Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, November 24, 2017 — Celebrating Vietnamese Saints

November 23, 2017

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs
Lectionary: 501

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Reading 1 1 MC 4:36-37, 52-59

Judas and his brothers said,
“Now that our enemies have been crushed,
let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.”
So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion.Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month,
that is, the month of Chislev,
in the year one hundred and forty-eight,
they arose and offered sacrifice according to the law
on the new altar of burnt offerings that they had made.
On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it,
on that very day it was reconsecrated
with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals.
All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven,
who had given them success.For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar
and joyfully offered burnt offerings and sacrifices
of deliverance and praise.
They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields;
they repaired the gates and the priests’ chambers
and furnished them with doors.
There was great joy among the people
now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel
decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar
should be observed with joy and gladness
on the anniversary every year for eight days,
from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.

Responsorial Psalm 1 CHR 29:10BCD, 11ABC, 11D-12A, 12BCD

R. (13b) We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“Blessed may you be, O LORD,
God of Israel our father,
from eternity to eternity.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“Yours, O LORD, are grandeur and power,
majesty, splendor, and glory.
For all in heaven and on earth is yours.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“Yours, O LORD, is the sovereignty;
you are exalted as head over all.
Riches and honor are from you.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“You have dominion over all,
In your hand are power and might;
it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.

Alleluia JN 10:27

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

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Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple Valentin de Boulogne

Gospel LK 19:45-48

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.

And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.

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SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:

Accounts of Jesus driving the money changers from the Temple are found in Matthew 21:12-13Mark 11:15-18Luke 19:45-46; and John 2:13-17.

JESUS DRIVES THE MONEY CHANGERS FROM THE TEMPLE – STORY SUMMARY:

Jesus Christ and his disciples journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. They found the sacred city of God overflowing with thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the world.

Entering the Temple, Jesus saw the money changers, along with merchants who were selling animals for sacrifice. Pilgrims carried coins from their hometowns, most bearing the images of Roman emperors or Greek gods, which Temple authorities considered idolatrous.

The high priest ordered that only Tyrian shekels would be accepted for the annual half-shekel Temple tax because they contained a higher percentage of silver, so the money changers exchanged unacceptable coins for these shekels. Of course, they extracted a profit, sometimes much more than the law allowed.

Jesus was so filled with anger at the desecration of the holy place that he took some cords and wove them into a small whip. He ran about, knocking over the tables of the money changers, spilling coins on the ground. He drove the exchangers out of the area, along with the men selling pigeons and cattle. He also prevented people from using the court as a shortcut.

As he cleansed the Temple of greed and profit, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13, ESV)

The disciples and others present were in awe of Jesus’ authority in God’s sacred place. His followers remembered a passage from Psalm 69:9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17, ESV)

The common people were impressed by Jesus’ teaching, but the chief priests and scribes feared him because of his popularity. They began to plot a way to destroy Jesus.

https://www.thoughtco.com/jesus-clears-the-temple-bible-story-700066

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Saint Andrew Dŭng-Lạc was a Vietnamese priest executed by beheading in the reign of Minh Mạng. He is a saint and martyr of the Catholic Church,

He was born Trần An Dũng in 1795, taking the name Andrew at his baptism (Anrê Dũng) and was ordained a priest on 15 March 1823.[1]During persecution, Andrew Dũng changed his name to Lạc to avoid capture, and thus he is memorialised as Andrew Dũng-Lạc (Anrê Dũng Lạc).[2] His memorial is 24 November; this memorial celebrates all of the Vietnamese Martyrs of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries (1625–1886).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_D%C5%A9ng-L%E1%BA%A1c

More:

Vietnamese Martyrs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_Martyrs

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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24 NOVEMBER, 2017, Friday, 33rd Week, Ordinary Time
OFFERING TRUE WORSHIP IN THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 MC 4:36-3752-9LK 19:45-48 ]

In all religions, the place of worship has always been considered as the holiest place, whether it be a temple, a mosque or a church.  For in such places of worship, the presence of God is symbolized and mediated in a very special way.  For the Jews in the Old Testament, their glory and pride was the Temple of Jerusalem where they offered sacrifices to Yahweh.  But as we have read in this past week, this temple has been desecrated by the pagan King, Antiochus IV in the year 165 B.C.  In its place, he erected the statue of the pagan God Zeus Olympus.

For three years, Judas Maccabee and his sons fought bitterly against the religious persecutions.  At last after three years of rebelling, they liberated Jerusalem from the desecration of the pagan king.  We can therefore feel with the Jews in their great rejoicing over their re-possession of the Temple of Jerusalem where they could once again offer true worship to Yahweh.  Yes, for the Jews, nothing was more important than offering worship to God at the Temple of Jerusalem, for they believed that only at this place, on Mount Zion where the Temple stood, was where God made His dwelling place among men.

The re-dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem was celebrated with great pomp and festivity.  “They rose at dawn and offered a lawful sacrifice on the new altar of holocausts which they had made.  The altar was dedicated, to the sound of zithers, harps and cymbals, at the same time of year and on the same day on which the pagans had originally profaned it.”  They were filled with joy, praise and thanksgiving to God for making this repossession and re-dedication of the Temple possible.   “The whole people fell prostrate in adoration, praising to the skies him who made them so successful.  For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar, joyfully offering holocausts, communion sacrifices and thanksgivings.  They ornamented the front of the Temple with crowns and bosses of gold, repaired the gates and the storerooms and fitted them with doors.”  We can imagine how elated they were because the Temple was regained not just with some sacrifices but the blood and sufferings of their many brothers, sisters and relatives who fought to repossess the Temple from the pagans.   But the real joy and feeling was that the curses of God were removed and they could once again approach God without guilt.   Indeed, “There was no end to the rejoicing among the people, and the reproach of the pagans was lifted from them.”

In today’s gospel, we read of Jesus cleansing the Temple as well.  We are told that He drove out the pedlars who were selling at the Temple of Jerusalem.  By performing such an act, He called the people back to a true appreciation of the meaning of worshipping in the Temple of Yahweh.  For Jesus, the Temple should be a House of Prayer.  It should be a place where people can consecrate themselves to God in love.   It should be a place where people could offer true worship and be transformed into the people of God where God is the Father of all.  The Temple is not a place to make money but a place where people could find God, refuge, peace and love.

But what happened was that the Temple had been used by people to make money.  The outer court of the Temple where the poor and the Gentiles were permitted to worship had been used also to sell the animals for the sacrifices.  We can visualize the noise and the racketeering that went on at the outer courts, making it almost impossible for the poor people to pray.  There was also cheating and manipulation so that the common people had no choice but to buy the animals for worship at exorbitant prices by the temple officials.  The officials were making use of religion to make a living from the ordinary people by forcing them to depend on the facilities of the Temple, otherwise they could not offer any sacrifices.

Furthermore, we are told that the chief priests and the scribes who were supposedly the representatives of God were at the very Temple of God, conniving and planning how to kill Jesus.  They certainly did not have the heart of God in them, even though they might have been the so-called leaders of Judaism. They were envious at the popularity of Jesus and fearful of their positions.  The way Jesus was acting was surely against their vested interests.   Instead of being men of God, men of prayer, always ready to love and forgive; they, on one hand, claimed to worship the true God, but on the other hand, they were breaking the commandment of love of neighbor.

We might not be selling our goods in our churches, yet, many of us have also turned the church, which is Temple of God, into a robbers’ den.  We do this when we use the church as our sanctuary from the evil things that we do in life.  We continue to steal, to cheat and to slander others; and then come to church for forgiveness without any intention to change.  Indeed, many Catholics are Christians only for an hour a week.  They come to worship on Sundays at mass; but the moment they step out of the church, they live their lives as if they are pagans.  They engage in activities that are harmful both to themselves and to others.  When we persist in living such un-Christian lives, do we not in a certain sense make the church into a hideout for thieves?

Most of all, we need to remember that the Church is for all.  Very often, we make people feel unwelcome in our churches because of the rules that we have put in place.  Whilst rules are important for order, we must also be flexible and sensitive to the feelings of our people.  Often, people complain that when we want to build a church, they are generous with donations.  Then again, we keep saying that the church does not belong to the priests but to the People of God, yet we could be harsh in dealing with them.  Many are put off by church officials, whether clerical or lay in the way they are served or welcomed in the church.   Many are hurt at the rudeness, intolerance of young children, lack of care and consideration for the elderly and the poor being despised or discriminated in favour of the rich.

That is why Jesus, when challenged on His action, said that He was the Temple of God.   From this teaching of our Lord, St Paul could then speak of Christians as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. By virtue of our baptism, we have become members of the Body of Christ since we are consecrated by the Holy Spirit living in us. For Christians, the Temple of God is not simply the Church but also each one of us.  The Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us so that we can say that God lives in us.  If that is so, our entire being should be the Temple of God.

Concretely, it means to say that we should use our bodies to glorify God in all that we do or say.  Our bodies, like the Church, can mediate the presence of God since the body is the window to the spirit.  Because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in her members, we are all the sacramental presence of God in the world.  God’s love in us can be mediated through our external gestures and service of love that we render to others.  In the final analysis, the true worship is given to God when we offer ourselves entirely for the service of God and humanity.  This is the true sacrifice that would be pleasing to God.

But we will not be able to offer our bodies for the service of God and other fellow human beings unless we are filled with the love of God.  Consequently, prior to offering ourselves to others, we must first offer ourselves to God in prayer and worship.  Of course we can pray anywhere because God is everywhere.  Nevertheless, it is in the Church that the presence of Jesus is most strongly felt, especially when we pray before the Blessed Sacrament.  Even if we cannot spend time before the Lord at the tabernacle, we must certainly spend time each day in prayer so that we might continually be refreshed with the love and strength that comes from the Holy Spirit.  Only with intense prayer each day, can our hearts be truly transformed into the tabernacles of the Lord.  Ultimately, what God desires most is that we discover Him in our hearts; for when we do, we will be flowing with love and joy knowing that He loves us dearly and deeply.

Today, the Church encourages us to celebrate the rededication of our churches each year, following the tradition we have inherited from the Jews.  We have the annual rededication of the Basilicas in Rome and our Cathedral as well, as they represent the mother churches of the Universal Church, or of our local church.  But more than just a commemoration of the building, it is a reminder of whether as Church, we are truly pointing people to God, giving them a place of refuge where they can experience consolation, joy and peace.   We must recover the original intention of the church, which is more than just a place for Sunday worship but where people can find the Lord and be with Him in the Blessed Sacrament and where the sacraments are available regularly, especially the sacrament of reconciliation.  In this way, when we celebrate the re-dedication of the church, we can make ourselves as a living offering to God by sacrificing our lives for others. This is the true meaning of keeping the Temple of God holy.  This is the way by which we bring others, especially unbelievers, to come to know Jesus and worship Him in the Eucharist and find Him in the tabernacle of our churches.

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

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Martyrs of Vietnam
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Several groups of martyrs also called the Martyrs of Annam who were slain for the faith in Vietnam from 1798 until 1861. Between 1798 and 1853, sixty-four were martyred, receiving beatification in 1900. Those who died in a second group, between 1859 and 1861, were beatified in 1909.

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There were twenty-eight courageous men and women who died for the faith during a long period of persecution. A Portuguese missionary arrived in Vietnam, once called Annam, Indo-China, Cochin-China, and Tonkin, in 1533. An imperial edict in Vietnam forbade Christianity, and it was not until 1615 that the Jesuits were able to establish a permanent mission there, in the central region of the country. In 1627, a Jesuit went north to establish another mission. By the time this missionary, Father Alexander de Rhodes, was expelled from the land in 1630, he had baptized 6,700 Vietnamese.

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In that same year the first Christian martyr was beheaded, and more were executed in 1644 and 1645 . Father Rhodes returned to Vietnam but was banished again in 1645. He then went to Paris, France, where the Paris Seminary for Foreign Missions was founded. Priests arrived in Vietnam, and the faith grew. Between 1798 and 1853, a period of intense political rivalry and civil wars, sixty-four known Christians were executed. These were beatified in 1900.

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In 1833, all Christians were ordered to renounce the faith, and to trample crucifixes underfoot. That edict started a persecution of great intensity that was to last for half a century. Some twenty-eight martyrs from this era were beatified in 1909. The bishop, priests, and Europeans were given “a hundred wounds,” disemboweled, beaten, and slain in many other grisly fashions.

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For a brief period in 1841 the persecution abated as France threatened to intervene with warships. However, in 1848, prices were placed on the heads of the missionaries by a new emperor. Two priests, Father Augustin Schoffier and Father Bonnard, were beheaded as a result. In 1855, the persecution raged, and the following year wholesale massacres began. Thousands of Vietnamese Christians were martyred, as well as four bishops and twenty-eight Dominicans.

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It is estimated that between 1857 and 1862, 115 native priests, 100 Vietnamese nuns, and more than 5,000 of the faithful were martyred. Convents, churches, and schools were razed, and as many as 40,000 Catholics were dispossessed of their lands and exiled from their own regions to starve in wilderness areas. The martyrdoms ended with the Peace of 1862, brought about by the surrendering of Saigon and other regions to France and the payment of indemnities to France and Spain. It is now reported that the “Great Massacre,” the name given to the persecution of the Church in Vietnam, resulted in the following estimated deaths:

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Eastern Vietnam – fifteen priests, 60 cathechists, 250 nuns, 24,000 Catholic lay men and women. Southern Vietnam – ten priests, 8,585 Catholic men and women. Southern Tonkin region – eight French missionaries, one native priest, 63 cathechists, and 400 more Christians slain – in all, an estimated 4,799 were martyred and 1,181 died of starvation. Some 10,000 Catholics were forced to flee the area. Pope JohnPaul II canonized 117 Martyrs of Vietnam on June 19,1988.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=4951

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, November 23, 2017 — With Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Day
Lectionary: 943-947

The following are a selection of the readings that may be used on this day.

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Jesus cures 10 lepers but only one comes to give thanks

Reading 1 SIR 50:22-24

And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
to deliver us in our days.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10-11

R. (see 1) I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
They discourse of the power of your terrible deeds
and declare your greatness.
They publish the fame of your abundant goodness
and joyfully sing of your justice.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

Reading 2 1 COR 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Alleluia 1 THES 5:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In all circumstances, give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten persons with leprosy met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voices, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”
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Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
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This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.  Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She explained, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritative fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”

Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale’s request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book. George Washington was the first president to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, issuing his request on October 3, 1789, exactly 74 years before Lincoln’s.

The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

 

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Commentary on Luke 17:11-19
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This story of Jesus’ compassion is peculiar to Luke.
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We are told that Jesus was travelling on the borders of Galilee, the northern province of Palestine, and Samaria, which lies between Galilee and the southern province of Judea. Jesus is making for the Jordan valley on his way south to Jericho, one of his last stops before reaching his final destination in Jerusalem.
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Just as he entered a village he was met by ten lepers (it does not specify whether they were men or women). As lepers they were not allowed to come in close proximity with other people because it was (rightly) known that the condition could be transmitted to others by physical contact, although it needed to be fairly prolonged contact. We remember how the famous Fr Damien, the Apostle to the Lepers, eventually contracted the disease through his ministering to a colony of lepers in Hawaii.
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Because of their dreaded disease, such people were literally outcasts condemned to live their lives on the fringes of society. The tragedy is that, given the limited medical knowledge of the times, many such people were almost certainly not suffering from leprosy at all but from some other non-contagious but perhaps chronic skin disease.
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So, calling Jesus from a safe distance, they cried out: “Jesus, Master, have compassion on us!”
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Jesus simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests. And, while they were on their way, they were all cured. Presumably they continued on their way to see the priests who would give them an official declaration of being “clean” so that they could once again legitimately return to life in society. A major element of their healing was their re-integration into society.
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Just one of the cured lepers then came back to Jesus “praising God in a loud voice” and in deep gratitude fell at the feet of Jesus.
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“This man was a Samaritan.” The words are loaded with meaning. For it is presumed that the rest were Jews. In the first place, Jews and Samaritans could not stand each other and the Jews tended to look down on the Samaritans as ungodly and unclean. But, in the misfortune of their leprosy, these Jews and Samaritans, rejected by both their own peoples, found common support in each other’s company.
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But, now that they are cured, only one of them comes to say thanks and he is still – in the eyes of the Jews – an outcast.
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Jesus, looking around at the Jews in his company, expresses surprise that ten were made clean but only one came back to give thanks and he was a despised foreigner. This unexpected action is also reflected in another of Luke’s stories, which we reflected on earlier, that of the so-called “good Samaritan”. Here is another good Samaritan. (And there is a third, of course – the woman who features prominently in John’s gospel).
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To the man Jesus says, “Stand up and go your way; your faith has made you whole again.” That “stand up” or “rise up”, which Jesus often uses with those he heals, has echoes of resurrection and entry into new life, a life of wholeness brought about by the man’s trust in Jesus and his acknowledgment of the source of his healing.
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In the context of Luke’s gospel, the story prepares us for developments in the growth of the early Church, described in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. For, as the early Christians (all Jews) flee from persecution in Jerusalem, the people of Samaria are among the first to accept Jesus as Lord and to become followers of the Gospel, while many of the Jews in Jerusalem remain closed to Jesus’ message and call.
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We, too, must never give in to a temptation to exclude any people as possible followers of Christ. We must be ready to reach out to all, even the most unlikely. None must be treated as outsiders or untouchables, even those who show themselves extremely hostile to the Gospel.
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And while there may not be any real lepers in our own society, today is an occasion for us to reflect on who could be regarded as lepers, outsiders, outcasts, and untouchables among us at the present time. And to ask whether I personally treat any person as an outsider in my home, in my work, in other places where I meet people. Such exclusion is totally contrary to what we celebrate in the Eucharist.
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

Amen.

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If we are “spiritual” what do we get?

We get peace. We might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”

We might simplify further and say, “We get a good night’s sleep.”

We get freedom and a clear head. We get the joy of living not for ourselves but for and with others. We get a shot at eternity.

We might ask, “If you are spiritual, do you pray?” Many have said, “no prayer, no spiritual life.”

We might recommend this book, which suggests, after much study, that we who want to be or get closer to God, do at least four (not one or three) things frequently…

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  1. We Pray and Meditate
  2. We study (spiritual works, like the scripture)
  3. We pour ourselves out in loving service to others
  4. We evangelize. A Christians talks about his faith — he is not ashamed. A person in AA or another 12 Step recovery program, does 12 Step work.

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Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, November 22, 2017 — Feast of St Cecilia, Patron of Musicians!

November 21, 2017

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
Lectionary: 499

Bartolome Esteban Murillo - The Return of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Seville, Spain, 1670, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.

Reading 1 2 MC 7:1, 20-31

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother,
who saw her seven sons perish in a single day,
yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage,
she exhorted each of them
in the language of their ancestors with these words:
“I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;
it was not I who gave you the breath of life,
nor was it I who set in order
the elements of which each of you is composed.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe
who shapes each man’s beginning,
as he brings about the origin of everything,
he, in his mercy,
will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words,
thought he was being ridiculed.
As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him,
not with mere words, but with promises on oath,
to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs:
he would make him his Friend
and entrust him with high office.
When the youth paid no attention to him at all,
the king appealed to the mother,
urging her to advise her boy to save his life.
After he had urged her for a long time,
she went through the motions of persuading her son.
In derision of the cruel tyrant,
she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language:
“Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months,
nursed you for three years, brought you up,
educated and supported you to your present age.
I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth
and see all that is in them;
then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things;
and in the same way the human race came into existence.
Do not be afraid of this executioner,
but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,
so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said:
“What are you waiting for?
I will not obey the king’s command.
I obey the command of the law given to our fathers through Moses.
But you, who have contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews,
will not escape the hands of God.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 17:1BCD, 5-6, 8B AND 15

R. (15b) Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
My steps have been steadfast in your paths,
my feet have not faltered.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Alleluia SEE JN 15:16

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

Gospel LK 19:11-28

While people were listening to Jesus speak,
he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem
and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately.
So he said,
“A nobleman went off to a distant country
to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.
He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’
His fellow citizens, however, despised him
and sent a delegation after him to announce,
‘We do not want this man to be our king.’
But when he returned after obtaining the kingship,
he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money,
to learn what they had gained by trading.
The first came forward and said,
‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!
You have been faithful in this very small matter;
take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported,
‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said,
‘You, take charge of five cities.’
Then the other servant came and said,
‘Sir, here is your gold coin;
I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,
for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man;
you take up what you did not lay down
and you harvest what you did not plant.’
He said to him,
‘With your own words I shall condemn you,
you wicked servant.
You knew I was a demanding man,
taking up what I did not lay down
and harvesting what I did not plant;
why did you not put my money in a bank?
Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’
And to those standing by he said,
‘Take the gold coin from him
and give it to the servant who has ten.’
But they said to him,
‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’
He replied, ‘I tell you,
to everyone who has, more will be given,
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king,
bring them here and slay them before me.'”

After he had said this,
he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.

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Image result for Parable of the Ten Gold Coins, art, pictures
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Homily for The Parable of the Ten Gold Coins
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The point Jesus wants to make for the people who thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately, is that it will not come immediately.

In our day also some fellows from time to time come along predicting the end of the world in the very near future, on a certain day.

Jesus tells his listeners and us: NOT YET! In the meantime, he advises us to work for the kingdom, to use all our talents of nature and grace to give glory to God and do good for our neighbor.

Some day though, the King will return and ask an accounting of how we used our time and talents, especially the graces he has given us so generously. To bring out his point, Jesus tells the story we just heard. He will praise those of us who have done our best. He will accept no excuse for laziness from us who were too afraid to take any risk because we are too lazy to work and too afraid to face difficulties.

So we know now how it will be. Let us listen then to his advice and with courage busy ourselves with the concerns of God and with promoting his Kingdom. (Fr. Stan Plutz, SVD Bible Diary 2002)

*****

In the parable, Jesus invites us to use the talents we have given by God. Talents here refer not only to natural talents and abilities, such as having a high I.Q. or ability to compose music, to paint beautiful pictures or make furniture, to croquet, and so forth. Talents are also the graces which God gives to us on the supernatural level, for example, the grace to pray, to do good works for the poor and the sick for the love of God. So whatever gifts God has given us can fall under the classification of talents.

Many a person may think he/she has no talent for praying. The person tries praying and finds that she/he can spend even an hour in prayer. Another may feel he/she is shy and cannot deal well with people. He/she joins a group doing some apostolate like making. He/she joins a group doing some apostolate like making house to house visits and finds that he/she can meet people, converse with them, feel for them and influence them in a positive way.

So let us try to tune in on the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, try tasks that we think he asks of us through obedience to our parents or superiors or needs of the people around us. We may discover hidden talents. We can use them and receive the praise of the master, Jesus, when we appear before Him at our death to give an accounting of our life (Fr. Stan Flutz, SVD Bible Diary 2005)

*****

My first thought after reading the rather lengthy gospel for today was just to let it be, and not add any commentary to it anymore because it is already long and it is good enough as it is, and it will not take more time from you, dear reader. Correct, but not quite, because one is better than zero, a little effort is better than no effort at all. When tempted to take it easy and be complacent, remember, the better never comes because we hold on to what we think is good enough already. Are there areas in your life that do not welcome change because you think they are good enough already? Remember, the good can easily become the enemy of the better. (Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD Bible Diary 2006)

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A story is told about a young freelance artist who tried to sell his sketches to a number of newspapers. They all turned him down one editor told him he had no talent.

But he had faith in his ability and kept on trying to sell his work. Finally he got a job making drawings for a church publicity material. He rented a mouse-infested garage and continued to produce drawings in the hope that someone would buy them.

One of the mice in the garage must have inspired him, for he created a cartoon character called Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney was on his way. It is because of the diligence and perseverance of the young freelance artist that led him to success and at the same time a blessing to many others.

Likewise, the parable of the talents challenges us to cultivate regularly and perseveringly our God-given talents – qualities and virtues to produce good fruits. Like a garden that is taken care of regularly in order to produce flowers our talents are not kept personally or secretly, they must be shared to others. Do I share my talents to others? Is my success a blessing to my community? Could my life of good example help others to come closer to Christ?

Prayer: “My Lord and my God be the King of my heart and thoughts. Help me to make good use of the talents You have given me for the good of others and for Your greater glory. Amen. (Fr. Cris Cancino, SVD Bible Diary 2008)

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November 16, 2016 Wednesday

In 1947 a teenage Arab shepherd boy found the first Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave. These are handcopied scripts of the Bible on leather scrolls about 2,000 years old. Jesus could have read from them himself.

The boy sold the priceless scrolls very cheaply to a leather worker in Bethlehem. The buyer thought he could use the leather to repair shoes but later thought the scrolls were too valuable. He turned them over to scholars instead.

These scrolls we know now were copies of the Bible we accept as the Word of God and used to further help Biblical scholars determine the genuineness of the Bible today.

This story dramatizes the point Jesus makes in today’s story about the gold coins entrusted to different servants. One was given ten, another five, and still another, one. What mattered was not how many each one received, but what the servants did with what was entrusted to each. The first two doubled their coins. But he who received only one did not do anything to make it productive.

God entrusts each of us with certain gifts and talents as a test and as a trust. At the end of our life, we will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well we handled what God entrusted to us. We can use them for worthwhile and noble purposes or just want to waste them. But remember that everything that we do with them here on earth has eternal implications. “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (Luke 16:11). (Fr. Jun de Ocampo, SVD | Archdiocese of Berlin, Germany Bible Diary 2016)

rveritas-asia.org/daily-reflection/1018-november-16-2016-wednesday

https://justmehomely.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/wednesday-of-the-33rd-week-of-the-year-2/

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See also:

THE PARABLES OF JESUS CHRIST

http://www.jesuschristsavior.net/Parable.html

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Commentary on Luke 19:11-28 From Living Space

Immediately following the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus comes a parable about the use of what God has given to us. Jesus and his disciples are near Jerusalem “where they thought the reign of God was about to appear”. How right they were! It was indeed going to appear in Jerusalem but not at all in the way they expected – with the political and military defeats of enemies. As the beginning of the Acts reveals, they “were hoping” that Jesus was about to restore the political kingdom of Israel. In time, they would learn that a kingdom of far greater significance was coming into being and that they would play an important part in its inauguration.

The parable which follows differs significantly from a similar one of the talents in Matthew (25:14-30). In Luke, too, there may be two parables fused into one – that of the coins and that of a disputed claimant to a royal throne (symbolising Jesus himself).

Jesus begins the parable by saying that a man of noble birth went to a far country to have himself appointed king and then return. This may have reminded his hearers of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, who went to Rome in the year 4 BC to get himself appointed king. On his return, he succeeded his father. It may seem a rather unusual procedure but the Herods used to go to Rome in order to get appointed as rulers over the Jews.

Similarly, Jesus is soon to depart and in the future will return as king. During his absence, his servants are entrusted with their master’s affairs.

In the parable, the king, before leaving, gives ten units of money to each of ten servants and tells them to invest the money until his return. The coins are called ‘minas’ and were each worth about 100 drachmas, where a drachma was the equivalent of one day’s wages. Each coin then was the equivalent of about three months’ wages. This is a much smaller sum than those in Matthew’s parable. The other difference is that there are ten people and each one gets the same amount. (In Matthew’s parable there are three people who get respectively 10, 5 and 1 talents.)

In the parable, we are told that the people despised this man and did not want him as their king. In fact, a Jewish delegation had gone to Rome protesting at the idea of Archelaus becoming king. In the same way, Jesus was soon to go away and return some day as King and Judge. While he is ‘away’, his ‘servants’ will be entrusted to take care of their Master’s affairs. But others will reject him completely.

When he returned, the new king asked each of his servants to give an account of their trading, as Jesus will do at the Judgement. One had made another ten units on his capital of ten and he was rewarded by being put in charge of ten towns. Another had made five and was rewarded with five towns. But a third came along with just the capital he had been given. He had not traded the money for fear of losing it but kept it in a safe place. He was afraid of the king who, he said, took what he had not deposited, reaped what he had not sown.

The king was angry. He did not dispute his ruthlessness but he said that the man could at least have lent the money and got some interest. He ordered the ten units be taken from him and given to the one who had already made ten. This man was obviously good at business. The lesson of the parable is spelt out by Jesus: whoever has will be given more, but the one who has not will lose the little he has.

The last sentence of the parable, in a way, describes a third set of people in the story. The first set consists of those who used their coin well and profitably. The second is the one who kept his one coin and carefully guarded it. But finally, there are those who did not want this man as king and these are executed. “Now about those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king, bring them in and slay them in my presence.”

They are the greatest losers of all and it probably points to those Jews who rejected Jesus as King and had their city destroyed, referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD. The punishment of those who rebelled and actively opposed the king was much more severe than that of the over-cautious servant.

The context of the whole parable is emphasised by the last sentence of today’s reading: “Having spoken thus Jesus went ahead with his ascent to Jerusalem.” We are coming near the end of our story and the climax to which it is headed. The parable points to all those who are being called by Christ. It is the final part of one large unit (Luke 18:18-19:28) which includes the story of a rich man with good intentions but not able to respond to Jesus’ call, a prediction of Jesus’ passion not understood by the disciples, the story of a blind man who, after having his vision restored, becomes a follower of Christ, the story of another rich man who was willing generously to share his wealth with the poor and ending with the parable of the proper use of what we have.

The first rich man claimed to follow the commandments (the Law) but wanted to keep his money safely in his own possession. He is like the man who buried his money and did not invest it in the love and service of his brothers and sisters, especially those in need. The other, Zacchaeus, generously shared his wealth with the poor. He had invested his money well. He had learned to see. Any one who can really see where Jesus is has no alternative but to go his Way.

Finally, there are those who totally reject Christ and all that he stands for. Their blindness is total.

Today we are asked to reflect on the special gifts that God has given to each one of us and how we are using them for the benefit of brothers and sisters in need. What are our attitudes to money, to property, to professional status, academic or other qualifications or other gifts with which we are endowed? Where do we invest our gifts, our talents both inborn and acquired?

The message is clear: the more we invest, the more we will gain. We cannot stand still or just cling to what we have. The only way to gain is to let go, to give and to share. Good examples of this would be St Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa. It is an attitude very foreign to many people’s way of thinking, who feel that life consists of amassing more and more, that security is in having.

But the Gospel way is really the only way that makes sense. It is not collecting but sharing that generates wealth, the wealth that really matters – freedom, security and peace.

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Art: The parable of the talents

Parable of the talents or minas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_talents_or_minas

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 NOVEMBER, 2017, Wednesday, 33rd Week, Ordinary Time
THE MIND OF A MARTYR

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 MC 7:120-31PS 16:1,5-6,8,15LK 19:11-28 ]

We have read stories of martyrs of faith.  In the past, there were many more martyrs of faith who died cruelly in the persecution of political and religious leaders, just like the story of the mother whose seven sons were tortured and killed for their faith.  Today, there are still instances of such cruelty in some countries.  But generally, because of growing civilization, better education and information, such practices are condemned by the global community. Yet, even though believers might not be put to death, they suffer discrimination in the practice and worship of their faith.  There are still countries where there is a dominant religion continuing to discriminate those of other faiths, such as depriving them of benefits, rights of promotion and service, and imposing restrictions to curtail the practice and expansion of other religions.

Perhaps the only so-called martyrs that we hear of today are misguided martyrs who confuse religion with politics; and heavenly reward with earthly rewards.  This is present among the terrorists that seek to impose their religion and political power on peoples of other faiths.  They think that killing those from other religions or unbelievers whom they consider infidels is the will of God.  This is because those in power use God for political and selfish motives.  It is the poor, the marginalized and those who suffer failures and injustices who are being indoctrinated in the cause of those who are interested to gain political and religious powers; believing that a better life awaits them in heaven if they sacrificed their lives for the cause. It is frightening how religion can easily be used to fuel hatred and violence instead of peace and love.

It is therefore important for us to understand the mind of a martyr, whether an authentic one who sincerely dies for his or her faith, or someone who is misguided.  How else do we explain the courage and generosity of the mother who not just allowed her seven sons to be killed in a single day but even encouraged them to die for their faith!  Similarly, it is also the case of terrorists as well.  How is it that many are willing to give up their lives to fight for the establishment of a religious-political kingdom on earth?  What motivates them and gives them the courage to do what they do?

Three motives propel one to be a martyr for his or her faith.  The first motive is faith in God.  This is foundational.  Without faith in God, one would not be willing to give up one’s life for Him.  This was the case of the mother and her seven sons.  They knew in faith that God was the author of life and their future.  This was what she said to encourage her sons to die for God:  “I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with the breath of life, I had not the shaping of your every part, ‘It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.”  If we are convicted that God is the author of life and death, then we would be able to surrender our lives to Him.

If there are few people who are willing to die for God today, it is because of secularism, agnosticism and relativism.   Even among believers, how many of us could truly say from the depth of our hearts that we truly believe in God?  Many of us have doubts whether He exists, especially in the face of our own suffering and the suffering of the innocent.  Living in a secular society where the Sacred is often hidden from public eyes, we can no longer feel His presence in daily life.  With an increasing knowledge gained from study and the sciences, some have become agnostics and question their faith.

Secondly, martyrs are willing to die for their faith because of their love for God.  For the love of someone, we are willing to die and sacrifice our lives.  So when a person is brought up to love God and more importantly to experience His divine love, that person would be willing to sacrifice his or her life for God.  As St Paul himself wrote, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.  And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” (2 Cor 5:13-15)  Love makes us go crazy indeed.  When we are in love, we are willing to die for our beloved.  Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (Jn 15:13f) Indeed, many martyrs and saints for the love of Jesus have died for Him either in death or in life.

However, this could be a double-edged sword.  It could lead to fanaticism.  Many think they are dying for the love of God but in truth they are dying for an ideology.  How do we know?  If we die for the love of God, it should also be for the love of humanity.  If we love God, we will also love our fellowmen.  Only those whose love is expressed in non-violence, like the seven sons and their mother, truly die for the love of God.  In the case of the terrorists, although they claim to be doing it for God, it is hard to believe that a God of love and justice would endorse such cruel and insane violence committed in His name towards innocent people.  So a confused love for God could lead to destruction rather than giving life to others.

Thirdly, martyrs die for their faith in view of a better future in store for them.  Like St Paul, they know that they belong to God.  “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”  (Rom 14:7-9)  The seven sons and the mother lived and died for this conviction.  This was what the mother told the youngest son who was about to be executed.  “I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way.  Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.”

Even the worldly seductions of the king could not appeal to their conviction that a greater life is ahead of them.  Of course, many of us, unlike the seven sons, are not willing to give our lives to God because we are not too convinced of a life hereafter.  Many are living in a world filled with despair for the future.  This explains why this hopelessness of the future has led many to live only for this life and grab all that they can before they vanish into thin air and life is no more.

Again, this principle of hope for the future can be used for good or for evil.  It is true that this earthly life is passing but it is not evil as well.  Creation and its gifts are good and are meant to be appreciated and used well.  Yet, we must also realize that these are passing things in life.  We cannot cling on to them.  It is equally true of sufferings as well.  These too will also pass.  But the danger is that misguided martyrs are given a pie in the sky.  They are told that if they die for God and kill the infidels, they will be rewarded with all the things in heaven that they could not enjoy in this earthly life.  Such earthly conception of heaven is but a postponed or delayed gratification.  Rather, what we have been promised in heaven is a life of joy, love, peace and communion.  This is what brings us true joy and is not to be measured simply in terms of material rewards.  When there is love, we need few things to be happy.  When there is a lack of love, we need things to fill up the vacuum in our hearts.

Today, in the parable of the talents, we are all called to account for the gifts that the Lord has given to us.   How we use our gifts of faith and the resources God has given to us will determine our happiness in this life and hereafter.  Our happiness is not just in the next life but it must already begin here and now.  We must be careful of a theology of hope in the next world rooted in a negative outlook of this world.  Rather, we must learn to enjoy life and make the best of it in whatever we do.  Eternal joy comes at the end of death but it is already here as a foretaste.  We must be careful that we do not fall into the mistake of the servant who kept the talent for fear of taking risks.  By not living his life to the fullest by taking risks and being creative and proactive in loving God and his fellowmen, he was stripped of everything that he had.  But if we are like the other two servants, ever ready to invest whatever the Lord has given to them, we will be given great responsibilities and opportunities to develop ourselves.  Work is not a punishment from God but a privilege for us to develop our minds and keep our bodies fit for life, love and service.  In this way, even as we work, we also enjoy God’s love and life.  This is what it means to serve God our King.  We are called to establish His kingdom of love, compassion and life on this earth as a foretaste of the future life that is to come.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Saint Cecilia
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In the fourth century a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian was written in glorification of virginal life with the purpose of taking the place of then-popular sensual romances.

Consequently, until better evidence is produced, we must conclude that St. Cecilia was not known or venerated in Rome until about the time when Pope Gelasius (496) introduced her name into his Sacramentary.

It is said that there was a church dedicated to St. Cecilia in Rome in the fifth century, in which Pope Symmachus held a council in 500.

The story of St. Cecilia is not without beauty or merit. She is said to have been quite close to God and prayed often:

In the city of Rome there was a virgin named Cecilia, who came from an extremely rich family and was given in marriage to a youth named Valerian. She wore sackcloth next to her skin, fasted, and invoked the saints, angels, and virgins, beseeching them to guard her virginity

During her wedding ceremony she was said to have sung in her heart to God and before the consummation of her nuptials, she told her husband she had taken a vow of virginity and had an angel protecting her. Valerian asked to see the angel as proof, and Cecilia told him he would have eyes to see once he traveled to the third milestone on the Via Appia (Appian Way) and was baptized by Pope Urbanus.

St. Cecilia by Guido Reni. She is the patron of musicians!

Following his baptism, Valerian returned to his wife and found an angel at her side. The angel then crowned Cecilia with a chaplet of rose and lily and when Valerian’s brother, Tibertius, heard of the angel and his brother’s baptism, he also was baptized and together the brothers dedicated their lives to burying the saints who were murdered each day by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius.

Both brothers were eventually arrested and brought before the prefect where they were executed after they refused to offer a sacrifice to the gods.

As her husband and brother-in-law buried the dead, St. Cecilia spent her time preaching and in her lifetime was able to convert over four hundred people, most of whom were baptized by Pope Urban.

Cecilia was later arrested and condemned to be suffocated in the baths. She was shut in for one night and one day, as fires were heaped up and stoked to a terrifying heat – but Cecilia did not even sweat.

When Almachius heard this, he sent an executioner to cut off her head in the baths.

The executioner struck her three times but was unable to decapitate her so he left her bleeding and she lived for three days. Crowds came to her and collected her blood while she preached to them or prayed. On the third day she died and was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.

St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music, because she heard heavenly music in her heart when she was married, and is represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand.

Officials exhumed her body in 1599 and found her to be incorrupt, the first of all incurrupt saints. She was draped in a silk veil and wore a gold embroidered dress. Officials only looked through the veil in an act of holy reverence and made no further examinations. They also reported a “mysterious and delightful flower-like odor which proceeded from the coffin.”

St. Cecilia’s remains were transferred to Cecilia’s titular church in Trastevere and placed under the high altar.

In 1599 Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, nephew of Pope Gregory XIV, rebuilt the church of St. Cecilia.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=34

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, November 21, 2017 — “I will prove myself worthy of my old age and I will leave to the young a noble example.”

November 20, 2017

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 498

Reading 1 2 MC 6:18-31

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner,
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws.”Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,
he groaned and said:
“The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him.”
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.

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Responsrial Psalm PS 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (6b) The Lord upholds me.
O LORD, how many are my adversaries!
Many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
R. The Lord upholds me.
But you, O LORD, are my shield;
my glory, you lift up my head!
When I call out to the LORD,
he answers me from his holy mountain.
R. The Lord upholds me.
When I lie down in sleep,
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.
R. The Lord upholds me.

Alleluia 1 JN 4:10B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us, and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Art: Zacchaeus – The Tax Collector Who Turned to Jesus

Gospel LK 19:1-10

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

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Commentary on Luke 19:1-10 From Living Space

Today we have one of the most delightful stories of Luke and indeed of the whole Gospel. It follows immediately – and not by accident – after the healing of a blind man as Jesus enters the city of Jericho, to the northeast of Jerusalem.

The central figure is Zacchaeus, who, Luke tells us, was a chief tax collector and a rich man. This is the only reference in Scripture to a ‘chief tax collector’. It probably means he was responsible for a district or region with other tax collectors answerable to him. The region at this time was prosperous so more tax collectors were needed.

Knowing he was a chief tax collector it was hardly necessary to mention that he was wealthy. Tax collectors were studiously avoided and despised by their fellow-Jews. They made contracts with the Roman authorities to collect taxes and made sure that they got from the public what today we might call generous “commissions”. After all, it was a kind of business and they had to make a living. And, if an ordinary tax collector could do well, it is easy to imagine how much a chief tax collector might make. One commentator refers to him as a ‘creep’.

Apart from forcing people to part with their hard-earned money, they were seen as traitors to their own people by taking their money and giving it to the pagan Roman colonialists occupying their country. One can see how Jesus could cause great offence to the religious-minded by sitting down and eating with such ‘scum’.

Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was in town and he was very curious to see what Jesus was like. Already we have here an echo of yesterday’s story, because Zacchaeus too wants to see. However, at this stage, it seems to be only a kind of curiosity. He just wanted to get a glimpse of a person of whom he undoubtedly heard people talk. Maybe he had even heard that Jesus had a name for mixing with people like himself.

Because he was a small man (in more ways than one?), he could not see over the large crowd of people surrounding Jesus. So he ran on ahead and climbed into the branches of a sycamore tree to get a better look. A sycamore tree can grow to a height of 10 to 15 metres, with a short trunk and spreading branches and hence easy to climb and easily capable of carrying a grown man.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but he did not expect that Jesus would see him. He must have practically fallen out of the tree from surprise when he heard Jesus look in his direction and say, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. I want to stay in your house today.” What beautiful words! And yet it is a self-invitation that Jesus constantly extends to us. It is right there in our First Reading for today: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Is my house ready, is my door open to let him in?

Zacchaeus could hardly believe his ears. He rushed down and delightedly welcomed Jesus into his house. Immediately those around began to grumble. “He has gone to a sinner’s house as a guest.” Of all the people in Jericho, Jesus picks the house of the one person in the town who was regarded as a social and religious outcast.

But, as usual, Jesus sees beyond the public image to the real person. Zacchaeus may be a chief tax collector but he is ready to give half of his property to the poor and, if he has cheated anyone, he promises to pay them back four times what they lost. Fourfold restitution was demanded by Jewish law, but in one case only, the theft of a sheep (Exodus 21:37). Roman law demanded such restitution from all convicted thieves. Zacchaeus, however, promises to pay in any case of injustice for which he has been responsible.

Some commentators read the passage as saying that Zacchaeus has already been making these forms of restitution and sharing his wealth with the poor. In which case, Jesus is able to see beyond the stereotype which makes Zacchaeus the tax collector an outcast. He was not going to the house of a sinner but to that of a good man. Jesus always sees the real person and goes beyond the label. Can we always claim to do the same?

Whatever the interpretation, we can see that, though Zacchaeus may have belonged to a discredited profession, his heart was in the right place, in the place of compassion and justice.

And so Jesus tells Zacchaeus that “salvation”, wholeness and integrity has come to his house. In spite of his despised profession he is “a descendant of Abraham” because his behaviour is totally in harmony with the requirements of the Law and in fact goes well beyond it. For Jesus, too, no social status closes the door to salvation. For this is what it means to be a “son of Abraham”, namely, to be a loving, caring person full of compassion and a sense of justice and not just a keeper of ritualistic observances.

Zacchaeus, who had originally just wanted to have an external glimpse of Jesus, has now come to see Jesus in a much deeper sense. A seeing that changed his whole life as it did that of the beggar in yesterday’s story.

Further, in answer to the accusation that he has entered the house of a sinner, Jesus says, “The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.” As he said on another occasion, the healthy have no need of a physician but only the sick. Jesus is the good Shepherd leaving the well-behaved 99 and going in search of the single one that has gone astray.

As we read this story, there are a number of things we could reflect on. We too want to see Jesus in the deepest possible sense. Only then can we truly become his disciples. We need to hear him saying to us, “I want to stay in your house today.” Let us open the door and welcome him in.

And we need to be careful in judging people from their appearance or their social position or their occupation. As a Church, we could spend a lot more time looking for those who are lost instead of concentrating on serving the already converted. In fact, only when people become active evangelisers themselves can we speak of them as “converted”, as “good Christians”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2333g/

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From The Abbot in the Desert
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

We return to the Gospel from Luke today and meet Zacchaeus, a short man who is the chief tax collector and a wealthy man.  We can note immediately that Zacchaeus is not a proud man.  Think of this short man running ahead of Jesus and climbing a tree to see him.  How undignified and comic!  We can hope that we might have this enthusiasm to know the Lord, to see Jesus.  Jesus never turns people away.  There are times when Jesus tests those who come to see him, such as the foreign woman in the Gospel of Matthew to whom he replies that he cannot give to the dogs food for those at table.  But Jesus knows the people and knows how far He can test them.

We need to  have this enthusiasm of Zacchaeus and the strength of character of the foreign woman when we come seeking Jesus.  Zacchaeus is ready to give a lot (we can note that he does not offer to give up everything!) in order to follow Jesus.  How much are we willing to give to the Lord?  Are we willing to make fools of ourselves so that we can see Jesus?  Are we willing to seek wisdom?

Let us give whatever we can give at this moment, even if it is not yet all!  Let us walk with the Lord and ask Him to help us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Related:

Today’s Gospel is one of our favorites because Zacchaeus “Goes to any length” to get what’s he’s after and what he needs. He even climbs a tree so he can see the Lord…..

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 NOVEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
DEDICATING OURSELVES TO THE LORD WITH MARY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ZECHARIAH 2:14-17MT 12:46-50 ]

This feast was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century.  A Church was constructed to honour this aspect of the life of Mary.  Historically, our knowledge of Mary’s presentation in the Temple, as also in her birth, is found only in apocryphal literature.  Such unhistorical accounts, although not considered as inspired scriptures, do offer us insights into the life of Mary and the contemplation of the Church on her role in the economy of salvation.   In the Protoevangelium of James, it was recounted that Anna and Joachim dedicated Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old in fulfillment of the promise made to God when Anna was still childless.  This act of consecration of course reminds us of Hannah offering Samuel back to God at the Temple after she had weaned him. (cf 1 Sm 1:21-28)

Why is this feast so important in the eyes of the Church?  How does this celebration help us to live out our faith?  Even though this feast lacks historicity, it serves as an encouragement and model for us to live out our faith as Mary did.  It tells us that Mary from the very beginning of her life was dedicated to God.  Her life was lived in consecration to God at every moment.  This is what the Lord said of her.  “’Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”   Mary’s life was lived in such a way that she was obedient to the Word of God.  We too are called to consecrate our lives to God. 

This is possible first and foremost if we have good parents like Joachim and Anne. For parents, it means that their children do not belong to them.  Many of us think that our children are our property.  We can do as we like with them.  We form them according to our image and likeness.  We make them choose a career that we ourselves like, a career that brings lots of money, fame, prestige and power.   We think that they will be happy in that manner.  When we form them to be worldly people, we have failed in our responsibility.   The truth is that they are God’s children, not ours.  We are just the care-givers and the guardians like St Joseph who looked after our Lord.  The children were given to us as gifts from God.  But the gift of parenthood entails that we raise our children to be children of God.  “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.  And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”  (1 Jn 3:1-3)

As parents, our task is to help them to become true children of God. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.”  (Rom 8:29)  In whatever, they do in life, they are called to become like Christ in their way of life, according to their profession and status in life.  What is important is not that they become rich and famous but whether they become loving and generous people who live for others and not for themselves.  “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”  (1 Jn 3:16)

Parents who wish their children to be dedicated to do God’s work according to their vocation in life must therefore imbue them with the right gospel values.  It is not enough for parents to care only about their academic education and other related skills.  What is even more important to look after is their faith and moral values.  If their life is not founded on God and morality, whatever they do will be for themselves and not for others.

Today, we thank Joachim and Anne for their initiative and example of offering Mary to the Lord from a tender age.  We can be certain that the faith and lives of Joachim and Anne were exemplary for Mary.  She lived in the ambience of God’s love mediated through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.  Whilst it is true that Mary was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to consecrate herself to God, whether at the Temple or gradually in her life, it was also the good example of her parents that helped her to desire to love God and serve Him all her life.  Whether we like it or not, parents and adults are mentors for our young people.  We can either be a scandal to them and their faith or be an inspiration.  This is the power of influence of parents and leaders.  We can either influence them for good or for evil, depending on how we live our lives.

As a consequence, Mary became a greater Temple than any other earthly temple constructed by men.  Because of her availability to the Lord, the Lord came to dwell within her.  She was the daughter of Zion whom the prophet said, “Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion; for I am coming to dwell in the middle of you – it is the Lord who speaks.”  She carried the child Jesus in her womb as His tabernacle. John the Baptist leapt for joy when he encountered the Lord in the same way King David leapt for joy when he met the Lord in the Ark of the Covenant.  “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord.”  (2 Sm 6:16 cf Lk 1:44)  The Lord was with her because of her docility to His love and His will.  To consecrate means to put ourselves at the disposal of the Lord.  That was what she said at the Annunciation.  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)  When we make ourselves available to the Lord, He will always do great things for us. “He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”  (Lk 1:48f)  The more we abandon ourselves to the Lord, the more He will work in and through us.

Not only did she become a Temple of God, Mary also became a channel of grace to the Lord, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.  “Many nations will join the Lord, on that day; they will become his people.  But he will remain among you, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.  But the Lord will hold Judah as his portion in the Holy Land, and again make Jerusalem his very own. Let all mankind be silent before the Lord! For he is awakening and is coming from his holy dwelling.”  Through Mary, many have been brought to the Lord Jesus.  She continues to play a critical role in making us all children of God.  Her blessing was not for herself but given to us, her children, as well.  If, like Mary, we follow the will of God, we too become His mother, brothers and sisters, as Jesus promised.   So if we want our children to also be channels of God’s love to others, let us groom them well according to the gospel values.  Most of all, we must allow them to encounter the Lord so that His Spirit can fill them with His love.

In the final analysis, we must realize that holiness of life is not just our effort but basically, it is the work of God in us.  In celebrating the feast of the Presentation of Mary, we are saying that the holiness of Mary’s life was the work of the Holy Spirit in her, beginning with her Immaculate Conception to her birth and continuing through her early childhood to her teenage years and until her death.  The Holy Spirit was with her to keep her holy and faithful to the Word of God.   This is the power of the grace of God in transforming Mary to be a channel of grace to our Lord.  If we, especially priests and religious, offer ourselves to the Lord as Mary did, then God will also make use of us for His glory and for His people.

Let us all, regardless of whether we are parents, priests, religious or children, imitate Mary in consecrating our lives, plans and ambition to the Lord.  Let us live for the Lord and His people.   Let us live in Him so that He can live in us, as St Paul says “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”  (cf Gal 2:20).  Only in total dedication and self-oblation with Mary, can the Lord use us mightily for His service.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, November 20, 2017

November 19, 2017

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 497

Reading 1 1 MC 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-63

[From the descendants of Alexander’s officers]
there sprang a sinful offshoot, Antiochus Epiphanes,
son of King Antiochus, once a hostage at Rome.
He became king in the year one hundred and thirty seven
of the kingdom of the Greeks.In those days there appeared in Israel
men who were breakers of the law,
and they seduced many people, saying:
“Let us go and make an alliance with the Gentiles all around us;
since we separated from them, many evils have come upon us.”
The proposal was agreeable;
some from among the people promptly went to the king,
and he authorized them to introduce the way of living
of the Gentiles.
Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem
according to the Gentile custom.
They covered over the mark of their circumcision
and abandoned the holy covenant;
they allied themselves with the Gentiles
and sold themselves to wrongdoing.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people,
each abandoning his particular customs.
All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king,
and many children of Israel were in favor of his religion;
they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath.

On the fifteenth day of the month Chislev,
in the year one hundred and forty-five,
the king erected the horrible abomination
upon the altar of burnt offerings
and in the surrounding cities of Judah they built pagan altars.
They also burned incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets.
Any scrolls of the law which they found they tore up and burnt.
Whoever was found with a scroll of the covenant,
and whoever observed the law,
was condemned to death by royal decree.
But many in Israel were determined
and resolved in their hearts not to eat anything unclean;
they preferred to die rather than to be defiled with unclean food
or to profane the holy covenant; and they did die.
Terrible affliction was upon Israel.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:53, 61, 134, 150, 155, 158

R. (see 88) Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Indignation seizes me because of the wicked
who forsake your law.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Though the snares of the wicked are twined about me,
your law I have not forgotten.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Redeem me from the oppression of men,
that I may keep your precepts.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
I am attacked by malicious persecutors
who are far from your law.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
Far from sinners is salvation,
because they seek not your statutes.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.
I beheld the apostates with loathing,
because they kept not to your promise.
R. Give me life, O Lord, and I will do your commands.

Alleluia JN 8:12

R. Allelujia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Art: As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging.

Gospel LK 18:35-43

As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me!”
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Gospel today describes the arrival of Jesus to Jericho. It is the last stop before going up to Jerusalem, where the “Exodus” of Jesus will take place, according to what he announced in his Transfiguration (Lk 9, 31) and along the way up to Jerusalem (Lk 9, 44; 18, 31-33).
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• Luke 18, 35-37: The blind man sitting on the side of the road. “Now it happened that as Jesus drew near to Jericho, there was a blind man sitting on the side of the road begging. When he heard the crowd going past he asked what it was all about. They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by”.
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In the Gospel of Mark, the blind man is called Bartimaeus (Mk 10, 46). Since he was blind, he could not participate in the procession which accompanied Jesus. At that time, there were many blind people in Palestine, because the strong sun which hit the whitened rocky earth hurt the eyes which were not protected.
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• Luke 18, 38-39: The cry of the blind man and the reaction of the people. “Then he began to cry out: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!” He calls Jesus using the title “Son of David”. The catechism of that time taught that the Messiah would be of the descent of David, “Son of David”, a glorious Messiah. Jesus did not like this title. In quoting the Messianic Psalm, he asks himself: “How is it that the Messiah can be the son of David if even David calls him “My Lord?” (Lk 20, 41-44)
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The cry of the blind man bothers the people who accompany Jesus. Because of this, “The people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet. They tried to stop him but he only shouted all the louder, Son of David have pity on me!” Even up to our time the cry of the poor bothers the established society: migrants, beggars, refugees, sick with AIDS, and so many!
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• Luke 18, 40-41: The reaction of Jesus before the cry of the blind man. And what does Jesus do? “Jesus stopped and ordered them to bring the man to him”. Those who wanted to stop the blind man from shouting because this bothered them, now asked by Jesus, are obliged to help the poor man to get to Jesus. The Gospel of Mark adds that the blind man left everything and went to Jesus. He did not have too much; only his mantle.
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That is what he possessed to cover his body (cf. Es 22, ­25-26). That was his security! That was his land! Today, also, Jesus listens to the cry of the poor which, we, many times do not want to hear. “When he came up to Jesus, he asked him: What do you want me to do for you?” It is not sufficient to shout or cry out, it is necessary to know why he is shouting! The blind man answers: “Lord that I may see again”.
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• Luke 18, 42-43: Go! Your faith has saved you! “And Jesus says: Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you“. Immediately he recovered his sight and began to follow Jesus praising God. And all the people, when they saw that, praised God.” The blind man had called Jesus with an idea which was not totally correct, because the title “Son of David” was not completely correct.
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But he had greater faith in Jesus than in his ideas about Jesus. He did not demand anything like Peter did (Mk 8, 32-33). He knew how to give his life accepting Jesus without imposing any conditions. Healing is the fruit of his faith in Jesus. Once he was cured, he follows Jesus and walks along with Him toward Jerusalem.
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In this way he becomes a model disciple for all of us who want “to follow Jesus along the road” toward Jerusalem: to believe more in Jesus and not so much in our ideas about Jesus! In this decision to walk with Jesus is found the source of courage and the seed of the victory on the cross. Because the cross is not something fatal, but it is an experience of God. It is the consequence of the commitment of Jesus, in obedience to the Father, to serve the brothers and not to accept privileges!
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• Faith is a force which transforms the person. The Good News of the Kingdom announced by Jesus was a sort of fertilizer. It made the seed of life hidden in people to grow; that seed hidden like the fire under the ashes of observance without life. Jesus blew on the ashes and the fire lit up. The Kingdom appears and the people rejoice.
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The condition was always the same: to believe in Jesus. The cure of the blind man clarifies a very important aspect of our faith. Even calling Jesus with ideas which are not completely correct, the blind man had faith and he was cured. He was converted; he left everything behind and followed Jesus along the road toward Calvary! The full understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained from a theoretical instruction, but rather from a practical commitment, walking together with Him along the way of service, from Galilee to Jerusalem.
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Anyone who insists in keeping the idea of Peter, that is, of the glorious Messiah without a cross, will understand nothing of Jesus and will not succeed in attaining the attitude of a true disciple of Jesus. Anyone who knows how to believe in Jesus and gives himself (Lk 9, 23-24), anyone who knows how to accept to be last (Lk 22, 26), who knows how to drink the chalice and to carry his/her own cross (Mt 20, 22; Mk 10, 38), this one, like the blind man, even not having ideas completely correct, will succeed “to follow Jesus along the way” (Lk 18, 43). In this certainty of walking together with Jesus is found the source of courage and the seed of victory on the cross.
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Personal questions
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• How do I see and hear the cry of the poor: migrants, Negroes, sick of AIDS, beggars, refugees, and so many others?
• How is my faith: am I more fixed on my ideas about Jesus or on Jesus?
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Concluding prayer
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How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked
and does not take a stand in the path that sinners tread,
nor a seat in company with cynics,
but who delights in the law of Yahweh
and murmurs his law day and night. (Ps 1,1-2)
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From Living Space

Commentary on Matthew 7:21, 24-27

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Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of what true discipleship means. People often confess that they have not said their morning and evening prayers or that they have not been to Mass. Perhaps they should remember the words of today’s Gospel: “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven…”

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On the other hand, those of us who always do say our morning and evening prayers and never miss a Mass also need to remember them. Something more is needed than just being a pray-er. What is needed is that we “do the will of the Father”.

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What is that will? It is that we be filled with the spirit of the Kingdom and work to make that Kingdom a reality in our world. It involves constant outreach beyond ourselves. We have to go to God by finding him present in the world around us and helping others to be aware of that loving presence also. We will not do that by piously calling on God’s name while ignoring the needs of our brothers and sisters. To do that is to build our house on sand.

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That is not to say that prayer is not important. We cannot effectively do God’s work unless we spend time listening to and responding to his Word in times of undisturbed quiet. But our prayer is only genuine when it becomes the spur for us to go out and bring something of God’s love and compassion into our world.

https://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/a1015g/

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The name Maccabee, probably meaning “hammer,” is actually applied in the Books of Maccabees to only one man, Judas, third son of the priest Mattathias and first leader of the revolt against the Seleucid kings who persecuted the Jews (1 Mc 2:4662 Mc 8:51610:116). Traditionally the name has come to be extended to the brothers of Judas, his supporters, and even to other Jewish heroes of the period, such as the seven brothers (2 Mc 7).

The two Books of Maccabees contain independent accounts of events (in part identical) that accompanied the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C. The vigorous reaction to this attempt established for a time the religious and political independence of the Jews.

First Maccabees was written about 100 B.C., in Hebrew, but the original has not come down to us. Instead, we have an early, pre-Christian, Greek translation full of Hebrew idioms. The author, probably a Palestinian Jew, is unknown. He was familiar with the traditions and sacred books of his people and had access to much reliable information on their recent history (from 175 to 134 B.C.). He may well have played some part in it himself in his youth. His purpose in writing is to record the deliverance of Israel that God worked through the family of Mattathias (5:62)—especially through his three sons, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, and his grandson, John Hyrcanus. The writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of Israel’s ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David.

There are seven poetic sections in the book that imitate the style of classical Hebrew poetry: four laments (1:252836402:7133:45), and three hymns of praise of “our fathers” (2:5164), of Judas (3:39), and of Simon (14:415). The doctrine expressed in the book is the customary belief of Israel, without the new developments which appear in 2 Maccabees and Daniel. The people of Israel have been specially chosen by the one true God as covenant-partner, and they alone are privileged to know and worship God, their eternal benefactor and unfailing source of help. The people, in turn, must worship the Lord alone and observe exactly the precepts of the law given to them. The rededication of the Jerusalem Temple described in 4:3659 (see 2 Mc 10:18) is the origin of the Jewish feast of Hanukkah.

Unlike the Second Book of Maccabees, there is no doctrine of individual immortality except in the survival of one’s name and fame, nor does the book express any messianic expectation, though messianic images are applied historically to “the days of Simon” (1 Mc 14:417). In true Deuteronomic tradition, the author insists on fidelity to the law as the expression of Israel’s love for God. The contest which he describes is a struggle, not simply between Jew and Gentile, but between those who would uphold the law and those, Jews or Gentiles, who would destroy it. His severest condemnation goes, not to the Seleucid politicians, but to the lawless apostates among his own people, adversaries of Judas and his brothers, who are models of faith and loyalty.

The first and second Books of Maccabees, though regarded by Jews and Protestants as apocryphal, i.e., not inspired Scripture, because not contained in the Jewish list of books drawn up at the end of the first century A.D., have always been accepted by the Catholic Church as inspired and are called “deuterocanonical” to indicate that they are canonical even though disputed by some.

First Maccabees can be divided as follows:

  1. Crisis and Response (1:12:70)
  2. Leadership of Judas Maccabeus (3:19:22)
  3. Leadership of Jonathan (9:2312:53)
  4. Leadership of Simon (13:116:24)

http://www.usccb.org/bible/1maccabees/0

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 NOVEMBER, 2017, Monday, 33rd Week, Ordinary Time
FOSTERING UNITY IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 MAC 1:10-1541-4354-5762-64PS 119:5361135,150155,158LK 18:35-43 ]

Unity and peace among peoples is one of the most important aspirations of every person and community.  We desire to live in a place and a community where there is fraternal love, concern and charity towards each other.  Without peace, there can be no security, progress and a future for humanity.  But this world is getting more and more divided in spite of globalization, mass media and migration.

What is the real cause of the lack of unity among peoples?  It is the wrong or narrow perception of seeing unity as uniformity.  In the ancient world, where people were of the same tribe, sharing the same culture and same faith, unity was synonomous with uniformity.   The community set the rules and if one wanted to be part of that community, he or she had to abide by the rules.  However, today, with globalization and mass migration, the world is no longer very homogenous.  More and more, people of different cultures, races, languages and faiths are living in the same place.  As such, unity cannot be based simply on uniformity.  Unity must be founded in diversity.  The failure to recognize this principle is the cause of much division and quarrels among peoples in the world.  This was the case of the Jews and the pagan King, Antiochus in today’s first reading.

It is natural for any King or leader to want to protect the unity of the nation or the organization he heads.  This is the primary task of any leader, whether of a country, a religion or an organization.  Promoting peace and security is the task of the government primarily.  Without unity, the country cannot move forward as one.  There will be division, fighting and disorder.  The economy cannot take off and people will always live in suspicion of their neighbours.

The mistake comes about when we think that unity means uniformity, and we try to impose our faith, values and culture on others.  Oftentimes religions, governments and leaders attempt to use force to have everyone adopt the same culture, faith and values so that there is unity.   Such attempts were done in the ancient world.  They thought that it was the way to preserve the unity of the peoples.  That was what King Antiochus sought to do. “Then the king issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each renouncing his particular customs.  All the pagans conformed to the king’s decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the Sabbath.”  This is the mistake of narrow-minded and insecure leaders who are afraid of diversity.

When faith and values are imposed, there is bound to be a negative reaction,  resulting in persecution, retaliation and destruction of lives.  Such enforcement might give an apparent unity in the country but the people will live in fear, resentment and anger.  Any unity would only be a facile unity.  It would be a matter of time before the people would revolt.  There would be no real conversion of heart and mind.  The values, culture and faith would not be subscribed personally by those who disagree.

Unfortunately, those who are weak in their faith, culture or values, succumb easily to such coercive and covert pressures from the institution and from society.  Such people have no values to protect or promote.  They are pragmatic and choose whatever favours them.  This is the outcome of secularisation.

The failure to preserve one’s identity will result in the loss of culture and values.  By giving up one’s practices and values for the sake of uniformity, the community will be impoverished further.  If we do not protect our culture and faith, we have nothing distinctive to offer to the community.   This is where those who insist that unity is based on uniformity fail to realize that unity is stronger when it is based on diversity.  We are afterall, not robots coming out of a factory.

Today, we are called to learn from the lessons of the past.   The only way to promote unity today is to promote the principle of unity in diversity.  We can no longer exclude others who are different from living their own way of life.  Their faith and culture might be quite different from ours, but they too should be given the freedom to practice their faith and live out their culture.   Such diverse cultures and faith need not divide us if we expand our horizon in looking at people who are different from us.

Right from the outset, we must state clearly that Faith must be distinguished from culture even though it is expressed in and through one’s culture.   Faith presupposes a personal encounter with the Sacred, and flowing from such an encounter, we express our love and devotion to God accordingly, using cultural expressions to convey our sentiments and values of our faith.  Consequently, the expressions of faith will vary from culture to culture.  This is the Catholicity of the Church; all members sharing one faith, one baptism and one Lord but celebrating our common love for the Lord in different ways.

Secondly, faith presupposes a personal encounter and a religious experience, without which it is just a set of practices, rituals and customs.  This means that it is not productive to impose faith on others when they do not have a personal encounter with the Sacred.  Just by observing the rules will not change the heart.  That is why religion cannot be imposed but can only be shared and offered as a gift.  Without a personal experience of God, religion can become another ideology rather than a true communion with the Lord.

Thirdly, human culture is the way we express our common values and identity.  This might include faith values but not confined to faith alone.  Most of these are universal human values such as filial piety, respect, devotion and common identity expressed in customs, attire and dressing.   Some of the cultural expressions could be adopted even by others and are also consistent with our Faith values as well.

When we see religion and culture from this perspective, then the second principle of unity is that we must foster what is common among the different religions and cultures.   We must be proactive in appreciating what is good, holy and noble in other’s faith and culture.  In recognizing the goodness in the faith of others and the values being promoted, our own faith and values are reinforced and strengthened.  So people with diverse faith and culture should not be seen as threats to us but they can enrich our lives.

But it also means that we are honest with our beliefs and values.  We need to recognize and acknowledge our differences.  We all have our sensitivity to some issues.  Because we experience the Sacred differently and how God works in our lives, our views of God will necessarily be coloured by our experiences.   In such situations, we need to articulate our views clearly without condemning others who think differently.  But we should be able to acknowledge our differences even whilst we want to reinforce what is common among ourselves.

The third principle of unity is that we need to engage each other in the triple dialogue.  Dialogue is the key to a better understanding and appreciation of each other’s position and where we are coming from.  We should not be afraid of dialogue if we all seek the truth.  This dialogue takes place on three levels.  Firstly, we should have a dialogue of life.  This is where we share our culture and our common love for humanity, in helping the poor and being involved in works of charity.  Through sharing our culture and values, we can inspire and edify each other as well.  The second level of dialogue is the dialogue of faith.   This dialogue should begin with the sharing of faith experiences and encounters.  This is a non-threatening approach because it is a personal sharing.  One can either listen in faith or simply be polite even when we doubt.  For those who are trained in theology, they could then find some less controversial doctrines that they could discuss freely.

Finally, we need to be strong and persevere in building unity.  Like the blind man in the gospel, we must desire to see the truth about ourselves.   When Jesus asked him, “’What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Sir,’ he replied ‘let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight. Your faith has saved you.’”   Unlike those disciples following Jesus who thought that they knew Jesus, it took a blind man to confess faith in Him. “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.”  So like the blind man, we must resist attempts to destroy unity because of fanaticism, narrow-mindedness, intolerance and pride.  Let us not allow the Lord to pass us by without our coming to meet Him.  Only when we see so much goodness in other religions and cultures, can we then together praise God and follow Him.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, November 18, 2017 — He will see to it that justice is done for them speedily… — “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”

November 17, 2017

Saturday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 496

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Reading 1 WIS 18:14-16; 19:6-9

When peaceful stillness compassed everything
and the night in its swift course was half spent,
Your all-powerful word, from heaven’s royal throne
bounded, a fierce warrior, into the doomed land,
bearing the sharp sword of your inexorable decree.
And as he alighted, he filled every place with death;
he still reached to heaven, while he stood upon the earth.For all creation, in its several kinds, was being made over anew,
serving its natural laws,
that your children might be preserved unharmed.
The cloud overshadowed their camp;
and out of what had before been water, dry land was seen emerging:
Out of the Red Sea an unimpeded road,
and a grassy plain out of the mighty flood.
Over this crossed the whole nation sheltered by your hand,
after they beheld stupendous wonders.
For they ranged about like horses,
and bounded about like lambs,
praising you, O Lord! their deliverer.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 105:2-3, 36-37, 42-43

R. (5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.
Then he struck every first born throughout their land,
the first fruits of all their manhood.
And he led them forth laden with silver and gold,
with not a weakling among their tribes.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.
For he remembered his holy word
to his servant Abraham.
And he led forth his people with joy;
with shouts of joy, his chosen ones.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done!
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  SEE 2 THES 2:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God has called us through the Gospel,
to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 18:1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable
about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.
He said, “There was a judge in a certain town
who neither feared God nor respected any human being.
And a widow in that town used to come to him and say,
‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’
For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought,
‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me.'”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says.
Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones
who call out to him day and night?
Will he be slow to answer them?
I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily.
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

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From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert

The Gospel today is from Saint Luke and tells the story of a widow dealing with an unjust judge.  As we hear the details of this judge, we understand why the widow is upset.  The judge does not fear God and does not respect any human being!  There really is no hope for the widow.  We don’t know the details of the widow’s case which she brings before the judge.  She is not asking that the judge favor her, only that he render a just decision.  This widow is relentless!  She just keeps pestering the judge until he says to himself:  I better give a just decision lest she finally come and strike me.

This is almost a comic situation:  a strong and unjust judge who fears a widow who might come and beat him up!  Luke’s Gospel tells us that “Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”

How often we get weary of praying when God does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to answer them!  How slow we are to recognize that God knows better than we what is truly good for us!  How difficult it is to remain praying for what we think is right when nothing good seems to happen to us and when we sense that God has abandoned us!

God never abandons any of us but instead is always with us, seeking to form us as wonderful and loving human beings who have the strength to do what is right and good.  To form anyone requires that we learn how to persevere, how to keep going in the midst of any difficulties, how to accept that if we persevere and keep trying, eventually we see the hand of God present and his loving presence beside us.

My sisters and brothers, let us not be spoiled children who only want our own desires!  Let us grow into women and men who are strong and seek only what God wants and who are willing to suffer for the love of God and the love of others.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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The Parable of the Persistent Widow

By Fr. Tommy Lane

We pray every day and the importance of prayer is emphasized in the Scriptures today. In the first reading (Ex 17:8-13) Moses holding up his arms is an Old Testament gesture for prayer. As long as Moses holds up his arms in prayer everything goes well. When Moses no longer holds up his arms in prayer there are problems. I think we can also see Moses holding up his arms in prayer as anticipating Christ holding up his arms in prayer on the Cross winning the battle over evil and sin for us.

In the Gospel today (Luke 18:1-8) Jesus teaches a parable about the importance of constant prayer. The widow in the parable receives her request because she was persistent and we ought to be equally constant in prayer. There is some humor in the Greek that is not evident in the English translation; the judge gives in to the widow because if he doesn’t he fears she may give him a black eye (ὑπωπιάζῃ Luke 18:5). Jesus uses a metaphor from boxing to make his point about the need to continue in prayer. Be as persistent as a boxer in the ring when it comes to prayer. Jesus gives a second teaching in the parable. If an unjust judge answers the pleas of a widow how much more will God answer our prayers. “Very well” you might say, “but what about unanswered prayer?” This is always a mystery that we leave ultimately in the hands of God because we believe that prayer is always answered although perhaps not in the way we have hoped. However God sees the overall plan and knows what is best and we may sometimes have to wait until the next life to see that overall plan and understand that God knew better. Luke demonstrates this when he writes that the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13) whereas in Matthew’s Gospel (7:11) we read that the Father will give good things to those who ask. The important thing is to persevere in prayer. Today’s parable is the second one Jesus teaches in Luke’s Gospel on the necessity of prayer. Earlier Jesus told a parable about a man going to his friend in the middle of night to ask for bread and even though at first the friend may not want to get up if he persists his friend will get up and give him the bread (Luke 11:5-8). Next Sunday we will hear another parable on prayer, the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), reminding us that our prayer is to be humble.

Prayer is very important in Luke’s Gospel. In Luke’s Gospel we see Jesus in prayer more often than in the other Gospels. Obviously prayer was important in Luke’s life but we can say that Luke is teaching us that prayer was central in the life of Jesus and ought to be central in our lives too. The following instances of Jesus in prayer are only in Luke. Jesus was praying after his baptism when the heavens opened (Luke 3:21). After the cure of the leper Jesus withdrew to the wilderness and prayed(Luke 5:16). Jesus spent all night on the hills in prayer before he chose the Twelve (Luke 6:12-16). Jesus was praying alone when he asked the disciples “Who do the people say I am?” (Luke 9:18-22). Eight days later he took Peter, James and John and went up on the mountain to pray(Luke 9:28) and while praying he was transfigured (Luke 9:29). Jesus was praying when his disciples asked him to teach them to pray so he taught them the “our Father”, the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-4). Therefore in Luke the Lord’s Prayer has a special context; it arises out of Jesus’ own prayer. Jesus prayed for Simon that his faith might not fail (Luke 22:32). Only Luke tells us that Jesus prayed for his crucifiers (Luke 23:34) and as he died committed his spirit into the hands of Father (Luke 23:46). In Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, we see the Church at prayer many times. So the disciples in Acts are doing what Jesus the master did in the Gospel. Once again I think we can see this as Luke teaching us. Prayer was central in Jesus’ life and ought to be central in our lives also.

How do we pray? For our meditations and Holy Hours we make good use of Sacred Scripture to aid us in our prayer. Therefore our second reading today reminds us of the importance of Sacred Scripture:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

The importance of Sacred Scripture was emphasized by St. Jerome the patron saint of Scripture study who wrote, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Dei Verbum 21 of Vatican II, and the Catechism (§103) state, “In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.” So when we use Sacred Scripture to aid our prayer, our Father comes to meet us and talks with us.

Prayer was central in the life of Jesus as we see especially in the Gospel of Luke. That centrality of prayer continues in the life of the disciples in Acts. Luke is teaching us that prayer is to be central in our lives because it was central in the life of Jesus. Jesus teaches the Parable of the Persistent Widow about the importance of constant prayer. We are to be as constant in prayer as that widow, even to the point of persistence like a boxer in the ring, and if the unjust judge answered that widow’s request how much more will our heavenly Father answer us.

http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/year_c/29.htm

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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18 NOVEMBER 2017
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18 NOVEMBER, 2017, Saturday, 32nd Week, Ordinary Time
FAITH IN SEEKING THE JUSTICE OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Wis 18:14-1619:6-9Ps 105:2-3,36-37,42-43Lk 18:1-8]

We can easily identify with the woman in today’s gospel who was seeking justice.  This widow went to the judge and pleaded, “I want justice from you against my enemy!”  The injustice against her must have been grave, considering that in those days widows and orphans were the most vulnerable of all peoples.  They had no security and place in society.  They were often taken advantage of and treated unfairly.

This is perhaps true for many of us who suffer injustices.  Every day, we hear stories of people getting hurt because of perceived injustices in the way their case is handled.  This can involve financial remuneration, breaking of contracts, slander, injustice at the work place, discrimination, abuses of all sorts.   Justice is what every person seeks.   Without justice, there can be no love or unity.  Resentment will grow and this will lead to acts of retaliation.

Yet, the truth is that justice sought is not always found, or appear to have been found.  Those who seek justice often feel that they have not been given the right redress.  Often, both parties cannot agree on what is the just and the right thing.  Mediation is one of the most difficult tasks when there are differences in opinion on what is a just solution.  Everyone is crying foul.  At the end of the day, human justice is hard to come by.  No decision, even by the courts, can fully satisfy those who seek justice, unless the case is so obvious.  The winner will always feel that he has won too little, and the loser, too much.

Very often when justice is not rendered fairly, those who have no more options left would cry out to God for justice, like the widow seeking the help of the judge.  We expect that God, who is fair and just, will intervene to bring justice for us.  Alas, often God too appears to be deaf to our cries, like the judge.  He does not intervene and bring to task the evil, wicked and unjust people.  He seems to be oblivious to what we are going through.  As a consequence, we direct our anger and resentment at God.  We feel that God is not fair.

As Jesus remarked, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”  Will we continue to have faith in God even when we suffer injustice?  Can we still believe in the justice of God when everything we experience by human reckoning seems rather unjust?  This is the test of faith.  This was the same experience that Jesus went through in His life.  For all the good that He did, He was betrayed, unjustly condemned as a political prisoner, and put to death on the cross.   So too the apostles and the early Christians went through the same unjust persecutions for their faith in Christ.   Yet, they did not give up faith in God.  On the contrary, they rested their case in God whom they believed to be just and faithful to them.  They did not become resentful or blamed God for the injustices they suffered.  On the contrary, they found it to be a great privilege to suffer for the injustices of men.

What is the secret to suffering injustice as a Christian?  Firstly, we must never doubt the justice of God.  The first reading from the book of Wisdom speaks of the sovereignty of God over His creation.  “Carrying your unambiguous command like a sharp sword, he stood, and filled the universe with death; he touched the sky, yet trod the earth. For, to keep your children from all harm, the whole creation, obedient to your commands, was once more, and newly, fashioned in its nature.”  God is in control of the whole of creation.  Nothing is outside His providence.   He is not a retired architect but He continues to sustain creation.

Secondly, God does effect justice on earth, when He determines it fitting.  In the responsorial psalm, we saw how God acted for His people.  “Remember the wonders the Lord has done. O sing to him, sing his praise; tell all his wonderful works! Be proud of his holy name, let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice.  He struck all the first-born in their land, the finest flower of their sons. He led out Israel with silver and gold. In his tribes were none who fell behind. For he remembered his holy word, which he gave to Abraham his servant. So he brought out his people with joy, his chosen ones with shouts of rejoicing.”  At times, God does act to rescue His people from suffering, injustices and harm.

Thirdly, sometimes, in His wisdom, He delays justice, as Jesus tells us. He said, “You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily.”   In many situations, there is a right time for God to intervene.  Speedy resolution does not mean it must happen immediately.  God in His wisdom and foresight knows when to intervene and resolve the situation.  When God acts, He acts decisively to restore the situation.  The truth is that in life situations, we need to ensure that the factors are right before we act.  So what is an apparent delay is actually prudence and wisdom.   It is just like an egg that is about to hatch.  If we are impatient and break the egg before the living creature is properly formed, we will only hurt it because it will come out deformed.  Hence, we need to be patient and trust that God will act in His own time and at the right time.   We must rely on His wisdom rather than our judgement.

Fourthly, often justice might not be possible in this world.  It could only come in the next life. St Ambrose wrote, “The Lord allowed death to make its way into our world so that guilt should come to an end; but lest human nature should perish by death he ordained the resurrection of the dead.  Thus, by death guilt should have an end, by the resurrection, human nature should endure for ever.  What is death after all but the burial of vice, the flowering of goodness?  Hence, the words of scripture, ‘Let my soul die in the souls of the just’, that is, let it be buried, with them and so slough off its own vice and be clothed in the grace of the saints who carry round the mortification of Christ in their own bodies and souls.”

Indeed, often judgement comes only at the end of life.  The question is, do we trust God sufficiently to surrender our judgement to Him?  How then do we hold fast to our faith when we suffer unjustly without justice done to us?   “For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.  If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pt 2:19-24)  We are called to follow the way of our Lord who suffered for the conversion of sinners.  It is unjust suffering that can change the hearts of evil men.  When we retaliate, we will only create more hostility.

St Paul wrote, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:17-21)  Indeed, we must persist in doing good even when we feel there is injustice done to us, especially by our loved ones and our superiors.  We will continue to love and never give up doing good.

With St Paul’s words of encouragement, we keep our focus on doing what is right.  “Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.  For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”  (1 Pt 3:16-18)   “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”  (Gal 6:9)   God will eventually restore our rights and bring justice either in this world or in the next.  But everything will be done according to His divine wisdom and plan.  So let us never be discouraged but keep on praying for strength and wisdom to do His holy will.

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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, November 17, 2017 — Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it

November 16, 2017

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious
Lectionary: 495

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Lot’s wife

Reading 1 WIS 13:1-9

All men were by nature foolish who were in ignorance of God,
and who from the good things seen did not succeed in knowing him who is,
and from studying the works did not discern the artisan;
But either fire, or wind, or the swift air,
or the circuit of the stars, or the mighty water,
or the luminaries of heaven, the governors of the world, they considered gods.
Now if out of joy in their beauty they thought them gods,
let them know how far more excellent is the Lord than these;
for the original source of beauty fashioned them.
Or if they were struck by their might and energy,
let them from these things realize how much more powerful is he who made them.
For from the greatness and the beauty of created things
their original author, by analogy, is seen.
But yet, for these the blame is less;
For they indeed have gone astray perhaps,
though they seek God and wish to find him.
For they search busily among his works,
but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair.
But again, not even these are pardonable.
For if they so far succeeded in knowledge
that they could speculate about the world,
how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:2-3, 4-5AB

R. (2a) The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge.
R. The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.
R. The heavens proclaim the glory of God.

Alleluia LK 21:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 17:26-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be in the days of the Son of Man;
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage up to the day
that Noah entered the ark,
and the flood came and destroyed them all.
Similarly, as it was in the days of Lot:
they were eating, drinking, buying,
selling, planting, building;
on the day when Lot left Sodom,
fire and brimstone rained from the sky to destroy them all.
So it will be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.
On that day, someone who is on the housetop
and whose belongings are in the house
must not go down to get them,
and likewise one in the field
must not return to what was left behind.
Remember the wife of Lot.
Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it,
but whoever loses it will save it.
I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed;
one will be taken, the other left.
And there will be two women grinding meal together;
one will be taken, the other left.”
They said to him in reply, “Where, Lord?”
He said to them, “Where the body is,
there also the vultures will gather.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

17 NOVEMBER, 2017, Friday, 32nd Week, Ordinary Time

FINDING GOD IN OUR LIVES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Wis 13:1-9Ps 19:2-5Lk 17:26-37 ]

The gospel is a continuation of yesterday’s gospel when the Pharisees asked the Lord when the Kingdom of God would come.  As we approach the end of the year, our thoughts are on the final days of our lives on earth.  When will the final judgement happen?  Such questions are speculative.  The answer of Jesus is clear, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”  In other words, when the conditions are present, there the kingdom of God will appear.  Like the vultures that are drawn by a carcass, so too when the situation is appropriate, the Lord will appear.  What, then, are these conditions for the Kingdom of God to come?

Right from the outset, we must affirm that God’s kingdom is already present in creation.  The psalmist declares, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands. Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message.  No speech, no word, no voice is heard yet their span extends through all the earth, their words to the utmost bounds of the world.”   Indeed, the whole of creation speaks of the glory, the power and the reign of God.

Unfortunately, three groups of people fail to recognize the presence of God’s rule in His creation.  The book of wisdom speaks firstly about those who are proud and arrogant.  “Naturally stupid are all men who have not known God and who, from the good things that are seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is, or, by studying the works, have failed to recognize the Artificer.”   St Paul wrote the same judgement against them.  He said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (Rom 1:18-20)

The second group of people are those who are bewitched by the beauty of this world.  Instead of going deeper into the source and origin of creation, they remain on the level of creation.  Some are so taken up at the awesomeness of creation that they turn them into gods. “Fire however, or wind, or the swift air, the sphere of the stars, impetuous water, heaven’s lamps, are what they have held to be the gods who govern the world.”  What they should do is to go beyond the gifts of creation and direct their thoughts on the one who created them.  “Small blame, however, attaches to these men, for perhaps they only go astray in their search for God and their eagerness to find him; living among his works, they strive to comprehend them and fall victim to appearances, seeing so much beauty.  Even so, they are not to be excused: if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?”  This is reiterated by St Paul, “So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.”  (Rom 1:20-23)

There is the third group of people who miss out the presence of God.  They are so engrossed in the mundane things of this world that they have become slaves of this passing world.  In the gospel, Jesus warned the Jews how the kingdom of God would come; “It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all. It will be the same when the day comes for the Son of Man to be revealed.”  The people of Sodom were eating, merry making, living a licentious life, slaves of their passion to the things of this world especially the sin of the flesh, that they were consumed by them.  When the things of this world possess us, we lose our focus and we live the life of an animal, without meaning, purpose and direction.

How then can we find the presence of God in our lives?  It is to be conscious that we are already in God’s kingdom.  The author of wisdom encourages us to go beyond the things of this world to look for the author of creation. “If, charmed by their beauty, they have taken things for gods, let them know how much the Lord of these excels them, since the very Author of beauty has created them. And if they have been impressed by their power and energy, let them deduce from these how much mightier is he that has formed them, since through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.”  Indeed, there are so many atheists and non-believers who have visited our great and majestic churches and basilicas in many parts of the world, especially in Europe.  But they just get caught up with the beauty and the architecture, failing to go beyond the beauty of human hands to the author of all beauty, God Himself.

Secondly, God can be found in daily life if we are attentive to what we are doing.  Jesus said, “As it was in Noah’s day, so will it also be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the Flood came and destroyed them all.”   God comes to us where we are, whether we are eating, drinking, working or celebrating.  If we open our eyes, we will be grateful to God for the food we have, the work that gives us meaning and purpose; and the joy of celebrating love with others.   We just have to be fully attentive and available to God who comes to us through our daily events.  Unfortunately, many of us enjoy these gifts without being grateful, working without focus and passion; and celebrating without appreciating the presence of others.

Thirdly, God can be found also in intimacy and friendship.  “I tell you, on that night two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.”  Being with our loved ones and friends, working and celebrating together help us to discover God in and through each other.  Our loved ones can give us much joy and mediate to us the presence of God  in our lives.  Indeed, it is in giving and receiving that God’s presence and joy is felt.  This is why the Lord told His people, “When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife. Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe.”   We must not allow our possessions to hinder us from loving and giving ourselves to each other.  Only when we are ready to surrender our lives and our things for the good of others, will we be able to preserve them.  This is the irony of life.  We retain what we give away.  By giving away our possessions, we find love and joy.

However, in the final analysis, Jesus warns us that all these are just the foretaste of the kingdom.  Nothing on this earth can last.  Not our possessions, neither even earthly ties.  When the day comes, we have to leave our worldly possessions behind; even our loved ones.   We cannot cling to the things of this world, not even earthly friendships.  Unless we let go, we will not be able to develop a stronger and more intense spiritual relationship with our loved ones whom we will leave behind in this world when it is our time to return to the Father.  However, in letting go, we will find a greater capacity to love them not just with a human, possessive and self-centered love but with the unconditional, total and inclusive love of God.   So it does not matter when the end of the world would come.  On one hand, the kingdom is already here as a budding seed.  On the other hand, it is arriving at its fullness, which will come at the end of time.  But this final coming is dependent on whether we are already living as fully as the Lord invites us in anticipation of the final coming of Christ. 

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

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

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Commentary on Luke 17:26-37 From Living Space
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Jesus is coming to the end of his public life. His passion and death is going to be a traumatic experience for his followers, which will take them by surprise and fill them with shock and alarm.
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Later still but before Luke had put his gospel together, a cataclysm had overtaken Jerusalem when the city was laid siege to and utterly destroyed and the magnificent Temple with it. The disaster is commemorated in the arch in Rome erected to honour the Emperor Titus’ victory where one can see bas reliefs of the treasures of the Temple being carried off as loot.
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Last of all, there is the end of all things when our world will be no more. The what or the how of that end is something we know nothing about.
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In a sense, all three endings are included in Jesus’ warning today. His main lesson is for us to be ready and not to think that we can postpone our preparations. When the end strikes it will be already too late.
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Jesus gives the examples of the time of the Flood when people ate and drank right up to the moment of disaster. (And we know from our newspapers how unprepared people can be when sudden floods and other sudden disasters strike.) Similarly in the days of Lot, people were leading their ordinary lives when fire and brimstone (was it an earthquake?) rained down on the wicked city of Sodom. Only Lot and his family, who had been previously warned, escaped. Almost every day we read in our papers of similar cataclysms.
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When the “day of the Son of Man is revealed”, that is, when he comes at the end of time, it will be too late to take emergency measures. One will either be ready or not. If one is resting on the roof of one’s house (as was common at that time), don’t think of going down to save something. One person will be taken away and a companion left behind. The words seem to echo what happened at the fall of Jerusalem and are similar to all natural disasters where some are swept away and those next to them survive. In the context, the implication is that one goes to God and one does not.
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These texts are not intended to fill us with fear and foreboding of a capricious God. They are timely advice not to be caught napping but to remain alert to meet the Lord. It is good advice not just for the end of our lives but for every day and every moment of every day. If I am always ready now, I will be ready then.
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By living continuously and consciously in the presence of God, in that “divine milieu” of the Kingdom mentioned above, in the ever-present NOW, we are not going to be caught by surprise. Far from being afraid, we will look forward to the day with anticipation, leaving totally in God’s hands the hour of his call. In practice, too, that final call will not coincide with the end of our planet but with the moment when our individual life on this earth will come to its end. Of the inevitability of that end there is no doubt.
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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November 13, 2015
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THE MODERN IDOLS OF OUR TIMES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: WISDOM 13:1-9PS 18:2-5LK 17:26-37

In the ancient world, and although not completely diminished in less developed countries, people throughout the ages have been obsessed with idols.  Indeed, there are many tribes in Asia, Africa and Latin America where the worship of idols and spirits are predominant.  Without the benefit of modern scientific knowledge and technology, they elevate the forces of nature to the status of deities because of the power, beauty and might of which they have no control.  More so when the people are dependent on the weather for their crops and their livelihood is at stake.

Within this context, we can understand the concerns and struggles of the early Christians with respect to the worship of idols.  The case against idolatry prevails throughout the scriptures, beginning with the Covenant with Moses.   The Israelites, being agriculturalists after settling down in the Promised Land, began to adopt the gods of the Canaanites as they were seen to be the gods of fertility.  The Trek God of the forefathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was abandoned as they were no longer nomads.  When Christianity came into the Greek world, they faced the same struggles against the pagan gods of the Greeks.

But idolatry goes beyond the worship of idols and statues.  It is the worship of nothingness because all these idols have no power in them and they do not last.   It is based on delusion and illusion.  All idols are projection of the fear of man wanting to control nature and protect himself.  It is rooted in insecurity and hence attachments to the world and especially his life.  The danger is that in trying to possess the things of this world and his own life, he loses everything.  As the psalmist says, “Those who make them and all who trust them shall become like them.”  (Ps 135:18)  In possessing the idols and worshipping them, we become like them and are possessed.  The truth remains that nothing on this earth is eternal and can last.

However, the idols of the past and the uneducated ironically remain, even among the educated and the so-called intelligent people of today.  This is what St Paul wrote, “Small blame, however, attaches to these men, for perhaps they only go astray in their search for God and their eagerness to find him; living among his works, they strive to comprehend them and fall victim to appearances, seeing so much beauty. Even so, they are not to be excused: if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?”  This is an indictment of the world today, our scientists and technologists and the rulers of the world.  How are they present in today’s times?  What are the new idols of science and technology?  It is relativism, materialism, pleasures, pragmatism, power, glory and status.

Why are these idols?  Relativism worships the passing things and values of life.  Materialism worships the things of this world that cannot last.  Pleasures seek happiness in the momentary.  Those who spend their lives seeking glory, power and status will come to realize when they arrive, how useless and meaningless such goals are.  In truth, they do not add to one’s happiness but only more stress, trying to keep up with the Joneses and also fighting off competition from our enemies who are jealous and envious of us.  Pragmatism is shortsighted, always thinking of what satisfies us here and now.  They do not have the foresight to see the remote consequences of population control, and now same sex unions, euthanasia, abortion, armaments, etc.

Indeed, the failure to see that the things this world offers us are all transient and illusory causes us to labour for nothing.  At the end of the day, we never truly live because we never truly enjoy or love what God has given to us.   We end in despair and hopelessness because things are as unpredictable as the gospel tells us.  Just like Noah and Lot, we never know what and when tragedy will strike.  Most of us are unprepared and yet the reality is that we cannot be prepared.  Indeed, Jesus said, “People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and the Flood came and destroyed them all. It will be the same as it was in Lot’s day: people were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but the day Lot left Sodom, God rained fire and brimstone from heaven and it destroyed them all.”  Hence, relativism, materialism, pleasures, pragmatism, will all end in disaster and futility.

Indeed, the key to overcome despair in modern life is faith in God alone.  God, unlike idols, stands for the eternal and absolute values of life, love and truth.  Only in God, can we see all things in perspective.   With God, we can enjoy creation as the psalmist did, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands. Day unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message. No speech, no word, no voice is heard yet their span extends through all the earth, their words to the utmost bounds of the world.”  So long as we do not transform them into gods, as they are ephemeral.

Rather, we must see God’s creation and creatures as manifesting the beauty and power of God.  “If, charmed by their beauty, they have taken things for gods, let them know how much the Lord of these excels them, since the very Author of beauty has created them. And if they have been impressed by their power and energy, let them deduce from these how much mightier is he that has formed them, since through the grandeur and beauty of the creatures we may, by analogy, contemplate their Author.”  So let us enjoy what God has given to us.  We should not be afraid of enjoying the pleasures and things of this world but we must never allow ourselves to be possessed by them and unconsciously make them our gods.  We should go behind and beyond the creatures and creation to contemplate on the love and beauty of God.  Through the things of this world, imperfect they might be, they only show what happens when we see the perfect God, the source of power and love and truth in our lives.

This is what Jesus is asking of us.  Enjoy God’s creation but keep our detachment.  Like those farmers and women working in the fields or at home, enjoy your work but do not make your work your god and ambition.  When you are possessed by your work, engrossed in making money and fame, you will regret and miss out loving and being with people, especially your family members.   Work indeed is important but we need to balance it with relationships.  Spend time with your family and loved ones.  Spend time helping the poor and those in need.  Spend time serving the community.  But don’t make all these people, especially your spouse and children, your gods either.  As Jesus said, “Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe. I tell you, on that night two women will be grinding corn together: one will be taken, the other left.”  So don’t make anything or any person, be they your loved ones, or your favourite priest or bishop or yourself into gods!

We must learn detachment and live in the moment.  When the time comes, let us learn to let go.  Don’t cling on to anything or anyone!  Don’t possess what cannot be possessed!  Let go of your possessions, otherwise you will perish with them.  Jesus said, “When that day comes, anyone on the housetop, with his possessions in the house, must not come down to collect them, nor must anyone in the fields turn back either. Remember Lot’s wife.”  If many people are not happy today, it is because of their attachment to what is passing.  If you are suffering in bereavement, it is because you cannot let go of your loved ones and move on.   You are still living in the past and want to possess someone who has gone over to the Lord.  Many are not happy because they keep thinking of their failures, their mistakes and what they had lost out, the lost opportunities, etc.  Until they let go and trust in God, they cannot be liberated for life and for love.  St Augustine told us the story about a pilgrim on his way to the kingdom of heaven.  Along the way, he saw some beautiful flowers in the field.  Instead of moving on, he stayed there permanently.  As a result, he never reached the real paradise in heaven.

How are we so sure that happiness is with God not on this earth?  Jesus said, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”  In other words, when we see the vultures hovering in the sky, we know there must be a carcass around.  If there is only one vulture, the sign is not clear.  We have many signs.  Ask yourself, what has happened to all the rich, famous, powerful and influential people today?  They are dead and gone!   They are buried with the rest.  They are no more around.  No matter how great you are, you will have to leave this world.  So work for eternal values, for the food that gives eternal life.  Work for love, truth, justice, peace and unity.  These are the eternal values that will give you true happiness now, in this life and forever, in its fullness and in the next.  You can enjoy them whilst you are on earth without fear of losing them, unlike the things of this world.  And at the same time, you can bring them to heaven, unlike the worldly possessions you have to leave behind.  Choose God, worship Him, and live life to the full, here and forever in the next life.   You have the foretaste here if you live in freedom and without attachment.  So the future is already here, not just a promise but a reality.

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, November 16, 2017 — “Who is the spotless mirror of the power of God?”

November 15, 2017

Thursday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 494

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Reading 1 WIS 7:22B–8:1

In Wisdom is a spirit
intelligent, holy, unique,
Manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
Not baneful, loving the good, keen,
unhampered, beneficent, kindly,
Firm, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-seeing,
And pervading all spirits,
though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion,
and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.
For she is an aura of the might of God
and a pure effusion of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nought that is sullied enters into her.
For she is the refulgence of eternal light,
the spotless mirror of the power of God,
the image of his goodness.
And she, who is one, can do all things,
and renews everything while herself perduring;
And passing into holy souls from age to age,
she produces friends of God and prophets.
For there is nought God loves, be it not one who dwells with Wisdom.
For she is fairer than the sun
and surpasses every constellation of the stars.
Compared to light, she takes precedence;
for that, indeed, night supplants,
but wickedness prevails not over Wisdom.Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily
and governs all things well.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 119:89, 90, 91, 130, 135, 175

R. (89a) Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Your word, O LORD, endures forever;
it is firm as the heavens.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Through all generations your truth endures;
you have established the earth, and it stands firm.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
According to your ordinances they still stand firm:
all things serve you.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.
Let my soul live to praise you,
and may your ordinances help me.
R. Your word is for ever, O Lord.

Alleluia JN 15:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the vine, you are the branches, says the Lord:
whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.”

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The Secret Presence

  • Series: What on Earth’s Going to Happen? (Olivet Discourse)
  • Author: Ray C. Stedman
Read the Scripture: Matthew 24:23-38

Do you know the first question ever asked in the New Testament? It was asked by Wise Men who came out of the East to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” A little later Herod the king asked the same question of the scribes, “Where (is the Christ) to be born?” They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea.” Thus the New Testament opens with a search for Christ, “Where is he?”

As Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives with his disciples and previews for them the remarkable period to come which he calls, “the close of the age,” he indicates that during that time men will still be asking, “Where is the Christ?” But then, he says, it will be a trick question; be careful of it! In Matthew 24:23-28, he says:

“Then if any one says to you, ‘Lo, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is,’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Lo, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you,’Lo, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; if they say, ‘Lo, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”

Do not miss the time word with which Jesus opens this section, “Then if any one says to you,” etc. “Then” clearly refers to the time of the Great Tribulation which he has briefly but terribly described with the words, “if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved.” As we have seen, this is the last three and one-half years of Daniel’s predicted seventieth week. During this terrible time of persecution and judgment the Lord Jesus will support and sustain his own by appearing to them frequently in a variety of places. These appearances will certainly be made to the 144,000 in their world wide ministry, and perhaps also to that “great multitude” of Gentile believers who will come out of the Great Tribulation.

As a result of this rather unusual state of affairs rumors will apparently spread like wildfire that Jesus Christ is somewhere around.

In John 7:11, 32-36 Jesus himself predicted that a situation like this that would occur during the forty day period after his resurrection:

“The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” [There’s the question again! A little further on John says:] The Pharisees heard the crowd thus muttering about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, ‘I shall be with you a little longer, and then I go to him who sent me; you will seek me and you will not find me; where I am you cannot come.’ The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, “You will seek me and you will not find me,” and, “where I am you cannot come”?'”

To these Jews Jesus was nothing but a tub-thumping, rabble-rousing, troublemaker from Nazareth and they intended to put him to death as quickly as possible. Jesus knew this and knew that they would succeed in their plans. But now he puzzled them completely by telling them that after they had done their worst, they would look for him but would not be able to find him. That could have only been true during his forty-day post-resurrection ministry. After he ascended into the heavens they did not look for him, for the disciples were then declaring throughout Jerusalem that he had gone to the Father. But during that forty-day period there must have been many disquieting rumors, which came to the authorities’ ears, that Christ was still somewhere around.

When the soldiers came from the grave of Jesus with the report that he had risen from the dead, they had to be bribed to say that his disciples had come and stolen his body away, and thus to quiet that rumor. But soon other rumors were buzzing. Mysterious appearings of Jesus to his disciples were reported and the authorities must have sent other search parties to try to locate him. But as Jesus had predicted, they searched for him but they could not find him. They could never understand the reason, but it was exactly as he had said, “Where I am going you cannot come.” In the new relationship to his own into which he had entered, it was impossible for them to intrude.

Read the rest:

https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/matthew/the-secret-presence

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 NOVEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 32nd Week, Ordinary Time
THE COMING OF GOD’S KINGDOM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Wis 7:22 – 8:1Ps 119:89-91,130,135,175Lk 17:20-25

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Many people are curious about the Second Coming of Christ.  It is the general expectation that with the Second Coming of Christ, “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”  (Rev 21:4)  This world will come to an end and there will be “a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”  (Rev 21:1)  This is the apocalyptic understanding of eschatology, the end time.   It is believed that the reign of evil would be so strong that God would allow evil to destroy this world so that a new world could come about.

Indeed, there are people who point to the signs of today’s world.  Firstly, on the ecological level, there is the abuse of creation because of the selfishness of man.  The present humanity uses this world without thinking about the future generation.  Creation is destroyed by wanton deforestation and pollution.   As a result, we are already experiencing global warming.  The temperature has increased by 1 degree centigrade.  This has caused severe impact on the weather and creation.  The Poles are melting, causing sea levels to rise, resulting in flooding.  Because the ozone layer is depleted, heatwaves are causing drought.  There is less food on land and sea.  If the global temperature increases by 3 degrees centigrade, we will be at the tipping point with vegetation disappearing, rivers drying up, super hurricanes becoming the norm, causing mass displacements. If the temperature rises by another 5 degrees, it is posited that there will be mass extinction, with 70% land animals and 90% sea animals wiped off the face of the earth.

Then again, some think the world might be coming to an end because of the conflicts in the world among superpowers.  If the world gets caught up in another world war, there will be mass destruction of lives such that we have never seen before.  The world would be destroyed by the selfishness of man wanting more and more for themselves.  Because of relativism, leading to a loss of moral values, this world is becoming a more unsafe place to live in.  Ultimately, with society falling into moral decadence, the amorality of the world will lead to the destruction of the human being.

However, there are those who hold the prophetic view of eschatology. They believe that this world would not be destroyed but transformed.  It would be transfigured at the end of time.  The New Heaven and the New Earth would come about when everyone embraces the values of the kingdom of God.  In other words, it would take time for the world to be purified and to grow.  This is what the Lord said, “Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.”   There will be wars, persecution, sufferings and misery but all these are necessary preparations for the kingdom of God to mature.

Within this context, the Pharisees asked the Lord, when the kingdom of God would come.  Regardless of the position we hold on the end time, Jesus is more concerned about the Kingdom that is already here, even if it is just budding.   Jesus said, “The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, ‘Look here! Look there!’ For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.”   Whether this world would be totally destroyed and a new one will come about, or whether this world would be gradually transformed into a new heaven and a new earth, is not as important as the fact that this kingdom is already a reality in our midst, and it is already growing each day. Instead of worrying about when it would finally come, we should be concerned about the kingdom now.

When Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is among you”, He meant that the kingdom is growing within us.  When we allow the values of the gospel, of justice, peace and love to reign in our lives, then the kingdom is in our midst and in us.   “For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’  (Rom 14:17)  If we live the Beatitudes of the gospel and the Sermon on the Mount, we live a blessed life because such is the life of the kingdom.  What is necessary for us to have a foretaste of the kingdom of God is to begin living this life and letting the peace, joy and justice of the Holy Spirit grow in our hearts.   “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  (Gal 5:22-24)

Conversely, St Paul warns us about those who would not enter the kingdom of God. He said, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.”  (1 Cor 6:9f)   If we allow sin to reign in our hearts, then the kingdom of Satan would reign in our hearts.  So it is a question of whether we are allowing the kingdom of God to grow in our hearts or the kingdom of Satan.

The Kingdom therefore means the interior life of the individual.  The external aspects of the kingdom would be determined by how man relates and makes use of the world.  If man is spiritually wise and sound, he would bring about positive effects on the world, whether in terms of politics, economics, morality or protecting the environment.  The external changes in creation are dependent on the interior life of the human person.  If the interior life is lacking, then man would destroy creation because of his selfish and shortsighted ways in making use of and developing creation.

But this kingdom is not only inside us already, it is also in our midst, which means the Kingdom is present outside of us.  The kingdom is present whenever there is love, justice and peace.  Whenever, we see goodness, truth and love, there the kingdom of God is present.  This is of course present in a most par excellence manner in the person of Jesus Christ who is the incarnation of the kingdom of God.   He is the embodiment of the kingdom of God in His words, deeds, life, passion, death and resurrection.  His reaching out to sinners, miracles of healing and exorcisms, compassion for the weak and marginalized are all signs that the kingdom of God is here in our midst.

Indeed, Jesus for us is the Wisdom of God in person.  He is that Wisdom described for us in the first reading.  Jesus is the kingdom of God because He manifests the presence of God in His life.  The first reading says,  “She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness.” St Paul wrote, “However, we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification.”  (1 Cor 2:7)  “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (1 Cor 2:22-24)

In Christ, we are all transformed anew if we come to Him for wisdom and direction. “Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, active, incisive, unsullied, lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp, irresistible, beneficent, loving to man, steadfast, dependable, unperturbed, almighty, all-surveying, penetrating all intelligent, pure and most subtle spirits; for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion; she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.”   If we desire to grow in holiness and purity and live a life of true wisdom, then we must allow the Word of God to take root in our hearts so that by living out the Word of God, we can live a life of true wisdom and purity.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Finally, Jesus, the Wisdom of God, will make us friends of God when we come to Him.  “Although alone, she can do all; herself unchanging, she makes all things new. In each generation, she passes into holy souls, she makes them friends of God and prophets; for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.”   When we live the life of the gospel, we will be made new by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  Because of Christ’s passion and resurrection, we are united to God in mind and heart.  Only in Him, can we overcome all evil in life. “She is indeed more splendid that the sun, she outshines all the constellations; compared with light, she takes first place, for light must yield to night, but over Wisdom evil can never triumph. She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things for good.”

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

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

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Commentary on Luke 17:20-25 From Living Space
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Jesus was asked by some Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come.
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In their mind, it was a definitive time that would be suddenly realised by the arrival of a triumphant Messiah-King. Jesus says it is not going to be like that at all. The Kingdom cannot be found by looking around for telltale signs so that you can say it is ‘here’ or ‘there’.
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No, says Jesus, “the reign of God is already in your midst”. In other words, it is right in front of them. It is first of all in the very person of Jesus, who is the embodiment of the God’s Reign. He is the Messiah-King. He is the living incarnation of God’s loving power revealed in his authoritative teaching, in his many healings of the sick, in his freeing of those from the power of evil spirits and in his compassion for the sinner and the outcast. All are clear evidence of the reign of God “in their midst”.
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In every age, there are people who get worked up about the “final coming of Christ”. The recent end of the millennium was such a time. But, instead of focusing on a date in the calendar we should be focusing on the realities of our everyday lives where, to those with eyes to see, the reign of God can easily be discerned working in other people’s lives and in our own. Wherever people are reflecting in their lives the vision of life, the values that Jesus revealed to us, the Kingdom is there. And such people are not confined to the Church. They can be and are found everywhere.
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Jesus then turns to his disciples telling them they will long to see the “one day of the Son of Man” but will not see it. In the very early Church many were convinced that Jesus would make his final coming in their own lifetime. It is likely that, from time to time, certain events were interpreted as signs of that final coming. People were saying that “he is to found in this place or that”. But by the time Luke’s gospel was written most of that first generation of Christians had died and there was still no sign of Jesus’ coming. The ‘days’ following his expected coming may have all the more been longed for during times of severe persecution when they looked for relief and help from their pain. An anxiety reflected in the story of the disciples’ trying to wake a sleeping Jesus while their boat is threatened by mountainous seas (Mark 4:35-41).
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Jesus says that, when his day does come, it will “be like the lightning that flashes from one end of the sky to the other”. It will be both sudden and everywhere. In the meantime, Jesus “must suffer much and be rejected by the present age”. Words which clearly refer to his own suffering and death but which can also be applied to the whole Risen Christ, including the Church, his risen Body, down to our own age.
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So, on the one hand, the reign of God is already here among us and we need look no further than the daily experiences of our own lives to know and experience the power and presence of Jesus. On the other hand, the time of that final coming which will “wipe every tear from our eyes” and be the end of all suffering and rejection is not for us to decide – nor to be anxious about.
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 NOVEMBER 2015, Thursday, 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
WISDOM IS THE KEY TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: WS 7:22 – 8:1 LK 17:20-25

As we approach the end of the liturgical calendar year, the Church now focuses on the theme of the Second Coming of Christ.  Like the Pharisees and the Jews in the gospel, we too are curious about the end of time.  We too indulge in all sorts of speculation. Will the world come to an end? Will it be destroyed? When will it come?  What signs will precede the Day of the Lord?

When we ask these questions, it shows that we are influenced by the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament’s understanding of the Day of the Lord.  In the Old Testament, the prophets described the end time as the “Day of the Lord.”  It would be a day when God would manifest Himself in all His glory and power, judging all of humanity, punishing His enemies and sinners whilst rewarding the just.  It will be a day of judgment, not just for Israel but for all the nations.  (cf Amos 5:18-20) At the same time, in the book of Daniel, the Day of the Lord is associated with the Son of Man.  (cf Dn 7:13-14) He will be the judge of all the nations, the living and the dead, on behalf of Yahweh, and then God’s Kingdom will finally be established.  Within this context, we can appreciate Jesus’ usage of the term “Son of man” to self-designate Himself, since it has messianic connotations in connection with the Day of the Lord.  His Second Coming will bring about the work of restoration and final judgment and the full realization of the Kingdom of God.

Even then, it will be helpful to recognize the two different strands of interpretation with respect to the Day of the Lord. In apocalyptic eschatology, the end of time is conceived in terms of the destruction of the earth so that there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  This is very much the understanding in the prophecy of Joel.  We see this also in the Letter of Peter, “Looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat … Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:12-13)  However, another view, namely, the prophetic eschatological position, holds that this earth and heaven will not be destroyed but be created totally new through a radical transformation. “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create a Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (Isaiah 65:17-19)

Regardless of whichever view we hold with respect to the end of time, one thing is certain, we will know when the Day of the Lord comes. Speaking about the New Covenant, Jeremiah said, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time … I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:33-34) So no special sign is needed to know the coming of Christ or the Day of the Lord because all will recognize Him, His presence and power as clearly as the lightning in the sky, considering that in the Desert, it would be even so strikingly seen since the sky is almost always clear.

Of course, the Day of the Lord is not only to be understood as coming at the end of time but it in fact it has already come.  This accounts for Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees that “the kingdom of God is among you.”  In other words, Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person.  In Him, God reigns as seen in His authoritative preaching, in His works of healing and exorcisms and in His behavior of welcoming and mixing with sinners, especially having meals with them.  Of course the religious leaders could not accept the truth of what Jesus taught and His identity as the Messiah and the Son of God.

The coming of God’s Kingdom, according to Jesus, is not so much seen in the cosmological phenomena but in a person who submits Himself to the rule of God, the rule of love.  Jesus in that sense is the sure sign, for in Him God reigns, both in His life on earth and especially at His passion, death and resurrection.  In His death, we see the love of God made visible.  In His resurrection, we see already the glory and power of God’s victory over sin and death.  Hence, He said, “for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.”  So if we could confidently claim that the Kingdom of God has already come, it is but our declaration that in Christ, the powers of darkness and sin have been overcome.  We who submit ourselves to Christ’s rule will share in His victory over Satan, sin and death too.

On the other hand, the kingdom is already here existentially in our hearts when Jesus lives in us.  The Kingdom of God is not just near us but is within us.  “Whoever loves me will keep my word; and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (Jn 14:23) The moment when we allow Him to reign in our hearts; the moment when we live the gospel life that He has shown and taught us, especially living out the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, we are living under the reign of the Kingdom.  But this is not possible by our own strength, except with the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit.  Only with God’s grace can the Kingdom enter into our lives.

Consequently, for the kingdom to take root in our hearts and minds, we must receive the Holy Spirit, as the first reading from the book of wisdom instructs us.  The author of Wisdom describes wisdom in feminine terms, calling her “the breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her. She is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness. Although alone, she can do all; herself unchanging, she makes all things new. In each generation, she passes into holy soulsshe makes them friends of God and prophets; for God loves only the man who lives with Wisdom.”  The last verse is significant; that only the man who lives with Wisdom is loved by God.

Wisdom is not only a gift of the Holy Spirit but also a personification of the Word of God, since the Word is identical with Wisdom.  Jesus, in St John’s gospel, is the Word of God made flesh.  Again the psalmist sings praises to the Word of God.  He says, “Your word is for ever, O Lord. According to your ordinances they still stand firm: all things serve you. The revelation of your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple. Let your countenance shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.”  So wisdom stands both for the Spirit of God and the Word of God.  Jesus, who is the Word of God, imparts us the Holy Spirit upon His resurrection.  And what better way is there to receive the Wisdom of God in the Holy Spirit than through the celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments where Jesus comes to live in us and transform our hearts and minds?

By welcoming Jesus and His Spirit into our hearts, the love of God will dwell in us.  The Father and the Son who live in us in the Holy Spirit will transform our hearts and empower us to live the Trinitarian life of love and unity.  So let us consciously continue to immerse ourselves in the Word of God in prayer so that His Spirit dwells in us and gives us His gifts of intelligence, holiness, purity, steadfastness, benevolence and goodness to live the life of God in our lives.

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

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Commentary on Wisdom 7:22-8:1 From Living Space

Today’s passage is a hymn to Wisdom. It reflects much of Greek philosophical influence affecting the Jewish author. He treats Wisdom as a person and gives his own version of earlier personifications. In so far as Wisdom is identified with God as its origin, we might rephrase John to say that “in the beginning there was Wisdom and the Wisdom was with God and the Wisdom was God”.

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The writer describes both the nature and origin of Wisdom and begins by listing 21 attributes of Wisdom. Borrowing freely from the vocabulary of Greek philosophy, the author next points out the various characteristics of Wisdom and concludes by identifying it with divine providence – in the last sentence of our reading.

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The eulogy begins with a listing of 21 attributes of Wisdom, divided into three sets of seven each, that is, the multiplication of seven (for perfection) by three (for divinity). It is, in the thinking of the time, the most perfect of perfect numbers. The attributes are set out as follows so that each one can be looked at and considered separately. (Alternative translations from the New American Bible are given in parentheses for a number of attributes.)

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For within Wisdom is a spirit
intelligent
holy
unique
manifold
subtle
mobile (or agile)
incisive (or clear)
unsullied (or unstained)
lucid (or certain)
invulnerable
benevolent (or loving the good)
shrewd (or keen)
irresistible (or unhampered)
beneficent
friendly to other people (or kindly)
steadfast (or firm)
dependable (or secure)
unperturbed (or tranquil)
almighty
all-surveying (or all-seeing)
penetrating all intelligent, pure and most subtle of spirits
(or pervading all spirits, be they intelligent, pure and very subtle)
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There then follow some other attributes of Wisdom:
She is quicker to move than any other movement.
She is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things.

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Wisdom is totally devoid of any deception or distortion; she provides a clear vision which “pervades and permeates all things”.

She is a breath of the power of God, “a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty”. The Spirit of God is also described as a movement of air – a ‘breath’ or a ‘wind’. Speaking to Nicodemus Jesus said: “The wind blows where it will… so it is with everyone begotten of the Spirit” (John 3:8), where there is a play on the word pneuma, meaning both ‘spirit’ and ‘wind’. Similarly at Pentecost the coming of the Spirit is accompanied by a wind blowing through the place where the disciples are gathered. Similarly, on the cross Jesus’ death is described as giving out the pneuma – which can be both his final breath and also his Spirit. “Then Jesus bowed his head, and handed over his Spirit/breath (pneuma)” (John 19:30) – Pentecost on the cross.

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The ‘glory of the Almighty’ is the ‘eternal light’ that is God. In the Old Testament God is never called ‘light’. Some earlier texts already hinted at the concept of a transcendent light emanating from God, illuminating the faithful or his nation, being the radiance of his glory, or residing with him but it will only be in the First Letter of John that we read explicitly “God is light” (1 John 1:5). Jesus himself will say virtually the same thing: “I AM the Light of the World” (John 8:12).

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Wisdom is a reflection of the eternal light of God, “an untarnished mirror of God’s active power and the image of his goodness”. When we are possessed by true wisdom we are already in touch with God, with his power which is his love and with his goodness.

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There is a loftiness and exclusiveness about Wisdom, for she is unique. “Although she is alone, she can do everything.” Though herself unchanging and unchangeable, she changes the world through her insight and unending creativity.

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In generation after generation she has passed into the lives of good people, making them “into God’s friends and prophets”. In the Old Testament such friends were Abraham and Moses. Jesus, as the Son of God, called his disciples his friends. Prophets include not only the great prophets and inspired scribes, but all who, by their holy life and intimacy with God, penetrate into the knowledge of his will and his mysteries, and so become his authorised ‘interpreters’ to enlighten their fellows. Among these will be the many outstanding spiritual and theological writers and preachers who have given new insights into living with God and for God.

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“God loves only those who dwell with Wisdom.” Of course, God, who is Love, extends that love infinitely and equally to every single person and thing he has created. It is never withdrawn. But obviously, there is a special relationship with those who open their hearts and respond totally to the Love extended to them and who, in turn, pass that Love on to all those who come into their lives.

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There is a brightness to Wisdom that is unique. “More splendid than the sun, she outshines all the constellations.” Since those words were written, we know so much more about the enormity of the constellations and the galaxies and yet the statement remains perfectly valid. “Compared with light, she takes first place, for light must yield to night.” Nothing can avail against Wisdom, which contains all Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

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And, at the end, Wisdom is linked with the loving Providence of God which governs our world: “She reaches from one end of the world to the other and governs the whole world for its good.” The attributes that Paul gives to love in his famous passage in his First Letter to the Corinthians can also be applied to Wisdom. Divine Wisdom embraces both Truth and Love.

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To be a friend of God, then, is to share his Wisdom, that is, to see and understand reality as he does. This is the most precious thing we can have in life for it gives meaning and direction to everything that we experience. It is to live in a light that is never extinguished and against which evil is impotent.

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Let us pray today for this wisdom that will guide our lives and bring us the happiness, peace and security which we constantly seek.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1325r/

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, November 15, 2017 — “The lowly may be pardoned out of mercy but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.”

November 14, 2017

Wednesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 493

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Reading 1 WIS 6:1-11

Hear, O kings, and understand;
learn, you magistrates of the earth’s expanse!
Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude
and lord it over throngs of peoples!
Because authority was given you by the Lord
and sovereignty by the Most High,
who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels.
Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom, you judged not rightly,
and did not keep the law,
nor walk according to the will of God,
Terribly and swiftly shall he come against you,
because judgment is stern for the exalted–
For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy
but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test.
For the Lord of all shows no partiality,
nor does he fear greatness,
Because he himself made the great as well as the small,
and he provides for all alike;
but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.
To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed
that you may learn wisdom and that you may not sin.
For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed shall be found holy,
and those learned in them will have ready a response.
Desire therefore my words;
long for them and you shall be instructed.

Responsorial Psalm PS 82:3-4, 6-7

R. (8a) Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.
Defend the lowly and the fatherless;
render justice to the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the lowly and the poor;
from the hand of the wicked deliver them.
R. Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.
I said: “You are gods,
all of you sons of the Most High;
yet like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.”
R. Rise up, O God, bring judgment to the earth.

Alleluia1 THES 5:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In all circumstances, give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 17:11-19

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem,
he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.
As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.
They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying,
“Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed.
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.
He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply,
“Ten were cleansed, were they not?
Where are the other nine?
Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”
Then he said to him, “Stand up and go;
your faith has saved you.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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15 NOVEMBER, 2017, Wednesday, 32nd Week, Ordinary Time

THE GIFT OF POWER AND AUTHORITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Wis 6:1-11Ps 82:3-4,6-7Lk 17:11-19 ]

All of us have been given some form of power and authority.  The power could come in the form of authority and leadership over our subordinates.  In this sense, parents have power over their children; teachers over students; bosses over workers; priests over the laity; etc.  But power is not only exercised in this form.  It can be power in terms of knowledge and skills.  Knowledge is power.   We need people who are professionals and experts in their own fields to help us manage our lives and our activities.

The truth is that the more power and authority we have, the more accountability is demanded of us.  There is no power without accountability.  Indeed, when accountability is lacking, power leads to abuses, corruption and scandals. It is a fact that those with power often use it for themselves and their interests rather than for the greater good of the community.  Power is often used to boost one’s ego so that the person feels great about himself, that he has command over the lives of others.  Some can be so dictatorial and fearful of competitors that they would use harsh means to put down their perceived enemies.  But worst of all is when power is used to enrich oneself through the granting of favours in return for bribes, manipulation of others for material benefits, etc.

Such bad leaders will be held to account for how they exercise their power.  Thus the Lord warns us, Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty; the lowly will be compassionately pardoned, the mighty will be mightily punished. For the Lord of All does not cower before a personage, he does not stand in awe of greatness, since he himself has made small and great and provides for all alike; but strict scrutiny awaits those in power.”   Leaders are always under the scrutiny of the public and ultimately by God, in the way they exercise their authority and the motives for what they do.

How, then, should those in power conduct themselves?  Firstly, we must recognize that all authority comes from God.  “Listen, kings, and understand; rulers of remotest lands, take warning; hear this, you who have thousands under your rule, who boasts of your hordes of subjects. For power is a gift to you from the Lord, sovereignty is from the Most High; he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions.”   It is a gift from God given to us.  We are not the ultimate power in this world.  In fact, we are under the sovereignty of God because power on this earth is at His mercy and graciousness.  Power can be taken away from us at any time because of health, scandals, rebellion or enemies.  The Lord says through the psalmist, “I have said to you: ‘You are gods and all of you, sons of the Most High.’ And yet, you shall die like men, you shall fall like any of the princes.’”

Secondly, because power is a gift from God, we are called to be stewards of God’s grace.  Authority is given to us for service.  We are called to manage the household of God, build up the family of God and extend the reign of our Heavenly King.  We do not have a right to use the power bestowed on us as we like.  We are deputies of God even if we are kings.  In the bible, Kings were anointed for service because they were considered the Anointed One of God.   A king was called to represent Yahweh to the people.  Hence, he was called to govern the country according to the laws stipulated by God.  He was just a steward of God’s authority vested in him. “If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly nor observed the law, nor behaved as God would have you behave, he will fall on you swiftly and terribly.”

Thirdly, power is to be exercised in such a way that it is done on behalf of the weak and the marginalized.  Power should not be exercised just for the rich, the influential and the powerful.  Rather, the responsorial psalm urges us, “Do justice for the weak and the orphan, defend the afflicted and the needy. Rescue the weak and the poor; set them free from the hand of the wicked.”  Those with power must use them to empower those who are powerless.  Hence, whilst power is to be used for the good of all, it should be exercised to protect the poor and the weak from unscrupulous people taking advantage of them.

How can this be done?  How can those with power and authority stay always alert and walk the right path and not be tempted by money, fame and pride?  The first thing is that leaders must take direction from the Lord. “Yes, despots, my words are for you, that you may learn what wisdom is and not transgress; for they who observe holy things holily will be adjudged holy, and, accepting instruction from them, will find their defence in them, Look forward, therefore, to my words; yearn for them, and they will instruct you.”  Leaders must hang on to the Words of wisdom of the Lord by constantly meditating on Him, praying the scriptures and listening to His authorized and exemplary servants.   Leaders cannot act on their own wisdom and logic without constantly taking reference from the Lord, consulting Him in prayer and discerning His will for those under His charge.  Consequently, leaders who do not pray but just work and work, are dangerous because they will be motivated by their own ambition and plans rather than do everything according to God’s plan for His people.

Secondly, leaders must have a deep faith in God.  In the gospel, we are told that the lepers were asked to go and see the priests to verify that they were healed.  And they went in faith, believing that they would be healed even though they were not yet healed.  They trusted in the promise of Jesus.  In fact, only “as they were going away they were cleansed.”  Leaders too must act on the promise of God.  We need to have faith in His guidance and in His promise to help us govern our people according to His will.  This was the same assurance God gave to Moses in his mission to deliver the Hebrews, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”  (Ex 14:14) To Joshua, the Lord said, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Jos 1:9)

Thirdly, leaders must remain grateful for the power, the knowledge and the authority the Lord has given to them.  We read that only the Samaritan came back to thank the Lord when he was healed. “Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan.”   Without gratitude, we will become arrogant and abuse our power as if we have earned that authority by our efforts.  This explains why Jesus remarked, “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.”   “And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’”

So let us thank the Lord for the gift of power that comes in the form of knowledge, skills and authority.  Because these are gifts from the Lord, let us use them well for others, especially for the poor and those who need our help to be strong and independent.  Let us resolve never to use power for our own good and interests.  This would be to fall into the Temptation of the Devil.   He sought to tempt Jesus to use His divine power for Himself, by changing the stone into bread when He was hungry and to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple to prove His divinity.  But Jesus used scriptures to resist the devil’s temptations.  (cf Mt 4:1-11)  We too must resist such temptations but remember what Jesus said.  “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave;  just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:26-28)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Commentary on Luke 17:11-19
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This story of Jesus’ compassion is peculiar to Luke.
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We are told that Jesus was travelling on the borders of Galilee, the northern province of Palestine, and Samaria, which lies between Galilee and the southern province of Judea. Jesus is making for the Jordan valley on his way south to Jericho, one of his last stops before reaching his final destination in Jerusalem.
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Just as he entered a village he was met by ten lepers (it does not specify whether they were men or women). As lepers they were not allowed to come in close proximity with other people because it was (rightly) known that the condition could be transmitted to others by physical contact, although it needed to be fairly prolonged contact. We remember how the famous Fr Damien, the Apostle to the Lepers, eventually contracted the disease through his ministering to a colony of lepers in Hawaii.
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Because of their dreaded disease, such people were literally outcasts condemned to live their lives on the fringes of society. The tragedy is that, given the limited medical knowledge of the times, many such people were almost certainly not suffering from leprosy at all but from some other non-contagious but perhaps chronic skin disease.
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So, calling Jesus from a safe distance, they cried out: “Jesus, Master, have compassion on us!”
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Jesus simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests. And, while they were on their way, they were all cured. Presumably they continued on their way to see the priests who would give them an official declaration of being “clean” so that they could once again legitimately return to life in society. A major element of their healing was their re-integration into society.
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Just one of the cured lepers then came back to Jesus “praising God in a loud voice” and in deep gratitude fell at the feet of Jesus.
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“This man was a Samaritan.” The words are loaded with meaning. For it is presumed that the rest were Jews. In the first place, Jews and Samaritans could not stand each other and the Jews tended to look down on the Samaritans as ungodly and unclean. But, in the misfortune of their leprosy, these Jews and Samaritans, rejected by both their own peoples, found common support in each other’s company.
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But, now that they are cured, only one of them comes to say thanks and he is still – in the eyes of the Jews – an outcast.
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Jesus, looking around at the Jews in his company, expresses surprise that ten were made clean but only one came back to give thanks and he was a despised foreigner. This unexpected action is also reflected in another of Luke’s stories, which we reflected on earlier, that of the so-called “good Samaritan”. Here is another good Samaritan. (And there is a third, of course – the woman who features prominently in John’s gospel).
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To the man Jesus says, “Stand up and go your way; your faith has made you whole again.” That “stand up” or “rise up”, which Jesus often uses with those he heals, has echoes of resurrection and entry into new life, a life of wholeness brought about by the man’s trust in Jesus and his acknowledgment of the source of his healing.
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In the context of Luke’s gospel, the story prepares us for developments in the growth of the early Church, described in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles. For, as the early Christians (all Jews) flee from persecution in Jerusalem, the people of Samaria are among the first to accept Jesus as Lord and to become followers of the Gospel, while many of the Jews in Jerusalem remain closed to Jesus’ message and call.
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We, too, must never give in to a temptation to exclude any people as possible followers of Christ. We must be ready to reach out to all, even the most unlikely. None must be treated as outsiders or untouchables, even those who show themselves extremely hostile to the Gospel.
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And while there may not be any real lepers in our own society, today is an occasion for us to reflect on who could be regarded as lepers, outsiders, outcasts, and untouchables among us at the present time. And to ask whether I personally treat any person as an outsider in my home, in my work, in other places where I meet people. Such exclusion is totally contrary to what we celebrate in the Eucharist.
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Related:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

Amen.

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If we are “spiritual” what do we get?

We get peace. We might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”

We might simplify further and say, “We get a good night’s sleep.”

We get freedom and a clear head. We get the joy of living not for ourselves but for and with others. We get a shot at eternity.

We might ask, “If you are spiritual, do you pray?” Many have said, “no prayer, no spiritual life.”

We might recommend this book, which suggests, after much study, that we who want to be or get closer to God, do at least four (not one or three) things frequently…

  1. We Pray and Meditate
  2. We study (spiritual works, like the scripture)
  3. We pour ourselves out in loving service to others
  4. We evangelize. A Christians talks about his faith — he is not ashamed. A person in AA or another 12 Step recovery program, does 12 Step work.

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Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, November 14, 2017 — The Joy of Humble and Selfless Service

November 13, 2017

Tuesday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 492

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Reading 1 WIS 2:23–3:9

God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made them.
But by the envy of the Devil, death entered the world,
and they who are in his possession experience it.But the souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
They shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19

R. (2a) I will bless the Lord at all times.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.
The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
R. I will bless the Lord at all times.

Alleluia  JN 14:23

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

Gospel LK 17:7-10

Jesus said to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

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Commentary on Luke 17:7-10 From Living Space
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Another warning from Luke today (and one which is only found in this gospel) about complacency. As we read this parable we must be careful – as with many of the others – not to confuse matters by dragging in issues which are anachronistic.
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Jesus asks if we had a slave who had spent the day working in the fields, would we invite him to sit down, have his supper and take a good rest? Or would we not rather tell him first to prepare his master’s supper and, after the master had eaten his fill, only then would the slave be able to eat and rest? Would we even express gratitude to a servant who was only doing what was expected of him?
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Here, let us forget current ideas about union rules and democracy and what have you! No one in those times, either an employer or a slave, would have thought of questioning what Jesus is saying. At the same time, we might remember Jesus saying that watchful servants will be welcomed by their master who will make them sit down and will wait personally on them (Luke 12:37) and that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as an example of service.
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What we are dealing with here is our relationship with God. The point Jesus is making is that God need never be grateful to us for anything we do for him. No matter how much we do for him, we can never put him in our debt. Everything we give to God (or to God through others) is simply giving back to him a small portion of what he has already given us. It is well said in Preface IV for Masses on Weekdays: “You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace.”
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God can never be in our debt. He can never be under any obligation to us. Perhaps that is what some of the Pharisees thought. They felt that, because they kept the Law perfectly, God owed them salvation. We see that in the scene of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the Temple, where the Pharisee’s prayer gives the impression that God should be deeply grateful, among so many negligent people, to have such a good person as him.
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We can do the same thing ourselves when, for instance, we think that by saying certain prayers or performing certain acts (novenas, indulgences, pilgrimages, etc) God should jump to attention and do what we are telling him to do, to give us what we are asking for.
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All our living out of the Gospel is not a compliment paid to God. On the contrary, we can never be grateful enough to him for showing us the way to truth, love, freedom and happiness which Jesus taught us and for giving us the grace to walk his Way. With God, all our giving is only a partial giving back.
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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14 NOVEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 32nd Week, Ordinary Time
THE REWARDS OF THE JUST AND DUTIFUL SERVANT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Wis 2:23 – 3:9Ps 33:2-3,16-19Lk  17:7-10 ]

It is natural that we look for gratitude and rewards for what we do.  Even if we do not seek material rewards or benefits, we would expect at least that those whom we serve are grateful for what we have done.  Otherwise we will be discouraged, because we feel that we are not appreciated.  Indeed, when appreciation is not forthcoming, many will be slighted and feel hurt.  They will stop serving or giving.

This explains why in the first reading, we read that this is more so when a good and just man suffers for doing what is right and good.  Again, we all expect the good to be rewarded and the just to be blessed.  But when they suffer injustices, we find it difficult to accept.  As the author of Wisdom says, “In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die, their going looked like a disaster; their leaving us like annihilation.”  Indeed, the suffering of good and holy people is seen as tragic.

In the gospel, Jesus gives us His perspective of the reward of a servant.  He said, a servant’s duty is to serve the master: “Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, ‘Come and have your meal immediately?’ Would he not be more likely to say, ‘Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards’”  The truth is that the place of a servant is to serve.  Only in serving can he or she find himself or herself.  This explains why Jesus said, we should not be looking for any reward or gratitude from those whom we serve.  This is because we are doing what we are called to do.  Hence, Jesus postulated, “Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, ‘We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.’”

In other words, we are all called to live out our vocation in life.  Regardless what we do or who we are, our calling is to be a servant of others through our vocation.  It is when we live out our identity as servants that we find ourselves, our fulfillment and our meaning for existence.   Unless we live out our identity, we will live a conflicted life.  Those who are not faithful to their responsibilities in life are not living an integrated life.  They contradict what they are called to be and to do.  Unless we find unity of life between who we are and what we are called to do, and do accordingly, there will be a lack of peace within our hearts. The reward of being faithful to our servanthood, our vocation, our life is the joy of being our true self and allowing the doing to flow from our being.  There is no other reward greater than the joy of satisfaction, fulfillment, self-realization and a clear conscience.

This is true for one who lives a just and good life and yet suffers injustice.  As the author of Wisdom says, their suffering and death appear to the unwise as a punishment, a disaster, an annihilation and a tragedy.  But the truth is that those who suffer unjustly “are in peace” because they suffer for what is right and true.  Their conscience is clear and their suffering and even death is a witness to the truth that they proudly stand for.  Indeed, “the souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God. No torment shall ever touch them.”  For the unwise, their suffering means a failure of their mission, but for the just man, “their hope was rich with immortality; slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be”.   Indeed what greater life can one have than to be true to oneself, and to be ready to die for one’s beliefs?  When we fail to stand up for our beliefs and be true to ourselves, we lose our self-dignity.  It shows that we lack courage and we are simply dancing to the tunes of the world, not what is true but what is popular.  Eventually, we lose our direction and our conscience is not at peace because what we do is contrary to what we believe in our hearts.

Besides being faithful to themselves when the just suffer, they take their sufferings as moments in which they purify themselves in love and faith.  “God has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace, and accepted them as a holocaust. When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out; as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.”  Through suffering, especially unjust and innocent suffering, we grow in grace and in the capacity to be detached from the passing values of life.  So we should not be afraid to suffer because when we see sufferings positively, they teach us humility, purify our motives in service, strengthen our will, and help us to go beyond the sensual comfort to seek for inner peace and joy.

Unjust suffering is not only good for the ones who suffer but it is also meant for those who look upon their sufferings.  Apparently, such unjust suffering is absurd, but only innocent and helpless suffering evokes the compassion and the sentiments of their fellowmen.  We have more sympathy for the underdogs when they are helpless and marginalized than those who can fight back when they are attacked.  This was the case of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah when he wrote, “As many were astonished at him – his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance and his form beyond that of the sons of men – so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.”  (Isa 52:14f)  When Jesus died on the cross, the centurion who witnessed the whole event praised God and exclaimed, “Certainly this man was innocent!” (Lk 23:47) We also read, “And all the multitudes who assembled to see the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. (Lk 23:48)  We are moved by innocent and unjust suffering.  By our innocent suffering and humble service, we will be a reprimand to those who are evil.  “They shall judge nations, rule over peoples, and the Lord will be their king for ever.”

Jesus for us is a model of this servant that was faithful to Himself and as a result, suffered unjustly.  Jesus’ identity was that of a servant.  He told the disciples, “It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave;  even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mt 20:26-28)  The letter to the Philippians summarizes the servanthood of the Lord in these words, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself,  taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:6-8)

We too are called to be like Jesus, to be the Suffering Servant for God and for others.  This is our calling in life.  Our identity as sons and daughters of God is to be like a servant as God is to us.  The author of Wisdom says, “God made man imperishable, he made him in the image of his own nature; it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as those who are his partners will discover.” God’s life is love, service and self-emptying.  Indeed, servanthood marks the life of every Christian.  Jesus said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  (Mt 16:24f)

Only by walking in the way of servanthood and, when necessary, suffering for doing what is right and good, can we share in Christ’s exaltation.  We are assured in the first reading that “they who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love; for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.”  We will share in the resurrection of Christ because we share in His suffering and death.  (cf Rom 8:17)Indeed, the joy of being united with the Lord and sharing in His life of grace and peace is worth the suffering.  Hence, with the psalmist, let us in good times and in bad, say, “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips; in the Lord my soul shall make its boast. The humble shall hear and be glad.  The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save.”

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

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Reflection

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• The Gospel today narrates the parable which is found only in Luke’s Gospel, and has no parallel in the other Gospels. The parable wants to teach that our life has to be characterized by an attitude of service. It begins with three questions and at the end Jesus himself gives the answer.

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• Luke 17, 7-9: The three questions of Jesus. It treats of three questions taken from daily life, and therefore, the auditors have to think each one on his own experience to give a response according to that experience. The first question: “Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep would say to him when he returned from the fields, ’Come and have your meal at once?” All will answer: “No!” Second question: “Would he not be more likely to say, ‘Get my supper ready; fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink.

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You yourself can eat and drink afterwards?” All will answer: “Yes! Certainly!” Third question: “Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told?” All will answer “No!” The way in which Jesus asks the questions, people become aware in which way he wants to orientate our thought. He wants us to be servants to one another.

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• Luke 17, 10: The response of Jesus. At the end Jesus himself draws a conclusion which was already implicit in the questions: “So with you, when you have done all you have been told to do, say ‘We are useless servants, we have done no more than our duty”. Jesus himself has given us example when he said: “The Son of Man has not come to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10, 45). Service is a theme which Luke likes. Service represents the form in which the poor in the time of Jesus, the anawim, were waiting for the Messiah: not like a king and glorious Messiah, high priest or judge, but rather as the Servant of Yahweh, announced by Isaiah (Is 42, 1-9).

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Mary, the Mother of Jesus, says to the Angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word!” (Lk 1, 38). In Nazareth, Jesus presents himself as the Servant described by Isaiah (Lk 4, 18-19 and Is 61, 1-2). In Baptism and in the Transfiguration, he was confirmed by the Father who quotes the words addressed by God to the Servant (Lk 3, 22; 9, 35 e Is 42, 1). Jesus asks his followers: “Anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mt 20, 27). Useless servants! This is the definition of the Christian. Paul speaks about this to the members of the community of Corinth when he writes: “I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God gave growth. In this neither the planter nor the waterer counts for anything, only God who gave growth” (1Co 3, 6-7). Paul and Apollos are nothing; only simple instruments, “Servants”.

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The only one who counts is God, He alone! (1Co 3, 7).

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• To serve and to be served. Here in this text, the servant serves the master and not the master the servant. But in the other text of Jesus the contrary is said: “Blessed those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. In truth, I tell you, he will do up his belt, sit them down at table and wait on them” (Lk 12, 37). In this text, the master serves the servant and not the servant the master. In the first text, Jesus spoke in the present. In the second text, Jesus is speaking in the future. This contrast is another way of saying: the one who is ready to lose his life out of love for Jesus and the Gospel will find it (Mt 10, 39; 16, 25). Anyone who serves God in this present life will be served by God in the future life!

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Personal questions

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• How do I define my life?
• Do I ask myself the three questions of Jesus? Do I live, perhaps, like a useless servant?

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Concluding prayer

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The lives of the just are in Yahweh’s care,
their birthright will endure for ever.
Yahweh guides a strong man’s steps and keeps them firm;
and takes pleasure in him. (Ps 37,18.23)

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http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-177-10

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From 2013:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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The gospel reading presents an image of God as a taskmaster who seems to have no consideration for his servants.  He is heartless, demanding, insensitive and unfeeling to the needs of his servant.  Such an image of God is surely not what Jesus intended to portray.  Nay, the focus of the parable is not so much on the exacting authority of God but the attitude of the servant before the Almighty God.

In order that we interpret the parable in perspective, we must situate it in the context of the Kingdom of God.  In the situation of the life of Jesus, this parable was taught by Him in order to help His disciples to be totally dedicated to the service of the Kingdom. The servants of the Kingdom must work diligently and selflessly for the establishment of the kingdom of God.  Like Jesus, we must be singular minded and be totally committed to the building of God’s kingdom.  Indeed, the whole life of Jesus was at the service of extending the reign of God, His love and His mercy.  However, in the situation of the life of the evangelist and the early Christian community, this parable was addressed to the Christians who had slackened in their Christian life and commitment to the proclamation of the gospel.  Most likely, there were some Christians who were not living up to their dignity and responsibilities as Disciples of Christ.  Instead of serving the Lord, they were self-serving, demanding or simply lazy, lackluster, apathetic and irresponsible towards the mission of Christ.

In a more pertinent manner, this parable was addressed to the Church leaders as well and all those who represent God the Father in their homes and offices or in society.  All leaders are basically servants.  Parents are servants of their children.  Priests are servants of the People of God, with the Holy Father calling himself the servant of servants.  Government leaders and civil leaders are called Civil Servants because they exercise leadership for the good of the community.  So being leaders is always a call to Servant Leadership.  Authority is never given to us to abuse our power and control peoples’ lives for our own interests and benefit.  The leader must decrease so that his people will increase.  The leader must share the least privileges and rewards.  Instead, his concern should be that those under him will have more than what he has.  His joy is to see that others are happy and well looked after before his own needs.

Hence, this parable is addressed to the lazy servants.  So, this parable is still relevant for us all.  Priests, seminarians and laypeople are all guilty of lacking generosity in our commitment to Christ and His mission, or in our service to the People of God.  In the process, we have become calculative in our service to the Church and in the proclamation of the gospel.  Initially, when we were given responsibility, we all expressed our desire to serve the Church or the organization selflessly, completely and without reservation.  Many Church members take their commitments before the community when they join a particular Church organization.  But how many remain true to that commitment? Just because this is voluntary work, they think that responsibility, commitment and excellence are not required of them.  We fail to realize that we are not servants of a particular organization but servants of Christ.  How can we then give slipshod service to the work of the kingdom and act irresponsibly, like a lazy servant?

Rather, we should adopt the attitude of the servant portrayed in the gospel.  Instead of being calculative and offering poor service to the Lord, we should be grateful that we are counted worthy to serve the Lord.  Indeed, whether we have been chosen for the Ordained Ministry or religious life, or as leaders or even as member in a Church organization or charitable movement, we should count ourselves privileged, because none of us is worthy to be His servant and messenger of the gospel.

Yet it is such a tragedy that many of us take our calling for granted.  After some years serving the Lord, we become jaded and complacent.  Routine sets in and we begin to think that we are somebody in the Church, especially if we have been given some office and authority.  We act as if we are emperors, commanding and ordering people around, scolding and reprimanding them, and expecting to be served and acknowledged and demanding our rights, etc. Instead of thinking how best we could contribute more and serve with humility and selflessness, it becomes a question of “me” and my rights.  Indeed, many of us begin happily offering voluntary service to the Lord, but over time we become preoccupied with our special rights, honour and even material and financial privileges.

Such a situation develops because we have forgotten our calling and identity. In the first reading, we are reminded that we have been created in God’s image. “God made man imperishable; he made him in the image of his own nature.”  But it was “the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as those who are his partners will discover.”   Instead of being inspired by the Servant-hood of Christ, our leader and master, we fall into the sin of pride and greed of the devil; always wanting to have more and always thinking about ourselves, our needs and our status.

For this reason, we must recover consciousness of our real identity, which is the image of God.  We are called to share in the image and likeness of God.  This is the identity of sonship and daughtership.  But what is this image if not that of a servant? This is what the liturgy wants to teach us today.  The image of God is that of servant-hood.  Jesus is the exemplar of servant-hood.  Jesus is the servant of God, or rather, the slave of God who emptied Himself to become man and a slave even unto death.  The only desire of Jesus as the Son of the Father was to do His Father’s will and serve Him alone.  Jesus had no other ambition or wish than to be about in His Father’s business.  As He said, in John’s gospel, “Just as the Father is always working, so am I.”   The perfect prophetic demonstration of His consciousness as the servant of the Father and us all is the washing of the feet of His disciples.  (cf Jn 13)

In this parable therefore, Jesus is asking us to imitate Him by reminding us that the true son and daughter of God is a true servant who would empty his or her life for the service of the Father.  Service marks the life and identity of sonship and daughtership.  As servants, we are called to give ourselves totally to the work of God.  By emptying ourselves and being docile to His will, we become like God because we share in His life.  So, by being servant, we become who we really are, the child of God.  This servant-hood is not slavish, but one that is freely and happily given as well.  The joy of service in humility and love is what marks us as true servants of God.

For this reason, Jesus asked, “must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told?”  Of course not!  This is because by being servant, the servant finds himself.  Service is the reason for his existence.  In fact, if he had no opportunity to serve, he would not be himself.  It would be a denial of his calling and identity.  Thus instead of the master being grateful to the servant, it is the latter who should be grateful to the former because on account of him, he could serve.  So too, we must be thankful to God that He counts us “worthy to stand before Him and serve Him” as the Second Eucharistic prayer has it.

If the Ordained Minister is a servant of the People of God, so too are all baptized Christians sharing in the prophetic, kingly and priestly office of Christ called to be servants.  We are the priests of God, not to be served but to serve.  If we are called to serve, it should be an honour, rather than a duty.  Hence, Jesus said, “So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”

Thus, it is not enough to be good servants, simply carrying out the commands of the master.  We are called to go the extra mile.  Only when we see ourselves as servants of the Father, which is our true identity, can we do everything on account of love and not out of obligation.  Hence, we will do much more than what we are required to do.  We would want to give ourselves completely like Jesus, even unto death on the cross. We want to share in His Kenosis of servant leadership.

If we have not arrived at this total surrender of ourselves for the service of God and man, then the reading from the Book of Wisdom calls us to perfect ourselves like the “souls of the virtuous”.  Like them, we need to continue to be tested through trials, purified by the fire of love and given up as holocausts.  Service, especially humble and selfless service is not easy.  We can give once or twice, but to give always until it hurts, is not easy.  So we are being put to the test.  “God has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace, and accepted them as a holocaust.” Only then can we be worthy to be truly servants of God.  Indeed, as the author tells us, “they who trust in him will understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love; for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.”  Understanding servant-hood as our calling, we can appreciate why saints are addressed as the servants of God, for they have been faithful to God in serving Him and their fellowmen.

http://www.csctr.net/reflections/