Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, February 24, 2017 — Friends through thick and thin

February 23, 2017

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 345

Image may contain: one or more people

The Pharisees Question Jesus by James Tissot

Reading 1 SIR 6:5-17

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.
Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.
When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.
Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.
Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.
When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;
But if you are brought low, he turns against you
and avoids meeting you.
Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.
A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;
For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:12, 16, 18, 27, 34, 35

R. (35a) Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
In your statutes I will delight;
I will not forget your words.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Open my eyes, that I may consider
the wonders of your law.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Alleluia JN 17:17B, 17A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your word, O Lord, is truth;
consecrate us in the truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 10:1-12

Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.
Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom,
he again taught them.
The Pharisees approached him and asked,
“Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”
They were testing him.
He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?”
They replied,
“Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce
and dismiss her.”
But Jesus told them,
“Because of the hardness of your hearts
he wrote you this commandment.
But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.
So they are no longer two but one flesh.
Therefore what God has joined together,
no human being must separate.”
In the house the disciples again questioned Jesus about this.
He said to them,
“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another
commits adultery against her;
and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.”

.
***********************************
.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
.

Reflection. Yesterday’s Gospel indicated the advice given by Jesus on the relationship between adults and children, between the great and the little ones in society. Today’s Gospel advises us how the relationship between man and woman should be, between wife and husband..

Mark 10, 1-2: the question of the Pharisees: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” The question is a malicious one. It wants to put Jesus to the test: “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” This is a sign that Jesus had a different opinion, because if this was not so the Pharisees would not have questioned him on this matter.

They do not ask if it is lawful for the wife to divorce the husband. They never thought of that. This is a clear sign of the strong dominion of men and the marginalization of women in the society of that time..

Mark 10, 3-9: The answer of Jesus: man cannot divorce his wife.Instead of responding, Jesus asks: “What did Moses command you?” The Law permitted a man to draw up a writ of dismissal in cases of divorce. This permission reveals the reigning machismo of the time.

Man could divorce his wife, but the woman did not have the same right. Jesus explains that Moses acted that way because they were so hard hearted, but that the intention of God was different when he created the human being. Jesus goes back to the project of the Creator and denies to man the right of divorce his wife. He takes away the privilege of man regarding his wife and asks for the maximum equality between the two.

.

Mark 10, 10, 12: Equality of man and woman. At home the disciples asked Jesus something on this point. Jesus draws the conclusions and reaffirms the equality of rights and duties between man and woman. He proposes a new type of relationship between the two. He does not allow the marriage in which man can command his wife as he wishes, nor vice-versa. The Gospel of Matthew adds a comment of the disciples on this point. They say: “If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry” (Mt 19, 10).

.

They prefer not to marry, than to marry without having the privilege of continuing to command the woman and without having the right of being able to ask for the divorce in the case that they no longer like the woman. Jesus goes to the very depth of the question and says that there are only three cases in which a person is permitted not to get married: “Not everyone can understand it but only those to whom it is granted. In fact there are eunuchs born so from their mother’s womb; there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. (Mt 19, 11-12).

.

The three cases are: “(a) impotence, (b) castration, and (c) for the Kingdom. Not to get married only because man does not want to lose dominion over woman, this is not permitted by the New Law of Love!Matrimony as well as celibacy should be at the service of the Kingdom and not at the service of egoistic or selfish interests. Neither one of these can be a reason to maintain man’s dominion on woman. Jesus changed the relationship man-woman, wife-husband.

.

Personal questions

.

In my personal life, how do I live the relationship man-woman?.

.

In the life of my family and of my community, how is this relationship man-woman lived?

.

Concluding Prayer

.

Yahweh is tenderness and pity, slow to anger and rich in faithful love; his indignation does not last for ever, nor his resentment remain for all time. (Ps 103,8-9)

.

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-mark-101-12

*********************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
24 FEBRUARY, 2017, Friday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
TRUE FRIENDSHIP CAN ONLY BE FOUND IN A COMMON LOVE AND FIDELITY TO THE LORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SIRACH 6:5-17; MK 10:1-12]

Human beings are created for friendship and love.  This is the meaning of being created in the image and likeness of God.  Sharing in His knowledge and love, we are capable of relationship and dialogue.  Of course, the highest form of friendship and intimacy is marriage.  Friendship and marital relationships are the ways by which we experience the love of God concretely in our lives.  Hence, the justification of the need for friendship is found in the original design of creation, as Jesus, citing from the Old Testament said, “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.  This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body.  So then, what God has united, man must not divide.”

So, regardless of who we are, we all are in need of relationships.  But relationships and friendship are both a boon and a bane in life.  If we have true friendship, life will be such a joy and blessing.  In fact, life becomes worth living.  Rightly so, as Sirach pointed out, “a faithful friend is something beyond price, there is no measuring his worth. A faithful friend is the elixir of life.”  Indeed, if we can find one true friend in a thousand, we can count ourselves fortunate because “a faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure.”

However, it is not easy to find true friends.  Not only do our friends betray us, but even spouses are sometimes no longer faithful to each other. Such is the reality of relationships which Sirach so rightly sets out for us.  Yes, as Sirach reminds us, quite often, friends can become our enemies overnight; others are fair-weather friends; some take advantage of us, making use of us  when they are in need, but when we are in need, they are nowhere in sight.

Some time ago, a newspaper published a survey showing relationships, not school work, as being the major stress among our youth.  Many are overwhelmed by relationships that turn sour, especially those that end in betrayal, and they lose a friend.  So traumatic are failed relationships that some even commit suicide.  This is true also in working relationships.  The newspaper also did a survey among workers regarding those factors that contribute to the productivity and happiness of workers.  Surprisingly, it is not remuneration that is the most important factor in retaining a worker; rather, it is the challenge of the work and most of all, a cordial, happy and peaceful working environment.  What makes workers resign is primarily the conflicts they encounter with fellow workers and their bosses.  How, then, can we find true friendship in life?

Firstly, we must be realistic about life and relationships.  We cannot have too many friends, as it is impossible to have all the time in the world to cultivate friendships.  Relationships take time to build. For good reason, Sirach advises us thus, “Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisors one in a thousand.” So in reality, most of us have many acquaintances but only one or two soul-mates.

Secondly, Sirach said, “If you want to make a friend, take him on trial, and be in no hurry to trust him.”  Because it takes time to know someone, we should never be in a hurry to cultivate friendships.  In fact, those of us who are desperate to make friends will have to pay a great price because we will find out sooner or later that relationships forged in a hurry are often superficial and not genuine.  Time will show the fragility of such a relationship.  Why?  Because when we are in a haste to be intimate with our acquaintances, it shows that we lack authentic self-love.  Thus, in our insecurity and lack of self-love, we begin to manipulate others in a relationship.  In trusting too easily, we can also compromise beyond what is appropriate in a relationship, because we fear losing a friend. This will unsettle us and make the relationship lob-sided and overly dependent.  When there is a lack of love for self, we can expect too much from the other person to compensate for our loneliness and low self-esteem.

Thirdly, to find real friends, one must first be a friend to others. Sirach says, “Whoever fears the Lord makes true friends, and as a man is, so is his friend.”  The kind of person we are, will also attract the kind of people who want to have as friends.  As the idiom says, “Birds of a feather, flock together.”  So if we are looking for true friends, we must be sincere and true ourselves.  By being a loyal and true friend, the chances of someone reciprocating that friendship are much higher.  Unfortunately, it can also be true that sometimes people take us for a ride and are not sincere.  For such people, we should not react with anger but with compassion, for it shows that they are not capable of love.

Fourthly, a friendship can only be strong if it is built on a common love for the Lord and the gospel life. The lesson that many of us fail to learn is that quite often, our relationships are not founded on the Lord.  As a result, that relationship becomes like any pagan relationship, which is based on selfish interests.  Instead of helping each other to grow in grace, that relationship becomes carnal, selfish, isolated from the community of love and from God Himself.  It behooves us to be cautious about cultivating a friendship that is focused on each other and on mutual needs alone.  Such a friendship can be a mere mutual self-deception of worship of self in the other.  Sooner or later, such a friendship will become inward-looking and self-centered. A friendship that remains on the human level of pandering to each other’s interests will result in a friendship that is demanding, grasping, conditional, stifling and manipulative.  Such a relationship will come to an end in due time.

Thus, true friendship is possible only when both friends are focused on God.  Unless we have a common love for God and a reverential fear of Him, that friendship will not lead to real enrichment and personal growth.  When Jesus told the Pharisees that “it was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you,” He was simply stating a fundamental fact that separation and divorce arise only because human relationships are founded on the human level and not on God.  So by tracing marriage and therefore all relationships to the order of creation, He is teaching us that since God gives all relationships and friendships to us, we must build our relationships in the light God’s plan, in His image and likeness.  True relationships can only develop when both partners have a deep reverence for the Lord and His commandments.  For only the Lord can teach us the true meaning of love and friendship.

Hence, to build true friendships, we must seek friends who are like us, wanting to grow in love and maturity in the Lord.  If a friend is not interested in joining us on the path to sanctification but instead brings us away from being faithful to the Lord and His mission, that person cannot be said to be our true friend.  If our friendship is only built on having meals, fun, pleasure, and entertainment together, that friendship is a pagan friendship.  Worse still, if our friend leads us to sin, to do what is wrong, selfish and self-centered, and influences us with all the wrong values; that friend is not a true friend.  This is because a true friend will seek the best for our sanctification, if he or she loves us.

In a nutshell, true friendship must help each other to grow in love, not only for each other but for others as well, and most of all, towards a greater commitment to the divine plan of God to build a family of love and unity.  True friendship in the final analysis, will empower each other to be more loving and inclusive in that love.  In this way, all true friendships, just like marriage, become truly the sacrament of God’s love and the means to grow in holiness, perfection and maturity in love.  Truly, if our relationships are built on our common love and reverence for the Lord, then such relationships will blossom because it empowers life and love for all parties in the relationship.

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

.

************************************
.

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, February 23, 2017 — Rely not on your strength, Rely not on your wealth, Of forgiveness be not overconfident

February 22, 2017

Memorial of Saint Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr
Lectionary: 344

Image may contain: 1 person, tree, outdoor and nature

Art: The Street Urchins painting by F. Palizzi — “Consider the marginalized”

Reading 1 SIR 5:1-8

Rely not on your wealth;
say not: “I have the power.”
Rely not on your strength
in following the desires of your heart.
Say not: “Who can prevail against me?”
or, “Who will subdue me for my deeds?”
for God will surely exact the punishment.
Say not: “I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?”
for the Most High bides his time.
Of forgiveness be not overconfident,
adding sin upon sin.
Say not: “Great is his mercy;
my many sins he will forgive.”
For mercy and anger alike are with him;
upon the wicked alights his wrath.
Delay not your conversion to the LORD,
put it not off from day to day.
For suddenly his wrath flames forth;
at the time of vengeance you will be destroyed.
Rely not upon deceitful wealth,
for it will be no help on the day of wrath.

Responsorial Psalm PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Alleluia 1 THES 2:13

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Receive the word of God, not as the word of men,
but as it truly is, the word of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he were thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.
Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid,
with what will you restore its flavor?
Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”

.
************************************
.
Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
.

Reflection

• Today’s Gospel narrates some advice from Jesus on the relationship of adults with the little ones and the excluded. At that time, many persons were excluded and marginalized. They could not participate. Many of them would lose their faith. The text on which we are going to meditate now contains strange affirmations which, if taken literally, cause perplexity in people.

• Mark 9, 41: A glass of water will be rewarded. A phrase from Jesus is inserted here: If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not lose his reward. Two thoughts: 1) “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink”. Jesus is going to Jerusalem to give his life. A gesture of great donation! But he does not forget the small gesture of donation of life of each day: a cup of water, an act of acceptance, to give alms, so many gestures. Anyone who rejects and despises the brick will never be able to construct a house! 2) “…because you belong to Christ”: Jesus identifies himself with us who want to belong to him; this means that for him we have great value.

• Mark 9, 42: Who is a cause of scandal for these little ones. Scandal, literally, it is a stone along the road, a stone in the shoe; it is that which leads a person away from the right path. To scandalize the little ones is to be the cause why the little ones go away from the right path and lose their faith in God. Any one who does this receives the following sentence: “It would have been better to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone hung round his neck!” Because Jesus identifies himself with the little ones (Mt 23, 40-45). Today, in the whole world, many little ones, many poor people are leaving the traditional churches. Every year, in Latin America, approximately three million persons are going to other churches. They cannot believe what we profess in our church! Why does this happen? Up to what point are we to be blamed for this? Do we also merit having a millstone round our neck?

• Mark 9, 43-48: To cut off your hand and your foot and to tear out your eye. Jesus orders the person to cut off the hand, the foot, to tear out the eye, in the case in which they are cause of scandal. And he says: “It is better to enter into life or into the Kingdom with one foot (hand, eye) than to be thrown into hell with two feet, (hands, eyes)”. These phrases are not to be taken literally. They mean that the person has to be rooted in his/her choice of God and of the Gospel.

The expression “hell” where their worm will never die nor their fire be put out”, is an image to indicate the situation of a person who remains without God. “geenna” was the name of a valley near Jerusalem, where the trash of the city was thrown and where a fire was always burning to burn the trash. This place full of stench was used by the people to symbolize the situation of the person who did not participate in the Kingdom of God.

• Mark 9, 49-50: Salt and Peace. These two verses help us to understand the severe words on scandal. Jesus says: “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another!” The community, in which the members live in peace with one another, is like a bit of salt which gives flavour to all the meal. To live in peace and fraternally in the community is the salt that gives flavour to the life of the people of the neighbourhood. It is a sign of the Kingdom, a revelation of the Good News of God. Are we salt? The salt which does not give flavour is good for nothing!

Jesus accepts and defends the life of the little ones. Several times, Jesus insists that little ones should be accepted. Anyone who welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me” (Mk 9, 37). Anyone who gives a cup of water to one of these little ones will not lose his reward (Mt 10, 42). He asks not to despise little ones (Mt 18, 10). And at the final judgment the just will be received because they would have given something to eat “to one of these little ones” (Mt 25, 40). If Jesus insists so much on acceptance of the little ones, it is because there are many simple people considered less, who are not accepted! In fact, women and children were not taken into account, did not count (Mt 14 21; 15, 38), they were despised (Mt 18, 10) and reduced to silence (Mt 21, 15-16). Even the Apostles prevented the children from getting close to Jesus (Mt 19, 13-14). In the name of the Law of God, misinterpreted by the religious authority of the time, many good people were excluded. Instead of welcoming the excluded, the law was used to legitimize the exclusion. In the Gospels, the expression “little ones” (in Greek it is said elachisto, mikroi or nepioi), sometimes it indicates “the children”, other times it indicates the sections excluded by society. It is not easy to discern.

.Sometimes the “little ones” in the Gospel means “the children”. This because the children belonged to the category of the “little ones”, of the excluded. Besides, it is not always easy to discern between what comes from the time of Jesus and that which comes from the time of the communities for which the Gospels were written. And even if things were like this, what is clear is the context of exclusion which reigned at the time and which the first communities kept from Jesus: he places himself on the side of the little ones, of the excluded, and takes up their defence.

Personal questions

• In our society and in our community, today who are the little one and the excluded? How are they accepted on our part?

• “A millstone round the neck”. Does my behaviour deserve a millstone or a cord round the neck? And the behaviour of our community, what does it deserve?

Concluding Prayer

The Lord forgives all your offences,
cures all your diseases,
he redeems your life from the abyss,
crowns you with faithful love and tenderness. (Ps 103,3-4)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-mark-941-50

*********************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
23 FEBRUARY, 2017, Thursday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
REDISCOVERING OUR FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SIR 5:1-8; PS 1:1-4,6; MK 9:41-50]

Sirach says, “Do not delay your return to the Lord; do not put it off day after day.”  It is a fact that many Catholics are not going to Church regularly and some have left the Church for many years.  Why are there so many Catholics lacking faith, zeal and love for God and His Church?  Why do Catholics leave the Church?  Instead of blaming them or condemning them, we need to look into ourselves and understand the causes for people leaving the Church. Basically, we can attribute the causes to two challenges, namely, spiritual and cultural.

On the spiritual front, complacency in spiritual life causes many to succumb to a life of sin.  Many Catholics do not take discipleship seriously. They are baptized but they are not striving every day to grow in discipleship by seeking to understand the gospel and their faith; and to live out the life of Christ.  There is a dichotomy between faith and life.  What they say and believe is not how they live their lives.  The reality is that there is no neutrality with regard to choosing Christ or choosing the world. They begin with complacency and indifference in spiritual life.  But they will end up as enemies of Christ because they need to find reasons to silence their conscience and justify their self-centered and sinful lifestyles.

Gradually, they become insensitive to sin.  Those who live in darkness and in sin cannot see the face of God or understand the light of truth.   It is the repetition of sins that make us numb.  The most dangerous form of drugs today is one that makes us unable to feel the guilt of sin anymore.  Sirach warns us, “Do not be led by your appetites and energy to follow the passions of your heart.”  Indeed, when we allow our hearts to be coarsened, after some time, we will no longer feel the guilt of sin.  This is true particularly in the case of sin.  We do not become rebels overnight but over time, through numbing ourselves to sin.

Secondly, they place their security in the wrong place, in money, power and status.  As Sirach tells us, many give their heart to money, worshipping the false gods in their lives.  Their security is not found in Christ but in money and wealth.  In their stupidity, they say, “With this I am self-sufficient.”  Indeed, those who spend their whole life chasing after these transitory pursuits will come to realize how empty they are, if ever they attain them.  Such things cannot bring happiness.  They are not the goals but means if we use them wisely for love, service and relationships.

Thirdly, pride is another factor that hinders people from listening to the Word of God. Many believe in their own intelligence and reasoning.  Like the humanists, their gods are knowledge, science and technology.  Many claim themselves to be agnostics and freethinkers.   Humanists make it clear they can solve all their problems by themselves.  There is no God.  They trust no one; believe in no one but themselves.  Such people fail to realize their limitations and constraints until they meet with tragedy, a business failure, a terminal illness or a failed relationship.  As Sirach warns us, “Do not say, ‘Who has authority over me?’ for the Lord’s forbearance is long.”  We are not God!  We are merely mortals. We are not indispensable in this world but without God, nothing exists.

Finally, there is the temptation to spiritual complacency by abusing the doctrine of salvation by grace alone.  Whilst it is true that we are justified by God’s mercy and grace alone through faith in Him, and not by good works, it does not mean that we can continue to sin further.  Sirach exhorts us not to take the grace of God in vain when he said, “Do not be so sure of forgiveness that you add sin to sin. And do not say, ‘His compassion is great, he will forgive me my many sins’.”   If we are truly justified by faith in Christ, then our faith would produce good works otherwise, we cannot say we have faith in Him.  (cf Jms 2:14)

So far, we have been focusing on the spiritual complacency of Catholics.  But it is not only personal sin that causes many Catholics to lose faith.  It has also to do with the culture and the environment.  In the gospel today, Jesus suggests that “anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck.”  Many people, especially the young, are unable to hear the truth proclaimed to them because of the culture they are in.  In a secularized and relativistic culture, it is difficult to know what truth is anymore.  There are so many opinions that we are no better off deciding which one is truly good.  This society we live in is no longer homogenous, so much so that we are paralyzed by so many views and choices.  So we fall into pragmatism, choosing what we think is best at a certain point of time.

The loss of faith is due to a corresponding loss of social support from our brothers and sisters in the faith. In the past, when society was homogenous, the whole community shared the same culture and the same faith.  It was easy to pass the values and the Christian faith to the next generation. But in a secularized world, this is not possible anymore.  In a secular ambience, we need to respect the culture and religions of others. The way to go about this is through secularization.  But it also means that gradually, sacred symbols are removed from society, sometimes even from Catholic institutions. So much so modern man can no longer sense the mystery of God in his daily life.  So what we have today is a fragmented faith and a growing insensitivity to the sacred.

When the Sacred is no longer present, what is left that is common to all are a materialistic culture and a consumeristic society.  When happiness in life is reduced to sensuality, we forget that what truly brings happiness are the aesthetic and affective needs of life.  Many are not capable of authentic relationships and communication of the heart.  Friendship is reduced to sex and pleasure. When we are just focused on indulging ourselves and satisfying our bodies, we deafen ourselves to the cries of our heart and soul for the spiritual needs of life, love, meaning and truth.  That is why Jesus advised us that whatever causes us to sin because of sinful and inordinate pleasures or greed, is better cut off than for us to “go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out.”  Life is more than just satisfying our sensual needs.  It has to do with the salvation of the mind and heart. 

This is made worse by the fact that there is a real dichotomy between faith and life. We do not have mentors to help us to encounter God.  Many parents are nominal Catholics.  Not only do they not have anything much to pass down to their children in terms of faith, doctrines and morals; they are poor examples of Christian life. Young people see so much hypocrisy in a religion where we say and do one thing in Church but in daily life, we are anything but how Christ would have conducted Himself in charity and in service.  They become cynical, skeptical and resentful, for what their parents say about God and what they do in Church do not tally with their lives at home.  Catholics who do not live up to their faith are those that cause those with little faith, including young people, to lose faith in God.  We lack disciples because there are no mentors in faith!

Indeed, disillusionment is one of the main reasons for the loss of faith.  Many Catholics are losing trust in the Church because of the scandals and misconduct of priests and religious leaders.  They are disappointed with Church leadership.  They cannot accept the fact that religious leaders can be so unjust, vindictive, callous and insensitive to their needs and feelings.  When beliefs are reduced to verbal declaration and not lived, then such faith cannot change lives.  Faith is reduced to routine practices and rituals.  Such faith is not attractive to the young person because it does not impact their lives.

The Church is no longer communicating effectively to the young.  We are not resonating with their cries and hunger.  We are still using the archaic language to communicate the love of God.  Atheism arises quite often from a false image of God.  A faith that emphasizes laws and punishment no longer appeals to the young.  Many of the norms of the Church are considered implausible and impossible to fulfill. Many are not convinced of some moral teachings of the Church with respect to marriage, same sex union and divorce.  The explanations of the world seem more plausible and realistic.  We need to be able to explain the truth in ways that they can grasp.  Repeating doctrines alone and insisting on submission does not help much. They are looking for a God that can understand their struggles, accept them for what they are; and help them to live authentic and meaningful lives.

The key to overcome all these is to insert our Catholics into community.  What is needed is to create loving and caring faith communities. Without belonging to a living faith community, we cannot grow in faith.  Unfortunately, many of our communities are just superificial, social and cultural communities but not faith communities. They do not share their faith, give testimony to God, or pray and share the Word of God together.  Unless it is a loving and faith community, members will eventually drop out of the community when they find no support.  The irony is that many of our Catholics are alone in their journey of faith.

Above all, we must help them to regain their faith in Jesus and personal relationship with Him.  We must give them Jesus through the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and regular Sacrament of Reconcilation, through meaningful and faith-filled worship and, most of all, through deeds of love.  Only faith in God and trust in His divine laws as precepts of right living can give us true peace, happiness and joy in life.  Only when Jesus is the center of our life, can we find our focus and perspective.

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

.

************************************
.

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 22, 2017 — “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” — Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly

February 21, 2017

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter, Apostle
Lectionary: 535

Image may contain: 1 person, indoor

Art: Saint Peter, 1634 By Guido Reni

Reading 1 1 PT 5:1-4

Beloved:
I exhort the presbyters among you,
as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ
and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed.
Tend the flock of God in your midst,
overseeing not by constraint but willingly,
as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly.
Do not lord it over those assigned to you,
but be examples to the flock.
And when the chief Shepherd is revealed,
you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

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

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.

.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia MT 16:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church;
the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 16:13-19

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”.

**************************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
22 FEBRUARY, 2017, Wednesday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
FORTITUDE IN MINISTRY DEPENDS ON FAITH IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Peter 5:1-4; Psalm 22:1-6; Matthew 16:13-19]

St Peter wrote, “I have something to tell your elders: I am elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ.”  Clearly, anyone who wishes to assume leadership in the Church, regardless of which level of leadership, is asking for a share in the sufferings of Christ.  In the gospel the Lord told His disciples in no uncertain terms, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  (Lk 9:23)  To the apostles specifically, Jesus told them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I will drink, or be baptized with the baptism I will undergo?”  (Mk 10:38)

Often, people think that the call to ministry in the Church is one of pure joy without suffering.  Some want to enter the priesthood or religious life so that they can escape from the temptations of the world; and the worldly politics, competition and anxieties.  Those who seek to flee from the world because of fear of the world will only come to realize that they are jumping out of the frying pan into the fire!  Working and serving in the Church does not mean that we are protected from worldly temptations, ambitions and challenges.  That is why Pope Francis always warns us, especially those in priestly and religious life, of the traps of spiritual worldliness.

To think that we can escape from sin is naivety.   The problem is not with the world or society but the inner man and woman.  We are sinners to the core.   Jesus said, “it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mk 7:21-23)  We carry our sins with us whether we live in the world or in the religious life.   So it is the individual; not the structure or society.

Indeed, being a priest and religious could be difficult, but living out the priesthood and religious charisms is even more difficult.  So, too, for a Christian. Getting baptized involves some sacrifices but living an authentic Christian life requires much courage and perseverance. The sufferings of a Christian, and especially of a Christian leader, is real.  If we are just contented to be a mediocre priest, or religious, or a Christian, then it does not take much to be one.   Such people will not make a difference in the lives of anyone.

The call to service always entails suffering, regardless whether we are serving in the parish or the poor.  It calls for sacrifice because there will be conflicts, division and disagreements when it comes to approaches, policies and decisions.  Many walk out or remain defiant against authority when they cannot agree with them.  It must be their way and no other way.  In a world of relativism and individualism, getting people to agree on anything calls for grace.  Even within the Church, the call to obedience to authority is, most of the time, just talk.   Volunteers choose where they like to serve; not what God wants them to do.  That is why they walk out easily when things are not to their liking.  Priests and religious are also volunteers.  Can they walk out as they like when they disagree with the authorities or their superiors?  That they do not does not also mean that they are happy because often obedience is given with much resentment and bitterness. This is counter-witnessing to sharing the sufferings of Christ because Christ carried His sufferings and rendered His obedience to the Father willingly and with faith.  He did not harbor anger at His Father for not making His ministry fruitful and successful.  He did not blame His Father for His having to carry the cross and being abandoned on the cross.  But with Jesus, He commended everything to the Father in obedience to His holy will.

However, we must clarify that is it not all pure suffering but there is also much joy in the ministry, provided we see our sufferings in context.  This was the attitude of St Paul when he wrote, “I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”   Christian joy is paradoxical joy.  It is joy in suffering.   This joy comes from the heart of love and compassion.  When we suffer for love and because of love, there will be a deep interior joy that the world cannot give.  Jesus did not simply come to give us joy but godly joy.

So if there is no love in our hearts, we cannot be a witness to Christ’s suffering. Instead, we will cause others to suffer because of our arrogance and self-centeredness.  Peter warns us against becoming a dictator, using our power to oppress the lives of others and suppressing those who disagree with us.  In the face of sufferings, we will become even more resentful and vindictive.  If you are not ready for self-sacrificing and humble love for the Lord, then don’t aspire to Christian leadership or even service.  Priests are always reminded at mass that we are not just priests who offer the sacrifice of Christ but we are victims, for Jesus tells us at the Eucharistic meal, “Do this in memory of me.”  When we choose to become His priests, cleric or laity, we are called to make ourselves a living sacrifice to the world.  St Paul appeals to us “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  (Rom 12:1)

That is why St Peter exhorts us to be good shepherds purely out of love and service; “Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it.”  The only motive for aspiring to leadership, whether in the Church or in the world is because we recognize the talents given to us by God and we assume the responsibilities that God entrusts to us in looking after His sheep.  Servant leadership has nothing to do with gain, whether glory, power or even monetary gains.  When a Church leader serves with such motives, he or she has already lost focus.  Instead of being “an example that the whole flock can follow”, we become counter-witnesses.

So what is needed for us to stay on course?  In the final analysis, it depends on our personal relationship with the Lord.  In a most critical moment of His ministry, Jesus asked the apostles, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  What was their response? “Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophet.” Jesus retorted, “But you, who do you say I am?”  Who Jesus is to us will determine our fortitude and perseverance in serving the Lord and His people.  If we know Jesus personally as our Good Shepherd, then we will walk with Him even in the valley of darkness because “Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose.  Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.  He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name.  If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear.  You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort.”  Jesus remains our source of strength, courage and guide.  With Jesus as our shepherd “there is nothing I shall want.”

Secondly, it depends on whether we have faith in Christ as the Son of the Living God, which was the confession of St Peter.  Unless we confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, (cf Rom 10:9) we will not be able to withstand the onslaughts of the world, especially in the face of relativism and secularism.  This is the rock that we are called to stand on.  Jesus said to Peter,  “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”  This rock is the confession of faith in His divinity and sonship.  Without which, our faith is built on sand and we cannot stand with Jesus especially when our faith and morals are being challenged by the world.

To receive this key, that is the authority that comes from faith in His divine sonship is a gift from God.  Jesus remarked, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  So when we see priests, religious and lay leaders lacking in faith and in Christian leadership and example, perhaps, we should learn to be forgiving.  Perhaps, they never really had a deep and life-changing encounter with the Lord.  They have faith but their faith is founded on tradition, culture, upbringing, transmission from their elders and study.  They have yet to encounter Jesus personally.  It is a gift from the Father.  We can only pray for this experience because it is not given even through study and theology.

Finally, let us have hope and confidence in the Lord.  Jesus asked this critical question to prepare the apostles ahead of His passion.  We must in times of suffering look beyond the here and now towards the future and the life that is to come.  Hope of a better world and a share of His fullness of life should keep us going. This was what St Paul wrote, “I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed.”   And to his fellow elders, he assured them, “When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.”  So do not think our sufferings for the Lord and His Church are given in vain. They are the seeds of the new Church and the kingdom of God.

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

.

************************************
.
St. Peter – Prince of the Apostles

Peter became the leader of the apostles, after Jesus’ ascension.

So many people want signs and miracles and yet even what is evidently happening in history and the present times, there is still spiritual blindness. Sometimes what we really need to know is already there in front of our eyes. It might mean that we must open our mind so we can understand from a different perspective. Our world is more than two dimensional. Our thought process is not lineal although help to connect information together. With the right information, we can see how everything fits together. We can expand on this as you will see here. There are layers of awareness and so nothing is every straightfoward. Nothing is ever quite as it seems. Nothing is coincidence either.

A previous article shows St. Peter’s and how this reveals a key. In this statue St Peter is holding Keys and also a scroll. There are two keys in his right hand. One key is silver plated and the other is gold plated. The scroll indicates that Peter received Divine Revelation and was guided directly from God with making decisions. For this reason he became an important figurehead of the church.

Old Saint Peter’s Basilica stood from the 4th to 16th centuries where the Basilica of Saint Peter stands today in Rome. Construction of the Basilica was built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero. Work began during the reign of emperor Constantine I ordered the contstuction between 326 and 333; that took 30 years to complete. The name Old Saint Peter’s Basilica to distinguish between the buildings of the Old and present time Bassilica.

“The altar of the Old St. Peter’s used several Solomonic columns. According to tradition, Constantine took these columns from the Temple of Solomon and gave them to the church; however, the columns were probably from an Eastern church. When Gian Lorenzo Bernini built his baldacchino to cover the new St. Peter’s altar, he drew from the twisted design of the old columns. Eight of the original columns were moved to the piers of the new St. Peter’s.”

Fresco of Constantine’s Old St. Peter’s Basilica as it looked in the 4th century.

Since the crucifixion and burial of Saint Peter in 64 A.D., the Basilica is said to be the location of the tomb of Saint Peter. The structure housed tombs of saints and popes. Bones were still being found as late as February 1544. In the design of the new basilica attempted to reconsecrate these remains as much as possible.

“It is stated in the Liber Potitificalis, written by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the eighth century, that the Emperor Constantine after his miraculous conversion caused the body of St. Peter to be exhumed in presence of Pope St. Sylvester, and enshrined in a case of silver enclosed within a sarcophagus of Cyprian brass. Over this he placed a large cross of gold weighing one hundred and fifty pounds, and bearing the inscription : “Constantinus aug. et Helena aug. hanc doraum regalem (auro decorant quam) simili fulgore coruscans aula circumdat.” The body was then restored to its original tomb, over which he erected an altar and a vaulted chamber (in place of St. Anacletus’ memoria) faced interiorly with plates of gold. This chamber was, and still is, right under the high-altar of St. Peter’s basilica, and on the Apostle’s tomb still lies the cross of gold, as will be shown later.”

The Destruction of Old Basilica of St. Peters

“Old St. Peter’s had lasted some 1126 years (i.e., from A.D. 324 to 1450), when the walls began to settle down on the side where the masonry of Nero’s circus had been retained. Lanciani says the destruction of this venerable basilica is “one of the saddest events in the history of the ruin of Rome,” yet it was considered a necessity, for in Nicholas V’s time (1447—1455) the structure was found to be in a damaged state, and the roof threatened to fall. He conceived the idea of entirely rebuilding it, but did little or nothing because of the enormous sums required. Pope Benedict XII (1334—1342) had spent 80,000 gold florins (i.e., some ,£480,000 of our money) in repairing the roof; but a century later it was found to be again unsafe, thousands of rats having made holes in the beams, and the southern wall was leaning three feet seven inches to the side, so that the pilgrims, who came to the Jubilee of 1450, were naturally alarmed.”

St. Clements with St. Peter of Alexandria – who is seen here holding the scepter. According to Tertullian, Clement was consecrated by Saint Peter, and he is known to have been a leading member of the church in Rome in the late 1st century. Pope Clement I also known as Saint Clement of Rome (in Latin, Clemens Romanus), is listed from an early date as a Bishop of Rome. He was the first Apostolic Father of the Church.

St. Peter is seen holding a book and the keys. We also see that he is illumined (by God) His crown chakra is open to recieve divine revelation and this provides evidence of him being sanctified.

History has been mapped out to the finest detail – so has today. There is no cheating to attain spiritual enlightenment. No one can buy or sell this realisation within our being. The people who have strived to maintain lofty places and kept people down, might never realise a higher consciousness. However, in this time there are more people from all backgrounds, cultures and faiths who are ready to experience higher consciousness.

The Golden Age is the age of enlightentment – for everyone.

By research, we can learn about history in context. Visual evidence helps to support factual information. Ancient buildings, ruins of temples and churches give evidence of history and people who have lived before. In the ancient times war, fire and natural disasters, floods and earthquakes have been reasons why ancient buildings have been destroyed. At different times throughout history, people have been divinely inspired and this is not to create division between people – but to unite people together in peace. Today the churches are uniting in peace and it is important that no one is excluded from this opportunity and understanding. Today there is a golden opportunity for everyone to realise a higher consciousness. You decide your process.

Physical locatons can change, buildings can change even people can change – however truth does not change. Peter is written about in the Holy Bible. Nothing is hidden from anyone!

Peace, love and best wishes
Pauline Maria

.
http://paulinemaria.blogspot.com/2012/06/st-peter-prince-of-apostles.html
.
*************************************
.
From Last Year:
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
29 JUNE 2016, Wednesday, Ss Peter and Paul, Apostles
SUPPORTING OUR HOLY FATHER’S VISION OF MISSIONARY DISCIPLESHIP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 12: 1-11; Ps 33:2-9; 2 Tim 4, 6-8. 17-18; Mt 16, 13-19 ]Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is bringing much needed renewal to the Church and the world.  Indeed, he is truly visionary and courageous.  He has undertaken radical reforms in the Church, especially the Curia and the different Church organs.  He has given a new face to the papacy by his simplicity, ordinariness and compassion, especially for the poor and the ordinary people. He is also very much in touch with the struggles of ordinary Catholics, whether in family life, in marriage and especially those who are divorced.   He feels with those with a different sexual orientation, the marginalized and the outcast.   He has also made radical changes in the liturgy to make it simpler and connected to life. He reaches out beyond the Church to peoples from other Christian communions and other religions as well.  His speeches and homilies are straight from the heart and not couched in nice political language.  Indeed, because of his authenticity and genuine love for all, many outside the Catholic Church admire him and find him truly the face of Christ for them.  Because of him, the Church has become more missionary and evangelical and he has changed the image of a cold, indifferent and outdated Church fazed by scandals, especially pedophilia to a Church of compassion and mercy.  

Indeed, Pope Francis shows himself to be a true shepherd of the flock of Christ and a true missionary in bringing Christ to all, especially the poor and the marginalized.  He seeks to exercise both roles by modelling his life after St Peter and St Paul.  St Peter is the symbol of the call to be a shepherd to the flock of Christ, whereas St Paul reminds us of our missionary call to proclaim Christ to the earth.  Every Pope, bishop and priest and lay person is also called to be both a shepherd and a missionary.  The mission of the Church consists of both ad intra and ad extra; within, as we renew ourselves in the faith and without, by being evangelical minded.  Pope Francis seeks to bring both these aspects into his ministry by being the shepherd of the universal Church by governance and teaching on one hand, and on the other hand, by being creative and proactive in reaching out to those who have left the Church, those outside the Church and those who are unreached.  And he is doing this at the risk of being misunderstood and opposed by his own. 

What should our attitude be with respect to the changes that Pope Francis is undertaking for the Church? What if some of us cannot agree with him and feel confused with the developments in the Church, especially with regard to time immemorial doctrines and practices, particularly liturgical practices?  Indeed, for those of us who are happy with the changes, they have all but praise for him and thanksgiving to God.  But for those who sincerely object to the innovations and initiatives of our Holy Father, particularly in seeking to make the faith more real and relevant in the lives of our people, especially those who feel ostracized by the Church, how should we handle this dilemma? 

The real question at the end of the day is:  do you have faith in St Peter and his successors, the college of bishops, the magisterium?  Do you believe that the Holy Spirit that is promised to the Church guarantees the infallibility of the teaching of the Church?  At the end of the day, it is a matter of faith, not logic or understanding, or even finding consensus.  As the Vicar of Christ and the pastor of the universal Church, the Holy Father has full and supreme authority over the Church.  When he teaches in matters of faith and morals, we must give a religious assent to His teachings; if ex cathedra, submission in faith; and if ordinary teaching, the submission of the intellect and will.  (Cf LG 22,25)   Precisely, in matters of faith, reason is not sufficient to establish but revelation is required.  Otherwise, faith is reduced to mere reason alone.

The scripture readings of today assure us that St Peter is under the protection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the first reading, we read how St Peter was miraculously released from jail by an angel who could simply be a messenger of the Lord.  At first he thought it was a dream, but later when Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know it is all true. The Lord really did send his angel and has saved me from Herod and from all that the Jewish people were so certain would happen to me.”

In the gospel too, we read how the Lord assured St Peter of divine assistance.  In the first place, his declaration that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” is through divine revelation given to him. The Lord said, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”  Furthermore, the Lord entrusted St Peter with the authority to govern the Church of Christ.  He said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”  Not only St Peter but He also protects His apostles.  St Paul too experienced God’s protection when he recounted, “The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.”

Based on this promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church has consistently professed the supreme teaching authority of St Peter and his successors throughout the ages.   His teaching when declared ex cathedra is to be accepted in faith; and when taught ordinarily, it must be accepted with the religious submission of the intellect and will.

Today, when we celebrate the re-dedication of the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, we want to reaffirm our faith in Christ according to the mind of the Church as declared on our behalf by St Peter.  The rock that Jesus spoke about is both St Peter as the rock on which His Church is built, that is, under His guidance.  But it is also a reference to the faith of Peter in Christ as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Unless, we make St Peter’s faith our own, both in mind and in heart, we cannot find salvation.  We too must be able to declare personally that Christ is the Son of God.  It is not enough therefore simply to rely on the faith of St Peter or the Church but it must also be our own.   Without this faith in Christ as the Son of God, we cannot profess our faith in the teaching of the Holy Father as well.

But this personal faith in Christ as the Son of God has its implications.  All of us are called to nurture the faith of those Catholics under our care.  We are called to look after the faith of our loved ones, especially our young.  The reason why the faith of many of our Catholics is weak is because many are poorly instructed in their faith.  Doctrinally, they know so little and spiritually, they do not read the Word of God or share the Word of God with their brothers and sisters.  Their faith in Christ at most is an intellectual faith but not the personal faith demanded of Christ when He asked the disciples the question, “Who do you say I am?” We cannot be missionary minded unless we take our discipleship seriously.

At the same time, this feast also reminds us that it is not sufficient just to look into the interests of the Catholic community; we are called to be like St Paul, sharing this faith with the whole world.   His whole life was given for the spread of the gospel, especially to those who do not know him.  He wrote, “As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish.”  With St Paul, we are reminded that the Church does not exist for herself but for the world.  So whilst it is important to follow St Peter in shepherding our Catholics and looking after our Catholic community, in our parish and in the diocese, we must not forget the missionary thrust of the Church.  As Pope Francis often reminds us, we are always missionary disciples.  We need to look after our faith and strengthen our faith, but this is for the sake of the mission.

When we celebrate this feast of Ss Peter and Paul, we must never forget that we are called to imitate both St Peter and St Paul.  With St Peter, we must take part in the life of the community, serving the community and learning from each other so that we can deepen our faith in the Lord.  We must never forget that we need to deepen our faith each day so that we can arrive at the faith of St Peter, making his faith our own personal conviction.  So it is not enough to serve in the ministry but we need to be disciples of Christ through prayer, study and fellowship.  With St Paul, let us be missionaries and evangelists for Christ so that the world will know Him as Saviour and Lord.  We need to actively reach out beyond our community and bring Christ to the world directly or indirectly through works of mercy and charity.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, February 21, 2017 — Be sincere of heart and steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding.

February 20, 2017

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 342

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Photo: Sky of Fire, El Calafate, GuardianWitness

Reading 1 SIR 2:1-11

My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the LORD, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the LORD, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the LORD, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

R. (see 5) Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
Trust in the LORD and do good,
that you may dwell in the land and be fed in security.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will grant you your heart’s requests.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
The LORD watches over the lives of the wholehearted;
their inheritance lasts forever.
They are not put to shame in an evil time;
in days of famine they have plenty.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
Turn from evil and do good,
that you may abide forever;
For the LORD loves what is right,
and forsakes not his faithful ones.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.
The salvation of the just is from the LORD;
he is their refuge in time of distress.
And the LORD helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
R. Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you.

Alleluia GAL 6:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:30-37

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it.
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?”
But they remained silent.
For they had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest.
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

.
********************************
.
The first reading from the Book of Sirach, (a book also sometimes called “The Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom “) is about the best two paragraph description of the travails of life and what to do about them ever put to paper.
.
First: bad things may happen. Life is NOT A BOWL OF CHERRIES. “Prepare yourself for trials.”
.
Then “Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not.”
.
“Don’t give up the ship!”  Some might say, “Time takes time” or “It is what it is.” Or maybe “All in God’s time.”
.
This was the perfect reading for me today as I have been staring into the eyes of a guy that had a stroke a few years ago and he still has trouble accepting that he is no longer the King of the Universe.
.
This lack of acceptance leads to anger, fear, anxiety, worry, barking orders at “care givers” and all kinds of “negative vibes.”
.
One moment he seems to have a Pathological Aversion to Death. The next moment it seems he may just kill himself.
.
One day I told him the people around him were so fed up with his unhappiness that “someone might just put the pillow over your face and finish you off.”
.
He said that could never happen because everyone was a “care giver dedicated to the improvement of the patient.”
.
He was not too happy when the nurse suggested we take a vote on who should handle the pillow!
.
It seems to me, among all the mysteries of life, the one that has caused the most books to be written is the broad subject of suffering. Why do we suffer? How do we suffer? How can we best help others to suffer?
.
Take it from one who actually bought and plowed through many of the books on suffering: there are a few simple truths.
.
First: we will probably all encounter suffering.  If you don’t: just wait your turn.
.
Second, and this is closely allied to the first, we cannot totally escape from suffering. Millions have tried. Often this leads to drug addiction, suicide or some suffering that is worse than the suffering at the start..
.
Finally, for Christians, Suffering Allies us With Jesus.
.
Many of us have a very hard time being as patient, loving and kind as Jesus. But be that as it may: we can accept a little suffering now and again without too much struggle or complaint.
.
No matter what happens to us in this life, it seems next to impossible that many of us will experience anything close to the suffering that Jesus Christ endured for us.
.
Suggested reading: “Come, Lord Jesus; Meditations on the art of Waiting,” by Mother Mary Francis.
.
If we should write a book about ministry in hospitals and nursing homes my working title would be, “Just Wait: Bad Things Will Eventually Happen to Us on This Earth.”
.
Keep smiling!
.
Come, Lord Jesus: Meditations on the Art of Waiting
.
Related:
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

**************************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
21 FEBRUARY, 2017, Tuesday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
IF YOU ASPIRE TO SERVE THE LORD, PREPARE YOURSELF FOR AN ORDEAL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Sir 2:1-11; Ps 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40; Mk 9:30-37]

My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal.”  These words remind me of what Jesus said to the prospective disciples who wanted to follow Jesus.  To one, He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Lk 9:58) To another, he said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Lk 9:60) To the third, He said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:62)  And to the disciples who were squabbling for position, glory and power, He said, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”  (Mt 20:22)

Indeed, we have many who are willing to become priests, religious, Church workers, ministry members, volunteers in Church or charitable organizations but who are not ready for the sacrifices and the sufferings ahead of them.  As a result, many who enter the service with great passion, enthusiasm and joy, leave the ministry with much bitterness, disillusionment, anger and resentment.   Some have even lost their faith and left the Church all together.  This explains why the Church cannot move forward because we have many disgruntled servants of the Church, clerical and lay.  When we have wounded priests, religious and lay workers, they often tend to act out of their hurts and thus compromise the message of unconditional love and joy.  When we find Church workers, helpers and priests to be petty, harsh, hot-tempered, arrogant, reactive, judgmental, defensive, argumentative and insensitive, it means that they need much healing.

How, then, can we avoid falling into disillusionment or despair in the face of challenges and difficulties?  Firstly, we must never forget that we are servants. “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.”  As servants, we should not expect any reward or gratitude.  Jesus did say, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Lk 17:10)   All the talents and resources given to us are from God to be used for service.  So we have no right to boast or even demand gratitude.  We are here to do what we can and leave the rest to God.  If we have done our part, let us leave success to God.

This was the mistake of the apostles.  They had the wrong idea for following and serving Jesus.  They were arguing who was the greatest.  They wanted to be in positions of power and glory with Jesus.  This is why Pope Francis always warns us about spiritual worldliness.  Even in the spiritual world, the temptations of the world can come under the guise of religious service.   Many use religion to get attention, power, honour and recognition.  We know how often politics use religion to obtain power, but it is equally true that some use religion to attain political powers. So many serve, albeit with an unconscious pursuit of some form of recognition and appreciation.

Secondly, Sirach tells us, “Be sincere of heart.”  Sincerity of service is necessary if we want to persevere in doing good works.  This is why Jesus “took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’”  Welcoming a little child precisely means to seek innocence of heart.  Welcoming a child is to serve without the possibility of the child returning our favours.   So when we serve, our intentions must be pure, like a child who chooses to serve out of love; not because of honour and recognition.   We must serve those who cannot repay us.

Thirdly, we must remain “steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes”, as Sirach advises us.   Many begin well but they lack perseverance.  They give up easily when difficulties come along.  Members resign when they face difficulties with fellow members or with those in authority.  Sometimes, it is good for us to ask whether we are serving God or serving man.  St Paul 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)  If we truly believe that we are serving the Lord, how can we walk in and walk out as and when we like?  When things are not to our liking, we resign.  If the Lord calls us to take the cross and walk after Him, to resign just because we are not happy means that we are not serving God but serving ourselves in the first place.  God is our master and employer; not the priest or the chairman.  

What we need to do is to stay united with the Lord.  Sirach tells us, “Cling to him and do not leave him, so that you may be honoured at the end of your days.  Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.”  When we stay with the Lord and accept His will, we will be able to face all suffering and humiliation, like the apostles who gave thanks to God for allowing them to suffer for Him.  “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  (Acts 5:41)  Through suffering, we grow in grace and in faith.  We must be submissive to the will of God. Through obedience to His will, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, God will show His power and see that we are victorious at the end.   Instead of taking things into our own hands, we must allow the grace and power of God to work and change our enemies and bring us to victory.

Most of all, we must trust in the Lord.   This is what Sirach is asking of us.  He said, “Trust him and he will uphold you, follow a straight path and hope in him.  You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy; do not turn aside in case you fall.  You who fear the Lord, trust him, you who will not be baulked of your reward.  You who fear the Lord hope for good things, for everlasting happiness and mercy.”   When we trust in the Lord, we know that He will see us through.  Success in the ministry is not in our hands but totally the work of God.  We should not be worried too much about success but learn to trust Him.  So long as we walk in His path and follow Him,  He will reward us and show us His mercy.

How can we be so sure that the Lord is trustworthy and is faithful to His promises? Sirach urges us, “Look at the generations of old and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame?  Or who ever feared him steadfastly was left forsaken?  Or who ever called out to him, and was ignored?  For the Lord is compassionate and merciful, he forgives sins, and saves in days of distress.”  Indeed, we just have to look at our own lives and the history of the Church.  In spite of the many scandals that have rocked the Church, we still stand strong after 2000 years. Nations have come and gone but the Church as an institution remains because the Lord promised to be with us until the end of time.  We might be decimated at times, persecuted and discredited.  But we will come back and be renewed in zeal and in holiness.

So let us commit our lives to the Lord and His work.  This is what the psalmist is exhorting us.  “Commit your life to the Lord, trust him and he will act.  If you trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live in the land and be secure. If you find your delight in the Lord, he will grant your heart’s desire.  Then turn away from evil and do good and you shall have a home for ever; for the Lord loves justice and will never forsake his friends. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord, their stronghold in time of distress.”    Let us do all we can according to our abilities.  We leave the rest to the Lord.  Success belongs to Him.  As St Teresa of Calcutta says  “Let us be faithful not successful.”

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

.

**********************************

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, February 20, 2017 — “I do believe, help my unbelief!”

February 19, 2017

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 341

Image may contain: 8 people, people sitting

Art: Part of The Transfiguration of Christ By Raphael — Showing the young boy consumed with convulsions

Reading 1 SIR 1:1-10

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.

Responsorial Psalm PS 93:1AB, 1CD-2, 5

R. (1a) The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
The LORD is king, in splendor robed;
robed is the LORD and girt about with strength.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
And he has made the world firm,
not to be moved.
Your throne stands firm from of old;
from everlasting you are, O LORD.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.
Your decrees are worthy of trust indeed:
holiness befits your house,
O LORD, for length of days.
R. The Lord is king; he is robed in majesty.

Alleluia 2 TM 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:14-29

As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
Someone from the crowd answered him,
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
He said to them in reply,
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
“How long has this been happening to him?”
He replied, “Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
Jesus said to him,
“‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith.”
Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!”
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
“Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!”
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, “He is dead!”
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

.
*****************************************
.
The transfiguration

Raphael (Raffaelo Santi, 1483-1520)

Vatican Museums, Rome (Photograph Calvi)

According to present estimations, there are between 300,000 and 600,000 people in the U.K. who have epilepsy. Of these, over half are under 20 years of age. In the Renaissance, this disease was just as common as it is today, although in those days people made no clear distinction between obsessions, the plague and epilepsy. The Renaissance viewed the human being who fitted harmoniously into the cosmos, as the measure of all things. Therefore people reacted with great irritation to anything that seemed unusual or strange and looked to the heavens to find an explanation for it. In the Christian Middle Ages, as in ancient Greek and Roman times, epilepsy was regarded as the ‘unnatural, mysterious illness which is not of this world.’

The most famous painting of a person with epilepsy is the one by Raphael (Raphaelo Santi, 1483-1520) :

Raphael’s last picture, the ‘Transfiguration of Christ‘, is divided into two parts: the upper part depicts the transfiguration of Christ, the lower part portrays the healing (or rather the scene immediately preceding it) of the boy with an evil spirit (epilepsy). This story comes immediately after the description of the transfiguration in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). The lower part of this painting, which was never completely finished, is based on the following passage in the Bible:
‘…Teacher, I brought my son to you, because he has an evil spirit in him and cannot talk. Whenever the spirit attacks him, it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grits his teeth and becomes stiff all over.’ (Mark 9, 17-18)

The Transfiguration of Christ (detail)

The scene shows the father (wearing a green robe to symbolize hope) bringing his son to the disciples. The painting shows the boy having a seizure: his father has to support him as he cannot stand upright. The boy’s limbs are stiff (tonic) and twisted, his mouth is slightly open, his lips are blue, his eyes are fixed in a squint. It is clear to see that during such a convulsion the ‘demon‘ would throw the victim ‘into the fire or into the water‘ (Mt 17, 14) if he were not under the care of his family.

Jesus heals the boy by driving out the evil spirit. This passage in the Bible led people in the Christian Middle Ages to believe that epilepsy was caused by demons, and this opinion was one of the main reasons why the falling sickness was called ‘morbus daemonicus‘ (the demonic disease) at that time.

Art historians have repeatedly pointed to the symbolism of the themes portrayed in this masterpiece: they believe that Rafael intentionally included the simultaneous depiction of the transfiguration of Christ and the healing of the epileptic boy in one painting. In so doing he consciously created a link between the transfigured Christ and the epileptic boy – a symbolic incongruity between the later crucified and then risen Christ and the epileptic boy who falls to the ground in a seizure, lies there as if dead and then ‘rises’ up again. It is notable that in the painting, the only link between the two parts of the picture is made by the epileptic boy, who is the only person in the lower half of the picture whose face is turned to the transfigured Christ in the upper part of the painting.

http://www.epilepsiemuseum.de/alt/raffaelen.html

**************************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
20 FEBRUARY, 2017, Monday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
INSPIRING OTHERS IN FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ecclesiasticus 1:1-10; Ps 92(93):1-2,5; Mk 9:14-29 ]

“The father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith.  Help the little faith I have!’”  This cry of the father is the cry of everyone.  We too feel like him.  We have some faith in God but for most of us our faith is weak.  Certainly, we do not even have faith in God to heal us when we are sick, much less a faith that could move mountains!  In times of trial, we give up faith in God.  We prefer to rely on ourselves, our ingenuity, science and technology to solve our problems.  God is always the last resort when all things fail and there is no further recourse.  But deep down in us all, we do want to increase in faith.  But we are weak.

How, then, can we grow in faith?  Firstly, by contemplating on the magnificent creation of God.  In the first reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus, the wisdom of God is praised through pondering on the wonders of God’s creation.  When the author considered “the sand of the sea and the raindrops, and the days of eternity, who can assess them?  The height of the sky and the breadth of the earth, and the depth of the abyss, who can probe them?”   No one could do all these but God the creator who alone is all wise.  “He himself has created her, looked on her and assessed her, and poured her out on all his works to be with all mankind as his gift, and he conveyed her to those who love him.”

If God is the creator of all, then following Jesus we can trust in His divine providence.  “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,  yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?”  (Mt 6:26-30)

If we do not trust Him, who else can we trust when “before all other things wisdom was created, shrewd understanding is everlasting.  For whom has the root of wisdom ever been uncovered?  Her resourceful ways, who knows them?”  So the conclusion of Sirach and the psalmist is this, that God is our King, Lord of heaven and earth.  “One only is wise, terrible indeed, seated on his throne, the Lord.”  To Him we submit ourselves.  “The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed; the Lord has robed himself with might, he has girded himself with power.  The world you made firm, not to be moved; your throne has stood firm from of old.  From all eternity, O Lord, you are. Truly your decrees are to be trusted.  Holiness is fitting to your house, O Lord, until the end of time.”

Secondly, to grow in faith, we need the faith of others to inspire us.  Obviously, the child under possession could not exercise his faith.  Likewise, the father of the child was so desperate that he had lost almost all faith except the little he had left.  The disciples were supposed to be channels of God’s grace.  They were supposed to help the little faith of the father of the child.  Instead, they made him lose the little faith he had.  He asked his “disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.”  The reply of Jesus was swift.   In frustration, He remarked, “You faithless generation.  How much longer do I have to be with you?  How much longer do I have to put up with you?  Bring him to me.”   Jesus was clearly disappointed that even His own disciples lacked the faith to deliver the boy from the Evil One. They must have tried to exorcise the boy but their lack of faith was clearly manifested so much so the Devil was not afraid of them.  Like many people who pray without faith, the devil knows that they are weak in faith.  He would not bother about them because their prayers would not work.

Jesus was truly a man who could inspire faith. Even the sight of Him was enough to move people to faith.  In today’s gospel, we read that “the moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him.”   We also read elsewhere, “After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him  and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.”  (Mt 14:36)   Even at His death, the centurion remarked, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Mt 27:54) He was seen as the visitation of God.  After raising the widow’s son at Nain, we read that “a sense of awe swept over all of them, and they glorified God saying, “a great prophet has appeared among us.  God has visited His people.”  (Lk 7:16)

All of us too are called to inspire people in faith.  Parents have a responsibility to inspire faith in their children.  It is not enough to teach them about God or bring them to church and catechism classes.  More importantly, they must inspire them by their lives of faith, devotion and love for God.  It is not what they say but what they do.  This is of course true for all, whether we are priests, religious, teachers, elders or seniors.  We are called to inspire faith in the lives of those people under our charge or are living or working with us.  Can we say that through our lives, people are inspired to find faith in Christ as well?  The sad reality is that often we put people off and become a scandal to their faith because of our arrogance, insensitivity, discrimination or sinful and worldly lifestyles. Many have left the church because they encountered bad witnessing by Catholics who are rude and selfish.

How, then, can we be the light of faith to others so that they can be inspired to grow in their faith?   If faith is lacking in us, it is because, as Jesus said, “This is the kind, that can only be driven out by prayer.” What is needed is more than just doing things in the name of Jesus or for Jesus.  We need to share the mind and heart of Jesus so that we can pray and act with faith in God like He did.  It was just after the Transfiguration experience when this incident happened.  The people noticed the transformation in Jesus and that explained why they were struck with amazement upon seeing Him.  It was in the intimacy with His Father, that the Lord, was transformed.  Filled with the Father’s love and assurance of His presence, He could confidently come down from the mountain filled with renewed power and strength to deal with the challenges ahead of Him, particularly the imminent passion in Jerusalem.  We, too, if we want to be sure that we can manage the trials and challenges of life at home, at work or in ministry, then we need to pray as much as we work.  Only prayer can strengthen our personal faith in Christ, without which, the work we do will be hollow and not transform anyone.  We will end up quarreling and debating with each other as many church groups do because the members hardly pray together and as individuals.  This was what happened at the scene.  “They saw a large crowd around them and some scribes arguing with them.”  When there is no faith, we can only argue and prove each other wrong.  But if we believe in the power of prayer, then prayer changes us and changes the way we relate with others. With faith, nothing is impossible.  When the man told the Lord, “But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.”  Jesus retorted, “If you can? Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.”

So let us increase in our faith through prayer in our relationship with the Lord, through contemplation of His works in our lives and in creation; and through the inspiring faith of our brothers and sisters. It is therefore important that we support each other in faith using the various means and opportunities available to us. Not only by praying individually, but we must also come together to worship as a community of faith; and coming together in smaller groups to share the Word of God and how the Lord is working in our daily life.  Through such fellowship, our faith will grow from strength to strength.  If we walk alone in our faith, we will surely lose it one day because no one can grow in faith by himself.  We need the church and the faith of our brothers and sisters to support us.

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

.

**********************************

Lectio Divina from The Carmelites

.

Reflection
.
• The Gospel today informs us that the disciples of Jesus were not able to cast out the devil from the body of a boy. The power of evil was greater than their capacity. Today, also, there are many evils which surpass our capacity to face them: violence, drugs, war, sickness, jobless people, terrorism, etc. We make great efforts in life, but it seems that instead of improving, the world becomes worse. What good is there in struggling? Keeping this question in mind, let us read and meditate on today’s Gospel.
.
• Mark 9, 14-22: The situation of the people: despair without solution. Coming down from the mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus met many people around the disciples. A parent was in despair, because an evil spirit had taken possession of his son. With great detail, Mark describes the situation of the possessed boy, the anguish of the father, the incapacity of the disciples and the reaction of Jesus. Two things strike us in a particular way: on one side, the confusion and the powerlessness of the people and of the disciples in the face of the phenomenon of possession, and on the other hand, the power of faith in Jesus before which the devil loses all his influence.
.
The father had asked the disciples to drive out the devil from the boy, but they were not able to do it. Jesus becomes impatient and says: “Faithless generation! How much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me”. Jesus asks information regarding the sickness of the boy. And from the response of the father, Jesus knows that the boy, “from childhood”, was affected by a serious illness which endangered his life. The father asked: “But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us!” The phrase of the father expresses a very real situation of the people: (a) they are faithless; (b) they are not in a condition to solve the problem, but (c) have such good will.
.
• Mark 9, 23-27: The answer of Jesus: the way of faith. The father answers: Lord, I believe! But help my lack of faith! The response of the father has the central place in this episode. It indicates that this should be the attitude of the disciple, that, in spite of his/her limitations and doubts, he/she wants to be faithful. Seeing that many people were coming, Jesus acted rapidly. He ordered the spirit to get out of the boy and not to return “again ever!” This is a sign of the power of Jesus on evil. It is also a sign that Jesus did not want any popular propaganda.
.
• Mark 9, 28-29: Deepening this with the disciples. In the house, the disciples want to know why they were not able to drive out the devil. Jesus answers: This is the kind of evil spirit that can be driven out only by prayer! Faith and prayer go together. One does not exist without the other. The disciples had become worse. Before they were capable of driving out the devil (cfr. Mk 6, 7.13). Now, no more. What is lacking? Faith or prayer? Why is it lacking? These are questions which come from the text and enter into our head in a way that we can proceed also to a kind of revision of our life.
.
• The expulsion of the devils in the Gospel of Mark. During the time of Jesus many persons spoke of Satan and of the expulsion of the devils. People were afraid and, there were some persons who profited and took advantage of the fear of the people. The power of evil had many names: Demon, Devil, Beelzebul, Prince of Demons, Satan, Dragon, Domination, Power, Beast-wild animal, Lucifer, etc. (cfr. Mk 3, 22-23; Mt 4, 1; Rv 12, 9; Rm 8, 38;; Eph 1, 21).
.
Today also, among us the power of evil has many names. It is enough to consult the dictionary and look for the word Devil or Demon. Today, also, many dishonest people enrich themselves, profiting of the fear which people have of the devil. Now, one of the objectives of the Good News of Jesus is, precisely, to help people to free themselves from this fear. The coming of the Kingdom of God means the coming of a stronger power. The strong man was an image which indicated the power of evil which maintained people imprisoned by fear (Mk 3, 27). The power of fear oppresses persons and makes them lose themselves. He does in such a way that they live in fear and death (cfr. Mk 5, 2).
.
It is such a strong power that nobody can stop it (Mk 5, 4). The Roman Empire with its “Legion” (cfr. Mk 5, 9), that is, with its armies, was the instrument used to maintain this situation of oppression. But Jesus is the strongest man who overcomes, seizes and drives out the power of evil! In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul gives a list of all the possible powers or demons which could threaten us and he summarizes everything in this way: “I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord!” (Rm 8, 38-39). Nothing of all this! And the first words of Jesus after the Resurrection are: “Do not be afraid! Rejoice! Do not fear! Peace be with you!” (Mk 16, 6; Mt 28, 9-10; Lk 24, 36; Jn 20, 21).
.
Personal questions
.
• Have you ever lived an experience of powerlessness before some evil or violence? Was this an experience for you only or also for the community? How did you overcome it?
.
• Which is the type of evil today which can only be overcome with much prayer?
.

 

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, February 19, 2017 — Let no one deceive himself. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God. “You are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you.”

February 18, 2017

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 79

Image may contain: ocean, sky, cloud, beach, outdoor, nature and water

For he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good

Reading 1 LV 19:1-2, 17-18

The LORD said to Moses,
“Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:
Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
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.
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.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
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.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Reading 2 1 COR 3:16-23

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person;
for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:
God catches the wise in their own ruses,
and again:
The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.

Alleluia 1 JN 2:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever keeps the word of Christ,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:38-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand over your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

****************************************

Homily From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, NM

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

The First Letter to the Corinthians, from which our second reading today is taken, tells us:  “You are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you.”  If we can understand this reality today, our lives will be changed and transformed.

Jesus gives us strong teachings so that we can truly be children of God.  It is never enough that Jesus loves us.  We must respond to that love, however imperfectly we respond.  The love of Jesus for us is a love that is inviting our response each day and inviting us to be transformed and changed forever.

The first reading today is from the Book of Leviticus.  This reading tells us to be holy because God is holy.  More than that, the reading tells us what it means to be holy:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Far too often we forget that holiness is fairly simple:  Love for God and love for our neighbor.  We try to make ourselves holy in lots of ways, often with prayers and good practices.  That is fine.  What God wants is a heart and actions that love Him and love everyone else who comes into our lives.

The second reading tells us again that we are temples of the Holy Spirit.  If we belong to the Holy Spirit, then there are ways of acting that are good for the temple and ways of acting that can destroy the temple.  The only way to live is to be wise in the ways of this God who loves us!

Matthew’s Gospel today teaches us the wisdom of Jesus Christ:  don’t resist evil, turn the other cheek, give more than is asked and love your enemies.  This is the way to live God’s mystery here on earth.  If we want to be perfect, then we must follow the example of our heavenly Father.

The example of our heavenly Father is always this:  love.  Love is for everyone and without conditions.  Love is especially for those who hate us.  Love is for all and is what brings about the Kingdom of God.  This is love is not a love that feels good about others but is rather a love that chooses the good of others consistently.  This is a strong love that can transform us personally and can transform the whole world.

It is not easy to love as God loves!  This form of loving will demand all of our energy and all of strength in our lives.  Yes it will draw us completely into God and into the Kingdom.  May we have the wisdom to love this way.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

***********************************************

Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, outdoor, nature and water

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
19 FEBRUARY, 2017, Sunday, 7th Week, Ordinary Time
THE SOCIAL MISSION OF THE CHURCH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ LEV 19:1-2.17-18; PS 102:1-4,8,10,12-13; 1 COR 3:16-23; MT 5:38-48 ]

In the first reading, the Lord spoke to Moses, “Speak to the whole community of the sons of Israel and say to them: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”  What is the call to holiness all about?  

Holiness in the first place means to be separated, to be set apart. Holiness is the call to be different from the rest of the world.  Indeed, the word, “Pharisee” means to be separated and be detached from the rest of humanity, especially the common people of the land, the Gentiles, and those who do not keep the Covenantal laws strictly.

The call to be holy therefore means to be different. This is what Jesus in the gospel taught as well.  “For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not?”   The hallmark of a Christian is that he is distinguished from the rest of the world because of the gospel values that he subscribes to, which contradict the logical thinking of the world.  This is particularly true with respect to the Beatitudes, elaborated and expanded in the Sermon of the Mount which is the blueprint of how a Christian should conduct his or her life.  (cf Mt 5-7)  It is the magna carta of the New Testament manifesting God’s way to lead us all to happiness.

Indeed, we are called to turn the values of the world upside now.  For this reason, Christians would often be misunderstood and sometimes seen as a threat to the secular world. St Paul reiterates this call to be different when he wrote, “Make no mistake about it; if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.”  In the gospel, Jesus also prefaced His teaching by saying, “’You have learnt how it was said but I say to you.”  In other words, the old way will not work.   Life cannot be the same again.  We have to show to the world that we are different.

But holiness is not just being different for the sake of being different.  We are called to be different in treating our fellowmen and in the way we love and relate with them.  Social justice is spelt out in terms of right social relationships.   It is significant that immediately after the call to holiness; Moses gave a list of the things that constitute holiness.  He said, “You must love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” Holiness principally is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  The twofold commandment of Jesus to love God with all our heart, soul and strength must be manifested in our love for neighbor and self.  (cf Mk 12:29-31)  Indeed, the constant teaching of scripture is clear that there can be no real worship of God without justice and compassion toward our neighbors and strangers.  Anyone who calls himself Catholic must first promote peace and practice justice beginning from himself.

That is why the social mission of the Church is an expression of our call to holiness.  It also explains why most of our religious congregations are devoted more to the service of the poor than to services ad-intra, that is purely religious services connected with the direct proclamation of the gospel in terms of catechesis.  The way to manifest the love of God is through good works, especially works of mercy. The social mission of the Church therefore is our mission in the world. In the past, the social mission was focused on charities, hospitals and schools. But Vatican II has called the Church to a new understanding of social mission as being involved in the civic, social and political life of the Church.  The Church’s strong sense of social mission is not just confined to feeding and assisting the poor, but in defending life, the dignity of the human person from conception to sickness, old age and death; fostering justice, especially for workers, peace among races and nations and religions.

The practice of social mission begins with the exercise of justice. If we cannot even practice justice towards our workers, domestic helpers or our fellowmen, we cannot speak of charity.  It is unfortunate that often Catholics do not treat their workers with respect and fairness.  Shouting and screaming at our subordinates is not rendering them the dignity they deserve even when they are wrong.  Very often, superiors practice favouritism and discrimination among the staff.  This is the reason for so much office politics because we are creating distrust and unhealthy competition among staff.  Not cheating and stealing from each other and respecting the rights and dignity of others is basic to human justice.

Even if we have fulfilled our obligations towards our workers and our brothers and sisters, we have still not yet fully carried out social justice if justice is not tampered with mercy and compassion.  As Christians we must go beyond rendering justice in the strict sense of justice in the world.  The Church is not just another corporation.  If that were the case, then we are no different from the world.  Rather, we must ensure that we go an extra mile in treating our brothers and sisters.  Jesus said, “If a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.”  Christian charity is never calculative.  We give our best and even beyond the call of duty without expecting anything in return. This is the ideal of Christian love.  Otherwise, if we simply fulfill the obligations of the world, which is based on productivity and reward, then there is nothing special about Christian social justice.  Does God treat us in that manner, rewarding us according to our work?  Is salvation through good works or by the grace of God?  In truth if God were to treat us according to our good works, then none of us will ever be saved.  Christian charity always speaks of grace and generosity.

Social justice includes speaking out for the poor.  There are times when we need to intercede on behalf of the poor and the suffering.  We must use our connections to help those in need.  There will be times when in charity, we need to correct those who are not dealing rightly with their fellowmen, as Moses said, “You must openly tell him, your neighbour, of his offence; this way you will not take a sin upon yourself.”  There is the moral obligation to speak out for the good of the community.  Often, the minority speaks so loudly as if that is the main voice.  In this world of mass communication, there are so many half-truths circulating in the social media that we do not know the facts.  So often, we see lots of conditioning by the social media because a few people are pushing through their agenda.

Finally, the exercise of social mission of the Church includes forgiveness.  Moses taught the people, “You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people.  You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.”  In the same vein, Jesus said, Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance.”  The psalmist also reminds us of God’s patience and compassion for our failings.  There are some who are involved in the social mission of the Church but instead of becoming more caring and loving, they are filled with vindictiveness and anger with the Church, the secular institutions and even with God because things did not happen the way they wanted. In their fight for the poor, they themselves became oppressors.  We must maintain our Christian attitude of perseverance, dialogue and respect for all even when others disagree with us.  The day when we take things into our own hands, we forget that at the end of the day, it is not our work but the work of God.

What, then, is the basis for doing works of charity and being involved in the mission of the Church?  Firstly, we are all God’s children.  This is the same basis for Jesus inviting us to love our enemies.  He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.”  In the eyes of God, we are all His children, regardless whether we acknowledge Him or not.  He is the Father and creator of us all.

Secondly, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  St Paul says, “Didn’t you realise that you were God’s temple and that the Spirit of God was living among you? If anybody should destroy the temple of God, God will destroy him, because the temple of God is sacred; and you are that temple.”  As the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we must regard each other with reverence.  Every human person therefore must be treated as sacred.  We are not our own but purchased by the world of Christ, and therefore we must regard each other with mutual respect.

Finally, we must be grateful for what we have received.   The psalmist says, “My soul, give thanks to the Lord all my being, bless his holy name. My soul, give thanks to the Lord and never forget all his blessings.”   Gratitude is the basis for justice and charity.  When we are grateful for what we have, we become generous as well because we know that everything we have belongs to God and we are merely His stewards. 

So when we consider the goodness and mercy of God, we in turn are called to return the same kindness we have received.  This is what it means when Jesus said, “You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The call to perfection is not that we are without sin, but to be compassionate like our heavenly Father is towards us. Otherwise, how can we ever be perfect, for as Jesus told the rich man, “No one is good except God alone.” (Mk 10:18)  Perfection lies in our compassion for our brothers and sisters.   Love covers a multitude of sins.

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

.

**********************************

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, February 18, 2017 — The Essential Role of Faith For Man — “Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.”

February 17, 2017

Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 340

Image may contain: one or more people

The Transfiguration Jesus by James Tissot

Reading 1 HEB 11:1-7

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.
By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God,
so that what is visible came into being through the invisible.
By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice greater than Cain’s.
Through this, he was attested to be righteous,
God bearing witness to his gifts,
and through this, though dead, he still speaks.
By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death,
and he was found no more because God had taken him.
Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him,
for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those who seek him.
By faith Noah, warned about what was not yet seen,
with reverence built an ark for the salvation of his household.
Through this, he condemned the world
and inherited the righteousness that comes through faith.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 10-11

R. (see 1) I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Generation after generation praises your works
and proclaims your might.
They speak of the splendor of your glorious majesty
and tell of your wondrous works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, Lord.

AlleluiaMK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 9:2-13

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone,
except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
So they kept the matter to themselves,
questioning what rising from the dead meant.
Then they asked him,
“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
He told them, “Elijah will indeed come first and restore all things,
yet how is it written regarding the Son of Man
that he must suffer greatly and be treated with contempt?
But I tell you that Elijah has come
and they did to him whatever they pleased,
as it is written of him.”

.
*********************************************
.
Image may contain: one or more people
.
Transfiguration of Jesus. Source – Orthodox Metropolitanate Of Singapore And South Asia
.
Why Peters, James and John were Chosen Witnesses of the Transfiguration
.
According to the explanation of St. John of Damascus, “the Lord took Peter in order to show that His testimony truly given to him will be affirmed by the testimony of the Father and that one should believe him in His words, that the heavenly Father revealed this testimony to him (Mt. 16:17). He took James as the one who before all the Apostles would die for Christ, to drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism (Acts 12:2). Finally, He took John, as the virgin and purest organ of Theology so that he, after having beheld the eternal glory of the Son of God, has thundered these words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn. 1:1). Besides this on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter who hadn’t yet spread the ideas about the suffering and death of his Teacher and Lord (Mt. 16:22), might mature in the truth of His glory, which forever remains inviolable despite all hostile efforts; James and John, awaiting the opening of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah and pursued the first places in this kingdom (Mk. 10:37), might behold the true majesty of Christ the Savior, surpassing every terrestrial power. The three disciples were under the law (Deut. 19:15) sufficient witnesses of the revelation of the glory of God and, according to the expression of St. Proclus, ‘in spirit personally represented all the others’.”
.
.
********************************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
18 FEBRUARY, 2017, Saturday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
FAITH AND VISIONS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ HEBREWS 11:1-7; MARK 9:2 -13  ]

If you have paid attention to the scripture readings, you would wonder why after taking a break from the letter to the Hebrews to focus on the Book of Genesis, we return to  the Letter to the Hebrews.  This is because this chapter sums up the faith of those characters mentioned in the book of Genesis.  Why is faith critical in the Christian Religion?  This is because faith entails trust in God’s love, fidelity to His promises and His omnipotence. “Now it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and rewards those who try to find him.”  Without total trust in God, our human ego will become an obstacle for God to work in and through us.   Accordingly, the author declares that “only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen.”

And he added, “It was for faith that our ancestors were commended.”  Then he went about to describe the necessary faith in the creation of the world by God who brought all things into existence; the faith of Abel who “offered God a better sacrifice than Cain”; the faith of Enoch who “was taken up and did not have to experience death”; and the faith of Noah who was asked by God to build an Ark outside his house.  All of these who placed their faith in God were counted as righteous before God and were well rewarded.

But then this call to faith in God seems to be in conflict with the visions that God also gives to man, as in today’s story of the transfiguration or the vision given to the unbelieving St Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus.  Hence the question is: does it mean that Jesus and the disciples were dispensed from faith, since faith implies believing without seeing?  On the surface it appears to be this way.  Yet, in truth, faith is presupposed before visions, and greater faith is required after visions.  How is this so?

Faith is a pre-requisite to being receptive to the signs that God gives to us.  Signs are not proofs.  There is no pure naked faith that is not supplied by some signs.  Otherwise we can fall into the danger of fideism, which is to believe without a reasonable basis for doing so.  Credulity is as dangerous as rationalism, the latter which demands that things must be proven beyond doubt before one would believe.  Credulity is not faith, but sloth and irresponsibility.  Rationalism is against faith, because one trusts only in one’s knowledge and wisdom.  One reduces the power and wisdom of God to his limited knowledge and wisdom.  Fideism is against faith because it fails to respect the gift of intellect given to man.

Truly, all the visions found in the Bible and our own visions remain at best signs to point us to a greater mystery, namely, God Himself.  At Jesus’ baptism, and once again at the Transfiguration, faith is required to perceive that what they saw and heard is from God.  It could be their imagination or even a hallucination and mass hypnotism.  So without faith, we can try to explain away any marvelous events that happen in this life.  And when confronted with the totally inexplicable, without faith, we can respond like many atheists do, that we will find the scientific answer one day.  But with faith, like the disciples, we will view these visions or works of wonders as means by which God elicits our response in faith and love.  With faith, we begin to see and hear more than what the person without faith could.

Nevertheless, visions cannot be substituted for faith. Vision presupposes faith, and once perceived, it calls for a greater contemplation on the mystery experience.  We can be sure that for Jesus and the disciples, after the revelation of the Father at Jesus’ baptism and at the Transfiguration, they continued to contemplate and draw out the deeper meaning of the vision that took place.  It is significant that Jesus purposely began His public mission after His baptism when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, having experienced in a radical manner, Himself as the Son of the Father and the Suffering Servant of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah.  In the same manner, it was after the Transfiguration that Jesus again resolutely took the road to Jerusalem, the place of His suffering and glory.

In truth, visions invite us to a deeper faith.  More often than not, after encountering a vision, things become even more confused.  That visions invite us to grow in faith can also be glimpsed from the reaction of the disciples.  “As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first?’”  Indeed, understanding one’s vision takes time.

Vision does not clarify everything all at once, and clearly.  It is only a vehicle to make us deepen our faith further by ongoing study, contemplation and prayer.  One begins to ask more questions and seek clarification. Quite often, understanding the full significance of the vision might take years, if not a lifetime.  And if a vision commands us to act, it is even more daunting, as one is called to act by faith, not by sight.  Only because they asked and inquired further, seeking to understand their vision and grow in faith, did Jesus instruct them that “Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’”  Even then, they could not understand what Jesus told them.  Otherwise, how do we explain the disciples’ abandonment of Jesus when He was arrested by the soldiers, or their disbelief when told of Jesus’ resurrection?   Similarly, Jesus, too, in spite of the Father’s affirmation of His Sonship and mission, had to endure the agony in the garden of Gethsemane and surrender in faith to the Father’s will.

Finally, those who have received visions are expected to have a greater faith by surrendering their lives to God. This was true of Abraham and all the prophets of the Old Testament when, after being called, they were asked to prophesy to the people of God at the risk of death.  So, too, the apostles, after encountering the Lord, were sent out to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth.  One can say that no one receives a vision just for himself or herself, but it is at the service of a mission which requires much faith, perseverance and endurance, because the mission entails suffering and even martyrdom.  Indeed, one can be certain that one has a real vision when the vision inspires him to give his life entirely to God who gave that message to him.  Unless vision is followed by action, that vision is placed in doubt.  In a nutshell, an authentic vision must manifest the fruits and actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his or her life.

How should we be disposed to vision?  A vision cannot be engineered by us.  That would be hallucination, as it lacks objective reality.  Vision, if ever given, is the sheer grace of God at work in us.  We can of course be disposed to vision by being docile to the Lord.  Of course, not all have great visions.  In many ways, all of us have our mini-transfiguration experiences, especially in prayer.  Through our intimacy with God, in listening and dialogue, we can encounter Him speaking to us, directing and through inspiration.  That is what the Father says to us when He told us, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.”  Like the Psalmist, if we ponder the wonders of God in our lives, we will encounter the majesty and glory of God.

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

.

**********************************

Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Gospel Reading – Mark 9,2-13
.
Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain on their own by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became brilliantly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.
.
Then Peter spoke to Jesus, ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened.
And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.
.
As they were coming down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean. And they put this question to him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’
.
He said to them, ‘Elijah is indeed first coming to set everything right again; yet how is it that the scriptures say about the Son of man that he must suffer grievously and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the scriptures say about him.’
.
Reflection
.
• Today’s Gospel speaks about two facts linked between them: the Transfiguration of Jesus and the question of the return of the Prophet Elijah. At that time people were waiting for the return of the Prophet Elijah.
.
Today many people are waiting for the return of Jesus and write on the walls of the city: Jesus will return! They are not aware that Jesus has returned already and is present in our life. Some times as a sudden lightening, this presence of Jesus bursts into our life and enlightens it, transfiguring it.
.
• The Transfiguration of Jesus takes place after the first announcement of the death of Jesus (Mk 8, 27-30). This announcement had disturbed or upset the mind of the disciples, especially of Peter (Mk 8, 31-33). They were among the poor, but their mind was lost in the ideology of government and of the religion of the time (Mk 8, 15). The Cross was an obstacle to believe in Jesus. The Transfiguration of Jesus will help the disciples to overcome the trauma of the Cross.
.
• In the years 70’s when Mark wrote, the Cross continued to be a great impediment for the Jews, to accept Jesus as Messiah. They said: “The Cross is a scandal!” (1 Co 1, 23). One of the greatest efforts of the first Christians consisted in helping persons to perceive that the cross was neither a scandal, nor madness, but rather the expression of the power and the wisdom of God (1 Co 1, 22-31). Mark contributes to this. He uses the texts and the figure of the Old Testament to describe the Transfiguration. In this way he indicates that Jesus sees the realization of the prophecies and the Cross was a way toward Glory.
.
• Mark 9, 2-4: Jesus changes appearance. Jesus goes up a high mountain. Luke says that he goes up to pray (Lk 9, 28). Up there, Jesus appears in the glory before Peter, James and John. Together with him appear Moses and Elijah. The high mountain evokes Mount Sinai, where in the past, God had manifested his will to the people, handing them the Law. The white clothes remind us of Moses with a radiant face when he spoke with God on the Mountain and received the Law (cfr. Ex 43, 29-35) Elijah and Moses, the two greatest authorities of the Old Testament, speak with Jesus. Moses represents the Law, Elijah, the prophecy. Luke informs on the conversation concerning the “exodus of Jesus”, that is, the Death of Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 9, 31). It is then clear that the Old Testament, both the Law as well as the prophecy, already taught that for the Messiah Servant the way to glory had to go through the Cross!
.
• Mark 9, 5-6: Peter is pleased, likes this, but he does not understand. Peter is pleased and he wants to keep this pleasant moment on the Mountain. He offers to build three tents. Mark says that Peter was afraid, without knowing what he was saying, and Luke adds that the disciples were sleepy (Lk 9, 32). They were like us: they had difficulty to understand the Cross!
.
• Mark 9, 7-9: The voice from Heaven clarifies the facts. When Jesus was covered by the glory, a voice came from the cloud and said: This is my Son the Beloved! Listen to him! The expression: “Beloved Son” reminds us of the figure of the Messiah Servant, announced by the prophet Isaiah (cfr. Is 42, 1). The expression: “Listen to him!” reminds us of the prophecy which promised the coming of a new Moses (cf. Dt 18, 15). In Jesus, the prophecies of the Old Testament are being fulfilled. The disciples can no longer doubt. Jesus is truly the glorious Messiah whom they desired, but the way to the glory passes through the cross, according to what was announced by the prophecy of the Servant (Is 53, 3-9). The glory of the Transfiguration proves this. Moses and Elijah confirm it. The Father guarantees it. Jesus accepts it. At the end, Mark says that, after the vision, the disciples saw only Jesus and nobody else. From now on, Jesus is the only revelation of God for us! Jesus is alone, the key to understand all of the Old Testament.
.
• Mark 9, 9-10: To know how to keep silence. Jesus asked the disciples to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of man had risen from the dead, but the disciples did not understand. In fact, they did not understand the meaning of the cross which links suffering to the resurrection. The Cross of Jesus is the proof that life is stronger than death.
.
• Mark 9, 11-13: The return of the Prophet Elijah. The Prophet Malachi had announced that Elijah would return to prepare the path for the Messiah (Ml 3, 23-24): this same announcement is found in the Book of Ecclesiasticus/Ben Sira (Si 48, 10). And then, how could Jesus be the Messiah if Elijah had not yet returned? This is why the disciples asked: Why do the Scribes say that before Elijah has to come?” (9, 111). The response of Jesus is clear: “But I tell you Elijah has come and they have treated him as they pleased, just as the Scriptures say about him” (9, 13). Jesus was speaking about John the Baptist who was killed by Herod (Mt 17, 13).
 .
Personal questions
.
• Has your faith in Jesus given you some moment of transfiguration and of intense joy? How do these moments of joy give you strength in times of difficulty?
• How can we transfigure today, our personal and family life as well as our community life?
 .
Concluding Prayer
.
All goes well for one who lends generously,
who is honest in all his dealing;
for all time to come he will not stumble,
for all time to come the upright will be remembered. (Ps 112,5-6)
.

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, February 17, 2017 — What could one give in exchange for his life? — “Whoever loses his life for my sake must take up his cross, and follow me.”

February 16, 2017

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 339

Image may contain: one or more people

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23 (NIV)

There is a chapel in Jerusalem at the Third Station of the cross, via dolorosa marking Jesus falling. A chapel was built to mark the spot in the second half of the 19th century.  This painting of taking your cross and following Jesus is inside the chapel.

The photo of this painting was taken December 2007 inside the Polish chapel at the Third Station of the cross, via dolorosa.

***************************************

Reading 1 GN 11:1-9

The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.
While the people were migrating in the east,
they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.
They said to one another,
“Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”
They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city
and a tower with its top in the sky,
and so make a name for ourselves;
otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower
that they had built.
Then the LORD said: “If now, while they are one people,
all speaking the same language,
they have started to do this,
nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.
Let us then go down and there confuse their language,
so that one will not understand what another says.”
Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth,
and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel,
because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world.
It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Alleluia JN 15:15B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 8:34—9:1

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

He also said to them,
“Amen, I say to you,
there are some standing here who will not taste death
until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”

.

****************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
17 FEBRUARY, 2017, Friday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time

FINDING FOCUS AND INTEGRATION IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 11:1-9; PS 33; MK 8:34–9:1  ]

It is generally accepted that everyone must have an ambition in life. The question is whether having an ambition is really the way to life and therefore a good thing.  Today, the liturgy tells us that ambition is a way to death rather than to life.  Why is that so?  The story of the Tower of Babel tells us that the people wanted to build a town and a tower so that they could make a name for themselves.  They were ambitious.  They wanted to be better than others.

The stark truth is that ambition makes a person competitive, unscrupulous and hostile towards others.  We can be very sure that the real cause of division of the people was not because God confused their language.  Rather, because of their ambition, they could no longer speak the common language of love and unity.  For anyone who wants to climb to the top must necessarily step on others.  When we are ambitious, we want to compete with others because we want to be the winner, often at the expense of others.  When we are ambitious, we are more concerned about achieving our objective than about the feelings and well-being of others.  So ambition is the cause of division and disunity among human beings because ambition is basically inward-looking and seeking for self-fulfillment without others.

Secondly, not only does ambition destroy love and unity, it also takes away life.  Indeed, Jesus asks us, “What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life?  And indeed what can man offer in exchange for his life?”  The question we need to examine honestly is, whether ambition and the achievement of our intended goal can truly bring us real happiness and give us that fullness of life.  Clearly, the answer is negative.

Ambition pretends to offer true happiness in life because it presupposes the attainment of a goal.  Thus, a person would have to spend years of his life working towards this goal.  And even then, only for some momentary happiness and satisfaction!  After that, he will have to seek anther goal.  So his life is but a series of endless ambitions and momentary fulfillment.  Consequently we live fragmented lives.  There are simply too many demands placed on us.  We are torn apart as individuals, as a nation and in the world.

That is why people are always in pursuit of happiness in life.  They are seeking for something outside of themselves.  They spend their whole life making a living but never begin to live.  They live in hope that one day when they retire they can find happiness.  They live in delayed gratification.  But when the time arrives, it is too late to enjoy, either because they are too sick or they are too old.

Being ambitious is to be engaged in activism.  We are restless the moment something is accomplished.  Hence, the need to look for another project to do!  What is frustrating is that we cannot find happiness until the goal is reached and even when realized, the happiness does not last very long.

From the outset, we must say that it is not wrong to take part in these mundane pursuits.  We are called to be co-operators of God’s creation.  The crux of the problem is that we must not lose our soul in the process of involving ourselves in the world.  This is what Jesus is warning us, “What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life?”  What does it mean to lose our soul?  To lose our soul is to lose our perspective of life.  It means that we have failed to distinguish between the means and the end.  What is the finality or purpose of life?

There is always the danger of repeating the same mistake of Babel.  We get so caught up with success and achievements that we lose our purpose in life,  like those people at Babel. They were arrogant.  They wanted to transcend themselves without God.  They wanted to reach God without God.  We have many people who are so caught up with success and achievements that they would sacrifice family and friends and loved ones for their ambition.  Hence, we must distinguish between the essentials and non-essentials.  What is it we are looking for if not life?  As the Chinese saying goes, it is a question of whether one wants money or life.  At times we cannot have both.

Today’s readings remind us of how easy it is to respond to the urgent but not the important.  The psalm highlights that the Lord will disregard the plans of nations and designs of peoples.  The Lord’s plan alone stands forever. Following the Lord’s plan is a response to what is truly important although not urgent. Following our own plans without regard to the Lord’s plan will result in failure.  The Lord will foil those plans.

Jesus reminds us that it doesn’t do much good to gain the whole world and forfeit one’s life.  To do so would be to follow the urgent at the expense of the important matters.  Jesus isn’t telling us to avoid wealth, power, nice things, comfort and the other gifts of modern lifeHe is telling us to keep them in perspective – God’s perspective.  He is telling us not to make them an end and to give up our attachment to them.  Jesus is telling us that if we respond to the cares and attractions of this world we are responding to the urgent.  He calls us to respond to what is truly important.  And so we must keep our focus, to discern the important from the urgent, and to have the wisdom and courage to choose the important.

Jesus poses some probing questions to challenge our assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile. In every decision that we take in life, we are making ourselves into a certain kind of person.  The kind of person we are, our character, determines to a large extent the kind of future we will face and live.  It is possible that some can gain all the things they set their heart on, only to wake up suddenly to discover that they missed out on the most important things. Of what value are material things if they don’t help you gain what truly lasts in eternity? Neither money nor possessions can buy heaven, mend a broken heart, or cheer a lonely person.

So what are the essentials of life?  Jesus challenges us to reflect, “what can man offer in exchange for his life?” 

If ambition is not the key to happiness, then what can bring us real happiness and real life?  The answer is vocation.  The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word, “voce”, that is, a voice that comes from without and heard from within.  In other words, if we want to find life, we cannot serve ourselves and be concerned only about our own needs.  Rather, true happiness in life is when we choose to serve God and serve our fellowmen.  Only a life of self-denial in humble service to God and to our fellow human beings can give us life.

Vocation therefore is the call to serve God and others; not ourselves. What is tragic today is that many people not only do not have any ambition but they have no sense of vocation either.  Without ambition, there is no sense of direction, focus or motivation.  Without a focus, we cannot motivate ourselves.  Only a vocation can add colour to life, give us zeal, enthusiasm and life.  In living out our vocation, which is to build the people of God, the living out itself is already a participation in the life of God.  In this sense, we do not need to fulfill any objective or goal in life, for our whole life is our goal.  Jesus said, “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”  Only the man who is able to give himself to others, can find life.

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

.

**********************************

.
************************************
.

Reflection on Mark 8:34-9:1 By Father John McKinnon

Finding Life by Losing Life (2) – Disciples’ Destiny

As happened often enough in Mark’s narrative there was a handy “crowd” of observers in the wings, as it were. By having Jesus address a crowd, Mark was often making the point that the message Jesus was about to convey was not just important but directed particularly at the readers, Mark’s community.

Mark 8:34-9:1 – Take Up the Cross

34 He called the crowd to him,
along with the disciples,
and said to them,
“If people wish to come after me,
let them utterly renounce self-interest,
take up their cross,
and follow me. 

The fate of Jesus was to be the fate also of the disciples, the ones who would follow him. The disciples were to take up their cross. The word cross seemed to have got in under the guard of Mark: Jesus had not yet explicitly stated that he would be killed by crucifixion.

Image may contain: one or more people

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross, by Herald Copping

The Cross as Political Penalty

The modern reader tends not to hear the word “cross” in its brutal starkness. The idea of cross has become spiritualised to refer to all the difficulties and inconveniences that come across the path of the disciple. In the time of Jesus, and of Mark, the word had only one meaning. Death by crucifixion was reserved for political offences, specifically the rejection of the power and authority of Rome, and the undermining of its social order. It was the fate of rebels, and commonly of slaves who rebelled against their condition. The cross was understood clearly as the symbol of resistance to Rome. In this context, it was relevant more to disciples living directly under the rule of Rome throughout the Diaspora than to the immediate disciples of Jesus who so far had not ventured into directly controlled Roman territory (the region of Judaea and the city of Jerusalem).

To the minds of people of that era, crucifixion was the most shameful, dehumanising and excruciatingly painful and prolonged death imaginable. Jesus warned his followers to be prepared to face the prospect. Mark was giving the same warning to his community.

In any age, those in positions of social and political power inevitably see the serious following of Jesus as politically pertinent. When lived authentically, it is not a harmless way of life confined to purely private life.

35 Those who seek to save their lives will lose them;
those who lose their lives
for my sake
and for the sake of the Gospel
will save them.
36 For what good is it for people to gain the whole world
and to lose their life?
37 What equivalent can people give for their life?

Jesus developed the theme of denying oneself. In dealing with personal in-depth experience it was difficult to find exact language. To speak in paradox was perhaps inevitable – language limped.

To “Save Life”

What did Jesus mean by “saving” life? The word “save” had been used before in the context of healing where, generally, it had been associated with a response of faith in Jesus and in his message of hope. In that context, it meant health, wholeness. In a sin/forgiveness situation it meant personal reconciliation, freedom from the pressure to sin and removal of the destructive consequences of sinful decisions.

Understood thus, the saving of life as opposed to the losing of life obviously did not mean preservation from death. Jesus himself was not preserved from death. It meant that death was not an ultimate outcome, but a stage in the process of being saved.

Motivation. Jesus claimed that the motivation of the death was the relevant issue: “for my sake and the sake of the Gospel”.

Death for Jesus’ sake spoke of a personal relationship, not just of admiration (which suggested distance and separation) but of love; and not simply the sometimes overwhelming experience of feeling in love with Jesus but rather the tested response of persevering, committed, forgiving, unconditional and mature love.

Death for the sake of the Gospel would not be a death for a religious slogan. It would be death resulting from living the values of the Gospel, and met and faced with those same values – where persons would die

  • with deep trust in God,
  • peaceful acceptance of the limitations of love,
  • respect for people and hope in their eventual goodness,
  • forgiveness of those responsible for their murder,
  • and freedom anchored in strength and self control.

Jesus was not referring to death incurred as a result of being captivated by an ideology, the kind of death faced for example by suicide bombers who might kill themselves and others for some religiously defined ideal.

Salvation through death. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews (a contemporary of Mark) spoke of Jesus’ death as his experience of being saved by the God to whom he prayed.

… Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears,
to the one who was able to save him from (= out of) death
and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
Although he was a Son,
he learned obedience through what he suffered; 
and having been made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-9)

That author saw Jesus’ death as his reaching perfection through the empowering support of this God. He saw it as a process in which Jesus learnt how totally and unconditionally God respected his integrity and love for humanity. Jesus depthed the most intimate reaches of his Father’s heart as his facing into death led him to wrestle in his own depths and to actualise his deepest convictions: he learnt to obey through suffering, and in the process he became fully human, fully alive. As disciples of Jesus faced life and death with this same attitude of Jesus, as they learnt to obey Jesus (in the truest sense of obeying), they, like Jesus, experienced salvation.

Seen in this light, salvation happens in death and through it, not after it. Though Jesus believed in resurrection after death and in the on-going experience of salvation after death, he did not see salvation as some extraneous reward for a life well lived but as the truly human experience of being fully alive: the outcome of the cooperation of the empowering God and the receptive human person.

Salvation – present or future? Was Jesus’ promise of salvation to be experienced beyond the grave, in heaven, in the resurrected lives of the disciples? It is often interpreted in this way; but was that all that Jesus was saying? Was he promising eternal life? Indeed, was his vision of God’s Kingdom ultimately of a Kingdom of heaven?

Heavenly fulfillment was not precisely where Jesus in Mark’s Gospel had focused his attention, not that it was explicitly ruled out. There is a danger, however, in too readily assuming that God’s Kingdom was essentially a matter of afterlife. That view could too easily lead to confining discipleship to the “sacred”, to separating it from any serious commitment to justice, inclusivity, compassion and other values in the real world of social interactions and cultural and political structures.

Mark had shown that Jesus’ own engagement in the world of his day was essentially a here and now involvement. Discipleship was lived in the concrete world where disciples’ lives took shape. Jesus prescinded from consideration of outcomes beyond the grave, not because they did not exist (he believed in resurrection), but because it was only in the “present and the immediate”, rather than in the “not yet and elsewhere”, that the values of Jesus and of the Kingdom took shape.


Mark emphasised the possibility of actual loss of life for the members of his own community. However, he also realised that some would not face that stark outcome. Their losing their lives would happen metaphorically and gradually.

Jesus asked his disciples to deny their selfishly oriented selves, the spontaneous drives that came from being simply human: the needs for survival, for security, for companionship, for esteem, for power and control. He believed that there was a deeper level of self, a deeper level of the spirit. For this level to develop, time, effort and perseverance were needed. Surface needs had to be recognised for what they were, and at times deliberately foregone. They would have to give way to more genuine, more deeply human needs: precisely the values of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus had come to make real.

The experience of surrendering these needs would be felt as a death to the superficial (but more strongly and immediately sensed) self – like the losing of one’s life. Yet Jesus saw this death as the condition for life at the deepest level.  In Jesus’ mind it would be the absolutely necessary condition for becoming genuinely human.

The choice facing the disciples was then the choice of the superficial needs or the deeper values. Jesus saw it translated into a choice between the attitudes of the contemporary world with its general cultural, social and religious expressions, or the values exemplified in the deeds of Jesus himself and expressed in his teachings..

38 Those who are ashamed of me
and of my message
in this unfaithful and sinful generation,
of them the Son of Man will feel ashamed
when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Even more graphically perhaps for Mark’s community, the choice would have to be made in the law courts, as they would be brought before the political power brokers of their day to face the actual alternatives of death or apostasy. Jesus seemed to have had that “courtroom” background in mind when he referred to the coming of the Son of Man. Daniel’s vision was of a kind of heavenly “courtroom”:

As I watched, thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne… (Daniel 7:9)
 
… The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened… (Daniel 7:10)
 
As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being (Son of Man)
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship… (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus spoke about his being ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father, in the “heavenly law court” of those who would be ashamed of him in earthly courts. Did this indicate a kind of vindictive response on Jesus’ part? And if the ostensibly offensive words attributed to Jesus were not in fact his actual words (but the accumulated memories or Mark’s own editing), did they pick up the genuine attitudes of Jesus? If they did not, how much of the rest of Mark’s presentation of Jesus was credible?

During Jesus’ trial Peter would in fact deny having any acquaintance with Jesus, not precisely in a law court setting, but in one even less threatening. Jesus did not reject him, but instructed the women after his resurrection to tell Peter and the disciples that he would meet them again in Galilee.

It would seem, however, that in a situation where a former follower in a considered and cold-blooded way publicly rejected Jesus, the outcome would be different. It would not be that Jesus would react maliciously. Rather, Jesus, the utterly committed advocate of human dignity and of freedom, would have no alternative but to accept that option, albeit with profound reluctance. To do otherwise would be to do violence to the person. Jesus could not pretend that a heart turned against him and his values was in fact otherwise. A person could not follow and reject Jesus and his values at the same time. There was no way that Jesus could honestly identify that person as a follower of his. People’s decisions would have their consequences that Jesus could not but take seriously without compromising his own integrity.

In speaking of the stark alternatives facing the disciples, Jesus was not voicing some sort of metaphysical doctrine learnt from books. He was speaking from reflection on his own experience. The unfolding of his public life had led him to explore at greater depth the inner truth that energised him. He knew the experience of facing into what felt like the death of his dreams and hopes, the frustration of being unable to share convincingly with others, even with those he loved, his insights into the hopes of the God he loved so deeply. He wrestled with forgiveness. Perhaps he agonised with uncertainty over the practical steps he would have to take in continuing his mission. Could he risk the likelihood of being prematurely arrested and executed before the disciples had grasped anything much about the truth of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel he yearned to share with the world?

9:1 Listen clearly.
There are some of you standing here now
who will not taste death
before they see the Kingdom of God coming in power.”

Jesus’ final comment sounds confusing to the modern reader. It would make sense only as Mark described the encounter of Jesus before the Sanhedrin on the occasion of his trial. There Jesus would identify himself as: the Son of Man sitting at the right of the Powerful One, and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62).

Without developing the thought at this stage, Mark regarded Jesus’ death (and resurrection) as the occasion of the “coming of the Son of Man” and the definitive breaking into the world of the “Kingdom of God with power”.

Jesus had already told this generation that there would be no sign from heaven (8:11-13). The coming of the Son of Man would take place veiled in the messy details of his crucifixion and death.

A proper understanding of apocalyptic literature would suggest that the vision of the Son of Man’s coming with power referred not so much to a parousia in an undefined future but to what was really happening in the here and now at the deeper level. But for that to be recognised it would be necessary to have eyes that see, enlightened by faith and hope.

http://johnmckinnon.org/mark8v34-9v1

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, February 16, 2017 — God’s covenant with man — I will demand an accounting — From one man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting for human life — There is suffering in every life

February 15, 2017

Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 338

No automatic alt text available.

Jesus Pulls Peter from the Sea by Walter Rane

Reading 1 GN 9:1-13

God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them:
“Be fertile and multiply and fill the earth.
Dread fear of you shall come upon all the animals of the earth
and all the birds of the air,
upon all the creatures that move about on the ground
and all the fishes of the sea;
into your power they are delivered.
Every creature that is alive shall be yours to eat;
I give them all to you as I did the green plants.
Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.
For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting:
from every animal I will demand it,
and from one man in regard to his fellow man
I will demand an accounting for human life.

If anyone sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed;
For in the image of God
has man been made.

Be fertile, then, and multiply;
abound on earth and subdue it.”

God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
God added:
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 AND 22-23

R. (20b) From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.
The children of your servants shall abide,
and their posterity shall continue in your presence,
That the name of the LORD may be declared in Zion,
and his praise, in Jerusalem,
When the peoples gather together,
and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.
R. From heaven the Lord looks down on the earth.

Alleluia JN 6:63C, 68C

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

Gospel MK 8:27-33

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

.
**************************************
.

Why did Jesus say to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan’?

Answer: The command “Get behind me, Satan,” spoken to Peter by Jesus, is recorded in Matthew 16:23 and Mark 8:33. “Get behind me, Satan” seems harsh and out of character for Jesus, especially when addressing Peter, one of His most devout disciples. Why did Jesus say this? What was it Peter did to deserve such a rebuke? Without knowing it, Peter was speaking for Satan.

Jesus had just revealed to His disciples for the first time the plan: He was to go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and be raised to life (Matthew 16:21; Mark 8:31). Contrary to their expectations of Him, Jesus explained that He had not come to establish an earthly Messianic kingdom at that time. The disciples were not prepared for this new revelation of the Messiah’s purpose. Though Peter understood His words, he simply could not reconcile his view of the conquering Messiah with the suffering and death Jesus spoke of. So Peter “began to rebuke Him” for having such a fatalistic mindset.

Unwittingly, Peter was speaking for Satan. Like Jesus’ adversary, Peter was not setting his mind on the things of God—His ways, His plans, and His purposes (Colossians 3:2; Isaiah 55:8-9). Instead, his mind was set on the things of man, the things of the world and its earthly values. Jesus was saying that the way of the cross was God’s will, the plan of redemption for all mankind. Peter’s reaction was most likely shared by the other disciples although, as always, it was Peter who spoke first. Peter was inadvertently being used of Satan in thinking he was protecting Jesus. Satan had purposely tempted Jesus in the wilderness to divert Him from the cross, from fulfilling the grand design of the Father and the Son (Mark 1:12-13). Innocently, Peter was doing the same thing. He had not yet grasped Jesus’ true Messianic purpose.

Although Peter had just moments before declared Jesus as the Christ, he turned from God’s perspective and viewed the situation from man’s perspective, which brought about the stern rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus went on to explain: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33).

At the time, Jesus’ stern reprimand did not make sense to Peter. However, Jesus’ indictment presents a profound message for us. We can easily see that Peter had the wrong perspective of God’s plan for Christ’s suffering and death. But we must also see how easily we can become an unwitting spokesperson for Satan. This is especially true when we lose sight of God’s plan for us. This comes about when our focus is on our careers, our possessions, our security, the things of the world rather than upon sacrifice and service and the proclaiming of God’s message. When Peter’s focus shifted to his own desires and plans, Jesus rebuked him in order to get him back on track. May our focus always be on God and His plans, that we may never experience a similar rebuke from our Lord.

https://www.gotquestions.org/get-behind-me-Satan.html

Recommended Resource: Bible Answers for Almost all Your Questions by Elmer Towns

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Christs Charge To Saint Peter by Giuseppe Vermiglio

.
**********************************************
.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
16 FEBRUARY, 2017, Thursday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
THE FIDELITY OF GOD TO HIS CREATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 9:1-13; PS 101(102):16-21, 29, 22-23; MK 8:27-33  ]

What is the most important lesson in the story of Noah?  It is not about the Flood because there were many floods in the history of humanity and no doubt, there will be many more.  Rather, the story brings out the increasing infidelity of man to God’s creation because of the sins of man.   At the same time, even when sin increases, God’s fidelity to His creation remains.  Nothing can change God’s love for His creation.  Even when sin increases, His grace remains constant.  God does not ever and will never withdraw His love for His creation.

Indeed, when we look at creation, the situation only seems to get worse.  It began with the disobedience of Adam and Eve.  It was then followed by Cain’s envy leading to killing of his own brother.   As the human race populated, more sins were committed, sins of every kind.  It is significant to note that even the way human beings treated creation changed over time.  In chapter 1, the Lord said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.”  (Gn 1:29)  Man was first a vegetarian.  Only plants and seeds were given to men because animals were His companions.  “The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.”  (Gn 2:20)

But by the time we arrive at Genesis Chapter 9, we read that this unity between animals and humanity was broken.  Instead of being our friends, they now fear and dread us.  “Be the terror and the dread of all the wild beasts and all the birds of heaven, of everything that crawls and the ground and all the fish of the sea; they are handed over to you.”  (Gn 9:1f)  Not only that, we are given permission to eat the flesh of animals, but not its blood.  “Every living and crawling thing shall provide food for you, no less than the foliage of plants.  I give you everything, with this exception:  you must not eat flesh with life, that is to say blood, in it.  I will demand an account of your life-blood.”  (Gn 3:3f)  The reason was simply because blood was a symbol of life and only God is the source of life.  Furthermore, the killing of man is absolutely forbidden because man is the image and viceroy of God.  Thus to kill another fellowman is a very serious sin that demands punishment by death. “I will demand an account of every man’s life from his fellow men.  He who sheds man’s blood, shall have his blood shed by man, for in the image of God man was made.”  (Gn 3:5f)

The permission given to man to eat the flesh of animals was certainly a compromise to the growing and weakening harmony between animals and human beings.  Yet this breakdown between human beings and animals is due to the disharmony among human beings due to sin.  This is traced to man’s disobedience and separation from God.  Once again, we see that human ecology is the basis for the ecology of nature.  Indeed, in the New Testament, all food was proclaimed clean by the Lord and by the apostles Peter and Paul and could be consumed accordingly.

God’s fidelity to His unchanging commitment to His creation is brought out in the covenant with Noah. He said, “See, I establish my Covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; also with every living creature to be found with you, birds cattle and every wild beast with you: everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth.  I establish my Covenant with you: no thing of flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood.  There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.”  In truth, the threat of God to destroy the earth was never carried out, for creation was not destroyed.  Even in the case of the flood, the remnant of creation was saved and so we cannot speak of the destruction of creation.

The sign of this Covenant with Noah was the rainbow.  God said, “Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth.”   Yet, the rainbow has always been there.  It is not a new phenomenon.  Again the same message is underscored.  God is faithful to His creation.  He will never abandon His creation even when everything seems to go awry.  The rainbow is a sign of His fidelity to creation. The truth is that when we think that the world is coming to an end because of the atrocious sins and evil of humanity, the rainbow will reappear after the apparent storm, once the upheavel has settled.  In other words, there is always hope.  The beauty of God will shine again through the darkness of man’s sins.  God will not allow Himself to be defeated by the sins of humanity regardless how grave the situation might be.

From this Covenant with Noah, God demonstrated that His grace is greater than the sin of man. No matter how much evil man could do to His creation, God will continue to show us His grace and mercy.  Beginning from Adam and Eve, we see how God promised man ultimate victory over evil even though he banished them from paradise. He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  In the case Cain who murdered Abel, the Lord promised Cain that sevenfold vengeance would be taken on the man who tried to kill him,  “And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him.”  (Gn 4:15)  In Noah’s circumstances, the Lord gave them a rainbow as a sign of His irrevocable covenant with humanity.

God’s fidelity to His creation is only possible because of His fidelity to Himself. If we are so confident that God will be faithful to His word, it is because He Himself will not and cannot do anything that is contrary to Himself.  In the gospel, Jesus showed His fidelity to Himself by rejecting any titles that sought to qualify Him.  He asked the disciples, “’Who do people say I am?’  And they told him, ‘John the Baptist,’ they said, ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’” The truth is that none of the titles, regardless how lofty they might be, could not fit the Lord.  Hence He asked them, “’But you, who do you say I am?’  Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’”

Again, it must be noted that although Peter gave the right answer, the injunction of Jesus was to give “them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.” For Jesus, understanding the meaning and implications of a title is more important than just getting the correct answer.  This was clearly seen when Peter rejected the idea of a suffering messiah as prophesied by the Lord. So Jesus “rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan!  Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’”  Indeed, Peter, like everyone else, sought to impose his image of what the messiah should be on the Lord. But Jesus would not allow others to change His identity as the Son of the Father and the suffering messiah.

Jesus was clear of His identity as the Son of the Living God.  He came to show the Father’s love even unto death.  He was not like any of the worldly conquerors.  He came not with power and might but as a servant in human lowliness. He conquered the world through gentleness, compassion and forgiveness. He remained faithful to His identity as the God of mercy and compassion.  In this way, He could truly maintain His identification with the Father.  To Philip, He said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (Jn 14:9)  Whatever the Father does, He will do.  “I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.”  (Jn 5:19)

.
.
.
*****************************
.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
.

Reflection

.
Today’s Gospel speaks about Peter’s blindness who does not understand the proposal of Jesus when he speaks about suffering and of the Cross. Peter accepts Jesus as Messiah, but not a suffering Messiah. He is influenced by the “yeast of Herod and the Pharisees”, that is, by the propaganda of the government of that time in which the Messiah was a glorious Messiah. Peter seemed to be blind. He was not aware of anything, but wanted Jesus to be as he wished. To understand well the importance and weight of this blindness of Peter it is well to consider it in its literary context.
.
Literary context: The Gospel of Mark transmits to us three announcements of the Passion and death of Jesus: the first one in Mark 8, 27-38; the second one in Mark 9, 30-37 and the third one in Mark 10, 32-45.
.
This whole which goes up to Mark 10, 45, is a long instruction of Jesus to the disciples to help them to overcome the crisis produced by the Cross. The instruction is introduced by the healing of a blind man (Mk 8, 22-26) and at the end it is concluded with the healing of another blind man (Mk 10, 46-52). The two blind persons represent the blindness of the disciples. The healing of the first blind man was difficult. Jesus had to do it in two stages.
.
The blindness of the disciples was also difficult. Jesus had to give a long explanation concerning the meaning of the Cross to help them understand why the cross was producing blindness in them. Let us consider closely the healing of the blind man:
.
Mark 8, 22-26: The first healing of a bland man. They took a blind man before Jesus, asking Jesus to cure him. Jesus cures him, but in a different way.
.
First, he takes him outside the village. Then he put some of his saliva on the eyes of the blind man and, laid his hands on him and asked him: Can you see anything? The man answered: I see persons; they look like trees that walk! He could only see one part. He exchanged trees for persons, or persons for trees! Jesus cures him only in the second time. This description of the cure of the blind man introduces the instruction to the disciples, in reality the blind man is Peter. He accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but a glorious Messiah. He saw only one part! He did not want the commitment of the Cross! The blindness of the disciples is also cured by Jesus, in different stages, not all at once.
.
Mark 8, 27-30: The discovery of reality: Who do people say I am? Jesus asks: “Who do people say I am?” They answered expressing the different opinions: “John the Baptist”. “Elijah or one of the Prophets”. After having heard the opinions of others, Jesus asks: “And you who do you say I am?” Peter answers: “The Lord, the Christ, the Messiah!” That is, the Lord is the one whom the people are expecting! Jesus agrees with Peter, but forbids him to speak about that with the people. Why? Because at that time all expected the coming of the Messiah, but each one in his own way: some expected the king, others the priest, doctor, warrior, judge, prophet! Nobody seemed to be expecting the Messiah, Servant and Suffering, announced by Isaiah (Is 42, 1-9).
.
Mark 8, 31-33: First announcement of the Passion. Then Jesus began to teach saying that he is the Messiah Servant and affirms that, as Messiah Servant announced by Isaiah, he will soon be condemned to death in carrying out his mission of justice (Is 49, 4-9; 53, 1-12).
.
Peter is horrified; he calls Jesus apart to rebuke him. And Jesus said to him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do.” Peter thought he had given the right answer. In fact, he had said the correct word: “You are the Christ!” But he does not give it the correct sense. Peter does not understand Jesus. He was like the blind man. He exchanged people for trees! The response of Jesus was very hard: “Get behind me, Satan!” Satan is a Hebrew word which means accuser, the one who leads others away from the way to God. Jesus does not allow anyone to lead him away from his mission. Literally the text says: “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter has to follow Jesus. He must not change things and intend that Jesus follows Peter.
.
For Personal Confrontation
.
We all believe in Jesus. But some believe that Jesus is in one way, others in another way. Which is today the most common image that people have of Jesus? Which is the response which people today would give to Jesus’ question? And I, what answer do I give?
.
What prevents us today from recognizing the Messiah in Jesus?
.
Concluding Prayer
.
I will praise Yahweh from my heart; let the humble hear and rejoice. Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh, let us acclaim his name together. (Ps 34,2-3)
.
.
Related:
.
.
.
.
.
.

****************************************

.
Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
From 2014
.

There used to be a program called “face to face”, which was a public forum for open discussion on contemporary issues.  In one of the episodes, the topic was, “Do parents have favorites?”  The conclusion of the whole discussion was that it is quite normal for anyone to have favorites.  It is only being human. We have our preferences, likes and dislikes.  Of course, expressing it openly, especially to our loved ones or our subordinates, is a different thing.  Not only parents, but all of us, according to our circumstances, are always tempted to practise favoritism.

But is favoritism all that wrong?  Even the Church apparently advocates favouritism, since we always speak of the preferential option for the poor, the marginalized and the weak.  Isn’t this favoritism of sorts?  Nay.  The special attention given to the poor cannot be seen as discrimination since we are simply righting what is imbalanced.  Hence, our compassion for the poor must not be mistaken as favouritism when it is based on justice and fair play.  Compassion does not exclude justice but precludes it.

Partiality is seen as such only when it springs from selfishness or self-love.  On the surface we appear to love those whom we favor, but it is really the love of self.  St James illustrates this reality with a concrete example, namely, making the distinction between the poor who are shabbily dressed and the rich that are well dressed and according them different treatment.  Such discrimination based on one’s status is therefore against the gospel.

Indeed, we must ask why we pay more attention to the rich instead of the poor man and give more respect to the educated man than one who is illiterate. Isn’t it true if we search our motives that it is because there is something to gain from that kind of relationship?  Of course favouritism is not always on account of riches but it could be due to one’s attraction to something or someone that gives us a nice feeling or make us happy.  Whatever it is, we are the ultimate beneficiaries. By so doing, St James asked, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?”

This was true also for Peter.  Although he got the answer right with regard to the person of Jesus, he got the meaning wrong.  When Jesus spoke of His imminent passion and death, he could not accept the Suffering Christ. Instead, he took Jesus aside and “began to rebuke him.”  Apparently he wanted to protect Jesus because he loved Him, but the underlying motive is fear because he had vested interests.  The only Christ that he wanted to follow was the Triumphant Christ, not a suffering or crucified Christ.  He was repugnant to such a possibility.

Hence the response of Jesus was swift and incisive.  “At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’”  Indeed, favouritism is the result of our selfish thinking.  It comes from a broken and selfish man, not from God.

Because of selfishness, favoritism leads to blindness.  This was the theme of the gospel of the last few days taken from Mark 8 when the evangelist portrayed the blindness of the Pharisees who were unable to see the signs of Jesus; the deaf and dumb man who could not hear; the disciples who, after the miracle of the loaves, were still unable to see the signs, then the cure of the blind man leading to Peter’s profession of faith.  The gradual cure of the blind man is a portrayal of how the disciples grew in understanding and acceptance of the suffering Messiah.

Consequently, if we are to overcome our tendency to favoritism, then we must contemplate on the Suffering Christ.  The Suffering Christ reveals to us the face of God.  In Peter, the Church expresses her faith in Christ.  “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to Him in reply, “You are the Christ.”  But what is the full import of confessing in Jesus as the Suffering Christ.

Firstly, faith in the Suffering Christ means to recognize Jesus as the Son of Man, and therefore identified with every man in His suffering, humiliation and rejection.  To see the face of the Suffering Christ is to see the face of Christ in the poor, those who are rejected, discriminated and ill-treated like Jesus who suffered in the hands of His enemies.  By contemplating on the suffering Christ, we learn how to identify ourselves with the poor.

Secondly, faith in the Suffering Christ means that we are called to understand the heart of the Father in Jesus.  God has this special love for the poor, as the psalmist tells us in the responsorial psalm.  “When the poor one called out, the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him.  The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”  In truth the poor and the common people have much to teach us about faith, love and suffering, especially the sick.  St James asked, “Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he promised to those who love him?”  Today we need to pray for the gift of spiritual sight to see the role of the poor in our lives as gifts of God to us.  If there are poor among us, whether spiritually, emotionally or physically poor, they are invitations to us to share our love with them.  Through them, we learn compassion and empathy.

Thirdly, faith in the Suffering Christ means to know that Jesus loves usunconditionally.  As mentioned earlier, favoritism springs from our insecurity and lack of love for self and hence the need for others to fulfill us.  Only the realization of God’s unconditional love for us can heal our blindness and insecurity.  Hence, St James remarked, “However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”  Loving oneself authentically is the presupposition to an authentic love for others without discriminating them since the love flows out from within us and not drawn out from us.

Fourthly, faith in the suffering Christ means to walk the way of Jesus who came to die not just for His friends but His enemies as well.  Jesus’ death on the cross manifests His love for us.  We too are called to love without self-interest, even when we face rejection and death.  Hence, tomorrow, the gospel text speaks on the need of the disciples of Jesus to carry the cross.  True love always entails the cross because it is selfless.  Indeed, we must search our motives, whether our love and service and treatment of others is based on disinterested or self-centered love.  True love is to be like Jesus to accept the cross.

Faith in the suffering Christ means to see life and people through the eyes and heart of God.  When we walk the way of Jesus, we will come to realize that favouritism imprisons us and make us slaves to them.  In our preferential treatment of the rich and powerful, quite often they control our lives.  St James asked, “Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?”  Hence, to be free from the temptation to favoritism is to be free for love and free in love.  This is the kind of freedom that enables us to live the transcendent life of God.

http://www.csctr.net/20-february-2014-thursday-6th-week-in-ordinary-time/

.

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, February 15, 2017 — May God enlighten the eyes of our hearts — A blind man begged Jesus to touch him and he was healed

February 14, 2017

Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 337

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Reading 1 GN 8:6-13, 20-22

At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch he had made in the ark,
and he sent out a raven,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
It flew back and forth until the waters dried off from the earth.
Then he sent out a dove,
to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.
But the dove could find no place to alight and perch,
and it returned to him in the ark,
for there was water all over the earth.
Putting out his hand, he caught the dove
and drew it back to him inside the ark.
He waited seven days more and again sent the dove out from the ark.
In the evening the dove came back to him,
and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf!
So Noah knew that the waters had lessened on the earth.
He waited still another seven days
and then released the dove once more;
and this time it did not come back.

In the six hundred and first year of Noah’s life,
in the first month, on the first day of the month,
the water began to dry up on the earth.
Noah then removed the covering of the ark
and saw that the surface of the ground was drying up.

Noah built an altar to the LORD,
and choosing from every clean animal and every clean bird,
he offered burnt offerings on the altar.
When the LORD smelled the sweet odor, he said to himself:
“Never again will I doom the earth because of man
since the desires of man’s heart are evil from the start;
nor will I ever again strike down all living beings, as I have done.
As long as the earth lasts,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
and day and night
shall not cease.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 116:12-13, 14-15, 18-19

R. (17a) To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
How shall I make a return to the LORD
for all the good he has done for me?
The cup of salvation I will take up,
and I will call upon the name of the LORD.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people.
Precious in the eyes of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.
My vows to the LORD I will pay
in the presence of all his people,
In the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
R. To you, Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia EPH 1:17-18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to his call.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

.
Image may contain: outdoor

Jesus Heals a Blind Man in Bethsaida Mark 8:22-25

Gospel MK 8:22-26

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida,
people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.
He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.
Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked,
“Do you see anything?”
Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.”
Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly;
his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly.
Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”

.
*******************************************************
.

Christ Healing The Blind Man Painting  - Christ Healing The Blind Man Fine Art Print

Art: Christ Healing The Blind Man By Carl Heinrich Bloch

.
First Thought From Peace and Freedom
.
Yesterday we were told to “listen with our hearts.” It may have surprised many that our hearts have ears!  Today we find out that our hearts also have eyes.
.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
enlighten the eyes of our hearts,
that we may know what is the hope
that belongs to his call.
.
— EPH 1:17-18
.
Taken together, these readings remind us we are compelled to investigate our own hearts to find out if they are hearing and seeing correctly. The “God part” of us only works as well as we keep it tuned up….
.
Yesterday’s readings:
.
.
**********************************************
.
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
15 FEBRUARY, 2017, Wednesday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
ERADICATION OF EVIL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 8:6-13, 20-22; PS 115(116):12-15,18-19, 29, 22-23; MK 8:22-26  ]

The story of Noah and the Ark is an illustration of how God sought to remove the scourges of evil from humanity.  From the very beginning of time, the world was plagued by the sins of humanity.  All kinds of abominable wrongs were committed against each other and against God.  We read that God grieved upon seeing the sufferings caused by the evil in humanity.  To remove further sufferings for the sake of the future of humanity, He decided to wipe off all traces of evil from society.  Hence, He told Noah to take only the good people into his Ark and as for the rest, the Lord would destroy them through a natural disaster.   And so it was.  After five months of rain and flood; and five months for the water to subside, it was about time for Noah to begin a new life and a new chapter in humanity.

This is also how we think evil and wrongs should be dealt with.  When we are appointed to renew or restructure an organization, we think that the best way to move the organization forward is to remove all difficult people and to install new ones.  This might help at the beginning of the renewal process.  It is good to have fresh blood and new people to relook the strategy and plans.  Yet, let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that the new team would have no problems and that everything will progress smoothly.  Given some time, the new team will manifest problems as well.  Regardless of whichever team or members we have, there will also be problems and difficulties.

In other words, evil can never be wiped off completely from this earth.  The reign of evil and good will continue.  God came to realize this stark truth Himself when He remarked, “Never again will I curse the earth because of human beings, because their heart contrives evil from their infancy. Never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done.”  The psalmist puts it succinctly, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  (Ps 51:5)  St John also wrote, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  (1 Jn 1:8)  Thus, we see in the history of humanity and the plan of salvation, the cycle of sin and grace, punishment and redemption. God apparently was resigned to this fact when He said, “‘As long as the earth endures: seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

The way to overcome evil is to follow the path of Jesus.  The healing of the blind man is but a way to describe the blindness that we are in.  Like the blind man, we cannot see the truth.  We are lost.  Indeed, this was the prayer of Jesus on the cross as well, when He prayed to the Father for His enemies, ““Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)   Blindness can be deliberate, like the Jewish leaders, because of pride and fear; or simply due to ignorance because we cannot see the wider picture.  How, then, did Jesus heal the blindness of the people?  Through dialogue and engagement!

Firstly, He demonstrated His sensitivity and consideration for those who could not see.  “He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.”  Jesus was very respectful of the need for privacy.  He did not want him to be shocked at the presence of so many eyes staring at him when he could see again.  That was why He too him away from the crowd and out of the village.   Jesus knew that he needed time to adjust to seeing again. He did not want to shock him or be embarrassed in front of the crowd.  We, too, in dealing with people who are not agreeable with us in our faith, doctrines or the things we do, we can explain to them in a way that they are comfortable with.  A good teacher or a doctor is one who is able to feel and identify with the fears, anxieties and worries of his students or patients.  By entering into their minds, he begins to see, feel and think as they do.

Indeed, we can only effectively help those people we understand or empathize with.  People who are judgmental, dogmatic and harsh are those who are not in touch with the sufferings of others.  We cannot implement new ideas unless we know what people really want.  But when we are able to put ourselves in their shoes, we will be less judgmental because we see through their eyes and identify with their hearts.  Only from that vantage point can we appreciate where they are coming from so that we can respond effectively by alleviating their fears.

Secondly, Jesus healed the blind man using means that were common during the primitive time, namely, the use of saliva.  The human saliva has healing elements.  Dogs and other animals will use their saliva to heal those parts of their body that are injured by licking the wounds.  So, too, when Jesus used spittle to heal the eyes of the blind man, He was accommodating Himself so that the healing would be more effective.  Indeed, the whole ministry of Jesus was done in this way.  Unlike the scribes and Pharisees, His teaching was direct to the point, based on daily life examples and not dependent on some convoluted philosophy.  He used parables so that His audience could identify with what He wanted to say almost immediately.  For that reason, even the simple people could understand Him.  The irony is that only the so called wise and intelligent people of the day could not understand Him!

In our dialogue with those who cannot understand our faith, doctrines or positions, we too must speak in a way that they can understand.  Connecting with our audience using a language that they can identify with is crucial in communication.  Our young people feel estranged from the Church because we speak in an ecclesial language that they cannot relate with. Whilst ecclesial language might sound profound, theologically correct and philosophically impressive, it often goes above the heads of the ordinary person.  By not coming down to their level, they will not pay attention to what we are saying.  One of the reasons for the popularity of Pope Francis is his candid, straight forward manner in speaking to his audience.  He did not use deep theological words or delve in profound abstract philosophical thoughts. His words are always concrete, practical and down to earth in dealing with the daily life challenges at hand.  Sometimes, we use abstract words and thoughts to hide our lack of personal contact with life issues.  That is why sometimes managers and bosses fail to grow their businesses because they are not looking from the perspective of the needs of the consumer but from what they want to give, tell or sell.  A leader or teacher must walk the ground first and not just sit on his high chair, meting out solutions without a first-hand knowledge of the ground issues.

Thirdly, we are reminded of the patience of Jesus.  In other miracles, the cure was instant and complete.  But in the case of the blind man, it took several stages.  “The man, who was beginning to see, replied, ‘I can see people; they look like trees to me, but they are walking about.’ Then he laid his hands on the man’s eyes again and he saw clearly; he was cured, and he could see everything plainly and distinctly.”  In helping people to understand, we too must be patient.  Not everyone can understand immediately and clearly.  Some of us have higher IQ and EQ.  Some of us are blocked by our past experiences which prevent us from seeing new experiences with a docile heart.   So we must allow time for growth.

Truth is not something we grasp totally in one lesson.  Some take a longer time to grasp the fullness of the truth.  So we should not imagine that the same truth spoken will be grasped with the same knowledge and understanding by all.  This is an important reminder for us all.  No one becomes a mature Christian overnight.  No one becomes a real priest just because he has been ordained.  Just because we are baptized, ordained and appointed to an office does not mean that we know everything or have become a full-fledged Christian and priest.  Growth is a process and we need to accept the process.   Just like in a marriage, growing in love for each other is a lifelong process.  Marriage is just the beginning of love. Baptism is the beginning of a long journey to grow in faith in Christ and in discipleship.

Finally, when all that is done, there is also a warning from the Lord. “Jesus sent him home, saying, ‘Do not even go into the village.’”  Those who are healed and can see now are under a greater obligation to live righteously.  Those who are ignorant and blind could be forgiven.  But if we know the truth and yet go against it, then the punishment would be even more severe because we cannot claim that we are ignorant.  We will have greater difficulties in forgiving ourselves, not so much on the side of God.   So once enlightened and healed, we must walk the new path shown to us and not go back to our past, the “village” that conditioned our minds and paralyzed us.  Instead, like the psalmist, we give thanks to God by living a life of justice and truth. “How can I repay the Lord for his goodness to me?  The cup of salvation I will raise; I will call on the Lord’s name.  A thanksgiving sacrifice I make to you, O Lord. My vows to the Lord I will fulfil before all his people.  O precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his faithful.”

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
.
.
**********************************
.
Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature
.
**************************
.
Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
.
Reflection
.
The Gospel today gives an account of the cure of a blind man. This episode of a cure constitutes the beginning of a long instruction of Jesus to the disciples (Mk 8, 27 to 10,45) and then ends with the cure of another blind man (Mk 10, 46-52). In this broader context, Mark suggests to the readers that those who are truly blind are Peter and the other disciples. All of us are blind! They do not understand the proposal of Jesus when he spoke about the suffering and the cross. Peter accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but not as a suffering Messiah (Mk 8, 27-33). He was also affected by the propaganda of the time which only spoke of a messiah, of a glorious king. Peter seemed to be blind. He understood nothing, but wanted Jesus to be as he wanted.
.
The Gospel today indicates how difficult it was to cure the first blind man. Jesus had to cure this man in two different stages. The cure of the disciples was also difficult. Jesus had to give a long explanation concerning the significance of the Cross to help them understand, because what really produced blindness in them was the Cross.
.
In the year 70, when Mark wrote, the situation of the communities was not easy. There was much suffering, many crosses. Six years before, in 64, the Emperor, Nero had decreed the first great persecution, and many Christians were killed. In the year 70, in Palestine, the Romans were destroying Jerusalem. In the other countries, a great tension between the converted Jews and the non-converted Jews was beginning. The greatest difficulty was the Cross of Jesus. The Jews thought that a crucified person could not be the Messiah who was so awaited by the people, because the law affirmed that all the crucified persons should be considered persons condemned by God (Dt 21, 22-23).
.
Mark 8, 22-26: The cure of a blind man. They brought a blind man, asking Jesus to cure him. Jesus cured him, but in a different way. First of all he took him outside the village. Then he put some spittle on the eyes, he placed his hands on him and asked: Do you see something? The man answered: I see men; in fact, they seem like trees that walk! He could see only in part. He exchanged trees for persons, or persons for trees! Only in a second moment Jesus cures the blind man and prohibits him to enter the village. Jesus did not want an easy propaganda.
.
As it has been said, this description of the cure of the blind man acts as an introduction to the long instruction of Jesus to cure the blindness of the disciples, and at the end he finishes with the cure of another blind man, Bartimaeus. In reality the blind man was Peter. We are all blind. Peter did not want the commitment of the Cross! And we, do we understand the significance of suffering in life?
.
Between the two cures of the blind men (Mk 8, 22-26 and Mk 10, 46-52), is found a long instruction on the Cross (Mk 8, 27 to 10, 45). It seems a catechism, made of phrases of Jesus himself. He speaks about the Cross in the life of the disciple. The long instruction consists of three announcements of the Passion. The first one is that of Mark 8, 27-38. The second is of Mark 9, 30-37. The third one is in Mark 10, 32-45. Between the first one and the second, there is a series of instructions which indicate the type of conversion that should take place in the life of those who accept Jesus, Messiah Servant (Mk 9, 38 to 10, 31): Mk 8, 22-26: the cure of a blind man.
.
Mk 8, 27-38: first announcement of the Cross Mk 9, 1-29: instructions to the disciples on the Messiah Servant Mk 9, 30-37: second announcement of the Cross Mk 9, 38 to 10, 31: instructions to the disciples on conversion Mk 10, 32-45: third announcement of the Cross Mk 10, 46-52: the cure of the blind man Bartimaeus
.
The whole of this instruction has as a background the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. From the beginning to the end of this long instruction, Mark tells us that Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem, where he is going to suffer his death (Mk 8, 27; 9, 30.33; 10, 1.17.32). The full understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained by theoretical ideas, but by the practical commitment, walking like him along the way of service, from Galilee up to Jerusalem. Any one who insists in keeping the idea of Peter, that is, of a glorious Messiah without the cross, will understand nothing and will never be able to have the attitude of a true disciple.
.

He will continue to be blind, exchanging persons for trees (Mk 8, 24). Because without the cross it is impossible to understand who Jesus is and what it means to follow Jesus. The journey of the following is the road of the gift of self, of abandonment, of service, of availability, of acceptance of conflict, knowing that there will be resurrection. The cross is not an accident on the way, but forms part of this road. Because in a world organized beginning from egoism, love and service can exist only crucified! Anyone who makes of his life a service to others, disturbs, bothers those who lived attached to privileges, and suffer.

.
Personal questions
.
All believe in Jesus. But some understand him in one way, others in another. Today, which is the most common Jesus according to the way of thinking of people? How does propaganda interfere in the way of seeing Jesus? What do I do so as not to be drawn by the deceit of the propaganda?
.
What does Jesus ask the persons who want to follow him? Today, what prevents you from recognizing and assuming the project of Jesus?
.
Concluding prayer
.
Lord, who can find a home in your tent, who can dwell on your holy mountain? Whoever lives blamelessly, who acts uprightly, who speaks the truth from the heart. (Ps 15,1-2)
.
.

****************************************

Another way of Looking At Things….

Mark provides us with the only record of this miracle. In some ways, it is the most curious of all Jesus’ miraculous signs. The story is simply told, but not as easily understood.
Jesus,with His disciples, came to Bethsaida at the northernmost point of the Sea of Galilee, just east of where the Jordan River empties into the sea. This was a fishing village, and the home of some of the Twelve. It was not Jesus’ intent to stay here for any length of time or to engage the people of this village in extended teaching. He was on his way to Caesarea Philippi with the Twelve where he would teach them further concerning things He had no intention of saying to the multitudes.
Yet, as He passed through,people recognized Jesus and brought a blind man to Him, begging Him to heal the man. Perhaps because of His desire to get away from the crowds, Jesus Himself took the man by the hand and led him out of the village. There He spat on his eyes and laid His hands on him. Then He asked him, Do you see anything? This is the only instance of healing in which Jesus asked if the person were healed.
The man replied, I see people; they look like trees walking around. In other words, he could see, but not clearly. Then Jesus again placed His hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home with instructions not to even enter the village.
This is the only miracle that was done in stages as well as the only one where the person healed was asked if he had been cured. Why did He do it like that?
Chrysostom, “the golden mouth” preacher, was a presbyter and bishop at Antioch in the late 4th century. In his later days, he was a much admired archbishop in Constaniople. He has left voluminous writings. He said that this miracle occurred in stages because of the imperfect faith of the man. He did not seek healing from Jesus; others brought him to Jesus. The first glimmer of sight caused him to believe, and Jesus went on to heal him completely.
R. C. Foster (Studies in the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, Reprinted 1971, p. 696) says as follows:
We cannot tell why the miracle was performed in two steps. The question Jesus asked seems to indicate that the method was His deliberate plan. The man had not been born blind, but had lost his sight, for he knew the appearance of trees and men. [J.W.] McGarvey holds that the miracle was not gradual, but consisted of two instantaneous miracles, each of which accomplished exactly what Jesus intended; and that Jesus used this different method to reveal that He could heal in part and by progressive steps. It certainly did dramatically emphasize the immediacy of Jesus’ other miracles.
When I asked why it was done this way in one of my classes at the Sunset School of Preaching in the mid-1960’s, Johnny Ramsey suggested it was perhaps to show that He was in complete control of the process. His answer was similar to that of McGarvey, cited by Foster. Yet, I thought there must be more to it than that.
CONTEXT
To see the full picture, we must keep the context in view. It was when I looked at this event in its context that I began to get a clearer idea of why Jesus did it this way. Earlier in this chapter, the Pharisees asked for a sign, even though many signs had already been given. Jesus refused to give another sign to those who refused to see the signs He gave (Mark 8:11-12).
Immediately after that, His disciples misunderstood Jesus’ remark about being careful to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees. He responded by asking them, “Do you still not see or understand” and quoting Isaiah 6:9-10 against them, a passage which speaks of eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear, and hearts that are hardened. After this, the disciples did understand – some. But did they see and understand clearly? No, for immediately following this healing, Peter confessed Jesus as being the Christ of God – and then began to rebuke him when He said He would be crucified in Jerusalem (Mar_8:27-32).
In other words, this miracle was also a parable-in-action, designed to teach the disciples that full sight of the riches of God in Christ does not come at once! William Barclay (The Gospel of Mark, In The Daily Study Bible Series, Vol 3. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 2nd edition, 1956, p. 194-195) comes close to this, as he says:
Usually Jesus’ miracles happened suddenly and completely. In this miracle the blind man’s sight came back in stages. There is symbolic truth here. No man sees all God’s truth all at once. One of the dangers of a certain type of evangelism is that it encourages the idea that when a man has taken his decision for Christ he is a full-grown Christian. One of the dangers of Church membership is that it can be presented in such a way as to imply that when a person becomes a pledged member of the Church he has come to the end of the road. So far from that being the case the decision and the pledge of membership are the beginning of the road. They are the discovery of the riches of Christ which are inexhaustible, and if a man lived a hundred, or a thousand, or a million years, he would still have to go on growing in grace, and learning more and more about the infinite wonder and beauty of Jesus Christ.
LESSONS FOR US

There are several important lessons for us in this “parable in action.”

  1. We should never assume that, because we can see some truth, we know all truth. We need to be humble enough to realize that “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12). The time will come when we will see Jesus as He is, and then we will be like Him (1 John 3:1-3). Until then, let’s be humble enough to recognize there are things we do not yet see and understand.
  2. We should realize that seeing a little does not mean we see clearly. Peter, in Mark 8:27-29, confessed Jesus as being the Messiah. Yet, in verses 31-32 when Jesus began to talk about going to Jerusalem to die before being raised from the dead, Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. Peter understood Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ; he did not understand what that meant.
  3. If we – and even apostles – do not fully understand the implications of what we see in the Scriptures or in Jesus, we need to be patient with others who do not understand what we think we understand. Sincere believers in Jesus who are seeking to follow Him as closely as possible will sometimes understand various things differently. We need to be patient with one another, always seeking better understanding ourselves and seeking to learn even from those who disagree with us. If we love only those who love us, what do we do more than others? If we are willing to learn only from those who agree with us, how will we ever correct our misunderstandings? Further, if we refuse actually to listen to them, why should we expect them to listen to us as well?

If we would take these three lessons to heart, there would be far less strife within the church and far less prejudice against others who seek to follow Jesus. There would also be far less reason for other Jesus-followers to have prejudice against “us” – whoever “we” may be.

https://committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/difficult-passages-mark-822-26/

.

.