Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 9, 2018 — Second Sunday of Advent — “Take off your robe of mourning and misery

December 9, 2018

Put on the splendor of glory from God forever — Display the glory of the eternal name

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Advent glory working through those who believe in Christ

Second Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 6

Reading 1 BAR 5:1-9

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery;
put on the splendor of glory from God forever:
wrapped in the cloak of justice from God,
bear on your head the mitre
that displays the glory of the eternal name.
For God will show all the earth your splendor:
you will be named by God forever
the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights;
look to the east and see your children
gathered from the east and the west
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that they are remembered by God.
Led away on foot by their enemies they left you:
but God will bring them back to you
borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones.
For God has commanded
that every lofty mountain be made low,
and that the age-old depths and gorges
be filled to level ground,
that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God.
The forests and every fragrant kind of tree
have overshadowed Israel at God’s command;
for God is leading Israel in joy
by the light of his glory,
with his mercy and justice for company..

Responsorial Psalm PS 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6.

R. (3) The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those who sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Reading 2 PHIL 1:4-6, 8-11

Brothers and sisters:
I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the gospel
from the first day until now.
I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is my witness,
how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.

Alleluia  LK 3:4, 6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths:
all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
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From the Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

How many times in your life have you ever desired to be called? Maybe you waited upon a favorable response after a hopeful job interview? Perhaps you have auditioned for a play or school musical or tried out for an athletic team, and you waited on pins and needles for that affirming call from a director or coach, “You’re in!” What excitement you felt when you received the call from someone who affirmed your worth!

This Sunday, too, is moment of joy and gladness. You are invited to receive a wonderful call. Advent is about the coming of Jesus as our Savior. He calls to us and reaches out to us, down to us, drawing us closer to Himself. Advent invites us to prepare ourselves to hear the glorious call and for the world to receive the Savior.

The Prophet Baruch reminds us that God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company. Probably it is difficult for us to sense this message in our hearts. We are Israel, you and I. God is calling us to follow Him, in joy by the light of His glory. We can only know this by faith in the Lord. We Christians are invited to answer His call through belief in Jesus and to believe that Jesus has come for the salvation of the world through His Advent.

Our faith in the call, Christ’s coming into the world, and that it has changed the world is challenged daily. Through news channels, the internet, and social media we absorb sometimes horrid news about pain, suffering and death and we wonder — where is God? Abject poverty, terrorism, hate crimes, and abuses of all forms shake our faith. We persevere in His Advent, our faith hard-wearing. Despite these terrible setbacks and disappointments and losses, early Christians acknowledged, and modern day Christians reaffirm, His call to the light of His Glory.

Saint Paul in his Letter to the Philippians acknowledges his confidence in the Advent glory working through those who believe in Christ. He who began a good work in us will continue to complete it until the day of His return. We are called to live in that same faith, with complete confidence.

The Gospel today from Saint Luke puts the figure of John the Baptist in front of us. John calls us to repent and await the coming Messiah. Like John, you and I are called to be a “voice crying in the wilderness,” calling out that God is present and that God is here for the salvation of the world. We should be able to proclaim from the depth of our hearts: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

My sisters and brothers, we are called to be witnesses that God has touched our lives and has come expressly for the salvation of our world. The call of salvation is here in our midst. Let us live in faith and confidence: God will complete His work. And, let us live our lives in this Advent season, and beyond, in a way as to more fruitfully receive His call.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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09 DECEMBER, 2018, Sunday, 2nd Week, Advent

RESTORATION OF OUR DIGNITY AS CHILDREN OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Bar 5:1-9Ps 125:1-6Phil 1:4-6.8-11; Luke 3:1-6 ]

We are resistant to change.  Indeed, the call to conversion is often unheeded.  We are creatures of habit and we resist change.  The call of John the Baptist for the repentance of sins was not well taken by the Jewish leaders.  They thought they knew everything and that they did not need someone to remind them of what was the right thing to do.  This is true especially for those who are religious leaders, priests and laity alike, who are very much involved in church work.  We always direct the call to conversion to others, but not to ourselves.

What is actually the call to conversion?  It is not so much to change to something that we are not.  This is often mistaken to mean a call to become better.  In truth, conversion is to return to our original dignity as sons and daughters of God.  We have been created in God’s image and likeness.  Indeed, St John says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.’  (1 Jn 3:1)

But we have forgotten our dignity because of sin.  The sin of our first parents has wounded our nature, causing us to lose our preternatural gifts.  We have lost our ability to control our will and appetite.  We have lost the gift of infused knowledge to be able to wisely choose the right things and make the right decisions.  We have lost the ability to integrate pain and death into our lives, often seeing pain and death as negative when they are meant to help us to live our lives faithfully and courageously.   If we find it difficult to give up our old way of life, it is because we are ignorant.  We cannot see what is truly good for us as we are blinded by our sins. We think what the world offers can give us life and happiness.

Indeed, St John says, “The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  (1 Jn 3:1-3)  To find our identity again, we need first and foremost to find God because God is the ultimate self-fulfillment in man.  Without God, man has no meaning and no purpose.  The only reason why we are created is to share in the life, love and the glory of God.  Man’s vocation is a divine vocation, a call to be in union with God who is the source of life.  If the world finds life meaningless or they live without a real purpose, it is because they have forgotten their divine vocation, which is to become God’s image and likeness.  St Paul wrote, “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”  (Eph 1:4-60

So conversion is not about sacrificing our good life, or giving up something beautiful and precious.  Conversion is to seek the ultimate truth and ultimate good which is found in God.  Conversion is to return to our original identity before the fall of our first parents.  They were invited to share in God’s life and love, but they rejected that divine call.  They wanted to do things their way, and find their own self-fulfillment without God. They wanted to find life without God.  This is what the world is doing.  This is what humanism seeks to do.  They believe that they can find the fullness of life without the need for God.  Of course, when we use the word, “God”, we mean that every man is seeking the Transcendent because life is more than food and drink.

In order to find this life, all we need to do is to give up those things that prevent the beauty of God from shining through us.  Isaiah cried out, “Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever, wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you, put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head: since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven, since the name God gives you forever will be, Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.”   Indeed, the way for us to share in God’s life is to live a life of integrity and devotion.  By so doing, we restore the peace and honour that has always been ours.  It is the lack of integrity that causes us to be at war within ourselves, and then with others.

It means removing all the obstacles that prevent the Lord from manifesting Himself in us.  This is why Isaiah and John the Baptist urge us to level our pride.  “A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.”  The moment we are humble, we will be able to see the greatness and beauty of God.  Indeed, when we straighten our lives, we begin to see things in perspective.  We will no longer be at the service of money and power but money and power will be at our service.   We will no longer be slaves to our passions or to the world, but the world will be a slave to us for the service and the glory of God.  Indeed, as Isaiah prophesied, “For God has decreed the flattening of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills, the filling of the valleys to make the ground level so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God. And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade for Israel at the command of God; for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory with his mercy and integrity for escort.”

To find integrity, we need to find focus in our devotion to God.  This is what the Lord says, “Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights and turn your eyes to the east: see your sons reassembled from west and east at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them. Though they left you on foot, with enemies for an escort, now God brings them back to you like royal princes carried back in glory.”  God is the One who will restore us to our royal dignity and glory.  Christ is the one who by His death and resurrection restores us our dignity as children of God when we die with Him in baptism and rise to a new life in the Spirit in Him.

Indeed, conversion and restoration is ultimately the work of God.  This is what the psalmist says.  “When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage, it seemed like a dream.  Then was our mouth filled with laughter, on our lips there were songs.  The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels the Lord worked for them!’  What marvels the Lord worked for us!  Indeed we were glad.”  For Israel, it was unimaginable that they could be delivered from their captivity in Babylon.  To think that King Cyrus of Persia, the pagan king who allowed them to return to Israel and even provided them with the resources to rebuild their temple, was unthinkable.   So too, in the work of restoration, we must rely on the grace of God.  St Paul makes it clear, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”  (Eph 2:8-10)

Of course, conversion takes time.  We are just like an onion.  There are many layers of inauthenticity that we need to peel off.  When we remove one, we find another layer of inauthenticity in us.  That is why restoration takes place.  St Paul prayed, “My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.”   We need to recover our goodness and beauty in Christ.

So let us continue to march forward by remembering who we were and how we can restore ourselves in Christ who is the true man and the true God.  Christ will lead us to restore our identity as God’s children.  So we pray to the Lord even as we apply all our energy to live an authentic life of integrity.  “Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage as streams in dry land. Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap.  They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing; they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.”  By striving and by persevering, we will arrive at our divine calling and identity again.  It is the hope of St Paul and ours as well when he wrote, “I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes.”

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 8, 2018 — Destined in accord with the purpose of the One

December 8, 2018

God’s will be done.

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Art: Blessed Art Thou among Women, by Walter Rane

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 689

Reading 1 GN 3:9-15, 20

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree,
the LORD God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden;
but I was afraid, because I was naked,
so I hid myself.”
Then he asked, “Who told you that you were naked?
You have eaten, then,
from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!”
The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me
she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
The LORD God then asked the woman,
“Why did you do such a thing?”
The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”Then the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this, you shall be banned
from all the animals
and from all the wild creatures;
on your belly shall you crawl,
and dirt shall you eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”The man called his wife Eve,
because she became the mother of all the living.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4

R. (1) Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Reading 2 EPH 1:3-6, 11-12

Brothers and sisters:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him.
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.

Alleluia SEE LK 1:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;
blessed are you among women.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 DECEMBER, 2018, Saturday, Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

THE GRACE OF DIVINE MERCY FOR A NEW BEGINNING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Gen 3:9-15.20Eph 1:3-6.11-12; Lk 1:26-38  ]

All of us have had a bad start in life.  This is what the story of the Fall wants to tell us.  From the beginning of the Human race, humanity started on the wrong footing.  As the second reading tells us, God has chosen us from all eternity, that is, we are predestined to share in the glory and life of God.  St Paul wrote, “And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who put their hopes in Christ before he came.”

This bad start did not just happen to our first parents but to us as well.  From the moment we were born, we suffered the same fallen human nature of our parents.  How do we know?  We grew up repeating the mistakes of our ancestors and that of our parents.  We are proud and stubborn, wanting things our way.  We are disobedient, like our first parents.  We want our autonomy without founding our autonomy in God.  As a consequence, we have become lawless.  Left to our disorientated will, we allowed our passions, especially of the flesh, to take control of our lives.  We fell into sin and suffered the consequences of our sinful actions; not only ourselves, but our loved ones suffered with us as well.

What is even worse is that most of us cannot forgive ourselves for the mistakes we made.  We cannot forgive our past and our follies.  We are filled with shame for what we have done.  We suffered in guilt for the mistakes that we made, causing our loved ones especially, to suffer.  This was the same sentiment that Adam and Eve went through in the first reading.  We read that after disobeying God, they hid from God because of shame.  The “nakedness” of Adam and Eve is not so much a physical nakedness but that of the heart and of the mind.  Their thoughts were laid bare before God.  Their pride and self-centeredness were exposed.

To save their pride, they tried to justify themselves and put the blame on others.  The man accused the woman for leading him to sin.  The woman in turn blamed the serpent for tempting her.  So no one dared to admit guilt but sought self-justification.  The attempts of humanity to rationalize and justify their wrong doings are the consequence of fear and shame. These are the offspring of the sin of pride. When things go wrong, how often do we blame someone else too?  The boss blames his subordinates for not checking their work properly before passing it on to him for endorsement.  The children who failed their exams blame the teachers and their parents or the environment.  The man who falls into the sin of greed and lust blames the situation or the woman for tempting him.  But very few dare to say with King David, simply and plainly, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

What is worse is that not only do we condemn ourselves, but society condemns us too.  People will not forgive us.  Our spouse will never forgive us for our past infidelity.  They will keep reminding us again and again how we had once been unfaithful.  Our parents keep reminding us how much they had done for us and how ungrateful we are.  Our children will never forgive us for those times when we failed them or punished them.  And if it were a public crime, then society will write us off completely.  There is no second chance. They will not believe in us again.  Once labelled a convict or a criminal, we will forever be so in the eyes of the world.  Even if we try to change, their perception of us will not.  Once convicted, we will never be able to look at the world again with confidence.  We will have to hide in shame for the rest of our lives, because the media will keep on bringing up the crimes we committed in the past.

But thanks be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!   Our God is a God of mercy and compassion.  His divine mercy is pure grace.  He gave us a new beginning the moment humanity fell from grace.  When our first parents fell into disgrace, God immediately offered grace to them.  He said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, ‘Be accursed beyond all cattle, all wild beasts. You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust every day of your life. I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.’”  Indeed, God’s assurance to humanity is that Satan will not triumph in the end.  His grace and mercy will prevail over the human race.  Humanity might have suffered a temporary defeat and wounded in the heel, but eventually, we will crush the head of the serpent.   We therefore need not fall into despair and hopelessness.  We need not resign ourselves to be slaves of our past and our failures in life.  We too can have a new beginning.

Today, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we see the beginning of a new humanity at work.  God in His goodness and mercy has predestined Mary, the mother of the new humanity, the New Eve, to begin her existence without any blemish.  This was in order to illustrate the fittingness of Jesus, the New Adam, who was to be born of the Virgin Mary, uncontaminated by sin and not under the bondage of the Evil One.  This grace of being freed from original sin from the very first moment of her existence is a unique privilege given to Mary, not because of her merits but purely because of God’s grace.   It was given in view of the coming of Christ who is the New Covenant of God.

Very soon, at Christmas, we will celebrate the birth of Christ who is the new beginning of the human race.  Jesus will be the source and the throne of grace as the letter of Hebrews tells us.  In Christ Jesus, we will see the divine mercy at work, in His life and in His ministry, especially in the works of healing, reconciliation and deliverance.  The apex of this mercy of Christ is demonstrated in His passion, death and resurrection.  Through His saving grace given to us by His death and resurrection, we too can share in the new beginning with Mary, who received it by the preemptive work of Christ, whereas we received it by the redemptive act of Christ.

Through baptism, we receive a new life, a new beginning, because like Mary, we are once again called the children of God.  Such is the great mercy of God that St Paul wrote, “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved.”   All our sins have been forgiven and we are given a new start as adopted sons and daughters of God, sharing in Christ’s glory and suffering.  Indeed, we are now able to live a life of holiness and overcome sin through love and in His presence. The grace of love, the mercy of God that we experience, will give us the strength to fight against sin and die to self, like Jesus, for the love of God and our fellowmen.

For this to happen, we must make an act of faith as Mary did.  As St Paul tells us, we are justified in Christ by faith through grace.  Let us contemplate on the love and mercy of God in Christ for us.  Like Mary, in faith we say to the Lord, “I am the handmaid of the Lord…let what you have said be done to me.”   We need to believe in His grace and mercy.  With God, nothing is impossible.   He can do all things for us.  With God, there is always hope.   We only need to cooperate with His grace like Mary did in faith.  She courageously answered the call of God to be the mother of the savior in faith and trust in God’s power.

So let us not give up hope in ourselves or in others.  Let us not condemn ourselves for the Lord has forgiven us.  Let us not give up on ourselves because of our past mistakes in life.   Let us not give up on our wayward children who fail in their exams or have lived a wanton and rebellious life.  Let us not give up our marriage that did not start well.  Let us not give up our faith in the Church that is holy and yet comprised of sinful pilgrims.  Let us know that we have a new start in Christ.  We have a new beginning.  This is the grace of God that comes from His divine mercy.

Indeed, it is the Lord who will make all things possible.  His Holy Spirit will work in us as He worked in Mary and brought about the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity.   When Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” the angel assured her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.”

All we need to do is to work with the grace of God by frequenting the sacrament of reconciliation, contemplating on His divine mercy, celebrating the sacraments, rendering charity to the poor and forgiving those who have hurt and betrayed us.  In this way, everything will be restored to its new order and everyone has a new beginning.   So with the psalmist, we say, “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy.”

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

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

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Illustration by Michael T. Malm — Jesus Christ Showed Compassion for the Woman Taken in Adultery

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, December 7, 2018 — “Do you believe I can do this?”

December 7, 2018

The deaf shall hear, the blind shall see and the lowly will ever find joy in the Lord

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Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 179

Reading 1 IS 29:17-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
But a very little while,
and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be regarded as a forest!
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a book;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
For the tyrant will be no more
and the arrogant will have gone;
All who are alert to do evil will be cut off,
those whose mere word condemns a man,
Who ensnare his defender at the gate,
and leave the just man with an empty claim.
Therefore thus says the LORD,
the God of the house of Jacob,
who redeemed Abraham:
Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of,
nor shall his face grow pale.
When his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall keep my name holy;
they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob,
and be in awe of the God of Israel.
Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding,
and those who find fault shall receive instruction.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 27:1, 4, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
One thing I ask of the LORD;
this I seek:
To dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
That I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD
and contemplate his temple.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel MT 9:27-31

As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out,
“Son of David, have pity on us!”
When he entered the house,
the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them,
“Do you believe that I can do this?”
“Yes, Lord,” they said to him.
Then he touched their eyes and said,
“Let it be done for you according to your faith.”
And their eyes were opened.
Jesus warned them sternly,
“See that no one knows about this.”
But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 DECEMBER, 2018, Friday, 1st Week, Advent

DO YOU BELIEVE?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISA 29:17-24MT 9:27-31  ]

Do you believe?  This is what God is asking of us.  Indeed, in the first reading, to the Israelites who lived in exile in Babylon who had lost everything – land, the Kingdom and the Temple – the Lord says to them, “In a short time, a very short time, shall not Lebanon become fertile land and fertile land turn into forest?  The deaf that day, will hear the words of a book and, after shadow and darkness, the eyes of the blind will see. But the lowly will rejoice in the Lord even more and the poorest exult in the Holy One of Israel; for tyrants shall be no more, and scoffers vanish, and all be destroyed who are disposed to do evil: those who gossip to incriminate others, those who try at the gate to trip the arbitrator and get the upright man’s case dismissed for groundless reasons.”  Is this dream possible?  Truly, the Israelites found it too difficult to believe that this prophecy would come true.  Again, in the gospel, Jesus asked the same question to the two blind men, “Do you believe I can do this?”

Indeed, many of us are like them in exile.  We too are desperate and walking in the shadow of death.  The situation in our life does not seem to be moving forward or changing.  We are still stuck in our problems or the mess we have created because of our folly.   Our marriage is now on the rocks.  We are still unable to accept the infidelity of our spouse even though he or she has asked for forgiveness.  We say we want to forgive but we are still hurting.   Our children are not doing well in their studies and abusing the trust and privileges given to them.  Many people, young and old, are addicted to drugs, gambling, especially online gambling, pornography, and drinking.  On top of all these problems, we are struggling with work politics, low morale among our staff, health issues, physical or mental, depression and meaninglessness.  Some of us wish we could die earlier because we are sick of life, of this world.  Friends are not real.  They cheat us and make use of us.   With financial commitments, anxieties about the future, and all the confusion in life, we feel so overwhelmed.

If we are feeling this way, then do not give up hope.   God is on the way to rescue us.  This is what the prophet said, “Therefore the Lord speaks, the God of the House of Jacob, Abraham’s Redeemer: No longer shall Jacob be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale, for he shall see what my hands have done in his midst, he shall hold my name holy. They will hallow the Holy One of Jacob, stand in awe of the God of Israel.”   For Israel, they were finally able to return to their homeland because of King Cyrus’ decree to allow them to return and rebuild their homes and especially the Temple, with his support even, financially and morally.

For us, Christ is our Redeemer, the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.  He has come to set us free, to heal us and redeem us from our sins, slavery, and misery.   He is full of compassion and mercy like our heavenly Father.  He will give us back our dignity and confidence in living our lives with purpose and meaning.  He will help us to overcome all fears.  How will He help us?  By showing us the way to live our life meaningfully and courageously!  He will show us how to conquer the fear of death and most of all, how to bear our crosses joyfully after Him.   He will free us from all our bondage and give us true freedom, the freedom to love freely and totally.  He will help us to live each day by living one day at a time, with faith and with joy.  He has come to give us the light for our salvation.  This is what the psalmist says.  “The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink? I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Hope in him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord!”  Indeed, this is the invitation today for those who have lost hope and courage in life.  Hope in the Lord!  Come to Him and He will heal us and give us life once again, in the land of the living.

How will this happen?   By delivering us from our blindness as He did for the two blind men!  It is the lack of spiritual understanding that prevents us from seeing the mysteries of life in perspective.  Because of the dullness of mind and our ignorance, we are shortsighted and too myopic in the way we look at our challenges and sufferings.  We need to ask what is causing us to be unhappy.  Most of the time, our sins, selfishness, and desires make us grasp, hanker and cling on to what we want.  This leads to envy, greed, anger, and discontentment.   At times, it is because of our pride, the refusal to admit our mistakes and our prejudices.  We allow our pride to blind us in doing things that serve our ego rather than doing what is right and good.  By insisting on having things our way, which is the offspring of pride, namely, arrogance and stubbornness, we hurt ourselves.

That is why Jesus is asking us as He did with the blind men, “Do you believe I can do this?”  In other words, He is asking, firstly, whether we really want to see.  There is a responsibility when we see.  It is said that ‘where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise’.  So the ability to see means that we have to do what we know is the truth.  Otherwise, we will suffer guilt for being culpable in not doing the right things when we know that this is required of us.  If we are desperate and sincere like the blind men who really wanted to see, then we need to follow Jesus as they did to the house where He was in.

But we cannot see clearly unless we see with faith.  This explains why the Church always says that whilst faith is not against reason, faith purifies reason.  Using human reason alone, whilst not impossible, often will not lead us to the fullness of truth.  Faith gives us the eyes to see beyond reason.  Faith enables us to see more.  Isn’t it true that when we trust someone, we can understand that person better and see more in what he is saying than with someone whom we do not trust or do not know?  So if anyone wants to see, he or she must first confess his or her faith in Jesus who is the Light of the World, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Faith in Jesus will allow our hearts to be receptive to His Word and understand what He is saying, not just with our head but with our heart.  Only such understanding from the heart can bring about a total conviction of mind and heart.  

To come to see means that from now on, we see through the eyes of Jesus, whether it is with respect to suffering, to living a life of truth or doing the will of God.   In other words, to see means to look at life with the lens of Jesus.   With Jesus, recovery of sight does not mean that our sufferings are taken away.  Rather, the pain could be embraced in the light of God’s truth and His own suffering for us.  In other words, we see sufferings, injustices, hurts, and illnesses in a different light.  Once we have the light of Christ, then we will stop hurting ourselves by refraining from those actions that will destroy us.  We will then be able to let go of those who have hurt us.  We learn contentment and not crave for this and that thing.   We learn to let go even of loved ones and those whom we love so dearly but who no longer love us.  Like Jesus, we learn to accommodate others, their strengths and weaknesses, not to be judgmental but to be understanding, forgiving and encouraging. Most of all, with spiritual sight, we can unravel all our unconscious motivations in what we do and why we do so that our intentions are purer and not simply a cover-up of our insecurities, our need for affirmation and acceptance, but truly because of love.

So we must pray earnestly and be watchful. The prophet says, “Erring spirits will learn wisdom and murmurers accept instruction.”  Seeing entails reading the Word of God and acquiring the Wisdom of God to judge all things.  We are called to place our total trust in Jesus.  Like the blind men, we only have to believe.  Jesus says to them, “Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.”   Only faith in Jesus can give us the courage to surrender our lives to Him, trust in His Word and claim His promises.  With faith in Jesus, we know that He can work wonders in our lives.  Nothing is impossible for Him.

With the psalmist, we too will say, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’ The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.”  For the Israelites, it was simply unbelievable that they could return to their homeland.  It will be the same for us if we trust the Lord.  He will help us find ourselves and we will be at home with ourselves, living a life of contentment, enjoying the simple things of life, but most of all, living a life of love, meaning, and purpose.  Regardless of the situation, we are able to take His will and take things as they come, for we know that submission to His will is the way we find peace. Indeed, being at home with the Lord is what gives us joy and peace.  “There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to savour the sweetness of the Lord, to behold his temple.”  In His house, when He lives in us, we find perfect peace and joy.

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

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

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Art: St Ambrose by Matthias Stom

Saint Ambrose, also known as Aurelius Ambrosius, is one of the four original doctors of the Church. He was the Bishop of Milan and became one of the most important theological figure of the 4th century.

Ambrose was born around 340 AD to a Roman Christian family. He grew up with his siblings, Satyrus and Marcellina, in Trier, Belgic Gaul (present-day Germany). It is believed by many that when Ambrose was just an infant, a swarm of bees landed on his face and left behind a drop of honey. To his father, this was a sign that Ambrose would become someone great with a wonderful sense for speaking.

After Ambrose’s father passed away, he was educated in Rome, where he studied law, literature and rhetoric. Ambrose received a place on the council, like his father, and was made consular prefect, or the Governor, of Liguria and Emilia around 372. Ambrose’s headquarters were in Milan, the then second capital of Italy.

Ambrose remained Governor until 374 when he became the Bishop of Milan. After the former Bishop of Milan died, Ambrose attended the election to prevent any uproars between the Nicene Church and the Arians. While giving an address, the assembly began calling for him to become the next bishop.

Ambrose was known for his Nicene beliefs, but Arians also favored him because he had previously shown charity in theological matters. However, being neither baptized or trained in theology, Ambrose refused to become the next bishop.

He ran and attempted to hide, but his colleague gave him up. Within a week’s time, Ambrose was baptized, ordained and duly consecrated bishop of Milan on December 7, 374.

As bishop, he donated all of his land and gave his money to the poor. This made him widely popular and often times more politically powerful than even the emperor.

He studied theology with Simplician, a presbyter of Rome. Using his new education, along with his knowledge of Greek, he took the time to study the Old Testament and Greek authors. He used all of this while preaching; his abilities impressed Augustine of Hippo, who previously thought poorly of Christian preachers.

After meeting Ambrose, Augustine reevaluated himself and was forever changed. In 387, Ambrose baptized Augustine, who he had a great influence on. St. Monica, Augustine’s mother, loved Ambrose “as an angel of God who uprooted her son from his former ways and led him to his convictions of Christ.”

According to legend, Ambrose tried to put an end to Arianism in Milan. He often attempted to theologically dispute their propositions. The Arians appealed to many high position leaders, but Ambrose was able to stay one step ahead. The Arians increasing strength proved troublesome for Ambrose. Around 386, the Emperor Valentinian II and his mother, Justine, along with many other people, including clergy, laypersons, and military, professed Arianism.

They demanded some of the churches in Milan be dedicated to them, one in the city and one in the suburbs. Ambrose refused and was ordered to appear in front of the council, where he then spoke eloquently in defense of the Church. He is quoted with stating: If you demand my person, I am ready to submit: carry me to prison or to death, I will not resist; but I will never betray the church of Christ. I will not call upon the people to succour me; I will die at the foot of the altar rather than desert it. The tumult of the people I will not encourage: but God alone can appease it.

The imperial court did not like Ambrose’s religious principles, but he was sought out to help and speak to Magnus Maximus to prevent him from descending upon Italy. Ambrose was successful.

During a second attempt, the embassy was not successful and Milan was taken. Justine and Valentinian II fled, but Ambrose stayed. He is credited with doing a great service to the sufferers during this time.

In 385, Ambrose once again refused handing over the Portian basilica to Valentinian II, this time to be used by Arian troops. A year later, Ambrose was again ordered to hand over the church for Arian use. Ambrose and his congregation barricaded themselves within the church walls until the imperial order rescinded.

After Theodosius I, emperor of the East, married Justine, Ambrose had him excommunicated for the massacre of 7,000 people. The emperor did several months? worth of public penance.

In his later years, Ambrose retired in Bologna and assisted in the transferring of saints Vitalis and Agricola’s relics.

Two years after Theodosius died, after he acquired the possession of the Roman empire, Ambrose passed away on April 4, 397. He was succeeded as bishop of Milan by Simplician.

Ambrose’s body remains in the church of St. Ambrogio in Milan, along with the bodies of Saints Gervase and Protase.

St. Ambrose was generous to the poor. He considered them not a group of outsiders, but rather those of the united people. To him, giving to the poor was just a repayment of God’s resources, which were intended for everyone equally.

He introduced reforms in the order and manner of public worship. He was known for his “liturgical flexibility that kept in mind that liturgy was a tool to serve people in worshiping God, and ought not to become a rigid entity that is invariable from place to place.”

Ambrose is credited with advising Augustine of Hippo to follow local liturgical customs. “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the church where you are,” he stated. This advice remains today, and is translated in English as the saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Some believe Ambrose was a Christian Universalist, based on interpretations of his writing. The Theological treatises of Ambrose had great influences on Popes Damasus, Siricius and Leo XIII. Ambrose studied largely on the virginity of Mary and her role as Mother of God. He viewed celibacy as superior to marriage and saw Mary as virginity’s model.

Ambrose authored many of the Church’s important writings and hymns. He is credited with composing the repertory Ambrosian chant, also known as the Antiphonal Chant. He is also credited with composing the hymn “Te Deum,” which is believed to have been written when he baptized Augustine of Hippo.

St. Ambrose is the Confessor and Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of bee keepers, beggars, learning and Milan, and his feast day is celebrated on December 7.

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=16

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 6, 2018 — The Foundation of Humanity

December 6, 2018

The LORD is an eternal Rock — Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord

Image result for the wise man builds his house on rock, pictures

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock

Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 178

Reading 1 IS 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A

R. (26a) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
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. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia IS 55:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call him while he is near.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Image result for house built on sand, photos

Gospel  MT 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 DECEMBER, 2018, Thursday, 1st Week, Advent

BUILDING A HUMANITY WITHOUT FOUNDATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [IS 26:1-6PS 118:1,8-9,19-21,25-27MT 7:21,24-27  ]

The world is in such a confused state.  Leaders no longer lead but obey the sheep.  This is what democracy is all about –  do what the people say, not what is good for the future of the country or the organization.  Give them what they want, even though it might hurt them in the long run.  But then we do not have to worry because we will no longer be leaders by then.   Then again, we cannot blame the leaders of the day entirely because the world has been bought over by this ideology which we call ‘relativism’.  This philosophy claims that everything is relative except, of course, relativism itself.

The dictatorship of relativism is the cause of much confusion in the world today. With relativism, nothing has any real foundation or ground to support.  There is no truth by which we all can agree on.  It all depends on who speaks the loudest and makes the most noise so that others will buy into their ideas or ideology.  Relativism is fueled also by mass media and digital technology.  Ideas and views spread widely.  As a result, we have an overload of information.  Much of the information is fake news and they are often innocently passed around without verification.

With a diarrhea of information available, not all of which can easily be verified, it is no wonder why pragmatism has become the order of the day.  Since we are paralyzed by so much information and choices, and lacking the time to weigh all the available data, we just have to choose at random according to our personal preferences and liking.  Choices are made not based on whether it is right or true but whether it satisfies one’s needs and desires, even if they are detrimental to our future or when they infringe the rights of others.

Indeed, when we examine some of the trends of society, we cannot but lament the shortsightedness of those who formulated the policies.  They are more concerned with fixing the problem now than being far-sighted to see whether the solution they propose will cause greater problems in the future.  This is true in terms of population control.  Many countries forced their people to stop at one or two children.  Now these countries are facing depopulation and an aging demographic.  The first world countries are now importing citizens and workers from so-called over-crowded countries in the third world.  Has the world seriously considered the long-term implications of legalizing same-sex union, adoption of children by same-sex couples, euthanasia, cloning, etc?  But leaders are desperate to please the people, notwithstanding the fact that such choices are often engineered through publicity and aggressive marketing.

Jesus warns us in today’s gospel that if our house is not built on solid foundation, then it will crash and it will be disastrous.  “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand.  Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!”   Indeed, today, we are called to examine the fundamental principles that can help humanity and grow the country. If what we build is not based on lasting principles, then we will find ourselves having to keep changing our goal post to suit us.  We will just go where the wind blows.  We change with the tide and we are swept along by societal trends.  Instead of molding and steering society, we allow society, which is blind, to lead us.  We have no direction in life.  We have no focus and without any shared values there is nothing that can bring everyone together.  But values must be true and good, otherwise they cannot be valued.

So we might be doing many things and yet not achieving anything that is really good.  That is why Jesus warned us about self-deception.  He said, “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  Just praying and calling ourselves Catholic will not lead us to heaven.  Just saying that we are not justified by good works but by faith alone will not lead us to happiness.  Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”  (Mt 7:22f)   Indeed, we can be doing many things, but without focus or direction, such works will do us no good.  This is what many are doing even in Church.  They are involved in all kinds of activity but they do not pray, they are not conscious of their roles and responsibilities, their alignment with the parish and the diocesan vision; their objectives in the work they do.  So we have many do-gooders but they are blind.  They just do what they have been told but they are not motivated by a higher vision and goal.

As Christians, we are focused in all that we do.  Our foundational principles are clear.  We know who we are, what we are called to do and where our final destiny lies.  We know that God is the Ultimate Ground of life.  We know that God has revealed Himself to us through His Son in the Holy Spirit.  We know that we are called to be sons and daughters of God to share in the divine life.  “But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  (Phil 3:20)  Until then, we must fight the good fight.   “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”  (Tit 2:11-14)

Indeed, our values are founded on Eternal truths because they come from Christ who is the Word of God in person.  He is our rock.  Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.”   He said these concluding words at His Sermon on the Mount.  In other words, Jesus is inviting us to place our total trust in His Word, the values that He preached.   The fundamental values of life are beautifully summed up in the Beatitudes, which is the preface to the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount.  The beatitudes are the keys to a blessed life.  Some of these foundational values taught by the Lord are humility and poverty of spirit, holiness and purity of life, mercy and compassion, charity and justice, love and forgiveness, peacemaking and prophets for truth.  These are the principles that Christians live by.

Not only is Jesus our rock, He is our fortress as well.  The prophet said, “We have a strong city; to guard us he has set wall and rampart about us.”   The wall of Jesus, which is His word, shields us from the attack of our enemies, especially in the face of attack and false doctrines and undesirable values that come into our lives.  St Paul wrote, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:16f)  He also reminded the Christians that “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, (is) the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”  (1 Tim 3:15) Besides being the wall of defence, God is the one that gives us an overview and fuller perspective of life.  This is what it means to say that God is our rampart, which is that part on top of the wall of a castle where there is a walkway for the soldiers to see from afar anyone who is approaching the city.   In this way, we will have the foresight to see far and near the outcome of the policies that we formulate for our people.

The psalmist invites us, let us place our entire trust and confidence in Jesus, our rock and fortress, “Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord is the everlasting Rock; he has brought low those who lived high up in the steep citadel; brings it down, brings it down to the ground, flings it down in the dust: the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor trample on it.”   Indeed, because Christ is our rock and fortress, we are called to build our lives on Him.   Only by trusting in Him, can we win victory.

So today, let us delay no longer.  With the psalmist we pray, “Open to me the gates of holiness: I will enter and give thanks. This is the Lord’s own gate where the just may enter. I will thank you for you have answered and you are my saviour.”  If our minds are focused on the Lord, our hearts will be at rest because we know He will help us to fight this battle.  With upright heart and upright life, we march on with confidence and peace.   Putting into practice what the Lord teaches us is what ultimately matters. “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock.”

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

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

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“Christianity established a a rule and order and the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”

— G. K. Chesterton (In his book “Orthodoxy”)

“He is the second most-quoted author in the English language, the most prolific writer in the 20th Century,” said Dr. Benson, adding:

“He was blackballed in his own time because he was a Christian in a secular world.” As such, Chesterton took on the free thinkers and turn-of-century radicals, even coming to America to debate, and ultimately defeat, Clarence Darrow who was fresh from his triumphant oratory in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

“Chesterton had set out to found his own church but the philosopher came to the conclusion that Christianity held the answer and his Christian orthodoxy led him to convert to Roman Catholicism.

http://blog.nola.com/ponchatoulatimes/2008/05/times_unveils_major_new_downto.html

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 5, 2018 — “Let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”

December 5, 2018

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are at my side

Image result for loaves and fishes, pictures

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Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
Lectionary: 177

Reading 1 IS 25:6-10A

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

On that day it will be said:
“Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

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

R. (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel  MT 15:29-37

At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way.”
The disciples said to him,
“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?”
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?”
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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ANTICIPATING THE JOY OF HEAVEN IN CHRIST’S SECOND COMING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISA 25:6-10MT 15:29-37 ]

The season of Advent is to prepare us for the coming of the Lord, especially at Christmas.  But it is important that the Church puts us in perspective for the celebration of the Incarnation at Christmas.  Indeed, if we have paid attention especially to the liturgy of the first week of Advent, the Church is more focused on the Second Coming. In the opening prayer we prayed “that we may be ready to receive Christ when he comes in glory and share in the banquet of heaven. “

Clearly, it means that our hope for heaven is the real reason why we are celebrating Christmas.  Advent is to prepare us not just for the coming of Christ at Christmas, because He has already come and is still with us, but to remind us that in celebrating Christmas, we are awaiting His final return at the end of time.  When He returns in His glory, then we will share the fullness of His presence in our lives.  This sharing of the life of Christ is graphically presented as coming to the mountain of the Lord, the heavenly Jerusalem which is heaven. Yes, the liturgy wants us to be excited about heaven so that we have a great desire to be in heaven with Jesus.  But perhaps, many of us are not really interested in heaven.  This is because we think that heaven is quite a boring place.  Furthermore, many of us might think that we still young and we have many more years to live on this earth.

Thus, before we can speak of Christ’s return in glory and our share in the banquet of heaven, we must ask ourselves whether we know what heaven is all about.  Have we tasted heaven in our life?  If we have not, how can we have confidence that there is heaven in the next life or that heaven is such a great place to be?  So, do you know what heaven is?  Of course you know but do not recognize it!  The truth is that you have tasted heaven already.   In the first reading, we have a description of what heaven is like.  Isaiah speaks of heaven as “a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines.” In heaven, God “will destroy Death for ever.” In the gospel, we are told that Jesus multiplied bread to feed the hungry crowd until they were totally satisfied.  Not only did “they all ate as much as they wanted,” but “they collected what was left of the scraps, seven baskets full.”  Seven of course is a biblical symbol of total fulfillment.

Hence, heaven is a state of great joy, happiness and fulfillment where is there is fellowship, excitement, love and life.  All that we experience on this earth, especially in our activities, is already a taste of the fullness of life that is given to us in heaven.  Whenever we encounter peace, joy and love, this is a preview of heaven. Whenever we give ourselves to each other in love, friendship and service, whether in our family, among our own friends, in school, at work and at Church, we would have tasted what heaven is like. So heaven is a state of life that is full of love, joy, dynamism and life.

Needless to say, this heaven on earth is not perfect.  We have never said it is anyway.  Rather it is a “taste” of the heavenly banquet; not yet the full meal.  We will experience some inconvenience, unhappiness and misunderstandings in life.  Not everything is always right and according to our desires.  We are not always nice to others and our loved ones and friends do not always show love towards us either.  So heaven on earth is only a “taste” and a foretaste.   Precisely, this is the point of today’s liturgy.  If we think that human friendship and this life is great, Then God wants to give us something more excellent than we can ever imagine.  He wants to give us joy, love and life to the fullness.  This is what Prophet Isaiah says, “On this Mountain”, that is, heaven, God will “wipe away the tears from every cheek” and “remove the mourning veil” so that we can see Him face to face.  Hence, heaven is often described as a beatific vision.  To meet God face to face means that we encounter Him in His presence and love that we could say with the Israelites, “See, this is our God to whom we hoped for salvation.”  When we experience the indwelling of God’s presence in our hearts, we will experience a joy and love that is simply indescribable.

Such a foretaste of what heaven is like is anticipated especially when we celebrate the Eucharistic banquet.  This is what the gospel wants to remind us.  In the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus was anticipating the Eucharist, the gift of Himself to the Church.  In fact, the miracle of the loaves is narrated within a liturgical setting.  Similarly, in the Eucharist, we encounter once again in a very real way, the presence of our Lord in the bread and wine.  In the liturgy of the Word, we hear the Lord speaking to us again.  And in the worship service, we find ourselves in deep communion with the Lord in prayer.  So every time we celebrate the Eucharist and listen to His Word in scripture when it is read, Christ becomes so real and present to us in our hearts and mind so much so we could, like the Israelites, say “We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us.”  In our union with Him, we are healed of our brokenness, fears and anxieties.  For this reason, the celebration of the liturgy and the Eucharist is a real foretaste of heaven, since in the celebration we experience the love and presence of God so intensely in our hearts.

However, this is only possible because of Christ who has come among us in the flesh.  In celebrating Christmas, the Feast of Incarnation, we are acknowledging the presence of God amongst men.  It is in order that we might recognize the love of God that God became man in Jesus.  Through His works of love, compassion and healing, Jesus revealed to His people who God is and what the kingdom is like.  This is clearly presented in today’s gospel where Jesus is shown as a Good Shepherd reaching out to the lonely, lost and broken souls who are searching for direction and meaning in life.  And this presence of Jesus is continued especially in the Sacraments, particularly in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  In the Eucharist, Jesus is fully present to us in His entire being.  That is why the Eucharist is the extension of His incarnation and resurrection.

However, we who are so privileged to have a foretaste of heaven in our fellowship with one another and our fellowship with God are asked to share that joy with others.  Before we came to the Lord, we were also crippled; blind, and dumb like many people in the world.  We were crippled in love, blind to our own sinfulness and dumb when it came to witnessing to Christ and His love.  But now that Christ has healed and given us a share of His love, He is appealing to all of us to make His Incarnation and presence real again in the lives of so many people who are still crippled, blind and dumb.  Just as He told His disciples, “I feel sorry for all these people … I do not want to send them off hungry,” He is speaking these words to each one of us.

The question is whether we will be like them, shake off our responsibility because of our lack of faith and love and tell Jesus to send them away instead.  Nay, Jesus wants us to feel for the crowd.  In the miracle of the loaves, Jesus is asking us to multiply Him as He multiplied the loaves and fed the people.  After all, He has fed us abundantly already.  But more than the miracle of the multiplication of loaves, He is challenging us to share that abundance with others, symbolized by the seven baskets full of scraps that were collected.

So, how can we multiply Jesus today?  It is fitting therefore that as we prepare for the Feast of Christmas, when Christ lives in us and amongst us, we must ask ourselves how Christ is asking us to prolong His presence among us.  His presence is revealed when we are faithful to our calling in life, regardless of what that may be.   Are we generous enough to show our gratitude to His love for us that we want give our lives to serve Him and be with Him all the days of our lives?  Are we equally excited as He was in bringing all men to share in the banquet of the kingdom of His Father?

In order to have the capacity to love and give like Jesus, we must therefore deepen our love for the Lord and listen to His calling and cry in our hearts for the love of His people.  Unless we love Him and grow in intimacy with Him, we would not experience His love and presence in our lives.  But if we do, we will be so filled with His compassion and love that we feel the call to feed His people who are hungry for spiritual food and the presence of God.  Indeed, we are all called to bring heaven down to earth for all so that anticipating the joy of heaven, they too will look to that fullness of Christ’s coming in His glory at the end of time.

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

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

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How will the story of your life end?

December 3, 2018

The story is told about a medium who told a rich golfer: “I have good news for you! I see you playing golf in heaven on a 36-hole golf course, with 24-hour access, with your own personal caddy. The bad news is that you are due to tee off tomorrow at 10 a.m.”

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 21, 25-28, 34-36), Jesus talks about the end time. It will be the time for victory for us, but there will be tribulations that will accompany it. Such too is our human condition—heaven awaits us, but first we must pass through the valley of tears, and experience death, the great letting go.

By Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD

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Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the time for preparation for Christmas, and a looking forward to Christ’s second coming. It is a time for repentance, but also a time for joy and hope.

Focus on joy, not on the worldly stress that the Christmas season brings. As we have often said, focus on the humor, not on the “tumor” we encounter in our lives.

The first of the four Advent candles which signifies hope will be lighted today. Let us not give in to hopelessness and depressions. Let us continue to believe, and keep on believing that all will be well, and that there is a reason and a mission in everything that happens, no matter how senseless things may seem.

I graduated from chemotherapy last Nov. 28, filled with gratitude, and hope that it will be my last in my lifetime.

I praise the Lord for all the people who have helped, prayed, encouraged, and supported me in my journey these past four months. God is good, loving,
and merciful!

Weak this week. The nausea, dizziness, and lack of appetite are side effects of chemotherapy. But immunotherapy helps to ease this. More so, it is prayer therapy, which I call “prayotherapy,” that really lifts up our weak body and spirit. With prayer, we know we are not alone, and there is meaning in our weaknesses, and sufferings.

Gone too soon. Canzmate (cancer mate) Dr. Rodolfo “Ogie” Frez, went home to the heavenly Father last Nov. 25, Feast of Christ the King, after a four-year battle with cancer. To the very end, he was a picture of gentleness, silent suffering, and complete trust in the Lord. He was such a generous person, doing a lot of charity especially for the poor and the needy, reminding all of us to use our time, talents, and treasures for the good of others.

Christmas won’t be the same this year for Ogie’s wife, Lorna, and only child, Regine, who is getting married this January 2019. There are many things we cannot explain nor understand, but we continue to trust and believe that through it all, God is in complete control, and that God has a plan.

Think about this: “Worry never climbed a hill; Worry never paid a bill; Worry never dried a tear; Worry never calmed a fear; Worry never composed a song to sing; Worry never did a worthwhile thing; Where worry ends, faith begins; Don’t worry about anything; Pray to God about everything!”

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, my life began with You. Let it end with You, and with Your way. Amen.

jorbos@inquirer.com.ph

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/117854/how-will-it-end#ixzz5YdEO50Am
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Related:

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St. Anthony with “Jesus Jumping Out of the Book” — When the book of our lives is written,
Will Jesus be jumping out?

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 3, 2018 — Saint Francis Xavier

December 3, 2018

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Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

Prayer: “In Thee, O Lord, I have put my hope. Let me never be confounded.”

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Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron Saint of Missionaries
Lectionary: 175

Reading 1 IS 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Responsorial Psalm  PS 122:1-2, 3-4B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my relatives and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Alleluia  SEE PS 80:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel  MT 8:5-11

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 DECEMBER, 2018, Monday, St Francis Xavier, Patron of Missions

BEING A MISSIONARY CHURCH IN SINGAPORE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 COR 9:16-1922-23;  MARK 16:15-20  ]

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionaries.  He was a great missionary.  It is estimated that in the ten years of his missionary travels, he baptized 30,000 people.  Though he died at a relatively young age of 46, he had done much in bringing Christianity to the Far East and East Asia.  He planted the seed of faith in the lands that he entered.  

When we think of St Francis Xavier, we cannot but also think of the missionaries who brought the Catholic Faith to Singapore.  Whether it is the MEP Fathers or the religious congregations such as Infant Jesus Sisters, FMDM, Canossian Sisters, La Salle Brothers or Gabrielite Brothers who have been here for more than a hundred years, our faith and where we are today is largely due to their contributions, not just to the local Church but to the country.  Through the countless and untold sacrifices of these missionaries, the Church has become what it is today.

What was their secret in bringing the faith to us?  Their secret is found in today’s scripture readings.  Firstly, they knew the method.  The way to proclaim the Good News is to touch the lives of our people in their needs.  The gospel must be proclaimed first and foremost to the poor.  This, of course, refers primarily to the materially poor.  The first contact with the people is to touch them where they need help most.  Without attending to their material needs, we cannot proclaim the gospel.  But the poor also includes those who are suffering physically from ill-health, sickness, emotional and spiritual pain.  Many suffer from loneliness, rejection, oppression and injustices.  Hence, the Lord told the apostles, “These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.”

Indeed, this was what the first missionaries did when they arrived in Singapore.  We were then very poor and most did not receive any education.  So when the MEP Fathers came to Singapore, they bought land and gave them to the poor to build their houses.  The parishes, especially with the help of St Vincent De Paul, reached out to the poor regardless of race, language or religion.  The FMDM sisters started Mt Alvernia Hospital to care for the sick.  Then there were the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Canossians who took on the challenge of caring for the aged and the sick.  The IJ Convent provided a home for the orphans and free education for the children.

Alongside helping the poor by offering humanitarian aid, the gospel was also proclaimed.  The faith was shared with those who were ready to come to know Christ.  Many were enrolled in the faith and received baptism.  When the people recognized the goodness and generosity of the missionaries, they were more receptive to the gospel that was preached and taught.  This was because they saw and received the gospel, the Good News of God concretely in their lives.   So the gospel preached was accompanied by works.

But the effectiveness of their mission was not dependent on just the works they did, or their preaching of the gospel; it was dependent mostly on the effectiveness of the agents of the gospel.   The gospel is not merely proclaimed through social services and powerful preaching alone.  These are necessary, but more importantly, people are moved by the agents of the gospel, their lifestyle and disposition.

Firstly, if the missionaries in those days were effective, it was because of their exemplary lifestyle.  Indeed, they were truly men and women of deep faith in Christ and they sought to live out the life of Christ in their daily life and ministry.  They lived in simplicity and charity.  They were always available to the people, whether for material help, emotional support, advice, counselling or spiritual help.  They laboured for the people selflessly, day and night, and without reservations.  The priests and missionaries in those days would visit the houses and sought to know their parishioners. That is why the priests are called Fathers, the religious, Brothers or Sisters because they were seen and loved as members of everyone’s household.

Secondly, they were people who had a sense of mission.  St Paul said, “I do not boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it! If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.”  The missionaries offered their lives freely for the service of the gospel because they were convinced that the gospel was really Good News for all of humanity.  Because they themselves had encountered the Good News and found salvation and meaning in Christ Jesus, the impetus to share Christ with all was a spontaneous response to the gift of the Good News.  As Jesus in the gospel said, “Freely you have received; freely give.”  (Mt 10:8)

Thirdly, they were identified with the people they lived with.  This is an important aspect of mission.  When we are separated from the lives of our people, their pains, and struggles and suffering, we lose touch with them.  The gospel we preach will be over their heads and will not touch their lives.  That is why there is no way to proclaim the gospel simply from the pulpit or from our offices.  Pastors and missionaries must move with the people to know their heartfelt pains and struggles at work, in marriage and in family life.  This was what St Paul said about himself.  “So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. For the weak I made myself weak. I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.”

Fourthly, the gospel was offered free without conditions attached.  St Paul said, “Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.”  The Good News, if it were really to be Good News, must be offered freely and for free.  The social and humanitarian works that we do are not tied down to the conversion of our recipients.  All we seek to do is to share the Good News of God’s love for them because we love them regardless of race, status, language or religion.  Indeed, this is a distinctive trait in the missionary work of Catholics.  We are conscious that we do not impose our faith on our beneficiaries.  Rather, we allow them to encounter God through us, and if they are given the gift of faith, we will share with them more explicitly about Jesus Christ.

In the light of what we have reflected, we must now ask ourselves, what does it mean to be a missionary Church in Singapore today, given that the situation we are in is different from 50 or 100 years ago?  We are not that poor, although there are poor in Singapore still, especially among the vulnerable, elderly, abandoned, ex-prisoners and offenders, those rejected by society, and foreign workers without jobs.  Today, our secular schools are much better equipped with the latest facilities and their teachers are better trained than many in our Catholic Schools.  The hospitals are better equipped with the latest technology than that of our hospital and nursing homes.

So we must ask ourselves, what can we do to evangelize?  We must offer them what the world cannot offer, our personal touch, our compassion and our understanding and support; most of all, the basis of our hope and our faith.  We must be there to listen and feel with them in their struggles.  Where needed, to offer them material and financial help.  In Catholic schools, we can distinguish ourselves by making our schools loving, serving and gracious communities where there is a spirit of comradeship and most of all, grounded by the Catholic ethos of the gospel.  In our hospital and nursing homes, we can offer them personalized services, doing everything with a smile and with joy so that they know they are loved and wanted, and not be seen as a burden to others.  There are many who are rich and affluent, but their lives are miserable and empty.  They too need to hear the gospel of Hope, and most of all, to know that Christ can give them meaning and purpose in life.  Unless we learn from our missionaries of the past and imbibe their spirit, acquire the fundamental principles in missionary work, whilst applying and adapting to our times, we will eventually lose our relevance in society.

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

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

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Saint Francis Xavier’s Story

Jesus asked, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:26a). The words were repeated to a young teacher of philosophy who had a highly promising career in academics, with success and a life of prestige and honor before him.

Francis Xavier, 24 at the time, and living and teaching in Paris, did not heed these words at once. They came from a good friend, Ignatius of Loyola, whose tireless persuasion finally won the young man to Christ. Francis then made the spiritual exercises under the direction of Ignatius, and in 1534, joined his little community, the infant Society of Jesus. Together at Montmartre they vowed poverty, chastity, obedience, and apostolic service according to the directions of the pope.

From Venice, where he was ordained a priest in 1537, Xavier went on to Lisbon and from there sailed to the East Indies, landing at Goa, on the west coast of India. For the next 10 years he labored to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Hindus, the Malayans, and the Japanese. He spent much of that time in India, and served as provincial of the newly established Jesuit province of India.

Wherever he went, Xavier lived with the poorest people, sharing their food and rough accommodations. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and the poor, particularly to lepers. Very often he had no time to sleep or even to say his breviary but, as we know from his letters, he was filled always with joy.

Xavier went through the islands of Malaysia, then up to Japan. He learned enough Japanese to preach to simple folk, to instruct, and to baptize, and to establish missions for those who were to follow him. From Japan he had dreams of going to China, but this plan was never realized. Before reaching the mainland, he died. His remains are enshrined in the Church of Good Jesus in Goa. He and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux were declared co-patrons of the missions in 1925.

Reflection

All of us are called to “go and preach to all nations—see Matthew 28:19. Our preaching is not necessarily on distant shores but to our families, our children, our husband or wife, our coworkers. And we are called to preach not with words, but by our everyday lives. Only by sacrifice, the giving up of all selfish gain, could Francis Xavier be free to bear the Good News to the world. Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis Xavier gave his to others.

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-francis-xavier/

See also:

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, December 2, 2018 — Advent Begins

December 2, 2018

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love

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God is faithful to His promises

First Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 3

Reading 1  JER 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

R. (1b) To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior,
and for you I wait all the day.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy
toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,
and his covenant, for their instruction.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Reading 2 1 THES 3:12—4:2

Brothers and sisters:
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

Finally, brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God
and as you are conducting yourselves
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Alleluia  PS 85:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Show us, Lord, your love;
and grant us your salvation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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From The Abbot, Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today’s readings exhort us to be vigilant for Advent.  This is not a time for passivity, for God is at work, fulfilling his promises and crafting signs and wonders attesting to His glory.  “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” William Butler Yeats’ poem begins, “I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.”  We Christians may not be going to Innisfree, but we must arise and go to Our Lord for He comes to us.

And, thematically similar to the three quatrains of this famous poem, with their specific needs for food and shelter, peace, and reconciliation with the inner life and the physical world; Christ, early Christian writers remind us, comes thrice:  He comes into our hearts, He comes into the world in the flesh, and He comes at the end of time.

In the first reading the Prophet Jeremiah prophesied that God would fulfill his promises to his chosen people.  Centuries later do we believe that God is faithful to His promises in our lives, in our situations, in our times?  Some of our ancestors believe and accepted God’s faithfulness; others did not.  We Christians believe that Christ is the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Jesus Christ redeems the world and our belief in Jesus redeems us.  This Advent, this coming of Christ, requires our active participation, too.

The 1st Letter to the Thessalonians pinpoints the strengthening of hearts in holiness as important.  We want to be ready to receive Our Lord in love, to live well and to please God.  Ultimately, this means for us to learn to love as Christ loved us.  We must prepare for and during this time on earth and in the life to come.

The Gospel of Luke wants us to be prepared for our personal death and the end of the world.  We can only be prepared when we recognize that we need God above all else in our lives.  Leo Tolstoy once remarked about the knowledge of a person’s imminent death in a half hour that the time would in all likelihood not be spent engaging in trivial or stupid things.  If one had foreknowledge a half century before one’s death, would that make one’s actions any different from a half hour?

We are invited to begin again in this time of Advent.  We prepare our hearts and minds to receive the perennial divine presence.  Let us spend time during this Advent Season listening with “the ears of our hearts.”  May the transformation of our lives begin.  Come, Lord Jesus!

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 DECEMBER, 2018, Sunday, 1st Week, Advent

LIVING WITH CONFIDENCE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Jer 33:14-16Ps 251 Th 3:12 – 4:2Lk 21:25-28.34-36  ]

In the gospel, Jesus spoke of the signs that would precede the Second Coming of the Son of Man.   “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”  However, we should not fear the end, because it is not meant to be a day of punishment but a day of reward.  Indeed, the Lord said, “when these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.”

But why do some people fear the end?  Because they are worried that they would not be ready to meet the Lord and account to Him for the life they have lived, the blessings of talents, the wealth and the resources.  They are afraid that they would fail the judgment of God.  And so talking about the final judgement helps them, as it did during the time of our Lord, to take their life on earth seriously as the future reality will depend on the present life.  Some are so obsessed about the final judgment that they live in fear rather than in true freedom and peace.  Such an approach to life contradicts the gospel because the judgement of God is truly a judgement of love.

However today, we have the opposite situation where most people never give a thought about the future state of life.  This is because we are living in a different situation.  In the days of old, life was hard due to poverty, illnesses, epidemics, wars and natural disasters.  Therefore, it was natural for such people, whose life span was also short, to be prepared for the future life, which would be a better life than what they had on earth.  However, today, with a better standard of living, a more comfortable life, the sumptuous spread of food, and good medical care, old age masked by cosmetic makeover, life has been prolonged; people are now more concerned about enjoying this life than giving thought to the next life since this life is so good!

Indeed, these are the warning signs of our times that the Lord spoke about in the gospel.  Relativism, atheism, individualism and materialism.  There is a loss of the sense of the Sacred.  The consequence is that people no longer have respect for the sacredness of life.   This explains why abortion is taken lightly and in some quarters, doctors are suggesting that abortion should be extended even to newly born babies.  Now, the world is promoting euthanasia, simply because they believe that life ends and finishes at death, and we disappear from the face of this world forever.

Furthermore, the time immemorial institutions of marriage and family are under threat.  As a result, we will have more dysfunctional children who will grow up without a real identity, even of their sexual identity.   In the West, they are promoting Agender, gender neutral or transgender or intersex.  Humanity has come to such a degraded state, they are even promoting bestialism.  In some Western countries, and even in Indonesia, they have animal sex brothels.  Such obsession with sex is because of pornography and promiscuity, where people become addicted with sex through constant indoctrination by the mass media.  That is why we still have many sexual crimes committed each day even though they know how serious the penalty is for such crimes.

Another imminent sign that the world could end up destroying itself is the way we treat creation.  The failure to practice ecology will lead to greater global warming and climate change and the destruction of creation.  Recently, the United States sent a spacecraft to Mars, which is about 484 million kilometres away, hoping to try to understand how Mars became inhabitable when it was believed that it was once habitable.

But why do we live this kind of fake life, pretended happiness when we are not truly at peace in our hearts and the joy is superficial?  This is because it is focused on self, not on others.  A joy contained within oneself will eventually be stifled out.  In truth, as the Lord warned us, “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap.”  Indeed, it is the temptations of the flesh, the World and Satan that has led us to live an unenlightened, sensual life focused on oneself without any real love and concern for others.  People are there for us to make use of, but we do not give our hearts to love and authentic relationships.

That is why, if we want to live a happy life on earth and hereafter, we must live the fullness of life at the end of time on this earth.  If true happiness in life consists in freedom, love, relationships, giving and sharing and humble service then, we should already be living this life on earth.  This is what living a life of holiness is.  St Paul said, “And may he so confirm your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.”   By living a life of holiness, we live a blameless life before God and before men.  We live in total freedom without fear of judgement because at all times, we could walk and stand with heads erect as we having nothing to hide.

A life of holiness means to live a life of integrity.  St Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it.”  This means that we live out who we are, Christ’s disciples and what we are called to do according to the gospel taught to us by the Lord.  When our life is consistent, who we are is also what we believe; we can live our life in total freedom from all fear because we live a blameless life, a life with a clear conscience.  It makes no difference when the Lord comes, now, next year, at the end of their life on earth or at His second coming.  When we live a life of integrity we are always welcoming the Lord who comes at every moment of our life.

A life of holiness must be expressed in a life of charity.    St Paul wrote, “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.”  Holiness in the Bible, in fact, is spelt out in terms of charity.  The Lord, after commanding the people to “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy”, gave them a list of instructions as to how they should treat their neighbours, their loved ones, the elderly, the poor and the stranger. (Lev 19) So how can we know that we have grown in holiness if not in our capacity to love more and more, to forgive those who have hurt us, to tolerate those who are weak and to be compassionate with those who are poor and vulnerable?

That is why at the beginning of the New Liturgical Year, the Lord invites us to start the year with a new beginning so that we will have a glorious ending.  The Lord says, “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”  We must keep ourselves alert to the signs of the times, which are not just cosmic signs but the events that are happening around us and in our lives.  We just have to become conscious of the consequences of sin, infidelity, immorality, cheating, and dishonesty.

Today, we are called to imitate our Lord, who is the Promised Messiah, to show us the way to true peace and joy.  Jesus by His life, death and resurrection has shown us the way to live a life of integrity, which is fidelity to His vocation as the Son of God, the Saviour of humanity.  We too are called to live out our fidelity to the Father as His adopted sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ.  St Paul reminds us, “You have not forgotten the instructions we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.”  So with the psalmist, we are called to learn from the Lord by contemplating on His word and His ways.  Walking the way of the Lord is the sure path to fullness of life.

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

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

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, December 1, 2018 — “Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life…”

December 1, 2018

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Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life

The Lord God shall give them light

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Saturday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 508

Reading 1 RV 22:1-7

John said:
An angel showed me the river of life-giving water,
sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God
and of the Lamb down the middle of the street,
On either side of the river grew the tree of life
that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month;
the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.
Nothing accursed will be found anymore.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it,
and his servants will worship him.
They will look upon his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.
Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun,
for the Lord God shall give them light,
and they shall reign forever and ever.And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true,
and the Lord, the God of prophetic spirits,
sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.”
“Behold, I am coming soon.”
Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 95:1-2, 3-5, 6-7AB

R. (1 Cor 16: 22b, see Rev. 22: 20c) Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great king above all gods;
In his hands are the depths of the earth,
and the tops of the mountains are his.
His is the sea, for he has made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.
R. Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!

Alleluia  LK 21:36

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all times and pray
that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 21:34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 DECEMBER, 2018, Saturday, 34th Week, Ordinary Time

WATCH YOURSELF

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ REV 22:1-7LUKE 21:34-36 ]

In the gospel, the Lord warned His disciples, “‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap.”  Why should we watch ourselves?  Many people no longer watch themselves.  This is because there seems to be a loss of hope for the future.  Many are living with the thought that once we die, everything is finished.  So what is there to be alert to because we are not going anywhere!   This explains why many are not keeping watch for the life to come as they only live for this world and this life.  When that is so, indeed, as Jesus said, “our hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.”  Life for them is all about making money, pleasure, merry-making, enjoyment and holidays.  Work and ambition are the means to secure wealth and a luxurious life.  So why worry about God, about Church, about the poor and the suffering or the future of the country and the world?  Why worry about ecology or climate change and that the world will one day be burnt out?   We will be long dead and gone.

That is why it is important that we do not get soiled by the world and its values.  Many of our Catholics who are weak in faith, who hardly pray or read the scriptures, attend church services only occasionally, behave more like baptized pagans than real Catholics.  The values they subscribe to are not founded on the Word of God but on the current opinions of the world.  They believe more in the ideology of the world than in Catholic theology.  In truth, no one becomes an unbeliever overnight.  It is always a gradual process.  It begins with neglect in our spiritual life, especially a deep relationship with God.  Once our relationship with the Lord becomes cold and distant, we become worldlier and more sensual in our needs.  We cling to the pleasures that come from the flesh and the world.  Very soon, we fall deeper into sin and God is completely out of our mind and our lives.  In order to justify our sinful actions that are contrary to the Church’s teachings and the Word of God, we employ the reasons of the world to convince us that what we do is the right thing and that the Church is wrong and the bible is outdated and not the Word of God.  We become arrogant in our thoughts.  From indifference to the faith, we soon become hostile to the Word of God.  From being a Sunday and nominal Catholic, we become anti-Catholic and join the rest of the world in condemning the Catholic Faith.  This is the path that many Catholics take simply because they had not been watchful of the workings and the strategy of the Evil One.

This is why the Lord exhorts us, “Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.”  Praying keep us awake to the presence of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Praying keeps us informed of the Word of God which “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  (Ps 119:105)  Today’s gospel text came before Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He Himself prayed at the most difficult time in His life when He had to make a decision to do the Father’s will.   Hence, He urged us, “Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  (Mt 26:41) Without prayer, we would fall into temptations because of weakness, like St Peter who denied the Lord because of his cowardice and the rest who ran away for safety when Jesus was arrested.

How often is this case for us all as well?  Many of us are easily tempted to sin because of the weakness of the will and the flesh.  We are afraid to carry the cross.  We are afraid to suffer for Jesus, especially shame and humiliation.  Indeed, when people were attacking the Church and her moral values, few Catholics came out to the open to defend the truths of the gospel and the morality of our peoples.  Many kept silent.

So how can we, besides praying, find the strength to stay awake and remain firm in our faith?  We must keep the vision that Christ has shown us.  We need to have a clear vision of our ultimate goal in life if we are to give our whole heart and soul to arrive at it.  Only with a clear vision like St Paul and St John, can we focus fully.  Hence, we must nurture the vision that the Word of God presents to us about our future destiny so that by remembering and keeping the vision alive, we will never lose enthusiasm and hope. 

In the book of revelation, we have the angel showing St John the vision of life.  “The angel showed me, John, the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street. On either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit in a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure for the pagans.”  The view of heaven where there will be eternal life and fruitfulness is what must continue to inspire us.  We know that at the end of the day, we will share in the river of life eternal when the Spirit lives in us.  This is what the Lord promised us.  “‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”  (Jn 7:37-39)

Secondly, our hope is that we see God face to face. “The ban will be lifted. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in its place in the city; his servants will worship him, they will see him face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign for ever and ever.”  Returning to God is where we truly belong.  When we see the face of God, we come to realize that we belong to Him and in Him we find our peace and joy.  St John wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  (1 Jn 3:2f)  God will be our complete joy and light.  There will be no darkness, no fear, no more temptations but we will be in God who is our peace and life.

Finally, the ultimate question is, when will He come? He said, “Very soon now, I shall be with you again.”  God will come at the end of our sojourn on earth when we die.  God will come at the end of history when everything will reach its consummation.  But He will come.  How soon, is an irrelevant question.  In fact, He has never left us.  He said, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Mt 28:20)  He has already come to us in the Church, in the Eucharist, in the Sacraments, and in the Holy Spirit.  He went up to heaven and has brought heaven to us when He came again in the Holy Spirit.  What is needed for us now is to receive Him again and again, especially at the Eucharist.  What we need to do is to find Him, especially among the poor, for He is with them too, as He said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’  (Mt 25:40) Or when we receive the little and insignificant people in our lives.  “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”  (Mt 18:4f)

So, rather than speculating on the end of time to get ready, we must be ready at all times.  Our entire life must be one of readiness to welcome the Lord.  We must be saying, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!”  In this way, we will be ready for any unforeseen circumstances in life, whether we meet a sudden death, a tragic event, trials in life or a crisis.  To be prepared at all times is the best preparation because we have nothing to fear.  Let us keep ourselves holy by making sure we go regularly for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, keep ourselves walking in love and truth, have a clear conscience and fulfill our responsibilities faithfully in life.  When we do that, we will always be ready to stand before the Lord with full confidence.  When we cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus”, He will come to our help in our trials.