Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 26, 2017 — “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

September 25, 2017

Tuesday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 450

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Reading 1 EZR 6:7-8, 12B, 14-20

King Darius issued an order to the officials
of West-of-Euphrates:
“Let the governor and the elders of the Jews
continue the work on that house of God;
they are to rebuild it on its former site.
I also issue this decree
concerning your dealing with these elders of the Jews
in the rebuilding of that house of God:
From the royal revenue, the taxes of West-of-Euphrates,
let these men be repaid for their expenses, in full and without delay.
I, Darius, have issued this decree;
let it be carefully executed.”

The elders of the Jews continued to make progress in the building,
supported by the message of the prophets,
Haggai and Zechariah, son of Iddo.
They finished the building according to the command
of the God of Israel
and the decrees of Cyrus and Darius
and of Artaxerxes, king of Persia.
They completed this house on the third day of the month Adar,
in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
The children of Israel–priests, Levites,
and the other returned exiles–
celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.
For the dedication of this house of God,
they offered one hundred bulls,
two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs,
together with twelve he-goats as a sin-offering for all Israel,
in keeping with the number of the tribes of Israel.
Finally, they set up the priests in their classes
and the Levites in their divisions
for the service of God in Jerusalem,
as is prescribed in the book of Moses.

The exiles kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.
The Levites, every one of whom had purified himself for the occasion,
sacrificed the Passover for the rest of the exiles,
for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.

Responsorial Psalm PS 122:1-2, 3-4AB, 4CD-5

R. (1) Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

AlleluiaLK 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are those who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 8:19-21

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him
but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you.”
He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers
are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

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Replica of Solomon’s Temple in Brazil, built by the Universal Church Kingdom of God

Commentary on Ezra 6:7-8, 12, 14-20 — From Living Space

In spite of the proclamation which King Cyrus had made about the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, they met with many difficulties, especially from the Samaritans who were living there.

Today we find ourselves in chapter 6. Cyrus has been replaced by another great Persian king, Darius. He orders a search for a document deposited in the treasuries of Babylon which confirms an order that had been given by Cyrus for work to begin on the Temple.

It includes some instructions on the design of the Temple building; the cost of building is to come from the royal treasury; and the gold and silver articles which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had taken were to be returned. Then the governor of Transeuphrates (that is, the part of the Persian Empire to the west of the River Euphrates) and his assistants are told to stay away from the site and (our reading begins at this point)…

…”leave the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews alone, to get on with their work on that Temple of God.” The Jews have full permission to rebuild the Temple on its original site. But the central government will provide help. In fact, the cost of the construction is to be paid in full from the royal revenue, from taxes collected in Transeuphrates and without interruption.

Alec Garrard, 78, has dedicated a massive 33,000 hours to constructing the ancient Herod’s Temple , which measures a whopping 20 foot by 12 foot. The pensioner has hand-baked and painted every clay brick and tile and even sculpted 4,000 tiny human figures to populate the courtyards.

http://amazingdiscoveries.org/11.11.22-solomons-temple-biblical-temple-exhibit

It was a consistent policy of Persian kings to help restore sanctuaries in their empire. For example, a memorandum concerning the rebuilding of the Jewish temple at Elephantine was written by the Persian governors of Judah and Samaria. Also from non-Biblical sources we learn that Cyrus repaired temples at Uruk (Erech) and Ur. Cambyses, successor to Cyrus, gave funds for the temple at Sais in Egypt. The temple of Amun in the Khargah Oasis was rebuilt by order of Darius.

Darius then pledges in the name of the God who lives in Jerusalem (not his god) that he will overthrow the king of any people who dares to defy this decree and destroy that Temple of God in Jerusalem.

The Transeuphrates governor followed the king’s instructions to the letter and “the elders of the Jews made good progress over their building, thanks to the prophetic activity of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, completing the reconstruction in accordance with the command of the God of Israel and the order of Cyrus and of Darius [and of Artaxerxes, king of Persia]”.

In fact, work on the temple had made little progress not only because of opposition from people like the neighbouring Samaritans but also because of the preoccupation of the returnees with building their own homes. Because they were placing their own interests first, God sent them famine as a judgment. However, spurred on by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and under the leadership of Zerubbabel, governor of Jerusalem, and Joshua, the high priest, a new effort was begun.

The reference to Artaxerxes seems out of place (hence the brackets), because he did not contribute to the rebuilding of the temple at this time. He may have been inserted here since he contributed to the work of the temple at a later date under Ezra (7:21-24).

The Temple was finally completed on the 23rd day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. By our calendar that would be April 1, 515 BC. This Temple, remodelled by Herod the Great (cf. John 2:20), was in use for 585 years and was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD, never again to be rebuilt.

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One commentator makes the following observation about the ‘new’ Temple:

Almost 70 years after its destruction the renewed work on the temple had begun on Sept 21, 520 (Hag 1:15), and sustained effort had continued for almost three and a half years. According to Haggai (2:3), the older members who could remember the splendour of Solomon’s temple were disappointed when they saw the smaller size of Zerubbabel’s temple (cf. Ezr 3:12). Yet in the long run the second temple, though not as grand as the first, enjoyed a much longer life. The general plan of the second temple was similar to that of Solomon’s, but the Most Holy Place was left empty because the Ark of the Covenant had been lost through the Babylonian conquest. According to Josephus, on the Day of Atonement the high priest placed his censer on the slab of stone that marked the former location of the ark. The Holy Place was furnished with a table for the bread of the Presence, the incense altar, and one [seven-branched] lampstand (cf. 1 Maccabees 1:21-22; 4:49-51) instead of Solomon’s ten (1 Kings 7:49). (New International Version Study Bible)

After the construction was complete, the Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully celebrated the dedication of this Temple of God.

The ‘remainder of the exiles’ is the Remnant spared by God and now returned from exile. It was the leaders of those who had returned from exile that were responsible for the completion of the temple. “Dedication” translates the Aramaic word hanukkah. The Jewish holiday in December that celebrates the recapture of the temple from the Seleucid kings and its re-dedication (165 BC) is also known as ‘Hanukkah’ but is the celebration of a different dedication from Ezra’s.

The dedication of the Temple was celebrated with a spectacular sacrifice of animals: 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs and then, as a sin-offering, 12 he-goats representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The numbers seem huge yet pale in comparison with services in the reign of Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah, when the animals were numbered in thousands rather than hundreds.

The priests were then installed in their orders and the Levites in their positions for ministry in the Temple, following the instructions of Moses (e.g. Exod 9; Lev 8). The priests were divided into 24 divisions, each of which served at the Temple for a week at a time. (We remember how the angel spoke to Zechariah in the Temple announcing the birth of John the Baptist, when it was the turn of his ‘order’ to function, Luke 1:8.) In 1962 fragments of a synagogue inscription listing the 24 divisions were found at Caesarea.

The returned exiles also celebrated their first Passover after 70 years on the traditional date, 14th day of the first month (Nisan). It would have been about April 21, 516 BC. And, in preparation for this celebration, the Levites had all purified themselves so that they could make the Passover sacrifice for their brothers, the priests, and for themselves. This explains why the priest and the Levite passed by on the other side in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. They were on their way to the Temple in Jerusalem and their ritual purity took priority over their helping a brother lying injured (and bleeding) on the roadside. For Jesus the needs of the brother are the first priority. That is why the stranger and outsider, the Samaritan, is the ‘neighbour’. He is the “one who shows compassion”.

The Levites are also represented as slaughtering the paschal victims, because for a long time this had been done by ‘laymen’ (cf. Deut 16:2; Exod 12:6). The urge to ‘clericalism’ is very strong!

Reading this passage we realise it is very difficult to put a permanent end to God’s work. Our churches, too, have experienced and still experience persecution, exile and the destruction of places of worship again and again, only to see them restored.

The truth, wherever it is, will always prevail. It is the foundation of our faith and our hope.

Comments Off on Tuesday of week 25 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

26 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 25th Week, Ordinary Time

MARY THE ICON OF DISCIPLESHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Ezr 6:7-81214-20Ps 122:1-5Lk 8:19-21 ]

The gospel text of today must be seen in the context of the earlier episodes in chapter 8 of St Luke’s gospel if we are to draw out its full significance.  Right from the outset, we read that some women accompanied Jesus in His ministry and many “provided for them out of their resources.”  (Lk 8:3)  The women were disciples of Christ.  Following this episode, St Luke inserted the teaching of Jesus on the parable of the Sower.  It speaks of the different reception of the Word of God.  Those seeds that fell “in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”  (Lk 8:15)  And then He taught about how putting a lamp under a jar or under a bed defeats its purpose.  We must put “it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.”  (Lk 8:16) The concluding words of Jesus were, “Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.” (Lk 8:18)

It is within the context of the disciples of Jesus “who hear the Word of God and put it into practice” that St Luke draws our attention to the mother of Jesus.  He wrote, “The mother and the brothers of Jesus came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.’  But he said in answer, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’”  In these words, the Lord honoured His mother because she was the perfect disciple of the Lord.  She was Jesus’ mother only because she was first and foremost a disciple of His.  Mary conceived the Lord in her heart before she conceived Him in the flesh.

She was a hearer of the Word in the fullest sense of the term.  In the gospel, St Luke portrayed Mary as one who was always pondering over the Word of God.  When the shepherds adored the Infant child, “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Lk 2:19)   When Simeon praised the child, “the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.”  (Lk 2:33)  When she found Jesus in temple and Jesus told her,  “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:48)  And we read that “But they did not understand what he said to them.”  (Lk 2:50)  Hence, “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”  (Lk 2:51b)

This is what discipleship is all about.  We begin by hearing the Word, by receiving the Word of God with all humility because it is from God.  There are many things in life our finite mind cannot comprehend but because we accept the Word of God as it really is, as God’s words, the Word of God will take effect in our lives.  (cf 1 Th 2:13)  Faith in the Word of God is critical to its power at work in us.  We are invited to accept the Word of God as it really is.  Like Mary, even if we do not agree and we do not understand, we must keep the Word of God in our hearts.  In the meantime, whether we like it or not, we do whatever the Word of God requires of us in faith and trust.  The Lord will reveal to us through the events and encounters of our lives.  On hindsight and allowing time to unfold, we will see the truth of God’s word being unfolded against the foolishness and the impracticability of the world’s so called pragmatic decisions that are short-sighted, causing untold problems in the future.

But Mary was not just a hearer of the Word, she was a doer.  Her immediate response to the Word of God was an act of obedience.  She was surely aware of her future; but perhaps not the full implications.  She would have thought through how she would have been embarrassed; the disbelief of her people with regard to her pregnancy through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit; how her fidelity to Joseph would be placed in doubt and most of all, her life would be at stake.

We too are called to be like Mary, to respond effectively to the Word of God and to allow the Word to rest in us.  Only those who put the Word of God into practice, as Jesus said, are those who build their house on rock.  “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.”  (Mt 7:24-27)  Indeed, we see Mary living out the Word of God in a life of charity and compassion towards others, whether it was Elizabeth her cousin, who was pregnant in her old age and needed someone to look after her; or the Wedding couple who ran short of wine for the celebration; or simply standing beneath the cross of Jesus in shame whilst forgiving her Son’s enemies.

In all these instances, Mary hardly spoke and was always never in the limelight.  Mary was contented to be a silent helper and supporter of the Lord because she did not want any attention from our Lord to be diverted to her.   She knew her task was to let the light of Christ shine among the peoples.  All her life, she just wanted to draw others to her Son, Jesus.  Her words to all who came to the Lord were simply, “Do whatever He tells you!”  (Jn 2:5)  And when the time came to support the disciples of the Lord after His ascension, Mary gathered with them in prayer, awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit.  She was truly the mother of Jesus in spirit and as a biological mother, but also our spiritual mother.

However, most of all, in doing God’s will, not only do we become God’s adopted children, but we also become members of God’s family.  When we obey His word, we share in a new kind of relationship which is even stronger than biological ties.  Sharing the same mind and heart brings us closer to each other than just physical or biological ties.  Indeed, our ties with the family of God are dependent on how much we all share in common.  What should bind us together is our common faith in Christ and obedience to His word.   This is what baptism does for us.  It makes us children of God and members of the Christian family because we share in the common spirit of God.  This is why Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

Only then could we rejoice together as we enter God’s House, as the responsorial psalm says. “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.   Jerusalem is built as a city strongly compact.  It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord.  For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name.”   Through worshipping together as one family, hearing His word in every Eucharistic celebration, we depart to live the Word of God.  In this way, we show forth that we are God’s children.

Indeed, for those who trust in God and obey His word like Mary, God will work great wonders.  He will bless us mightily and use us for His glory.  This was the case of Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra and Nehemiah who worked on the reconstruction of the Temple of the Lord.  They faced much opposition and constraints.  But God showed His fidelity to the people of Israel.  He used pagan Emperors to work for the good of Israel.  He inspired King Cyrus to decree that the Temple of Jerusalem be rebuilt and that all the captured treasures of the Temple be returned to them; and that the royal revenue given by them should be used for the restoration of the Temple.  Although they were pagans, they held reverence for the God of Israel.   When King Darius discovered the decree of King Cyrus, he said, “Let it be obeyed to the letter!”  Indeed, because of the benevolence of these two pagan kings, the Temple was restored in accordance with the order of the God of Israel and the order of Cyrus and of Darius.”  The Word of God through the Word of the kings was obeyed and carried out accordingly.  God works wonders for those who trust in His mighty power.

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

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Commentary on Luke 8:19-21 From Living Space

The mother and brothers of Jesus come looking for him but they cannot get to him because of the crush of people in the house where he is speaking. Jesus was in Capernaum at the time and Nazareth was about 50 km (30 miles) away. The mention of ‘brothers’ would commonly indicate cousins and not just siblings. When the message is passed in to Jesus, he says to all: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

The story is told in harsher terms in Mark. He has Jesus say, for instance: “Who is my mother; who are my brothers and sisters?” It is suggested there that their purpose was to take him away. On the one hand, they thought he was mad and an embarrassment to the family and, secondly, that he might get them into trouble with the authorities because of the provocative things he was saying and doing such as questioning traditional interpretations of the Law. (We see a similar embarrassment on the part of the parents of the man born blind in John chap. 9. They refuse to speak to the authorities about their son: “He is big enough; he can speak for himself.”)

Luke’s account is softer and just focuses on the saying of Jesus. In fact, Luke has taken this passage out of its context in Mark (3:31-35) and turns it into a conclusion to his short section on the parables. And he modifies Mark’s “Anyone who does the will of God is my brother and sister” to match the end of his parable of the sower (the seed that falls in rich soil represents those “who have heard the word and take it to themselves”, v.15) by having Jesus say: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

To a society which regarded itself as God’s chosen people merely by birth and an external ritual like circumcision Jesus asserts that belonging to God has little to do with blood or race but only with the relationship one establishes with God.

There is a lot of meaning in the words of the message: “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside…” It was clear from their behaviour that they were not, like the seed falling on fertile soil, ‘hearing’ him and so they were outsiders. Those who really ‘hear’, no matter who they are or where they come from, are ‘insiders’ and belong to the family of Jesus.

Of course, we know elsewhere, especially from Luke’s gospel, that Mary is not being condemned here – whatever about other family members. In fact, this is where her greatness really lies. Clearly it partly lies in her being chosen to be the mother of God’s Son but perhaps even more in her saying ‘Yes’ (“Let it happen to me according to your word”), in her unswerving faithfulness to that ‘Yes’ and in her standing by her Son to the very end when all the rest had fled.

When, on another occasion, she was indirectly praised for being the mother of such a Son, Jesus had spoken in words very similar to today: “No, blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Our discipleship, too, is not determined by our being born into a Catholic family or just by being baptised or by observing the external requirements of our religion but by our total commitment to the Gospel and to an unconditional following of Jesus. Only then can we truly be said to be his brother or sister.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2253g/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (From September 22, 2015)
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MAKING OURSELVES THE TEMPLE OF GOD THROUGH WORSHIP AND ASSIMILATION OF THE WORD OF GOD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EZR 6:7-81214-20LK 8:19-21 In the first reading, we read of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon.  The first thing they did was to rebuild the Temple.  For the Jews, the Temple was what gave them a sense of identity, namely, that they are the people of God.  Indeed, for the Jews, the Kingdom and the Temple were sacred to them.  That is why many of the psalms are devoted to the king and to Jerusalem where the Temple of God is.  Similarly, we regard ourselves as the New Temple of God and each individual as the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  We call ourselves Christians and are proud to be known as Christians.   Yet, for many, they are just Catholics or Christians in name but not in fact.  Just being called “Christians” or going to Church will not change us or give us life.  This was what happened to the Israelites and Jews. They were clinging to their race and status as the People of God. But Jesus warned them “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  Only such people belong to the people of God.Secondly, we note that the Jews progressed from founding their identity in the Temple to the Word of God.  In the Old Testament, the Israelites were deeply ritualistic people.  They were meticulous in offering sacrifices at the Temple of Jerusalem.  Their lives were centered on the Temple. This explains why they felt so lost without the Temple.  Their only thought was to return home to rebuild the grandiose and magnificent Temple once built by King Solomon when Israel was in its glory.  Hence, we can imagine the joy of the people when the Temple was at last restored, as we read in the first reading, even though it was not as grand as before. “The Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully dedicated this Temple of God; for the dedication of this Temple of God they offered one hundred bulls … Then they installed the priests according to their orders in the service of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as is written in the Book of Moses.”Nevertheless there was a gradual, subtle shift from focusing on the Temple to the Word of God. This was because during the period of exile, without the Temple, their only worship was focused on the Word of God.  Thus, by the time of Jesus, the Synagogue grew in importance.  God wanted to teach the people that true worship is more than just offering sacrifices and rituals.  The temptation for offering such sacrifices, which were certainly meaningful if properly interiorized’ at the same time caused those who reduced these sacrifices to mere rituals to become extraneous participants.  This is true also of many Catholics attending Church services as mere spectators, or “out-standing” Catholics, who do not fully participate in the service.  These have reduced faith to the performance of rituals and fulfillment of some obligations.  But their hearts and minds are far from the celebration.  To be sure, one of the reasons for the new translation of the Mass is to bring about a greater and more solemn participation through a more accurate translation of the original texts, aided by chanting. It is hoped that in time to come, everyone, regardless which church they attend, can worship, pray and sing as one community, rather than be mere observers.Yet, our spiritual life cannot be reduced to mere worship and vocal prayers alone.  This accounts for the apparent dichotomy of those who attend daily Mass and community prayers and worship, yet live lives that have not changed much over the years.  Why is this so?  Why is it that their lives produce no fruits even though they are daily communicants of the Eucharist?  Such people are really people of good will.  They come for services regularly, attend retreats, help out in Church, etc.  But like many of our Church volunteers and members in organizations, their spiritual life is weak. And so is their moral life.  Many are in fact living a double life, apparently very active in Church activities but living a sinful life outside the Church.  We do not see an increase in virtues, in a change of lifestyle, in compassion, humility, forgiveness, tolerance and charity.  The truth is that spiritually they have not grown.  Indeed, the warning of Jesus is pertinent.  “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’  St Teresa of Avila reminds us that progress in prayer life must be seen by the fruits.  Regardless of whatever spiritual exercises we do, if we do not bear fruits of charity, it means that we are not praying rightly or fervently.Consequently, in today’s gospel, Jesus spoke of one’s true identity as those who hear the Word of God and keep it.  Just as we find our family identity through the family, so to find our spiritual identity, we must be rooted in the Word.  No progress in spiritual life is possible if we abandon daily and diligent meditation on the Word of God.When we speak of meditation, we are not even referring to discursive meditation on the Word of God alone.  There are some who might have realized the importance of meditation on the Word of God for spiritual growth.  But quite often, they only use their head to attempt to penetrate the meaning of the Word of God.  They are keener on gaining insights into the Word of God to understand themselves better, which is certainly noble.  But of course there are some who fall in love with their “insights” so much so that they feel intellectually superior to others.For this reason, discursive meditation must move towards the level of affective prayer and ending with the prayer of simplicity.  All spiritual writers and mystics invite us to arrive at the prayer of simplicity in order that our wills are moved by the intellect.  Otherwise, it remains merely a cerebral exercise.  The purpose of meditation is not solely to gain insights. This could be done by attending a course, a seminar or just reading some theological and spiritual books.  The ultimate goal of meditation is to enlighten the intellect so that it can then offer to the will something good to acquire.  So the intellect is to activate the will to desire the truth as good.  In other words, discursive meditation is but the first step to help a person to surrender his will to the Lord so that he can then experience the love of God and make a real commitment to Him, a commitment that comes not from the head but from a heart that is so in love with God as a person.  Only affective prayer that engages in a colloquy with the Lord can effect such a transformation of the heart.  And when the heart and mind coalesce, knowledge and love are united in the prayer of simplicity; one experiences the joy of being one with God in mind, heart and soul.  This prayer of simplicity is but the first step towards mystical prayer.Finally, when all is done, we must make some resolutions at the end of the meditation. Without making resolutions, we are in danger of falling either into intellectualism or sentimentalism.  As St James warns us, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25)  Hence, it is necessary for us to conclude all our meditation with resolutions that spring not from some intellectual conclusion after the meditation, but from a heart so moved to desire to live out the truths revealed to us by the Lord about ourselves or the needs of people around us.  Not only do we make resolutions but we must, throughout the day, pause at least once or twice, to reexamine ourselves by periodic examen.  Without these frequently recollections it would be difficult to put what we meditate into practice.  Most of all, we must not simply contemplate on the Word, but put it into practice whenever the opportunity arises.  Indeed, we cannot find our identity simply by worshipping in the Temple of God.  Rather, we are called to be the Temple of God.  We are all called to be who we are, namely, as the people of God.  God dwells in us only when we abide in His Word.  This is what Jesus promised us.  He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (Jn 14:21)  Again Jesus reiterated, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  (Jn 14:23)  Truly, if we abide in Him, He will abide in us and the Holy Spirit will transform us into the Temple of God.  In this way we no longer just worship in the temple or in church, watching the priest offering the Eucharistic sacrifice, or even just hearing the Word of God; we become active participants of the sacrifice, offering ourselves in union with Jesus as a living sacrifice to the Father.

The gospel presents to us Mary as the exemplar of one who has truly become the dwelling place of God.  Indeed, Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  It is therefore appropriate that God sees it fitting to bestow on Mary the honour of being the mother of the Son of God.  She, as the gospel says, was full of grace, for she has always meditated on the Word of God, pondered over it and lived it out in her life.  So with the psalmist we pray, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the Lord. And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem.”  This house of God is no longer a physical place alone, but truly the heavenly Jerusalem where God dwells.  We are now the dwelling place of God because God lives in us.

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, September 25, 2017 — No one who lights a lamp conceals it — Nothing remains secret — Everything will be known and brought to light — St. Thomas Aquinas and the Theology of Death

September 24, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 449

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Reading 1 EZR 1:1-6

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia,
in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah,
the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia
to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom,
both by word of mouth and in writing:
“Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia:
‘All the kingdoms of the earth
the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me,
and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem,
which is in Judah.
Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people,
let him go up, and may his God be with him!
Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt,
be assisted by the people of that place
with silver, gold, goods, and cattle,
together with free-will offerings
for the house of God in Jerusalem.'”

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin
and the priests and Levites–
everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so–
prepared to go up to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.
All their neighbors gave them help in every way,
with silver, gold, goods, and cattle,
and with many precious gifts
besides all their free-will offerings.

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

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

Alleluia MT 5:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your light shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Monday, 25th Week, Ordinary Time
RECOVERING OUR ZEAL AND STRENGTHENING OUR CATHOLIC ROOTS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Ezr 1:1-16Ps 126Lk 8:16-18 ]

When we begin a new project, we are all fired up with zeal.  We want to do great things and transform life.  But when the project is prolonged, the zeal will eventually die down. The fire is gradually extinguished.  People become disheartened and give up hope of realizing the project.  This is also true for those who assume office.  When they are new, they are full of dynamism.  They are passionate and excited.  They want to do things and try out new things.  But after some time, we see them losing their passion, excitement and zeal.  They become jaded because of opposition and rejection.

Indeed, this was the case of the Israelites who were in captivity in Babylon.  The kingdom of Israel was gradually destroyed by inept and corrupt Kings and religious leaders.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC and many of the ten tribes of Israel were deported.  Then in 587 BC, the kingdom of Judah was finally destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  The Temple was destroyed and the city was burnt to the ground.  The elite citizens were deported to Babylon.   Only a remnant stayed behind.  Many of them, during the exile in Babylon, were forlorn and devastated.  With the destruction of both kingdoms, Israel as a kingdom ceased to exist.  Hence, those from the South, namely from Judah, were called Jews.

But then came the good news of liberation.  In fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah that the Jews would remain in captivity for 70 years (cf Jer 25:1129:10),  King Cyrus, a pagan king who was more liberal in treating his captives, decreed that the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city, particularly to restore the Temple of Jerusalem. “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; he has ordered me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah.  Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him!  Let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah to build the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem.  And let each survivor, wherever he lives, be helped by the people of that place with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, as well as voluntary offerings for the Temple of God which is in Jerusalem.”  They were even promised assistance by the King and he generously returned all the conquered treasures of the Temple back to the Jews.

With God, nothing is impossible.  God is faithful to His promises.  As the responsorial psalm says, “When the Lord delivered Zion from bondage, it seemed like a dream.  Then was our mouth filled with laughter, on our lips there were songs.  The heathens themselves said: ‘What marvels the Lord worked for them!’  What marvels the Lord worked for us!  Indeed we were glad.  Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage as streams in dry land.  Those who are sowing in tears will sing when they reap.”   God could work through Cyrus to have the exiled Jews return to their homeland.  God even prompted Cyrus to be generous in offering gifts, money, protection and returning the temple treasures taken during the captivity.

However, the truth remains that not all were keen to return to Israel or to Jerusalem.  We must take note of the time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians who had the inhabitants deported to Assyria in 722 BC.  Then it was the turn of Babylon to overrun the city of Jerusalem, the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 586 BC.   We can appreciate that more than 250 years had passed since the Northern Kingdom, which comprised of the ten tribes of Israel, and the people would have got on with their lives, resettled and married among the peoples they lived with.  They were so dispersed and scattered that they lost their heritage.  This explains why the Jews in Judah despised the Samaritans in the north because they were no longer pure Israelites.   Accordingly, they did not support the vision of rebuilding the Temple.

Even among the Jews, 70 years was a long time.  Many of them who were born in Babylon would never have seen Jerusalem.  Other than what their parents and grandparents told them of their memories, dreams and hopes of their forefathers, many during this period would not have had any real attachment to Jerusalem.  Furthermore, those who were already settled down in Babylon had moved on in their lives as migrants.  Many of them were employed.  Daniel himself was recruited into the service of the king.  He enjoyed special privileges and was highly regarded in the kingdom. Other prominent Jews included Mordecai and Queen Esther.  There were many others who were doing well in their businesses.  Many had accumulated much wealth, land and status over the years.

Why should they start all over again, and give up everything that they had built? Their families were well integrated in Babylon, and so with roots already deeply grounded, not many were willing to leave to rebuild the city from scratch.  The journey back to Jerusalem was difficult and would take more than four months.  Travelling was extremely dangerous because the people around them were hostile and the terrain was rough. So we should not be surprised that more chose to stay back.  They did not mind supporting their kinsmen but they were not ready to move back.  “All their neighbours gave them every assistance with silver, gold, goods cattle, quantities of costly gifts and with voluntary offerings of every kind.”   But they were not willing to exchange their security and wealth for the tremendous sacrifices they had to make to rebuild Jerusalem.

However, we read that those who went back notably came from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, from the Southern Kingdom.  “The heads of families of Judah and of Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, in fact all whose spirit had been roused by God, prepared to go and rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.”  They were those whose hearts God moved to repentance and to yearn for their return to their homeland.  God planted the desire in them to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem and be reunited as a people.  It was by God’s grace alone that their attitudes and faith changed from being indifferent to that of renewal.   The seventy years in exile had humbled the Jews and they learnt their lesson.  They did not allow their comfort and material security to prevent them from doing what the Lord wanted of them.

What lessons can we draw from this captivity?  The gospel delineates the factors for the loss of zeal and passion.   In the gospel, Jesus said, “So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”  It remains true that how well connected we are with our faith, tradition and our community will influence our loyalty, devotion and dedication.   When we are not one with our community in sharing the same faith, customs, joys and sorrows, we will lose our affinity with them.  Indeed, many Catholics have lost their faith because they are not connected with the Catholic community.  They do not read the Word of God, discover their faith and share the Word of God with their Catholic friends.   Many just attend mass on Sundays in an individualistic manner, without having any real relationship with fellow Catholics.  They do not participate in the activities of the Church.  Naturally, without any spiritual or community bond among Catholics, when the storms of life come, they are not ready.  They are swept away by the tides of life.  Indeed, the little knowledge they learnt in Catechism classes or RCIA are forgotten.

The second reason for the loss of zeal is because Catholics do not witness to their faith.  “No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under the bed.  No, he puts it on a lamp stand so that people may see the light when they come in.  For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and bought to light.”  The only way to grow our faith is to share it with others.   The more we speak about our faith, the more we begin to be conscious of what we believe in and why we believe so that we can make sense for ourselves before we share with others.   Witnessing to the gospel through a life of love and service, and sharing about Jesus with our loved ones and friends will be the way in which we bring the light of Christ to others.  In the process of evangelizing others, we also evangelize ourselves.

So, therefore, if we want to renew the zeal in our lives for God, for the Church or for our people, we need to be connected with them.  We need to be connected firstly with God and then our people.  Sharing their joys, their pains and aspirations would reignite our zeal to make this world a better place to live in so that all can be happy together in the Lord.  Let us listen to the Lord through the sharing of the gospel and let us celebrate together in life and in service.  These are the two sure ways of renewing our faith and strengthening our Catholic roots.

 Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• Today’s Gospel presents three brief phrases pronounced by Jesus. They are phrases scattered in different places which Luke collected here after the parable of the seed (Lk 8, 4-8) and of his explanation to the disciples (Lk 8, 9-15). This literary context, in which Luke places the three phrases, helps us to understand how he wants people to understand these phrases of Jesus.

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• Luke 8, 16: The lamp which gives light. “No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed; no, it is put on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in. This phrase of Jesus is a brief parable. Jesus does not explain, because all know what he is speaking about. This belonged to everyday life. At that time, there was no electric light. Just imagine this! The family meets at home. The sun begins to set. A person gets up, lights the lamp, covers it with a vase or places it under the bed. What will the others say? All will scream out: “But are you crazy… place the lamp on the table!” In a Biblical meeting somebody made the following comment: The Word of God is a lamp which is necessary to light in the darkness of the night. If it remains closed up in the Book of the Bible, it will be like the lamp under a vase. But when it is placed on the table it gives light to the whole house, when it is read in community and is connected to life.

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• In the context in which Luke places this phrase, he is referring to the explanation which Jesus gave about the parable of the seeds (Lk 8, 9-15). It is as if he would say: the things which you have just heard you should not keep them only for yourselves, but you should share them with others. A Christian should not be afraid to give witness and spread the Good News. Humility is important, but the humility which hides the gifts of God given to edify the community is false (1Cor 12, 4-26; Rom 12, 3-8).

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• Luke 8, 17: That which is hidden will be manifested. “There is nothing hidden which will not be manifested, nothing secret which will not be known and brought to light”. In the context in which Luke places this second phrase of Jesus, it also refers to the teachings given by Jesus particularly to the disciples (Lk 8, 9-10). The disciples cannot keep these only for themselves, but they should diffuse them, because they form part of the Good News which Jesus has brought.

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• Luke 8, 18: Attention to preconceptions. “So take care how you listen, anyone who has will be given more, anyone who has not, will be deprived even of what he thinks he has”. At that time, there were many preconceptions on the Messiah which prevented people from understanding, in a correct way, the Good News of the Kingdom which Jesus announced. “For this reason, this warning of Jesus concerning preconceptions is quite actual. Jesus asks the disciples to be aware of the preconceptions with which they listen to the teaching that he presents. With this phrase of Jesus, Luke is saying to the communities and to all of us: “Be attentive to the ideas with which you look at Jesus!” Because if the colour of the eyes is green, everything will seem to be green. If it were blue, everything would be blue! If the idea that I have when I look at Jesus is mistaken, erroneous, everything which I receive and teach about Jesus will be threatened by error!

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If I think that the Messiah has to be a glorious King, I will not want to hear anything which Jesus teaches about the Cross, about suffering, persecution and about commitment, and to lose even what I thought I possessed. Joining this third phrase to the first one, I can conclude what follows: anyone who keeps for himself what he receives and does not distribute it to others, loses what he has, because it becomes corrupt.

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Personal questions

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• Have you had any experience of preconceptions which have prevented you from perceiving and appreciating in their just value, the good things that persons have?
• Have you perceived the preconceptions which are behind certain stories, accounts and parables which certain persons tell us?

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Concluding Prayer

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How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the Law of Yahweh!
Blessed are those who observe his instructions,
who seek him with all their hearts. (Ps 119,1-2)

Related:

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My Vietnamese spiritual Father often said to me, “You must be a beacon.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 SEPTEMBER 2016, Monday, 25th Week of Ordinary Time
LIVING IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  PROVERBS 3:27-34; LUKE 8:16-18 ]

Jesus said, “Nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light.” These words of our Lord should remind us that things cannot be hidden for long and all things will be revealed, if not on earth, at the end of time.  In truth, there is no secret on earth.  For that reason, it is better to walk in the light at all times.  In other words, as the psalmist tells us, “The just will live in the presence of the Lord.”

Because we know that what is kept secret will be revealed in time, many of us live in fear when we have done wrong in life, more so if it is a crime we have committed.  Even though we might be apparently doing well in life, yet we are not happy.  This is because we have secret and hidden sins which we dare not reveal.  We live in anxiety and fear that one day our past sins and our failures will be exposed; or even current and ongoing sins.

Indeed, we can never be happy regardless of our wealth and other material security when our heart is insecure because of dishonesty.  We might have a beautiful bed but we cannot sleep.  We have good food but cannot eat in peace.  We have a big car but we know it does not belong to us.  Those who cheat and steal can never find peace with ill-gotten gains.  So long as we take what is not ours, we cannot be at peace because we are living on stolen goods, “for the willful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord, who confides only in honest men.”  Cheating is not confined only to money but in relationships as well.  When we cheat on our friends, our loved ones especially, or our spouse, we can never find peace in that extra-marital or irregular relationship.   We rationalize that it is all right because of certain circumstances.   We try to justify our actions but deep within our hearts, our conscience condemns us.  It speaks so loudly in our heart, robbing us of our peace and joy.

Then there are many who do not have peace in their hearts because of addictions, especially to drugs, sex and gambling.  Those addicted to drugs are afraid to let their loved ones know about their addiction.  Often by the time they are discovered, it is too late.   But even if those hidden sins are not criminal, such as those sins involving sex, pornography and gambling, they are shameful and often not confessed.  More so if you are Catholic, or worse still, an active Catholic in Church!  We would do all these things under cover for fear of being recognized.  When confronted we would deny vehemently that we are addicted.  We claim that these are pure fun.  So long as our conscience is not clear, we know that what we are doing is wrong.

Peace comes only when we do what is right and just.  This is what the psalmist tells us. “Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain? He who walks without fault; he who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart; he who does not slander with his tongue. He who does no wrong to his brother; who casts no slur on his neighbor; who holds the godless in disdain, but honours those who fear the Lord. He who keeps his pledge, come what may; who takes no interest on a loan and accepts no bribes against the innocent.  Such a man will stand firm forever.” Otherwise, we will always live in fear of being discovered.  That will bring shame to us and our family; cause us to lose our friends and sometimes our reputation and even our livelihood.  So it is better to walk in the light than to walk in darkness.  To walk in the light is to walk in the presence of the Lord, knowing that He is watching us in whatever we do.  We can deceive the world but we cannot cheat ourselves.  Most of all, we cannot cheat God.  That is why we feel disgusted with ourselves.

In truth, being frail and mortal beings, because of our fallen nature we can expect to fall into sin or succumb to our human weaknesses.  We should never condemn ourselves when we fail in Christian charity or in truth.  This is the reason why God sent our Lord to reveal to us His unconditional love and mercy.  Most of all, He came to assure us that in His humanity, He understands our struggles against sins and the temptations of the Evil One.  So He wants to offer us forgiveness and His strength that comes from grace, to overcome sin.  We cannot be perfect by our own efforts alone but solely with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The real problem is because we keep our sins hidden from God and from others.  We harbor all our secret sins and this puts unnecessary burden on our guilt.  The more we try to hide or suppress them, the more they will manifest themselves in neurosis.  Hidden sins have to do with the sin of pride.  We fear shame and pain.  But by not talking about our fears, we end up neurotic, depressed and often wild imaginations of punishment and frightening dreams will haunt us to no end.

Hidden sins and unconfessed sins is the weapon that the devil uses to put fear into our hearts and so cripple us from finding peace and joy in our lives.  When that happens, we become quarrelsome, picking fights with others for no reason, irritable, angry and suspicious of others.  We allow our past to cripple us from living in the present.  If we cannot forgive ourselves or find forgiveness, there will be no healing.  Those of us who sinned and then refuse to confess our sins because of shame and fear, have already begun the prison sentence even before being discovered.  We sentence ourselves to our crimes and our sins and suffer silently without others knowing it.

Hidden sins will destroy all that we have, including our friends and loved ones.  When we live in guilt, we will end up fighting and quarreling with our loved ones.  They will be so hurt and can no longer talk to us.  Without open and sincere communication, there will be no trust, breeding suspicions.  Besides destroying our family and marriage, our health will also suffer.   With poor health and guilt, we cannot do our work or run our business with peace of mind either.  So even if we have everything in the house but because we know that we live a dishonest life, cheating those whom we love and serve, we cannot do anything well.

So let us take the first step to find peace by admitting that we are sinners or that we are addicts or that we have committed some grave sins.  Acknowledgement of sins and contrition for our sins that have caused so many to be hurt, including ourselves, is the first step to true liberation and freedom.  Spending time to examine our conscience is necessary to realizing our problems.  When we do not acknowledge and name our sins, the devil will continue to deceive us by helping us to justify our actions.  If many are not healed of their past, it is because they never truly come to grasp their past mistakes but simply gloss over them.

Once that is done, we need to share our worries, fears and struggles with someone whom we can trust.  If we have a confidant whom we can share with, that would be ideal.  But we must make sure that this person is trustworthy and mature enough to offer us guidance and thoughtful reflections and encouragement on what we are doing.  Speaking and sharing our shame with those who are very close to us will bring about the first stage of healing.  Unloading our guilt and shame, sharing our griefs and tears with someone who is empathetic with our situation will bring much relief and peace.  But sometimes, this is not sufficient because we need the forgiveness of God.  We need to know that God has forgiven us.

For this reason, the Church has given us the Sacrament of reconciliation.  This is the most beautiful gift of Christ to the Church.  Unlike in other situations and even professions, no sharing is absolutely confidential. But in the confessional, no priest, under the pain of mortal sin and excommunication, can reveal the sin of the penitents to anyone under whatever circumstances.  There is absolute secrecy in confession.  Thus confession is never done through the phone, email or letter, but always in person.  To allow a person to confess freely so that he could be healed of his shame and guilt, the Church gives the penitent the option of confessing face to face with the priest or behind the curtain.  The Church respects the privacy of the penitent and his sensitivity.  What the Church wishes is that we do not harbor our private and hidden sins, especially the shameful and embarrassing ones so that we can be set free from guilt, and find peace and joy again.   The confessional therefore is one place where one is set free without conditions and with respect and compassion for those who have failed. A good confessor is one who is sensitive, patient, compassionate, forgiving and encouraging to the penitent.

Next, we must choose to walk in the light and in the truth.  Walking in His presence at all times will give us true and lasting peace even when things do not turn out the way we want.  Let us take heed of the warning of our Lord, “So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”  The psalmist also warns us in the same vein  “The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the virtuous. He mocks those who mock, but accords his favour to the humble.” So let us walk in the light and also be the light in the world as Christ commands us.  The best way to fight sin and evil is to live in truth, in good and be the light for others.

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

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St. Thomas Aquinas

“Humility is man’s subjection to God; reverence for what belongs to God in others, for God’s sake.” — St. Thomas Aquinas

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Below is an article by Fr. Brian Mullady, OP on “The Theology of Death”, based on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas.

“The most vital question in any study of the nature of death is this: in what sense can death be said to be the destiny of Man? This will help us to answer further questions about the natural character of death, and help us to understand Christ’s death and our own.

St. Thomas Aquinas is very clear about the nature of death. He says: “The necessity of dying for Man is partly from nature and partly from sin. Death due to nature is caused by the contrary elements of the body. Every material element in the body is composed of both active and passive elements held together in a tenuous connection. From the point of view of these elements, death is natural. Nor is there any power in the material elements themselves or in the soul to keep my body or any body from death. From the point of view of the body, then Man is mortal and doomed to die.

Yet, Man is not only a body, but also a soul. The soul is the spiritual element in Man’s composition. Philosophy and the Catechism call it the form of the body, that element in Man that organizes matter into being, and into the being which is Man. The body and the soul are not two separate principals but complimentary ones, which must exist in union with each other for Man to exist perfectly. Soul, or form exists within matter and organizes it because Man is not an angel. Body could not exist as human without soul. Thus, the destiny of Man could in no sense be determined by only one of these elements. Both are necessary.

Though the body tends to death because of its contrary elements, it tends to life because of the presence of the soul. In fact, from the point of view of the soul, death is not natural to Man. St. Thomas says: “A thing is said to be natural if it proceeds from the principals of nature. Now the essential principles of nature are form and matter. The form of Man is his reasoning soul, which is immortal, wherefore death is not natural to Man from the point of view of this form or this soul.”

Though it is true that, naturally speaking death is the destiny of Man if one considers one part of him: the body, nothing could be further from the Truth if one considers him from the point of view of the spiritual soul. Reason considered the destiny of the soul and realized that there is active in Man intelligence, which goes beyond our body and is not open to death. Some ancient philosophers knew this. According to St. Thomas, Aristotle knew this, and he knew this from reason alone. St. Thomas says: “This conclusion also comes to light thru the authority of Aristotle, for he says in his treatise on the soul, ‘the intellect is evidently a substance and is incapable of being destroyed’” (i.e. immortal).

The first implication of this idea in the discussion of death should be that it is absolutely impossible even from the standpoint of reason to maintain that death is the final destiny of Man, or for that matter that life is absurd. Death is a fact, but it cannot be the destiny of Man for this reduces Man to only the material order. In fact, there is no solution to the problem of death until it is considered from the point of view of the soul.

St. Thomas makes the point many times that the soul, in its act can only be fulfilled in intelligence and understanding. Once the intellect knows one relationship of cause and effect, then the power of the mind cannot be stilled until the first cause, the primary cause, the ultimate Cause (in this case, God) is directly experienced.”

St. Thomas makes the point many times that the soul, in its act can only be fulfilled in intelligence and understanding.  Once the intellect knows one relationship of cause and effect, then the power of the mind cannot be stilled until the first cause, the primary cause, the ultimate Cause (in this case, God) is directly experienced.

Aristotle

Aristotle

Aristotle speaks of this intellectual power or dynamism in his first book of metaphysics.  He says this: “For it is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to think philosophically.  They wondered originally about obvious difficulties, then advanced little by little and stated difficulties about greater matters.  For we know each thing only when we know its ultimate cause.”  St. Thomas makes much of this text when he discusses the problem of human destiny.  He also exactly reproduces it when he considers that, even reason must reach the necessary conclusion that Man must see God to be fulfilled.

This is because of the natural desire of the intellect.  If this is true, our intelligence must see God to be fulfilled; this is our final purpose, and Man must be able to live forever.

If the vision of God is the fulfillment of the soul, and the soul the life of the body, then by implication death cannot be Man’s end.  Moreover, the body really ought not to die.  A philosopher would have to conclude that, though the body does die, the soul lives forever and that this is not a natural condition, because the perpetual division of the dead body and the immortally living soul would be like a violent condition.  In us, the body and the soul go together.  According to Aristotle, anti-natural or violent conditions cannot exist forever.  Therefore, the ancient philosophers were brought by these considerations to a box canyon.

Now, Man considered in this way was truly an absurdity.  How to explain the fact that the soul has this dynamism to go to God; the soul itself must live forever yet the body, which is inexorably joined to the soul (absolutely necessary for the existence of the human being) dies forever?  There is neither power in my soul nor in my body to make it live forever.

The solution to this problem can only be: the resurrection of the dead.  But there is no power on earth that can bring about resurrection.  The absurdity then would be that the body lies dead forever, while the soul lives forever.  Yet, this was the absurdity that the ancient philosophers were led to when they tried to resolve this contradiction only by reason.

In fact, the resolution is not possible by reason. One has to experience the Bible, revelation and especially the fact of resurrection to resolve it.  Ancient philosophers could not solve this problem because they did not know that Man had been and could be called to intimacy with God.  They did not know about grace.  Seneca, an ancient Roman philosopher who taught that death was natural to Man taught this because he did not know about the Scriptures and he did not know about the condition of Man before the Fall.  (Adam and Eve did not have the necessity of dying before the Fall.)  St. Thomas says about them, “Seneca and the other philosophers considered human nature according to those principles that belong to it (human nature) only from the principles of nature.  They did not know about the state of the first condition of original innocence, which is held only by faith.  Therefore, they only spoke about death as a natural defect, although this natural defect for us is a punishment in some way.

Man, in fact was originally created correctly.  He had communion and intimacy with God.  He had no sin, and therefore he did not suffer from the necessity of dying.  In other words, a condition of unity and integrity in the human character was only as permanent as the state of grace.  God subjected Man to a beautiful union of love in which God’s grace and life permeated all of the powers of Man and gave Man the gift of being able to control his own body.  This power was lost when sin entered the world.  Sin, which is death of the soul leads to the necessity of the death of the body.  There are then two deaths of Man who is in the state of original sin: the death of the soul is the cause of the necessary death of the body.  Of course, we know that the soul does not die in its being, and yet it is like something dead, because as the soul gives life to the body, so God gives life to the soul.  A soul that cannot experience communion with God is as though dead.  And that is why we call the sin by which we lose grace “mortal sin”.  It renders the soul like a dead thing.

By way of conclusion, it is obvious that the death of Man is a tragedy that is caused by a much deeper tragedy: the death brought about by sin.  The experience of death without knowing about grace causes an extreme tension within each human person because death seems so unnatural and absurd.  This is not because life after death is just some sort of wishful thinking.  The necessity of the afterlife is perfectly reasonable because of our understanding of intelligence.  Man in the state of sin is left in a box canyon without an exit.  This is because Man can know that the soul lives forever. However, for the body to not share in this life is a violence that cannot be explained.  The source of the tragedy is sin, of course.  The philosopher, who relies solely on reason, can recognize this as an intolerable condition.  He cannot possibly know why it exists.

Therefore, the problem is not that Man is hopeless and finds life completely absurd, something of which he can make no sense.  Rather, the source of the absurdity is that Man knows that life is eternal.  But in the first place, because of the death of the soul he has no power to arrive at any object that is eternal.  Secondly, even if he could, his body could not follow where his soul would lead.  If one were a Platonist (Plato believed that the body was a prison that the soul was in unnaturally) this would be fine.  But, for one who understands both the eternity of the soul and the unity between the body and the soul, the death of the body is an absurdity precisely because of the immortality of the soul.

But nihilism, and existential anguish have no place here.  If death were Man’s destiny, sin would not be madness.  However, the madness of sin comes in the fact that men will exist, but in a completely unfulfilled state.  Man without grace can have no natural completion.  And there can be no completion for the eternally-existing soul, because union with God is impossible.

Grace changes all this.  The man who understands grace understands that there is a twofold resurrection that corresponds to this twofold death.  To the death of the soul, we have the resurrection of the soul and sanctifying grace.  And to the death of the body we have the resurrection of the dead, which is the perfect completion of the resurrection of the soul.

The true existential anguish of Man, then can only be over the existence of sin.  The uneasiness experienced on the part of Man is found in pagans who do not know that their nature is not as it ought to be.  The death of the body is problematic, and the very difficulty is caused because Man can know that he can live forever, and that his actions have to influence his destiny.

Pope John Paul II, evangelization of culture, culture of life, civilization of love, Catholics for the Common Good

Pope John Paul II

What sense does this make for the death of Christ? The death of Christ, although extremely painful is not a death experienced in any kind of existential darkness as far as his intelligence is concerned.  Catholic doctrine has taught for many centuries that Christ enjoyed the beatific vision from the moment of his conception…Christ not only saw God from the moment of his conception, but he also sees all of us.  All of us are taken into every action of his.  That includes his death.

John Paul II has said this: “Jesus had the clear vision of God, and the certainty of his union with the Father dominated his mind [on the cross].  But in the sphere bordering on the senses…Jesus’ human soul was reduced to a wasteland.”  In other words, from the point of view of Jesus’ feelings and imagination [at the time of death] it was black and dark.   But not from the point of view of his intelligence, or of his will.  This was always and completely united to the Father.  It is very important to see that the death of Christ is not existential angst (fear).  Christ did not throw himself into the face of an unknown, with no idea of what resolution God could possibly make of the situation.

What should our attitude be towards death?  It should be the same as the Lord’s.  For the Christian, death is not a darkness, an absurdity, or a plunge into a nonsensical unknown.  The Christian knows that death is painful and sorrowful.  It is not a pleasant experience.  It is a punishment for the original sin.  Still, the Christian should not worry about physical death. What gives death its sting is not that the body dies and corrupts in the grave.  One who has lived a life of union with God on earth knows with the firmest conviction of faith and of reason that the soul lives forever.  One also knows, following the resurrection of Christ, with the firmest conviction of faith that he or she will have a part in that resurrection.  The real problem with death is that it is painful.  But for one who has faith, there should be no uncertainty about what lies beyond death, nor does one have to resolve the seeming contradiction of the spirit’s dying by merely projecting something nice and wonderful and possible afterwards.

The real absurdity of death consists in someone knowing what lies beyond the grave, and yet going to it unprepared.  The sting of death is sin.

http://ccgaction.org/spiritual_life/theologyofdeath

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, September 24, 2017 — “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

September 23, 2017

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 133

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Prophet Isaiah by Maarten van Heemskerck

Reading 1 IS 55:6-9

Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18

R. (18a) The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
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. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
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. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Reading 2 PHIL 1:20C-24, 27A

Brothers and sisters:
Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.
If I go on living in the flesh,
that means fruitful labor for me.
And I do not know which I shall choose.
I am caught between the two.
I long to depart this life and be with Christ,
for that is far better.
Yet that I remain in the flesh
is more necessary for your benefit.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Alleluia CF. ACTS 16:14B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Art: Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard By Rembrandt

Gospel MT 20:1-16A

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

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

How can someone who works the whole day be paid the same as someone who only worked an hour or less?  God keeps on demanding of us that we recognize His mercy and His love.  Do we want salvation for others, even if they have only converted at the last moment?  If we don’t, then there is something wrong in the way that we love others.

The first reading today comes from the Prophet Isaiah.  Today he tells us:  “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.”  And the Prophet reminds us that God’s way are not our ways.  These are two important points that help us understand just a bit how God is toward us.  The Lord is always near but we don’t always feel that way.  The Lord can always be found, but we don’t spend the energy.  To walk with God will cost us our life—and we are often not entirely committed to that walk with the Lord.  But God loves us always because His ways are not our ways.  If we have a friend who is just with us and for us part of the time, we would normally not consider that person a very good friend.  Yet God in Christ Jesus is willing to call us brothers and sisters and friend and beloved—even when we reject Him.

The second reading is from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.  Saint Paul tells us first about his own experience of giving himself for others.  Then he reminds us:  “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  We are brought back once more to face ourselves as we are before God.  Do we live in a way that manifests God’s love for others?  Do we have mercy on others?  Do we pardon others even if they continue to seek to harm us?  This is strong teaching.

So we come to the Gospel from Saint Matthew.  What an incredible parable!  This is Jesus teaching us about the Kingdom of God.  God will continue to invite us over and over throughout our whole life.  God never tires of asking us:  “Will you come and work in my vineyard?”  We can’t really believe that God is so good because we ourselves are often no so good.  But God is not a human being!  God is God and has his own ways and His own thoughts.  God loves us eternally and is always willing to forgive us and to show us mercy.

We are invited today to know more about how God loves us and then to live that same kind of love with one another.  Truly it is the only way to salvation and the only way that our world will ever come to live in peace.  Let us walk with Jesus and live as He lived.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Related:

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The Laborers in the Vineyard by Christopher Holdsworth

Since we are dealing with “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 20:1), we need to think our way into the cultural setting of the parable, eradicating worldly presuppositions along the way.

First of all, the employer went to the market place to hire daily labourers. This was the usual custom. Straight away we are made aware that it is God who comes seeking us, rather than vice versa: but it helps if we situate ourselves in the place where we know God will most likely reveal Himself.

Secondly, the employer came with the express intention of hiring labourers. We see the dignity of work (cf. Matthew 20:7), and God’s grace in providing it (Genesis 2:15).

Thirdly, as we might expect, the employer contracted with his employees to pay a specific amount (Matthew 20:2). That amount was enough for each to purchase his daily meal. It may have been no more than the national minimum wage, or the equivalent thereof: but it was sufficient, though not excessive (Exodus 16:14-18). Furthermore, BOTH PARTIES AGREED TO THE AMOUNT.

So far so good: but as the parable proceeds it becomes a little strange to our ears. There is nothing wrong with the employer seeking out other workers as the day proceeds (Matthew 20:3-7): even if it is for no other reason than to rescue them from the indignity of being idle (Matthew 20:6). And each would receive, “whatever is right” (Matthew 20:4; Matthew 20:7).

I don’t know whether it was normal for the last to be paid first, but certainly this is what Jesus would have the employer doing here (Matthew 20:8). Remember we are talking about the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 20:1): which though the world views it as topsy-turvy (Acts 17:6), is in fact setting things the right way up!

Imagine the surprise when the employer gave to each group of labourers the full day’s wage! A pleasant surprise for some, but a source of increasing alarm to the first-contracted workers. Jesus certainly wasn’t teaching a lesson about the economy and diplomacy of trade relations!

The angry attitude of the first-in-the-field (Matthew 20:11) reminds us of the jealousy of the Prodigal’s brother (Luke 15:29-30). Both Peter and Paul teach us that, ‘God is no respecter of persons’ (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). There are eleventh hour converts, and they are just as eligible as recipients of God’s grace as those who fancy that they have personally “borne the burden and the heat of the day” (Matthew 20:12).

The complaint was: “you have made them equal with us” (Matthew 20:12). However, since the first-comers RECEIVED THEIR FULL CONTRACTED AMOUNT (Matthew 20:13), why was anyone complaining? Would they rather that these others were sent home without sufficient for their daily meal?

The Lord is in no doubt: “I will give unto this last, even as unto you… Is your eye evil because I am good?”

We pray day by day, ‘Give us (plural) this day our (plural) daily bread’ (Matthew 6:11). Whether viewed in relation to our physical needs, or to our spiritual needs, it is a prayer for us all.

We should not begrudge those who receive the answer to this prayer, though late in the day. We must not envy the new converts their blessings.

 

https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-labourers-in-the-vineyard-christopher-holdsworth-sermon-on-work-186910?ref=SermonSerps

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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23 AUGUST, 2017, Wednesday, 20th Week, Ordinary Time
BEING GAINFULLY EMPLOYED IN THE LORD’S VINEYARD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jdg 9:6-15Ps 21:2-7Mt 20:1-16 ]

“Why have you been standing here idle all day?”  This is the question that the Lord is asking of us all.  Are we gainfully employed in the vineyard of the Lord?  This call to serve in the Lord’s vineyard is a call addressed to all.  No one is exempted from this invitation.  Indeed, the parable of the labourers in the vineyard shows the generosity of the landlord in hiring as many as he could find to work in His vineyard.  He would go out again and again to the market place, and if any were found to be without work, he would employ them. It could be the third, sixth, ninth or even the eleventh hour.  It did not matter to the landowner.  What mattered was that all must be fully employed to work in the vineyard, regardless.

The Lord needs each one of us to work in His vineyard according to our capacity and our resources.  He has blessed us with different gifts, as we read in the first reading.  The olive tree provides oil “which gives honour to gods and men.”  The fig tree provides the sweetness and excellent fruit.  The vine provides “wine which cheers the heart of gods and men.”   None of us is without skills and without resources.  St Peter wrote, “Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.  Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.”  (1 Pt 4:11)

Each one of us is called to give his or her best to the work of the Lord according to his or her charism and state of life.   It does not matter whether we are called to be priests or religious, or to be saints in the world through our vocation of married life, workers and professionals in the workplace.  What is important to remember is that it is not simply work that we are doing, or just making a living for ourselves, or even fulfilling our ambition.  Rather, we are all working for the glory of God and for the extension of His kingdom.  All of us through our services and contributions are growing the kingdom of God.  So we must not forget the reason and the motive for our work.

In this way, we will not be envious of others because each one of us is playing our part in the work of building the kingdom of God.  We can be sure that the way we are appointed for the task is the best for us.  There is no need to be envious of others who are given better positions or offices.   What we do does not matter.  We all have our appointed roles in life.  What matters is that we do well and we do it for God’s glory.  As for positions in life, we must leave it to the plan of God for He knows best.  Envy and personal ambition will only make us unhappy and competitive.  We will never have peace in life otherwise, because life becomes an unending quest to fulfill and win all the crowns of life.  Life is not about winning glory but simply doing our part, having a clear conscience and doing what is given us well, and responsibly.  This is what will give us peace.

This is also the warning in today’s first reading.  We should not attempt to be what we are not called to be.  We read that “all the leading men of Shechem and all Bethmillo gathered, and proclaimed Abimelech king by the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.”  When Jotham heard it, he told a parable to warn the leaders.  They chose the wrong person to be their king.  Abimelech was ambitious and he sought to be king over the rest for himself and not for the greater good of the people.   He was unfit, incompetent and too self-serving to be the king.  What will happen to the thorn bush?  “And the thorn bush answered the trees, if in all good faith you anoint me king to reign over you, then come and shelter in my shade.  If not, fire will come from the thorn bush and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”   Such was the tragedy of those leaders who chose the wrong king to lead them.

On the other hand, we should be ready to serve in a higher office when called upon to do so.  It means giving up our comfort zone.  This was what was asked of the olive tree, the fig tree and the vine.  But they were not keen to give up what they felt they could do best. They wanted to protect their turf, their convenience, their privacy, and they were not ready to take risks.  This is a big mistake because the failure to put the best person in the highest office would cause us to lose all that we have.   We must always choose the best people to lead us; not the second best.  Those who are talented and good must remember that God has gifted them for the service of others.  They are not given such gifts just to suit themselves and have an easy and comfortable life.  Those who have been given more, more would be expected of him.  This is what the Lord said. “For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”  (Mt 25:29)

If all of us are working where we should and playing our roles properly,  peace, joy and fulfilment would be our reward.  We should not be seeking material reward for the work of building the kingdom of God.  This was the mistake of the workers in the vineyard.  They were comparing the wages they received.  Those who were employed earlier thought they would receive more than those who were employed last.  But all received the same amount.  “They took it but grumbled at the landowner.”  But the landowner was not unjust as that was the contract.   “He answered one of them and said, ‘my friend I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius?  Take your earnings and go.  I choose to pay the last-comer as much as I pay you.  Have I no right to do what I like with my own?  Why be envious because I am generous?’”

The point about paying the same reward for all is that we should not merely seek the tangible rewards of this world.  Jesus promised the disciples, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.”  (Mt 19:29) St Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:7f)  The truth is that more than just earthly remuneration, we should be happy that we are useful and are able to work.  There are many who wish to work, not so much for the money but so that they can utilize their resources.  Those without work or without any gainful service to do will suffer deterioration in their physical, emotional and psychological health.  So the truth is that the rewards of our labour in God’s vineyard cannot be measured in earthly terms.

Hence, today, we are called to be as generous as God is in calling us to work in His vineyard.  He calls all of us, irrespective of who we are.  He calls us at every hour of the day.  There is no person who cannot be at the service of the Lord.  Even the sick and the disabled, when they take their sufferings cheerfully, are also serving the Lord.  Whether young or old, we serve the Lord by offering our daily chores, sacrifices, inconveniences and sufferings for the glory of His kingdom.  We must not be calculative like the workers in the parable.  We must rejoice whenever we see people working for God.  It does not matter who leads people to Christ or to the kingdom.  What matters is that we are all working in the same vineyard in different ways.  There is no need to be envious of the work and the offices of others.  When the Lord wants us to work there, He will appoint us accordingly.  He knows what is best and what fits us perfectly.   So without envy, but rejoicing with all, we work for God and His kingdom. St Paul urges us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.”  (Rom 12:15f)  And finally, he reminds us, “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.”  (Col 3:23f)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, September 23, 2017 — Eternity and Unapproachable Light

September 22, 2017

Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
Lectionary: 448

Image result for Unapproachable Light, art, Bible

Reading 1 1 TM 6:13-16

Beloved:
I charge you before God, who gives life to all things,
and before Christ Jesus,
who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate
for the noble confession,
to keep the commandment without stain or reproach
until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ
that the blessed and only ruler
will make manifest at the proper time,
the King of kings and Lord of lords,
who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light,
and whom no human being has seen or can see.
To him be honor and eternal power. Amen.

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Image result for Unapproachable Light, art, Bible

Responsorial Psalm PS 100:1B-2, 3, 4, 5

R. (2) Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Sing joyfully to the LORD all you lands;
serve the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Know that the LORD is God;
he made us, his we are;
his people, the flock he tends.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise;
Give thanks to him; bless his name.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.
For he is good:
the LORD, whose kindness endures forever,
and his faithfulness, to all generations.
R. Come with joy into the presence of the Lord.

Alleluia SEE LK 8:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generious heart
and yield a harvest through perseverance.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 8:4-15

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.
“A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold.”
After saying this, he called out,
“Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
He answered,
“Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

“This is the meaning of the parable.
The seed is the word of God.
Those on the path are the ones who have heard,
but the Devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts
that they may not believe and be saved.
Those on rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear,
receive the word with joy, but they have no root;
they believe only for a time and fall away in time of temptation.
As for the seed that fell among thorns,
they are the ones who have heard, but as they go along,
they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life,
and they fail to produce mature fruit.
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil,
they are the ones who, when they have heard the word,
embrace it with a generous and good heart,
and bear fruit through perseverance.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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23 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Saturday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time
GRACE AS THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TIM 6:13-16LK 8:4-15  ]

The parable of the Sower has often been interpreted as a reminder of our responsibility to respond to the invitation of the Good News of the Kingdom.  To the extent that we receive the Word, to that extent the Kingdom can become a reality in us.  Hence, all of us are exhorted to be the rich soil so that the Word of God can produce in us the fruits of the Kingdom.  This allegorical interpretation of the parable is attributable to the influence of the evangelist and his Christian community.   However, this was not the primary intention of Jesus when He told this parable.  The fact that this parable is called the parable of the Sower and not the parable of the soil or something similar to this theme implies that the emphasis of the parable does not lie in our efforts or capability to respond to the Word. Rather, the stress is on the graciousness of God who is the Sower of the seed of the Good News.

We all know very well that responding to the Word is not something that we can simply will.  By our efforts alone we cannot receive the Good News into our lives.  Indeed, like the Jews, many of us “may see but not perceive, listen but not understand.”  Indeed, the mysteries of the Kingdom are not even revealed to us as parables but more likely as puzzles.  At any rate, which one of us does not wish to be the rich soil which the gospel speaks about – the soil that produces a bumper harvest.  Thus, the truth of life is that everything is grace.  This is not to deny the importance of human effort, but the mysteries of the Kingdom cannot be attained simply by hard work, responsibility and discipline.  We need grace.  This is the original meaning of the parable of the Sower.  It is not so much a question of whether we are making a responsible decision to accept the Word.  Nay, it is to remind us that the mysteries of the Kingdom can be summarized in one word: grace.  Grace is the mystery of the mysteries of the kingdom.  How is that so?

In the first place, we need the grace of the Word or the Good News of the Kingdom.  The Word that is sown or given to us is the initiative of God.  That is why the parable commences by saying, “A sower went out to sow his seed.”   And then continuing, we are told that “as he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path.”  Others fell on rock, others among thorns and some on rich soil.  In other words the seed is freely given to all without discrimination and without conditions. The Sower did not choose to sow only on rich soil but he sowed the seeds everywhere he went.  Like the sun, the Good News of the Kingdom is given to all without reserve or distinction.  Hence, we must say that the Good News is itself the grace of God.  It is not something that we can earn or merit. It is wholly due to the graciousness of God.

Secondly, we need the grace of response, the grace of disposition.  We must realize that given the choice we all want to be that rich soil which the gospel speaks about.  No one wants to belong to the edge of the path, nor the rock that has hardly any soil, nor the soil that is overgrown with briers and thorns.  Unfortunately, the fact of life is that we cannot choose where we want to be born.  It is not for us to be born into a rich and talented family or a poor and marginalized family.  It is not for us to be born into a situation where there is faith or lack of it. Very often, some of us do not have the opportunity to hear the Word, especially when we are living in a secularized world. We know that many want to become Christians but are prevented by their race or culture.  Others seriously want to be converted but because of their responsibilities to their family or to society, cannot become converted, or simply because they do not have the time to hear the Good News.  And there are many of us who have heard the Good News but due to many factors are unable to deepen our faith and spiritual life.

So in truth, the circumstances of where we are cannot be determined by us.  They are a given.  Consequently, for some of us, the ability to make a response to the Word would be more difficult than others. Just because we can respond does not mean that it is due to our efforts alone.  It is ultimately once again the work of grace.  There is nothing for us to boast about except the glory and goodness of God.  Instead of feeling superior towards others, we must be more humble for receiving such blessings from God.  That is why those who are successful in their studies or in life, those who have been blessed with talents, wealth, health and opportunities should learn to be grateful and not despise others who do not have the same privileges.   Instead of attributing success purely to our hard work, much of it has to do with the grace of God more than ourselves and our efforts.

Thirdly, we need the grace of revelation.  We know also that it is not simply by hearing the Word that we are able to come to realize the mysteries of the Kingdom.  We can be intellectually very bright and yet not be able to understand the mysteries of the Kingdom, just as it was the case of the Jewish priests and leaders.  Age and intellectual capabilities are no guarantee that we can grasp the inner realities of the kingdom.  The disciples of Jesus were more fortunate than us.  Christ had revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom to them.  They were given the insights to see the truths of the kingdom. Certainly not all of them were intellectually superior.  However, most of us are not so privileged to be able to have that gift of revelation and enlightenment.  So, the work of enlightenment is once again the work of grace, not simply one’s efforts.

If the mystery of the Kingdom is a mystery of grace, then does it mean that there is nothing we can do to make the Kingdom a reality in our lives?  Are we condemned to live in resignation to whatever situation we find ourselves in?  No.  Such an attitude will result in fatalism.  The mystery of the Kingdom is not simply a mystery of the grace of God; it is also the mystery of the relationship between grace and work.  While it is true that the kingdom of God is primarily a gift of God, we can certainly do something to prepare for this gift.  Within this context, the allegorical interpretation of the parable of the Sower becomes tenable.  We must, according to our own situation, live in such a way as to make the best of it, whether we are living at the edge of the path or the superficialities of life; or the rocky ground of trials and difficulties; or the soil that is stifled by the temptations of the world.

Here too, we must remember that grace is at work.  God will somehow, through His grace, lead us to His Kingdom, not in spite, but because of the circumstances that we are in.  In truth, there is no ideal situation, ideal community, ideal spouse or family that we can be placed in.  But according to the realities that we are in, if we co-operate with His grace, then we will certainly be able to reap a rich harvest  of life, both for ourselves and for others.  Perhaps, this co-operation between the grace of God and the efforts of man in coming to the Kingdom is the real heart of the mystery of the Kingdom.

This is precisely the advice of St Paul to the young Timothy in his pastoral ministry.  St Paul reminded him that God is the source of life, the ruler of all, and that everything comes from Him.  All that we need to do, according to Paul, is to be faithful to our duties in life, and as far as we can, to perform them without any faults or failures on our part.  And then in due time, the mystery of life and of grace will be made known to us with the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But this is something that we need not be concerned with now.  In time to come, He who is unapproachable light, will make known to us how His grace works with and through us in any condition that we are in.  His grace will ultimately be victorious for He is the “king of kings and Lord of Lords.”

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

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Commentary on Luke 8:4-15 From Living Space

We saw yesterday that Jesus was going around preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, accompanied by his twelve chosen disciples and a number of women who supported the work. Jesus, we are told, is surrounded by people who have come from every nearby city. There is an intimation of universality, ‘catholicism’, about the message he is going to give.

We are given an example of some of the teaching that he was giving them. It takes the form of a parable, the well-known parable of the sower. As in Matthew’s version, the parable is told in two stages. The first is the parable itself. The emphasis is on the sower sowing. He scatters the seed all over – as Jesus is now doing with the people. Some of it falls on the path, some on rocks, some among brambles and some on good soil.

It describes a typical situation in Palestine at the time. The field was largely a public place, at least while it was fallow. So there were paths meandering across it where people took short cuts. The land was not very fertile so there were pieces of rock jutting out of the soil. In the fallow season, it was not looked after and wild plants like brambles grew up. Also, unlike other farming cultures, the sowing took place before the ploughing.

The central message is that, even though some of the seed that the sower plants will wither and die, there is some which will find fertile soil and flourish. So it is with the Word of God and the Word of Jesus. It is a message of confidence and hope for the future of the Kingdom. In the Gospel, it is Jesus’ disciples who are the fertile soil.

As he finished the parable Jesus called out to all, inviting them to hear. He did not mean that they just physically hear. They are meant to listen carefully, to assimilate fully and to implement effectively all that he says. He is the Sower, the seed is the Word, those spoken to are the soil.

Clear and all as it is, the disciples ask for an explanation of the parable. Jesus tells them that the inner secrets of the Kingdom are for them. Why this privilege? Because they are disciples, because they are followers, because they are ready to listen. The rest hear in parables and only in parables: seeing, they do not see; hearing, they do not understand. They do not really want to see or hear because, as the Gospel says elsewhere, if they were to see and understand, they would have to turn their lives around and they are not ready for that.

The disciples are those who have done just that; they have left their boats, their nets and their families, their security and gone with Jesus. That is what seeing and hearing means.

Then follows the explanation which really carries the original parable further than its simple message. In fact, it becomes more like an allegory where each part has a meaning of its own rather than the one point that a parable normally makes. And, whereas in the parable the emphasis was on the sower, here the emphasis is very much on the soil which receives the seed. Each example is made to represent a particular way in which the message is received or not.

The seed that falls on the path is like those who hear the word but it is snatched away from them before they have even a chance to respond. The overwhelming pagan world around them was just too strong an attraction.

The seed that falls on the rock where there may be some moisture in the crevices is like those who hear the word with great enthusiasm and joy (a favourite Lucan term). But they are not able to put down any long-lasting roots and, at the first hint of opposition or temptation, they fall away. They represent the many early Christians who must have given up under the pressures of persecution.

The seed that falls among the brambles represents those who do hear and accept the word. But, gradually the pressure of the secular world and its values is too much. They try to live in both worlds at once but are gradually choked up with concerns about money and material and social wants and the pursuit of pleasure. Eventually, the word dies in them. Many Christians today could identify with this group.

The seed that falls on good soil represents those who hear the word in all openness and accept it fully. The word takes root deep within them and overflows in all kinds of good works.

It is quite clear to which group we are called to belong. To which one, in fact, should I honestly identify myself?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2247g/

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bed,%20Blessed,%20Saint,%20exhumed,%20di
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 22, 2017 — Those deprived of the truth suppose religion to be a means of gain — We brought nothing into the world, and take nothing out

September 21, 2017

Friday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 447

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Mary Magdalene, 1887, Alfred Stevens

Reading 1 1 TM 6:2C-12

Beloved:
Teach and urge these things.
Whoever teaches something different
and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the religious teaching
is conceited, understanding nothing,
and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.
From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions,
and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds,
who are deprived of the truth,
supposing religion to be a means of gain.
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world,
just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.
If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that.
Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap
and into many foolish and harmful desires,
which plunge them into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is the root of all evils,
and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith
and have pierced themselves with many pains.

But you, man of God, avoid all this.
Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion,
faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
Compete well for the faith.
Lay hold of eternal life,
to which you were called when you made the noble confession
in the presence of many witnesses.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 49:6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Why should I fear in evil days
when my wicked ensnarers ring me round?
They trust in their wealth;
the abundance of their riches is their boast.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Yet in no way can a man redeem himself,
or pay his own ransom to God;
Too high is the price to redeem one’s life; he would never have enough
to remain alive always and not see destruction.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Fear not when a man grows rich,
when the wealth of his house becomes great,
For when he dies, he shall take none of it;
his wealth shall not follow him down.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!
Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed,
“They will praise you for doing well for yourself,”
He shall join the circle of his forebears
who shall never more see light.
R. Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

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

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Gospel LK 8:1-3

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.

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Money is a touchy subject for a lot of people. We need money to live on, even Jesus and his disciples needed money/provisions in today’s gospel account. Yet, Christ also taught us to:

“Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out”, because where your treasure is, so is your heart. ~ Lk 12:33

The first reading for mass today from the book of Timothy also says:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

This is so true for so many people in today’s world, maybe even for some of us. This especially manifests itself after a person dies. Sometimes families start fighting over the money and possessions a person leaves behind even before they are buried, and it causes a great deal of hard feelings. Adult children will sometimes fight in court for years over their perceived inheritance and make themselves and everyone else around them very miserable.

People that pursue promotions on the job in order to make a lot more money can also hurt themselves, others at work, and even their own family (if they work too many hours away from home trying to achieve this). Then there are employers, landlords, investors, lawyers, etc. that will sometimes take advantage of the poor in order to become more wealthy themselves. This is a great moral wrong.

The psalm today asks why should a person worry themselves over people who seek to increase their wealth and trust in the power of money, as the focus of their lives? What ransom can they pay for their life? If their greed for money prevents them from entering heaven? Even Jesus said the same thing when he told us that one can not serve God and money because we will love one and hate the other. It is an either or situation.

There is a popular saying that, “you can’t take it with you” and today’s psalm says conveys this as well:

“For when they die they will carry nothing away;
their wealth will not go down after them.
Though in their lifetime they count themselves happy,
for you are praised when you do well for yourself.”

The bible warns us repeatedly not to get too attached to money because love is what is important in life.  Love and unselfishness is what we take into eternal life. The definition of sin is selfishness. If you don’t believe this, just Google “Vatican catechism on selfishness”. What pops up is the catechism on sin. I heard a priest say in his homily one time that “selfishness is the definition of sin.”  Sin is what prevents us from going to heaven.  The love of money can easily become a mortal sin if we aren’t careful though.

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St. Francis of Assisi by El Greco

Almost all of the saints embraced poverty. Saint Francis of Assisi is a very famous saint who was from a wealthy family who rejected wealth in order to pursue holiness by loving God and loving people more than money and possessions.

Today’s gospel sets the example on how we are to live our lives, because the women who followed Jesus provided for him and the disciples out of their own resources. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to be remembered for? Taking care of the needs of Jesus?  In modern times, we take care of Jesus, when we take care of the poor.

Mother Teresa said that she saw the face of Christ in the poor.   This is something we should also take more seriously, to see Christ in others. Those who are in genuine need – need our help. Pope Francis also said the same thing in one of his tweets recently too: ” There are many people in need in today’s world.  Am I self-absorbed in my own concerns or am I aware of those who need help?”

For those of us who have all of our basic needs met, then perhaps we could work on not worrying about money so much and to be willing to share even a little more of our resources with others. When a lady asked mother Teresa how she could live more like her, in service to the poor, Mother Teresa did not tell her to give up all her possessions. She told her to buy a less expensive dress from what she had intended, and give the difference to the poor.  Surely most of us could do the same?

http://www.acatholic.org/is-the-love-of-money-the-root-of-all-evil/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Friday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time
WHAT ARE YOUR MOTIVATIONS FOR MINISTRY?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TIM 6:2-12LK 8:1-3 ]

St Paul, the great missionary of Christ, today advised Timothy, a pastor of his flock on what it entails to be a good minister.  He squarely pointed out the abuses of religious ministry.  Indeed, as he highlighted, there is potentially great profit to be made in religion.  This is something very real even for us today.

How often have religious leaders and those serving in Church ministries exploited religion for their own personal and material advancement?  This is particularly tempting for those who have charismatic gifts like preaching and healing, where they can attract big crowds.  The danger is that adulation and popularity can make people do things not so much for the kingdom of God or the spread of the gospel but for their own material benefit or ego.  Indeed, even if we do not seek material gain, quite often we unconsciously seek power, control and recognition.  Some even manipulate, exploit and abuse those under their charge sexually. They want people to be led to them and to worship them rather than to God.

Some religious leaders are known to even hypnotize their followers into parting with all their money for their causes, or even to enrich their personal coffers by promising them healing. Often we hear preaching that promises those who give (supposedly to Jesus) manifold returns from the Lord, a hundred fold.  Religion thus becomes a kind of investment!  The motives of the members in such cases are not spiritual either:  it is not peace, unity, love and joy they seek, but success in their business, work and investments.  By indulging ourselves in this way, not only do we cheat the people but we also bring about our own ruin and destruction.  We have short-changed them.  Money is not everything.  St Paul exhorts Timothy and all involved in Church ministry: “People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.  ‘The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.”  Health and self-sufficiency are also not everything.  A good life is more than just material and physical blessings on earth but rather the blessings that come from the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal 5:22f)

The psalmist reminds us of the stark truth of the gospel message.  The response is a quotation from the first of the eight beatitudes preached by Jesus when He said, “Blessed the poor in spirit; the Kingdom of heaven is theirs!”  The psalmist cautions us against trusting ourselves and this world: “Why should I fear in evil days when my wicked ensnarers ring me round? They trust in their wealth; the abundance of their riches is their boast. Yet in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God; Too high is the price to redeem one’s life; he would never have enough to remain alive always and not see destruction.”  Again the psalmist says, “ Fear not when a man grows rich, when the wealth of his house becomes great,  For when he dies, he shall take none of it; his wealth shall not follow him down. Though in his lifetime he counted himself blessed, “They will praise you for doing well for yourself,” He shall join the circle of his forebears who shall never more see light.”  So let us not deceive ourselves or allow those teachers who preach the prosperity gospel to mislead us into focusing on the selfish, individualist and worldly needs rather than the values Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes, which are the values of the Kingdom.  These are totally at variant with the promise of worldly gains. (Cf Mt 5:3-11)

Truly, the ministry is full of temptations and if we are not careful, what we begin with good intentions may end up with self-gratification.  What then must we do to ensure that our ministry is a true continuation of the ministry of Jesus? The key to overcome temptations of every sort is contentment.  Unless we are contented with ourselves and with our lives, we will always be seeking more and more.  This is very true on the most mundane level of life, namely, our material needs.  When we feel that we do not have enough money or material things, then we begin to hanker after them.   When we do, then we begin to discriminate people.  We serve them with ulterior motives.  We do not serve them with unconditional and genuine love.  But we love and serve them only because we can get things or favours from them.

What Paul says about material things applies to other areas as well. Thus, if a Church leader has low self-esteem, he becomes very insecure in his relationship with others; he begins to seek affirmation and popularity.  If a leader lacks authentic self-love, then he makes use of others, his fellow ministry members, counselees, parishioners and others whom he serves, to fill the lack in his life.  If he is not careful, he will fall into activism.  But activism is not ministry because the former springs from emptiness whereas the latter springs from an overflowing love.

For this reason, what is most essential before ministry can take place is contentment. The classical axiom: we cannot give what we have not got remains very true.  To be contented means that we are full – full in love, full in joy and in meaning.  In other words, as Paul says, we are sufficient.  And we must really believe not just in our heads but deep in our hearts, that we have more than we need to be happy in life.  St Paul says, that “if we have food and clothing, we have all that we need.”  This is very true.  Perhaps, we can add one more, shelter as well.  But beyond food, clothing and shelter, there is nothing that we really must have to be happy.  Everything else is a bonus and a luxury.  Now, a person who is contented need not therefore not look to others and to things to be happy and fulfilled in his life.  Consequently, he will never be tempted by them and will not make use of people to achieve his desires.

Jesus is our model.  Consider the way He carried out His ministry in the gospel.  The evangelist remarked, “Jesus made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.“  He was certainly not hoarding money or seeking to build a kingdom for Himself and His disciples, or accumulating anything for Himself.  They were living a simple life in faith and in trust.  And God sent people like the women, some who were rich and influential to help them.  But Jesus certainly did not promise us riches and freedom from suffering on earth.  The women must have been so inspired by the detachment of Jesus that they too gave up their luxurious lifestyle and accompanied Jesus in His journey, serving Him quietly, generously out of their own resources.

So, if today we want to find contentment and live a life of detachment from the world, we must strengthen our relationship with Jesus, just as the women did. It is important to take note that the women who attended to Jesus and assisted Him out of their own resources were people who had been touched by the Lord in a very personal way.  They had experienced His liberating love and some have been cured of evil spirits and maladies.  We too, as disciples of Jesus, must cultivate a personal relationship with Him.  Unless we experience His liberating love and are cured of the evil spirits of lust, attachment, greed and jealousy in our lives, we will not be able to be contented in life.  But when we experience His love, then we know that our sufficiency is in Jesus.  In Christ, we are not lacking in anything. Only when we come to this level of experience, will we be able to carry out our ministerial responsibilities with unconditional love.

Yes, let us heed the advice of Paul.  We must flee from this lack of sufficiency in our lives.  Instead, we must seek integrity, piety, faith and love.  As St Paul urges all religious leaders, “You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.  Fight the good fight of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.”  This is possible for all those who love Jesus and allow themselves to be loved by Him.  In the final analysis, therefore, ministers who are not intimate with Jesus will fill up their emptiness with the things of the world; they will bring harm to themselves and those people they serve.  But ministers who are filled with the love of Jesus have more than sufficient and therefore have abundance of love to share with others.  Such ministers of God will do themselves and others good.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 21, 2017 — “Bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace”

September 20, 2017

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and evangelist
Lectionary: 643

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Saint Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt
— Matthew is often depicted in art as writing his Gospel under the inspiration of an angel

Reading 1 EPH 4:1-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace:
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,
to the extent of the full stature of Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 19:2-3, 4-5

R. (5) Their message goes out through all the earth.
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. Their message goes out through all the earth.
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. Their message goes out through all the earth.

Alleluia — See Te Deum

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
the glorious company of Apostles praise you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel MT 9:9-13

As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Thursday, St Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
UNITY AS AN ESSENTIAL SIGN AND GOAL OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Eph 4:1-711-13Ps 19:2-5Matt 9:9-13 ]

Today, we read of the calling of Matthew the tax collector to be a disciple of Christ, and then later an apostle among the Twelve.  What was in the mind of Christ when He chose him to be His disciple and apostle?  Surely Jesus would have known the potential conflict that the other apostles would feel with the addition of Matthew a tax collector.  Clearly, the most hated Jews were the tax collectors as they were not just seen as traitors for working for the Romans but also scoundrels for cheating the people, exacting exorbitant taxes to enrich themselves.  Thus, we can appreciate the scandal that Jesus caused when He was found eating with tax-collectors. “When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”

Logically speaking, the choice of Matthew and the rest of the apostles were bad choices.  They were of diverse characters.  Their interests and passions were varied. Some were revolutionaries.  Others were fishermen and uneducated.  Peter was such an impulsive person, and that should disqualify him from assuming leadership.  The greatest miracle is that Jesus could choose these very different personalities with their own hidden agendas and make them work together with Him and for His Father.  This is the greatness of Jesus in His selection of the apostles.  Few leaders would want to risk the unity of the team by choosing characters that are opposed to each other.

Indeed, unity is a very essential sign of the Church of Christ.  In the creed, we confess, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”   The true Church of Christ must not only be Catholic and apostolic but also be one in doctrine, worship, faith and leadership.  That is why in the priestly prayer of Jesus just before He departed from this world, He prayed for unity among His disciples.  “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  (Jn 17:22f)  St Paul urged the Christians, “Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.”

Indeed, a true mark that the Church is not just a human church is when the Church is both Catholic and united.  Catholicity means that the Church is constituted of peoples from all over the world, different in culture, language and race.  The majority of our members are ordinary members, with some coming to the lower rungs of society and some from the higher rungs.  With such diversity in character and constitution, it is a miracle that the Catholic Church has remained one in union with the Holy Father and the successors of the apostolic college.  But we must also extend this unity beyond the confines of the Church.

What, then, enabled the apostles to work together as an apostolic college and the Christians to live in unity when the Church is Catholic?  Jesus prayed, “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  (Jn 17:21)  The key to unity among Christians is our common unity with Christ.  Communion with the Lord is the principle for communion among Christians.  Without a real and deep union with the Lord, we cannot speak about building communion among Christians because we are all so different in character and in our ways of looking at life.  We will not be able to agree on anything, more so in this age of relativism and individualism.   This is why it is so difficult for governments all over the world to preserve the unity of their citizens because of global migration, the varied racial and religious backgrounds.

The second principle that holds us together is the remembrance that we are one Body in Christ.  “There is one Body, one Spirit. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.”   Indeed, this is what binds all Christians together because we share in the Spirit, belonging to the Body of Christ.  We all worship the same God who is the Father of all, one Lord, and share the same faith in Christ as savior and redeemer.  We also agree that baptism is the entry into the family of God.  Consequently, St Paul reminds us to “lead a life worthy of your vocation.”  It is imperative that the unity of the Church should also be expressed in unity in doctrine, leadership and worship.  Unfortunately, beyond the essentials of Christian belief, this is where different Christian communities and denominations hold differing doctrines.  This is where dialogue is necessary so that the intensity of communion could be enlarged and deepened.  As Catholics united under the leadership of the Holy Father, we are in union with him in doctrine, in leadership and in worship.

The third principle that unites us is that we are “all called into one and the same hope.” Regardless of our differences in the interpretation of scriptures and tradition, and doctrines and practices, the truth is that we are all called to the same hope. This is true not just of Christians but we can extend this hope to all who are non-Christians as well. As St Paul says, we believe in “one God who is Father of all, over all, through all and within all.”   Since we all have a common Father and the source of origin of life, by whichever name we call Him, we are all given the same hope to be united with Him.  Regardless of which religion we are in, our common hope is this, that “we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.”   Of course, for us to be Christ is to be the complete man, because He is a man who is united with God, one person, two natures, in His humanity and divinity.  We too are one in God through our humanity and the Spirit of God living in us.  This becomes for us as the starting point for dialogue with people of other religions, searching with them how we can grow to be the perfect man, having the fullness of life and love, both here and hereafter. We are called to help them realize themselves and in turn also be enriched by them in the process of dialogue and sharing of life and faith.

The fourth principle in building unity is that all are called to build up the body of Christ according to the charisms entrusted to us.  “Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unit in the work of service, building up the body of Christ.”  We all have different charisms and gifts.  But all gifts are for the building of the Church and the community.  But not just for the Church, all gifts are meant for the promotion of love and harmony among all men because we are the family of God and He is the Father of all.  If each of us contributes our fair share of the gifts we have been blessed with for the service of the community, then the community will become united in love and service.  We are called to grow together in Christ, each of us is called to complement the other.

To ensure that these principles work, we need to cultivate the virtues of Christ in our personal life.  We need to cultivate Christ-like attitudes if the principles are to be executed.  Without the right spirit and the Christ-like character, the principles we have enumerated would not work.  This is where St Paul’s reminder of how we should conduct ourselves in our relationship with each other must be taken seriously. “Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.”   We must exercise charity through tolerance and acceptance of each other, especially when we disagree.  In all things, we must check that our motives spring from selflessness and not our egoistic needs and self-centered interests.   In dealing with each other, we need to exercise gentleness and sensitivity to the culture, needs, religious beliefs and affinity of others.   We must be welcoming and polite.

Finally, we must exercise patience and perseverance in the process of dialogue and working together as one Church.   Unity is not something that can be achieved overnight.  It is a lifelong process and this process never stops.  We cannot take mutual understanding for granted.  There will be ups and downs in this dialogue with others who are different from us.  But if we are motivated by the desire for peace and unity among all peoples, then we cannot stop or give up on the process.  St Paul urges us, “Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together.”   Like the psalmist, we must work for the glory of God.   “The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth the work of this 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.”

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

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First Thought from Peace and Freedom
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Jesus again shows us that ANYONE can be forgiven, and then follow Jesus’ Way — even unto the way of the Cross and eternal salvation.
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No matter where we find others or ourselves, we need always recall the many encounters Jesus had with people that were “unclean,” physically or mentally “distorted” or disturbed, or people suffering from other maladies both physical and spiritual.
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Jesus personally went about saving, healing and recruiting some of the true outcasts in life. Saint Matthew was a tax collector, one of the most hated men in the colonial rule of Rome.
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But Jesus also heals lepers, paralytics, the blind, the deaf, prostitutes, a women taken in adultery.
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Every “Prodigal Son” should know Christ’s promise. All we have to do is ask.
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And Jesus seems to want to show the disciples, and us, that if we pay attention and care for others, like Our Lord did, we too will see that the marginalized have meaning. And perhaps we all, due to our human nature, can expect some times in life  to become the marginalized ourselves. We all have opportunity through our free will to discover our dark side and to commit acts we are not too proud to recall. We are all potentially the Prodigal son or the unclean woman.
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Jesus is overjoyed when the Samaritan woman at the well draws her water from where Jesus himself took water to quench his thirst. He is delighted when the centurion comes to him begging for the life of his servant.
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Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Just say the word, and my servant will be cured.”
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The Gospels tell us, in no uncertain may, that we are all worthy, and we will be embraced as we return to Him.
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This message seems directly tied to the many times in scripture we see the words, “Do not be afraid.”
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The miracles of salvation occur, due to God’s great love and forgiveness for us. All we have to do is ask….
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Related:
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(“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you”)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 JULY, 2017, Friday, 13th Week, Ordinary Time
REACHING OUT TO THE MARGINALIZED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 23:1-41924:1-862-67PS 106:1-5MT 9:9-13 ]

Tax collectors were the most hated and despised of all peoples during the time of the Jews.  They were considered as traitors and outcasts of society.   They were worse than prostitutes because they not only cheated their own people in taxes but worked for their enemies.  So they were marginalized.  Any Jew involved in this trade was ostracized.  Nobody wanted to have anything to do with them.

But this is the same attitude we have towards sinners and broken people.   We are told to have nothing to do with them.  We are often told not to mix with bad company, and those who have no morals.  If it is because we know we are weak and are susceptible to their influence, it is understandable that we should avoid the occasion of sin.  So this in itself is not wrong.  It is a sign of humility to know that we might fall into temptations if we associate with them.  But it is a different matter when we stay away from these people because we think that we are superior to them.  When we have a disdain for them and are too proud to be among them, that is the sin of pride.

In the first reading, we can appreciate Abraham and those who were chosen to be people of the Covenant.  In the Old Testament, it was necessary to protect the Israelites who were living among the Canaanites, considered to be worse than pagans.  So when Abraham settled in Canaan, he gave specific instructions to his steward to find a wife for his son, Isaac, from among his kinsfolk.  “Abraham said to the eldest servant of his household, the steward of all his property, ‘Place your hand under my thigh, I would have you swear by the Lord God of heaven and God of earth, that you will not choose a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live.  Instead, go to my own land and my own kinsfolk to choose a wife for my son Isaac.’” This is to ensure that the purity of the faith, the culture and the peoples would be preserved.  As Israel was still a small nation, it was always in danger of being contaminated by the pagan cultures surrounding them.  This was the reason for the insistence of keeping Israel apart from the rest of the peoples; not out of pride but out of fear.

Unfortunately, during the time of Jesus, the motive became one of superiority rather than self-protection.  The Pharisees considered themselves as the “Separated Ones”, that is, set apart for holiness.  They would not do anything that could make them unclean or unfit for rituals.  They were obsessed with ritual purity.  But they became presumptuous.   They began to look down on those who could not keep meticulously all the laws of Moses and the detailed elaboration of these laws in practical terms.  This explains why when Jesus “was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’”

But this was not the attitude of Christ towards those who were sinners.  He replied, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.  Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.  And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.”   Jesus came to show the mercy of God.  He came for sinners.  He came for those who are struggling in their sins.  He knows we are weak.  He sees how much we are struggling.  He knows that we are born sinners with a wounded nature.  We are grasping for more because of the desire to preserve ourselves.   He also knows how we are entrapped by the culture around us, especially the secular, promiscuous, individualistic and consumerist environment.  It is not easy to transcend the culture we are in.

Above all, Jesus sees the saint in every sinner.   He has tremendous hope in man.  He knows that even though man is weak, he has great potential to be like Christ in love and in service.  When we fall, He raises us up because He knows that if we keep believing in ourselves, we will eventually become the person we are called to be.  That is why He does not condemn sinners.  He knows that we are sinners called to be saints in Him.  For this reason, when “he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’  And he got up and followed him.”  He saw the great potential in Matthew even though the people would have written him off.  Yet, Jesus chose from among the most hated and despised lost souls, one to be His apostles.  Jesus believed that such people were not condemned.  This is the great faith Jesus has in us human beings, sinners that we are.

He saw sinners, broken people and those without faith and morals as sick people.  He said, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.”  What is our attitude towards the sick?  Do we condemn them? No!  We show mercy to the sick and the suffering.  Those who live in sin are also sick in their mind and in their heart. They too need our mercy and compassion, not our judgment and condemnation.  They are wounded and injured because of their past, the sins of society and their own fears and anger that caused them to sin further.  So to sick people, we are called to be compassionate, understanding and forgiving.  This was the case of Jesus when He saw the tax-collectors and sinners.  He had nothing but sorrow and compassion for them.

To such wounded and sick people, we are called to reach out to them.   That is why Jesus ate and drank with them.  The only way to heal them is to begin, not by moralizing or condemning them, or worse still to exclude them, but by loving them.  He gave Matthew his dignity as a son of God. He affirmed the goodness in Matthew.  Jesus brought out the inherent goodness and virtues in Matthew.   This was what He did with all sinners.  By accepting them for what they are, He showed them His genuine love and friendship for them.  He did not tell them to change their lives.  But He first demonstrated to them that they are loved by God by eating and drinking with them.  He offered them His friendship without conditions and reservations. In other words, Jesus was telling them that regardless of what we do, we are the children of God. He loves us for who we are; not for what we are.   Only when we are loved for who we are, and recognize the dignity of our sonship and daughtership in Christ, can we then begin to live like Christ.  Jesus did not come as judge but to offer us the unconditional love and mercy of God.

Unconditional love and acceptance is the first stage to the healing process.  Unless we are loved unconditionally, we will not be able to accept ourselves and our weaknesses.  The more wrongs we do, the more we hate ourselves.   And if we hate ourselves, we cannot love others as well.  We also become judgmental and presumptuous.  Those of us who do not live the life we are called to, do so because we do not believe that we are loved for who we are.  The more we try to prove ourselves, the more we fail.  But if we discover that we are loved as children of God, this realization will enable the doing to flow from our being.  Mattthew was accepted and loved.  Hence, he was transformed in love.

We too have been given the grace at baptism and anointed like Christ to bring God’s love and mercy to the poor, the sick, the wounded and all sinners.  Like Abraham who claimed his possession of Canaan by buying the burial plot for his wife, we too must claim our baptismal rights of being the anointed one of Christ.  We are called to be like the Messiah to bear the good news of salvation to all.  Abraham was convicted of God’s promise for him when he instructed his servant to bring the wife of Isaac back to Canaan.  “The Lord, God of heaven and God of earth, took me from the land of my kinsfolk, and he swore to me that he would give this country to my descendants.  He will now send his angel ahead of you, so that you may choose a wife for my son there.”

How can we exercise this mission of mercy and inclusivity?  We must recognize our own humanity and sinfulness.  But equally, we must accept first and foremost the love of God for us.  Hence, Jesus took upon our humanity to identify with us in our sinful humanity.  St Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21). He became man to assume our humanity.  He was baptised for our sake.  He carried our infirmities in His body.  “This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.’” (Mt 8:17)  Jesus was identified with us in every way except sin.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb 4:15f).   We too when we can identify ourselves as one like Matthew, a tax-collector and an outcast, but now loved and accepted by God in Christ, we too will be able to reach out to other tax-collectors as Matthew did by inviting them to meet Jesus, the love of God in person.

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

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Matthew 9:9-13 From Living Space

The Gospel reading tells Matthew’s version of Jesus calling a tax-collector to be a disciple. Tax collectors have a very poor reputation in the Gospel. They are numbered among the groups of outcasts with whom no decent person would have any contact. In Palestine, most of them would have been Jews, employed by the Roman colonial power to collect taxes from their own people. Roman citizens did not have to pay taxes; only the conquered peoples had to do this.

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So they were seen both as renegades and traitors and also as people who were in gross violation of their Jewish faith in working for Gentiles in this way. Even Jesus, when speaking of members of the Christian community who refuse to change their sinful ways in spite of every effort made to help them reform, said that they should be treated “as a Gentile or a tax collector”. The Jewish tax collector was put on the same level as a Gentile, a person with whom no self-respecting Jew would have any relationship.

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And here, in today’s reading, we see Jesus inviting such a person to be his disciple! This tells us a number of things about Jesus. It means that he does not look at stereotypes. He does not say, “He is a tax collector, so he must be a very sinful person with whom I should have no contact.” No, he looks at the person and sees the potential there. And in Matthew he sees the potential for him to be one of his followers and indeed one of his Apostles, on whom the continuation of Jesus’ mission will depend. For Jesus, our past is not very important. What counts is where we are now and where we can be in the future.

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After Jesus says to Matthew, “Follow me”, the tax collector gets up and goes after Jesus, leaving all the paraphernalia of his occupation behind him. It is very similar to the Peter, Andrew, James and John leaving their boats, their nets and even their family to go with Jesus. It is an unconditional and total following.

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Matthew then decides to celebrate his new calling. He invites Jesus and his disciples and also the only friends he has – other sinners and tax collectors. They all sit down together in ‘his’ house. Whose house? It could be the house where Jesus is staying, a house mentioned a number of times in the Gospel and which is a symbol of the Christian community, the place where Jesus gathers with his disciples.

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Here, tax collectors and sinners are invited into the house to eat together with Jesus and his followers. This does not indicate that Jesus does not care about their behaviour but rather that they are being brought under his influence, they are the ‘lost sheep’ being brought back to the Shepherd.


Or it could refer to Matthew’s house. In that case, we see Jesus and his disciples unhesitatingly going into the house of a sinner and accepting his hospitality. Of course, the Pharisees are scandalized: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” As devout followers of the Law, they would never have contact with such people. How can Jesus as a rabbi behave like this?

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Jesus answers them very bluntly. “Those who are well do not need a doctor, only the sick do.” Matthew and his friends are people in need of healing. Jesus is there to give it to them. And he quotes from the prophet Hosea: “I desire compassion and not sacrifice.” Jesus and his true followers are measured by their compassion and care of those in real need. They are not measured by their observation of ritual laws.

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In fact, says Jesus, he has come with a special interest in the sinner. Genuinely good people do not really need the services of Jesus. They are the sheep who stay with the flock and close to the Shepherd. Jesus is interested in the stray sheep.

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This reading has many lessons for us living our Christian life today.

 

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0921r/

 

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, September 20, 2017

September 19, 2017

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
Lectionary: 445

Image result for John the Baptist, art, pictures

Reading 1 1 TM 3:14-16

Beloved:
I am writing you,
although I hope to visit you soon.
But if I should be delayed,
you should know how to behave in the household of God,
which is the Church of the living God,
the pillar and foundation of truth.
Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion,

Who was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated in the spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed to the Gentiles,
believed in throughout the world,
taken up in glory.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (2) How great are the works of the Lord!
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. How great are the works of the Lord!
Majesty and glory are his work,
and his justice endures forever.
He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
gracious and merciful is the LORD.
R. How great are the works of the Lord!
He has given food to those who fear him;
he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
He has made known to his people the power of his works,
giving them the inheritance of the nations.
R. How great are the works of the Lord!

Alleluia SEE JN 6:63C, 68C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life,
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel LK 7:31-35

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like?
They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

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Commentary on Luke 7:31-35 From Living Space

Today’s passage follows immediately after the scene (not in our Mass readings) where Jesus answers the query from John the Baptist languishing in prison about whether Jesus is truly the Messiah. Jesus uses the occasion to speak words of high praise for John, “Of all the children born of women, there is no one greater than John”.

Jesus now criticises the cynicism and self-contradictory attitudes of those who reject both him and John. They have simply closed their ears and want to hear nothing and learn nothing. He compares them to children in a city square calling to their playmates. “When we played lively music for you, you would not dance; when we played funereal music, you would not mourn.”

This comparison Jesus applies to John the Baptist and himself. John led an austere life in the desert eating, as we are told elsewhere, only locusts and wild honey. They said he was mad and rejected him. Jesus came leading a highly convivial life, mixing with all kinds of people. They called him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and other sinful people. He even invited a tax collector to be one of his twelve Apostles!

It was a no-win situation. When people are like that there is really nothing that can be done. Jesus concludes with the enigmatic statement, “Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.” Both John and Jesus could both be described as children of Wisdom, whose origin is God himself. Those who can see the hand of God in the lives of John and Jesus are also children of Wisdom. Those who adamantly refuse to see God are not.

It is important for us not to fall into such a trap. God speaks to us in so many ways and through so many people and situations. It is very easy to find ourselves excluding a priori the people or situations by which God is trying to reach us.

We cannot expect God to speak to us in ways which we find congenial. He may speak to us through a saint or a sinner. Through a conservative or a liberal. Through a man or a woman – or a young child. Through an old person or a young person. Through an educated or an illiterate person… Through a local person or a foreigner. Through a straight or gay person… Through a saint or a sinner. We have at all times to be ready to listen with an unprejudiced mind and heart.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2244g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• In today’s Gospel we see the novelty of the Good News which opens its way and thus persons who are attached to ancient forms of faith feel lost and do not understand anything more of God’s action. In order to hide their lack of openness and of understanding they defend and seek childish pretexts to justify their attitude of lack of acceptance. Jesus reacts with a parable to denounce the incoherence of his enemies: “You are similar to children who do not know what they want”.

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• Luke 7, 31: To whom, then, shall I compare you? Jesus is struck by the reaction of the people and say: “What comparison, then, can I find for the people of this generation? What are they like?” When something is evident and the persons, out of ignorance or because of bad will, do not perceive things and do not want to perceive them, it is good to find an evident comparison which will reveal their incoherence and the ill will. And Jesus is a Master in finding comparisons which speak for themselves.

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• Luke 7, 32: Like children without judgment. The comparison which Jesus finds is this one. You are like “those children, shouting to one another while they sit in the market place: we played the pipes for you, and you would not dance; we sang dirges and you would not cry!” Spoiled children, all over the world, have the same reaction. They complain when others do not do and act as they say. The reason for Jesus’ complaint is the arbitrary way with which people in the past reacted before John the Baptist and how they react now before Jesus.

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• Luke 7, 33-34: Their opinion on John and on Jesus. “For John the Baptist has come, not eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say: he is possessed. The Son of man has come eating and drinking, and you say: look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. Jesus was a disciple of John the Baptist; he believed in him and was baptized by him. On the occasion of this Baptism in the Jordan, he had the revelation of the Father regarding his mission as Messiah-Servant (Mk 1, 10). At the same time, Jesus stressed the difference between him and John. John was more severe, more ascetical, did not eat nor drink.

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He remained in the desert and threatened the people with the punishment of the Last Judgment (Lk 3, 7-9). Because of this, people said that he was possessed. Jesus was more welcoming; he ate and drank like everybody else. He went through the towns and entered the houses of the people; he accepted the tax collectors and the prostitutes. This is why they said that he was a glutton and a drunkard. Even considering his words regarding “the men of this generation” (Lk 7, 31), in a general way, probably, Jesus had in mind the opinion of the religious authority who did not believe in Jesus (Mk 11,29-33).

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• Luke 7, 35: The obvious conclusion to which Jesus arrives. And Jesus ends drawing this conclusion: “Yet, wisdom is justified by all her children”. The lack of seriousness and of coherence is clearly seen in the opinion given on Jesus and on John. The bad will is so evident that it needs no proof. That recalls the response of Job to his friends who believe that they are wise: “Will no one teach you to be quiet! – the only wisdom that becomes you!” (Job 13, 5).

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Personal questions

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• When I express my opinion on others, am I like the Pharisees and the Scribes who gave their opinion on Jesus and John? They expressed only their preconceptions and said nothing on the persons whom they judged.
• Do you know any groups in the Church who would merit the parable of Jesus?

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Concluding Prayer

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How blessed the nation whose God is Yahweh,
the people he has chosen as his heritage.
From heaven Yahweh looks down,
he sees all the children of Adam. (Ps 33,12-13)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-731-35

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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CYNICISM AS THE RESULT OF PRIDE AND FEAR
SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 TIM 3:4-16LK 7:31-35It is very difficult to try to please some people in life.  In fact, I think we should never even try because no one can please anyone in life.  Ultimately, the problem is a problem of the heart and not the reality of the situation or the truth.  There are some people whom we cannot please or reason with; no matter how logical are our arguments and principles.   Right from the start their minds are already closed and they are not ready to listen to anything.   The mind is closed because the heart is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.   This was what happened in the time of Jesus.  The Gospel tells us that Jesus’ contemporaries were negative, critical and cynical of everything, especially of the messengers of God.  They were critical of both John the Baptist and of Jesus.  They could see no good in them regardless of what they said or what they did.   They found fault with both of them.  When John the Baptist lived an ascetic life, they called him mad; and when Jesus ate and drank with sinners, they called Him a drunkard and a glutton, a friend of sinners and tax-collectors.Underlying this rejection of John the Baptist and Jesus is a deeper problem, namely, that of pride, fear and selfishness, which led to a closed mind and a closed heart.  They had their motives for not listening.   It was not so much because what John the Baptist or Jesus said was not true but because they were too true and thus they felt their status quo threatened.  They were not ready to change or be converted.  They knew that what John the Baptist said was truly the Word of God but they did not want to change their lifestyle.   At the same time, they did not want people to follow John the Baptist as they were afraid to lose their popularity.  On the other hand, they also felt threatened by Jesus.  He was challenging not only their status quo but the institutions of the day.  They needed to discredit Jesus’ reputation so that people would not take Jesus seriously.  They wanted to cling to their own ideas, concepts and views of life and God.  That is why pride which springs from fear and selfishness lead to lying.  Their lies of course were covered up by rationalization, seeking reasons to justify their positions.  As the proverb says, even the devil can quote the scriptures for his purpose.Today, we are invited to examine the depths of our hearts as towhy we cannot accept certain things and people in life.  Is the matter more to do with others, the situation or more with ourselves?  When we search deep in our hearts, most of the time we will find that it is not so much the people or the situations that make us unhappy, but rather because we feel threatened or our ego is wounded.   Hence, we are too proud to admit that others could be right because it implies a need for change on our part.  In other words, it is our attachment to our ideas, our securities and our comforts that make us unwilling to be open.  Our inability to be receptive and docile to the Word of God springs from fear, anger and selfishness. For this reason, it is impossible to please a person whose heart is closed.

But adopting such a cynical attitude towards the truth is self-destructive.  We will never learn and we can never be open to a wider world that is offered to us.  In closing ourselves, we make ourselves inaccessible to others.  We live in our own narrow confines, in our little wells, mistaking them for the ocean.  To continue to live in such a situation is not to live in reality.  This becomes the cause of our unhappiness.   How do we know that we are living in illusion and falsehood?  When we suffer the loss of peace, joy and freedom, we know that we are not living in reality.  People who live in false security, unable to confront the truth, know that their foundation of happiness is shaky.  It can be taken away anytime.  If that were so, they are really not liberated anyway.  And even if we are seemingly happy, we know we are just putting on a mask pretending that we are happy when deep within we feel empty and fearful.  Indeed, for such a man, even when he lives in heaven, he will think it is hell.

A person whose heart is open will find God even when he thinks he is in hell because of his sufferings.  For such a person, life is always enriching and liberating.   Those who are truly happy remain joyful in all circumstances in life because their freedom and happiness are not tied down to the passing things of this world, whether power, glory or pleasure.  Their joy is found in a heart of peace and love.  The exemplar of such a life is that of John the Baptist and Jesus our Lord.  They embraced life to its fullest.  Whether we fast like John the Baptist at times; or feast like Jesus; we are all called to enjoy life like Him  Even in suffering, we remain at peace and happy to suffer for love and truth.  A truly happy person is one who is open to all things in life, embracing everything and aligning himself to the will of God in faith and trust.  By so doing, he neutralizes every situation.  He lives in perfect freedom, perfect joy and in wisdom.

Yes, today the gospel invites us to follow the path of wisdom.  The path of wisdom is the way of Jesus which is now enshrined in the Church, which is the pillar of truth, as the first reading tells us.  St Paul wrote, “I wanted you to know how people ought to behave in God’s family – that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe.”   The Church as the Body of Christ with Christ as its head is where we find the fullness of truth and love.   Catholics should bear in mind that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church.  If they are seeking for the fullness of life and truth in love, they should not seek counsel from the world because they promote a selfish, materialistic, passing world.   As Catholics, we believe that the Church as the Sacrament of Christ, whom we call Mother Church, continues to instruct, teach and empower her children through the teaching, preaching and ministering of the ordained ministry and the authoritative teaching of the magisterium, the bishops in union with the Pope.   The Church is the pillar of truth and remains the guardian of truth and love in the world.

What is this way of wisdom that the world can never appreciate?  What is this wisdom that the world through reason and philosophy alone cannot come to understand?  St Paul wrote, “Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed: He was made visible in the flesh, attested by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the pagans, believed in by the world, taken up in glory.”  The truths of our faith is that God is incarnated in Christ Jesus, who in the power of the Holy Spirit announced the Good News of God’s kingdom, then crucified and raised from the dead and now ascended to heaven reigning with His Father.   We who have been baptized in Christ share in His sonship by adoption and reign with Him in truth and love.  So when our faith is founded in Christ, we know that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Following Christ is the way to live life abundantly and to the fullest.

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Who does silent meditation any more?
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Luke asks in his Gospel, ““To what shall I compare the people of this generation?”
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The truth is, we all find what we need, when we need it, according to God’s plan.
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Most Catholics and many other Christians are generally encouraged or trained in meditation and prayer.
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In his book, “Four Sign of a Dynamic Catholic,” Matthew Kelly lists prayer as one of his four signs. If you ever have a chance to meet him, ask him about meditation. We’ve heard him say, “We should have called this trait ‘Prayer and Meditation.’”
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Alcoholic Anonymous also insists upon prayer and meditation in Step 11:
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“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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See also:
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“Unless you become like little children….
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Matthew 18:3
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From Fr. Alfonse
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Jesus said to the crowds:  “To what shall I compare the people of this generation?  What are they like?  They are like children…For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners.’  But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

Everyone is an expert today.  Everyone.  There are very few professions that we still respect.  And by respect, I mean those whom I trust may know more than I do with regards to a specific discipline.

Now, I still believe in experts.  And I believe in them because I know I can’t be an expert in everything.  I simply don’t have enough time to read up on everything.

Early this morning I came up with two professions that I thought we still respected: doctors and lawyers.  But as I sit here writing this meditation, I believe I am wrong with regards to doctors.  I think we go to the doctors only as a last resort.  Why?  Because we think we know better.  So, we Google our symptoms; we self-diagnosis; we self-prescribe and then we finally go in to see the doctor.  When the doctor gives us our medication, we end up not following the instructions.  Why?  Because we think we know better.

The same holds true for God and the Church.  We are like children.  And just like children, we tend to put as much trust in God and the Church as a child puts in the wisdom and experience of his/her parents.  Not much.

So who do we trust?  Superstars!  All kinds of them too:  music stars, actors and actresses, billionaires and their wives, politicians and their children.

I know this is old news but I was taken aback a little by Clint Eastwood’s off the cuff “one-liner” talk (?) or maybe discourse (?) or even “mime” a few weeks ago at the Republican National Convention.  I say “one-liner” discourse because it basically consisted of a bunch of “one-liners”, or more appropriately, aphorisms.  Some of which were incoherent; others which were deliberate; others that missed their point entirely; while others seemed to lead to trivialness and awkwardness.  We forgave him because he was an actor without a script.

But why was he there?  Was it because he’s a famous actor?  That’s it?  So, when did he become an expert in anything other than acting?

John F. Kennedy was the first pope that American Catholics respected and listened to.  When he spoke, it was infallible and ex cathedra!    He could do no wrong!  And when he did, we all turned the other cheek.  While he was running for President, he declared to his worshipers that he would not mix his faith with his politics.  The people listened, cried and then cheered!  He had just declared his first dogma of faith for American liberal-Catholicism.

And the dogma stuck… up until his daughter’s day at the Democratic National Convention.

Leave it to his daughter, who continues to ride on her father’s coat-tails, to take her very own father’s dogma, of separating faith from politics, and mixing them back together again, but with a different political twist.

She was there to win the “Catholic” vote.  She was there as a means to an end;  to use her “Catholic” to get us to believe her “politic”.  Her mission was to convince Catholics that they too could be a good Catholic, like her, and also pro-choice, pro gay-marriage, pro everything-that-is-contrary-to-the-faith-handed-down-through-the-centuries.  She tried to erase all doubts by letting the congregation know that this would be pleasing to the “Holy Father”…her father.

Well, the pope’s daughter spoke and everyone in Rome – I mean South Carolina – listened.

But what makes her think she is an expert in anything other than being a Kennedy and a failed politician? Could it possibly be her name?  Is that it?

Now, if these individuals are the best the world has to offer me to change my mind or my positions, then I prefer to stay the course and place my trust not in the world or in a family name, but in a successor’s name:  the successor of St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ.  Don’t you find it childish how these individuals dismiss him or ignore him?  I personally find it comforting that the Vicar of Christ is not a citizen of any nation, has no allegiance to any nation, and communicates above the fray.  I find it interesting how so many people would love to convince me that he knows nothing about anything, except being wrong all the time.  I find it befitting that those who criticize him the mostknow the least about God, Christ, the Church, the faith, history, culture, family and poverty; but know a ton about computers, economics and politics!

In today’s first reading 1 Corinthians 13:11, St. Paul writes:  “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.”  In other words, when he was a child he used to think and speak as if he knew it all.  St. Paul acknowledges that his childishness went well beyond his childhood years.  What ended it for him was his conversion; that is, when he allowed himself to be a follower of the Lord and governed by St. Peter; when he finally realized that the Church was not a member of him but that he was a member of her.

Jesus said, “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” 

How many people listen to Pope Benedict?  Probably the same number of people who listened to Christ:  very few, when compared to the general population.  But wisdom is not vindicated by numbers; it is vindicated by her faithful children.

Wisdom has nothing to do with money or last names.  It has everything to do with Christ and His Church.

http://fralfonse.blogspot.com/2012/09/luke-731-35-catholics-and-politics.html

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 19, 2017 — Taking care of the Church of God — Jesus Brings a Widow’s Son Back to Life at Nain

September 18, 2017

Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 444

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Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain and brought a man back to life by saying, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”

Reading 1 1 TM 3:1-13

Beloved, this saying is trustworthy:
whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.
Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable,
married only once, temperate, self-controlled,
decent, hospitable, able to teach,
not a drunkard, not aggressive, but gentle,
not contentious, not a lover of money.
He must manage his own household well,
keeping his children under control with perfect dignity;
for if a man does not know how to manage his own household,
how can he take care of the Church of God?
He should not be a recent convert,
so that he may not become conceited
and thus incur the Devil’s punishment.
He must also have a good reputation among outsiders,
so that he may not fall into disgrace, the Devil’s trap.

Similarly, deacons must be dignified, not deceitful,
not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain,
holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.
Moreover, they should be tested first;
then, if there is nothing against them,
let them serve as deacons.
Women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers,
but temperate and faithful in everything.
Deacons may be married only once
and must manage their children and their households well.
Thus those who serve well as deacons gain good standing
and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 101:1B-2AB, 2CD-3AB, 5, 6

R. (2) I will walk with blameless heart.
Of mercy and judgment I will sing;
to you, O LORD, I will sing praise.
I will persevere in the way of integrity;
when will you come to me?
R. I will walk with blameless heart.
I will walk with blameless heart,
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
any base thing.
R. I will walk with blameless heart.
Whoever slanders his neighbor in secret,
him will I destroy.
The man of haughty eyes and puffed up heart
I will not endure.
R. I will walk with blameless heart.
My eyes are upon the faithful of the land,
that they may dwell with me.
He who walks in the way of integrity
shall be in my service.
R. I will walk with blameless heart.

Alleluia LK 7:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Resurrection of the Widow’s son from Nain, altar panel by Lucas Cranach the Younger, c. 1569, in the Stadtkirche Wittenberg

Gospel LK 7:11-17

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain,
and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
As he drew near to the gate of the city,
a man who had died was being carried out,
the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.
A large crowd from the city was with her.
When the Lord saw her,
he was moved with pity for her and said to her,
“Do not weep.”
He stepped forward and touched the coffin;
at this the bearers halted,
and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak,
and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming,
“A great prophet has arisen in our midst,”
and “God has visited his people.”
This report about him spread through the whole of Judea
and in all the surrounding region.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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19 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Tuesday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time

QUALITIES OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS DIFFER FROM SECULAR LEADERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 Tim 3:1-13Ps 101:1-3,5,6Lk 7: 11-17 ]

What does the world look for when selecting political and corporate leaders?  We are concerned primarily with their skills and knowledge and what they can do to bring about productivity and growth of the economy. Today, political leaders are reduced to economists.  The focus is on how well they are able to bring about prosperity for the country and raise the standards of living for its people.  Other areas of governance – education, healthcare, internal security, etc are important only in so far as they contribute to the productivity of its workforce and thereby the growth of the economy.  So long as the government can deliver all these, they get elected.

This is true as well for corporate leaders.  The bottom line is that they have what it takes to grow the business and increase profits for the company.  Concern for the well-being of its workers, work-life balance, medical benefits, corporate citizenship,  team work, skills upgrading, etc is not the main agenda. These are provided only to the extent that they contribute to the overall productivity of the company. At the end of the day, what is of utmost concern is not the workers but profits.

To this extent, character and lifestyles of political and corporate leaders are often not scrutinized.  Leadership, afterall, is just a job.  What they do in their private life is another story.  It does not concern the public; so long as they can get the work done, it is immaterial what they do in their personal life.  So their moral life is not considered, how they live their lives or manage their family relationships are irrelevant. The only thing that qualifies them is proper governance and accountability in terms of justice to the public.

On the contrary, the qualities that we look for in a religious leader are not only quite different but more stringent than that of the secular world.  The primary qualities that we seek in a leader are more personal than skills and knowledge-based.  Indeed, the first leaders were selected not because of their education and talents but because of their faith in Christ.  St Paul wrote, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,  so that no one might boast in the presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”  (1 Cor 1:26-31)   Indeed, the first apostles were fishermen and were uneducated.  “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.”  (Acts 4:13)

Secondly, this faith in Christ must be demonstrated in a Christ-like life of compassion, as we read in today’s gospel.  In the gospel, we read of Jesus’ compassion for the suffering, especially the weak and the widowed.  When He saw “a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow  … the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.”  Without her asking for help, He stepped up to her and said, “‘Do not cry’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.”  Jesus was a man of compassion and had a heart for the poor and the suffering.

A good religious leader must also be a man with a heart after the Good Shepherd who came for the weak and the suffering.  We are told that “Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside.”  A religious leader is called to be a sign of God’s visitation to the people that he serves.  He is to show forth the glory of God’s mercy and compassion in His life.  His service to the people is rooted in the heart of God’s compassion for us.  So a religious leader must not only have faith in God but faith working itself in love.  “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working[a] through love.”  (Gal 5:6)  And again St James wrote, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”  (Jms 2:18, 26)

But faith and compassion are not enough to qualify oneself for leadership.  We need holiness and integrity of life as mentioned in today’s first reading.  We note that when the early Church became gradually institutionalized, more regulations were needed to install worthy leaders.   St Paul, writing to Timothy who was the bishop of Ephesus, reminded him of whom he should appoint as elders of the community.   “To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble work. That is why the president must have an impeccable character. He must not have been married more than once, and he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but kind and peaceable. He must not be a lover of money. He must be a man who manages his own family well.”  Furthermore, “he should not be a new convert, in case pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned. It is also necessary that people outside the Church should speak well of him, so that he never gets a bad reputation and falls into the devil’s trap.”

In other words, a religious leader must live a life of integrity, self-control and exemplary as a Christian.  He is expected to be an example and mentor for others, whether at work or in family life.  He has to live a simple life and be of good temperament so that the goodness of God could be seen through him.   Unless he possesses the compassion and understanding of Christ, others would get hurt by his lack of self-control and anger.   Most of all, he must have a good reputation so that others would not find fault with him and discredit all that he does.  Such were the high moral demands of a religious leader in the past, and still are required today for anyone who wants to be a priest, a religious or even a lay leader.  Without being exemplary leaders who could inspire and edify those whom they lead, they would be no better than some of the corrupt and selfish leaders in the world. Such leaders do not serve the people but themselves.  They might be intelligent, brilliant and resourceful but they serve themselves, for glory, power, status and wealth; not so much for the greater good of the people.  Such leaders put themselves first and not the last, as Jesus demanded of us leaders.  “It will not be so among you; but 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)

Only when these qualities are found in a person, do we then speak of talents, creativity and management abilities; qualities that are required of secular leaders.  Unfortunately, in the modern world, our lay faithful, influenced by the corporate world, are looking for these secular qualities in our religious leaders, more so than the spiritual and moral qualities.  They expect their religious leaders to be skilled in management, counselling and mediation, besides possessing intellectual capacity and the ability to speak and preach well.  The expectations of a good religious leader are too demanding and can be daunting.  One must not only be a man of faith and simplicity, detachment, chastity and obedience, but also of good moral integrity, a good temperament, exemplary and yet be trained in the skills of a secular leader.

The question is, where do we find such young men and women who are willing to commit their life to Jesus and to His people?  Where can we find people who will walk a blameless life of utter service and charity?  Are there people who are interested to walk a life of holiness?  “My song is of mercy and justice; I sing to you, O Lord.  I will walk in the way of perfection.  O when, Lord, will you come? I will walk with blameless heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes whatever is base.  I look to the faithful in the land that they may dwell with me.  He who walks in the way of perfection shall be my friend.”  Let this be our prayer for the Church.  We must pray, for that is what the Lord asks of us.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;  therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  (Mt 9:37f)

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

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

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Gospel Reflection from Bible.org
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This is the first of three people Jesus will raise from the dead. In the raising of Jairus’ daughter, she had just died. This guy was on the way to the grave when Jesus brought him back to life, and Lazarus was dead four days before he raised him. It doesn’t matter to God how long you’ve been dead. He can bring back all the sailors buried at sea that are now fish food or those that are just ashes. He can take care of it.

 The city

Nain is located about 10 miles southeast of Nazareth, just south of Mt. Tabor. It is about a day’s journey southwest of Capernaum where he had healed the centurion’s servant. Archaeologists have found a burial site east of the city about 10 miles away.

The funeral procession

They are going out of the city. Jesus is going in. The funeral atmosphere was one of weeping and wailing and sadness. It was especially sad because this woman was now all alone.

Jesus’ procession

Jesus’ procession was one filled with joy.

THE SIGN 7:13-15

His compassion

This woman was already a widow and had now lost her only son and only means of support. She was at great social risk and embarrassment. Jesus felt great compassion for her. The word for compassion is splagcnivzomai (splagcnivzomai). It is only used of Jesus and the Good Samaritan. And everytime it is used, the result of the compassion is not just detached concern or kind words, but always involvement and action. He tells her not to cry and raises the boy from death.

His contact

Touching a corpse caused defilement in the OT. Jesus could have been defiled, but instead he raises the dead. He touches the coffin. The word translated “touch” is a strong word in the Greek meaning to “lay hold”. Perhaps it indicates that he grabbed hold of the coffin firmly to stop the procession.

His command

He speaks and it happens. Even the dead hear him.

THE SEQUEL 7:16

The immediate effects – fear came upon them all and then they glorified God. They conclude that Jesus is a great prophet like Elijah and Elisha. There are allusions to both these prophets in the miracle account. The phrase – “he gave him back to his mother” is the same phrase used in 1Ki 17:23 when Elijah raised the boy from the dead and “gave him back to his mother.” The location of the miracle in Nain is also possibly an allusion to the raising of the Shunamite woman’s son by Elisha because Nain is only a couple of miles north of Shunem (cf. 2Ki 4:). So the event and location are both allusions to Elijah and Elisha. Their conclusion is true. Jesus is a great prophet. But their understanding is incomplete. Jesus is in fact the greater prophet spoken of in Deut 18:15f.

Remote effects – the report went out to the surrounding district.

INTERPRETATION

  • Jesus demonstrates that he has power over death and demonstrates himself to be even greater than the prophets of the OT. He fulfills the imagery of Elisha, Elijah and Moses. He doesn’t pray to God to do this. He doesn’t go through any rituals, lay on the child, etc. like Elijah and Elisha did. He just says it and it happens.

    APPLICATIONS

  • James 1:27 – Jesus demonstrates genuine religion. He cared for widows. Do we have compassion? Is our compassion active or passive?
  • Even though you believe in resurrection, there is still room for sorrow. Cry with those who lose loved ones. Sometimes Christians are almost callused about death because they know the person is going to heaven. But here we see that even though Jesus knew he was about to raise the son, he still felt sorrow for the mother because she was hurting.
  • The providence or sovereignty of God works his program out in my life. This was not a chance meeting. It was providential.
  • The timing was just right. He could have gotten to Nain sooner and healed the boy. Or not raised him and still had compassion on her. If God tarries another 1000 years, does that mean He does not care or has lost control?

Related Topics: Miracles

Source: https://bible.org/seriespage/13-raising-widow-s-son-nain

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 SEPTEMBER 2016, Tuesday, 24th Week of Ordinary Time
COMPASSION IS THE HEART OF THE MINISTRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 Cor 12:12-1427-31Lk 7:11-17 ]

How can we best serve the Lord in the ministry?  What does it take to be truly shepherds after the heart of Christ?  Today, the scripture readings give us the blueprint for fruitfulness in the ministry.  Two essential factors are necessary for us to be truly effective agents of Christ in the world.  We must be passionate shepherds after the heart of Christ and we must work together in unity.

How, then, can we become passionate shepherds after the heart of Christ?  The opening prayer of the Mass gives us the key to be ignited in our passion for the Lord’s vineyard.  The prayer says, “Look upon us, O God, creator and ruler of all things, and, that we may feel the working of your mercy, grant that we may serve you with all our heart.” In other words, we need to experience first the compassionate love of God for us before we can be channels of His grace and mercy.  Being inspired by the compassion of Christ is what helps us to be passionate and compassionate shepherds.  St Paul himself writes that “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all: therefore all have died.  And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Cor 5:14f) 

The gospel illustrates the compassionate love of God in Christ Jesus.  We read how Jesus felt sorry for the widow’s only son who had died and, without hesitation, He reached out to her by raising and giving him back to her. The words, “he felt sorry” are often repeated in the rest of the gospel as well.  Jesus was always moved by compassion, as in the case of the feeding of the multitude.  They too were like sheep without a shepherd.   When Jesus saw them, He was moved by their hunger for God and so went about teaching them and then feeding them in their physical hunger as well.  (cf Mk 6:30-44)  Scholars tell us that whenever Jesus performed miracles, it was never for His interests and benefits but solely out of compassion.  He never performed miracles to prove His identity, to refute His opponents or to satisfy curiosity but simply as a response to the people’s cry for help.  Jesus truly has the heart of the good shepherd because He sees us as the Father’s sheep without a shepherd.  Hence, He was seen as the visitation of God.  He is the compassionate love of God in person. 

What is the source of Jesus’s compassionate love? He loved because He was identified with His Father’s love.  Having experienced His Father’s love, He came to identify Himself also with His Father’s love for humanity.  As the responsorial psalm says, we are the sheep of His flock.  He felt the desire not only to love us but to love us for the sake of His Father who loves us all.  In union with Him, He too loves us because we are His sheep. 

Similarly, if we are to be passionate and compassionate shepherds after the heart of Christ, we must also be motivated by God’s love for us.  If we desire to serve in the ministry, it must be because, like St Paul, we are overwhelmed by His love and mercy for us.  We too must have been recipients of His compassionate love before we can feel passionate in extending that love to others.  Only as a consequence can we then truly reach out to our fellowmen, because Christ’s concern for them and God’s love in and through us reaches out to them.  

Our ministry must be motivated by compassion, not by ambition; out of love for others and not to prove ourselves: not to find our security but to give security to others.  St Augustine wrote, “If you cannot, like Paul, earn your living by the work of your own hands, then by all means relieve your wants by accepting the milk that your sheep provide; but never neglect the weaknesses and needs of your flock. Do not seek to do well out of it, so that you appear to be proclaiming the Gospel only because you need the money … So the means of living must be offered only as an act of charity and accepted only out of necessity. The Gospel must not be like something that is bought and sold, the price being the preachers’ livelihood. If you do sell it like that then you are cheapening a thing of great value. Accept the relief of your wants from the people, but receive the reward of your preaching from the Lord; for it is not right for the people to reward their pastors for serving them in the gospel of love. Let the pastors look for reward from the same source that the people look to for salvation.  Why are these pastors being rebuked? What is the charge against them? It is that they take the milk and clothe themselves with the wool but neglect the sheep from which these things come. They care not about Christ’s interests, but their own.”

Indeed, when I reflect on my pastoral involvements and the motivation of my vocation, it is because of God’s compassion for me and my desire to extend this compassion to others.  It is for the love of God who has first loved me, and the love for His people, that motivates me to keep on giving and giving.  Indeed, many times, I felt like giving up because it is so tiring to be giving and giving all the time.  Yet, I cannot stop giving simply because I hear the cries of so many who are seeking God, longing to find His love and mercy and to be nurtured by the Bread of life.  Like the song, “Here I am, Lord!”  I too hear the cry of our people to be fed, nurtured and healed.  Every time when I hear how our people are frustrated and disillusioned with life and with the Church, I cannot but feel sorry for them as they are like sheep without a shepherd.   

This, then, is the reason why we, as labourers in the vineyard of the Lord, must work together.  Pope John Paul II never fails to reiterate that our mission is communion and hence the mission must be accomplished in communion.  The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.   We need to collaborate with each other to serve the people of God.  We cannot do this work alone as the demands are too overwhelming.  Hence St Paul speaks of the diversity of gifts for the building of the body of Christ.  We are all given different gifts to complement each other in the great work of building the Church of Christ.  We must not work alone, but together we can achieve more.   St Paul urges us, “Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ  …Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it.” 

But before we can work together and collaborate with each other, we must first become the compassionate face of God to each other, not just with people whom we serve.  This is the acid test in examining whether we are serving ourselves or others.  If we truly want to be the compassion of God to others, then we must reach out to each other and be compassionate in love to each other.  If we cannot feel with our close ones and those living with us, how can we feel for people outside our circle of life?  Compassion must begin with our loved ones, spouse, children, parents, colleagues and church members before we can extend to strangers. By becoming recipients of God’s compassion through each other, we become one as well, because we experience God’s love as real and concrete.  Let us be the face of God’s compassion to each other so that we see each other truly as brothers and sisters who love each other sincerely.  This bond we create among ourselves will help us to support each other in the ministry.  Together as one in the love of Christ, we will truly become the Sacrament, the sign of God’s love to the world, the visitation of God in their lives and truly, the sign of love and unity for the whole human race.

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

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

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From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert

The recounting of the raising to life of the widow’s son at Naim is found only in the Gospel account of Saint Luke, that is, it is not in the other three Gospels. We may ask why and the answer would something like: we don’t really know. In the narrative, like so many in the Gospels, we see a need, followed by the Lord’s intervention, its result, the reaction of the people who witness it and finally the deeper meaning of the wonder.

The attention of Jesus is initially and entirely focused on the sorrowful mother who is inconsolable at the loss of her only son. We might also think here of the Sorrowful Mother, presumably a window, Mary of Nazareth, at the passion and death of her only son, Jesus. Perhaps the Evangelist Luke had that in mind by including the miracle of raising the son of the widow of Naim. We do not know if this was in fact the case, but it seems a possibility, or at least my theory concerning the Lord’s special connection with sorrowful widows, such as the woman of Naim and his own mother Mary as well.

In his his compassion for the sorrowing mother at Naim, Jesus says to her, “Do not cry.” After this, Jesus stops the procession carrying the dead man, touches the board on which the body is laid and says, “Young man, I bid you get up.” This is an order with presumed assurance that it will come to pass. It is different from the case of Elijah who prays to God for help. Jesus, as God, is able to give the command and it simply takes place. Those who read the Gospels with belief in Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead are to recognize that Jesus is master of both life and death.

The reaction of the large crowd to the action of Jesus in raising the young man, is “fear,” though perhaps better understood as “reverential awe,” a fitting response in the presence of the divine or supernatural. “A great prophet has arisen among us,” the people say; and furthermore, “God has visited his people.” The enthusiasm of the crowd includes the wider call to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, sent from God and calling everyone to repentance and everlasting life.

The miracle recounted in the Gospel  is also a manifestation or showing forth of God’s love for all people. A key word to this notion is found in the word “compassion” or “moved with pity,” which Jesus extends to the mother in mourning at the loss of her son. More than an act of power, Jesus’ deed is one of deep compassion, literally a “suffering and dying with” the widow.

The phrase, “God has visited his people,” which the people cry, is found in another very telling place at the beginning of Saint Luke’s Gospel, at the Benedictus or Canticle of Zachariah, father of John the Baptist, who says, “God has visited his people and redeemed them” (Luke, chapter 1, verse 68). The Greek can more literally be translated as, “God has visited and wrought redemption for his people.” This is from the Gospel canticle chanted every morning al Lauds by all who pray the Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours.

The Evangelist Saint Luke seems to have in mind that anyone reading his Gospel account is supposed to see beyond the raising of the dead son of the widow, as wonderful as this is in itself, to the “bigger picture,” that is, the possibility of resurrected life for all who follow Jesus Christ.

After returning the widow’s son to life, Jesus, we are told, “gave him (the son) back to his mother.”  This corresponds to the Old Testament Elijah story this Sunday as well, when another widow’s son is brought back to life. In both instances compassion for a bereaved mother is present, a great wonder takes place and the prophetic missions of Elijah and Jesus are recognized and praised by those who witness the wonderful deeds.

God’s mercy is incarnate in Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the human race. Jesus’ supernatural vocation had its origin in God’s good pleasure (eudokia in Greek) and loving kindness (charis). We are inheritors of the fact that God loves infinitely and without discrimination. Everyone is eligible for God’s favor and visit, the gift of redemption in Jesus Christ.

The mystery of Christ and his mercy, clearly demonstrated in the Gospel this Sunday and every Sunday, should encourage us, “raise us up” to a life of action (yes, even for me as a contemplative monk!), for the good of others as we all seek to be “Kingdom-makers.” This means calling others into God’s sheepfold, and in the process personally becoming more deeply part of God’s household as well.

On a Holy Land pilgrimage in 1987, with other religious and clergy who were living and studying in Rome at the time, we were privileged as a group to visit the village of Naim, a poor and rather out of the way place, down a dirt road off the highway and now a Muslim village. There is a modest-sized Christian church there, centuries-old, unlocked by a Muslim attendant for the occasional Christian pilgrims like ourselves. The little church is dedicated to the mystery of the Lord raising the son of the widow of Naim. A visit and moment for prayer there always has remained a fond memory for me, knowing that Jesus walked the same dusty path and was moved to compassion when he approached the funeral procession and raised the widow’s son from death.

Widow’s Son Church at Nain — is the site of the miracle in today’s Gospel by Saint Luke….

In this context, I conclude with a quote from Father James McCaffrey, OCD, a Carmelite friar, from a very fine book I am now reading:

“The Holy Land helps us to rediscover the human Jesus, but at the same time directs us steadily to his mystery; because the living Christ is now in glory. Freed by the resurrection from the limits of time and space, he meets us, men and women of every country, every language and culture. We are present here where he was; he is present here where we are” (from the book, “A Biblical Prayer Journey in the Holy Land,” Editorial Monte Carmelo, 1988, pages 322-333).

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, September 18, 2017 — The Humility of the Centurion

September 17, 2017

Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 443

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing

Reading 1 1 TM 2:1-8

Beloved:
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.

For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.

This was the testimony at the proper time.
For this I was appointed preacher and Apostle
(I am speaking the truth, I am not lying),
teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,
lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 28:2, 7, 8-9

R. (6) Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.
Hear the sound of my pleading, when I cry to you,
lifting up my hands toward your holy shrine.
R. Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.
The LORD is my strength and my shield.
In him my heart trusts, and I find help;
then my heart exults, and with my song I give him thanks.
R. Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.
The LORD is the strength of his people,
the saving refuge of his anointed.
Save your people, and bless your inheritance;
feed them, and carry them forever!
R. Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard my prayer.

Alleluia  JN 3:16

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

Gospel  LK 7:1-10

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people,
he entered Capernaum.
A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, Go, and he goes;
and to another, Come here, and he comes;
and to my slave, Do this, and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.

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Homily For 1  TM 2:1-8 Steven J. Cole
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How concerned am I with people around me who are perishing without Jesus Christ? Do I care more about my own comfort and financial gain than I do about people dying without the Savior? Do I go on about my business day after day, week after week, without any burden for those who need to know Christ as Savior?

You say, “Well, after all, what can I do? I’m just one person, and there are billions who don’t know Christ.”

For starters, you can commit yourself to prayer. You can meet with others to pray for those who are lost and perishing without the Savior.

You say, “Prayer? Come on, I thought you were talking about a way I could really get involved. You know, a way I could do something that would really make a difference.”

That’s precisely what I’m talking about. Prayer is doing something. Prayer will make a tremendous difference. The amazing fact is that the sovereign God has chosen to work in response to the prayers of His people.

As Paul begins to tell Timothy how to conduct oneself in the local church (3:15), he puts prayer as the first priority (2:1, “First of all”). But Paul is not just talking about the need for prayer in general. He is talking about the need for prayer as it relates to the salvation of the lost. He repeats some words and ideas in 2:1-8 that show what he is driving at: “all men” (2:1); “all” (2:2); “God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved” (2:3, 4); “mediator … between God and men” (2:5); “a ransom for all, the testimony” (2:6); “preacher and … teacher of the Gentiles” (2:7). Paul is talking about men—people—and not just about a certain few, but about all men. And he is talking about the Savior. His concern is that all would be saved. What he is telling us is that,

Prayer that all people may be reached with the gospel should pervade the life of the church.

We should have such a burden for those who are perishing without Christ that we’re driven to entreat God, who is the Savior, that all people might be reached with the good news that there is a Mediator who gave Himself as the ransom for their sins.

Does such prayer pervade our church? Does such prayer pervade your life? Does such prayer pervade my life? I confess that I fall far short here. I would guess that many of you do too. It’s easy to get like those Chinese fishermen, so busy with our own interests that we’re indifferent to those who are “drowning” nearby. Your prayer life (what you pray and how much) reveals the intensity of your concern. Allow God’s Spirit to speak to you through this portion of His Word.

1. Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s plan (2:1-2, 8).

Prayer is not a nicety, but a necessity. God is sovereign, yet His sovereign plan includes the prayers of His people. If we are involved with God’s plan for the world, then we will be praying in line with His plan. We can see four facets of God’s plan in these verses:

A. GOD’S PLAN INVOLVES ALL KINDS OF PRAYER FOR ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE.

In verse 1 Paul uses four different words for prayer. The words are not altogether distinct in meaning, but there are nuances of difference that reveal different needs that require prayer:

“Entreaties” = prayer stemming from a sense of need. Sensing our lack and God’s sufficiency, our impotence and God’s omnipotence, should move us to pray.

“Prayers” = a general term for prayer to God. One commentator suggests that the word here refers to requests for needs that are always present, in contrast to specific and special needs (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary [Baker], p. 92). This would include prayer for more wisdom, godliness, repentance, revival, etc.

“Petitions” = means to converse freely; it pictures someone who can go into the presence of the king and talk freely with him on your behalf. It is used of the intercessory work of the Holy Spirit and of Christ on our behalf (Rom. 8:27, 34Heb. 7:25). It points to the fact that we can go freely before God at any time or in any place to talk with Him on behalf of others.

“Thanksgivings” = this points to the fact that we must express not only our petitions, but our gratitude to God for His gracious answers.

The point of all these words is that we have different needs at different times. But at all times we need God and, therefore, we need to pray.

Not only do we need all kinds of prayer, but also we need to pray for all kinds of people. We have already noted Paul’s emphasis on “all men” (2:1, 2, 4, 6; in these verses Paul uses the Greek anthropos, a generic word for “people”). No person is too far gone, too lost in sin, whom God’s grace cannot reach. Nor is there any person so high and mighty, in a position of governmental authority, who does not need God’s grace. All people are sinners who need to know God as Savior. Maybe you cannot speak to the person about God; but you can always speak to God about that person.

Paul here singles out for prayers those in positions of authority in government. In his case, this included the cruel maniac, Nero, who later executed both Peter and Paul, who lit his gardens in the evenings with Christians covered with pitch, burned as human torches. And yet Paul does not call Christians to political revolution, but to prayer. Prayer is God’s means for removing tyrants and establishing peace. Thus the plan of God involves all kinds of prayer for all kinds of people.

B. GOD’S PLAN INVOLVES THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL SO THAT ALL MAY BE SAVED.

That, I take it, is Paul’s train of thought between 2:2 and 2:3 & 4. We should pray that those in authority would govern so that we might enjoy a tranquil and quiet life. But the purpose for such a life is not that we might be comfortable and happy, but so that we can grow in “godliness and dignity” with a view toward the maximum spread of the gospel. Both words, “godliness and dignity,” point to the outward manifestation of Christian virtues. Paul is concerned here with the testimony of God’s people. Under persecution, some professing Christians cave in. In times of peace, there is more opportunity for their good deeds to be seen. So the idea is that we should pray for political peace so that we can live in observable godliness so that lost people will be saved.

C. GOD’S PLAN REQUIRES HOLINESS AND HARMONY AMONG HIS PEOPLE.

We are to live in “godliness,” which means being reverent or devout. We are to live in “dignity” (a quality required of church leaders, 1 Tim. 3:4, 8, 11) which has the nuance of commanding respect. A person with these qualities takes God seriously. He doesn’t joke about the things of God. In verse 8 Paul says that men should be “without wrath and dissension.” We are to work out anger and relational problems in private so that we can pray without hypocrisy in public. We can’t pray and work together for God’s plan in the world unless we are walking in holiness and harmony as God’s people.

D. GOD’S PLAN DESIGNATES MEN AS TAKING THE LEADERSHIP IN PRAYER.

God wants “men” (the Greek word in 2:8 means “males,” men in contrast to women) to take the leadership in the prayer life of the church. In 1 Corinthians 11:13 Paul indicates that women may pray in public as long as they are obviously in submission to men (“heads covered”). But both there and here he makes it plain that men are to take the leadership in the church, including this matter of prayer. The same applies to the home: Men, you need to take the initiative in prayer!

Note briefly the posture of prayer. In Paul’s day one posture was to stand and lift their hands toward God. If you study the various postures for prayer mentioned in the Bible, you’ll find standing, kneeling, and falling prostrate; sitting is only mentioned once, to my knowledge (2 Sam. 7:18). You’ll find the hands lifted heavenward and spread out, but never folded. You will find the head both bowed and lifted up with the eyes looking heavenward (so far as I know the eyes are never closed; see Hendriksen, pp. 103-104). We shouldn’t become legalistic about it, but I will suggest that our casual posture in prayer may indicate a casual attitude toward God. In public, Paul and his friends knelt down on the beach and prayed (Acts 21:5).

We’ve seen that prayer that all people may be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s plan.

2. Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s pleasure (2:3-4).

Note the words, “good” (beautiful, pleasant), “acceptable,” and “desire.” God’s desire is for the salvation of all men. The Lord told Ezekiel (33:11), “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” When Christians pray for civil rulers so that there is peace, it allows for the gospel to be preached and men to be saved, which is good and acceptable in the sight of God, who desires the salvation of all people.

I can’t answer the theological conundrum, “If God desires that all be saved, why doesn’t He save all?” The Bible is clear that God has sovereignly foreordained some to eternal life, while passing by others. Scripture often sets together in the same context the seeming contradiction that God is sovereign and yet men are responsible to repent and believe (Rom. 9:15-18; 10:13). Jesus, who was going up to Jerusalem to die for our sins according to the predetermined plan of God (Acts 2:23Luke 13:33), lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34; see Luke 10:22 for contrast). In our text, Paul’s concern was to counter the Jew who said that God wishes to destroy sinners and the spiritually proud who said that salvation is only for the elite, by saying, “No! God desires to save all men.”

I once heard a man who has a deep burden for the lost tell of how he was praying for the conversion of his neighbor, a man named Ray. Every morning this man would pray fervently for Ray’s salvation. On many mornings, he said he would have to wipe the tears from the pages of his Bible as he pled with God for Ray to come to Christ. Then one morning he got the frightening thought, “What if Ray isn’t one of the elect?” So he said he prayed, “Lord, if Ray isn’t on the list, then You put him there! Make up a new list, if you have to, but bring Ray to know You!” Eventually, Ray did trust in the Savior.

Maybe his theology wasn’t precisely correct. But don’t get hung up on the theology and miss the obvious application of verse 4: Is my heart in tune with God’s heart? Do I desire the salvation of all people? Does my prayer life for the people I know who are without Christ reflect God’s pleasure to save all people?

3. Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s provision (2:5-6).

I could easily preach several messages on these important verses. They contain much crucial truth in succinct form, and may have been an early creed. There is one God, the fundamental tenet of Judaism: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4). Christians do not believe in three Gods, but in one God who exists in three persons. Although there are many different types of men, there is only one true God for all men, and He has provided only one way of salvation for all.

That one way of salvation involves a mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. In order for God to be reconciled to sinful man, man had to pay for his sin. The price was death, because the wages of sin is death. But God provided a representative man to be the substitute for all other men through His death. He became the ransom, the one who paid the price to release us from bondage to sin and judgment. This ransom is sufficient for all who will receive it.

By calling Jesus a man, Paul is not denying His deity, of course. We saw that he affirmed Christ’s deity in 1:13, 15-17; he will do so again in 3:16. A bridge must be firmly anchored to both sides if it is to be usable. As mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, undiminished deity and perfect humanity united without mixture or confusion in one person forever. He was the testimony of God, revealed to man at the proper time. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him. All who come find abundant pardon through His grace. Thus, prayer that all people may be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s provision in His Son.

Prayer that all be reached with the gospel is in line with God’s plan, pleasure, and provision.

https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-6-priority-prayer-1-timothy-21-8

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This Roman soldier approached Jesus with full confidence that He could heal the servant over a distance. Yet we get upset with God because we think He doesn’t hear our prayers. Now, I don’t intend to go into a rant about how we lack faith and that’s why our prayers don’t get answered. In fact, what I want to say has nothing to do with prayer at all. We lack a relationship with and knowledge of who God really is.

This soldier, who was not by any means a Jew, knew more about Jesus’ character than the majority of the Israelite population that has been waiting for Jesus’ arrival for centuries! The 12 disciples were still just figuring out if this guy (Jesus) was for real or not and a Roman soldier just comes up expecting Jesus to heal this servant in bed back home. While everyone else is standing around bewildered at the miracles Jesus is performing, the Roman approaches Him and practically demands that the servant be healed. This is a full confidence in the providence of the Lord and it does not come from our own gumption. It comes from a secure trust in God. People wonder why we don’t see many healings like this in today’s world; it’s because we don’t believe anymore. We don’t care to know who God is because we have created our own gods. We don’t “need” Him, or so we think.

Those of you who follow my blog regularly might be tired of reading this but I am going to say it again because it is crucial: why aren’t we seeing and doing more of this? In John 14 Jesus is giving His farewell speech to His disciples and He drops this bomb on all of us: (John 14:2-3)

 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

http://thethoughtsofasimpleman.com/the-faith-of-a-roman/

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Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Christ heals the Centurion’s dying servant from afar, without seeing or touching him; Christ has the supernatural knowledge and power to heal any illness simply by willing it. Re-read the Gospel and ask yourself, “How does Christ do this?”

2) Men don’t like to admit when they are in trouble and don’t like to ask for help. As the Centurion shows, Christ will help those who approach Him in humility. Humbly complete and Examination of Conscience, pray for Christ’s help to overcome your sins and go to Confession.

3) Many Catholic men have a lukewarm or cold faith. What does Christ think about your faith; does He “marvel” at it? Pray that He send the Holy Spirit to give you a faith like the Centurion’s.

http://www.newemangelization.com/page/69/?ref=driverlayer.com

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Article by Jon Bloom

Jesus, the “founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), once marveled at the faith he found in a man. And it’s the only instance that the gospels record such a response from Jesus (Matthew 8:5-13Luke 7:1-10). Who was this man? A rabbi? No. A disciple? Nope. A Roman soldier.

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Jesus had walked down from the brow of the low mountain outside of Capernaum, his adopted home (Matthew 4:12-16). He had just delivered what would become the most famous sermon in history.

When he entered the town, he was met by a small delegation of Jewish elders. They had an urgent request. There was this Roman centurion whose servant was so sick that he was expected to die shortly. The centurion had asked these elders to go to Jesus on his behalf to see if Jesus might be willing to heal his servant.

Now, this was very unusual. Jewish leaders were not in the habit of being fond of Roman soldiers.

Feeling the obvious oddness of the request, one of the elders quickly added, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”

This was also unusual. Roman soldiers were not in the habit of being fond of Jews.

Jesus discerned the Father’s hand in this and so he set off with them to the centurion’s home. He had also just preached a couple hours earlier on the importance of loving one’s enemies. This was something to encourage.

As they neared the house another group of friends intercepted them. There was a brief huddled conference with the elders. There were hushed earnest voices. The elders seemed confused and concerned. Some observers thought the servant must have died.

Then a representative of the intercepting group stepped over to Jesus and said respectfully, “Teacher, I have a message for you from my Roman friend. He says,

Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, “Go” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’”

Jesus’ expression turned thoughtful. He pondered the words, “I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” and “I too am a man under authority with soldiers under me.” He nodded his head slightly and there was just a hint of a chuckle. This man was a Roman soldier, a representative of Israel’s enemy. And yet he understood what even these Jewish elders didn’t yet grasp. It was a marvel.

He looked back at the friend and then to the elders. Then he turned and scanned his eyes over his disciples and the small crowd of people who had followed him down the mountain. Then he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).

See more:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-centurion-faith-that-made-jesus-marvel

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 SEPTEMBER 2016, Monday, 24th Week of Ordinary Time
ARE YOU A PAGAN CATHOLIC?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 Cor 11:17 – 33Ps 39:7-1017Lk 7:1 – 10 ]

In the gospel, we cannot but be inspired by the faith of the Centurion.  He is a true model of a believer in God and in Christ.   The Church even asks us all to repeat his words to the Lord at every Eucharistic celebration, “I am not worthy to have you under my roof but give the word and let my servant be cured.”  Besides this centurion, it is quite significant that the bible gives us a few examples of other centurions who could inspire us in our faith life.  We have the conversion of the Roman Centurion Cornelius who received the Holy Spirit even before he was baptized.  (cf Acts 10)  Then we have the confession of faith of the centurion at the foot of the cross.  “Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mt 27:54)

What is the reason for the gospel giving us so many examples of centurions who were supposedly pagan and enemies of the Jews yet very much Christian at heart?  The answer is clear.  This is to provide a scandalous contrast between so called pagans, whom we think are not saved, and ourselves, so called believers and baptized Christians when in truth our hearts and minds are pagan, unconverted, selfish and inward looking.  And there are many of these baptized pagans in our Christian communities!

Let us examine how the Centurion showed himself to be a real Catholic and Christian at heart. 

Firstly, he was a true Christian because we read that he was a man of great compassion and love, especially for those who were suffering.  He had “a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death. Having heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to him to ask him to come and heal his servant.” He was only a servant; yet he treated him the way he would have treated his own son.  For him, the servant was not a worker or a machine or a slave.  The servant was a human being with feelings and needs like everyone, for food, lodging, respect, love, security, acceptance and good health.  The centurion regarded him as a human being worthy of being loved as his own.  Such was the great love of the centurion, like the way our Heavenly Father loves us and calls us all His children.  (cf 1 Jn 3:1f)

Secondly, he was a true Catholic because his love was all embracing.  Although a Roman soldier, he had deep love for the Jews as well.  He did not behave like a conqueror and the Jews as prisoners or subjects. His love extended beyond the confines of his household, his own country, to all.  He regarded all of them well.  He even built for them a synagogue when he was not a Jew or a believer!  Such was his all-embracing love for all, regardless of race, language or religion.  His love was universal and this is what it means to be Catholic!

Thirdly, he was a man filled with the Holy Spirit because he exhibited the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  The gifts of humility, faith, hope, tolerance, kindness, generosity and love were found in him.  He was truly humble.  He sincerely felt that he was not good enough to have Jesus come to his house.  This was what he said to Jesus, “for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself.”  He did not feel that he was worthy to even approach Jesus directly.  His love for his servant was so great that he did not mind lowering himself to ask his friends to approach Jesus for help.

He was a man of great sensitivity and respect for others.  He was very conscious of the rituals and customs of the Jews.  Instead of doing what he liked in his position of authority and power, He was sensitive to Jesus and considerate of the culture and sentiments of the Jews.  He did not wish to oblige Jesus to enter into his house because he was fully aware that Jews could not enter the house of pagans.

Most of all, he was a man of great faith in the Lord. He told the Lord, “For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man: Go, and he goes; to another: Come here, and he comes; to my servant: Do this, and he does it.”  Thus, the centurion was saying to Jesus, because of the divine authority vested on you, just say the word and it would be done.  The evangelist remarked, “When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning round, said to the crowd following him, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this’. And when the messengers got back to the house they found the servant in perfect health.”

In the light of what we have said about this centurion, we can appreciate why he endeared himself not only to the Jews and the synagogue leaders but especially to Jesus.  Even though he was not a believer, or a Christian, or a Jew, yet his life reflected one who knew God and had deep faith in Him.  Indeed, he puts us all so-called believers of Christ to shame.  We do not possess his virtues of humility, faith and display the kind of unselfish, inclusive love and compassion he had for others.  Many of us behave like the early Christians during the time of St Paul in the first reading.  We behave like pagan Christians because what we believe and celebrate is not how we live. We are a contradiction and a counter witness to the Lord.

In what ways are we betraying the Lord today, just like Judas at the Last Supper? The words of the institution should challenge us to examine ourselves in the way we live out the Eucharist that we celebrate.  “For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you: that on the same night that he was betrayed  …”  In what ways are we guilty of making a mockery of our faith, especially in the Holy Eucharist, which is the summit of our faith in Christ, celebrating His passion, death and resurrection.

Firstly, on the ecclesial dimension, if we are true believers of the Lord and true worshippers of the Eucharist as the Real Presence of our Lord, His body and blood, then all the more, we should have special reverence for members of His body the Church.   Jesus is the Head and we are His mystical body.  There can be no head without the body and there can be no body without the head because Christ and man are one.  So if, like the early Church, we live a life that has no thought for our fellow brothers and sisters, then we are not truly worshipping our Lord in the Eucharist.  Our brothers and sisters, baptized or otherwise, are our brothers and sisters in the Lord because they are children of God.  So if we truly love the Lord in the Eucharist, then we must revere the Lord in the members of His body, the Church.   Each human being is as sacred as the Eucharist we worship.

The love for the Eucharist is always very much related to our compassion and love, especially for the poor and the marginalized.  We cannot worship the Eucharist apart from the community and apart from love.  This was what St Paul was reprimanding the early Christians, especially those were rich and better off.   Those who were labourers had to work late, and by the time they came for the Eucharistic meal, there was no more food left.  Those who were rich did not bother to wait for the rest to turn up before breaking bread, or even leave some food for them.  This could be the case for us as well when in our policies or decisions we do not take into consideration those who are not as fortunate as others.

Compassion and love also means sensitivity.  Like the Centurion, we need to be sensitive to each other’s culture and sentiments. In each community and more so today, we need to live with each other and embrace each other’s culture.  But this has to be done in a sensitive manner, taking into consideration the feelings of others.  There are different levels of sensitivity where it pertains to religious preferences, culture, social status, intellectual capacity, language, etc.  So we must be careful that we do not impose our culture and preferences on others; or be intolerant of them, especially those who are in the minority.   Those in the minority must equally be sensitive to the larger interests of the community and hence be discreet in promoting their own culture and religious inclinations.  At the end of the day, we need to exercise tolerance, patience and accommodate each other as no community is perfect.

Christians must always remember that we are a community.Parochial-mindedness is always a threat to the unity of the Church at every level.  Church organizations often operate as if they are independent of the entire parish.  They are only concerned about their members’ interests and the name of their organization.  They do not work with other organizations and together with the parish as one body with many parts.  Such factionalism is still prevalent in our churches.  This is also true on the archdiocesan level where parishes function independently of the archdiocese and do not support archdiocesan programs and organizations which are meant to serve the larger interests of the entire Christian family, regardless whether it is youth, family, schools, media, migrants, administration.

Indeed, if we truly want to be Christian and live out the exemplary faith of the Centurion, we need to take the Eucharist seriously; not just as a perfunctory ritual we go through.  Such an attitude towards the Eucharist cannot save us.  We are called to conduct our lives in accordance with the example the Lord has set for us.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, September 17, 2017 — “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” — “Anger does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the vessel in which it is poured.”

September 16, 2017

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 130

Image result for no man is an island, art

Reading 1 SIR 27:30—28:7

Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults.

Responsorial Psalm PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12

R. (8) The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.

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Reading 2 ROM 14:7-9

Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;
so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
For this is why Christ died and came to life,
that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Alleluia JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment, says the Lord;
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

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

“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.”  —  these words from the Book of Sirach remind us that forgiveness is a deep and necessary part of our spiritual tradition, handed down to us from our Jewish ancestors in faith.  Jesus echoes this teaching when He gives us the “Our Father,” which tells us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The second reading today, from the Letter to the Romans, tells us that “if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”  And it is our Lord who tells us to forgive.  If we want to follow Jesus, then we become people who forgive others, no matter what offense they do to us.  Jesus is clear that to follow Him, we will suffer, so we must take up our cross daily and follow Him.

The Gospel from Matthew today is very strong.  Jesus is so clear in His teaching to us:  forgive everything from your heart!  We are not allowed to hold on to anything against anybody.  Rather, as Jesus teaches, we must go even further and help those who harm us and give to those who rob us.  To follow Jesus is not easy and asks us to give ourselves completely to Him and to following Him.  Christianity will never be a life of comfort, even though we may have comforts from time to time.

We can also ask ourselves today how we relate to those around us?  Are we people who forgive others?  Are we people who really seek to love and serve others?  Do we seek to see Christ in others?  Do we look for God’s will in our lives and in the lives others?

Jesus always pulls our attention back to God and to the way God wants us to live.  Always we are invited to see God in every situation and not ignore the divine presence.  It is too easy for us to lose sight of God and to pay attention only to our human desires.

At the heart of the teachings of Jesus, at the heart of His own life, is this deep awareness of God’s presence in all creation and in all peoples.   Even in the agony of Jesus and in the Cross, Jesus keeps His heart with love for others.

Today, we are invited to forgive and to follow Jesus once more in a way that gives witness to the glory of God.  Let us walk the way of the Lord.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Sunday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time
THE POWER TO FORGIVE COMES FROM A CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE AND RECOGNITION OF ONE’S SINFULNESS AND THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ECCL 27:30-28:7ROM 14:7-9MT 18:21-35 ]

We are called to forgive those who have sinned against us.  Yet, we all know that forgiveness is not an easy matter.  Humanly speaking, it is impossible to forgive those who have offended us or betrayed our trust.  It goes against the human grain.

Indeed, if after reading today’s parable of the Unforgiving Servant we react with disgust at his lack of forgiveness, it is because we are that self-righteous servant. We too cannot forgive those who have hurt us.  Why is it that we cannot forgive?

Logically, we all know that we should forgive.  We know that by not forgiving our enemies, we destroy ourselves.  By not freeing our enemies from our hatred, we have made ourselves their slaves. Those who do not want to forgive make themselves prisoners of their enemies. The misery of harbouring anger and revenge eats up the person gradually until he loses all peace, joy and freedom in life.  Rationally, no one will argue that holding forgiveness from our enemies will not make us happy in life.

If forgiveness is so logical, then why can’t we forgive?  The truth is that forgiveness is not simply a matter of logic.  It is a matter of the heart.  When someone hurts us, we are affected not only logically but in the very depths of our heart.  Indeed, quite often we say, “I can forgive but I cannot forget.”  So it is not the head that cannot forgive but the heart.  From this perspective the heart is the seat of our emotions.  The inability to forgive comes from the psychological memory of the person.  This explains why Jesus said, “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness however does not mean that we can forget the incident completely.  We cannot deny our faculty of memory. In fact, because we remember our past so well, it continues to haunt us, especially our sins and those incidents in our lives which we cannot forgive.  So what the Lord is asking of us is not so much to forget the hurtful incidences, but that we embrace the events in the light of God’s love and mercy so that they no longer hurt us emotionally.

So what is the real cause of the lack of forgiveness in our lives?  It is because sin lives in us!  It is not simply because we are sinning, but rather because we are sinners in the first place, that is why we sin.  The first reading makes it clear that “resentment and anger, these are foul things, and both are found with the sinner.”  Indeed, it is because such things are found within us that we know that we are sinners.  And the truth is that a sinner punishes himself with sin.  Isn’t this what it means when the author of the book of Wisdom says, “He who exacts vengeance will experience the vengeance of the Lord, who keeps strict account of sin.”

In other words, God punishes sin with more sins. This does not mean that God makes us sin more.  God allows us to sin so that we will come to the realization that sin is hurting us and causing us to be miserable.   Indeed, sin eats up the person.  Sin causes more sins.  Hence, the wages of sin is eventually death, both spiritual and physical.  This is clear in the context of unforgiveness.  For by refusing to forgive, we allow ourselves to nurse the pain and resentment in us till we lose our peace and freedom.  Consequently, the author of Wisdom asks, “Mere creature of flesh, he cherishes resentment; who will forgive him his sins?”

And what is the greatest obstacle in forgiveness?  Isn’t it pride and self-centeredness?  The reason why we cannot forgive others is because more often than not, as sinners, we recognize our sinfulness in our fellow sinners.  We are too proud and we cannot accept ourselves as we really are.  If we cannot forgive the sinner, it is because we cannot forgive ourselves.  We hate fellow sinners because we hate ourselves. This explains why the servant who was forgiven could not forgive his fellow servant for “showing no pity for a man like himself”.  We want to deny that we are like that.

Secondly our self-centeredness tends to make us less aware of the seriousness of our own sins and that we have hurt others by our words and actions.  On one hand, we minimize our sins and on the other hand, we exaggerate the sins committed by others against us. This explains why our immediate reaction to the parable of the unforgiving servant is one of anger at the absurdity of the situation.

How then can we overcome our incapacity to forgive?  We must consciously desire to forgive.  From this perspective, some rational thinking can help prepare us for the act of forgiveness.  How can we do this?

Firstly, by remembering “the last things, and stop hating, remember dissolution and death, and live by the commandments.”  The sins of others against us must be seen from a broader horizon.  Quite often, when people hurt us, we tend to remember only the hurt and the pain.  Suddenly, we have forgotten all the good that the person has done for us.  Furthermore, we must see the incident in perspective, for it does not cover every dimension of our lives.

Of course, as it is said, when you have a toothache, you can only think of the toothache and nothing else.  Pain makes us forget the bigger picture of life.  So forgiveness requires us to situate our pain within the bigger dimension of life.  And what is the best horizon to view the pain if not from the viewpoint of death?  For in death, everything finds it place.  So reflecting on death and eternity is the best and most effective way to help us release the pain and anger in us.  Knowing that all these things on earth will pass and we are returning to eternity will help us to let go.

Secondly, we must recall His love and mercy for us.  The key to forgiveness is to contemplate on the love and mercy of God in the crucified Christ.  If Jesus could forgive His enemies when He was on the cross, it was because He understood the Father’s love and mercy as expressed in today’s parable.  In His pain, Jesus was not thinking of Himself, but of those who crucified Him, imploring the Father to forgive them “for they know not what they are doing”.  If we only understand the depth of God’s forgiveness for our sins, we would surely be able to forgive others because what others have done against us cannot be compared to what we have done against God.

If the servant was unforgiving, it was because he failed to spend time reflecting on the mercy of God as portrayed in the master. Instead of spending time to ponder on God’s mercy he went out immediately. No wonder those who make their confession but never spend time to thank God quickly fall into sin. Indeed, “If a man nurses anger against another, can he then demand compassion from the Lord?”

For this reason, we are called to remember the covenantal love of God for us.  Yes, we are exhorted to “Remember the commandments, and do not bear your neighbour ill-will; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook the offence.”  We are created for love and our goal is to live as a covenanted community.  In any community, because of our human sinfulness, we are called to forgive each other.  The recognition of our solidarity in sin should make us recognize the need to forgive each other.

This means that we must become conscious of our own sins if we are to forgive others.  When we realize that we are not perfect and have our own fair share of sins in this life, then we will be able to be more compassionate and understanding.  Quite often, like the unforgiving servant, we forget about our sins too quickly.  Having been forgiven, we think that we are perfect.  So like the servant we become judgmental of others, condemning them, exacting from them the punishment which we ourselves asked to be liberated from.  Unless we recognize ourselves as fellow sinners, how can we forgive others?

Finally, it is often said that forgiveness is not human but divine.  We must pray, because only God can forgive in that manner.  That is what the scripture says, “Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.”  In order to forgive ourselves, we must forgive others.  But this is not possible without prayer.

What is prayer?  Isn’t prayer a calling to mind the love and mercy of God for us? Only through such a recollection can we recognize our sinful state.  This then is followed by asking for the grace of forgiveness through a renewed experience of His love and mercy for us.

Yes, the call to forgive seventy times seven is a call to forgive ourselves.  In the final analysis, to forgive others ultimately is to forgive ourselves. To the extent that we can forgive others, to that extent is the measure of our experience of God’s forgiveness.  Truly, only the merciful can experience God’s mercy.  So if we are still struggling with forgiveness, let us pray for the mercy of God to help us to recognize our sinfulness, the injuries we are causing ourselves, so that we can turn to Him for grace, mercy and strength.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Twice in the bible, God makes reference to “seventy times seven” (or “seventy-seven times”). Once in Genesis 4:24 (dealing with Cain’s punishment for his murder of Abel), and the other in Matthew 18:22
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In many ancient cultures, Hebrew included, the number seven often signifies completeness and/or perfection (for more information see either Numerical Sayings in the OT, W. Roth or IVP New Bible Dictionary, ed. Marshall, Miller, Packer, Wiseman, p834). Therefore, it is often used in an emphatic sense. This is seen in Peter’s question: “should I forgive seven times?” (possibly thinking he was being a good disciple in making the point that he should always forgive) – Jesus’ reply is to be emphatically emphatic! That is, seventy times seven! Jesus often uses hyperbole (overstatement to make a point) in his teaching style, such as the Camel and the eye of a needle in Matthew 19:24.
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Forgiveness equals wellness
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 / 05:04 AM September 17, 2017

Who is the least stressed driver in the world? The funeral car driver. Why? He is not in a hurry, he is not affected by the flow of traffic, and most of all, he does not have to put up with a back-seat driver!

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 18:21-35), Jesus teaches us about forgiveness and reconciliation. Hatred, revenge and refusing to forgive cause so much stress and sadness. Take the road of humility and reconciliation, and you are free. Again, humility, humility, humility is the key.

“Anger does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the vessel in which it is poured.” How true. We have a choice: to forgive and be free, or not to forgive and be angry, stressed and depressed.

Are you an unforgiving person? Are you an exacting person? Maybe you have your reasons, your standards and your expectations. But ask yourself: How many times have I been forgiven by God, without conditions, and without expectations? We can pray: Lord, You have forgiven me so many times. Help me to do likewise.

Think of the worst and most disgusting person(s) in your life right now whom you dislike or even hate so much that you almost wish him/her to die soon, and go to hell to be punished by God. Stop the downslide and level up by offering that person to God. Leave him/her in God’s heart, pray for his/her conversion. Release the matter from your hands, surrender, and let God’s power take over.

To forgive doesn’t mean saying “It did not happen.” Neither does it mean saying “It did not hurt.” To forgive is to say “That which happened, and which hurt, will no longer become a wall between you and me.” By all means let us go for justice, but by all means let us also be open to understanding, mercy and compassion.

The late Fr. Among Ricafort, SVD, had disappointments, complaints, and outbursts of anger regarding issues, people and events in our society, our country, and the world. But after he had said his piece, he would always end up saying, with a wave of his hand: “Ah, it’s all right.” Let us learn to let go and to let God. Let us carry no burdens, and travel light.

Fr. Pabs Tagura, SVD, one of those formed by Father Among, wrote a eulogy from faraway Divine Word College in Iowa in the United States: “I am now almost 30 years in the priesthood, and I have always looked up to Among with so much respect and high regard, especially with the way he handled himself with dignity, and the inspiration he provided with his faithfulness to his religious-missionary life as a priest.”

Please remember that our life is a constant call to get out of our comfort zones, and a constant effort to go the “extra mile,” where grace abounds, and where even God smiles.

Sept. 23 is the feast of St. Padre Pio, one of the most present and most active modern-day saints. He is well-known for many miracles and healing, but he is most remembered as the confessor saint, spending so many hours of the day hearing the confessions of so many pilgrims from all over the world. He was a man of peace and reconciliation which we need so much in our country and in our world right now.

My uncle, Fr. Jesuito Mendoza, OFM Cap, had the privilege of going to confession to Padre Pio in Italy in the early 1960s. He told me how Padre Pio knew everything about him, and saw through him. His encounter with Padre Pio was a religious experience and a life-changing moment. Whether to Padre Pio or to less worthy priests like me, make that good confession and go home to the embrace of our loving Father.

On a personal note, let me share that I was close to tears when my brother Tim handed me my Vademecum, a prayer book that was given to me when I was 12 years old and a first year high school seminarian at Christ the King Seminary. I was so happy to have it back. I thought I had lost it. It turned out that Mama kept it in one of her boxes. It was a reminder for me that God’s love is never gone. No matter how lost, no matter how long, He will find us, and embrace us.

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to forgive others as You have so many times forgiven us. Amen.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/107177/forgiveness-equals-wellness#ixzz4svHSppdR
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Commentary on Matthew 18:21-35 from Living Space

This passage makes a crucial link between God forgiving us and our forgiving others. Peter asks how many times he should forgive another and offers what he regards as a very generous seven times. Jesus multiplies that by eleven. In other words our readiness to forgive should be without limit.

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The reason is that that is the way God himself acts towards us. Supposing we only had seven chances of being forgiven our sins in our lifetime? Supposing we were to confess our sins to a priest and were told: “Sorry, you have used up your quota.” Don’t we expect that every single time we genuinely repent we can renew our relationship with God?

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Jesus is simply telling us that, if we are to be his followers, we must act on the same basis with other people. To make his teaching clear he tells the parable of the two servants. The one with the huge debt is forgiven by the king. He then proceeds to throttle another servant who owes what is, in comparison, a paltry amount.

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As indicated in the parable, there is no real proportion between the offence of our sins against an all-holy God and those made against us by others. And every time we say the Lord’s Prayer we commit ourselves to this: “Forgive us our sins JUST AS we forgive those who sin against us.” It is indeed a courageous prayer to make. Do we really mean what we say? Do we even think about it when we pray it?

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We could make a couple of extra comments:

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– This teaching does not mean turning a blind eye to a person who keeps on doing hurt to us. Forgiveness is more than just saying words; it involves the restoring of a broken relationship. It involves the healing of both sides. It may be necessary to make some proactive but totally non-violent response. Our main concern should not be ourselves but the well-being of the other person whose actions are really hurting him/her.

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– Forgiveness is not purely a unilateral act. It is only complete when there is reconciliation between the two parties. It is difficult for me fully to forgive when the other party remains totally unrepentant. Even God’s forgiveness cannot get through in such circumstances (remember the Prodigal Son whose healing only began when he came to his senses and returned to his Father). The injured party has to work on bringing about a healing of the wound of division between both sides. Only then is the forgiveness complete. That may take a long time.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1033g/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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NO MERCY WITHOUT MERCY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Daniel 3:25-43Ps 24:4-9Matthew 18:21-35]

We are all in need of mercy.  This is because we are all sinners.  We are weak and often succumb to temptations, or simply because we have a wounded nature.   We get angry.  We are impatient.  We are envious of those who are better than us because we feel insecure.  We cannot control our appetites because we greedy.  We steal and hoard because we are afraid that we do not have enough. Because of our biological drive for sexual union and intimacy we cannot resist the sin of lust. We are proud because we want independence, respect and control over others.

Therefore, being a sinner is a fact.  Other than our Lord Jesus Christ and our Blessed Mother, no one is exempted from falling into sin.  To think that we are without sin is to call God a liar.  St John in no uncertain terms said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1:8)  For this reason, we must be ever ready to forgive each other simply because we are fellow sinners.  Hence, when Peter asked the Lord,  “Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?” Jesus answered, “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.”  In other words, seven being the complete number, it means “always”, without exception.

Forgiveness is something we cannot withhold from anyone.  Firstly, God forgives us completely. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 Jn 1:9) God is portrayed as the master who forgave the servant who owed him ten thousand talents, which is probably 7 billion US dollars in today’s terms.  Of course this is an exaggeration.  But it underscores the point that God loves us and has given us so much and have forgiven all our sins.  He has paid the price for our sins with the blood of His only Son.  (cf 1 Jn 1:7) So what audacity do we have to ask for God’s forgiveness for our many sins when we cannot forgive the weaknesses of our fellowmen?

Secondly, forgiving others is the only way to receive the full forgiveness given to us by God.  Indeed, the Lord warns us, “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”   By not forgiving, we are in truth not forgiving ourselves.  Many of us fail to realize that healing can be complete only when we forgive those who have hurt us.  Being forgiven by God is not enough.  We are to be reconciled with God and with others.  This explains why many go for confession asking for forgiveness for their sins and yet do not find true and lasting healing because they have not yet released their own grievances against those who hurt them.  This was basically the sin of the merciless servant.  The master forgave him for his enormous debt but he was not able to forgive the little debt his fellow servant owed him.  As a consequence, when the master heard of he said, “You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?”

How is it that we find it so difficult to forgive?  Firstly, it is because we are not fully aware of our own imperfections and sinfulness.  We tend to look at others who sinned against us.  Our eyes are always focused on others, judging them.  Again the Lord warns us, “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”  (Mt 7:2)  St James also warned us, “judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy; yet mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (Jms 2:13)  If “the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt”, it was because it was necessary for him to learn about his own sins so that he could forgive the sins of others.  The servant needs time to reflect for himself his own sins and God’s abundant mercy.  Only then, could he truly forgive his fellow servant.

Indeed, the season of Lent is a time for us to reflect on our sins.  If we find ourselves lacking forgiveness and not able to let go of our hurts, we should begin reflecting on ourselves, our own sins.  We must keep the words of Jesus in mind. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  (Mt 7:3-5)  Coming to consciousness of our many sins will help us to be more realistic in judging others.  We will come to realize that we are actually even a worse sinner than them!

This was what the Israelites did in the first reading.  Azariah reflected on the outcome of the sins of Israel.  “Lord, now we are the least of all the nations, now we are despised throughout the world, today, because of our sins. We have at this time no leader, no prophet, no prince, no holocaust, no sacrifice, no oblation, no incense, no place where we can offer you the first-fruits and win your favour.”   Through the consequences of their sins, they came to realize their mistakes.   Instead of excusing themselves, he prayed, “may the contrite soul, the humbled spirit be as acceptable to you as holocausts of rams and bullocks, as thousands of fattened lambs: such let our sacrifice be to you today, and may it be your will that we follow you wholeheartedly, since those who put their trust in you will not be disappointed.”

We too must make time to think through our own life.  The real obstacle to healing is that not many of us spend sufficient time to reflect on our mistakes in life.  When we have a break down in relationship, we only think of assigning blame to the other party.  We are always excusing ourselves but not others.  We only see things from our perspective and not from the other party.  We need to put ourselves in the shoes of others if we are to see everything more objectively.  Unless we learn from our lessons, we cannot grow in self-awareness and be purified in love.  We need to be contrite for true healing to take place.  With the Israelites, we pray, “And now we put our whole heart into following you, into fearing you and seeking your face once more. Do not disappoint us; treat us gently, as you yourself are gentle and very merciful. Grant us deliverance worthy of your wonderful deeds, let your name win glory, Lord.”

We must also avoid applying double standards with respect to our sins and the sins of others.  Indeed, when it comes to our wrongs, we are ever ready to excuse ourselves and ask for leniency, like the unforgiving servant.  But when it comes to the sins of others, we would not make excuses for them.  We demand justice and punishment.  We have no mercy for them.  We are presumptuous and self-righteous. Indeed, those of us who use double standards in dishing out punishment to those who have done us wrong, but would forgive ourselves or our loved ones, show that we are partial in our judgements.  How many of us would be like the legendary Justice Bao who would render judgement equally to all, without regard for the rich or poor, the powerful or the ordinary man?

Even then, God is no Justice Bao!  He is not simply a just God but the God of mercy.  His justice is His mercy!  We can pray with confidence llike Azariah who say, “Oh! Do not abandon us forever, for the sake of your name; do not repudiate your covenant, do not withdraw your favour from us, for the sake of Abraham, your friend, of Isaac your servant, and of Israel your holy one, to whom you promised descendants as countless as the stars of heaven and as the grains of sand on the seashore.”   God, like the master, is ever ready to excuse us as Jesus did on the cross when He prayed to His Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing!”  (Lk 23:34)  Truly, the psalmist says, “Remember your mercy, Lord, and the love you have shown from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth because of your goodness, O Lord.  The Lord is good and upright.  He shows the path to those who stray.  He guides the humble in the right path; he teaches his way to the poor.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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