Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 29, 2017 — “In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.” — Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me.”

May 28, 2017

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Reading 1, Acts 19:1-8

It happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples.

When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?’ they answered, ‘No, we were never even told there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’

He asked, ‘Then how were you baptised?’ They replied, ‘With John’s baptism.’

Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him — namely Jesus.’

When they heard this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus,

and the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy.

There were about twelve of these men in all.

He began by going to the synagogue, where he spoke out fearlessly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.

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Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 68:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

You disperse them like smoke; as wax melts in the presence of a fire, so the wicked melt at the presence of God.

The upright rejoice in the presence of God, delighted and crying out for joy.

Sing to God, play music to his name, build a road for the Rider of the Clouds, rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.

Father of orphans, defender of widows, such is God in his holy dwelling.

God gives the lonely a home to live in, leads prisoners out into prosperity, but rebels must live in the bare wastelands.

God, when you set out at the head of your people, when you strode over the desert.

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Gospel, John 16:29-33

His disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using veiled language.

Now we see that you know everything and need not wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’

Jesus answered them: Do you believe at last?

Listen; the time will come — indeed it has come already — when you are going to be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous: I have conquered the world.

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Commentary on John 16:29-33 from Living Space

The disciples now claim to understand exactly what Jesus is talking about, although it is doubtful that they really do.  It will not be until later on that the full meaning of Jesus’ words will be grasped by them.

They are impressed that Jesus can answer their questions even before they are formulated.  “Because of this we believe that you came from God.”  Yet, perhaps they are speaking too soon.

Jesus questions the depth of their belief.  Very soon, in spite of their protestations now, they will be scattered in all directions and leave Jesus alone and abandoned.  Of course, Jesus will not be alone; the Father is always with him even at the lowest depths of his humiliation.  Even when he himself will cry out: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

He tells them all this, not to discourage them, but so that they can find peace.  There will be many troubles facing them in the coming days and indeed in the years ahead.  They are not to worry: Jesus has conquered the world, not in any political or economic sense but in overcoming the evil of the world.  His disciples can share in that victory, as long as they stay close to him and walk his Way.

These words obviously have meaning for us especially if we are experiencing difficulties of any kind in our lives.  The peace we seek is available if we put ourselves into Jesus’ hands.  He knows; he has been through more than anything we are ever likely to have to experience.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1072g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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We see in today’s reading the “laying on of hands.”
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We also see this in 1 Timothy 4: 14-16:
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“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”
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Read more on the “laying on of hands”:
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And:
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Neglect Not The Gift Within You

Paul reminds Timothy two times about the gift (Charisma) that was given unto him, that he was not to neglect it and to stir it up. We see it once in 1Ti 4:14 and again in 2Ti 1:6.

1Ti 4:14-15 KJV  Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.  (15)  Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

2Ti 1:6-7 KJV  Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.  (7)  For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

When we read 2Ti 1:6 we see that Paul is encouraging Timothy to stir up the gift. The phrase “stir up” was translated from the Greek word anazōpureō (an-ad-zo-poor-eh’-o), and it simply means to re-enkindle, in other words don’t let the flame of this gift that was bestowed upon you to turn into smoking coals and glowing embers, but instead keep it burning with a great fire blazing; and if you have let it become those glowing embers, then use those embers to re-enkindle the fire. I think that Paul had seen Timothy slacking off or just simply not using the gift as often as he should have. But why would he have not used the gift? What kept him from excelling with it so that the profiting or advancement of it could appear to all?

In vs 7 immediately after Paul encourages Timothy to stir up the gift he reminds us that God has not given us the spirit of fear. I think Paul noticed that Timothy was not using his gift because fear kept him from using it. Paul had to remind Timothy that he has not been given a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. This fear could have been a fear of man or perhaps afraid of what one would think of this “Charisma” he showed and how it was used for the Glory of God. I believe that fear being the opposite of faith was smothering the fire of this gift inside of Timothy, it kept him from using the gift to its fullest potential and excelling with it. Whether this gift was for healing, working of miracles, teaching, prophesying, etc.,. it is not known, but it is clear that he needed to be reminded to use it and stir it up!

Paul’s reminder to Timothy is to us as well. I encourage you to not neglect the gift and stir it up (re-enkindle) it. Do not let fear keep you from excelling with the gift, be not luke warm with it, nor afraid to be Charismatic! This gift is given by the grace and favor of God upon your life for His purposes to be fulfilled. Now excel with it so the advancement and profiting of it will appear before all so He is glorified!

Be blessed with His perfect Love and Peace,
Pastors & Psalmist Gary and Rhonda Petzoldt

http://www.lilybandmusic.com/neglect-not-the-gift-in-you-and-stir-it-up/

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Prayer to Put Ourselves Into His Hands
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• The context of today’s Gospel continues to be the environment of the Last Supper, an environment of fraternity and of farewell, of sadness and of expectation, in which is mirrored the situation of the communities of Asia Minor at the end of the first century. In order to be able to understand the Gospels well, we can never forget that they give the words of Jesus not as if they had been registered in a CD to transmit them literally. The Gospels are pastoral writings which seek to embody and update the words of Jesus in the new situations in which the communities find themselves in the second half of the first century in Galilee (Matthew), in Greece (Luke), in Italy (Mark) and in Asia Minor (John)..

In the Gospel of John, the words and the questions of the disciples are not only those of the disciples, in fact, they reveal the questions and problems of the communities. They are the mirror in which the communities of that time as well as those of today are recognized with their sadness and their anguishes, with their joys and their hopes. And they find light and strength in the answers of Jesus.

• John 16, 29-30: Now, you are speaking plainly. Jesus had told his disciples: The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and you have believed that I come from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I am leaving the world to go to the Father (Jn 16, 29-30). Listening to this affirmation of Jesus, the disciples answered: “Now you are speaking plainly and not using veiled language. Now we see that you know everything and need not wait for questions to be put into words. Because of this we believe that you came from God”.

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The disciples think that they have understood everything. Yes, truly they got a true light to clarify their problems. But it was still a very dim light. They got the seed, but at that moment, not knowing the tree. The light or the seed was the fundamental intuition of faith according to which Jesus is for us the revelation of God, who is Father: “Now we believe that you came from God.“ But this was only the beginning, the seed. Jesus himself was and continues to be the great parable or the revelation of God for us. God reaches us and reveals himself to us. But God does not enter into any schema. He exceeds all, goes beyond our schema and gives us the unexpected surprise which, sometimes, is very painful.

• John 16, 31-32: You are leaving me alone and yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. Jesus asks: Do you believe at last? He knows his disciples. He knows that there is still much lacking for the understanding of the mystery of God and of the Good News of God. He knows that in spite of the good will and in spite of the light that they have just received in that moment, they still have to face the unexpected and painful surprise of the Passion and Death of Jesus. The small light that they got is not sufficient to overcome the darkness of the crisis: Behold, the time will come, indeed it has come already, when you are going to be scattered , each one going his own way and leaving me alone; and yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.

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This is the source of certitude of Jesus and through Jesus, this is and will be the source of certitude for all of us: The Father is with me! When Moses was sent to liberate the people from the oppression of the Egyptians, this being his mission, he received this certainty: “”Go! I am with you” /Ex 3, 12). The certainty of the liberating presence of God is expressed in the name that God assumes at the moment of the beginning of the Exodus and of the liberation of his people: JHWH, God with us: This is the name for all time (Ex 3, 15). A Name which is present more than six thousand times only in the New Testament.

• John 16, 33: Courage, I have conquered the world! And now we have the last phrase pronounced by Jesus who anticipates the victory and which will be a source of peace and of strength for the disciples of that time, as well as for all of us, up until now: I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have hardship, but be courageous, I have conquered the world”. With his sacrifice out of love, Jesus conquers the world and Satan. His disciples are called to participate in the struggle and the victory. To feel the courage which he gives is already to overcome the battle”. (L.A. Schokel)

For Personal Confrontation

• A small light helped the disciples to take a step farther, but it did not light the whole journey. Have you had a similar experience in your life?

• Courage, I have conquered the world! Has this phrase of Jesus helped you some times in your life?

Concluding Prayer

Protect me, O God, in you is my refuge.
To Yahweh I say, ‘You are my Lord, my happiness is in none
My birthright, my cup is Yahweh;
you, you alone, hold my lot secure. (Ps 16,1-2,5)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-1629-33

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 MAY, 2017, Monday, 7th Week of Easter
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A TRUE BELIEVER OF THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  19:1-8; JOHN 16:29-33 ]

“His disciples said to Jesus, ‘Now you are speaking plainly and not using metaphors! Now we see that you know everything, and do not have to wait for questions to be put into words; because of this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them: ‘Do you believe at last?” This is a good question for all of us as well.   Do we truly believe that Jesus is Lord?

We all claim to believe in Jesus.  But the truth is that for most of us, our faith is more of an intellectual assent or cultural practice than a conviction of the heart.  So like the disciples, we pay lip service to the Lord.  Our faith is not from the heart but from the head.  Worse still, for many of us who are nominal Catholics, faith is but a culture or a tradition.  It is not based on a personal conviction of our Lord.   For many of our young people, they are at church because their friends are there.

When we replace knowledge with belief in terms of conviction of the heart, then of course in times of trials and difficulties, we will abandon the Lord, like the disciples.  The Lord said, “Listen; the time will come – in fact it has come already – when you will be scattered, each going his own way and leaving me alone.”  Indeed, many of us will abandon Jesus in our lives.  What we profess with our lips we deny by our actions.  In times of trouble and difficulties, we give up easily, whether in marriage or in the priesthood.  Many of us lack perseverance in doing good and especially in ministry. We resign when we do not agree with the leader or the group.   And we say we have faith in Jesus and we love Him!  This was the case of the apostles before Easter.  They too betrayed the Lord and abandoned Him.

This is because we do not really love Jesus from our hearts.  Which mother or father would abandon a difficult child?   They will continue to carry the burden of looking after them because they love them.  When we love, we are ready to die for a person.  No sacrifices are too difficult to make for those whom we love.   For our friends, we are ready to die for them but few would die for an ideology.   St Paul said in no uncertain terms, “unless you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will not be saved.  For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.”  (Rom 10:9f)

In contrast we have Jesus who truly believed and showed His belief not in words but in action.  He was ready to die for the Father and for His people.  This is because He loved.  Where did He get His strength to sacrifice Himself for His Father and His people if not the fact that He knew that the Father was with Him.   He was one with the Father in mind and will.  He said, “In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world.” 

How did He conquer the world if not by the strength and love of His Father?  “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”  It is His personal intimacy and faith in the Father’s love that kept Him at peace even in trials.  This is the basis of peace for Jesus. He was not afraid of death or what was ahead of Him.  Hence, He said, “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me.”  Indeed, when we know that someone is with us, we will find the strength to carry on. What we need is a supportive and encouraging spouse, teacher, friend or a mentor.   When a child senses the presence of the parents, he is at rest.  People need to feel the presence of God in their lives if they are to find the strength and the courage to endure the sufferings and tribulations of life.  Like a child, we need to be held and to hold so that we can feel the presence of someone supporting us in love.

How do we find peace?   How can we overcome the world?  Only if we also know that the Lord is with us.  So how is He with us?  After the feast of the Ascension, we tend to think that He is away from us.  This is of course is not true.  The great thing about the Ascension is that although He has returned to His Father to receive His glory, yet, He remains with us.   Just as in the incarnation, He is with us but never left the Father.  Today, He is with us in the Holy Spirit. He is the love of God poured into our hearts.  Through the Spirit of Jesus, we share in His courage, peace, love and joy.

How can we receive the Holy Spirit?  We need to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  This was what St Paul told the disciples at Ephesus. It is not enough to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.  Giving up sins alone will not give us joy.   We need to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus who is the presence of God in us.  We need to know that He is with us in our trials.  We need the presence of the Risen Lord to encourage us.  Then we can find peace and joy.   The Holy Spirit makes present the Risen Lord by filling us with His love.

This explains why those who have a renewal of the Holy Spirit in their lives are filled with joy.  Like the early Christians, “the moment Paul had laid hands on them the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy. There were about twelve of these men.”   St Paul himself went “to the synagogue, where he spoke out boldly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. He did this for three months.”  In the case of the apostles, before Pentecost, they were afraid and hid in the Upper Room.   But after receiving the Holy Spirit, they became powerful witnesses of our Lord, full of courage and conviction.

Indeed, we all need to encounter the presence of the Lord today.  This also explains why popular religiosity and devotions are so much sought after by our faithful because they need to feel the presence of God, to see and to touch.   The Holy Spirit in a special way fills us with His warmth, love and presence so that we can be empowered to witness to the Lord.  With the psalmist, we sing, “But the just shall rejoice at the presence of God, they shall exult and dance for joy.  O sing to the Lord, make music to his name; rejoice in the Lord, exult at his presence.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 28, 2017 — I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living — Whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed

May 27, 2017

Seventh Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 59

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The Upper Room?

Reading 1 ACTS 1:12-14

After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles
returned to Jerusalem
from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem,
a sabbath day’s journey away.

When they entered the city
they went to the upper room where they were staying,
Peter and John and James and Andrew,
Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew,
James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot,
and Judas son of James.
All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer,
together with some women,
and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

Responsorial Psalm PS 27:1, 4, 7-8

R. (13) I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Hear, O Lord, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 PT 4:13-16

Beloved:
Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,
so that when his glory is revealed
you may also rejoice exultantly.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
But let no one among you be made to suffer
as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer.
But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed
but glorify God because of the name.

Alleluia CF. JN 14:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord.
I will come back to you, and your hearts will rejoice.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 17:1-11A

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said,
“Father, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you,
just as you gave him authority over all people,
so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.
Now this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.
I glorified you on earth
by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do.
Now glorify me, Father, with you,
with the glory that I had with you before the world began.

“I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.
They belonged to you, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you,
and they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Now the Ascension has happened.  The followers of Jesus wait for the Holy Spirit.  They had no idea what the Holy Spirit would mean in their lives.  The simply waited and prayed for the Holy Spirit to come.  This is the way for all of us:  wait and pray for the Holy Spirit.

The first reading is from the Acts of the Apostles and tells us about the return of the followers of Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Upper Room, where they were staying.  This reading mentions a “sabbath day’s journey.”  We no longer think in those terms but for the early followers of Jesus, the Jewish Law was still very important.  The point of this reading is simply that these followers of Jesus were gathering in the Upper Room and praying.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and some other women, are also there with the followers.

The second reading today is from the First Letter of Peter.  This one short passage tells us about our life as followers of Jesus:  “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.”

We never know what sufferings will come into our lives.  This second of the First Letter of Peter warns us that we should not be suffering because we are murderers, thieves, evildoers, or intriguers!  Rather we must suffer simply for trying to follow the Lord Jesus.

The Gospel today is from the Gospel of John and tells us this:  I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.”  The Father has given us all to His Son.  The world might perish, but Jesus will be with each one of us—if we let Him be there.  We are called to a deeper faith.  We are called to believe in the Holy Spirit, who guides us and directs us in our daily lives.

Jesus is glorified in us.  That is to say:  you and I are capable of showing the glory of God to others by our faith.  We may be sinners.  We are sinners.  Yet Jesus is still with us and saves us.  This is the miracle of salvation:  God sent His Son to save sinners, not to condemn us.  The more we can believe in this, the more open we become to the transformation that the Lord may want in us.  Let us spend time today asking for the Holy Spirit, pleading with the Lord to save us in all we do.  We cannot save ourselves!  There is no good action that we can do that will bring us salvation.  Only faith in the Lord Jesus gives us salvation.  Lord, have mercy on us!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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28 MAY, 2017, Sunday, 7th Week of Easter

THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS US TO SHARE IN THE GLORY OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 1:12-14; 1 PT 4:13-16; JN 17:1-11  ]

One of the things people seek in this life is glory.  We want people to honour us, to regard us highly and to love us. But the irony of it all is that the more we seek glory for ourselves, what we bring in the end is disgrace.  When we are concerned with making ourselves famous and great before others, we cannot but expose our self-centeredness and selfishness. We become arrogant and manipulative.  Inevitably, at the same time we court the envy of our competitors and enemies.  As a result, the more we try to bring glory to ourselves, the more we destroy ourselves.  When we seek vain glory for ourselves, we cannot find true and lasting happiness.

What, then, can bring us real happiness in life?  The Good News is that we are all called to share in the glory of God.  God wants to glorify us and give us the Spirit of glory.  How, then, can we seek this glory?  Paradoxically, the Spirit of glory is only given to those who glorify God.  Catholic Catechism teaches that our whole purpose on earth is to seek the glory of God.  The purpose of creation is defined as being created for the glory of God.  God creates man freely from His own will.  Why is it that the only way to receive real glory for ourselves is to glorify God?  In order to understand the paradoxical relationship between the glory of God and our glory, we must first understand why our life is for the glory of God.

This expression “for the glory of God” needs clarification.  We must be careful not to imagine that God needs us to glorify Him or that God created the world and man to induce amazement and worship of His greatness. Such an interpretation would be false and misleading.  It would create an image of a God that is insecure.  On the contrary, God by His very nature is complete and self-sufficient.  He does not need us to glorify Him in order to be complete.  God did not create us in order to prove Himself or astonish anyone with His power.  God did not create us for His self-interests.  He is infinitely perfect and cannot grow more perfect than He eternally and necessarily is.

God did not create us for His own happiness.  God created us for His glory and for our happiness.  Jesus tells us that the Father has entrusted everything to Him.  God the Father has given everything to the Son.  He has given Him power, love and His word. The Father reserves nothing for Himself.  All that He has belongs to the Son.  By extension too, this same divine life which Jesus shares with the Father is now also given to us.  Jesus has been sent to us so that we can have a share in the eternal life of God.

So, then, why do we maintain that God created us for His glory?  The truth is that His glory is our happiness.  God created us for our happiness, which is ours if we manifest His glory, that is, His love and His life.  Unless we live our lives in such a way that glorifies God, we have no share in that glory.  By living His life of love and self-emptying we share in the life of God.  We share His glory by manifesting His goodness and joy in us.  So the paradox is that when we live the life of God, we actually glorify God. When we manifest the perfection of God in us, we consciously or unconsciously give glory to Him.  Insofar as we glorify Him by living His life, we also share in the happiness of living the life of God. Consequently we cannot seek glory directly but we can seek glory indirectly by glorifying God with our lives.

Within this context, we can understand why Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him.  To the extent that the Father glorifies Jesus, God is even more glorified.  This glorification of Jesus is His resurrection from the dead.  If God did not glorify Jesus after His death, then it would only prove that all that Jesus said and did were not from the Father.  But by glorifying Jesus, the Father actually glorified Himself, since the whole life of Jesus is now confirmed as expressing the life of God.  Hence, to glorify God is to glorify ourselves; and for God to glorify us is to glorify Himself.

Once this is understood, we must now ask ourselves, how can we best share His life in such a way that we manifest His glory in us and in turn share in His glory?  The first way of glorifying God is that we must share in the life of God.  Jesus said, “eternal life is this – to know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”  In Jesus, we see the life of God incarnated.  In Jesus, we see the love and glory of the Father.  If we want to share in the life of God, we must come to know Jesus and know the Father. It is in our union with God that we find real life.  This is what we are created for, to share in the Trinitarian life of God.  We are called to have a personal relationship with God through the Son in the Spirit.  The more we come to know God personally, the more we come to share in His life.  In sharing His life we will reflect His life in us and thus manifest the glory of God.

Secondly, Jesus tells us that the way to glorify God is to glorify Him by worshiping and glorifying Him. Jesus glorified His Father in the priestly prayer.  We too must also give eternal praise and glory to God in worship. Man’s life must become a praise of God.  The praise of God is fundamental to life. In praising God, we come to know ourselves and our place in creation and in life.  Praise however makes no sense if it has no consequence.  St. Augustine said:  “You are what you say.”  Authentic praise of God expresses who we are.  The praise and glory of God in prayer is to be manifested in the life that we live as well.

Thirdly, if our lives were to be an eternal praise and glory to God it entails that we also manifest the work of God in us.  Jesus told the Father, “In them I am glorified.” When we live the life of Jesus, Jesus is glorified in us; and in turn God is glorified in Him.  Hence, our lives must be an eternal praise and glory to God. If people were to see the glory of God in us, they can only see it in our lives.  It is in all that we do and say that will manifest the life and glory of God.  Indeed, the whole life of Jesus is to glorify God on earth by finishing the work God had given Him to do. Jesus glorified God by being faithful to His vocation in life and by keeping His word.

For us too, we also glorify God by being faithful to what we have been called to do in life.  It is fidelity to our calling in life that will truly make us happy and fulfilled people.  The more we are true to ourselves and to our being, just as Jesus was true to His Sonship and mission, the more we find true happiness.  The man who lives his life to the fullest is truly the manifestation of the glory of God.  When such a life is lived according to God’s calling, there can be no other fullness.    Hence, the fullness of human existence is identical with the glory of God. The more man realizes himself, and the world in him, the brighter the glory of the creator radiates from him.  Man therefore glorifies God in his being as Jesus did. The glory of God is manifested in the person who lives in Christ.

Fourthly, fidelity to our vocation and calling necessarily implies that quite often we will be required to share in the sufferings of Christ, as Peter tells us in the second reading.  Sharing in the sufferings of Christ entails a real sharing in His glory because we suffer for what is right and good.  When we suffer patiently, we will be like Jesus who was vindicated in the end.  Those people who suffer selflessly for their country, for truth, for justice or for the service of others inspire us. The martyrs manifested Christ in themselves.

Fifthly, to manifest the glory of God entails making the name of God known, for this is what Jesus did.  He said, “Father I have made your name known.”  It is not sufficient simply to glorify God in our lives.  We are also called to glorify God by proclaiming His name.  Unless we make His name known, people will not know that the glory that is manifested in and through us is from God. The truth is that many people might live a good life but are not grateful to God because they do not recognize that their goodness comes from a source beyond themselves whom we call the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus, they only glorify God unconsciously in their lives but do not know whom to thank for the life of God that they shared.

But if they were to come to know who God is and their purpose in life, they will be able to consciously turn to God and glorify Him more than ever.  Hence, it is necessary that we are all called to praise God both in our deeds and in our words so that the whole world comes to know God and praise Him consciously in their lives. Today, incidentally, we celebrate World Communication Sunday.  Mass media must serve the glory of God through the promotion of life, love and harmony.  When mass media is used to promote selfishness, disunity, falsehood and worldly ambitions, it causes division in His creation.  The great task before us as Church is to communicate the love of God to all humankind so that God’s glory is manifested in their lives, whether it is through the employment of the mass media or our own lives.

The truth is that one can only live the life of Jesus and the life of the Father when we share in their Spirit.  The power to live the life of God and bring glory to Him is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit.  It is through the Holy Spirit that the Father glorified Jesus in His Resurrection.  It is the Holy Spirit which Jesus gives us at Pentecost that empowers us to live our baptismal life.  It is for this reason, that Jesus reminded His disciples that they must wait for the Holy Spirit before they can glorify and proclaim His name and the glory of His Kingdom to the ends of the earth. Without the Holy Spirit, our proclamation will be ineffective.  Our words will be empty; and our deeds will be rooted not in God’s love but human recognition and human need.  Let us then imitate the example of Mary and the Apostles by praying for a new release of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Spiritual Reflection From Peace and Freedom
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A few days ago, my wife and I watched a first grader try to assemble a puzzle. The more she tried, the harder it got.
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Finally, this dear little one bagan to cry and said, “Please help me. I can’t do a thing!”
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A little voice in my head (I call Him “The Holy Spirit”) said, “That’s what we are all supposed to do. Admit our powerlessness and ask God for help.”
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Catholics have been schooled for centuries to “reach out to God;” “Knock and the Door Will Open;” or “Turn it over to God.”
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The master of this school of thought is Jean Pierre de Caussade.
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He was one of the more memorable teachers of “Self Abandonment.” It turns out that many of us don’t have room for God because “self ” keeps getting in the way….
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Book: Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751) was a French Jesuit priest and writer known for the work called “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence.”
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Charles Eugene de Foucauld (1858-1916) took Jean Pierre de Caussade philosophy and boiled it down into one simple prayer seen below:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do. I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, a Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

A few decades later, the Holy Spirit got a version of this prayer into the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous where you can find it today hiding as the “Third Step Prayer” —

The Third Step Prayer

from page 63 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!

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The philosophy of self-abandonment is everywhere in Christian teaching. Often, it is referred to as “a life of service.”

In Alcoholics Anonymous, the self-abandonment requirement is stated as you see here:

Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one, of course. Every natural instinct cries out against the idea of personal powerlessness. It is truly awful to admit that, glass in hand, we have warped our minds into such an obsession for destructive drinking that only an act of Providence can remove it from us. No other kind of bankruptcy is like this one. Alcohol, now become the rapacious creditor, bleeds us of all self-sufficiency and all will to resist its demands. Once this stark fact is accepted, our bankruptcy as going human concerns is complete. But upon entering A.A. we soon take quite another view of this absolute humiliation. We perceive that only through utter defeat are we able to take our first steps toward liberation and strength. Our admissions of personal powerlessness finally turn out to be firm bedrock upon which happy and purposeful lives may be built. We know that little good can come to any alcoholic who joins A.A. unless he has first accepted his devastating weakness and all its consequences. Until he so humbles himself, his sobriety–if any–will be precarious. Of real happiness he will find none at all. Proved beyond doubt by an immense experience, this is one of the facts of A.A. life. The principle that we shall find no enduring strength until we first admit complete defeat is the main taproot from which our whole Society has sprung and flowered. 

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, May 27, 2017 — God has gifted all of his people differently — But everyone, in some way, has, and is a gift!

May 26, 2017

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 296

Image result for Priscilla and Aquila, bible, art

Saint Priscilla

Reading 1 ACTS 18:23-28

After staying in Antioch some time,
Paul left and traveled in orderly sequence
through the Galatian country and Phrygia,
bringing strength to all the disciples.

A Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria,
an eloquent speaker, arrived in Ephesus.
He was an authority on the Scriptures.
He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord and,
with ardent spirit, spoke and taught accurately about Jesus,
although he knew only the baptism of John.
He began to speak boldly in the synagogue;
but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him,
they took him aside
and explained to him the Way of God more accurately.
And when he wanted to cross to Achaia,
the brothers encouraged him
and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him.
After his arrival he gave great assistance
to those who had come to believe through grace.
He vigorously refuted the Jews in public,
establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 47:2-3, 8-9, 10

R. (8a) God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands;
shout to God with cries of gladness.
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The princes of the peoples are gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For God’s are the guardians of the earth;
he is supreme.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 16:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I came from the Father and have come into the world;
now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 16:23B-28

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.
Until now you have not asked anything in my name;
ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

“I have told you this in figures of speech.
The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures
but I will tell you clearly about the Father.
On that day you will ask in my name,
and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.
For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me
and have come to believe that I came from God.
I came from the Father and have come into the world.
Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

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Reflection on Acts 18:23-28 By Craig Condon
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Each and every one of us is a gift from God. In addition, God has given each of us different gifts. He wants us to use these gifts to do his work in our world. With these gifts we can do mighty things.

You are a gift from God!

I’m serious. Each and every one of us is a gift from God. In addition, God has given each of us different gifts. He wants us to use these gifts to do his work in our world. With these gifts we can do mighty things.

Many believers seek to be mighty in worldly things, but few want to be mighty in the Scriptures. Apollos was an exception. He was mighty in the Scriptures. We learn about Apollos in a portion of the reading we heard from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.

Apollos was a gifted speaker with a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament and the baptism of John. He had heard about Jesus and the arrival of the Holy Spirit from Jews returning from Pentecost, but he did not have the complete story. He did not know that Christian baptism differs from the baptism of John. Christian baptism symbolizes the believer’s union with Christ in his death, burial resurrection, new life and unity in the kingdom of God. Apollos was well qualified, but he lacked one important qualification. He did not have the experience of the grace and power of the indwelling Lord. This weakness prompted Priscilla and Aquila to use their gifts to teach him privately and give him a more accurate picture of God.

When Apollos used the knowledge he already had, God sent him additional knowledge. He was also fervent in spirit, meaning he was “boiling hot.” This is an amazing combination of qualities to find in one person. It was no wonder that Apollos made an impact in the early church. When he left Ephesus and sailed across to Corinth, he received a letter of commendation and introduction to the church.

When Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos, he graciously accepted what they taught. He knew that although he was faithful, he had more to learn. He showed spiritual maturity. Apollos humbly accepted the gentle correction and understanding that Aquila and Priscilla offered. Ministers today need to come to the same realization. I have come to the same realization. Every time I prepare a message, I learn new things.

Paul made disciples, Apollos defended the faith and Aquila and Priscilla deepened the understanding of others. God has gifted all of his people differently so that together they might work in unity for the sole purpose of the Gospel.

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Commentary on John 16:23-28 from Living Space

We are coming now to the end of John chapter 16 in Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper.

Today Jesus makes a solemn promise that whatever his disciples ask the Father in Jesus’ name will be given to them. Up to this, of course, they have not been praying to God through Jesus. That will only happen after the resurrection and ascension. But then it will become the normal way for the Church to pray to the Father as we do in all the prayers in the liturgy of the sacraments.

“Ask and you shall receive, that your joy may be full.” As we have pointed out before, this is not a carte blanche for us to make any request that comes into our heads. It is understood that we will be praying, first of all, for what we genuinely need and not just for what we want.

And what we need most of all is to be close to our God and to be equipped with all those things and do all those things which will bring us closer to his will and which will enable us to work with him for the building of the Kingdom. Those prayers will be answered, although not always exactly in the way we might envisage. It may not be until much later that we will realise just how our prayers have been answered and often in very unexpected ways.

Jesus says a strange thing at this point. When his disciples ask for something in his name, “I do not say that I will petition the Father for you.” And the reason he gives is, “The Father already loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Our Father already knows all our needs and he wants to satisfy them for us in his love. He will not need the intercession of his Son.

And, when we are already closely related in love and faith with the Father and Jesus, mediation is hardly necessary: our relationship is the mediating factor. Our prayer through Jesus is not to tell God something he does not know already. Rather it is to help make us aware of what our real needs are and to go to where those needs will be answered.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1067g/

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See Also:

(Rembrandt, human frailty, and the ”poetry of imperfection.”)

” I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, disorder, distortion “

—- Yohji Yamamoto

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 MAY, 2017, Saturday, 6th Week of Easter
ZEALOUS BUT MISGUIDED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  18:23-28; PS 46:2-3,8-10; JOHN 16:23-28 ]

A majority of Catholics are “nominal” Catholics. They call themselves “Catholics” but are rather complacent in their faith.  They do not attend mass regularly.  They might say a few prayers now and then, asking the Lord for help and protection but living a life that is contradictory to Catholic values and teachings.  They run the risk of losing their faith especially in times of tragedy.  These half-baked Catholics would be the first to be drawn away from their faith when they are challenged by non-Catholics. They are easily swayed to evangelical and fundamentalist viewpoints.  As a result, we have an ironical situation where, from lukewarm disinterested Catholics, they become staunch and even fanatical evangelical Christians, or even of another religion.

We have another group of very zealous but ill-informed Catholics.  We are happy that they take their faith seriously and more, that they will fight tooth and nail to defend the faith and will apply their energy to spread the gospel.  But as much as drawing many people to Christ, they could also be a cause of confusion and division among the faithful.  Some of the views they hold are not part of the official teachings of the Church.  They can be one-sided, slanted and distorted.  Some can become fanatical in their views, promoting some devotions that have expressly been condemned by the Magisterium.

It is these two groups of people that the scripture readings seek to address.  Those of us who are handling these complacent or zealous but ill-formed Catholics must learn from the patient, caring and loving approach of Priscilla and Aquila.  Instead of condemning or even marginalizing them, we must see the positive side of such people.  Those who are complacent had not yet encountered the living God and found Christ as their personal savior.  Hence, their relationship with God remains distant and impersonal.   Christ is not real to them in their lives.  Their faith is merely an intellectual assent to some truths without experience.  Those who are zealous sincerely believe in Christ and the Church.  They seek to spread the Good News about Him.  Unfortunately, sometimes, their knowledge is incomplete, distorted and lob-sided.

Indeed, as a bishop, I regularly receive letters inquiring on matters of doubt or disagreement regarding some tenets or practices of our faith.  Those who make these queries or seek clarification are usually goodwill people who are open to the faith, are searching or deepening their understanding of the faith.  Often, they come from a particular viewpoint or spectrum in reading a doctrine or biblical text.  This narrow reading of a doctrine, biblical text or even magisterial teaching can cause much confusion and heated debate.  Such an apologetic reading of sacred texts from the scriptures, magisterium or some theological books can breed more division.  It can lead to the hardening of certain theological positions.  It can lead to fundamentalism and a fixated view of Church and doctrines.

The simplicity of such naïve but good and sincere Catholics is that they do not realize that the development of doctrines is much more complicated than just quoting a text of scripture or Church document.  To fully appreciate a doctrine or a biblical text, we need to study hermeneutics, that is, the rules of interpretation.   We also need to interpret a particular text within the whole context of the bible, a doctrine in the context of all the other doctrines of the Church, as faith must be consistent and integral.  Otherwise, for every text in favour of a position, we can also find other texts that are not in favour.  The biblical text or the Church doctrines cannot contradict each other.

Furthermore, we need other theological and scientific tools, such as Church history, the consistent teachings of the Fathers of the Church, the development of a doctrine since the first century, the constant teachings of the Church and the changing contexts of how such doctrines are interpreted.  Biblical texts and Church doctrines explain a truth according to a defined parameter, depending on the questions that they are addressing.  With the change of context, because of the study of social sciences, like psychology or sociology, the interpretation would need to be re-contextualized, as such information were then not available for consideration.  Only when we haven taken into account the faith of the Church over the last 2000 years, what was taught, the issues involved, the integrity of our doctrines, can we then really understand and appreciate what the Church wants to say.

For this reason, when such theological questions are addressed, what people seek is a one or two-line answer to an apparently simple question.  But in truth the more simple the question, the more complex is the answer.  One could give a simplistic answer but we will end up with more questions.  But if one were to give a complete answer, it would take much time just to answer one question adequately and systematically.  Unfortunately, not all priests and bishops have the luxury of such time to sit at the computer to write long theological treatises to every question asked, without neglecting their other pastoral duties.

Indeed, this was the case of Apollos when he arrived in Ephesus.  He was certainly not just a good and convicted Christian but he was also very intelligent and knowledgeable as well.  Coming from Alexandria which was the second biggest city in Greece and a place known for its scholarly research and studies, he was certainly a great intellectual.  We read that “he was an eloquent man, with a sound knowledge of the scriptures, and yet, though he had been given instruction in the Way of the Lord and preached with great earnestness and was accurate in all the details he taught about Jesus, he had only experienced the baptism of John.”   We have many of these Apollos in our Church today as well, and they are useful for the work of evangelization.

Unfortunately such people, like Apollos, lack a fuller understanding of the faith although they have a lot of goodwill and conviction.  Although he knew intellectually that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, he, being a great Jewish scripture scholar himself, “had only experienced the baptism of John.”  In other words, he still did not receive the Holy Spirit or even knew about the Holy Spirit. His faith in the Lord was merely cerebral and his knowledge was incomplete.  All he needed was further refinement and formation.

The great thing about Priscilla and Aquila was their patience and tact in helping Apollos. Instead of dismissing him or reprimanding him, “they took an interest in him and gave him further instruction about the Way.”  They helped him to come to the fullness of truth.  Of course, credit must go to Apollos too, for although erudite, he was humble and open enough to learn from them.  He did not allow his theological views to get in the way of new learning. As a result, we read that he became even more effective in his preaching.  “He was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”   Surely we need people like Apollos today, to articulate our faith to our people who are highly educated in the sciences and require an intellectual credibility in what they are asked to believe. Truly, many young people have left the Church because they could not make sense of the Church’s doctrines and practices as there is no one to explain to them.

For this reason, today, our Catholics must wake up to this call to undergo on-going formation in their faith.  They cannot remain complacent in their basic knowledge of the faith received during their catechism or RCIA journey.  If they want to retain or grow in their faith, much less to evangelize, they must first be humble to learn from other Catholics who can help them to increase in understanding of their faith by joining faith-sharing groups.  It is within the Catholic Community that such help could be found and not outside the Catholic fold.

In the gospel, Jesus lamented that the disciples had not asked sufficiently.  He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”   If we want to seek the fullness of joy, we must come to know Christ more and more so that we can live His life and find happiness.  But more than just knowing Him, we need to come to know Him personally in us through the Holy Spirit.  When we are conscious of the Holy Spirit in us, on that day, Jesus said, we will no longer know Him in figures, parables or just in words but the Holy Spirit will reveal to us clearly about Jesus and the Father. “On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God.”  When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we know for certain that God is love and He will look after us and all our needs.   Most of all, we will know for certain that Jesus is the Son of God and our Savior because He is “leaving the world and going back to the Father.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, May 26, 2017 — In prayer, we ask for the gift of joy to counter the darkness of sadness. — “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice!” — “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

May 25, 2017

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest
Lectionary: 295

Justin Ng of Singapore captured this view of a bright Eta Aquarid meteor hurtling across the night sky over Mount Bromo, on the Indonesian island of Java.

Reading 1  ACTS 18:9-18

One night while Paul was in Corinth, the Lord said to him in a vision,
“Do not be afraid.
Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you.
No one will attack and harm you,
for I have many people in this city.”
He settled there for a year and a half
and taught the word of God among them.

But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia,
the Jews rose up together against Paul
and brought him to the tribunal, saying,
“This man is inducing people to worship God contrary to the law.”
When Paul was about to reply, Gallio spoke to the Jews,
“If it were a matter of some crime or malicious fraud,
I should with reason hear the complaint of you Jews;
but since it is a question of arguments over doctrine and titles
and your own law, see to it yourselves.
I do not wish to be a judge of such matters.”
And he drove them away from the tribunal.
They all seized Sosthenes, the synagogue official,
and beat him in full view of the tribunal.
But none of this was of concern to Gallio.

Paul remained for quite some time,
and after saying farewell to the brothers he sailed for Syria,
together with Priscilla and Aquila.
At Cenchreae he had shaved his head because he had taken a vow.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 47:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (8a) God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He brings people under us;
nations under our feet.
He chooses for us our inheritance,
the glory of Jacob, whom he loves.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R. God is king of all the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  SEE LK 24:46, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
“Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.”
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 16:20-23

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn,
while the world rejoices;
you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.
When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived;
but when she has given birth to a child,
she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy
that a child has been born into the world.
So you also are now in anguish.
But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy away from you.
On that day you will not question me about anything.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 MAY, 2017, Friday, 6th Week of Easter
ASSURANCE  IS ALL WE NEED TO OVERCOME OUR FEARS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  18:9-18; PS 46:2-7; JN 16:20-23 ]

It is natural for us to be afraid of the future.  We all have anxieties about tomorrow.  We are diffident when called to assume certain responsibilities or an office.  We are not too sure whether we can do the job.  We feel insecure and most of all, have low-self esteem.  We lack confidence in ourselves.  That is why many of us, when asked to take up a certain office or work, decline because we feel we are not good enough or that we cannot do it.  There are many too, who have a calling in life but they never realized their vocation simply because they are afraid to give a response.  Later on in life, when they look back, then they regret.  But such fear is in us.  How then can we overcome our fear, insecurity and lack of self-confidence?

We need assurance.  This was what Paul needed when he was in Corinth.  He was facing the daunting task of proclaiming the gospel at Corinth because it was a notorious city.   Being a commercial city, it shared all the sins present in any modern city.  The people were living a life of pleasure and promiscuity; just like our world today.  It is difficult to speak to people about God because they seek immediate gratification and sensual pleasures.  How can we speak about fidelity in relationship to our young when the subtle messages in the mass media and our movies promote infidelity and promiscuous relationships, even in marriage, as an accepted norm in society?  Our entertainment is riddled with lust, greed and self-indulgence disguised as ‘art’ and justified as ‘freedom of expression’!  So what Paul was going through is the same challenge that Catholics, Christians and believers of other religions are facing; the amoralistic, individualistic and sensual gratification of society.

So too, the apostles.  They were filled with anxiety at the prospect of Jesus leaving them. They were uncertain about their future. They were sad not only because Jesus was going to be taken away from them but they had to face a future without Jesus. This was a greater anxiety.  How could they continue without Jesus?  If we were them, we would feel the same way.  Whether as children or even adults, we will feel lost when our parents or spouse are taken away from us.  Some parents feel alone when their children go away because of work or marriage.  We feel we cannot do or live without them.

In both instances, the Lord showed His sympathy and understanding.  Being a man like us, He understood what it meant to be alone, to feel fearful of the unknown and to live in uncertainty.  Hence, “at Corinth one night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you. I have so many people on my side in this city that no one will even attempt to hurt you.’”  That was all the assurance that Paul needed.  He needed to hear from the Lord that He was with him.  Upon the assurance given by the Lord, “Paul stayed at Corinth preaching the word of God among them for eighteen months.”   So too the Lord assured the disciples of His return. “So it is with you: you are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you.”   Again, the Lord reminded His disciples that they would not be left orphaned or be alone in their mission. (cf Jn 14:18). Then at the end of the gospel, we read once again His constant reassurance, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Mt 28:20)

How does He assure us of His presence?  Firstly, we can discover His presence in our trials and sufferings. Jesus reminded His disciples that suffering is part of this joy.  Only when we value pain, can we then value joy.  The truth of life is that those who are never deprived of hunger will not be able to feel with the poor.  That is why rich and affluent people waste food and throw away things because they do not appreciate what it means to be hungry, without accommodation and clothes.  So too our young people today.  Born in an environment where all their material and physical needs are satisfied, they often take what they have for granted.  But if we have gone through hard times, we can appreciate even more what we have when we get them.

Secondly, we discover His presence knowing that we have done the right thing.  Very often, people associate joy with being without pain.  Yet, often the deep sense of peace comes about because we have done the right thing, not the pleasant thing.  A case in point is when a loved one, colleague or enemy treat us badly.  Instead of retaliating, we continue to love them and show them that we care.  It is not easy to love those who cause us much pain, accusing us behind our back of things we never did.  Yet, even realizing how much they have hurt us, we go beyond our pain and reach out to them in love and compassion, putting ourselves in their shoes.  This is a joy that, as Jesus said, is not of the world. Rather, it comes from the peace of a clear conscience, knowing that we have transcended their hatefulness and did not stoop so low as to behave like them by retaliating.  The peace and consolation in our hearts is His presence.  That is why the peace of the world is unlike that of this world.

Thirdly, this explains why Jesus assures us that this joy will never be taken away.  This joy is not dependent on the sufferings without or within, or changes in life circumstances, but because we know that we have done the right thing.  This is the joy of the martyrs and the joy of Jesus even in their sufferings because they suffered for truth and for love.  They transcended the pleasures that come from self-indulgence or pride of the world. How else do we explain the joy of parents who suffer for their children; the joy of saints who died for Christ, the joy of priests and religious who sacrifice their lives for the People of God!  When the joy of Jesus in self-sacrificing love is with us, we can be joyful in sorrow, in suffering with and for people.  This of course is not the joy of the world because the joy of the world is focused on self, not on others.

Fourthly, the assurance of Jesus’ presence is our vindication, either in this life or in the next. “I tell you most solemnly, you will be weeping and wailing while the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will turn to joy.”  In our struggles, at times we feel alone and defeated.  We feel that things are not going well and we are losing the battle.  But Jesus assures us that the time will come when we will be vindicated.  Our enemies might seem to win but victory will be ours. This is what the responsorial psalm tells us.  He is King of all the earth.  Conversely, it is true that the joy of the world will turn to sorrow.  The world may appear to be triumphant but the consequences will be known one day.  Those who are irresponsible with their lives, who indulge in immoral pleasures or engage in dishonest activities or in harmful trade will one day face the full judgment of God.  They will reap what they sow.  We must not be lacking wisdom in looking for the apparent and external but for the eternal.  Indeed, Jesus assures us that all questions will be answered. “When that day comes, you will not ask me any questions.”  We will come to know everything from hindsight.  For this reason, we should walk by faith, not by sight!

Finally we are told that our joy will be complete.  “I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you.”  In life, even when we are joyful, something is lacking.  We know that joy will not last.  Even when we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, we know that such earthly joys will come to an end.  When we celebrate Christmas or New Year, that joy will last only for a while.  Even the joy of having our children with us is for a period of time.  Then they will move on in life and we are left with memories.  Nothing on this earth lasts, neither joys nor sorrows.  But the joy that comes from Jesus is certain and everlasting.  It is complete and perfect.  With Jesus, there is always joy even in sorrow.  With Jesus, there is no fear even when there is opposition.

What is significant is that the presence of Jesus is already felt in our times and not just at the end of this life.  He comes to us in the Holy Spirit.   (cf Jn 14:16-18)  So we are not speaking simply of the joy of being reunited with Jesus at the end of time.  Rather, He has already come to live in us with His Father in the Holy Spirit.  (cf Jn 14:20f). Truly, the apostles felt the presence of the Holy Spirit so powerfully at work at the beginning of the primitive Church.  The whole book of the Acts of the Apostles abounds with the work of the Holy Spirit.  They worked miracles in the name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit. (cf Acts 5:12,15f). The gifts of the Holy Spirit were visibly manifested in the Christian community of Corinth. (cf 1 Cor 12:7-11 cf 1 Cor 14)

With such assurance from our Lord, knowing the joy that is ahead of us, we should be ready to bear the sorrows and the sufferings of the present for the sake of the future good, of ours and humanity, difficult as they might be.  But like a woman, we must think of the new life before us.  He will assist us also by sending us helpers like Gallio, whom He sent to defend Paul.  We have only to open our eyes to see that we are never alone.  Even in our darkest moments, God will send us help from the most unlikely sources.  So with St Paul, let us always come before the Lord in thanksgiving. It was on account of God’s promise to render him assistance that most likely in gratitude and thanksgiving, he took a vow to crop his hair.  We too like St Paul must be faithful to God just as He has been faithful to us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Homily Ideas
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One gets the notion in this first reading that Jesus said “Do not be afraid” so often that Paul started to hear the Lord’s voice in his sleep!
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Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew Jesus that well!
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Many folks in our modern society suffer with enormous worry and anxiety. But Christians are told over and over and over again: “Do not be afraid for I am with you.”
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All the Saints are fearless. Why can’t we just follow them?
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Padre Pio said, “If you are worried: PRAY. Once you are praying, why do you worry?”
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Every time my priest friend meets someone filled with worry and anxiety, he asks them, “When did you last go to confession and eat the Body of Christ?”
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It is the same as saying, “When did you last follow the instructions Jesus, the disciples and two thousand years filled with saints that showed us and told us how to live?”
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Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.  (John 6:56)
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This reading also gives us a hint that Jesus would tell us not to worry too much about doctrinal issues because he says to Paul in a dream, “but since it is a question of arguments over doctrine and titles and your own law” handle it yourself!
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Jesus wants us to spread the Good News: not constantly argue about who is more right or who is more correct in their practice or doctrine.
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It is almost as if Jesus says, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
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In times of trouble we are often reminded to pray. My favorite prayer to calm a storm is:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Many also pray the “Serenity Prayer.”
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“God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change,
the courage to change the things we can,
and wisdom to know the difference.”
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related:
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Image result for Pio of Pietrelcina

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

– St. Pio of Pietrelcina
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Image result for Pio of Pietrelcina
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“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”
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– St. Pio of  Pietrelcina
Image result for Paul’s Third Missionary journey, art
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Above: Paul’s Third Missionary journey.
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From 2016

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 MAY 2016, Friday, 6th Week of Easter
TURNING SORROW INTO JOY THROUGH FAITH AND HOPE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 18:9-18; JN 16:20-23   ]We can feel with the disciples in their sadness when Jesus told them that He would be leaving them soon. He also predicted His imminent passion, death and resurrection. Of course, at that point of time, the disciples could not understand.  Nevertheless, Jesus prepared them for the eventuality, when He told them, “I tell you most solemnly, you will be weeping and wailing while the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful but your sorrow will turn to joy.”

Indeed, all of us experience sadness in life.  Certain days we are sadder than others.  We are sad because things are not going well in our life or because we suffer with our loved ones in their sickness, failures and misfortunes.  We feel sad too because we are hurting due to misunderstandings or failed relationships, especially with our loved ones, friends and colleagues.  So we are sad for many reasons.

In the face of sadness, we must simply persevere.  This is what Jesus is asking of us.  We must not give up.  How not to give up?  By focusing on the future and the joy ahead of us!  Failures and setbacks are temporary.  Suffering is part of the process of growing.  Like Jesus, He had to go through the cross before He could experience the resurrection.  So we must with hope look ahead rather be dragged down by such setbacks in life.  For the sake of the greater joy in the future, we must persevere.  This is what the letter of Hebrews also urges us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Heb 12:1-2)

Jesus also gives us the example of the woman who was about to give birth.  We cannot but be surprised at Jesus’ perceptivity and sensitivity to the daily plight of the human person.  In all His teachings, He would draw examples from daily life.  This shows that Jesus was a man very much in touch with Himself.  Like the expectant mother, we must go through the labour so that we can receive the gift of a new life.  That is what Jesus said, “A woman in childbirth suffers, because her time has come; but when she has given birth to the child she forgets the suffering in her joy that a man has been born into the world.”

Sadness turns into depression only when one suffers without hope.  Only those who think that they have come to a dead end give up all hope, and the sadness becomes destructive.  So long as there is hope, all sadness can be endured patiently, lovingly and positively.   Therefore we need to ask ourselves when we are sad, isn’t it because we have lost hope?  Sadness belongs to the devil because He wants us to give up hope in life, in others and, most of all, in ourselves.  For those of us who are not careful, the devil will lead us from sadness to depression and then to suicide.

For us Christians, Christ is our Hope.  We have the privilege of hindsight to see that the death of Jesus did not end in tragedy.  The passion and death of Jesus, as He said, brought the world great happiness, because they thought that they had got rid of Him.   But their victory was only temporary.   Jesus won the victory in His resurrection, proving that sin has been overcome by love and the enemy of death defeated.  Christians therefore always live in hope because we know that hatred cannot be the last word but love. Christians even face death with courage, knowing that the sting of death has been removed by assurance of resurrection in the next life.

Indeed, yesterday, on the Feast of Ascension, we celebrated this great Hope that has been given to us by the exaltation of Jesus our Lord.  Christ, who is our Lord and Saviour, and the Head of the Church, has gone before us to heaven to share in the glory of the Father, the glory that was His since the foundation of the world.  We, who are His body, necessarily will also share in His glory.   So we know our final destiny is to be with God.  As such, we do not cling to things of this earth but to the things of heaven.  We can have a share in this resurrected and exalted life already when we follow Jesus in His death, in dying to ourselves and living for others in humble service.

Consequently, we are called to have faith in the Lord.  We must trust Him that He will see us through.  With Christ all things are possible.  St Paul himself said, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”  (Phil 4:13)  Christ said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 2:9)  Indeed, we can do things in Christ not by our own strength and ingenuity but by grace.  Only through grace at work in us, can we do all things because He strengthens us by the power of His indwelling presence in the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, this was what St Paul heard one day in a vision of the Lord speaking to him, “Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you. I have so many people on my side in this city that no one will even attempt to hurt you.”  God will be on our side.  He will send the necessary angels to help us get our work done.  So we must have faith in Him when we are afraid or feel inadequate in doing what the Lord asks of us.  We do not allow ourselves to be discouraged by failure.  Rather, we trust the Lord will find ways and means to help us out.  True enough, God sent Gallio the proconsul to help him when he was attacked and slandered by the Jews.  Without Paul having to defend himself, Gallio dismissed the charge against Paul.

This is true in all situations in life.  In our sadness, what we need is to have someone with us.  To have someone to stand with us and beside us gives us the strength to carry through our sadness and problems in life.  That is why it behooves us to give courage and strength to those who are weak and are going through difficulties in life.  We need to let them know that we are with them.  We might not be able to solve their problems but we need to assure them that we will stand by them and help them in whatever ways we can to overcome their trials.  And the Lord in His mercy will send friends to help us bear the crosses cheerfully.

When we trust in the Lord and hold on to His promises, we can live our lives with security and free from undue anxiety.   Not only do we live in hope but the joy that Christ gives us is a joy that is complete and can never be taken away.  Jesus told the disciples, “So it is with you: you are sad now, but I shall see you again, and your hearts will be full of joy, and that joy no one shall take from you.”   Christian joy is different from worldly joy. The joy of the world comes from success, achievements and self-indulgence. Worldly joy cannot last and is situational.  It is transient and does not stay with us. The joy of the Christian comes from the Lord, from the Holy Spirit who lives in us, setting us free, granting us peace, love and joy.   The joy that comes from Christ is a joy that remains with us so long as Christ is with us in the Holy Spirit.

Christian joy cannot be taken away because Christ is eternally present in us now through the Holy Spirit.  When we have the Holy Spirit, the living presence of the Father and the Son who come to dwell within us will give lasting joy.  This joy comes from the fruits of forbearance, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness.  The Holy Spirit gives us joy which comes from the capacity to love God and our brothers and sisters.  We find joy because of the peace we receive, knowing that He forgives us whenever we sin. We find joy because of the freedom we experience in the Spirit.  With His grace, we can suffer patiently with joy, the troubles and difficulties of life without murmuring and complaining because we surrender in faith.

Hence, from now till the Feast of Pentecost, we must pray for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  On this first day of the Novena to the Holy Spirit, we ask for the gift of joy to counter the darkness of sadness. When we are filled with His Holy Spirit, we will be empowered by the Lord to do what He asks of us.  Let us surrender our lives to Him.  In quiet prayer and in a spirit of discernment, basking ourselves in His love and contemplating on His Word, we will find the courage and strength to persevere.   So let us with faith in the Lord live a life of hope, knowing that there is nothing we cannot overcome with His grace at work in our lives.  With Christ, there is always certain hope, because of His resurrection and ascension.  The sadness of a Christian never destroys him but only strengthens him in hope; and even in sadness, he is at peace with the Lord, suffering with Him so that he can share in His glory.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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From 2015
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE INDWELLING PRESENCE OF JESUS AS THE CAUSE OF OUR PERMANENT JOY IN THE WORLDSCRIPTURE READINGS: ACTS 18:9-18; JN 16:20-23

It is understandable why the disciples were feeling rather sad as Jesus was not only leaving them but that he had to suffer an ignominious and tragic end. The hostility between the authorities and Jesus was growing each day and His death seems imminent and inevitable. Within this context, Jesus tried to reassure His disciples that their sorrow will turn into joy.

Indeed, it is one of the characteristics of human beings that we have a natural capacity to be open for new life and to forget our past. It is this capacity that enables us to live in the midst of our struggles. So long as we continue to endure, we can hope that one day the storms will end and sunshine would be here again. And most of us have not been proven wrong. Yesterday, we might have suffered a set-back in our project, business or career but through endurance and patience, we find that by picking up the pieces, success or fortune returns.

This is also true in relationships. In going through bereavement, we cannot but yearn for the physical presence of our loved one. But time heals because as we get back to life and start involving ourselves in other activities; very soon, we learn to live without the person and find that there are so many other ways to be happy and joyful.

We learn to live our lives meaningfully again. So too in a broken relationship! When we are having great difficulties living or relating with a person, we become bitter as a result of misunderstandings, accusations and harsh words that were spoken. But once we become reconciled, all the pains and hurts are forgotten and we remember the good days again.

Indeed, if we were unable to go beyond our sufferings, it would be tragic for us. By not looking beyond our world and our sufferings, depression will eventually set in. Many people just cannot leave their past behind. They cannot forgive their own mistakes or the mistakes of others. They continue to harbour negative thoughts in their minds. For such people, life has stopped. They are not open to the newness of life, the unimaginable things that can happen and which God wants to give them. Unfortunately, they only cling to what it might have been and what they have lost. They cannot see that to leave something and someone is also to begin another new experience. Indeed, we feel sorry for such people because they only know how to wallow in their miseries, unable to come out from the tombs that they have built for themselves.

But even if we were able to be positive and overcome our setbacks and mistakes, we cannot call this something exceptional or even really Christian. For this is only natural, as Jesus tells us in today’s gospel. This natural tendency to forget about our sufferings when the joy returns is what Jesus said. We are just like those women in childbirth who suffer; but after giving birth, they forget their sufferings because of the joy of a child.

But such kind of joy cannot be truly called Christian joy. If happiness and joy were dependent on whether we are successful then we would be the most miserable people in the world. For then, joy would be so illusive and temporary. This would contradict Jesus’ promise in the gospel that our “hearts will be full of joy and that joy no one” shall take from us. So, Christian joy is a permanent joy. It is a joy even in sufferings.

When we consider the lives of the early Christians and even many Christians today, although not spared of sufferings and trials in life, yet they remained generally tranquil and peaceful. Yes, even St Paul, in all his missionary journeys, when he had to encounter hostile forces and people who were against his preaching, he remained firm and calm in the face of opposition.

What, then, is the secret of this lasting joy that is full? The key to this joy is seeing Jesus. Yes, only an encounter with the Risen Lord can empower us to remain faithful and strong, especially when things are against us. Unless our experience of the Risen Lord is real in our lives, we will not have the hope and courage to remain at peace within ourselves when we meet with problems. But if the Risen Lord is experienced so intimately in us, then we know there is nothing to fear. If the Lord is risen and is already seated at the right hand of the Father after putting all things, especially sin and death under His feet, then why should we worry? On the contrary, we know that everything is in God’s hands and He will somehow see us through. And indeed is this not the case for those who have faith in Jesus? For quite often, from hindsight, we understand why we have to go through certain trials and difficulties in life.

Indeed, when we meet the Lord personally in our lives, then, as Jesus promised us, “when that day comes you will not ask me any questions.” How is that so? Because when we see how powerfully He is at work in us and in our lives, we will have no more questions and doubts, since His very presence and love is the ultimate guarantee that He is with us. What we need in life is not answers to our problems. What we really need is to know that people care and that God cares for us. With this reassurance, we are ready to accept the mysteries of life. Truly, if St Paul were able to have such confidence in his missions, it was because of the vision that he had received from the Lord who spoke to him, “Do not be afraid to speak out, nor allow yourself to be silenced: I am with you.”

Hence, we need to be more prayerful during these last few days of the Easter season in preparation for the Feast of Pentecost. Only with the Holy Spirit, can the Lord become so present to us and in us that we will never doubt He is with us. Yes, let us always, especially in our difficult moments, remind ourselves that He is with us. Clinging in faith to the promise of the Risen Lord, we can then remain at peace even in the midst of the storms of life.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, May 25, 2017 — The Ascension of the Lord — “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” — “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

May 24, 2017

The Ascension of the Lord
Lectionary: 58

Image may contain: 9 people, people standing

The Great Commission — What’s Your Role in The Christian Universe? — Art: Serrmon on the Mount Henrik Olrik

Reading 1 ACTS 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with the them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
for the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 EPH 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

AlleluiaMT 28:19A, 20B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Go and teach all nations, says the Lord;
I am with you always, until the end of the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

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From 2014
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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ESTABLISHING THE KINGSHIP OF CHRIST BY MAKING DISCIPLES OF ALL THE NATIONS   – See more at: http://www.csctr.net/29-may-2014-the-ascension-of-the-lord/#sthash.3TcyGbKy.dpuf

The first thing we must take note when we celebrate this feast is that we are not commemorating a historical event.  In other words, we are not celebrating that day when Jesus, as depicted in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, was literally lifted up into the sky and covered up by the clouds.  Rather, the feast of the Ascension must be seen in relation to the Feast of the Resurrection.  Both Easter and Ascension are two aspects of a single indivisible event.  That is why in Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus met His disciples at the mountain, it is presumed that He had already ascended into heaven, since “all authority in heaven and earth” had already been given to Him.

If later appearance narratives separate these two aspects of the one single event, as in Luke and John, it is because of a pastoral need to assimilate the richness of these realities.  Even then, when they separate them into two events, they are not seen as successively taking place one after the other.  For in John’s gospel, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, then ascended into heaven, which is then followed by His appearance to Thomas, inviting Him to touch His wounds.  In Luke’s gospel, the appearance and ascension took place on the Easter evening when Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit.

Consequently, we should not take the forty days literally.  Rather, the forty days is but a theological symbol of revelation.  Just as God revealed Himself to Moses at the mountain; and to Jesus Himself, who also taught at the mountain, it is a symbolic way of speaking about the revelation that took place.  This also explains why the Church gives the option to transfer the Feast of the Ascension to the following Sunday instead of celebrating it on Thursday.  Hence, when we celebrate this feast, we must ask, what is the theological meaning that this feast intends to reveal about Jesus?

To understand the meaning of this celebration, we must ask ourselves, what is the difference between the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, since both belong to the same event?  In the Resurrection, our focus and emphasis is on the new life and the transformation of Jesus.  This is illustrated by the Easter appearances.  In the Ascension, we contemplate on the effects and implications of the Resurrection.  It is therefore primarily concerned with the glorification of Jesus.  As the responsorial psalm and the second reading tell us, Jesus is enthroned as King of all creation, of the Church, which is His body; and of the universe as well.  In the Ascension, we contemplate on the exaltation of Jesus who now shares in the authority, power and glory of God the Father.   Now, if Jesus is raised to such a level, it is because by His Resurrection, He has triumphed over sin and death, and as St Paul puts it, “he has put all things under his feet.”

The corollary of the glorification of Jesus is that this victory that Jesus has gained is also given to us.  St Paul tells us that this is our hope and all of us are called to share in the rich glories that Jesus has promised to us.  As Christians, we also believe that if we conquer sin, we will also conquer death by sharing in His resurrection and also in His power, when sin no longer has a hold on us.  But this is not only given to us but also to everyone.  This hope of sharing in the inheritance of Christ is extended to the whole of creation. In this way, the Kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish will be completed and fulfilled.

But the fact is that although de facto, Christ is king of the whole Church, His body and of the universe, His kingship is still not fully established in creation.  This is because even for us as Christians, we have not yet fully submitted ourselves to the Kingship of Jesus.  We do not observe all the commands that He has given to us.  What is true for us is even more so for the rest of creation.  Many, still, are ignorant of the life of Christ.  Consequently, the feast of the Ascension, while offering us hope to share in the kingdom, power and life of Jesus, also gives us a missionary charge to make disciples of all nations.  Yes, we are called to be witnesses to Jesus.  Instead of being preoccupied with the date of the coming of God’s kingdom, what we must do, according to Jesus, is that we proclaim the Kingdom of Jesus by being His witnesses.

This missionary charge must be understood on two levels.  Firstly, we are called to make ourselves more and more the disciples of Christ. Take note of the missionary charge in the gospel: baptize and then teach them to observe the commands.  This means that as Christians, we need to be always catechizing ourselves in our faith so that we can be more imbued with the gospel of Christ and become truly the messengers of the kingdom.   The first conversion that must take place is ourselves, so that Christ’s kingship is not only acknowledged and recognized but a reality as well.

Secondly, the missionary charge also requires that we make disciples of all the nations.  The establishment of Christ’s kingship in the Church must move from the inner circle to the outer circle of the rest of the world.  This is because many people still do not acknowledge the kingship of Christ.  This command requires us to reconsider our missionary role as Christians.  Today, Christians tend to be diffident or over cautious about converting others to the Faith because we want to be nice and are afraid of hurting others.  Instead of speaking about conversion, today the contemporary attitude is one of dialogue with other religions.  This is not to say that such dialogue is not important.  We are also not denying that other religions have revelatory values because this would contradict the fact that the Incarnated Word is truly present in the Spirit in these religions whenever His message is lived.

However, we cannot reduce the work of mission to simply one of dialogue.  Indeed, it is not even enough to reduce the work of mission to one of proclaiming the Good News by our good deeds.  There is also a need to proclaim Christ explicitly to others. For Matthew, the establishment of Christ’s kingship must entail the conversion of people to Christ; that they become His disciples. Indeed, it must be our hope that all dialogue and proclamation of the Good News by our words and deeds will lead them to acknowledge Christ explicitly as their Lord and Saviour. Thus, evangelization without the name of Christ, without the call for conversion and discipleship cannot be called the full proclamation of the gospel.

 

Of course, in the work of conversion, we must ultimately realize that it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit can empower us to carry out effectively the mission entrusted to us.  For this reason, we must prepare ourselves for this mission by praying for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives. That was what Jesus advised the disciples.  Until we experience the personal presence of Jesus in the Holy Spirit, we will not have the power to be His witnesses.  But with the Holy Spirit, we will be able to live the life of Christ, both by our words and deeds, proclaiming the Good News in person, thereby bringing about conversion to Christ when all people will observe His commands and His way of life. In this way, the Kingship of Christ will truly be established in the Church and in the whole world where the fullness of Jesus’ presence fills us all.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/29-may-2014-the-ascension-of-the-lord/#sthash.3TcyGbKy.dpuf

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

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Jesus’ Last Words to the Disciples: The Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-20)
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Introduction: Historical Context

This passage is called the Great Commission.  It is the final instructive word from Jesus to His church.

Jesus had just risen.  The Jews had killed Him and were equally ready to do away with His disciples.  The Roman empire was a strict ruler that didn’t like people causing any problems.  The ruler of the land was Herod.  There was a great tension between the Jewish community and the Roman power system.  The Jews wanted to be free from Roman rule.  The Romans wanted this small strange country called Israel to be peaceful.

The dominant religion in the Roman Empire was emperor worship.

Tiberius Caesar was the ruler from A.D. 14-37.  Next was Caligula (37-41), Claudius (41-54), Nero who persecuted the Christians (54-68).  In 70 A.D., the Jerusalem was besieged by the Romans and the Temple was destroyed.  You need to notice the similarities between the Roman Empire and America.

Both are not Christian nations, but only have Christians in them.

Both have officials in high places who are antagonistic to Christianity.

And… it was into this world, that Jesus commissioned the disciples.  Their commission was difficult….

  1. Verse 16, “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.”
    1. The mountain is often used in the Bible to designate a meeting with God.
      1. Moses received the ten commandments on Mt. Sinai
      2. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well about which mountain to worship God on.
      3. Jesus went up on the mount for the transfiguration, probably the same one spoken of here.
      4. This was a meeting, not behind closed doors, but out in the open.  They were not hiding.
    2. They went where Jesus commanded them to go.  If you want to maintain communion with Christ, you must go to where He has appointed you to go.
  2. Verse 17, “And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.”
    1. An interesting contrast: Some worshiped, some doubted, even though He had been crucified and risen from the dead.
      1. Jesus did not reject those who doubted.  They were there.  They had made the journey.  He did not reject them.
      2. Also, Jesus accepted the worship of those who were there.
    2. Jesus is worshiped in many scriptures: Matt. 2:2; 2:11; 14:33; 28:9; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6.
      1. Jesus receives worship and does not rebuke them.  He said in Matt. 4:10 that you are to worship God and serve Him only.  Yet, Jesus receives this worship.
      2. This is important because it means He is God.
        1. Which is why He could say later, “I am with you to the end of the age.”
  3. Verse 18, “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”
    1. This is one of the most crucial statements that Jesus ever made.
    2. Jesus has all the authority… in heaven and on earth.
      1. Authority to forgive sins (Luke 5:20; 7:48).
      2. Authority to mediate to the Father (1 Tim. 2:5).
      3. Authority to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26).
      4. Authority to open the hearts and minds of His people (Luke 24:45).
      5. Authority to reveal the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22).
      6. Authority to give eternal life to whom He chooses (John 10:27-28).
      7. Authority to raise us up on the last day (John 6:40).
    3. Jesus, before His incarnation, was equal with the Father and He possessed all authority and power.  He is still equal to the Father, but now He has two natures: God and Man.
      1. Therefore, as the God-man, as the Mediator, all power was given him;
      2. This is because Jesus was a man (Phil. 2:5-8) and had humbled Himself.
  4. Verse 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”
    1. This commission is mainly given to the disciples then present. But it applies to you as well.
      1. You are called by Jesus to make disciples of all people, to go out into the world and teach and live the truth of the cross of redemption.
    2. Baptism was a common practice back then.  It was for converts to the faith and was practiced by more groups that the Christians alone.
    3. However, Christian baptism is a picture of the death of one’s self and rebirth in the Son (Rom. 6).
    4. To be baptized is to show your commitment to the Lord and to His call.
      1. What did your baptism mean to you?
      2. Was it a social event that you did because, “It is the thing to do”?
      3. Was it because your parents wanted you to?
      4. Or… was it because you have identified with the Lord and have committed yourself to Him?
    5. The Baptism Formula
      1. There are cult groups that say you are only to be baptized “In Jesus Name.”
      2. They deny the doctrine of the Trinity and they deny the baptismal formula of “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” They are false teachers.
  5. verse 20, “…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
    1. When someone becomes a Christian, he is to follow the ways of the Lord Jesus.
      1. Being a Christian means that Jesus is Lord.
    2. Jesus is always with you.  He will never leave you.
      1. This is a sign of His deity and it is a comfort to know that Jesus is always with us.  He will never leave us or forsake us no matter what the situation.

Conclusion

Jesus wants you to finish what He began.  He came to the disciples, taught them, and worked with them.  He then died on the cross and rose from the dead.  But, before He ascended into heaven, He gave them, and us, the commission to convert the world.  He will not ask you to do the impossible.

You need to know that your efforts to honor Christ by obeying His call to make disciples of all nations is something that you can do.  Do it where you are, with those whom you meet, with the those you work with, with those you go to school with, etc.  Be a witness for Jesus in your lives and when necessary, talk about Him, too.

When you seek to accomplish God’s will, He will bless your efforts because you’re seeking to obey Him.

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In Christianity, the Great Commission is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. The most famous version of the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:18–20, where on a mountain in Galilee Jesus calls on his followers to baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Great Commission is similar to the episodes of the commissioning of the Twelve Apostles found in the other Synoptic Gospels, though with significant differences. Luke also has Jesus dispatching disciples during his ministry, sending them to all the nations and giving them power over demons, including the Seventy disciples. The dispersion of the Apostles in the traditional ending of Mark is thought to be a 2nd-century summary based on Matthew and Luke.

It has become a tenet in Christian theology emphasizing ministry, missionary work, evangelism, and baptism. The apostles are said to have dispersed from Jerusalem and founded the apostolic sees. Preterists believe that the Great Commission and other Bible prophecies were fulfilled in the 1st century while futurists believe Bible prophecy is yet to be fulfilled at the Second Coming.

Some students of the historical Jesus hypothesize the Great Commission as reflecting not Jesus’ words but rather the Christian community in which each gospel was written. (See Sayings of Jesus.) Some scholars, such as John Dominic Crossan, assert that Jesus did commission the apostles during his lifetime, as reported in the Gospels. Others, however, see even these lesser commissions as representing Christian invention rather than history.

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The Great Commission — What’s Your Role in The Christian Universe?

Catch Excitement for the Gospel

Every person has an important, God-given role to play in helping to fulfill the Great Commission.

By Bill Bright

Great Commission

  1. Catch Excitement for the Gospel
  2. The Who of the Great Commission
  3. The What and Why of the Great Commission
  4. The When and Where of the Great Commission
  5. The How of the Great Commission
  6. Creating a Personal Strategy to Fulfill Great Commission
  7. Be Sure You Are Committed to Christ
  8. Pray for Guidance and Seek Training
  9. Take the Initiative in Evangelism
  10. The Rewards and Cost of the Great Commission
  11. Study Guides

Today I lay before you the greatest challenge ever given to man by the greatest person who has ever lived. No matter how wealthy, famous, brilliant, or powerful you may be, you will never give yourself to any cause that can compare with this life-changing, even world-changing, call of God.

No matter how many honors, awards, or achievements may be placed in your hands, nothing can even begin to compare with this command of our Lord Jesus Christ to help take His message of love and forgiveness to every person in every community, in every city, in every country of the world and make disciples of all nations.

Today we live in a world of rapid and radical change. Men’s hearts are filled with fear and dread, frustration and despair. Mankind has proven incapable of coping with the pressing problems of our time – the population explosion, the pollution of the environment, the rising tide of crime and violence, sexual rebellion, alcoholism, drug addiction, abortion, pornography, urban sprawl, and wide spread political, social and moral decay.

The Power of the Gospel

Oh, what an hour for Christians to become involved in the greatest spiritual harvest since Pentecost! This dark and desperate hour in the affairs of mankind is an hour of destiny, a time of unprecedented opportunity for Christians. This is the hour for which we were born — to set in motion a mighty, sweeping spiritual revolution that will turn the tide and reveal to mankind that the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ offers the basic solutions to every problem facing mankind.

If such a statement sounds simplistic or melodramatic, just apply the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule and other teachings of Jesus such as His command to love God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind, and your neighbor as yourself – even your enemies — to each of these problems, and watch them evaporate before your eyes.

The Greatest Event of the Centuries

If I had the privilege of writing a news story about the greatest events of all the centuries, one of the most important would be a meeting on a mountain near Galilee where a small group of men were given a global strategy for carrying God’s love and forgiveness to a lost and dying world. On this mountain these men received that greatest challenge ever given to mankind, to which I referred, by that greatest Person who ever lived, concerning the greatest power ever revealed and the greatest promise ever recorded. I refer, of course, to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He gave to His disciples and through them to us. He said:

“I have been given all authority in heaven and earth. Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this – that I am with you always, even to the end of the world . “

Later, on the Mount of Olives, our Lord gave His final word to His disciples and to us before He ascended to the Father. He said:

“When the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection.”

Had these meetings not been held and had our Lord’s command and promise not been given, you would not now be experiencing the love, forgiveness, joy and purpose of God’s matchless grace available to all who believe in Christ. In fact, I would not be writing this message.

Bill Bright’s Great Commission Story

The Great Commission has been the focus of my life ever since one midnight hour in the spring of 1951 when God spoke to me in a sovereign, unique, supernatural way concerning my role in helping to fulfill His command. The vision embraced the entire world and resulted in the ministry of Cru.

Since that time we have grown from a staff of two – my wife Vonette and me — on the campus of UCLA to more than twenty thousand full-time and associate staff and volunteers serving our Lord in 133 major countries representing 97 percent of the world’s population. Tens of millions of people have received Christ as their Savior and Lord through this ministry, and millions of these have been discipled to win and disciple others — spiritual generation after generation.

I try to evaluate everything I do every day in light of how it will contribute the most to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Sometimes I am asked the question, “Are you surprised at the phenomenal growth and success of Campus Crusade for Christ?” My answer is “No,” for according to that original vision which God gave me in 1951, we have only begun to see what God is going to do. The best is yet before us!

I am truly humbled and deeply grateful for the privilege of serving this ministry. Yet, I am not surprised at the miracles of God’s grace during the last four decades in light of the dramatic vision God gave me of the world, and what was to happen in terms of spiritual harvest.

Our Lord’s Great Commission is for every believer, not just the staff of Campus Crusade and a few missionaries and pastors who love our Lord. Every Christian is commanded to be involved in helping to reach the world for Christ. Each of us has an important, God given role to play in helping to fulfill the Great Commission.

Adapted from the Transferable Concept: How You Can Help Fulfill The Great Commission, by Dr. Bill Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. © Cru. All rights reserved.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 MAY, 2017, Thursday, Ascension of the Lord
MAKING THE DREAM OF JESUS FOR HUMANITY OURS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  1:1-11; PS 46:2-3,6-9; EPH 1:17-23; MT 28:16-20]

This world is so divided.  Advancement in digital and social media, migration and travelling has turned the world into a global village.  With globalization comes increase in tension as people grapple to deal with and adapt to people from different nationalities, cultures and religions.  Things said and done which are perfectly acceptable within context, can easily become a source of provocation if taken out of context and made viral via social media.  Indeed, more than ever the world has become an unsafe place to live in as wars could be fought today without the need to even be physically present in your enemy’s territory.  Furthermore, when there is a growing divide between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the perceived injustices can lead to terrorist activities.

What, then, is our hope for the world?  What is your dream for this humanity? This hope is spelt out in the Constitution of the Church. “For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in His Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: ‘a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.’ On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower.”  (GS 39.4)  This kingdom that we envisage therefore is not a political kingdom, unlike what the disciples thought.  Neither is it a kingdom that is based on territory.  It is the rule of God in our hearts and minds.  It is when we make Jesus as the Lord of our lives, sharing His mind and heart in the way we deal with our brothers and sisters.

Ascension celebrates this dream that has begun with the resurrection of Christ and His ascension into heaven.  In the Ascension of our Lord, we celebrate His Kingship and authority over the nations.  Now seated at the right hand of the Father, He is “far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet, and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.”   Indeed, with His Ascension, Jesus is not just glorified but He is invested with the power to empower all of us to bring about the kingdom that He has started on earth.   In the gospel, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”   Only when everything is under Christ’s Lordship, will there be peace.

So like the disciples, we ask, “Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  The truth is that this is not something to be left until the end of time. It must begin now.  That is what the Lord told the disciples.  “It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.”  We are called to realise this dream of the kingdom of justice, love and peace according to our talents and resources.  That was what the Lord instructed His disciples. “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.”  We are to baptize, that is, transform the lives of men according to the mind and heart of Christ.  It is to live the resurrected life in Christ.  This calls for observance of all the commands of Christ.  The gospel of Christ is the map by which we are called to live our lives, in charity, service, and mercy.  Only when we are imbued with the Word of God, the gospel of our Lord, can we live out the blueprint that the Lord has imparted to us.  Only when we decide to make the gospel as the reference point and the guide, can the kingdom be established.

But dreaming is not enough, we need the power.  This can only come from the Lord Himself.  This is what St Paul said, “This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven.”   This power comes from the Holy Spirit when we are identified with the Lord and when He lives in our hearts.  Jesus instructed the disciples “not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’”  The bestowal of the Holy Spirit by the Lord is the empowerment of every Christian to be a witness for Him.   Indeed, Jesus says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.”

Truly, the Good News is that we too now share in His power to establish the dream that God envisaged for humanity.  That is why St Paul wrote, “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.”   To realise this dream, we must first keep our hope in focus, not just a hope for this life on earth but in the life to come.  It is this hope that can give us the power.  It is important to be clear of our hope in life.  It is hope that keeps the fire growing strong.  We must keep the dream of Jesus with us in our hearts.  Is the dream of Jesus your dream?  Until, we are convinced that the dream Jesus started for us is a dream worth living for, then we can start to do something about this dream.

Most of all, we need to deepen our faith and knowledge of the Lord.  It is the Holy Spirit that helps us to grow in a fuller understanding and knowledge of Christ.  “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him.”  The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus Himself.  This is what the Lord said, “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  (Jn 16:12-14) We need to continue with our ongoing formation, like the disciples after the death and resurrection of our Lord.  We read from St Luke who wrote, “I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven.”   We too need to strength our faith in Him so that we can truly be His witnesses in the power of the Spirit.

Indeed, we will not be alone in this proclamation of the Kingdom.  Jesus has given us the assurance.  “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  The psalmist says, “All peoples, clap your hands, cry to God with shouts of joy!  For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear, great king over all the earth.  God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.  Sing praise for God, sing praise, sing praise to our king.”  Jesus will help us and empower us.  We must not work alone.   Rather, as disciples of Christ, sharing in our common baptism, as members of the One Body of Christ, we must support each other, affirm each other so that together, each in our own ways can fulfill the dream of Christ for us, now and in the world to come.

Consequently, from now until the Feast of Pentecost, the Church invites us to wait and pray for the Holy Spirit.  The Lord has ascended on high to come back to give us the Gift of the Holy Spirit. “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.”  (Eph 4:8) The angel said, “Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.”   Let us be receptive and docile to the Holy Spirit through a yearning for Him again in prayers.

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 Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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TURN YOUR LIFE AROUND THIS SPRING:
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“God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.”

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We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

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“Introduction to the Devout Life,” By St. Francis de Sales. Many people reject that word  “devout.”  But we are all devoted to a thing or two.  A crack addict is devoted to cocaine. Once a  human being decides maybe he can find a better life with the help of God, he naturally becomes less devoted to some things and more devoted to others…..

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“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by de Caussade — the goal is total dependence upon God. To get a new self; most human beings need to get rid of the old self.

Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:

“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”

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 (Padre Pio) (If you are totally dependent upon God, and you are working to have a good life and want to stay alive, I guarantee you’ll have no trouble sleeping.)
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Because you are a spiritual being first, the root cause of many troubles is the relationship to God. Written by spiritual thinkers, psychiatrists with input from the best in science and faith…..
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Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and then was tempted by the devil. What is going on in this mysterious incident?
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Jesus experienced everything we do — including depression, anxiety, etc…..
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A “Dynamic Catholic” is much the same as a good member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He prays and meditates, studies, does selfless service to others and he evangelizes (“He Does Twelve Step Work”). Given to us by an alcoholic priest in recovery.
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1. Pray and Meditate
2. Do service for others (Get out of yourself)
3. Get Closer to God — 4. — GUESS!
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, May 24, 2017 — “In him we live and move and have our being.” — We are invited to live in a way that reflects this Divine Love in our lives.

May 23, 2017

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 293

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Reading 1 ACTS 17:15, 22—18:1

After Paul’s escorts had taken him to Athens,
they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy
to join him as soon as possible.

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said:
“You Athenians, I see that in every respect
you are very religious.
For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines,
I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’
What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.
The God who made the world and all that is in it,
the Lord of heaven and earth,
does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands,
nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything.
Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.
He made from one the whole human race
to dwell on the entire surface of the earth,
and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions,
so that people might seek God,
even perhaps grope for him and find him,
though indeed he is not far from any one of us.
For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’
as even some of your poets have said,
‘For we too are his offspring.’
Since therefore we are the offspring of God,
we ought not to think that the divinity is like an image
fashioned from gold, silver, or stone by human art and imagination.
God has overlooked the times of ignorance,
but now he demands that all people everywhere repent
because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world
with justice’ through a man he has appointed,
and he has provided confirmation for all
by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about resurrection of the dead,
some began to scoff, but others said,
“We should like to hear you on this some other time.”
And so Paul left them.
But some did join him, and became believers.
Among them were Dionysius,
a member of the Court of the Areopagus,
a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

After this he left Athens and went to Corinth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 148:1-2, 11-12, 13, 14

R. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all you his angels;
praise him, all you his hosts.
R. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the kings of the earth and all peoples,
the princes and all the judges of the earth,
Young men too, and maidens,
old men and boys.
R. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
His majesty is above earth and heaven.
R. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has lifted up the horn of his people;
Be this his praise from all his faithful ones,
from the children of Israel, the people close to him.
Alleluia.
R. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 14:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will ask the Father
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you always.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”

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Reflection on John 16:12-15 — The Holy Spirit

By The Abbot in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

The Gospel of John given to us today is another reference to each of the Three Persons of the Trinity and tells us, from the point of Jesus, a bit about the relationship of the Three Persons.  First, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus and His role is to help us understand Jesus and live the mystery of Divine Life that Jesus gives to us.  Jesus also tells us that all that the Father has is also possessed by Jesus because the Father has given it to Him.  The Spirit takes from what is given to Jesus by the Father and gives it to us, declares it to us.

This is an incredibly powerful statement but the wording sometimes leaves us without understanding.  From all the Jesus tells us, we know that He, Jesus, loves us with the same love as the Father loves Him.  It would take us an eternity to understand this love, but in this life, we must come to believe this:  God loves us and wants us to share His life.  God does not reject us because of sin.  On the contrary, because of sin, Jesus comes to save us.  That is an ongoing and present action, not something that happened once and is over.

So we are invited today to share in the life of the Trinity, the very life of God.  We are invited to live in a way that reflects this Divine Love in our lives.  Let us walk with Jesus because only in Him can we begin to understand, however little, this immense mystery of God’s love for us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/2016/05/trinity-sunday-cycle-c-2016/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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24 MAY, 2017, Wednesday, 6th Week of Easter
APOLOGETICS OR THEOLOGY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  17:15, 22-34, 18:1; JOHN 16:12-15 ]

Athens in the ancient days was a city rich in Greek culture and religion.  It was also a center for philosophy and education.  The people in this city were highly educated but also religious minded as they worshipped many gods.  Many were philosophers. Among them were two principal groups of philosophers.  One group was called the Epicureans who taught that the goal of life was to seek happiness through pleasure.  The other group was called the Stoics.  They had a disdain for feelings and pleasure.  Instead, they were more intellectual and rose above feelings and senses to reason and discipline.  Happiness in life for them was to live a life in harmony with nature and reason.  Regardless of which philosophical position they held, their favorite past time was to debate and engage each other on intellectual issues and expound new ideas.  They were receptive to novelty.  Hence, Paul was invited by the Council of the Areopagus to address them.  It was an opportunity not to be missed by Paul as he had an attentive audience.

But it was significant that in engaging this audience, Paul did not go by way of apologetics but that of theology.  Today, we are faced with many intellectuals who are asking questions about the faith.  With the advent of mass media, the world has become very complex.  More questions are raised for every question that is answered.  Today, even with young people, many who are asking questions are sincerely searching for an answer.  But no answer seems to be adequate.  This is because every question can be approached from different perspectives, science, philosophy, faith, tradition and pragmatism.  No one answer is adequate to satisfy a person with a question.  So in this bewildering state of information overload, of views and questions, many resign to agnosticism or surrender to simple faith.

So we can either take flight or fight.  The agnostics take flight.  They say that they do not know and they do not wish to know.   The simple believer on the other hand, also take flight by fighting in an irrational manner.  Falling into fundamentalism, they reduce everything to faith without the ability to show reasons for their faith.  They would just quote the scriptures and doctrines out of context to justify their simple faith for fear that more discussions and discourse would shake their faith.  Such faith does not require intellectual understanding but simply to submit in faith.  This can lead to radicalism and fundamentalism.  It is either you believe or you do not.  There is no middle ground or discussion possible, because they claim to be dealing with revelation and therefore only faith is required.  But in truth there is no need to take flight or fight!   Both ignorance and apologetics will not help any serious believer or seeker for truth.

What is the difference between apologetics and theology?  When we speak of apologetics, we are concerned with defending our faith against detractors and heretics.  In apologetics, the fundamental objective is to defend the position that we have the truth.  In being defensive, we are often on the offensive as well.  Our task is to destroy the objections of those who find fault with our doctrines.  The objective is clear but very narrow.  In most instances, apologetics is to give short and direct answers to short and concise questions.  It is not a treatise to explain but to defend.  In most cases, apologetics are conducted against those who already know something about our faith and where we have something in common yet disagree on some doctrines.  This is particularly true between Catholics and Protestants.  As we already share a common faith in Christ but differ in the way we interpret the scriptures and the corollary doctrines, then it leaves each Christian community or church to defend their doctrines, showing that they are rooted in both scripture and tradition.   Indeed, apologetics have a place still in our faith discussion, especially with those who already have some knowledge of the faith.

The use of apologetics is also useful for those who lack the capacity, whether intellectually or time to have a systematic understanding of our faith.  There are many people who do not have time to read so much information about everything. That is why young people prefer to go into Instagram, Facebook and tweeters.  Today, even blog is out of fashion because few are keen to read long discourses unless interest is already presupposed.  Otherwise, the young generation only wants to read a one to three line sentence.  Even homilies such as this, are only read by those who are serious about their faith and their relationship with God.   The danger is that our modern generation, which is bombarded with so much information on the internet, is taking flight by choosing to read only short messages.  This perhaps is the cause of much misunderstanding, misinterpretation and accusation, leading to social disorder and even rioting.  We all know how a picture, a video or just an extract of a speech taken out of context, when put on social media, can instantaneously go viral and cause either enormous outbursts of sympathy or anger, often without consideration of the full story of what really happened.

Unfortunately, the reality is that if we are really keen in knowing the truth of something, we must invest time to investigate, to read widely and to see the logic behind the propositions. Jumping to conclusion without proper study or believing something from hearsay can do us more harm than good.  Fanatics, whether religious or ideological, abound in this world and are often the cause of severe harm to the unity of peoples.

For this reason, the way forward is through theology, which is a systematic, logical and holistic presentation of doctrines and faith.  A theologian should not be confused with a simple believer, even though all in some ways theologize, even if done naively.  Unlike a simple faith believer who justifies his position from his experience and his own level of thought, a theologian does not base his arguments simply on his own experience, but he goes through the history of the Church, the Fathers of the Church, the tradition, the other religions, the scriptures, the development of doctrines, the different theological positions, the contribution of science and particularly philosophy, so that he can present a systematic understanding of the continuity and progress of a doctrine in a logical manner.  At the same time, he must show that what he holds as a doctrine of faith must also be consistent and coherent with the other doctrines held by the Church.  No doctrine can contradict other doctrines because that would be inconsistent and contradictory.

It is within this context that we can appreciate the approach of St Paul in his dealings with the Greek philosophers.  He began with where they were.  Unlike his dealings with the Jews, where it was appropriate for him to employ the methodology of apologetics because the Jews and Christians shared a common faith in the scriptures and the prophets, with the Greek philosophers, the Jewish scriptures would have made no sense to them.  So he began with their experience and their beliefs.  He began by acknowledging their faith in God and their religiosity.  “Men of Athens, I have seen for myself how extremely scrupulous you are in all religious matters, because I noticed, as I strolled round admiring your sacred monuments, that you had an altar inscribed: To An Unknown God. Well, the God whom I proclaim is in fact the one whom you already worship without knowing it.”

From this common faith that the Christians and Greeks shared in the Sacred, Paul enlightened them further, that “since the God who made the world and everything in it is himself Lord of heaven and earth, he does not make his home in shrines made by human hands.”  He continued to argue systematically that “he is not far from any of us, since it is in him that we live, and move, and exist, as indeed some of your own writers have said: We are all his children.’” Then he came to the fundamental point of his thesis.  “’Since we are the children of God, we have no excuse for thinking that the deity looks like anything in gold, silver or stone that has been carved and designed by man. ‘God overlooked that sort of thing, when men were ignorant, but now he is telling everyone everywhere that they must repent, because he has fixed a day when the whole world will be judged, and judged in righteousness, and he has appointed a man to be the judge. And God has publicly proved this by raising this man from the dead.’”

This is an important consideration.  In His systematic presentation, he began with reason but ended with faith in Christ.  Theology is not complete without presenting Jesus as the fullness of revelation.  Although theology is a reasonable explanation of the faith, it is not pure reason, but faith is required.  When we are able to present in a credible manner that our faith is a reasonable faith, intelligent men can then take the leap of faith.  To do so without providing the intelligibility of what we believe and why, would only brand us as credulous people.  Even the resurrection of Christ requires us to systematically present the logic of faith in the resurrection.

Of course, at the end of the day, after all explanation is done, faith is required.  For this reason, we should not be surprised that we can explain all that we could, yet not all would believe unless they are receptive to faith and humble enough to take that leap.  The response to St Paul’s preaching would not be different from ours as well.   Some were cynical and laughed at the incredible claims of Jesus’ resurrection.  Others said, “we would like to hear you talk about this again.”  Some needed more discussion but “there were some who attached themselves to him and became believers.”

Faith and understanding come from the Holy Spirit.  Jesus told the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.”   We should therefore ask the Holy Spirit to grant us wisdom, understanding and knowledge so that we can grow in faith.  Only He can bring us to faith.  Conversion is not our work but the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are merely witnesses and catalysts and messengers.  So in seeking to convert others, according to the needs of our audience, we can use apologetics or theology in helping people to find the fullness of revelation in Christ, but never without praying to the Holy Spirit to touch the minds and hearts of our listeners.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on John 16:12-15 from Living Space

Jesus continues to speak about the giving of the Spirit to his followers. “I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now.” They are still too raw in their understanding. It will take time for them fully to absorb the meaning of Jesus’ life

and teaching. By then he will be long gone, so they will need the guidance of the

Spirit to lead them to that fuller understanding. “He will guide you to all truth.”

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The Spirit will guide them in their response to “the things that are to come”. Following on what Jesus has taught them, from their understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and from their Pentecost experience, a whole new order, a new way of looking at the world, will result of which they will be the inaugurators.

And that guidance still is much needed for we have not reached and we never will reach on this earth the fullness of the truth about God and Jesus. The establishment of the Kingdom has still a long way to go.

Once again Jesus reminds his disciples that everything they are learning comes originally from the Father through the Son and from the Son through the Spirit. These are not three separate revelations but one message that emanates from each one successively.

We too, as Church, as churches, as communities, as individuals need the constant guidance of the Spirit that we may remain faithful to the truth that is given us and be always open to understanding it more deeply so that we can pass it on to others with full integrity.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1064g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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 Many of us struggle with ego, false pride and self-esteem issues. Many of us constantly worry about money, our jobs, our future security, our health or health care.
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Yet Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.” Again and again the theme in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.”
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A basic teaching of Christianity is: With Jesus we are OK. Do not be afraid.
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“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
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In other words: stay in the present moment.
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How come we refuse to believe?
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It is interesting to me that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches newcomers to believe in what they were often taught as very young children — but they somehow refused or neglected to believe.
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The Twelve Steps of AA start with “We admitted that we were powerless…” The very start of AA suggests humility and self-abandonment. By the Third Step, alcoholics are taught to put all their trust in a Higher Power.
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Self-abandonment can also be thought of as surrender. Each of us knows in our heart when its time for that…
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Humility, self -abandonment, trust in God and the “Christian way of life”  are the tonic used by patient, kind, forgiving, useful people to keep their lives in order.
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The readings also remind us today of an old friend, now gone to his heavenly reward, who often said, “God won’t give us more than is equal to the strengths of the gifts he has given us.” In other words, “Fear not, God is on our side.”
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I have come to ask myself at the start of each day: What are we seeking — and What are we using to get there?
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Third Step Prayer:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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A “Dynamic Catholic” is much the same as a good member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He prays and meditates, studies, does selfless service to others and he evangelizes (“He Does Twelve Step Work”). Given to us by an alcoholic priest in recovery.
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Our Thanks to Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R. — His books can be very helpful if you are seeking God in your life …..

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The lady above is the first person in America to admit a person to a hospital to treat them because they had a medical condition she called alcoholism. Her name is Sister Ignatia.

Most people familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous know the story of Bill W. and Dr. Bob. But not as many people know about the woman both those men considered the third co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): Sister Ignatia.

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Related:
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“God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.”

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We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

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“Introduction to the Devout Life,” By St. Francis de Sales. Many people reject that word  “devout.”  But we are all devoted to a thing or two.  A crack addict is devoted to cocaine. Once a  human being decides maybe he can find a better life with the help of God, he naturally becomes less devoted to some things and more devoted to others…..

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“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by de Caussade — the goal is total dependence upon God. To get a new self; most human beings need to get rid of the old self.

Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:

“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”

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 (Padre Pio) (If you are totally dependent upon God, and you are working to have a good life and want to stay alive, I guarantee you’ll have no trouble sleeping.)
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, May 23, 2017 — How Much Must We Suffer? What Are The Limits of Man’s Inhumanity To Man?

May 22, 2017

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 292

Reading 1 ACTS 16:22-34

The crowd in Philippi joined in the attack on Paul and Silas,
and the magistrates had them stripped
and ordered them to be beaten with rods.
After inflicting many blows on them,
they threw them into prison
and instructed the jailer to guard them securely.
When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell
and secured their feet to a stake.

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About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying
and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened,
there was suddenly such a severe earthquake
that the foundations of the jail shook;
all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open,
he drew his sword and was about to kill himself,
thinking that the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
“Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”
He asked for a light and rushed in and,
trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas.
Then he brought them out and said,
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus
and you and your household will be saved.”
So they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to everyone in his house.
He took them in at that hour of the night and bathed their wounds;
then he and all his family were baptized at once.
He brought them up into his house and provided a meal
and with his household rejoiced at having come to faith in God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 138:1-2AB, 2CDE-3, 7C-8

R. (7c) Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple,
and give thanks to your name.
R. Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Because of your kindness and your truth,
you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Your right hand saves me, O Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  SEE JN 16:7, 13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I will send to you the Spirit of truth, says the Lord;
he will guide you to all truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  JN 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Now I am going to the one who sent me,
and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’
But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts.
But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go.
For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.
But if I go, I will send him to you.
And when he comes he will convict the world
in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation:
sin, because they do not believe in me;
righteousness, because I am going to the Father
and you will no longer see me;
condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”

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Marks left by a lash or whip, on the back of an American slave, just before the American Civil War. National Museum of African American History and Culture
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Reflection on Paul Beaten With Rods by Dr. Mike Bagwell
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Paul remembers that he had been: “beaten with rods,” three times in fact. The King James Text words it: “Thrice was I beaten with rods.”

Paul begins the list with some enumerations! Let me show you. Watch the numbers he uses. “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep.” He has counted them all!

To be “beaten with rods” translates a Greek verb, “rabdizo,” found only twice in the Bible (as a verb). It means “to hit with long, stiff sticks.” Yes, “rabdos” (found 12 times as a noun) means: “staff, scepter, stick, branch (tree limb).”

The verb is written in the passive voice, of course. A strong Roman soldier delivered the whipping. A man trained in how to most intensely inflict pain.

Yes, if the Jews “whipped” Paul (which they had done 5 times already, yesterday’s lesson) they would have used a “scourge,” not a staff. They also would have limited the punishment to 39 lashes.

But not the Romans!

History indicates that many men died from these Roman beatings!

Three times Paul had so suffered, endured.

And only one of these incidents is recorded in the Book of Acts. The beating at Philippi, Paul and Silas being the prisoners. (None of the “forty stripes save one” whippings is recorded in Acts!)

The verb “rabdizo” is specifically used in Acts 16:22. “And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded TO BEAT them.”

The next verse: “And when they had laid MANY (not limited to forty) stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely.” You know the rest of the story, the earthquake and conversion of the jailor!

Oh, the price Paul paid to serve Jesus!

Scars on his back, for life.

No doubt pain when his body was cold (“bring my coat”).

Aching ribs and muscles (broken and torn during the beatings).

Yes, Paul joyfully keeps serving our Lord!

What an example.

— Dr. Mike Bagwell

http://drmikebagwell.org/2016/07/05/pauls-hardships-beaten-with-rods/

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We recommend this little book:

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Holy Spirit book by Edward Leen. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate. And better than a lawyer….

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Commentary on John 16:5-11 from Living Space

The disciples are sad because Jesus is going to leave them. He now reassures them that, contrary to what they must be thinking at this moment, it is better for him to go. If Jesus does not go away, then the Spirit, the Paraclete, will not come.

As long as Jesus is with his disciples in his present form, he is actually very limited in his presence. It is fine as long as they are all together but what would happen if they were to be scattered in various places to do his work? And what of the many more disciples in distant places who would never have an opportunity to be in direct contact with Jesus?

It is through the Spirit of Jesus, the risen and ascended Jesus, that he can continue to be with his people at all times and in any place on earth. Yes, it is better that Jesus should go and come back through the Spirit.

And the Spirit “will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, about who was in the right, and about judgment”. That is, the Spirit will reveal the wrongness of the world, that world of the purely secular, in not putting its trust in the Way of Jesus.

The world’s sin is primarily one of unbelief, an unreadiness to open its mind to the vision of life that Jesus gives. The Spirit will clearly show the rightness of Jesus in his claims to come from God and to being the Word of God to the world. The Spirit will reveal the meaning of Christ’s death as the condemnation of all that is evil in the world, above all in its denial of love as the centre of living.

The New American Bible expresses it thus:

These verses illustrate the forensic character of the Paraclete’s role: in the forum of the disciples’ conscience he prosecutes the world. He leads believers to see (a) that the basic sin was and is refusal to believe in Jesus; (b) that, although Jesus was found guilty and apparently died in disgrace, in reality righteousness has triumphed, for Jesus has returned to his Father; (c) finally, that it is “the ruler of this world”, Satan, who has been condemned through Jesus’ death.

On which side am I? On that of the Spirit or that of the world?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1063g/

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Reflection from Charles Spurgeon

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We do not know where or what we might have been if God’s gracious protection had not been like a wall of fire round about us, as it is even now, for still doth the Lord deliver all those who put their trust in him. I want you, dear brothers and sisters, to believe with unquestioning confidence that God is delivering you just now.

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You know that he has delivered you, be quite as sure that he is delivering you at this moment.

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”Oh!” says one, “I am shut up in the dungeon of despair.” Yes; but your Lord has a key that can open the door, and so let you out. “Ay; but I am in great want.”

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But he knows all about it, and he has his basket in his hand full of good things with which he is going to supply all your needs. “Oh!” says another, “but I am sinking in the flood.”

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But he is throwing the life-belt over you. “Oh, but I am fainting!” But he is putting a bottle of sweet perfume to your nose to refresh your spirit.God is near thee, to revive and cheer your fainting soul.

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Perhaps someone says, “I find faith concerning the past and concerning the ultimate future tolerably easy; but it is faith for the next hour or two I cannot so readily exercise.”

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At certain times, it is found that trial is peculiarly present, but one cannot always realize that God is “a very present help in trouble;” yet it is true. He has delivered, and he does deliver.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection• John 16, 5-7: The sadness of the Disciples. Jesus begins with a rhetorical question that makes evident the sadness of the disciples, at this time evident in the heart of the disciples because of the detachment from Jesus: «Now I am going to the One who sent me; not one of you asks, where are you going?” It is clear that for the disciples the detachment from the life-style lived with Jesus implies suffering.

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And Jesus urges saying: “Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this” (v. 6). Thus Saint Augustine explains such a sentiment of abandonment of the disciples: “they were afraid to think of losing the visible presence of Christ… they were grieved, saddened in their human affection, at the thought that their eyes would no longer be consoled in seeing him”. (Comment of the Gospel of John, XCIV, 4). Jesus tries to dispel this sadness, due to the fact that they will not have his presence, revealing to them his departure.

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We can say that if he does not leave them, the Paraclete will not be able to join them; if he dies and therefore, returns to the Father, he will be able to send him to the disciples. His departure and the detachment of the disciples is the previous condition for the coming of the Paraclete: “because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you…” (v. 7).

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• John 16, 8-11: The Mission of the Paraclete. Jesus continues to describe the mission of the Paraclete. The term “Paraclete” means “advocate”, that is, support, assistant. Here the Paraclete is presented as the accuser in a process that is carried out before God and in which the accused is the world which has made itself guilty for condemning Jesus: «He will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right and about judgment” (v. 8). The Greek verb elègken means that he will make an inquiry, he will question, will test: he will bring out to light a reality, and will furnish the proof of the guilt.

The object of the confutation is sin: he will give the world the proof of the sin that it has committed regarding Jesus and will manifest it. Of which sin is there a question here?; that of unbelief (Jn 5, 44ff; 6, 36; 8, 21.24.26; 10, 31ss). Besides, for the world to have thought that Jesus was a sinner (Jn 9, 24; 18, 30) is an inexcusable sin (Jn 15, 21ff).

In the second place he will “refute” the world “concerning justice”, On the juridical level, the notion of justice which adheres more to the text, is the one which implies a declaration of guilt or of innocence in a judgment. In our context this is the only time that the term “justice” appears in the Gospel of John, elsewhere there is the term “just”. In John 16, 8 justice is linked to all that Jesus has affirmed about himself, that is, the reason why he is going to the Father.

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Such a discourse concerns his glorification: Jesus goes to the Father, he is about to disappear in him and therefore, the disciples will not longer be able to see him; he is about to entrust and to submerge himself completely in the will of the Father. The glorification of Jesus confirms his divine filiation or son ship and the approbation of the Father regarding the mission which Jesus has accomplished.

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Therefore, the Spirit will show directly the justice of Christ (Jn 14, 26; 15, 26) protecting the disciples and the ecclesial community.

The world that believed to have judged Jesus condemning him is condemned by the “prince of this world”, because it is responsible for his crucifixion (13, 2.27). Jesus in dying on the Cross is exalted (12, 31) and he has triumphed over Satan. Now the Spirit will give witness to all about the significance of the death of Jesus which coincides with the fall of Satan (Jn 12, 32; 14, 30; 16, 33).

Personal questions

• Is the fear, consternation of the disciples in losing Jesus also ours?

• Do you allow yourself to be led by the Spirit, the Paraclete who gives you the certainty of the error of the world and helps you to adhere to Jesus, and, therefore, he introduces you into the truth about yourself?

Concluding Prayer

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart,
for you have listened to the cry I uttered.
In the presence of angels I sing to you,
I bow down before your holy Temple. (Sal 138,1-2)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-165-11

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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23 MAY, 2017, Tuesday, 6th Week of Easter
CONFRONTING THE TRUTH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  16:22-34; PS 137:1-3,7-8; JOHN 16:5-11 ]

One of the most painful things to talk about to anyone, especially our loved ones, is departure.  Whether we are the one leaving, or the other person, it is often too difficult to speak about it.  It could be someone joining the priestly or religious life.   Breaking the news to our parents or our loved ones is always an anguished moment.  Sometimes, our relationship with our friend is not working well and we have decided to call it a day.  Telling our boyfriend or girlfriend that we want to have a break is extremely heartbreaking.  But there is nothing like telling someone that we have a terminal illness and we might not last long.

In all these situations, our tendency is to hide or not to talk about such unpleasant things. We will delay as long as possible.  We might give some hints about our departure but we would not say it.  Worst of all, we do not know whether the other party gets the hint; or if he or she suspects, they do not dare to clarify and live in suspense and anxiety.  Indeed, the truth is always difficult to reveal.  This precisely was the case of the opponents to the gospel.  Instead of listening to Paul and Silas and investigate the matter, they threw them into the deepest and darkest part of the dungeon.  They wanted to suppress the truth of what they were saying.  They made it as if Paul and Silas were such notorious criminals that they had them stripped, flogged and “given many lashes and then thrown into prison.  Furthermore, “the gaoler was told to keep a close watch on them. So, following his instructions, he threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

But the lesson we can learn from this event is that the truth cannot be hidden, regardless of how men try to suppress and cover up the truth. We are told how Paul and Silas, instead of feeling imprisoned and constrained by their chains, were more than liberated.  In high spirits, “late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened.”  Indeed, it is said no one can imprison our hearts even if they imprison our bodies.  Even in captivity, they were able to give praise and thanks to God.  They knew that God was on their side and that God would not fail them.

And indeed, they were not wrong.  We read that something miraculous happened.  “Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners.”   Surely, all of them who witnessed this powerful sign of God’s protection would have remembered the psalm we just prayed.  “I thank you, Lord, with all my heart: you have heard the words of my mouth. In the presence of the angels I will bless you. I will adore before your holy temple.  I thank you for your faithfulness and love, which excel all we ever knew of you. On the day I called, you answered; you increased the strength of my soul.  You stretch out your hand and save me, your hand will do all things for me. Your love, O Lord, is eternal, discard not the work of your hands.”

The immediate response to this divine intervention was to bring in the light!  “The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”  Truly, when we encounter the power of God, we seek the light and the truth.  When the gaoler saw what happened, his response was to seek salvation by wanting to know the truth.   He was then imprisoned by fear although he was the gaoler.  He was fearful for his life in the event the prisoners escaped.  But Paul assured him, “Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.”  How appropriate that Paul would assure him that they were there to save him and not destroy him.

So too was the case with Jesus.  He did not hide His imminent departure from His disciples.  Pointedly, Jesus said, “Now I am going to the one who sent me.  Not one of you has asked, ‘Where are you going?’  Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this.  Still, I must tell you the truth.”  Jesus knew that His disciples were unsettled. They had heard the prophecies of His passion, but they could not quite accept them.  They were still in denial and were hoping that the prophecies would not come to pass.  But the truth must be said.  Hence, Jesus felt the need to prepare the disciples by explaining to them why His departure was necessary.

Jesus made it clear that unless He went, the Holy Spirit would not come.   “It is for your own good that I am going because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you.”  Whilst all departures of our loved ones are heartbreaking and distressful, understanding why the departure is necessary will help us to cope with the pain of loss.  Jesus was very much aware of His disciples’ attachment to Him and their fears, and He sought to reassure them that His going was for their benefit in the long run.  Having Him around can do them much good, but His going away and then sending the Holy Spirit would do them even greater good because only in the power of the Holy Spirit could they be sent forth to the whole world to proclaim the Good News that they had received.   So long as Jesus was with them, the Good News would be confined to that small band of disciples.

Most of all, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, He would “show the world how wrong it was, about sin, proved by their refusal to believe in me.”  The greatest sin is not the sins that we commit out of weakness, temptations and ignorance.  Most of the time, our sins originate from fear, anxiety and self-preservation.  Rather, the basis of all sin is the rejection of Jesus because when we reject the truth that Jesus has come to reveal to us the love, mercy and justice of God, we end up doing more wrong.  Faith in Jesus is the way to experience the forgiveness and mercy of God.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit will vindicate Jesus that He was in the right, “proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more.”  The resurrection and ascension of Jesus vindicated Jesus’ claim of divine filiation with the Father.  He is the Son of God and His origin came from the Father.  Rightly so, after completing His mission on earth, He returned to the Father.  He said, “Now I am going to the one who sent me.”  He was sent by the Father and after completing His mission, He returned to the Father from whom He originated.  The resurrection was the endorsement of the Father on the life and mission of Jesus.  The ascension signifies Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, with all the powers of divinity restored.  He now rules the world and His kingdom is established.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will show us “about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.”  In the final analysis, judgement is meted to us through self-judgment.  No one condemns us, not God either.  But in rejecting Jesus and the way of life offered by Him, we consign ourselves to live in a world of misery, in anger, greed and fear.  How do we know we have been judged?  By the fruits of how we live our lives.  Jesus in the gospel makes it clear, “You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”  (Mt 7:16f)

We too must learn from Jesus in helping our loved ones to be prepared when the time for our departure comes.  We must be courageous in confronting the truth of the situation. It is always better to speak about it; and to do it positively so that all are at ease and can come to terms with it, seeing everything in the light of divine providence and His wisdom.  The truth is that in life, departure will come sooner or later.  There will be a time for us to step down from office.  There will come a time when your children need to move on to start their own families.  There will come a time when we have to depart from this world.  Rather than hide the pain of departure, we should help each other to share a common desire to surrender each other to the Lord.   When separation is united by a greater mutual union of will, that separation, even though painful, brings joy and a greater union.  This is true in the case of giving up your sons and daughters for the service of the Church or the country.

If we are generous like Jesus, the end result will always be in our favour.  What we lose is what we gain.   By letting our elderly loved ones go, they return to their true home in heaven where “he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4)  By allowing our children to move on in their lives and not tie them to our apron strings, we set them free to establish themselves in society, giving them fulfillment and growth.  By allowing a relationship to break when both parties are incompatible, we find peace, freedom and new joy.   So let us trust in the divine providence and intervention of God in our lives as Jesus, Paul and Silas did.  Let us imitate the gaoler who became a believer in the Lord Jesus.  He and His household were saved that day “and the whole family celebrated their conversion to belief in God.”


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

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 22, 2017 — Lydia: The hinge that opened the door for the gospel in Asia

May 21, 2017

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 291

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Reading 1 ACTS 16:11-15

We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace,
and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi,
a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.
We spent some time in that city.
On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river
where we thought there would be a place of prayer.
We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there.
One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth,
from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened,
and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention
to what Paul was saying.
After she and her household had been baptized,
she offered us an invitation,
“If you consider me a believer in the Lord,
come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 15:26B, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord,
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 15:26—16:4A

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.”

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Reflection on Lydia By Matthew McDonald 

As the apostle Paul was on his travels, he went into the city on the Sabbath to find a place of prayer, no doubt directed by the Holy Spirit on were to sit. As Paul sat down, along came Lydia, by a Divine appointment. Notice, she was also at the place of prayer, because she was a religious worshipper and follower of God. As she listened, her religion turned into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for the Lord opened her heart to respond to the preaching of the gospel. Not only did she give her life to Jesus Christ, but she was also baptised, and then she invited Paul and his companions to her house for fellowship.

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“I knew this had to be a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God. She listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”

Lydia was a very successful business woman, who had excellent administration skills. Not only did she sell quality clothes, but she purchased products for her stock. It is also very interesting to note that the Bible calls her, a woman, specifically by name.

Lydia was the hinge which opened the door for the gospel in Asia. From there, the gospel spread like wild fire by way of all the cloth industry and silk routes which brought caravans carrying royal robes, which were made exclusively from purple cloth.

God is calling men and woman, young and old, from all walks of life. We may never know how much God can use us for His glory and who we can reach and touch with the powerful message of the gospel. We can be the hinge which opens the door for the gospel to be spread into our place of work, our work trade. Just as Lydia listened and let faith arise in her heart, so as we start to talk about Jesus to whosoever we meet may God allow their hearts to be receptive to the message of the gospel. May we be obedient enough to go where God wants us to go, at His Divinely appointed time and sit beside, stand beside or even walk beside someone and tell them about Jesus.

My friend, Lydia was a worshipper of God, but now she could worship God in Spirit and in truth. Now, she did not have a religion, but a relationship with the Living God. She then opened up not only her heart to the gospel, but also her home. All the business associates which she knew before she received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour were now Divine appointments to sit down with and share the gospel with. If God called a business woman in the professional fabric trade to reach Asia with the gospel of Jesus Christ, then what can God use you to do for Him?

May we be like Paul, ready to be at the right place, at the right time, ready to share the gospel message, given by a Divine appointment from God. If we would do so, then who knows what part in God’s end-time harvest of souls we may be play. We need only to be ready and willing.

https://peebles.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/acts-1614-one-of-those-listening-was-a-woman-named-lydia-a-dealer-in-purple-cloth-from-the-city-of-thyatira-who-was-a-worshipper-of-god-the-lord-opened-her-heart-to-respond-to-pauls-message/

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Homily Ideas for ACTS 16:11-15
By J.D. Davis
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Have you ever had an experience where you knew God was calling you to do something, but it didn’t come out the way you thought it would? When you answered the call of God, you were excited and energized about the possibility of service. You couldn’t wait to get where you were going or do what you needed to do. But it was so unlike what you expected. I have had that happen to me, and I would ask God, “Are you sure this is what I am supposed to be doing?”

Sometimes our heart is willing to serve God, but our circumstances cause us to draw back or limit our service. A similar situation confronted Paul on one of his missionary journeys. I want you to know that when you serve God, when you go where He sends you and do what He tells you, you never know what the results might be.

Inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing an unrecognized religion into the city. This may explain why there was a Jewish prayer meeting being held outside the city, on the riverbank.

Having been trained by the Jews to be a leader among Jews, Paul would have been well acquainted with their views of women. The rabbis were known to say, “It is better that the words of the Law be burned that be delivered to a woman.”

The fact that Paul was willing to speak to these women indicates he no longer held that view. But the lack of a synagogue, no influence in the city, a prohibition against religion, and a prayer meeting at a riverbank does not seem to be the formula for a powerful revival.

What you and I may see as dangerous or hostile may be an opportunity for the kingdom of God. In the words of Esther, “Who knows but that I have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Here is my problem: I am too quick to allow the circumstances of my life to define my level of service to God. If things get hard, I look for a way out. I look for a way to diminish my dedication to the task. If people don’t respond immediately, I look for a new plan or gimmick.

If Paul had done that, he would have bailed on Phillipi. But Paul understood that service for God is always about our faithfulness to God, not the results. The reason I want to bail on bad situations is because I do not see the profitability of it. But that is faulty theology. Such an approach says that God only does what it profitable, like He is a business that only cares about the bottom line. It also means God is limited in power, so He will only use it in prime locations.

We talk about building and growing churches, as if it is something that we can do. That is something only God can do. God wants a relationship with you, and part of that relationship is commitment, dedication, and faithfulness.

You may be in a place like Paul. You look at the things around you and ask, “Am I in the right place, God? Am I doing what you want me to?” The circumstances may be overwhelming. Don’t be too quick to throw in the towel. As we are about to find out, just one convert can make all the difference.

There’s more and “J.D.” is well worth reading:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-lydia-model-service-hospitality-acts-16

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Commentary on John 15:26 from Living Space

We continue reading the discourse of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper.

Today he promises that the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth will come, sent both by the Father and by Jesus the Son. As we saw earlier, Paraclete (Gkparakletes, paraklhths) means a person who stands by one and gives support. It can be applied to a defence lawyer in a court of law. So the word is sometimes translated ‘Advocate’. It can be anyone who gives comfort, good advice or moral support. Various forms of the word are used about eight times in a short and beautiful passage at the opening of St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:3-7).

Here the Spirit that God bestows through Jesus on his disciples will be one who will comfort and strengthen them in the sometimes difficult days ahead and will guide them in their fuller understanding of what Jesus has taught them. The Spirit will confirm all that Jesus has said and done.

The disciples too are, with the help of the same Spirit, to give witness to all that Jesus has said and done.

And again he warns them that they will need all the help they can get from the support of the Spirit. “They will expel you from synagogues and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.” A prophecy which was very soon to be fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled down to our own day.

And people will do this because they do not really know the Father or Jesus. If they did, they too would believe and would recognise the presence of Jesus in the Christian community and its message.

So, as has been mentioned several times already, we are not to be surprised if we find ourselves – as Christians – the object of attack, of slander, of abuse, of misunderstandings, of contempt. St Ignatius of Loyola is said to have prayed that the members of the order which he founded would always be persecuted. It was a sign that they were doing their job. It is a strange paradox but the message of Christian love and forgiveness, the message of peace and justice is found by many to be very threatening and must be attacked.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 MAY, 2017, Monday, 6th Week of Easter
THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES US THE POWER TO WITNESS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  16:11-15; PS 149:1-6,9; JOHN 15:26-16:4 ]

Why did you choose to become a Christian? Most people choose the Christian Faith or the Catholic Faith because they find it meaningful. It gives them a purpose for life, hope for the future, direction in life, support in their trials and the challenges of life.  Others like the solemn worship of the Catholic liturgy, some find the Charismatic form of praise and worship speaking to their hearts and they find strength, healing and consolation just by singing these contemporary Christian songs.  For others still, they like the fellowship and support of the Christian community.  If these are the reasons why one becomes a Christian, it is not wrong but this is not what it means to be a Christian.  It is too inward-looking, self-centered and individualistic.  It reduces the Christian Faith to a utilitarian religion where we go to find help for our needs, like a dispensing machine.

Christianity is not about self but about the person, Jesus Christ.  Pope Emeritus Benedict puts it succinctly, “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”  (Deus Caritas Est, 1)   Christianity is about Jesus Christ who is the Saviour of the World.  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)  Peter said, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  (Jn 6:68f)  In a nutshell, St John summarized it in this manner.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16).

The litmus test of a true Christian is whether he is a fair-weather friend of Jesus, coming to Him only for things, for satisfaction of their desires and needs, or whether he is a loyal and faithful friend of Jesus who would stand by Him and His name at all times and in whatever circumstance he is in.   In other words, will we stand up for Jesus and the gospel?  If we are truly disciples of Jesus, we must be ready to stand up for Him, defend Him and the gospel He taught us.  All true friends will stand by their friends and defend them when they are attacked, slandered or misunderstood.  But how do Catholics stand up for Jesus, for the teachings of Christ when they are challenged?  Most of us would sit by quietly and let the world tear down the Church and the gospel truth without coming to the defense of Jesus and the gospel.

That is why Jesus made clear what discipleship entails.  He did not mince His words about the trials ahead for His disciples.  “I have told you all this so that your faith may not be shaken …  so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you.”  Jesus knew the sufferings ahead for His disciples after His death.  If it had not been easy for Jesus in His earthly ministry when He was confronted and opposed by the religious institutions of the day, why should the disciples be exempted from the same persecution?  A Christian is called to be a witness in the world.  Jesus said, “you too will be witnesses.”  A Christian does not live for himself!  He lives for Christ.  St Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ;  and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life, I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal 2:19b-20)  To be a Christian is to live for Jesus and offer one’s whole life in union with Jesus for the spread of the gospel according to the vocation that the Lord has given to each one of us.  We are called to testify for Jesus and to be His witnesses in the world.  However, this will not be smooth sailing, although a service to humanity, it will be met by fierce oppositions.

We read that by the time of St John, the Jews were expelled from the synagogues.  By professing their faith in Christ as the Lord and the Messiah, they were no longer considered as Jews.  They were ostracized from their community.  It must have been a very painful separation for the Christian Jews.  For years and for generations, they gathered in the synagogue to pray and to worship.  Life was always centered on the synagogue where they found strength, encouragement and fraternal support.  There are Catholics who, because of their faith, are excluded from their own family members or friends or colleagues.  There will be some who simply do not like Christians.  Being alone in a non-Catholic family can be lonely and trying if the other members continually taunt and ridicule us.

Secondly, Jesus also warned us that “the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.”  This is already happening in our world when we have radical Muslims and fundamentalists from other religions, including the humanists, condemning those of other faiths.  What is frightening is that some of these radicals are confused and indoctrinated to consider other religions as Evil, and to use violence to eliminate those opposed to their faith. Today, the world continues to attack the Catholic Faith for the beliefs that we stand for.  They mock at us and seek to destroy us, believing that they are doing the right thing.  That is why we must not be vindictive and retaliate.  The Lord declares them to be innocent because of their ignorance. “They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself.”

So how can we be strong and courageous in witnessing to the Lord?  We need the power of the Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit can stir in our hearts and enlighten our minds to understand the truth of the gospel.  This is why Jesus said, “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.”   Only the Holy Spirit can help us to understand and grasp deeper the teachings of our Lord and help us to communicate clearly to the world in such a way that they can understand and accept the Word of God.  This was the case of “Lydia, a devout woman … who was in the purple-dye trade.  She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying.”

Secondly, we need the Holy Spirit to give us an inner conviction of the gospel.  There is no way to speak of the gospel to anyone unless we are fully convinced of Christ and His teaching.  Many of us have some knowledge about Christ which we have read and heard about.  But we do not have a personal encounter with the Lord and hence lack inner conviction.  Our faith is by hear-say, through the testimonies of others, or the objective teaching of the Church but it is not something that they can say, “I know Jesus and I know all that is said about Him and by Him is true!”   If we have not seen Him, how can we testify to what we have not seen or heard?  A witness must have a personal knowledge of the Lord.

Thirdly, we need the Holy Spirit to help us walk with Jesus and know Him intimately. The prerequisite of being His witness is that we must have walked with Him. “And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.”  Surely, we never knew Jesus of Nazareth because we were not living then.  But we can still claim to be with Him from the outset if we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, especially at prayer and worship.  The Holy Spirit is the one that leads us to Jesus and helps us to experience His presence intimately when we read the Word of God, receive the Eucharist or celebrate the sacraments or when we are deep in prayer. 

Finally, the Holy Spirit gives us a family so that we can remain strong. This was what happened to Lydia. “After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.”  In Christ, we become one Body.  In the Spirit, we are brought together.  The Christian does not stand alone but He has the Holy Spirit to help him to live the Christian life, and most of all, a family to lean on and find strength in His trials.

As Christians, we must never journey alone.  If we follow Lydia’s example of inviting fellow Catholics into our life to share our faith journey together, regardless of the trials in our life and the rejection and persecution of the world, we will stand strong and firm in our faith.  We need the Christian family to give courage and strength.  A Catholic who does not belong to any Catholic family or does not have a group of intimate friends to share their faith will not last long in the faith, especially when tragedies strike. Every Catholic must find a small group of Catholic friends to share the Word of God and their faith experiences.  So long as we are inserted into the body of Christ, we will remain firm in our faith because we are rooted in the Lord.

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

https://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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02 MAY 2016, Monday, 6th Week of Easter
FINDING THE TRUTH IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 16:11-15; JN 15:26-16:4  ]

There is so much division in the world today because everybody thinks that he or she has the truth.  All of us claim that we are speaking and fighting for the truth.  This happens in every aspect of our lives.  In religion, people are divided because one claims that his religion is the truth and the other as false.  In daily living, one would think that his is the correct way to deal with a problem; another, however, thinks otherwise.  This occurs very often in family life and in our offices.  We have disagreements because we view the truth very differently.

What is even more tragic is that sometimes we are persecuted because others think that we are living in falsehood.  They want us to accept the truth as they see it.  In some cases it may even lead to persecution.  This was how Jesus warned the disciples, “They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think that he is doing a holy duty for God.”  Indeed, all fanatics, even if we find them a nuisance, certainly mean well in their aggressive preaching.

What about us Catholics?  We too claim that we have the Truth.  If that were the case, is there any distinction between adherents of other religions or philosophical systems and ours?

The first thing we need to understand is that if we proclaim Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, it is because there is no other way.  If Jesus is the Risen Christ, the Lord of Life as we encounter Him in His resurrection, then being God Himself, we cannot imagine Him to be less than the Truth, for that would be a denial of Jesus as Lord.  So, if Jesus is the Truth it is because He is the expression of the Father in person, as Jesus Himself tells us in the gospel. Only because Jesus comes from the bosom of the Father, could He tell us who God is.  No religion has ever claimed their founder to be the one and only God.

Secondly, in confessing that Jesus is the Truth, it does not mean that we have grasped the fullness of Jesus as Truth.  We are still growing in the Truth.  The Constitution on Divine Revelation (DV 8b) says that “The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit.  There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.  This comes about in various ways.  It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Lk 2:19 and 51).  It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experienced.  And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth.  Thus as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her.”

In order that for the Church to make progress in deepening the Truth that she has received from Christ, the Church needs the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, the Advocate promised to us by Jesus, who comes from the Father, it would not be possible to grow in the fullness of the Truth.  The Holy Spirit who dwells in us will enable us to know the truth from the depths of our innermost being.  Hence, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is His witness.  This means that we must be humble and open to the Holy Spirit, who is speaking to us each day, and revealing to us the Truth that Jesus intends for us.

Thirdly, to know the Truth entails that we come to know the Father through Jesus.  In the gospel, Jesus told His disciples, “And you too will be witnesses because you have been with me from the outset.”  There is no way to be in the Truth unless we are in close intimacy with Jesus.  Like the disciples, we must walk with Jesus so that we can come to know Him more and more.  Of course, to be with Jesus today is only possible through the Word of God.  We must contemplate His face in the Scriptures so that we know Jesus personally.  Only in knowing Him in person, will we be able to instinctively perceive the Truth when the Holy Spirit reveals this to us.

Fourthly, we must remember that only the Holy Spirit can convince us of the Truth and open our hearts and minds to understand the Truth when it is given to us.  Indeed, in the first reading, St Luke makes it clear that it was the Lord who opened the heart of Lydia to accept what Paul was preaching and she was consequently baptized.  The conversion of Lydia was the least expected because she was a wealthy widow, a successful entrepreneur, probably the least to desire Christ.  Yet, the Holy Spirit must have struck the ears of her heart.  God is full of surprises.  God longs to give His Spirit to those of us who are receptive to Him and His Word, as Lydia was.  So touched was she by the Lord’s love for her that immediately, she insisted that Paul used her house for Christian gathering.  St Luke wrote, “After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.”

In the final analysis, we must remember that it is the Lord, through His Spirit, who will convert us.  Conversion is not the work of man; it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit.  We must not usurp His place, because that would be to take things into our own hands.  We are only called be to His witnesses in proclaiming the Good News by word and deed.  This is what Jesus commanded us to do.  But we must leave the work of conversion to the Holy Spirit.  His Spirit will touch the hearts of men, convict them and lead them to the Truth and be converted to the Lord. Consequently, we must not get angry or become vindictive or take things into our own hands, using force to convert people to the gospel truth.  This is because they are ignorant, as Jesus said, “They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself. But I have told you all this, so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you.’”  Patient dialogue and, most of all, our acts of love and kindness in humility will help them to open their hearts to the truth.  Isn’t this was what St Peter wrote, “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring.” (1 Pt 3:15f)

Finally, fidelity to the truth might cause us much suffering.  To suffer for Him, of course, is a great honour, as Blessed Mother Teresa said, “Suffering, pain, humiliation, feelings of loneliness are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that He can kiss you.”  Alas, these beautiful words from her are difficult to practise.  Most of us are not ready to suffer with and for Jesus, much less to die Him.  Even the apostles were cowards when Jesus was arrested. But what a difference after they received the Holy Spirit! They fearlessly proclaimed the truth about Jesus before the Sanhedrin and refused to keep silent even when threatened with imprisonment and death.  St Paul himself was stoned and driven out of the cities when he tried to proclaim the message of the kingdom.  But the Holy Spirit gave them courage and fortitude.  We too need a constant renewal of the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to persevere in the face of trials and tribulation.

Let us therefore, as we prepare for the coming feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, be open to the Holy Spirit so that we can be enlightened in the Truth and lead others to Him, even as we ourselves are growing in the Truth, and be ready to recognize whatever truths the Holy Spirit has revealed to others, even if they are not Christian.  Let us pray for the Spirit of openness to the Truth, for there is only one Truth, that is, God Himself.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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https://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 21, 2017 — “The crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip … unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.”

May 20, 2017

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 55

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Penitent Mary Magdalene by By Guido Reni

Reading 1 ACTS 8:5-8, 14-17

Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and proclaimed the Christ to them.
With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip
when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.
For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice,
came out of many possessed people,
and many paralyzed or crippled people were cured.
There was great joy in that city.

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem
heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God,
they sent them Peter and John,
who went down and prayed for them,
that they might receive the Holy Spirit,
for it had not yet fallen upon any of them;
they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid hands on them
and they received the Holy Spirit.

Responsorial PsalmPS 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 20

R. (1) Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,
sing praise to the glory of his name;
proclaim his glorious praise.
Say to God, “How tremendous are your deeds!”
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“Let all on earth worship and sing praise to you,
sing praise to your name!”
Come and see the works of God,
his tremendous deeds among the children of Adam.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has changed the sea into dry land;
through the river they passed on foot;
therefore let us rejoice in him.
He rules by his might forever.
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Hear now, all you who fear God, while I declare
what he has done for me.
Blessed be God who refused me not
my prayer or his kindness!
R. Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
or:
R. Alleluia.

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Art: Jesus heals ten lepers by James Tissot

Reading 2  1 PT 3:15-18

Beloved:
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.
Always be ready to give an explanation
to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope,
but do it with gentleness and reverence,
keeping your conscience clear,
so that, when you are maligned,
those who defame your good conduct in Christ
may themselves be put to shame.
For it is better to suffer for doing good,
if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.

AlleluiaJN 14:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me,
but you will see me, because I live and you will live.
On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.
Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”  We modern people often do not like the idea of commandments!  We are so caught up in freedom that we resist any sense of having to do anything because it is commanded!  On the other hand, married couples know that they must listen to one another and that their response to one another is a sort of obedience to one another.  Yes, for sure, after listening and speaking and dialoging.  This is very similar to the process of our faith in relationship to the Lord Jesus.  If we truly love Him, then we must listen to Him, we must speak with Him.  And we, at times, must dialog with Him.  This is what it means to love Him and to observe His commandments.

Some might think that it is much easier to listen, speak and dialog with a living person right in front of me.  Yet we all know how difficult it is to have any kind of deep relationship with another person.  We humans guard our own territory, our own ideas, our ways of thinking and everything that is personal!  Marriage has become more and more difficult.  So also has a consecrated religious life in a community.

To love another person always means that we must sacrifice ourselves for the good of the other person.  One of the great definitions of love is that ability to choose the good of the other person and give up our own good for the sake of the other person.  That definition sounds easy until we try to live it!

The Acts of the Apostles today, in our first reading, speaks about the people of Samaria receiving faith in the Lord Jesus.  These first moments of faith are incredible and give an enormous energy to a new Church.  In time, just as we also hear in the Acts of the Apostles, our humanity reasserts itself and we Christians must learn to life with conflicts, differences and even rejection.  The only way to overcome the negativities of community life is for each of us, personally, to commit our lives to the Lord and to strive to make our personal decisions based on our faith and not on our feelings, emotions or even thinking.

The second reading, from the First Letter of Peter, reminds us, in Jesus, that we must be put to death in the flesh and live in the Spirit.  This is the path of the Lord Jesus and it must be our path.  It sounds awful and perhaps even frightening—on the other hand, there is an incredible joy in walking in His ways and not in our own.  Sure, to follow Jesus will lead us on a path of suffering.  We cannot expect to live differently than our Lord.  Resurrection only comes through suffering and death.

Let us embrace the path of the Lord, let us walk with him, let us keep His commandments:  love God and love others.  Alleluia!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

21 MAY, 2017, Sunday, 6th Week of Easter

HAVE YOUR ANSWER READY FOR THE HOPE THAT YOU HAVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 8:5-8,14-17; 1 PETER 3:15-18; JOHN 14:15-21  ]

In the second reading, St Peter exhorts us, “have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have.”  Do we have an answer for our faith in Christ?  Can we give convincing reasons for our belief in Christ and the Church?  Will we stand up for Jesus in the face of opposition, misinterpretation, slander and false accusations with regard to the teachings of Christ and the gospel?  Or do we, in the face of criticism, fight shy of our beliefs and hide among the crowd for fear that others will know that we are Catholics?  Indeed, in many instances, it does not pay to be known as a Catholic because there are many who are biased against us.  I am told that even our young school children are ridiculed in school by their non-Catholic friends for the faith they hold.

The persecution of the Church is not new.  Since the beginning, the Church has always been persecuted. In fact, the Church was persecuted by both the Jews and the Romans for more than 300 years.  Many died as martyrs for the faith.  Most of them were cruelly tortured and put to death.  In fact, Philip himself went to Samaria to preach the gospel only because “a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria.”  (Acts 8:1)  Today, there is a new form of subtle persecution in the form of religious oppression and discrimination on one hand, and on the other, attacks from secularism and humanism.

Yet such persecutions should be viewed positively. It will help us to determine who the real Catholics are.  It will help us to distinguish true believers from nominal believers.  Indeed, in life too, our true friends are those who stand by us in times of need and trouble.  Fair-weather friends we have plenty, but they are there only because you can give them something.  So too, many are Catholic only because they hope to get something out of the Church, but not to stand up for Jesus or support and defend His Church.

It is also a good wake up call for weak Catholics, those who take their faith for granted.  Unless questioned about their faith, their personal convictions of what is ultimate in their life, that is, God, they tend to take their faith for granted.  How many of our Catholics have left the Church to join other churches or religions because when their faith was challenged, they suddenly found that they had no Catholic friends to explain to them their beliefs and the doctrines.  As a result, because of poor understanding of their faith and a lack of personal relationship with the Lord, they leave the Church.  However, there are those who stay behind to study their faith and doctrines all over again, researching and rediscovering their faith through the study of scriptures, the writings of the Church Fathers and the Church’s teachings.  By so doing, they begin to appreciate their faith anew and no longer take their faith and the practices of the Church for granted.  Now they see the meaning behind what we do and why we believe.  Only then do they become truly Catholics and disciples of the Lord.

How, then, should we give an account of our faith to those who do not believe us?  St Peter urges us to “give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience.”  Our attitude should not be one of anger, resentment or retaliation.  Rather, if we truly believe in what we believe, we must not attack those who do not agree with us.  Such hostility towards non-believers would only make them defensive.  On the contrary, we must, if we are God’s people, deal with them with kindness, compassion, understanding, respect and honesty.   Only when we are calm and reasonable, can we truly help them to understand the Good News.

The first way to demonstrate the validity of our faith is not by words but life.  It is not what we say but how we live our life that confirms that our faith is true.  For what we believe must be seen in what we do, as St Peter advised us, “so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring.  And if it is the will of God that you should suffer, it is better to suffer for doing right than for doing wrong.”  There is nothing like a virtuous life that shows forth that we are men and women of God.  If we claim to be people of God, then we must radiate His peace, love and joy in our hearts.  People can slander us and distort our faith, but soon their allegations will sound hollow when others see how loving, caring and compassionate we are.  Even if people do not believe in our doctrines, they will become more receptive when they see how our faith has changed the way we live.  They too will begin to ask the reason for our peace, tranquility and joy.

Secondly, the way to demonstrate our faith is by witnessing to what the Lord has done for us in our lives.  In the first reading, we read how the people were “united in welcoming the message Philip preached, either because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves.  Unclean spirits came shrieking out of many who were possessed, and several paralytics and cripples were cured.”  Indeed, then and now, one of the most effective ways of showing the reality of the Risen Lord is in the miracles that we encounter in our daily life.  Such miracles which we read in the first reading do not cease.  We still have many testimonies of God healing us of sicknesses and incurable diseases, liberating us from our sins and bondages, and reconciling us with God and with our brothers and sisters.

This is what the psalmist is also inviting us to do as well.  He said, “Come and hear, all who fear God.  I will tell what he did for my soul: Blessed be God who did not reject my prayer nor withhold his love from me.”  Having experienced His merciful and bountiful love, they cannot but give thanks to the Lord.  Truly testimonies of what God has done for us in our lives is by far the second most effective way of witnessing to our faith in the Risen Lord.  One of the reasons why many lose faith in Christ is because they no longer see the signs of God’s presence in their lives.  They feel that God is far from them and Christ is anything but alive because He does not hear their prayers.  So it is important that we render praise and thanks to God for others to hear so that they too can increase in faith in God who will supply them their needs and come to their aid.

Thirdly, we can give an account of our faith by proclaiming the truth of the gospel.  There is a time when we need to engage in apologetics for the sake of those who are intellectual and need some credible reasons before they can make the leap of faith in Christ. Jesus assures us that He will help us to explain the truth to those who are searching for Him.  He said, “I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you.”  The truth is known not only through logical reasoning but it is known through faith.  This is where we need the Holy Spirit to help us to open the minds of our listeners and to give us the right words to say to them so that their hearts may be cut to the quick and seek repentance.

Consequently the task of witnessing cannot be carried out alone or by human intelligence or knowledge.  We need the help of the Holy Spirit who can work miracles through us and lead us to understand the truth proclaimed in the gospel and give us the joy of Christ in our hearts.  Jesus assures us, “I will not leave you orphans.”  The Lord will come to us in the Holy Spirit as He promised to be with us and to help us in the work of proclamation. For this reason, as we approach the Feast of Pentecost, the Church invites us to renew the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we can encounter Jesus the Risen Lord again.  We need to ask for a release of the Holy Spirit.  It is not enough to accept the Word of God as the Samaritans did.  We are told that Peter and John went down to Samaria, “and prayed for the Samaritans to receive the Holy Spirit.”  We too need to avail ourselves to be prayed over and have the Holy Spirit renew our lives.

Of course, the Holy Spirit can only come into our lives if we are docile and receptive.  Obedience is always the condition to receive the Holy Spirit.  The apostles said, “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”  (Acts 5:32) When our hearts are filled with anger and hatred, the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in us.  That is why Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.  I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.  Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them will be one who loves me; and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him.”

With Christ in our hearts, we can go forth with confidence, joy and courage to witness to Christ.  This is what St Peter means when he said, “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts.”  When we know that Christ is with us and in our hearts, we will be able to stand up for Jesus with conviction, proclaiming the truth with boldness.  Indeed, the Lord promised us, “On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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 Jesus with “The Tenth Leper”
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

place the passage in its context:

These verses lead us to the holy place where Jesus celebrates the last supper with his disciples: the place of his revelation, of his glory, of his teaching and of his love. Here, we too are invited to sit at table with Jesus, to lean on his chest, receive his commandment and thus prepare ourselves to enter with Him into his Passion and resurrection. After the passage of 13: 1-30, which tells us of the actions, words and feelings of Jesus and of those with him during the paschal meal, in 13: 31 we hear the words of the great last discourse of Jesus, which ends with the priestly prayer of chapter 17. Here, then, we are still at the beginning. In 14: 1-14 Jesus presented and offered himself as the way to the Father, whereas in these few verses he introduces the promise to send the Holy Spirit, as Consoler, as sure presence, but also the promise of the coming of the Father and of himself in the depths of the disciples who, through faith, will have believed in him and kept his commandments.

b) To help us in the reading of the passage:

vv. 15-17: First, Jesus clarifies to his disciples that for Him, love, if it is to be true love, must absolutely mean also the observance of his commandments. In brief, He wants to tell us that if we do not keep the commandments then there is no love; this is an essential and indispensable consequence, which reveals whether we really do love or only deceive ourselves that we love. Jesus also says that the gift of the Holy Spirit from the Father is the fruit of this love and observance that give rise to the prayer of Jesus, thanks to which we can receive the Spirit. Jesus explains that the Spirit is the Consoler, the Spirit of truth, the One whom the world does not see, does not know, but whom the disciples will see and know, the One who dwells with them and in them.

vv. 18-20: Jesus promises his coming, his return, which is about to happen in his resurrection. He says that he will no longer appear in his passion, death and burial, but that he will reappear to his disciples, who will see him, because he is the resurrection and the life. He also reveals his relationship with the Father and invites them and us into that relationship; in fact, he says that we shall know, that is we shall experience this relationship in our depths. Jesus and no one else could ever promise a greater consolation than this.

v. 21: Here Jesus’ discourse includes everyone; he moves from the “you” of his disciples to the “anyone” who begins to love him, enter into a relationship with him and follow him. That which took place for the disciples, the first chosen ones, takes place for anyone who believes in him. Here Jesus opens to us and to all his relationship of love with the Father, because by remaining in Christ, we too are known and loved by the Father. Finally, Jesus promises again his love for anyone who loves him and the revelation of himself, that is, a permanent manifestation of his love for us.

c) The text:

15 If you love me you will keep my commandments. 16 I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you for ever, 17 the Spirit of truth whom the world can never accept since it neither sees nor knows him; but you know him, because he is with you, he is in you. 18 I shall not leave you orphans; I shall come to you. 19 In a short time the world will no longer see me; but you will see that I live and you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. 21 Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.’

A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.

Some questions

a) This passage begins and ends with the same words: the proclamation and invitation to love the Lord. I know that, through this lectio divina, he wants to prepare me for a powerful meeting with love; perhaps I am frightened a little, I know that I am not used to this, perhaps I am ashamed, perhaps I feel superior towards these sugary words. But he insists and keeps on repeating only this, only Love. So what am I going to do? Am I going to stay and enter into this relationship, so involved, so upsetting? Or shall I go away, run away, because I am afraid, because I don’t feel like committing myself? Shall I choose Love, that is, this relationship, this confrontation, this exchange, this reciprocal giving, this giving of myself? Or shall I choose to be closed, remain alone in an absurd isolation of one who does not want to stay with his God and with his equals? Jesus says: “If you want”; He does not force. However, I know that he is waiting for me and has been so for a long time… why wait any longer?

b) I read and read again this passage, so that these words, so full of meaning, may be better imprinted on my mind and descend into my heart. I note that Jesus insistently says “you”, when referring to his disciples, those then with him but also those of today, that is us, each one of us seen and looked at by Him with a unique, personal, unrepeatable love that cannot be given away or substituted. I know that I too am included in that “you”, which seems generic but is not. I try to read again Jesus’ words and allow myself to be involved more directly; I place myself face to face, eyes to eyes with Jesus and let him tell me all, using that “you” full of love, using my name that only he really knows…. If you love me, my Father will send you another Consoler; you know him; he dwells near you and will be within you; I shall not leave you an orphan, I shall come back to you; you will see me; you will live; you will know that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you.

c) Now we meet an important expression of Jesus, repeated twice: “keep my commandments”. This is an important and fundamental fact, because the authenticity of my love relationship with the Lord depends on it; if I do not keep his commandments, then I do not love him. But I try to ask myself more carefully what does the verb “keep” mean, which looks so cold, so distant. I find it for instance in Mt 27: 36, where we read that the soldiers kept watch over the crucified Jesus; it is then a matter of close and scrupulous watching, an untiring watchfulness.

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On the other hand in Jn 2: 10, it appears with the meaning of keeping in store, reserving, as Jesus says of the good wine kept until last. 2 Timothy 4: 7 uses the verb in that wonderful verse on faith: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith”. This emphasises the effort, the great care used to safeguard and watch over that precious thing, faith. In Jn 17: 15, Jesus prays the Father to keep his own from the evil one, that is to preserve, protect, so that nothing and no one would harm or disperse them.

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This is not simply a cold and external keeping of the commandments of God or of Jesus, but much more; this is a relationship of love, a being careful, protecting, keeping in life. Fundamentally it is realising that which I am told or asked, in my day to day life, every moment and in every situation.

A key to the reading

The following are the people I meet in the passage: the Father, Jesus, the Spirit, the disciples, the world.

The Father. The presence of the Father immediately appears as the point of reference of Jesus, the Son. It is to the Father that he addresses his prayer. He says: “I will ask the Father”. It is this very special and intimate contact that makes of Jesus the Son of his Father, that confirms him all the time as such. The relationship of love with the Father is nourished and maintained by prayer at night, at different times during the day, in times of need, in requests for help, in suffering, in the most distressing trials. If we scan the Gospels several times, we shall find Jesus thus, deeply involved in a relationship with the Father through prayer.

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Here are some relevant passages: Mt 6: 9; 11, 25; 14: 23; 26: 39; 27: 46; Lk 21: 21ff; 6:12; 10: 21; 22: 42; 23: 34. 46; Jn 11: 41ff; 17: 1. I feel that this is also the way for me; Jesus followed this way in depth, leaving me his enlightened and certain footsteps so that I may have no fear in following him in a similar experience. I too am the child of the Father, I too can pray to him.

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Immediately after this, Jesus shows us the Father as the One who gives. In fact, giving is the main characteristic of God, who is uninterrupted, measureless and countless gift to all and at all times. The Father is Love and Love gives itself, gives everything. It is not enough that he gave us Jesus, his beloved Son, he still wants to bless us with and offer us life by sending the Holy Spirit. Indeed it is written: “He who has not spared even his own Son but has delivered him for us all, how can he fail to grant us also all things with him?” (Rm 8: 32).

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Still more: the Father loves us (Jn 14: 23; 16: 27)! And this love of his allows us to pass from death to life, from the sadness of sin to the joy of communion with Him, from the solitude of hatred to sharing, because the love of God inevitably takes us to the love of our brothers and sisters.

Jesus the Son. In these few verses, the figure and presence of Jesus appear forcefully and with enormous clarity. He is immediately seen as praying, the one who prays to the Father for us; he raises his hands in prayer for us, just as he raises them in oblation on the cross.

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Jesus is the one who does not go away for ever, who does not leave us orphans, but who will come back: “I shall come back”. If it seems as though he is absent, I must not despair, but go on believing in him because he will really come back. “It is true, I come quickly!” (Ap 22: 20). He will come back and, as he said, he will take us with him so that we may be where he is (Jn 14: 3).

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Jesus is the living one forever, the conqueror of death. He is in the Father and in us, with an all-powerful force that nothing can ever destroy. He is in the Father, but also in us, he dwells in us, he stays with us; there is no possibility of true and full life for us other than that con-penetration of being which Jesus offers us. He says yes, always, and is never sorry for, nor does he ever withdraw from his commitment of love.

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On the contrary! He loves us, as the Father loves us and reveals himself to us. He gives himself, offers himself, allowing us to know him, to experience him, to touch and taste him. But this is a revelation that is accompanied by love, as Paul says (2 Tim 4: 8).

The Holy Spirit. In this passage the Spirit of the Lord seems to be an emerging figure that embraces everything. He unites the Father to the Son, he brings the Father and the Son into the hearts of the disciples; he creates an indissoluble union of love, of being. He is called the Paraclete, that is the Consoler, the one who stays with us always, who will not leave us alone, abandoned, forgotten; he comes and gathers us from the four winds, from the dispersion and blows within us the strength for our return to the Father, to Love. Only he can work all this within us; he is the finger of God’s hand who, to this day, writes on the sand of our hearts the words of a new covenant, which can never again be forgotten.

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He is the Spirit of truth, that is, of Jesus; in him there is no deceit, no falsehood, only the certain light of the Word of the Lord. He has built his dwelling place within us; he has been invited and goes from being close to us to being within us. He has become one with us, accepting this nuptial union, this fusion; he is all good, the friend of men and women, he is Love itself. That is why he gives himself thus, filling us with joy. Let us beware of making him sad, of sending him away, of substituting his presence with other presences, other covenants of love; we then would be the ones who would die, because no one could ever console us in his place.

The Disciples. The words Jesus addresses to his disciples are words that challenge me more directly, more forcefully; they are addressed to me, they impinge on my day to day life, they touch my heart, my thoughts, my most intimate desires. They challenge me to a true love that I must transform into concrete actions, keeping in mind the Word and the wish of the one I claim to love, the Lord. A love that can be verified by my observance of the commandments. The disciple, then, here appears as one who knows how to wait for his Lord on his return; at midnight, at cockcrow, or early in the morning? It does not matter; He will come back and so I must wait and be ready. What kind of love is it that will not wait, that will not watch, not protect?

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The disciple is also one who knows; this is a knowledge given from above and which takes place in the heart, that is in one’s most intimate being and personality, where we make decisions to act, where we comprehend reality, formulate our thoughts, see and love.

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This is knowledge in the biblical sense, born of a strong, long and intimate experience, from a deep union and from reciprocal giving. This happens between the Spirit and the true disciple of Jesus. An unstoppable ever expanding knowledge that leads us to Christ, to the Father, and places us within their eternal and infinite communion of love: “You will know that I am in the Father and you in me and I in you”. The disciple is also someone who lives, who is in, that is within, in an unbreakable union with his Lord; it is not a superficial, distant, spasmodic union, but is always within the relationship of love. The disciple goes willingly, goes and comes back, allows him/herself to be held, entertained. And so realises the word of the Gospel: “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father”.

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The disciple of Jesus, in fact, is one who is loved, one chosen, from the beginning and forever.

The World. The passage says little about the world, which we know to be very important in the writings of John: the world cannot receive the Spirit, because it cannot see or know him. The world is immersed in darkness and error; it does not see or know and cannot experience the love of God. The world stays at a distance, turns its back, closes itself and goes away. The world repays with hatred the love that the Lord has for it: the Father has so loved the world that he gave his only Son. Perhaps we too must also love the world, created by God; love it by uniting ourselves to the offering, the sacrifice of Jesus for it.

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Could it not be precisely thus, in Christ’s offering, that we come to our full and brilliant truth as children of the Father, as disciples, as lovers? Is not this the end of this lectio divina, of this meeting with Christ, with the Father and the Spirit? May be it is really thus; we must come to the fullness of love, which is the keeping of the commandments and especially the one commandment of Jesus: love as I have loved you.

A moment of prayer: Psalm 22

Ref. You are with me, Lord, there is nothing I want!

Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice
as befits his name.

Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.

You prepare a table for me
under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.

Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh for all time to come.

Closing prayer

Lord, you fill me with your love; I abound with joy and deep peace. Through your Word, You have loved me much during this meeting. You have given yourself to me fully; you have neglected nothing in me, my person, my whole life history. Lord, I am because you are; you are with me, within me. Today you have given me a new birth from above, you have renewed me; I know, I see, I feel your own life in me. This is a real Pasch, a true passing from death to life. Thank you, Lord, for your inexpressible love, which covers me, overpowers me and yet relieves and uplifts me!

Lord, I leave behind here my empty, useless, incapable jar and run into the city to call my friends, those whom you love, to tell them: Come you too that you may know Love!
Lord, one final thing: let me never betray you. If Love is not freely given, shared, then it fades into the distance, disappears, becomes sick and lonely. Please help me that I may be love.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-6th-sunday-easter

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From 2014:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

LOVE ENABLES US TO RECOGNIZE THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN HIS ABSENCE  

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ACTS 8:5-8, 14-17; 1PT 3:15-18; JN 14:15-21
http://www.universalis.com/20140525mass.htm

There is this story of an eccentric Jew who each day would climb to the lectern of the synagogue and shout with pride: “I have come to inform you, O Master of the Universe, that we are here.” Then one day, the Nazi onslaught reached his village. Many of his fellow Jews were either murdered or deported and the population was decimated. But after each onslaught, he would crawl out of his hiding, run to the synagogue and there cry out, “You see, Lord, we are still here!” At the end, he was the only living Jew left. Once more, in a sad whisper rather disheartened, he addressed his God: “You see? I am still here … But you … where are you?”

Yes, this same anguished whisper rises in millions of throats everyday. We live in a world haunted by the absence of God. The problems and sufferings of the world seem to confirm the skeptics’ proposition that God is dead. Disenchanted and disillusioned with life, many try turning to God as a last resort to their problems but sometimes God does not seem to be bothered to hear them either. It is not uncommon to hear people saying: Father, forgive me but I have lost my faith in God. I cannot believe He loves me as He does not seem to answer my prayers. Such words often make me feel helpless and pained because I know what it is to feel abandon by God. Where are you Lord? Is God dead? These are the universal cries of man. These are the cries of orphans! What answers can we give to them? Can we give our reasons for the Hope we have, as Peter tells us to? Can we reassure them that Jesus’ promise that “he will not leave us orphans” is true? Yes, how do we explain His absence, or rather, how can we see His presence in His absence?

Someone once said: We have no right to ask when sorrow comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way. How true! How can we feel God’s presence and love in our sufferings when we do not even see Him in our blessings? To recognize God in our bad times therefore presupposes that we must learn to see Him in our good times first. This was so with the Samaritans where Philip went to preach. Acts records their openness to the message “because they had heard of the miracles he worked or because they saw them for themselves.” And indeed, there was great rejoicing and many conversions took place.

The first question we need to ask ourselves therefore is, whether we praise and thank God and rejoice with Him for the blessings we receive. Because if we cannot even do that, how can we praise Him in our sufferings? Sad to say, many of us also tend to lose God’s presence when things are well with us. When we are successful and well, it is due to our hard to our hard work and effort, or just mere coincidence. But when things go wrong, God is to be blamed. He is responsible for our misfortunes. Yes, we adopt double standards towards God; when things are well with us, we give ourselves the credit but when things go wrong, God is to be blamed. Poor God, He is always the loser. It is not surprising therefore that those who forget to praise God in their good times will feel His absence more strongly in their bad times.

However, if we are not blind to His love in our good times, then such faith will enable us to trust Him even if His presence is not felt during our bad times. Our hope and confidence is founded on our past experience of His love. Our memory of what He has done for us will give us the strength to carry on. Even in daily life, our depth of confidence and trust in a person is based on our past experiences with that person. That was how Peter encouraged his fellow Christians who were under persecution. He reminded them of the love of Jesus and how He gave up His life for them so that they might follow Him in sufferings. Furthermore, Jesus did not suffer in vain but His death opens for us the way to God. Like Jesus, we may suffer for doing good but such sufferings only lead us to God. And just as God gives life to His Son by His death, our surrender to God in sufferings will also bring about a new kind of existence for us. Indeed, the truth in life is that there is no hopeless situation but only people who have grown hopeless about them.

Just consider the persecution of the early Christians in the first reading. From a purely human point of view, this state of affairs might have initiated the decline of Christianity. But in fact, the persecution had just the opposite effect because as Luke never tires of reminding us, the Church enjoyed the gift of the Spirit and such obstacles only served to advance the gospel. If not for the persecution against the Church in Jerusalem, the disciples would not have been scattered through the surrounding areas of Judaea and Samaria. The persecution proved to be a blessing in disguise.

Isn’t this true in our sufferings? Isn’t success born out of failures? Isn’t strength born out of weakness? Isn’t matured love born out of broken relationship? How many of us have become successful today because our encounters with failures only made us more determined to do well? And how many of us are much happier today because certain crises in our life have forced us to be more realistic about our work and our ambitions for wealth and status? And how many of us, because of our sickness, have become more realistic with life thus making us compassionate towards others? Such realization is an indication that the Spirit of Truth never leaves us and that God has never abandoned us. In fact, the ability even to endure and grow in our sufferings shows that God is all the while with us, helping us to carry our crosses cheerfully, meaningfully and joyfully like Jesus.

But we can see God’s presence and love in these entire apparently hopeless situations only if the Spirit of Truth lives in us. And the key to recognizing God’s presence in His absence is a question of our relationship with Him. This is what the gospel is telling us. Unless we love Jesus and allow Him to love us, our relationship with Him will not be strong enough to see us through when sufferings come our way. Jesus says in the gospel: “Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him.” The promise of Jesus is that to those who love Him, He will show Himself to them.

This is only obvious because we reveal ourselves only to those we love and to those who love us. For it is not possible to reveal ourselves to those who do not love us, since they will be too prejudiced against us even to listen to us. But when we love Jesus, we will be able to perceive the Spirit of Jesus living in us and revealing to us about the truths of life.

For good reasons, therefore, Peter exhorts us: Reverence the Lord Jesus in your hearts. That is to say, recognize His presence in our hearts and in our daily lives. But most of all, recognize that He is Lord of our lives and of the whole world, that He is revealer of all truths. When we realize that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him, we will never feel insecure in our trials. Christian hope is basically centered on Christ. If our hope is based on Christ, then we will be able to handle our trials and sufferings positively and confidently, knowing that in every suffering, there is a reason, a meaning and a blessing.

Yes, happy is the man who is able to see and feel and see Jesus’ presence not just in good times but in bad times as well. To be able to do so is to sense the Spirit of Truth dwelling in us. This is our invitation today: to make Jesus’ presence felt at every moment in our lives. This calls for a strengthening of our relationship with Him, a relationship of mutual love.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/25-may-2014-6th-sunday-of-easter/#sthash.kt7xuMyN.dpuf

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http://www.csctr.net/