimed the Christ to them.”  So the persecution caused the Church in Jerusalem to move out to other parts of Palestine to spread the Good News.  This was the indirect positive effect of the persecution.  Instead of stifling and suppressing the new Christian religion, it unwittingly forced them to move out to proclaim the Good News to other places.   They found new communities.   Indeed, if the early Christians had not been persecuted, and had Judaism accommodated the Christians, the early Church could have become just another sect within Judaism.   The Church would not have become Catholic or universal.  This is the irony of life.  Without tensions, opposition and new challenges, we cannot grow.

Today, persecution of the Church is no less intense.  Perhaps we are more civil and we do not kill each other, although violence still erupts and exist in some countries.  But generally, the persecution of the Church is subtler in terms of discrimination, suppression or marginalization.   However, the persecution is not just directly from outside of the Church but from within as the Church seeks to be relevant to modern society.  As a result of globalization and technological advancement, the world has changed so radically over the last 100 years.   Technology has changed the lifestyle and demands of our people.  Today, we have to grapple with global migration, mass media, and changing cultures.   Questions that our forefathers did not have to grapple with, such as cloning, euthanasia, in-vitro fertilization, sex change, and other bioethical issues.   Lifestyles too have changed dramatically in our times because of the confluence of cultures, religions and races. This has resulted in transculturation, tolerance, assimilation and acceptance of the different traditions and customs.  Family life has also changed.   We no longer stay in the same place throughout our lives with three generations living under the same roof.  The nature of the family, the composition, the role of women, the upbringing of children, the understanding of marriage and same-sex relationships – all these have changed.

In a changing world, either we take flight or fight or engage in dialogue.  Flight would only make the Church outdated and out of sync with the modern times.  Fight would make the Church an enemy of the world.  Forcing the world to adapt to us would be a losing battle in this age of globalization.  Indeed, the Popes since Vatican II understood this need for the Church to engage the world.  If we just stay in our enclave, we will lose the world entirely.  Since John XXIII, the Church has sought to engage the world and dialogue with the world on issues that are of common concern, especially in the areas of morality, justice and peace.

Pope Francis of course took on a more radical course in transforming the Church from a distant, cold, institutional Church into a more humane, compassionate and benevolent Church, especially towards the poor, the sick, the marginalized, women and those who are not in full communion with the Church, the divorced, those in same-sex relationships, non-Catholic Christians, other religions and the humanists.   His personal touch with the poor, sensitivity to the sufferings of the people, victims of child abuse and his warmth and affectivity in meeting and dealing with people also have breached the distance between the Petrine Office and the People of God.  Together with the Council of Cardinals, called G-9, the Holy Father is making institutional and structural changes to the time immemorial traditions and structures of the Church, especially with regard to the position of women and the authority of the bishops.

His pontificate is certainly unsettling to those who are not ready for so many changes, but for those who feel that the Church has been too regimental, doctrinal-based and lacking compassion and synergy with the world, it is a fresh wind.  Pope Francis advocates a greater compassion for those who are divorced and remarried who are barred from receiving Holy Communion; and the pastoral recommendations in dealing with such marriages in Amoris Laetitia has caused much controversy.  Besides this, he has unsettled many with the changes he made to the washing of feet on Holy Thursday to include women and even non-Catholics, celebrating a wedding spontaneously in mid-flight, saying that he does not judge those with have same sex orientation, etc.  Certainly, there are tensions and even confusion on the ground as to what is the teaching and direction of the Church towards these issues which were then so clear until Pope Francis came into office.  Before him, orthodoxy held the Church together.  But today, it seems pragmatism leads the way.  Doctrines are being compromised to reach out to those who do not “qualify” to be full members of the Church.  So today, the battles are being fought in the Church between the dogmatists and the pragmatists, between orthodoxy and practice, idealists and the realists.  This tension is inevitable for us to arrive at orthopraxis, that is, the right relationship between orthodoxy and practice.

Whilst this ideological and doctrinal battle is being fought, in the final analysis, what is of vital importance is to bring Jesus to the people.  At the end of the day, what changes a person’s thinking and belief is not so much an intellectual conversion but a conversion of the heart.  We are more feeling than thinking people. Ideologists can change their views overnight but heartfelt relationships take time to build and even to break.  Indeed, in the early Church we see that people were converted not so much by intellectual discourse on the validity of Christianity in comparison to Judaism but it was by the miracles and signs that the apostles performed, as in the case of Philip’s ministry to the Samaritans.

That is why Jesus in the gospel said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst. But, as I have told you, you can see me and still you do not believe.”  Just by seeing Him we will not have faith unless we have a personal relationship with Him.  When we relate with Him with our heart, mind and body, we will come to appreciate His teaching and be touched by His love for us.  So what is needed is relationship first.   It is not to say that doctrines do not matter.  Truth matters because love is built on truth.  But we need to win over our people with love before we can lead them to a deeper understanding of the truth of love.  Doctrines cannot change lives unless we have a prior relationship with Jesus and are reading the scriptures with faith and love.  This is what the Lord affirms, “Yes, it is my Father’s will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and that I shall raise him up on the last day.”

So the present thrust is to bring all to Jesus, to encounter His merciful love and compassion so that falling in love with Jesus, they would be brought to a deeper understanding of their faith, through study of scriptures and faith.  Unless we have a common love for Jesus, there is no way for us to discern together in the spirit to find the right way to understand and communicate the tenets of Christ’s teachings to all.  The modern generation needs to feel that they are loved, accepted and embraced unconditionally before they have the trust to dialogue with the Church.  Unless people believe in Jesus, we cannot proclaim the truths of the gospel because it will fall on skeptical ears and hearts.

 Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 17, 2018 — “Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God.”

April 16, 2018

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 274

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Saint Stephen – The First Martyr — Is his often depicted with the book of scrimpture and some stones

Reading 1  ACTS 7:51—8:1A

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it.”When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them”;
and when he said this, he fell asleep.Now Saul was consenting to his execution.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 31:3CD-4, 6 AND 7B AND 8A, 17 AND 21AB

R. (6a) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
My trust is in the LORD;
I will rejoice and be glad of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 6:35AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the bread of life, says the Lord;
whoever comes to me will never hunger.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 6:30-35

The crowd said to Jesus:
“What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”So Jesus said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

So they said to Jesus,
“Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

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Image result for The stoning of St Stephen

Homily For Acts 7:51—8:1a — Stephen Martyred

It takes a miracle of God for us to feel with our stony hearts and hear through our deaf ears (This was said to the Sanhedrin, but the rest of Scripture attributes the same moral deficiencies to us, unfortunately). Just look forward in Acts to see what was required to wake Saul from his sin, the very one who oversaw and approved of the martyring of Stephen in Acts 7.

For this reason, I never take the grace I have received flippantly, for I would remain lost if it had anything to do with my own formerly uncircumcised heart and ears. But there’s another thing in this chapter that is noteworthy for our lives once we’ve come to Christ. If you dare to speak the Word faithfully, and truly, as Stephen did, you will encounter furious teeth gnashers. It’s just the way it is. As Luther said, where the gospel is truly preached, there will be strife.

Think of your life…if absolutely no one is ever upset with you, then you’re not sharing the Word, or it’s watered down beyond the point where it’s hard to recognize what it is. Or, someone is upset with you for something other than the Word. That doesn’t count.

There’s a reason they killed the prophets–as Stephen explained–and the Christ. The gospel is offensive (we’re all rotten) as much as it is sweet (Christ died for that rotteness). The preaching of God’s will for the Christian’s life is sometimes offensive (No, you just can’t continue to hate your enemy, no matter what she did to you). It cuts, like a double edge sword, and if you wield it, someone’s gonna get mad.

But trust in it, for God will not abandon you. It’s my opinion that Stephen never felt the first stone. Instead, he was caught up in the vision of the heaven to which he was about to enter.

Amen.

https://www.enclavepublishing.com/sunday-devotional-acts-751-81/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 APRIL, 2018, Tuesday, 3rd Week of Easter
RESISTING THE HOLY SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 7:51 – 8:1PS 31:3-4,6,8,17,21JOHN 6:30-35 ]

In the first reading, we read how the people of Israel had always been resisting the Holy Spirit.  Stephen came to a point when gentle and persuasive talk could not touch their hearts.  So he went on the offensive and told them off, “You stubborn people, with your pagan hearts and pagan ears.  You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do.  Can you name a single prophet your ancestors never persecuted?  In the past they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, and now you have become his betrayers, his murderers.”  Indeed, the history of Israel is a history of infidelity to the Covenant.   Instead of submitting to the Word of God as expressed in the laws, they adopted the customs, lifestyle and even the religious traditions of their neighbours.  They were unfaithful to the God of Israel who liberated them from Egypt and made them into the People of God.  In order to save the people, the Lord in His mercy sent prophet after prophet to remind them and their leaders how they should conduct themselves and walk in the ways of the Covenant.

But again and again, they disobeyed the prophets that God sent as His messengers. Not only did they not listen to the prophets, but they persecuted and killed them.  King Jehoiakim killed the prophet Uriah.  (cf Jer 26:20-23)  Amos was rejected by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel who sought to influence Jeroboam, King of Israel to drive Amos back to Judah.  (Amos 7:10-16)  Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, the priest who reprimanded the people for disobedience to the commands of the Lord, was ordered by King Joash to be stoned to death.  (cf 2 Chron 24:20-22)   Elijah too, was pursued by Jezebel for killing her prophets of Baal. (cf 1 Kg 19:1f)   Jesus reminded His contemporaries about their resistance to the Holy Spirit when He told them the parable of the Tenants who killed the servants and the son of the owner of the vineyard.  (cf Lk 20:9-19)

Indeed, the history of Israel is not different from our history. We also resist the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Although we live under the new covenant, many of us are not living the life of Christ.  We disobey the teachings of Christ and fail to live the life of Christ.  We too do not take the Word of God seriously.  We pick and choose what we like and not what the Lord tells us.  When we read what we like and reject what we do not like, we are not believing in the Word of God but in ourselves.  This is what is happening among us Christians.  We seek to interpret the Word of God according to our so-called context.  We make the Word of God approve what we seek to do.  Whether it is with regard to divorce, same-sex union, euthanasia or abortion, we twist and turn the Word of God to suit our preferences.  Instead of hearing the Word of God and taking it for what it really is, we make the Word of God adapt to our sinfulness.

St Paul complimented the Christians for taking the Word of God as it really is.  “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.”  (1 Th 2:13)  Writing to the Galatians, St Paul said, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”  (Gal 1:6-8)

In contrast, we have Stephen who did not resist the Holy Spirit.  He shared the same Spirit as our Lord Jesus.  He used similar words that Jesus spoke to the Council when He was on trial.  He said, “I can see heaven thrown open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  (cf Mt 24:64)   He was totally receptive to Christ and the Word of God.  He saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  His vision authenticated the Lord’s claim to be the Messiah because He was now assuming full authority seated next to God to be the judge.  This time, Jesus was waiting to welcome the first martyr into heaven.  Of course, this affirmation only confirms the sins of the Jewish leaders in wrongfully putting Jesus to death.  As a consequence, they repeated exactly what their forefathers did.  “At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him.”

What Stephen said was not favourable to their ears and so they sought to silence the truth.  This is what is happening in the world today as well.   People might not kill us for witnessing to Christ but they will seek to oppose us and silence us from speaking the truth about the gospel message of life and love.  In the name of secularization and neutrality, the world seeks to extinguish the Christian message and symbols from society.   It is not easy today to profess our faith and our beliefs without being hostilely attacked by those who disagree with us.  When we seek to express our beliefs, they would stir up others to oppose us on the accusation that we are causing division in society simply because our views do not agree with theirs.   If Christians have to share the common view of society, then there is no reason for us to be Christians because the gospel precisely is meant to help and restore society.

Indeed, life is what the Lord is offering us.  He is the Bread of life.  He said, “He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.”  This bread “comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”   Jesus as the Bread of life teaches us the truth through His word.  The bread of life refers foremost to the Word of God.  In the gospel, Jesus said to the Devil, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  (Mt 4:4)  Jesus makes it clear that the bread that Moses gave was only a foreshadowing of the bread of God.   The true bread of God satisfies not just the physical hunger but the spiritual hunger.  Only this bread can give life to humanity because this bread is nothing less than Himself.

Fullness of life comes from more than just having a full stomach; it is about our relationship with God.  Bread can only give us physical life but Jesus as the Bread of life comes to offer us a new relationship with God through the Word.  Only through Jesus, can we come to the Father and know Him.  Without Jesus revealing to us the Father, we will not be able to have an intimate relationship with God.  Only by knowing and coming to the Father, can our hunger be satisfied and our soul be at rest.   This explains why it is through the Word of God that we come to know the Father in Christ.  To receive the bread of life is to hear the Word of God and like Stephen, obey it.

This is the way in which we receive the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God comes to us through our docility and reception of the Word of God.  St Peter said, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32)  Of course, the full reception of the Holy Spirit includes receiving Jesus sacramentally in the Eucharist, for the bread of life is but the way in which we relate with the entire Jesus, body and spirit.  Only then can we be like St Stephen who lived out the Spirit of Christ in him.   He surrendered his life to his enemies, the same way the Lord surrendered by saying, “’Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’  Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.”  (cf Lk 23:34)  Like Jesus, he prayed for the forgiveness of his enemies and murderers.  Only with the Spirit of Christ, can we love our enemies and pray for them.   But it is such witnessing in the Spirit that hearts will be converted, just as Stephen touched the heart of Saul who witnessed the killing.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, April 16, 2018 — “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life.”

April 15, 2018

Monday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 273

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St Stephen in a pit, about to be stoned

Reading 1 ACTS 6:8-15

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyreneans, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.
Then they instigated some men to say,
“We have heard him speaking blasphemous words
against Moses and God.”
They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes,
accosted him, seized him,
and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
They presented false witnesses who testified,
“This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law.
For we have heard him claim
that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place
and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.”
All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him
and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 119:23-24, 26-27, 29-30

R. (1ab) Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Though princes meet and talk against me,
your servant meditates on your statutes.
Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.
I declared my ways, and you answered me;
teach me your statutes.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Remove from me the way of falsehood,
and favor me with your law.
The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.
R. Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 4:4B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 6:22-29

[After Jesus had fed the five thousand men, his disciples saw him walking on the sea.]
The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea
saw that there had been only one boat there,
and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat,
but only his disciples had left.
Other boats came from Tiberias
near the place where they had eaten the bread
when the Lord gave thanks.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
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Lectio Divina
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People look for Jesus because they want more bread. The people follow Jesus. They see that he did not go into the boat with the disciples and, because of this, they do not understand what he had done to reach Capernaum. They did not even understand the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. People see what has happened, but they cannot understand all this as a sign of something more profound. They stop only on the surface; in being satisfied with the food. They look for bread and life, but only for the body. According to the people, Jesus does what Moses had done in the past: to feed all the people in the desert. According to Jesus, they wanted the past to be repeated. But Jesus asks the people to take a step more and advance. Besides working for the bread that perishes, they should work for the imperishable food. This new food will be given by the Son of Man, indicated by God himself. He brings life which lasts forever. He opens for us a new horizon on the sense of life and on God.

• John 6, 28-29: Which is God’s work? The people ask: what should we do to carry out this work of God? Jesus answers that the great work of God asks us to “believe in the one sent by God”. That is, to believe in Jesus!

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-622-29

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Reflection on Acts 6:8-15 From Living Space

Today we begin the story of Stephen, who will be the first person to give his life for Christ. He is the first martyr, the first true witness to the Gospel. The passage follows immediately on yesterday’s reading on the appointment of the ‘deacons’, of whom Stephen was one and also following the conversion of some of the Temple’s priests.

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We are told at the beginning that Stephen, “filled with grace and power”, was performing great signs and wonders among the people. Until now, we only heard of the apostles, especially Peter and John, working miracles. Now, after the laying on of hands, Stephen is given the same gifts and the same power. Soon, we will see the deacon Philip doing the same.

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However, Stephen’s words and action aroused the displeasure of other Greek-speaking Jews. We are told that there were people from the Synagogue of Freedmen, who were probably descendants of Jews who had been carried off to Rome by Pompey when he attacked Jerusalem in 63 BC. They would have been sold into slavery but later released, hence their name. The Cyrenians came from Cyrene, which was the chief city in Libya and North Africa, half way between Alexandria and Carthage. It had a Jewish community. (We remember too that it was a Simon from Cyrene who was forced to help Jesus carry his cross, Matt 27:32.)

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Alexandrians, came from the city of Alexandria (named after the famous Macedonian emperor). It was the capital of Egypt and the second city of the Roman Empire. It also had a Jewish community. Cilicia was a Roman province in the southeast corner of Asia Minor, close to Syria. Tarsus, the birthplace of Paul, was one of its principal towns. Asia simply referred to just one Roman province in what is now western Turkey. Its capital was Ephesus, which would feature prominently in Paul’s ministry.

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These men began debating with Stephen. It is an interesting theory that, since Paul was from Tarsus in Cilicia, he might have attended this synagogue and have been among those who were arguing with Stephen.

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He certainly was prominent in the stoning of Stephen.

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The parallels between his experience and that of his Lord are strikingly similar. Like Jesus and because of Jesus he is “filled with grace and power” and he “worked great wonders and signs among the people”. He arouses the displeasure especially of his fellow Hellenist Jews who cannot deal with the Spirit-inspired power of his words.

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As they could not better Stephen in debate, they began circulating distorted versions of what he was saying. They accused him of saying that the worship of God was no longer to be restricted to the Temple. The charges that Stephen depreciated the importance of the temple and the Mosaic Law and elevated Jesus to a stature above Moses were in fact true. And, as far as the Sanhedrin was concerned, no defence against them was possible. But the false witnesses that some Hellenists were bringing forward were actually distorting what Stephen was saying.

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So they begin to throw false accusations against him leading to his incurring the hostility both of the people and the Jewish religious leaders. In the presence of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, they distort his words by claiming that Stephen claimed Jesus was going to destroy the temple and change the traditions of Moses.

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In a sense, of course, it was true. The coming of Jesus made the Temple irrelevant and the teaching of Jesus would not abolish but would transcend and go far beyond the traditions of Moses.

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All of this is very similar to the experience that Jesus went through. All through this, his enemies glared at him with hostility while Stephen’s face seemed like “that of an angel”. The face of an angel produces a feeling of awe. There are echoes here of the face of Moses as he came down from the mountain after being face to face with God and the appearance of Jesus at the Transfiguration. Here, too, the Sanhedrin members are witnessing a transfiguration, as Stephen has a vision of Jesus in glory. (This will occur in tomorrow’s reading.) And, whatever their feelings towards him, he had no hostile feelings towards them. This is the spirit of Jesus. “Love your enemies.”

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With Stephen, who thus perceived the fuller implications of the teachings of Jesus, the difference between Judaism and Christianity began to appear. Luke’s account of Stephen’s martyrdom and its aftermath shows how the major impetus behind the Christian movement passed from Jerusalem, where the temple and law prevailed, to Antioch in Syria, where these influences were less pressing.

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As Christians, we too can expect and should not be surprised to experience hostility and misunderstandings even from our fellow-Christians at times. We are called too to return love for hatred, peace for anger. An attitude which is a real stumbling block to some and utter nonsense to others.

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We will see the rest of the story tomorrow.

https://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1032r/

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 15, 2018 — “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

April 14, 2018

Third Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 47

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Reading 1 ACTS 3:13-15, 17-19

Peter said to the people:
“The God of Abraham,
the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus,
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence
when he had decided to release him.
You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
Now I know, brothers,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9

R. (7a) Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Know that the LORD does wonders for his faithful one;
the LORD will hear me when I call upon him.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, let the light of your countenance shine upon us!
You put gladness into my heart.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep,
for you alone, O LORD,
bring security to my dwelling.
R. Lord, let your face shine on us.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2  1 JN 2:1-5A

My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
his commandments.
Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments
are liars, and the truth is not in them.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.

Alleluia  CF. LK 24:32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us;
make our hearts burn while you speak to us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 24:35-48

Jesus: "My body and blood, broken for you, that you may have eternal life. Eat in remembrance of me."

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

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Reflection from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Here are two phrases from our first two readings today:  “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,” and “I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.”

We can ask why there is so much focus on sin on this Third Sunday of Easter?  Perhaps because the Gospel today tells us “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

At times we can wonder if our world even believes in sin anymore.  There is such a focus on the goodness of people even as we see our world slowly crumbling away around us because of all of the wars and hatreds and conflicts.

Jesus comes to be our Savior, but so many today do not want a Savior.  Instead, we humans want pleasure, money and sex.  We should not be surprised that the world is a mess.  The world has always been a mess and that is why a Savior came for us.  But salvation is never imposed on us.  Instead, we are invited to live our lives in the way our Savior taught us and actually know the difference in our way of life.

Easter is about the death of Jesus and then His Resurrection.  Each of us is invited to share in that death and resurrection and to die to ourselves so that we can live in Christ Jesus and live the way that He lived.  His followers did not believe at first that He was raised from the dead.  Instead, they had fled from the whole situation and only after a few brave women began to visit the tomb did the word go out:  He is not there!  Do you think that…..

Image result for mary at the tomb of jesus, art, pictures

We are invited in this time of Easter to deepen our faith in the risen Christ by renewing again the promises of our Baptism:  to die to self and to live in the Lord.  Words are easy and actions can be costly.  Once we actually understand and believe, however, that Christ is truly risen, then our lives can change.  There is no one else who has ever done this.  There is no one else who has invited us to share in the divine life.  There is no one else who promises to be with us always.

We can ask ourselves:  Can I truly preach forgiveness of sins?  Do I really trust that my own sins are forgiven?  Do I know that Christ died and then was raised to life and through that, our whole world was changed forever?

Christ is risen, alleluia!

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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15 APRIL, 2018, Sunday, 3rd Week of Easter

MISSION TO MAKE SENSE OF THE MYSTERY OF LIFE FOR OTHERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 3:13-1517-191 JN 2:1-5LK 24:35-48 ]

We can imagine the confusion of the early disciples of Jesus after His death.  Jesus was a great teacher, down to earth and able to relate to the aspirations of the people.  He was also a miracle worker and a healer.  They saw the many miracles He worked in their lives.  Above all, they saw in Jesus the Messiah of the people of Israel and the deliverer from their principal enemy, the Romans.  However, it all ended in a tragic death so suddenly that they were caught off guard.  More perplexing still was that the people welcomed Him as king and then demanded His crucifixion a few days later.   The death of Jesus was mystifying for His disciples as they tried to make sense of this inexplicable event.

But that was not all. Later on, they heard of stories where the Lord was sighted.  It was too difficult to believe because they saw Him crucified and pierced by the lance of a soldier.  Could a dead man, badly bruised, mangled and crushed be brought back to life?  Furthermore, it is important to take note that the Risen Body of the Lord was not a mere resuscitation of the earthly body as in the case of Lazarus.  This explains why the sighting of the Risen Lord took different forms.  The disciples at Emmaus could not recognize Him initially.  And when they did, He vanished from their sight.  (cf Lk 24:30f)   So too did Mary Magdalene, thinking that He was a gardener. (cf Jn 20:15)  The Risen Lord could also walk through locked doors.  (cf Jn 20:19)  At times, the Lord showed Himself to have a real body when He showed His hands and feet, and even ate with them.  (cf Jn 20:202721:12)

We too have our own mystifying events in life.  We cannot understand why certain things are happening to us.  Why did God take my loved ones away?  Why did my boyfriend break up with me when the relationship was apparently going on well?  Why am I struck down with cancer, Parkinson disease or loss of hearing and sight?  Why did I meet this accident through no fault of mine, leaving me crippled?  Why did the Lord take away my job, leaving me in the lurch without a source of income?  Indeed, we have a thousand and one questions about our life, our struggles and our pains.

The answer to the mystery of life is found precisely in the resurrection of our Lord.  That is why faith in the resurrection of Christ is central to the Christian Faith.  Only with His resurrection, can we explain all the mysteries of life.  The resurrection shows us that the final answer to life is not suffering and death but liberation and a transfigured life.  The resurrection of our Lord shows that suffering and death have been overcome and the resurrection gives meaning to all our struggles in this world.  Christian life is orientated towards the resurrection. The basis of Christian faith is that all sufferings and pain prepare us for the fullness of life.

Only with the resurrection, is death overcome.  And of course, we know that the misery of this world is caused by the fear of death.  Those without faith in Christ fear death because they think that death is the end of everything we stand for or live for.  They think that with death, their life is ended.  So because the world fears death, we sin against each other as we seek to perpetuate our earthly life for fear of death.  We grab, we fight, we seek for more because we are afraid that we might not have enough or that we might have to suffer.  We are all afraid of suffering and pain.  St Paul says, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:23 cf 1 Cor 15:54-56)  So sin leads to death and the fear of death is the cause of sin.

Indeed, that was how the disciples of Jesus came to terms with the death of Jesus.  They began to see the greater plan of God at work in our lives.  The reason why suffering and death makes no sense in our life is that we see them as isolated events.  When we see the events of our life as unrelated events, they do not make sense.  Life is a package and an integral process from suffering to freedom, death to life.  This was the case of Jesus.  When the disciples encountered the Risen Lord, they began to understand the plan of God for humanity.  They entered into the mystery of God’s plan for our salvation.  They came to realize that Jesus was the One that God had prepared for humanity since time began.  He said, “It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact, we are the witnesses.”

They saw it as a fulfillment of the scriptures.  God planned it that way and it was not a plan that went awry.  God’s wisdom is beyond man’s wisdom. Jesus explained to the disciples how He was the fulfilment of the scriptures so that their faith is well grounded on truth.   “This is what I mean when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.  He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’”  St Paul, upon meditating on the mystery of God’s plan exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”  (cf Rom 11:33)

Peter excused the people for their ignorance.  He was not angry with them or sought to take revenge on them.  “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.”  Although they killed their master, thinking that He was a deviant and a troublemaker of society, the resurrection of Christ shows that God was with Him and had endorsed all that He said and did.  Indeed, we too when we realize that our sufferings from the injustice of others, or because of our sins and negligence, have made us a better person today, stronger, more independent, more sensitive, forgiving and compassionate and more aware of others’ sufferings, we can thank God.  Then we too can praise God for allowing such apparent negative events to happen in our lives because they have made us better and more loving and grateful people.

With the resurrection of Jesus, we can now confidently proclaim Him as Lord and God.  No one ever claimed to rise from the dead.  What more when it was a criminal that was put to death.  The resurrection of Christ is the seal of the Father on all that Jesus said and did.  It was the vindication of all the claims of Jesus, implicit and explicit.  With His resurrection, we believe in His Word, all that He has taught us about God, eternal life and forgiveness of sins. With His resurrection, we believe in the Church and the Sacraments based on His assurance.

Released from fear of death and the unknown, we can now live loving lives as St John asks of us.  He said, “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him.”  Christian love for all and Christian service is the indicator that we are saved and are converted.  Only those who have faith in the resurrection can live their lives for others and not for themselves because they know that the fullness of life is the resurrected life of which we now have a foretaste.   The resurrection is the answer to what life is all about, our calling and our final vocation, which is to be with God living a transfigured life.

There are so many who are lost and in their own prison as they cannot find happiness and meaning in life.   They have no joy and hope for life.  They have lost the meaning, purpose and direction in life.  They are living on the brink of despair.  Many do not know who they are.  They cannot tell the difference between man and woman.  They do not know what marriage and family is.  They do not know their origin and end.  How can one live without knowing such basic questions of life?  Many live under the bondage of sin.  Instead of living for others they live for self.  The worship of self leads to selfishness and self-centeredness.  In worshiping self, they fall into the sin of pride and lose respect for God.  They end up supplanting the place of God.  This is the sin of secularism and atheism.

We too now are called to be witnesses to this life.  Before we can be truly witnesses to the Lord, we must first encounter Him in our own lives.  The Lord continues to appear to us in different ways as He did with His disciples.  We need to be open to His presence in our lives through faith.  Only in faith, can we see the Risen Lord in our midst as the disciples did.  Only in faith, can we see the wonders of God at work in our daily life.  Only in faith, can we continue to give ourselves in love and humble service.   Through our faith, our experiences of His love, our ability to connect our life with the fuller plan of God for us, we too will lead others to encounter the Risen Lord and find fullness of life even in our sufferings.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 12, 2018 — “We must obey God rather than men.” — “He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.”

April 11, 2018

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
Lectionary: 270

Image may contain: 2 people

Art: Liberation of St. Peter by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

Reading 1  ACTS 5:27-33

When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 34:2 AND 9, 17-18, 19-20

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
Many are the troubles of the just man,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 20:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord;
blessed are those who have not seen, but still believe!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 3:31-36

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.
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Reflection on Acts 5:27-33
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Peter and John were arrested and spent the night in prison. The next day they were brought before the Sanhedrin, the same court which had arraigned Jesus and handed Him over to the Romans to be crucified. The high priests Annas and Caiaphas were there, who had both figured in the trial of Jesus. Now Peter who had denied Him that day was being called to account, along with John, for healing a lame man and preaching in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Peter was filled anew with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8), accused his accusers of crucifying Jesus, and proclaimed that the lame man stood before them healed exactly because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ! Confronting the council with their guilt in rejecting Jesus, he again used the healing as an opportunity to proclaim the much fuller salvation which is found in the Saviour’s name.

The court was astonished at the courage of Peter and John. These two men had not been to any of their Rabbinic schools of theology, and they were laymen who had been observed in the company of Jesus. Yet there standing before them all was the incontrovertible proof of the healed lame man. Peter and John were sent away whilst the court deliberated.

Luke was inspired by the Holy Ghost for the writing of Holy Scripture. We gather from Luke 1:1-4 and Acts 1:1-3 that he was an excellent and thorough investigative reporter. His research may have included some information from his travelling companion, the Apostle Paul, who had been a student of a well respected member of the council, Gamaliel. Whatever his sources, Luke is able twice over to give us a fly-on-the-wall account of the private deliberations of this court.

The fact of the matter is that Peter and John’s would-be accusers could do nothing. The miracle was undeniable. So they warned Peter and John not to preach any more in the name of Jesus. The Apostles’ response set a precedent in civil and ecclesiastical disobedience: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard”

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).

We have come a long way from a lame man leaping for joy at his healing, to Jesus’ Apostles leaping for joy with lacerated backs in the midst of persecution. “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).

Let us have the like tenacity to say in the face of all opposition, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). There is nothing that anyone can do to halt the advance of the gospel.

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/persecution-the-opening-salvoes-christopher-holdsworth-sermon-on-forgiveness-181508?page=1

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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During the month of January we meditated on John 3, 22-30, which shows us the last witness of John the Baptist concerning Jesus. It was a response given by him to his disciples, in which he reaffirms that he, John, is not the Messiah, but rather his precursor (Jn 3, 28). On that occasion, John says that beautiful phrase which summarizes his witness: “It is necessary that he grows greater and I grow less!” This phrase is the program for all those who want to follow Jesus.

The verses of today’s Gospel are, again, a comment of the Evangelist in order to help the communities to understand better all the importance of the things that Jesus did and taught. Here, we have another indication of those three threads of which we spoke about before.

John 3, 31-33: A refrain which is always repeated. Throughout the Gospel of John, many times there appears the conflict between Jesus and the Jews who contest the words of Jesus. Jesus speaks of what he hears from the Father. He is total transparency. His enemies, not opening themselves to God and because they cling to their own ideas here on earth, are not capable to understand the deep significance of the things that Jesus lives, does and says. In last instance, this is the evil one which pushes the Jews to arrest and condemn Jesus.

John 3, 34: Jesus gives us the Spirit without reserve. John’s Gospel uses many images and symbols to signify the action of the Spirit. Like in the Creation (Gen 1, 1), in the same way the Spirit descends on Jesus “like a dove, come from Heaven” (Jn 1, 32). It is the beginning of the new creation! Jesus repeats the words of God and communicates the Spirit to us without reserve (Jn 3, 34). His words are Spirit and life (Jn 6, 63).

When Jesus is about to leave this earth, he says that he will send another Consoler, another defender, to be with us forever (Jn 14, 16-17). By his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus obtains for us the gift of the Spirit. Through Baptism all of us have received this same Spirit of Jesus (Jn 1, 33). When he appears to the apostles, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit!” (Jn 20, 22). The Spirit is like the water which springs from the persons who believe in Jesus (Jn 7, 37-39; 4, 14). The first effect of the action of the Spirit in us is reconciliation: “”If you forgive anyone’s sins they will be forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained!” (Jn 20, 23). The Spirit is given to us to recall and understand the full significance of the words of Jesus (Jn 14, 26; 16, 12-13). Animated by the Spirit of Jesus we can adore God in any place (Jn 4, 23-24).

Here is fulfilled the liberty of the Spirit of which Saint Paul speaks: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Co 3, 17).

• John 3, 35-36: The Father loves the Son. He reaffirms the identity between the Father and Jesus. The Father loves the Son and places all things in his hand. Saint Paul will say that the fullness of the divinity dwells in Jesus (Col 1, 19; 2, 9). This is why the one who accepts Jesus and believes in Jesus has eternal life, because God is life. The one who does not accept to believe in Jesus, places himself outside.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-331-36

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

12 APRIL, 2018, Thursday, 2nd Week of Easter

COMPROMISING THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:27-33PS 34:2,9,17-20JOHN 3:31-36  ]

It is becoming increasingly difficult to profess our faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Such exalted and triumphalistic claims about Jesus do not sit well with people who do not believe in Jesus.  Some, perceiving that we are putting down their own beliefs about God and life, might even feel insulted.   So there is pressure from society that we must say “all religions are the same” and “all are saved even if they do not believe in God” and that “there is no sin, as there is no right or wrong.”  The unique claim of Jesus as the Saviour of the World and the Son of God is under challenge today.

This coercion to compromise the identity of Jesus was what happened at the beginning of the Church.  The Jewish leaders who put Jesus to death were annoyed at the apostles for preaching in the name of Jesus.  The fact was that they could not deny that the paralyzed man at the temple was healed.  But they were annoyed that the apostles gave the credit to Jesus whom they had crucified.  Preaching in the name of Jesus made them look bad and lose credibility for killing the Anointed One of God.  Hence, “the high priest demanded an explanation.  ‘We gave you a formal warning not to preach in this name, and what have you done?  You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and seem determined to fix the guilt of this man’s death on us.’”

The apostles’ reply was firm and uncompromising. “Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.  We are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”  Whilst Christians are called to live in peace and harmony with people of all creeds, or without creed, and races, we cannot compromise our beliefs in Jesus.  We have to say what we know.  Like Jesus who “who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard”, we too must do the same.  We cannot dilute the truth about Jesus.  For the apostles, the fact remains that “it was the God of our ancestors who raised up Jesus” who was “executed by hanging on a tree”.   The implication of being raised from the dead by the Father meant that He is “a leader and saviour, to give repentance and forgiveness of sins through him to Israel.”

Of course, such a reply only “infuriated them that they wanted to put them to death.”  That is the price of confessing our faith in Jesus.  Non-believers have no issue if we simply confess that Jesus is one of the prophets, a great teacher or a good man or a faith healer.  However, they would not accept our belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.  This is understandable for those who have no faith in Jesus.  John the Baptist explains thus, “He who comes from above is above all others; he who is born of the earth is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way.”  So we cannot fault those who cannot accept Jesus as their savior and life.  Without the gift of faith, we will not be able to surrender ourselves to Jesus because we think in human and earthly terms.

But does it require us to confess our faith in Jesus in such a way that is politically correct by compromising our belief in Jesus’ identity and mission?  The answer is a definite “No.”  Like the apostles, we must also say, “Obedience to God comes before obedience to men.”  “He who comes from heaven bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted.”  This too was the witnessing of John the Baptist.  Unlike the Jewish religious leaders, he had no self-interest.  He was not protecting his turf. Neither was he afraid that his disciples might follow Jesus instead of him.  On the contrary, he knew his role was that of a forerunner and a messenger to prepare the people.

However, those who accept Jesus and can vouch the truth about Him.  John the Baptist said, “though all who do accept his testimony are attesting the truthfulness of God, since he whom God has sent speaks God’s own words: God gives him the Spirit without reserve.”   Jesus for us is truly the Word of God because of His death and resurrection.  We believe in Jesus who spoke the Word of God only because of His resurrection.  If Jesus were not raised, then we can doubt what He taught.  But precisely because of His resurrection from the dead, we know that He has come from above and that His testimony is true.  None of us can claim that we came from above.  So unless we came from above, we cannot speak about God whom we have not seen or heard.  Our faith in Jesus therefore is founded on His death and resurrection.  That is why, for the apostles to keep quiet about His death and resurrection would be to deny the full truth of the identity of Jesus and His mission in this world.

Indeed, as John the Baptist remarked, “The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him. Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life.”  If the Father has entrusted everything to the Son, to believe in the Son is to have a share in the life of God.  Jesus as the Son of God leads us to the fullness of life in Him.    Therefore, the fact remains that if we accept Jesus, we will have eternal life in Him.  Conversely, John the Baptist says, “but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life: the anger of God stays on him.”  The truth remains that only in Christ, can we know who God is and who we really are.  Without faith in Jesus, our knowledge of God would be compromised and so too our true identity and calling in life.

Of course, this invitation to life remains a choice that each individual must make.  They might not agree or accept the testimony of Christ.  If that were the case, it is their choice.  The Christian confession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the Revealer of the Father is an offer to humanity.  Christ is the gift of God to us and we who have encountered Jesus and find life in Him are called to share Him as a gift to humanity.  The choice is theirs.  There is no imposition.  They are completely free to accept or reject, agree or disagree with our claims for Jesus and life.   So long as we do not compel people to choose Jesus as their savior, we have a right to profess in what we believe and whom we believe.

Those who vehemently oppose what we believe are often reacting to a perceived threat in what we believe.  Like the Jewish leaders, it is most likely that our teachings impact their lives and their selfish interests.  Otherwise, just as we do not object to the claims of other religions because that is what they believe, others need not take offence for us to state our beliefs, our values and our commitments.  Whilst we do not impose our views on others, others should not impose their views on us either.  We are free to accept or reject each other’s views.   Jesus remains an offer to humanity.

So as Catholics, we need to pray for conviction and courage to state what we believe without fear or coercion.  St Peter urges us, “Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated,  but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;  yet do it with gentleness and reverence.  Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”  (1 Pt 3:14-16)   We must grow in conviction of our faith and know our faith sufficiently well to defend what we believe.  We must speak the truth calmly and in a sensitive manner.

Finally, let us not be discouraged when we are attacked by non-believers.  The psalmist assures us, “He is happy who seeks refuge in him. The Lord turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal. They call and the Lord hears and rescues them in all their distress. The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save. Many are the trials of the just man but from them all the Lord will rescue him.”

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

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, April 11, 2018 — “People preferred darkness to light because their works were evil.” — We all must Choose — Eternal life is life lived with God

April 10, 2018

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr
Lectionary: 269

Reading 1 ACTS 5:17-26

The high priest rose up and all his companions,
that is, the party of the Sadducees,
and, filled with jealousy,
laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in the public jail.
But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison,
led them out, and said,
“Go and take your place in the temple area,
and tell the people everything about this life.”
When they heard this,
they went to the temple early in the morning and taught.
When the high priest and his companions arrived,
they convened the Sanhedrin,
the full senate of the children of Israel,
and sent to the jail to have them brought in.
But the court officers who went did not find them in the prison,
so they came back and reported,
“We found the jail securely locked
and the guards stationed outside the doors,
but when we opened them, we found no one inside.”
When the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report,
they were at a loss about them,
as to what this would come to.
Then someone came in and reported to them,
“The men whom you put in prison are in the temple area
and are teaching the people.”
Then the captain and the court officers went and brought them,
but without force,
because they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

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

R. (7a) The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD with me,
let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy,
and your faces may not blush with shame.
When the poor one called out, the LORD heard,
and from all his distress he saved him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 3:16-21

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
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Reflection on John 3:16-21 By John McKinnon
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A cursory reading of the Gospel as a whole can give the impression that the world  is evil. That was not the mind of the author. The world of persons, though consistently disfigured by them, is loved by God.

Persons, however, can, and must, choose to believe or to disbelieve that love. Those who choose to disbelieve choose also to forgo life and often become the persecutors of those who choose to believe. God accepts people’s decisions – but their decisions do not affect God’s determination to love unconditionally.

The Disciple was absolutely certain of God’s love for the world (and his simultaneous dismay at the shapes the world had taken). He had drawn his certainty from the teaching of the historical Jesus and the later experience of life in the Christian community.

God’s giving of his only Son to the world carries a sense of gentleness (as opposed to vindictiveness) and hope on God’s part. It has the sense of entrusting him to the often violent and murderous world of persons. God’s gentleness is absolutely sovereign and is not dependent on the nature of the world’s response. The world’s need for radical conversion and change – the world’s sin – is precisely the reason for the Father’s giving his Son to it.

At the same time, God’s patient forbearance illustrates God’s readiness to face the vulnerability of loving. God does not withdraw from expecting (while all the while supporting) a similar vulnerability in those whom God loves. God does not necessarily protect loved ones from suffering.

To open themselves to the creative power of God’s love, people need to believe in  Jesus. They need to believe that Jesus truly reveals in human form the graciousness and mercy of the unknowable God. Those who entrust themselves to Jesus experience eternal life. Those who refuse to trust God’s revelation in Jesus effectively close themselves off from genuine life, with the result that they perish.

Eternal life is essentially life lived with God. It is not a once-and-for-all possession; in fact, it is not possessed at all. Rather, the loving God possesses the believer. As believers surrender to that love, they are gradually, and increasingly, transformed. The process begins now, and continues beyond death into eternity.

http://johnmckinnon.org/john3v16-21

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 APRIL, 2018, Wednesday, 2nd Week of Easter
ATTEMPTS TO SILENCE THE GOOD NEWS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:17-26PS 34:2-9JOHN 3:16-21 ]

The Christian gospel is truly Good News.  The gospel today encapsulates the heart of the Good News, which is simply this, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.”  Indeed, it is so wonderful to know that God loves the world.  In other words, God loves us all.  He has never abandoned us in our suffering and misery.  His love is directed at us for all eternity.  He wants to save the world.   He wants us all to find the fullness of life.  He does not wish to condemn us or give up on us.

However, God does not love with words nor even with gifts. He loves us with His entire being.  He shows us His love by giving us Himself in His Son Jesus Christ.  No greater love can one give to anyone than himself.  We can do things for people, we can give them our money and resources, but real giving is the giving of oneself, one’s life and being.  This is how the Father demonstrates His love for us.  He gives us all that He is.  Jesus in turn gave His life to us, His body and soul for our salvation.  Such is the love of God.  So much so, St Paul remarked, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?”  (Rom 8:32-34)

But not all accept Jesus or believe in Him.  To accept Jesus is more than just a verbal or even an intellectual assent to Jesus as the Son of God.  Jesus said, “On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.”  To accept Jesus is to walk in the way of truth and love as revealed by the Lord in His life and in His teaching.  This is why the Lord said, “No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.”   Rejection of Jesus is ultimately to reject all that Jesus stands for, His identity as the revealer of the Father’s love for us, and Him as the Way to the fullness of Truth, and the Way to fullness of life.   This was what St Peter and St John were instructed by the angel to proclaim to the whole world. “Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new Life.”

Why are there many against Jesus and the gospel? Jesus explains why.  “And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.”   Christianity is under persecution, covertly or overtly in the world today, because the gospel is an affront to what the secular and materialistic world is advocating, namely, individualism, consumerism and hedonism.   There is a conspiracy to silence the gospel by emptying Christianity from public life.  This is particularly true in the West where once Christianity was synonymous with Europe.  Many are not happy with the scripture teachings especially on sexual morality, marriage and fidelity, justice for the human person from conception till death at old age.

This was the case of the Jewish leaders during the time of the early Church.  The apostles too were persecuted for preaching in the name of Jesus.  The Jewish leaders and the Sanhedrin knew that there was something there in the preaching of the apostles.  When the paralyzed man was healed, they could not deny the fact. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus.  But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.”  (Acts 4:13f)  Again, when they put them in goal, the next day, they “found the gaol securely locked and the warders on duty at the gates” but when “they unlocked the door” they “found no one inside.” The evangelist remarked, “when the captain of the Temple and the chief priests heard this news they wondered what this could mean.”  So, they had all the evidence to surmise that divine intervention was at work but they refused to accept.

However, instead of seeking the truth of the matter and getting to the bottom of it, they sought to suppress the truth.  The reason given was because they were “prompted by jealousy.”  We can appreciate where they were coming from.  They belonged to the highest strata of society.  They were holding important political and religious positions. They were well protected in their interests.  With the apostles’ teaching, their religious and social positions in society were challenged and compromised.  Regardless of the truth of the matter, they needed to protect their interests.  Thus, they tried to silence the truth by silencing the apostles in proclaiming the name of Jesus.  They were not stopping them from healing the sick but simply from announcing the name of Jesus as they would otherwise be put in a bad light.  Worse still, people might believe in Jesus and their religious institution would be at risk.

This is still happening in our world today.  Christianity is being persecuted in many parts of the world, even in the so-called free world.  In some countries, Christians are oppressed, persecuted and prevented from practising their faith.  They are marginalized, discriminated and often lack the freedom of worship and the freedom to practise and propagate the faith.  The irony is that Christians in so-called Christian countries are suppressed subtly through the promotion of the ideology of secularism and relativism.

However, even more difficult for us in proclaiming the gospel today is the opposition from the mass media, especially the social media.  Whatever Catholics teach or believe are being challenged by unbelievers, which include among them, Catholics who are unhappy with the Church’s teachings and doctrines.  They demand that we agree with their values and their perspective of the world, on moral issues and what life is all about.  The truth is that our teachings are available freely on the social media and circulated freely.  When we teach what the world does not like to hear, they get offended and react by accusing us of creating division, causing discrimination, and insulting them.  Unless we agree with what they are doing, we will be faulted.  They expect us to teach what relativism proclaims, that truth is relativistic and that there is no absolute truth.  In other words, we cannot say that anything is better than others, or that it is right or wrong.

But the fact is that light cannot be overcome by darkness, the truth cannot be kept locked in prison.   No matter how much the religious authorities sought to cover up their ignorance and sins, it was not possible.  This is the significance of the apostles being released from jail and then later on found at the Temple again, preaching to the people.  Regardless of the world’s hostile opposition to the gospel of truth and life, the gospel wants to assure us that evil and unenlightened man cannot chain up the Good News.   We must not allow the world to silence the truth and the Good News.   We must have courage like that of the apostles.

Consequently, as Catholics, we must remember that being a Christian is to suffer persecution.  This should not be a surprise to us.  Even the apostles were persecuted in spite of their power to perform miracles and preach boldly.  If we stand against the world, we will be marginalized.  Being a Christian does not mean that we will not suffer.  Rather, it means we will not be defeated.  Faith gives us that vision and hope that God will protect us as He protected Peter and John.  This is what the psalmist experienced.  “Glorify the Lord with me. Together let us praise his name.  I sought the Lord and he answered me from all my terrors he set me free.  Look towards him and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed. This poor man called, the Lord heard him and rescued him from all his distress. The angel of the Lord is encamped around those who revere him, to rescue them.”

Whilst we must certainly be sensitive to the feelings of others who are not of our faith, we must however not allow the truth to be stifled or prevented from being proclaimed.  We must be respectful of others who do not share in our beliefs and give reasons for our faith.   St Peter exhorts us, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;  yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”   (1 Pt 3:15f)  We strive to live in harmony with the rest of society.  St Paul said, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”  (1 Tim 2:1f)

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

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