Posts Tagged ‘Prayer and Meditation’

Morning Prayer for Thursday, August 16, 2018 — Forgiveness, peace make me more effective

August 16, 2018

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Rest now until life, eternal life, flowing through your veins and heart and mind, bids you to bestir yourself. Then glad work will follow. Tired work is never effective. The strength of God’s spirit is always available to the tired mind and body. He is your physician and your healer. Look to these quiet times of communion with God for rest, for peace, for cure. Then rise refreshed in spirit and go out to work, knowing that your strength is able to meet any problems because it is reinforced by God’s power.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that the peace I have found will make me effective. I pray that I may be relieved of all strain during this day.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

16 AUGUST, 2018, Thursday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time

PARTICIPATING IN THE KINGDOM LIFE REQUIRES THE CAPACITY TO FORGIVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZK 12:1-126063MT 18:21-19:1  ]

What is the reality of the kingdom life?  It is a life of authentic freedom, joy and love.  Hence, forgiveness leading to reconciliation is one of the essential pre-requisites to live the life of the kingdom.  Thus, today’s discourse on forgiveness for those who hurt us personally marks the end of the great discourse on discipleship.  A disciple is not only one who is in communion with the Church, but he must also be in communion with all those who hurt him.

Indeed, the fundamental Christian message is the proclamation of God’s unconditional forgiveness for us in the death of Jesus. God’s own example of forgiveness cost Him nothing less than the life of His only Son.  Both the scripture readings reveal to us the heart and mercy of God.  His desire is that we repent and stop hurting ourselves.  God does not want our death but wants us to live.  Unconditional, unlimited and complete forgiveness is the key to healing and reconciliation. So essential is forgiveness for our happiness that when Peter suggested seven times as the number of times one must forgive, thinking it was generous beyond the rabbinic recommendation of three times, it was deemed insufficient.  Instead Jesus demanded, “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.”  In other words, the offer of forgiveness is unlimited.  There is no question of limits.

Why is unlimited forgiveness so essential to happiness in life? The truth is that forgiveness given to those who hurt us is more for our sake than for those who have wronged us.  It frees us from the clutch of our enemies.  Harboring resentment against others is in the final analysis self-hatred.  The irony of unforgiveness is that we punish ourselves.  We become prisoners of the hatred we have of our enemies, and that makes our life miserable.  We are not free for love.  This is implied in Jesus’ analogy of the master who handed the wicked servant “over to the torturers till he should pay all his debts.”  Like the Israelites, we are “that set of rebels who have eyes and never see, ears and never hear.” We are blind to what we are doing to ourselves, destroying our happiness not only in this life but more importantly, in the next.  We have numbed ourselves to the reality of unforgiveness in our hearts.

Secondarily, forgiveness brings healing to our enemies.  They are our enemies only because they are as hurt as we are.  They too cannot forgive us or at least forgive those who have treated them unjustly and unkindly.  As a result, they too find themselves incapable of letting go of their hurts.  This too constrains their potential to love.  So by forgiving them, we are empowering them to love us in return.

But that is not all.  Forgiveness cannot be superficial but must come from the heart.  It is not simply a verbal forgiveness with the heart still retaining grudges and resentment.  Jesus said, “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”  If the forgiveness does not come from the heart, then no real forgiveness has taken place. Forgiveness is not a matter of logic and the intellect but of the will and the heart.   We would only be deceiving ourselves because the lack of forgiveness from the heart will be the obstacle to union with our fellow brother and sister.  We might not even be conscious of it because we try to suppress it.  On the conscious level, we try to justify our dislike of our enemies.  But we know that we have not forgiven from our hearts when our soul inside us is crying out in fear and for freedom.  We know how we are punishing ourselves especially when we have nightmares of our enemies.  Such nightmares are reflections of a repressed guilt, hatred and fear.  In other words, the failure to forgive from our hearts brings back the ghosts of the past to haunt us.  The only way to put the ghosts to rest is to forgive them.

Yet it is so difficult to forgive.  This is especially so when we are in the right and someone owes us a debt by offending us, as in the case of the wicked servant.  Like the latter, we can deal with those who transgress against us according to our rights.  As is often said, to our enemies we apply the laws but to our friends, we apply justice.  In other words, with our friends we are compassionate in judging, interpreting and applying the spirit of the laws liberally, but with our enemies we are fault-finding, applying the letter of the laws strictly.

How to forgive?  Forgiveness presupposes we have seen and heard God’s forgiveness.  Unless we are conscious of the forgiveness we have received from the Lord, we cannot forgive.  Unless we have reflected and felt God’s forgiveness in our lives, the capacity to forgive would be limited.  The problem with the wicked servant was that he did not “hear and see” the forgiveness given him.   As a result, he treated his fellow servant who owed him such a small amount harshly.  So the inability to forgive others shows that we have not received forgiveness ourselves.  This explains why we are not capable of love.

Even then, God is so merciful in teaching us to forgive that he would even allow us to suffer in order to come to realization.  He loves us so much that He would allow us to come to our senses through the tortures we inflict on ourselves.  Like the Israelites, through the exile, they were brought to self-realization.  Quite often, through our sufferings and misery we inflict upon ourselves, we too come to realize that there is no way to find peace and joy except in forgiveness.

It is within this context that we can understand today’s gospel.  Mt 18:17 tells us that the Church has the right to excommunicate a member of the community if that member refuses to repent, “if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector”.  Even then, excommunication is not the end of the process to closing the door to forgiveness.  In fact, it is hoped that such an action by the Church would bring the sinner to realization of the gravity of his sin and thus be converted.  This was certainly true for the prophecy of Ezekiel who warned his people of the imminent exile before them if they continued to rebel against the Lord and His ways.

Thus, the reality of forgiveness can be brought about in two ways.  One is to be won over by His love and mercy; the other is through suffering leading to self-realization.   But in every situation, forgiveness is always offered.  The mercy and forgiveness of God is unlimited.  We who receive that forgiveness and live that forgiveness in our lives will share the heart of God and thus become members of the kingdom.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 16, 2018 — “They have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear”

August 15, 2018

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant — Sometimes its just better to let people off the hook…

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Thursday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 416

Reading 1 EZ 12:1-12

The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house;
they have eyes to see but do not see,
and ears to hear but do not hear,
for they are a rebellious house.
Now, son of man, during the day while they are looking on,
prepare your baggage as though for exile,
and again while they are looking on,
migrate from where you live to another place;
perhaps they will see that they are a rebellious house.
You shall bring out your baggage like an exile in the daytime
while they are looking on;
in the evening, again while they are looking on,
you shall go out like one of those driven into exile;
while they look on, dig a hole in the wall and pass through it;
while they look on, shoulder the burden and set out in the darkness;
cover your face that you may not see the land,
for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.

I did as I was told.
During the day I brought out my baggage
as though it were that of an exile,
and at evening I dug a hole through the wall with my hand
and, while they looked on, set out in the darkness,
shouldering my burden.

Then, in the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, did not the house of Israel, that rebellious house,
ask you what you were doing?
Tell them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
This oracle concerns Jerusalem
and the whole house of Israel within it.
I am a sign for you:
as I have done, so shall it be done to them;
as captives they shall go into exile.
The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden
and set out in darkness,
going through a hole he has dug out in the wall,
and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone.

Responsorial Psalm PS 78:56-57, 58-59, 61-62

R. (see 7b) Do not forget the works of the Lord!

They tempted and rebelled against God the Most High,
and kept not his decrees.
They turned back and were faithless like their fathers;
they recoiled like a treacherous bow.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
They angered him with their high places
and with their idols roused his jealousy.
God heard and was enraged
and utterly rejected Israel.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!
And he surrendered his strength into captivity,
his glory in the hands of the foe.
He abandoned his people to the sword
and was enraged against his inheritance.
R. Do not forget the works of the Lord!

Alleluia PS 119:135

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let your countenance shine upon your servant
and teach me your statutes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 18:21–19:1

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

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

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The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
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Reflection By Jack Kelley
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Most people have read the first part of Matthew 18. It outlines a procedure for taking to task a believer who has sinned against you. Many an aggressive stance has been justified with this passage. But in my time as a pastor and counselor, I was surprised at how few of those applying the procedure had read the rest of the chapter. While chapter breaks are not inspired, and Peter’s question to the Lord about forgiveness (vs. 21) could have been asked at another time, it does appear next in sequence to the procedure for righting a wrong.

How many petty disputes could be dropped if put into the context of this parable? How would they rate in a comparison to what the Lord has forgiven in us? Do we, having been forgiven so much, refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters even a little? And if so, what are the real consequences?

The Rest Of The Story

We’ve often discussed the nature of parables; how they’re heavenly stories put into an earthly context and how the major characters always symbolize others. In the case of this parable the King is the Lord, you and I are His servants, the debts we owe represent our sins, and the jailer is Satan.

As to the debts owed, two denominations of money are mentioned, the 10,000 talents the servant owed the king and the 100 denarii the servant was owed by a fellow servant. Let’s take the easy one first. Almost everyone agrees that a denarius was equivalent to one day’s wages. If 100 days equaled about 1/3 of a working year then repaying that size debt would require about 4 months of an average person’s income.

Since a talent was both a measure of weight (about 85 lbs. or 34 kg.) and of money, its value is much more difficult to define, but the most frequent description I found in my research is that it would have approximated 15 times an average person’s annual income. If so, then a debt of 10,000 talents would require 150,000 years of an average person’s income to re-pay.

And that’s the first point. The King had forgiven a debt the servant couldn’t have repaid in a thousand lifetimes, and did so simply because he was asked to. The servant on the other hand demanded full and immediate payment from a friend for a much, much smaller sum. Now 4 months wages is a debt worth collecting, and forgiving an amount that size would be a major sacrifice for most people. But the issue is not the legitimacy or even the size of the debt, it’s the comparative value. Shouldn’t being released from the burden of a debt so large he could never repay it have made the servant even a little more forgiving toward his brother?

The servant’s demand for payment demonstrated his lack of gratitude for what the King had done for him, and that’s what aroused the King’s anger. Summoning the Jailer, the King ordered his servant punished until he repaid all he owed.

If The Shoe Fits …

Our debt of sin against the Lord is similarly impossible to repay, but in the Lord’s case He can’t simply overlook it. His requirement for justice demands the debt be paid in full. Knowing we could never pay it, He sent His Son to pay it for us. This freed Him to completely and unconditionally forgive us just because we ask Him to. Don’t forget, from the Lord’s point of view we were all murderers, adulterers, blasphemers and thieves when He forgave us (Ephe 2:1-5). These are all crimes punishable by death. We’ve been forgiven so much, isn’t even a significant sacrifice justifiable under the circumstances? What offense would be too large to forgive in others when compared with what the Lord has forgiven in us?

Our unwillingness to forgive legitimate sins others commit against us demonstrates our ingratitude for what the Lord has done for us. It’s the result of the typical human double standard wherein we demand justice from others while expecting mercy for ourselves. This ingratitude is itself a sin and like all unconfessed sin can cause us to miss out on blessings we might have otherwise received.  It also leaves us open to attack by our enemy which may even subject us to torment.  That’s why, in the parable, the jailer represents Satan.

Union And Fellowship

Like the servant and the King our relationship with the Lord consists of 2 components, union and fellowship.  Union comes with salvation and is unconditional and eternal.   The servant didn’t stop being a servant to the King because of his behavior, and neither do we ever stop being the children of our Lord because of ours.  When He went to the cross, Jesus took all our sins with Him and because of His death we have been forgiven for every one of them (Colossians 2:13-14).

But fellowship is conditional and temporal. It concerns the relationship we cultivate with the Lord in the here and now.  Because of his behavior the servant had caused a rift in his relationship with the King.  He could only restore himself to the King’s good graces and repair the rift by repaying the debt. Our refusal to forgive others can like wise cause a rift in our relationship with the Lord.  We can only restore ourselves to the Lord’s good graces and repair the rift by forgiving those who have sinned against us (Matt. 6:14-15).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Please note that John was writing to forgiven sinners, members of the church, advising us to confess and be forgiven even after we’ve been saved. We sin every day and His mercies are new every morning.  God forgives us whenever we ask, every time we ask. Asking is how we stay in fellowship with Him.

You Always Get What You Ask For

In summary, God’s Nature demands justice and fair play. Refusing to forgive others when we’ve been forgiven is a sin that causes a rift in our relationship with Him that only we can mend. Forgiving the one who sinned against us restores us to fellowship with the Lord and allows Him to forget there ever was a problem.   Selah 1-18-04

https://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/parables/the-parable-of-the-unmerciful-servant/

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The Meaning

Jesus sums up the meaning of this parable in Matthew 18:35: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Based on Jesus’ final comment, we know that the theme of this parable is forgiveness. We also know that because Jesus tells this parable in a response to Peter’s question about forgiveness:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus had just given instructions for dealing with sin in the Church: confront your brother or sister in love with a goal of leading them to repentance and restoration. Peter speaks up and asks the question that everyone else was probably thinking, “What about repeat offenders? How many times are we required to go through this process of confrontation, repentance, and restoration before we give up on someone?” He suggests that perhaps seven times is the right answer. Why seven?

According to Pharisaical tradition, no one should ever be forgiven more than three times. After all, God Himself would only forgive someone three times before His patience ran out (Amos 1:3Proverbs 30:21, and Job 33:29-30), and who are we to second guess God? Their logic might sound very pious, but in reality they were simply twisting the Scriptures to give themselves an excuse to hate their neighbor.

Peter probably thought that he was being quite gracious by doubling the Pharisees’ maximum of three times and adding an extra one in for good measure, but Jesus burst his bubble by countering with an inconceivably high number. Jesus wasn’t setting a hard and fast rule either, but rather He was using hyperbole to say that there is no limit to the number of times we must forgive someone. On another occasion, Jesus even added that we must forgive someone who sins against us seven times a day (Luke 17:4). No doubt Peter was dumbfounded by this news, so Jesus told this parable to help Peter see things from God’s perspective:

  1. A king wants to settle accounts with his servants and finds that one of them has racked up a debt of 10,000 talents.
    • A talent is a not a currency denomination, but rather a unit of measure weighing between 70 and 90 pounds.
    • The text doesn’t say whether this was a talent of silver or gold, but it was an unimaginable sum of money either way. In fact, it was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wages. For comparison, the total revenue in a given year in Idumaea, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee was only 960 talents.
    • The number 10,000 was the largest number in the Greek language, so Jesus was basically saying that this servant had accrued an insurmountable debt. It was like saying that the man owed a gazillion dollars. Only the most wicked and vile of servants could possibly violate his master’s trust in such a flagrant manner.
  2. Clearly the servant lacks the means to pay back such a massive debt, so the king decides to sell him, his family, and all his possessions to try and recover some of his losses. The servant begs the king for another chance and promises to pay back the debt. The king takes pity on the servant and cancels the entire debt.
    • The king has every right to sell the servant.
    • The servant’s promise is ridiculous because there’s no way that he can come up with a gazillion dollars even if he worked for one thousand years.
    • By canceling the servant’s debt, the king is forced to absorb the loss.
  3. The servant finds one of his fellow servants who owes him one hundred denarii. He starts choking the fellow servant and demands his money. The fellow servant begs for another chance and promises to pay back the debt. The servant refuses and has his fellow servant thrown into prison until the debt is paid.
    • A denarius was a small Roman silver coin, and it was the usual daily wage for a day laborer. This debt is substantial, worth about 100 days’ wages, but it’s microscopic compared to 10,000 talents.
    • Although the debt is substantial, it was possible for the servant to pay it back.
    • With the fellow servant locked up in prison, he lost his ability to work and pay back the debt. This was effectively a life sentence, an excessive punishment compared to the size of the debt.
  4. The other servants witnessed the first servant’s extreme cruelty. They were outraged and reported the injustice to the king. The king was furious and handed the servant over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back his entire debt.
    • The king said, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” This is where we see the parallel to our own lives.

To summarize, each of us has sinned against God, and we owe an infinite and unpayble debt. It would be just of God to throw us in Hell for eternity as punishment. Yet if we will humble ourselves, admit that we deserve Hell for sinning against Him, and beg for His forgiveness, then God will show us mercy by canceling our debt. In doing so, God assumes responsibility for our debt, which is why Jesus had to pay the fine in His life’s blood. To show God our gratitude for His mercy toward us, we should likewise be merciful toward others.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, God repeats the command to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32Colossians 3:13, and Matthew 5:7), and He also reiterates the warning that He will punish those who do not forgive others (James 2:13 and Matthew 6:14-15). Why does God threaten us with punishment if we don’t forgive others? Does He mean that He might revoke our salvation if we refuse to forgive someone?

No, because the very idea of an unforgiving Christian is an impossibility. No one who truly understands God’s holiness, their own sinfulness, and the price that Jesus paid for them, could possibly hold a grudge against someone else. God is simply saying that if we refuse to forgive others, then we are not truly saved and therefore still under judgement.

Furthermore, any sin that our neighbor commits against us is also an offense against God, and since God is the highest authority of all, then any offense against Him is infinitely greater than the wrong done to us. If God is willing to forgive the greater offense, then surely we can forgive the lesser offense. If we are unwilling to forgive, then we are dishonoring God by implying that the greater wrong was done to us.

Of course it’s easy enough to say that Christians must forgive others, but it’s extremely difficult to live it out. In fact, the depth of forgiveness that Jesus demands of us is not humanly possible. That’s why the apostles cried out to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5) They knew that they couldn’t show that level of forgiveness on their own, so they asked Jesus to help them.

Thankfully, the fruit of the Holy Spirit includes patience and meekness (Galatians 5:22-23), two qualities that are essential for cultivating a forgiving heart. That’s why you hear amazing testimonies about how a Christian mother was able to forgive her son’s murderer or how another Christian woman was able to forgive the men who raped her.

Where People Go Wrong

Most people are confused about what it means to forgive someone. Here are some common misconceptions:

  1. The other person has to apologize first before I can forgive them.
  2. I have to tell the other person what they did wrong before I can forgive them.
  3. Forgiveness means that I have to actually say to the other person, “I forgive you.”
  4. Forgiveness means that I have to continue to associate with the other person.
  5. Forgiveness means that I have to forget what the other person did.
  6. Forgiveness means that I can’t press charges.

These six statements are all myths. The truth is that forgiving someone simply means letting go of your natural desire for revenge. That’s something you can do even if the other person doesn’t apologize, even if they don’t hear you say that you have forgiven them, and even if they don’t even realize that they have sinned against you.

However, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you have to continue to associate with the other person. In cases of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, it’s very unlikely that you will ever forget what the other person did to you, and you may need to cease all contact with your abuser for the sake of your own mental health. Also, you don’t want to put yourself back in a harmful situation with someone who has violated your trust. You can give up your desire to harm them in retaliation, but you still have to protect yourself.

Also, keep in mind that reporting a crime to the police and providing eyewitness testimony in court is not the same thing as revenge. Revenge is when you as an individual act as judge, jury, and executioner rather than working through the criminal justice system. God says that vengeance belongs to Him alone (Romans 12:19), and we should not usurp His authority through private justice. Instead, God has instituted government for that purpose (Romans 13:4). If we as a society agree that capital punishment is a reasonable penalty for convicted murderers, then it’s not vindictive to insist that the death penalty be enforced by the state.

https://trulygod.wordpress.com/2017/11/26/parable-of-the-unforgiving-servant/

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 15, 2018 — My spirit rejoices in God my Savior

August 15, 2018

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“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

From: LK 1:39-56

All of today’s readings are at:

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081518-day-mass.cfm

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15 AUGUST, 2018, Wednesday, The Assumption of the B.V. Mary

ASSUMPTION IN THE LIGHT OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [REV 11:1912:1-6.101 COR 15:20-26LK 1:39-56  ]

What is the visual image we have when we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of our Blessed Virgin Mary?  Most of us are probably influenced by the holy pictures we see portraying Mary being carried into the clouds at the end of her life to be with God forever.  Such an image of the bodily assumption of Mary into heaven, that is, her body being carried into the realm of heaven, does not do justification to the real meaning of the dogma of the Assumption of our Blessed Virgin. To understand the Dogma of the Assumption, we must first understand the meaning of Christ’s resurrection and His ascension because the Assumption of Mary is analogous and a corollary to it.

What do we mean when we say that the Lord has risen?  What kind of body did the Risen Lord have?  In the gospel, we note from the accounts of the apparitions of the Risen Lord that He was not seen by all but only by those who had faith.  And even then, it took some time for the disciples to assume that He was the Risen Lord because His body was so transformed that He looked different, even though the Risen Body was in continuity with the Jesus of Nazareth.  Indeed, the Risen body of our Lord was not a resuscitated earthly body but a totally transfigured and transformed body such that it could go through closed doors, appear and vanish as He so wished.

Similarly, when we consider Mary’s assumption, we must not presume that her incorruptible body remained the natural body that she had when she was on earth.  On the contrary, like Jesus, her body was also transformed and transfigured.  She had a resurrected body like our Lord.  This was the grace of God given to her to share in her Son’s glorification as St Paul wrote, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him.”

More importantly, what is the meaning of the resurrection?  It simply means that Jesus is now totally with God and in God.  The glory of God so fills Him that He is permeated with God’s love, life, joy and peace.   In the resurrection, Jesus was glorified and shared the glory of God that was His before the foundation of the world.  Because of the resurrection, the Risen Lord is no longer limited by time, space or situation.  So too for Mary. Our celebration of her assumption is more than just saying that her body is glorified.  We are saying that she is now filled with the glory of God and shares the life of God intensely.  Her life is now in God and with God.  She is in complete union with God upon the end of her life on earth.

Mary’s assumption is also analogous to that of Christ’s ascension.  In the resurrection of Christ, His body was transformed and glorified.  What then does the ascension celebrate if Christ is already glorified in His body and already with God?  The ascension of our Lord celebrates His kingship over the whole of creation.  It speaks of His Lordship and that is why we confess in the Creed that after His ascension, He was seated at the right hand of the Father.  In other words, He was given a share of the glory and power of the heavenly Father.  In heaven, He continues to rule the world and judge humanity until His Kingdom is finally established.

Mary’s assumption also means that beyond her union with God in body and soul, she is so filled with God’s life and love that she continues to carry out her maternal role as she did when she was on earth.  This explains why a week later, the Church celebrates her Queenship.  Now with Jesus in heaven, Mary continues to exercise her maternal love for the Church through the power of intercession.  Indeed, in the book of Revelation Mary was presented as the Mother of God and therefore also as Mother of the Church.  “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth.”  The woman refers of course to Mary who gave birth to the Messiah.  Like Jesus, Mary therefore continues to exercise her royal priesthood by interceding for the Church.

What is the basis for our claim to such privileges for Mary?  Although the Dogma of the Assumption is not found explicitly in the Scriptures, there are many implicit texts that suggest Mary shares perfectly in the victory of Christ over sin and death.  

Firstly, right from the early Church Mary was compared to the Ark of the Covenant.  She was the One who carried Jesus in her womb.  As St Augustine said, before she conceived Jesus in her womb, she conceived Jesus in her heart.  St John wrote, “The sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the Ark of the Covenant could be seen inside it.”  Mary throughout her life presented herself as being one with the Lord in everything.  Unlike Eve, she, as the New Eve, obeyed the will of God.  She shared Jesus’ mission, supporting Him quietly in the background.  Most of all, she suffered with Jesus at Calvary, carrying the pain, humiliation, injustices and pain when He was suffering on the cross.  She forgave her enemies in union with her Son, uttering, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  The Church gave her the title “Co-redemptrix” because of her association with Christ’s saving work for humanity.

Secondly, she exudes the presence of God in her life.  She kept herself sinless through the grace of God.  She visited Elizabeth in her old age when she was expecting.  When she met Elizabeth, the baby leapt in the womb of Elizabeth.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth said, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  She demonstrated her utter faith in God by saying “yes” to God’s election.  She was at the Wedding in Cana, looking out for the needs of the wedding couple and their guests.  She exercised her maternal role after the death of her Son by being with the disciples at prayer whilst waiting for the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s presence was that of the presence of God by her love, charity and her faith.

Thirdly, Mary relied on the grace of God alone.  She knew her preservation from sin and the inclination to sin, and her life lived in union with God, was through His grace alone.  The magnificat expresses Mary’s gratitude in life to God for all that she was.  She knew that she earned nothing for herself.  All that she was, all the privileges she received was through the sheer mercy of God’s grace.  “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.”

Consequently, in celebrating the Assumption of Mary, the Church wants to give us hope that we too can share in the glory of Mary.  The privilege of having her body glorified and now with the Lord, completely guarantees our journey as well.  She is the apex of the holiness of the Church.  Just as she has arrived at her final destiny, we who follow her too will share in that glory.  Mary’s assumption is a gift given by God to all of us who, like Mary, will share in the same glory at the end of our lives.  In the meantime, we can be assured of Mary’s intercession for us.  She is in heaven praying for our salvation and extending her maternal care for all of us.  She continues to exert her influence over the Church through her prayers and example.  We are not alone on this journey because Mary is with us until we arrive in heaven.  We do not travel alone, but Mary helps us along through her prayers.

On our part, it means that, like Mary when she was on earth, we must live a life that glorifies God by doing His will, by living a life of charity and humble service.  We too must become the presence of God in our lives.  We must carry Jesus with us wherever we are.  Only when we glorify God with our lives on earth by serving Him and our fellowmen, can we share in Mary’s glorification at the end of our lives.  Like Mary, we must conquer sins in our lives with the help of Christ’s grace given to us at His passion, death and resurrection.  With Christ, and with the intercession of our Blessed Mother, we too can share in the victory over sin and death, for as St John says in the first reading, “I heard a voice shout from heaven, Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God and all authority for his Christ.”  This is what it means to be like Mary, living in the grace of God and by His grace alone.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 14, 2018 — “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”

August 14, 2018

Unless you turn and become like children you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate is a thief and a bandit

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Memorial of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr
Lectionary: 414

Reading 1 EZ 2:8—3:4

The Lord GOD said to me:
As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you:
be not rebellious like this house of rebellion,
but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you.

It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me,
in which was a written scroll which he unrolled before me.
It was covered with writing front and back,
and written on it was:
Lamentation and wailing and woe!

He said to me: Son of man, eat what is before you;
eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel.
So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat.
Son of man, he then said to me,
feed your belly and fill your stomach
with this scroll I am giving you.
I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth.
He said: Son of man, go now to the house of Israel,
and speak my words to them.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

R. (103a) How sweet to my taste is your promise!
In the way of your decrees I rejoice,
as much as in all riches.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
Yes, your decrees are my delight;
they are my counselors.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
How sweet to my palate are your promises,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
Your decrees are my inheritance forever;
the joy of my heart they are.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!
I gasp with open mouth,
in my yearning for your commands.
R. How sweet to my taste is your promise!

Alleluia  MT 11:29AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”
He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said,
“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Whoever becomes humble like this child
is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones,
for I say to you that their angels in heaven
always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.
What is your opinion?
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray?
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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14 AUGUST, 2018, Tuesday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time

CONVERTING THE UNCHURCHED AND THE MARGINALIZED

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EZEKIEL 2:8–3:4MATTHEW 18:1-51012-14]

In the gospel, Jesus made it clear that greatness does not lie in rank, position or power in the world.  So when “the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’’  In other words, our greatest dignity lies in the fact that we are all children of God.  By virtue of our baptism, we are all children of God and born into His kingdom.  In God’s eyes, we are all equal before Him.  We are all His children whom He loves.   To enter into the Kingdom, that is, to have the heart of God, we must see ourselves as His children whom He loves.

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If we see ourselves as His children, we will not only love the Father but all those whom He loves as well.  “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 Jn 5:1f) This is what Jesus meant as well when He referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd.   “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.”  (Jn 10:14-17) Jesus was willing to give up His life for the sheep because He was one with the Father in love with His sheep.  This is the meaning of knowing the Father.  To know the Father is to know the heart of the Father, to love those whom He loves.

The implication therefore is that we should not despise any of these little ones.  In other words, for Christians we must share the same mind of God to consider everyone as important to God, especially the littles ones, that is, the poor, the marginalized, the unreached, the abandoned, the strayed, the unchurched, those who do not believe in Him or know Him. Jesus said, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  Indeed, God watches over them continually as well, and seeks to bring them into His family.

Consequently, today, the gospel invites us to be like the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep.  The parable of the lost sheep reveals the heart of God.  Just like the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine on the hillside and goes in search of the stray, we too must search for the lost sheep.  We must be concerned about those Catholics who have strayed because they are lost, wounded or have fallen into temptation.  They are equally important to us.  The irony is that on one hand we are concerned about evangelizing others, bringing non-Catholics to come to know the Lord.  Although we have done something in the area of conversion, about 1000 converts a year, have we considered that the numbers we bring in each year falls short of the many Catholics who have left the Church or become nominal Catholics after baptism, or in the case of young people, after confirmation.  Although many might still be Catholic, they have stopped attending church services or frequenting the church.

The truth is that about two-thirds of Catholics are in this state.  Our last survey in 2016 could only account for about 133,688 (35.8%) of the total Catholic population in Singapore, ie those who took part in the parish survey, suggesting that the rest did not attend church.  In-depth interviews revealed that those who belong to the ‘unaccounted’ Catholics, numbering 239,547 (64.2%), do not attend mass regularly.  Many do not identify themselves with the Church and hence do not come for mass frequently or did not take part in the survey.  It is clear that they have lost their Catholic identity because of their disillusionment with the Church, coupled with the influence of the secular world.  The values of the world and its pursuits are their preoccupations and God has become only the last resort when they are at their wits’ end.  Many find themselves unable to accept the Church’s teachings on divorce, same-sex union and other ethical and moral doctrines.  They are not able to reconcile their faith with their lifestyle.

Indeed, many who are burdened with their struggles have no one to turn to for spiritual and moral support.  Many have no Catholic friends that they could confide in or seek a listening ear.  They do not feel loved by the Church or the understanding of the community.  Instead, they feel marginalized and even alienated by their fellow Catholics because they have failed to live up to the ideals of the gospel.  This does not mean that all have given up on God or on the Church, but because they feel rejected, hurt or wounded by Church leaders and members, they continue their relationship with God through personal prayer.  Their heart is to return to the Church, but they lack courage and a gracious and welcoming community.

Above all, because of their lack of contact with the Church and seduced by the world, their personal relationship with God suffers.  Their prayer and spiritual life is weakened.  They lack a real personal relationship with God.  When they pray or read the bible, they feel spiritually dry because their sins hinder them from opening themselves up to God or allowing the Spirit of God to touch them.  Their hearts are hardened by the trials and tragedies of life or by pride and arrogance.   God is far from them.  Although in their quiet moments they feel emptiness in their heart and desire to return to God and to the Church, they lack the motivation or the strength to do so.

It is such people that the scripture readings invite us to reach out to.   Like Ezekiel, we are called to reach out to our own people who have strayed away from the faith.  The Lord says, “You, son of man, listen to the words I say; do not be a rebel like that rebellious set.”  God is sending us on a mission like Ezekiel to a rebellious house, to Catholics who have rejected the teachings of the Lord and insist on living according to their own perception of life.  The real problem in reaching out to such people is often not so much the language of communication but a stubborn and arrogant heart, as the Lord told Ezekiel.  Regardless of their resistance to the truth, as prophets, we are to warn them in and out of season.  (cf 2 Tim 4:2)   We should never give up hope on them.

How can we become true prophets that call such people to conversion?  The prophet must first be identified with the Word.   The Lord said, “Open your mouth and eat what I am about to give you.  Son of man, eat what is given to you; eat this scroll, then go and speak to the House of Israel.”  We are called to eat the scroll of the Lord so that we too can be filled with His passion for the suffering of His people who have strayed from His love and His ambit of protection.  Unless we eat the scroll, that is, the Word of God, we cannot be identified with the heart and mercy of God for those who have lost their faith and their way.

Secondly, we must be ready to accept rejection initially when the Word is proclaimed.  “He unrolled it in front of me; it was written on back and front; on it was written ‘lamentations, wailings, moanings.’  Then he said, ‘Son of man, go to the House of Israel and tell them what I have said.’”  Like Ezekiel, the word we proclaim involves judgement and punishments.  We are to remind them that God is still with them even when they are going through trials and sufferings.  Just like the Israelites who were in exile, God wanted Ezekiel to let the people know that He was still with them, even though for the time being, His presence was manifested through the punishment they suffered because of the exile.  But this was only temporary as the intention was to bring them back to Him.  So too, in reaching out to those Catholics who are wounded or have strayed, we must let them know that in their pains and experience of alienation, He is with them.  Through their sufferings, we hope that they would be purified and come back to their senses, like the Prodigal Son and return to the Father’s House.

With the heart of the Good Shepherd, let us not be indifferent to the many Catholics who have lost their faith.  We should never think that our churches are full already and whether they turn up for services or not, they do not matter to us.  God does not think this way.   “Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.”  Every sheep is important to the Father, just as every child is important to the parents.  Like the Good Shepherd, we need to seek every one of our lost sheep even as we continue to announce the gospel to those who have yet to come to know Him.  So the work of evangelization must include ad intra and ad extra missions, re-evangelizing the lapsed and nominal Catholics and bringing new sheep into the fold.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
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Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest who died as prisoner 16770 in Auschwitz, on August 14, 1941. When a prisoner escaped from the camp, the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the 10 selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry: My wife! My children! I will never see them again! At this Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and asked to die in his place. His request was granted …

The story begins on 8 January, 1894 – Raymond Kolbe was born the second son of a poor weaver at Zdunska Wola near Lodz in Poland. In his infancy Raymond seems to have been normally mischievous but one day, after his mother had scolded him for some mischief or other, her words took effect and brought about a radical change in the child’s behaviour. Later Raymond explained this change:’That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.’

Thus early did the child believe and accept that he was destined for martyrdom. His belief in his dream coloured all his future actions.

In 1910 he became a Franciscan, taking the name Maximilian. He studied at Rome and was ordained in 1919. He returned to Poland and taught Church history in a seminary. He built a friary just west of Warsaw, which eventually housed 762 Franciscans and printed eleven periodicals, one with a circulation of over a million, including a daily newspaper.

In 1930 he went to Asia, where he founded friaries in Nagasaki and in India. In 1936 he was recalled to supervise the original friary near Warsaw. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, he knew that the friary would be seized, and sent most of the friars home. He was imprisoned briefly and then released, and returned to the friary, where he and the other friars began to organize a shelter for 3,000 Polish refugees, among whom were 2,000 Jews. The friars shared everything they had with the refugees. They housed, fed and clothed them, and brought all their machinery into use in their service.



The young Maximilian Kolbe

Inevitably, the community came under suspicion and was watched closely. Then in May 1941 the friary was closed down and Maximilian and four companions were taken to the deathcamp Auschwitz, where they worked with the other prisoners.
On June 15, 1941, he managed to write a letter to his mother:’Dear Mama, At the end of the month of May I was transferred to the camp of Auschwitz. Everything is well in my regard. Be tranquil about me and about my health, because the good God is everywhere and provides for everything with love. It would be well that you do not write to me until you will have received other news from me, because I do not know how long I will stay here. Cordial greetings and kisses, affectionately. Raymond.’One day an SS officer found some of the heaviest planks he could lay hold of and personally loaded them on the Franciscan’s back, ordering him to run. When he collapsed, the SS officer kicked him in the stomach and face and had his men give him fifty lashes. When the priest lost consciousness the Nazis threw him in the mud and left him for dead. But his companions managed to smuggle him to the camp infirmary – and he recovered. The doctor, Rudolph Diem, later recalled:’I can say with certainty that during my four years in Auschwitz, I never saw such a sublime example of the love of God and one’s neighbor.’

Prisoners at Auschwitz were slowly and systematically starved, and their pitiful rations were barely enough to sustain a child: one cup of imitation coffee in the morning, and weak soup and half a loaf of bread after work. When food was brought, everyone struggled to get his place and be sure of a portion. Father Maximilian Kolbe however, stood aside in spite of the ravages of starvation, and frequently there would be none left for him. At other times he shared his meager ration of soup or bread with others.

In the harshness of the slaughterhouse Father Kolbe maintained the gentleness of Christ. At night he seldom would lie down to rest. He moved from bunk to bunk, saying: ‘I am a Catholic priest. Can I do anything for you?’

A prisoner later recalled how he and several others often crawled across the floor at night to be near the bed of Father Kolbe, to make their confessions and ask for consolation. Father Kolbe pleaded with his fellow prisoners to forgive their persecutors and to overcome evil with good. When he was beaten by the guards, he never cried out. Instead, he prayed for his tormentors.



Maximilian Kolbe the Saint

A Protestant doctor who treated the patients in Block 12 later recalled how Father Kolbe waited until all the others had been treated before asking for help. He constantly sacrificed himself for the others.
In order to discourage escapes, Auschwitz had a rule that if a man escaped, ten men would be killed in retaliation. In July 1941 a man from Kolbe’s bunker escaped. The dreadful irony of the story is that the escaped prisoner was later found drowned in a camp latrine, so the terrible reprisals had been exercised without cause. But the remaining men of the bunker were led out.’The fugitive has not been found!’ the commandant Karl Fritsch screamed. ‘You will all pay for this. Ten of you will be locked in the starvation bunker without food or water until they die.’ The prisoners trembled in terror. A few days in this bunker without food and water, and a man’s intestines dried up and his brain turned to fire.The ten were selected, including Franciszek Gajowniczek, imprisoned for helping the Polish Resistance. He couldn’t help a cry of anguish. ‘My poor wife!’ he sobbed. ‘My poor children! What will they do?’ When he uttered this cry of dismay, Maximilian stepped silently forward, took off his cap, and stood before the commandant and said, ‘I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.’

Astounded, the icy-faced Nazi commandant asked, ‘What does this Polish pig want?’

Father Folbe pointed with his hand to the condemned Franciszek Gajowniczek and repeated ‘I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.’



Observers believed in horror that the commandant would be angered and would refuse the request, or would order the death of both men. The commandant remained silent for a moment. What his thoughts were on being confronted by this brave priest we have no idea. Amazingly, however, he acceded to the request. Apparantly the Nazis had more use for a young worker than for an old one, and was happy to make the exchange. Franciszek Gajowniczek was returned to the ranks, and the priest took his place.
Gajowniczek later recalled:’I could only thank him with my eyes. I was stunned and could hardly grasp what was going on. The immensity of it: I, the condemned, am to live and someone else willingly and voluntarily offers his life for me – a stranger. Is this some dream?I was put back into my place without having had time to say anything to Maximilian Kolbe. I was saved. And I owe to him the fact that I could tell you all this. The news quickly spread all round the camp. It was the first and the last time that such an incident happened in the whole history of Auschwitz.

For a long time I felt remorse when I thought of Maximilian. By allowing myself to be saved, I had signed his death warrant. But now, on reflection, I understood that a man like him could not have done otherwise. Perhaps he thought that as a priest his place was beside the condemned men to help them keep hope. In fact he was with them to the last.’‘

Franciszek Gajowniczek

Father Kolbe was thrown down the stairs of Building 13 along with the other victims and simply left there to starve. Hunger and thirst soon gnawed at the men. Some drank their own urine, others licked moisture on the dank walls. Maximilian Kolbe encouraged the others with prayers, psalms, and meditations on the Passion of Christ. After two weeks, only four were alive. The cell was needed for more victims, and the camp executioner, a common criminal called Bock, came in and injected a lethal dose of cabolic acid into the left arm of each of the four dying men. Kolbe was the only one still fully conscious and with a prayer on his lips, the last prisoner raised his arm for the executioner. His wait was over …

A personal testimony about the way Maximilian Kolbe met death is given by Bruno Borgowiec, one of the few Poles who were assigned to render service to the starvation bunker. He told it to his parish priest before he died in 1947:

‘The ten condemned to death went through terrible days. From the underground cell in which they were shut up there continually arose the echo of prayers and canticles. The man in-charge of emptying the buckets of urine found them always empty. Thirst drove the prisoners to drink the contents. Since they had grown very weak, prayers were now only whispered. At every inspection, when almost all the others were now lying on the floor, Father Kolbe was seen kneeling or standing in the centre as he looked cheerfully in the face of the SS men.

Father Kolbe never asked for anything and did not complain, rather he encouraged the others, saying that the fugitive might be found and then they would all be freed. One of the SS guards remarked: this priest is really a great man. We have never seen anyone like him ..

Two weeks passed in this way. Meanwhile one after another they died, until only Father Kolbe was left. This the authorities felt was too long. The cell was needed for new victims. So one day they brought in the head of the sick-quarters, a German named Bock, who gave Father Kolbe an injection of carbolic acid in the vein of his left arm. Father Kolbe, with a prayer on his lips, himself gave his arm to the executioner. Unable to watch this I left under the pretext of work to be done. Immediately after the SS men had left I returned to the cell, where I found Father Kolbe leaning in a sitting position against the back wall with his eyes open and his head drooping sideways. His face was calm and radiant ..’

So it was that Father Maximilian Kolbe was executed on 14 August, 1941 at the age of forty-seven years, a martyr of charity. The death certificate, as always made out with German precision, indicated the hour of death 12.30.

Father Kolbe’s body was removed to the crematorium, and without dignity or ceremony was disposed of, like hundreds of thousands who had gone before him, and hundreds of thousands more who would follow.

The heroism of Father Kolbe went echoing through Auschwitz. In that desert of hatred he had sown love. A survivor Jozef Stemler later recalled: ‘In the midst of a brutalization of thought, feeling and words such as had never before been known, man indeed became a ravening wolf in his relations with other men. And into this state of affairs came the heroic self-sacrifice of Father Kolbe.’ Another survivor Jerzy Bielecki declared that Father Kolbe’s death was ‘a shock filled with hope, bringing new life and strength … It was like a powerful shaft of light in the darkness of the camp.’

The cell where Father Kolbe died is now a shrine. Maximilian Kolbe was beatified as Confessor by Paul VI in 1970, and canonized as Martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1981.



Franciszek Gajowniczek
But what happened to Gajowniczek – the man Father Kolbe saved?He died on March 13, 1995, at Brzeg in Poland, 95 years old – and 53 years after Kolbe had saved him. But he was never to forget the ragged monk. After his release from Auschwitz, Gajowniczek made his way back to his hometown, with the dream of seeing his family again. He found his wife but his two sons had been killed during the war.Every year on August 14 he went back to Auschwitz. He spent the next five decades paying homage to Father Kolbe, honoring the man who died on his behalf.

Father Kolbe’s incredible deed is an inspiration for all mankind. His life serves as eulogy to the millions who perished in World War II. He did not leave his legacy as an ode to the past – rather as a beacon of hope to the future …

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t – rather as a beacon of hope to the future …

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 13, 2018 — “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”

August 13, 2018

His glory and majesty was revealed in cloud, light and fire

Image result for sunset, ratiant, photos

Monday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 413

Reading 1 EZ 1:2-5, 24-28C

On the fifth day of the fourth month of the fifth year,
that is, of King Jehoiachin’s exile,
The word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel,
the son of Buzi,
in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar.—
There the hand of the LORD came upon me.

As I looked, a stormwind came from the North,
a huge cloud with flashing fire enveloped in brightness,
from the midst of which (the midst of the fire)
something gleamed like electrum.
Within it were figures resembling four living creatures
that looked like this: their form was human.

Then I heard the sound of their wings,
like the roaring of mighty waters,
like the voice of the Almighty.
When they moved, the sound of the tumult was like the din of an army.
And when they stood still, they lowered their wings.

Above the firmament over their heads
something like a throne could be seen,
looking like sapphire.
Upon it was seated, up above, one who had the appearance of a man.
Upward from what resembled his waist I saw what gleamed like electrum;
downward from what resembled his waist I saw what looked like fire;
he was surrounded with splendor.
Like the bow which appears in the clouds on a rainy day
was the splendor that surrounded him.
Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.

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

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

AlleluiaSEE 2 THES 2:14

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

Gospel  MT 17:22-27

As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee,
Jesus said to them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men,
and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.”
And they were overwhelmed with grief.

When they came to Capernaum,
the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said,
“Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes,” he said.
When he came into the house, before he had time to speak,
Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon?
From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax?
From their subjects or from foreigners?”
When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him,
“Then the subjects are exempt.
But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook,
and take the first fish that comes up.
Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax.
Give that to them for me and for you.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 AUGUST, 2018, Monday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time

RADIATING THE GLORY OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZEKIEL 1:2-524-28MATTHEW 17:22-27]

In the first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel, we read of the call of Ezekiel to be a prophet of God for the exiles in Babylonia.  He was among the 10,000 captives banished to Babylon from Judah in 597 B.C. in the first deportation.  He was sent among the captives who were disheartened, thinking that all was lost and that God had abandoned His people.  The mission of Ezekiel was to assure them that God had not left them.  Even though He was in the Temple in Jerusalem, God was still with His people.

We read of the vision of Ezekiel when he saw the glory and majesty of God.  His glory and majesty was revealed in cloud, light and fire.  God reveals Himself through nature.  The vision of the four animals that Ezekiel saw portrays the omnipotence of God.  The four animals in their appearance were of human form. “Each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.”  (Eze 1:6)  The four faces symbolize the all knowledge of God and the wings symbolize the presence of God everywhere in the universe.  He is not confined to the temple in Jerusalem.  “As for the appearance of their faces: the four had the face of a human being, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle.”  (Eze 1:610)   The lion symbolizes the strength of God, the ox, the service of God, the human being, the perfect man; and the eagle, divinity.

Most of all, Ezekiel saw the throne of God’s glory.  “It was something that looked like the glory of the Lord. I looked, and prostrated myself.”  Before the glory of God, we will all bow down, regardless.  Some will cover their faces because of the awesomeness of God’s glory; others will bow down and hide their faces because of the fear of judgment.  “I saw what looked like fire, and a light all round like a bow in the clouds on rainy days; that is how the surrounding light appeared.” However, God remained the rainbow of humanity, giving hope to the people even in their exile.  The responsorial psalm declares the glory of God.  “Your glory fills all heaven and earth. Praise the Lord from the heavens, praise him in the heights.  The splendor of his name reaches beyond heaven and earth.  He exalts the strength of his people.  He is the praise of all his saints, of the sons of Israel, of the people to whom he comes close.”

In the gospel, Jesus came to restore the glory of the Kingdom of God.  He came as a humble and lowly King.   Hence, when Peter was asked whether his master paid the Temple tax as was required by all adult Jews for the maintenance of the Temple, he replied in the affirmative without knowing the answer.  Jesus took the occasion to enlighten Peter and the apostles on His identity.  The truth is that the kings did not pay taxes nor did he collect taxes from his own family.  The kingdom belonged to the king and so they did not have to pay anything.  Clearly, the sons were exempt.  That being the case, since God is the king of the earth, and Jesus being His son, He would have been exempted from paying the Temple tax as well.

However, how could Jesus affirm His identity without causing unnecessary tension with the authorities?  On the surface, it seemed to contradict the integrity of Jesus for willing to submit to an unjust law so as not to offend the temple tax collectors when He had no issue condemning the religious leaders for their hypocrisy.   Was Jesus contradicting Himself?  The truth is that although He was not required to pay the Temple Tax, yet, He recognized the tax as something positive for the upkeep of the Temple.  Not all recognized Him yet as the Son of God, the Son of the Kingdom, and so to set a good example He instructed Peter to pay the tax to avoid scandal.  Whilst we can fight for our rights, sometimes we should refrain from insisting on our rights as Jesus did, for the greater good of all.

Nevertheless, to reinforce His identity as the Son of God, Jesus instructed Peter to pay the temple tax by taking a shekel from a fish.  By so doing, Jesus was reaffirming His authority over creation, which included His power over the fishes, whether in the miraculous catch or in providing a shekel for them to pay the tax.  Would such instruction contradict Jesus’ policy of not performing a miracle for His own benefit?  In this case, it was not so much for Himself, but as Jesus said, it was for the sake of the people because in truth, He was not required to pay any taxes.  So the tax was paid indirectly by divine providence.

There is also an additional reason why Jesus asked Peter to find the shekel from the fish.  After the announcement that “the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men, they will put him to death, and on the third day he will be raised to life again”, the evangelist noted, “a great sadness came over them.”  Jesus felt the need to strengthen the faith of Peter and the apostles, that no matter what happened, God would provide and see them through, even in the mundane things of life.  Jesus was asking Peter to trust Him again and to rely on the grace of God.  Peter once again went in faith and found the coin in the fish’s mouth.  God cares for each one of us and we need to believe in Him even when we go through the trials and crosses of life.  This small incident was to restore faith in Peter and the apostles who were worried over the imminent death of our Lord.

Today, we are called to affirm our faith in Jesus who came to restore the glory of the kingdom through His death and resurrection.  Jesus revealed the glory of God not through the fullness of His power and majesty, as Ezekiel saw in his vision, but He came in lowliness.  That explains why the disciples could not understand Jesus when He prophesied His impending death.  Their understanding of Jesus was still unclear.  They were thinking of Jesus as a political king who would overthrow the Roman Power and establish the sovereignty of Israel once again.  So when they heard about his imminent death, they were unsettled because of their wrong perception of the kingdom that they thought Jesus came to offer.

The passion and death of Jesus is the way to restore the glory of God.  In Jesus’ death, He offered His entire self for the service of the People of God.  Through the offering of Himself, He taught us the meaning of love, service and forgiveness.  The kingdom of God is about humble and selfless love in service.  Only love and service can build the kingdom of God, unity among all peoples.  If the world is divided, it is because of greed, power and glory.   By His death on the cross, Jesus reveals to us that love is more powerful than hatred.  Indeed, God can bring good out of evil.  

By His resurrection, He shows us that life is more powerful than death.   This was why Jesus did not simply speak about His death but also His resurrection.  The cross is but the passage to the resurrection.  Without dying, there can be no resurrection.  By conquering death through His resurrection, Jesus shows us what life in the kingdom of God is like.  It is about joy in service, love and compassion for the poor and the suffering.   It was at His passion and resurrection that Jesus’ kingship was confirmed by Pilate and by His Father.

We too are called to radiate the glory of God.  By our lives, we are called to be the presence of God because we are created in His image and likeness.  Through our goodness we are called to be the light of the world.  (cf Phil 2:14f)  We must let the glory of God be revealed in our life.  We must guard ourselves from losing His glory by our sins.   This was the case of the Israelites.  They did not heed the call of the prophets to repentance.  They did not live the covenanted life.  Both the leaders and the people disobeyed the laws and worshipped false gods.  Their greed and selfishness blinded them from seeing the truth that God revealed through the prophets.  It was because of their sins that they were in exile, so that they would repent.  The prophet Daniel exhorts us to live a life of wisdom in righteousness.  “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  (Dn 12:3)

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Morning Prayer for Sunday, August 12, 2018 — Praying for Others

August 12, 2018

There are many ways to love one’s neighbor, but intercessory prayer—praying on behalf of other people—has got to be one of the most powerful.

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The moment a thing seems wrong to you or a person’s actions to be not what you think they should be, at that moment begins your obligation and responsibility to pray for those wrongs to be righted or that person to be changed. What is wrong in your surroundings or in the people you know? Think about these things and make these matters your responsibility. Not to interfere or be a busybody, but to pray that a change may come through your influence. You may see lives altered and evils banished in time. You can become a force for good wherever you are.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be a co-worker with God. I pray that I may help people by my example.

Related:

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Prayer is the most potent force known to humanity. Because we have been made partakers in Jesus’ victory over sin and death (1 John 4:4), we have the authority as sons and daughters of God to pray for others, pushing back the darkness of sin and oppression. In prayer, we have a weapon that has divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).

That kind of weaponry—the power of prayer—issomething God invites us to use as we seek not only personal transformation but the transformation of the world as well. An intercessor is one who takes up a “burden” that goes far beyond his or her own needs and intentions.

And those who take up the call to intercession come to learn in a deeper way that the sufferings of the present time cannot compare to the joy that will come as God’s purposes unfold. They learn to trust in the Lord, because they have experienced in prayer how infinitely compassionate God is. Intercessors participate in God’s magnificent plan to raise humanity to share in divine life. This insight moves them to engage in a spiritual battle against the forces that seek to destroy God’s plans.

The Letter of James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects” (James 5:16), and there is no one more righteous than Jesus—the most powerful intercessor whoever walked the earth. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, rightly declared, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you” (John 11:21-22).

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The Letter to the Hebrews tells us that because Jesus’ priesthood is eternal, “he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). Imagine that: right now, Jesus is in heaven interceding for you, even as he intercedes for the entire world. He also invites us all to join in his priestly intercession so that a might flood of prayer will ascend to the Father’s throne.

So ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to pray in union with the mind of God. Take to heart St. Paul’s words, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes… for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). And above all, ask God to give you confidence that he hears your prayers and longs to answer the deep needs of those around you.

https://christlife.org/blog/the-power-of-intercessory-prayer

Seven Steps for Intercessory Prayer

  1. Since it is the prayer of the righteous that is powerful and effective (James 5:16), examine your conscience before you pray, and repent of any sin or harsh feelings you may have against other people.
  2. Spend a few minutes in silence, to quiet your mind and come into God’s presence.
  3. During this time, ask the Lord to give you a sense of the things God wants you to pray for. Put aside your own agenda, concerns, and desires and unite yourself to Jesus’ heart. You may want to write down the things that God places on your hearts.
  4. Briefly reflect on what you wrote down. What do you think God is leading you to pray for?
  5. Pray for the things on God’s heart—for those who have no faith; for those who have fallen away from Jesus; for renewal and unity in all the Christian churches; for respect for all life; for all the lost, abandoned, or forgotten children of the world; for those under the power of addictions or bound by depression, anxiety, or bitterness; and for prisoners and service men and women. And, of course, pray for your own intentions and those of your loved ones.
  6. As you pray, take confidence in God’s power to overcome any obstacle. Stand firm in faith, and wait to see God work in power.
  7. In your prayer journal, keep a record of what you prayed for, and of the ways God answered those prayers. Thank him and praise for all the ways he has worked through your prayer.

Jesus promised: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). One of the most powerful ways we can pray as intercessors is together with others. Consider forming an intercessory prayer team.

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, August 12, 2018 — Compassion, Devotion to Others at the Center of Love

August 11, 2018

“Whoever believes has eternal life.” — “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”

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

https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/03/the-saviors-respect-for-women?lang=eng&clang=ase

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 116

Reading 1 1 KGS 19:4-8

Elijah went a day’s journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it.
He prayed for death saying:
“This is enough, O LORD!
Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree,
but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat.
Elijah looked and there at his head was a hearth cake
and a jug of water.
After he ate and drank, he lay down again,
but the angel of the LORD came back a second time,
touched him, and ordered,
“Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!”
He got up, ate, and drank;
then strengthened by that food,
he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

Responsorial Psalm PS 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Glorify the LORD with me,
Let us together extol his name.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
And delivered me from all my fears.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.
And your faces may not blush with shame.
When the afflicted man called out, the LORD heard,
And from all his distress he saved him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him and delivers them.
Taste and see how good the LORD is;
blessed the man who takes refuge in him.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2  EPH 4:30—5:2

Brothers and sisters:
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,
with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling
must be removed from you, along with all malice.
And be kind to one another, compassionate,
forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,
as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us
as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

AlleluiaJN 6:51

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven, says the Lord;
whoever eats this bread will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel  JN 6:41-51

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
“I am the bread that came down from heaven, ”
and they said,
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
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Reflection from the Abbot of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“Strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”  Wow!  Strong spiritual food that gave incredible strength.  The most important aspect of this account is that Elijah trusted in God’s Word.  All of us can do more than we believe we can do when we trust in the Word of the Lord.

This first reading today, from the First Book of Kings, tells about the Prophet Elijah.  This prophet is so human and like us.  He is tired of the spiritual journey and he is tired of having to serve God and have no support at all.  So he asks to die.  Instead, the angel of God, perhaps God Himself, tells Elijah to get up and eat and to go to Horeb, the mountain of God.  The important aspect that we must notice is that Elijah obeys God.  This is the heart of our spiritual life.  This is how each one of us wants to live even when we are not faithful.  Like Elijah, we must work with all our energy to obey the Lord!

The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians.  This short section is an instruction about how to live a life in accordance with our faith in Jesus Christ.  It is so easy to leave the Lord Jesus and follow other ways of thinking and living.  Instead, we are told that if we want to live in a fully human way, we must also live deeply the life of the Spirit.  The life of the Spirit is seen by living in love, as Christ has loved us.  That means that we must be willing to give up our lives for the love of others.  Pretty strong!

The Gospel from Saint John today is about Jesus being the bread that God sends us from heaven.  Again this is a strong teaching and one that many people simply cannot accept.  Even in the time of Jesus disciples left Jesus because of His saying:  You must eat my flesh and drink my blood.

In the early Church some were accused of cannibalism because this teaching about eating and drinking was so strong.  Jesus wants us to become Him so He gives Himself to us as our food.  With most food, the food becomes us when we eat it.  With the bread from heaven, the Holy Eucharist, we become Jesus when we eat it.

With the Eucharist, we also can walk to Mount Horeb, to the mountain of the Lord.  We can meet the Lord personally and be at home with Him.  Only faith guides us on this path.  To walk with the Lord, we must love others and sacrifice our lives for them.  We will be transfigured by this God who loves us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 AUGUST, 2018, Sunday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time

EUCHARIST AS THE VIATICUM FOR THE JOURNEY OF LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KINGS 19:4-8EPH 4:30-5:2JOHN 6:41-51]

Every one of us at some time in our lives feels like Elijah in wanting to give up on whatever we are doing and even on life itself.   Elijah earlier on demonstrated himself to be a fiery prophet, zealous for the House of Israel and for the faith.  He challenged the false prophets of Queen Jezebel to a debate.  To prove the veracity of their claims, Elijah challenged them to get their gods to consume the holocaust by fire.  The prophets of Baal cried out from morning to noon to their god to consume the holocaust but nothing happened.  To demonstrate the power of Yahweh, Elijah had trenches built and water to dampen the wood for the fire.  He prayed and God sent the fire to burn up the holocaust.

As a consequence of their lies, 400 prophets of Baal were killed that day.  Of course, the Queen was furious and ordered the soldiers to hunt him down and have him killed.  So Elijah had to run for his life.  He was abandoned, forsaken and from a triumphant prophet, he became a refugee.  This is where the scripture reading today finds him, in the desert and wilderness fleeing for his life.  He was angry and disappointed that God did not defend him, nor did the people come to support him.  More so, when he was totally obedient to God!  Feeling betrayed, vulnerable and discouraged, he began to wonder whether winning the debate was a good thing after all.  Success had become a failure for him.  In such moments as this, he wanted to give up his life as his zeal and dedication for the House of the Lord came to nothing.  He felt defeated and desolate that his courageous efforts did not bring about the conversion of the Israelites.

However, God in His mercy had allowed this to happen in order to purify the motives of Elijah in serving Him and His people.  God wanted to teach Elijah what true holiness and service was.  The truth is that service cannot be dependent on spectacular works and successes.  If we serve the Lord simply to find fulfillment in achievements, it is not true service.  True service is to serve the Lord, not one’s interests.  If we do only those things that we like to do, even if they are good, they are done for selfish motives and personal gain.  Indeed, Elijah was carried away by his success.  For many of us too, we choose what we want to do according to our preferences and those that we find fulfilling rather than asking God what He wants us to do.

The truth is that activities and success cannot give us true fulfillment in life.  The void within us, that emptiness cannot be replaced by activities, work or pleasure.  Such emptiness cannot be filled up by ambition either.  Success and rewards can motivate us to some extent but the void in our hearts cannot be filled.  Like Elijah, many of us are hungry. The real hunger is not so much for food but a spiritual hunger.  Many of us are searching for love, acceptance and security.  God led the prophet to experience physical and spiritual hunger so that he could come to find his true satisfaction in God alone.

For this reason, it was necessary for Elijah and all of us, especially those in active church service, to go through the dark night of the senses and the spirit.  God wanted to purify Elijah in his prophetic ministry.   Rather than allowing success to get into his head, God permitted him to experience failure.  It was in the wilderness that Elijah discovered himself.  The symbol of the desert is that of solitude and intimacy with God.  Only in the emptiness of our hearts, can God be found.  Going through the Negev wilderness for forty days and forty nights is a symbol of his long journey in purification in search for the true God.  It was however at the sacred mountain of Horeb where he took refuge in a cave that God called him in the dark night of his soul.

What is significant is that God did not appear to him in spectacular signs and wonders, not in thunder, lightning or storm but in the stillness of a gentle wind, God’s little voice was heard.  Clearly, it was an important lesson for Elijah to come to realize that God is encountered only when we cease to do things and allow His words speak to us.   It is in our spiritual and physical hunger that God reaches out to us.  God would speak to us as He spoke to Elijah, when we empty ourselves of our pride, ambition and arrogance.  Indeed, through this period of darkness, Elijah came to discover his true motives in serving the Lord.  Initially, he thought he was doing all for Him when he annihilated all the false prophets.  He thought of himself as a zealous prophet of the Lord. But through the purification process, he came to admit that it was done more out of pride, self-righteousness and revenge.  He lacked compassion and forgiveness.  Hence he confessed, “Take my life: I am no better than my ancestors.”

We too often serve with the wrong or at least mixed motives.  This explains why we get disappointed when we are unappreciated, unrecognized or when criticized.  We feel that because we are giving from our abundance or from our goodness, others should appreciate our good act.  Somehow, we expect something from our service.  We do not give with pure love.  If we did, then we would not be too worried whether we receive any recognition from our fellowmen.  Furthermore, we serve not man or even those in charge but we serve God and whoever He appoints to be our leader.

Instead, we rely on God for His love and strength.  Only He can give us the satisfaction that we are seeking in life.  God comes to feed us with His spiritual food.  Just as God sent the angel to feed Elijah with food and water in his hunger and fatigue, God comes to feed us in Christ Jesus who is the bread of life.  Accordingly, the Eucharist, being the spiritual food of God, is called the Viaticum, the bread for the journey of life.  But what does it mean to believe that Jesus is the Bread of life?

It means first and foremost that Jesus is the Word of God.  He is the living word that comes down from heaven.  He not only speaks the words of God, He is the Word of God.  He is not merely the voice of the Father but speaks the words of the Father.  As the Way, the Truth and the Life, we are called to come to Him, meditate and assimilate His Word so that we can become like Jesus in mind and heart.  Through a deep contemplation of His word, He can heal our emotional needs and quench our thirst for the truth.

To come to receive Jesus the Bread of life also means that we are called to share in His sacrifice where He offered Himself for us at Calvary.  We are not merely observers of the Sacrifice of the Mass but we are invited to immolate ourselves with the Lord, making ourselves as a living sacrifice for the service of others and the salvation of humanity.  We are called to “do this in memory of Him”, which means that Christ is offering us an example for us to follow.  Like Jesus, we are blessed in order to be broken for others and be bread for others.  This is what participating in the sacrifice of Christ is all about.  Hence, the participation of this sacrifice concludes with the eating of the Bread of life.  We become what we eat.  And so by eating Jesus the Bread of life, we are transformed at the core of our being, becoming like Jesus.

Thirdly, it means that we believe also in the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  In the Eucharist, “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore the whole Christ, is truly, really, and substantially contained.” (CCC 1374).   The Eucharist is not merely a symbol of Christ’s body and blood but substantially is the very body and blood of Christ who is fully present.  Faith in the real presence of the Eucharist makes our reception of the Eucharist a true personal encounter of His love leading to growth in charity. 

To “eat his flesh and drink his blood” entails following Jesus to the cross and sacrificing ourselves in service and love.  It means that we are called to be bread for others.  Sharing in His life, we are challenged to reach out to the world.  How is this to be done?  Firstly, we must sacrifice ourselves for the good of others, in humility and service.  When we serve others with humility, we will bring others to the Lord.  If the Eucharist does not lead us to charity, then we have not celebrated it rightly.  This service we give, St Paul reminds us, must be done with love and compassion.

Secondly, we are called to be the real presence of Christ to others in what we say and do. We are called to be Jesus to others.  The best gift we can give to anyone is Jesus.  Conscious of sharing in His sonship, we must allow ourselves to be the extension of the Sacrament of Jesus who is the sacrament of the Father.  Through our Christian love and compassion for others, we will make Christ’s presence real and experienced.  So in whatever we do or say, we are ambassadors for Christ.  People cannot see Jesus.  They see Him in and through us.

Finally, faith in the Eucharist as the Body of Christ implies that we are called to serve the Lord not as individuals but as a community. Our mission is communion and thus communion is necessary for mission.  St Paul urges us, “Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.” We cannot be individualistic and make our service a personal achievement of sorts.   Rather, because the Eucharist brings us into communion with God and with each other, we must always work together, in deference to those who are placed in charge of us.  In this way, Christ is known because whenever they see us loving one another, they know it is because of the love of God in us.

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 11, 2018 — “Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil…” — St. Clare of Assisi

August 10, 2018

“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed … Nothing will be impossible for you.”

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Memorial of Saint Clare, virgin
Lectionary: 412

Reading 1 HAB 1:12—2:4

Are you not from eternity, O LORD,
my holy God, immortal?
O LORD, you have marked him for judgment,
O Rock, you have readied him punishment!
Too pure are your eyes to look upon evil,
and the sight of misery you cannot endure.
Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence
while the wicked man devours
one more just than himself?
You have made man like the fish of the sea,
like creeping things without a ruler.
He brings them all up with his hook,
he hauls them away with his net,
He gathers them in his seine;
and so he rejoices and exults.
Therefore he sacrifices to his net,
and burns incense to his seine;
for thanks to them his portion is generous,
and his repast sumptuous.
Shall he, then, keep on brandishing his sword
to slay peoples without mercy?I will stand at my guard post,
and station myself upon the rampart,
And keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what answer he will give to my complaint.

Then the LORD answered me and said:
Write down the vision
Clearly upon the tablets,
so that one can read it readily.
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
If it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
The rash man has no integrity;
but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 9:8-9, 10-11, 12-13

R. (11b) You forsake not those who seek you, O Lord.
The LORD sits enthroned forever;
he has set up his throne for judgment.
He judges the world with justice;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. You forsake not those who seek you, O Lord.
The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of distress.
They trust in you who cherish your name,
for you forsake not those who seek you, O LORD.
R. You forsake not those who seek you, O Lord.
Sing praise to the LORD enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations his deeds;
For the avenger of blood has remembered;
he has not forgotten the cry of the poor.
R. You forsake not those who seek you, O Lord.

Alleluia SEE 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  MT 17:14-20

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
“Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus said in reply,
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?
Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
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Image result for St. Clare of Assisi, stained glass

St. Clare of Assisi was born in Assisi on July 16, 1194, as Chiara Offreduccio, the beautiful eldest daughter of Favorino Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and his wife Ortolana. Tradition says her father was a wealthy representative of an ancient Roman family and her mother was a very devout woman belonging to the noble family of Fiumi.

As a young girl, Clare dedicated herself to prayer. At 18-years-old, she heard St. Francis of Assisi preach during a Lenten service in the church of San Giorgio and asked him to help her live according to the Gospel. On Palm Sunday in 1212, Clare left her father’s home and went to the chapel of the Porziuncula to meet with Francis. While there, Clare’s hair was cut off and she was given a plain robe and veil in exchange for her rich gown.

Clare joined the convent of the Benedictine nuns of San Paulo, near Bastia, under Francis’ orders. When her father found her and attempted to force her back into his home, she refused and professed that she would have no other husband than Jesus Christ. In order to give her the greater solitude she desired, Francis sent Clare to Sant’ Angelo in Panzo, another Benedictine nuns monastery.

Clare’s sister Catarina, who took the name Agnes, joined her at this monastery. The two remained there until a separate dwelling was built for them next to the church of San Damiano.

Overtime, other women joined them, wanting to also be brides of Jesus and live with no money. They became known as the “Poor Ladies of San Damiano.” They all lived a simple life of austerity, seclusion from the world, and poverty, according to a Rule which Francis gave them as a Second Order. St. Clare and her sisters wore no shoes, ate no meat, lived in a poor house, and kept silent most of the time. Their lives consisted of manual labor and prayer. Yet, they were very happy, because Our Lord was close to them all the time.

San Damiano became the center of Clare’s new order, which was then known as the “Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano.” For a brief period of time, the order was directed by St. Francis himself and by 1216, Clare became the abbess of San Damiano. Ten years after Clare’s death, the order became known as the Order of Saint Clare.

While serving as the leader of her order, Clare defended them from the attempts of prelates to impose a rule on them that more closely followed the Rule of Saint Benedict than Francis. Clare was so devoted and dedicated to Francis that she was often referred to as “alter Franciscus,” or another Francis. She encouraged and aided the man she saw as a spiritual father figure, and took care of him as he grew old.

Following Francis’ death, Clare continued to promote her order, fighting off every attempt from each pope trying to impose a rule on her order that would water down their “radical commitment to corporate poverty.”

In 1224, an army of rough soldiers from Frederick II came to attack Assisi. Although very sick, Clare went out to meet them with the Blessed Sacrament on her hands. She had the Blessed Sacrament placed at the wall where the enemies could see it. Then on her knees, she begged God to save the Sisters.

“O Lord, protect these Sisters whom I cannot protect now,” she prayed. A voice seemed to answer: “I will keep them always in My care.” In that moment, a sudden fright struck the attackers and they fled as fast as they could without harming anyone in Assisi.

St. Clare became sick and suffered great pains for many years, but she expressed that no pain could trouble her. So great was her joy in serving the Lord that she once exclaimed: “They say that we are too poor, but can a heart which possesses the infinite God be truly called poor?”

On August 9, 1253, Pope Innocent IV declared Clare’s rule would serve as the governing rule for Clare’s Order of Poor Ladies. Two days later, Clare died at 59-years-old. Her remains were placed in the chapel of San Giorgio while the church dedicated to her remains was being built. At Pope Innocent’s request, the canonization process for Clare began immediately, and two years later in 1255, Pope Alexander IV canonized Clare as Saint Clare of Assisi.

The construction of the Basilica of Saint Clare was finished in 1260, and on October 3, 1260 Clare’s remains were transferred there and buried beneath the high altar. Nearly 600 years later, her remains were transferred once again to a newly constructed shrine in the crypt of the Basilica of Saint Clare. Her body is no longer claimed to be incorrupt.

The Order of Poor Ladies was officially changed to the Order of Saint Clare in 1263 by Pope Urban IV.

St. Clare was designated as the patron saint of television in 1958 by Pope Pius XII, because when St. Clare was very ill, she could not attend mass and was reportedly able to see and hear it on the wall in her room.

She is also the patroness of eye disease, goldsmiths, and laundry.

Clare is often pictured carrying a monstrance or pyx, to commemorate the time she warded off the soldiers at the gates of her convent with the Blessed Sacrament. St. Clare’s feast day is celebrated on August 11.

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=215

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Image result for Jesus, parable of the mustard seed, pictures

Related:

Commentary on Matthew 17:14-20 From Living Space

Today we have the story of a father distraught over the erratic behaviour of his son. As usually is the case, Mark’s telling of this story is much more dramatic. Nevertheless, Matthew keeps the main points.

There is the desperation of the father who feels helpless at the apparent uncontrollable behaviour of his son. The symptoms appear very similar to epilepsy, a condition which is quite well understood today and whose causes – at least in general – are known. But it must have been easy for people in those days to believe that some evil power had suddenly taken hold of an otherwise normal person to make them behave in such bizarre ways.

The man had at first approached the disciples who were of no help. Jesus expresses dismay and disappointment at the people’s lack of faith, presumably including that of his own disciples, in his criticism.

Jesus then drives out the demon plaguing the boy and he was made whole. The disciples, who had done their share of healing on their missionary excursions, wondered why they were not able to heal the boy. “Because you have so little trust/faith,” he told them. Even a tiny amount of real trust in God can move mountains, he said. “Nothing would be impossible for you.”

How strong is my faith and trust in God’s care of me? Jesus’ words, of course, are not a carte blanche just to ask for anything that comes into our heads. It is not an invitation to manipulate God; on the contrary, it is a call to put all our trust in God knowing that, whatever happens to us, he has our best interests at heart. Such a faith, accompanied by a deep love, is what brings happiness and peace into our lives.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2187g/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 AUGUST, 2018, Saturday, 18th Week, Ordinary Time

FAITH IS STRENGTHENED BY HOPE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Habakkuk 1:12-2:4Matthew 17:14-20]

In the first reading, we hear the cries of the poor for justice and liberation.  In the days of old, as in our days as well, the poor and the vulnerable were often manipulated.  They were at the mercy of the rich and the powerful.  Those who had power use their position to influence people, to buy over the rich to help them become richer and more powerful, and buy over the poor for their support.  Indeed, we see such politics everywhere in the world at every strata of society, whether in the corporate, political or religious world.  When we suffer injustice at the hands of others, causing us to suffer much, even to the extent of us losing our job, family and reputation, how can we continue to believe in a God of justice?

Indeed, when we are down and suffering immensely because of unjust and cruel people around us, we begin to lose faith in God.  This was the case of the prophet Habakkuk.  He was prophesying at a time when the Babylonians were rising in power.  He could not understand how God would allow the Babylonians to punish Judah.  He found it difficult to reconcile God’s love for His people and at the same time, not helping those who were suffering.  Is not this the case for us as well?  When we seek God’s help in our illness, financial difficulties, in the predicament we are in, and the answer appears not to be forthcoming, we too will begin to lose hope.

Indeed, like the prophet in that situation of helplessness, we too would also question the justice of God.  He said, “Are not you, from ancient times Lord, my God, my Holy One, who never dies? Lord, you have made this people an instrument of justice, set it firm as a rock in order to punish.  Your eyes are too pure to rest on wickedness, you cannot look on at tyranny. Why do you look on while men are treacherous, and stay silent while the evil man swallows a better man than he? You treat mankind like fishes in the sea, like creeping, masterless things.  A people, these, who catch all on their hook, who draw them with their net, in their dragnet gather them, and so, triumphantly, rejoice.”

So too, the case of the man whose son was possessed by an unclean spirit.  In desperation, he turned to the Lord and said, “take pity on my son: he is a lunatic and in a wretched state; he is always falling into the fire or into the water. I took him to your disciples and they were unable to cure him.”   The disciples were asked to help, but could not drive the spirit out of the boy.  (cf Mk 9:17f)

Hence, the Lord sought to awaken the faith of His disciples, “Faithless and perverse generation! How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”  Thus, “when Jesus rebuked it the devil came out of the boy who was cured from that moment.”   Faith is necessary to allow God to take over our lives and be in charge of us. The Lord later explained to the disciples why they were unable to heal the boy.  He said, “I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it would move; nothing would be impossible for you.”

How can anyone arrive at such faith, even if one’s faith is as tiny as the mustard seed?  It is not that we do not want to have faith but we feel inadequate to surrender in faith because of fear, lack of trust or dare not be disappointed.  Indeed, many of us hope for God to intervene in our illness, financial woes and difficult relationships with our spouse, boss, in-laws or colleagues, but the situation remains unchanged.  Hence, when the Lord said to the father, “’Everything is possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mk 9:23f)  This too is our prayer as well.  Many of us do believe in God but our faith is at different levels.

How then can we grow our faith?  How can we overcome our unbelief?  Faith thrives on hope.  The stronger the hope, the stronger the faith.  Without hope, there can be no faith.  We all live by hope.  The prophet Isaiah said, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  (Isa 40:29-31) The letter to the Hebrews said, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”  (Heb 11:1f)

For us, Christians, we have not just hope but we have a certain hope in Christ.  Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we are certain of the future ahead of us, and our victory over sin, injustice and death.  This hope is given to us in the presence of the Holy Spirit as a foretaste and a pledge of what is to come.  “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  (Rom 5:2-5)

It is this hope in Christ that we are able to persevere even in the face of injustices, suffering and evil.  This was how St Peter asked the Christians who were under persecution to do, namely, to praise God for a living hope.  “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  (1 Pt 1:3-58f)

That is why we need to affirm that our God is in charge and in control of our history and that of the world.  God has a plan which we do not see clearly.  He told the prophet to “Write the vision down, inscribe it on tables to be easily read, since this vision is for its own time only: eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive; if it comes slowly, wait, for come it will, without fail.”  So we must trust and believe that God knows what He is doing.  At times, we feel that He is not with us or is not on our side, but He is working slowly but surely to liberate us and to bring justice on earth.  Instead of taking things into our own hands, we must allow the plan of God to unfold itself.

So faith requires patience and perseverance.   We need to remain calm and wait patiently for the Lord to act.  It is our impatience and wanting to take things into our own hands that cause us even more problems.  Jesus was never rash in fulfilling the mission of His Father.  He knew when to withdraw when the opposition got stronger.  He knew when to act when it was time to stand up against His opponents.  He was never reactive, unlike the apostles.  This is also required of us.

Let us take to heart the reminder of our Lord through the prophet when He remarked, “See, how he flags, he whose soul is not at rights, but the upright man will live by his faithfulness.” When we are not focused and when we take things into our own hands, using unjust and devious means to get what we want, we will always remain fearful, anxious and lacking peace in our soul.  However, if we live a just life, and a life of faith in God that He is the just judge who rules over the earth as the psalmist says, our lives will be secure.  Indeed, “The Lord sits enthroned for ever. He has set up his throne for judgement; he will judge the world with justice, he will judge the peoples with his truth.  For the oppressed let the Lord be a stronghold, a stronghold in times of distress. Those who know your name will trust you.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
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Morning Prayer for Friday, August 10, 2018 — Pray, Hope, Stay With God and Let God Figure Out The Rest

August 10, 2018

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

God cannot be outdone in generosity. I should be filled with Gratitude!

For straying from the right way there is no cure except to keep so close to the thought of God that nothing, no other interest, can seriously come between you and God. Sure of that, you can stay on God’s side. Knowing the way, nothing can prevent your staying in the way and nothing can cause you to seriously stray from it. God has promised peace if you stay close to Him, but not leisure. You still have to carry on in the world. He has promised heart-rest and comfort, but not pleasure in the ordinary sense. Peace and comfort bring real inward happiness.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may keep my feet on the way. I pray that I may stay on God’s side.

Related:

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10 AUGUST, 2018, Friday, St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

BEING A CHEERFUL GIVER

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 CORINTHIANS 9:6-10JOHN 12:24-26]

As a deacon, one of the primary responsibilities of St Lawrence was to administer the Church’s possessions for the use of worship and for the poor.   When he was ordered by the Roman authorities to hand over the riches of the Church, he gathered all the poor of Rome, the sick, the blind and the crippled, and presented them to the Romans saying, “These are the riches of the Church.”  Truly, the responsorial psalm so aptly applies to him for it says, “Lavishly he gives to the poor, his generosity shall endure forever.”

St Lawrence made himself poor so that others might be rich in him.  He took Jesus’ words to heart when Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”  More than just giving to the poor, his whole life was a gift to God and to the whole of humanity.  Indeed, St Lawrence was a witness to God’s love to the poor but most of all, to Christ, for he gave his life to Jesus by being a martyr for him.  He took the words of Jesus seriously that “anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.” For this reason, St Lawrence is truly a great saint, having been so identified with Christ in His sufferings.  We can be certain that He would also be where His Master is, since Jesus promised that “If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.”  He gave everything, his whole life to Jesus, his master.  And he gave willingly and happily.

St Lawrence was a cheerful giver. So admirable and solid was his love for Christ that when he was being roasted on the grill alive, he, in his pain, could even tell his executioners, “You can turn me over now – I’m done on that side!”  We remember the exhortation of St Paul when he also said something to that extent, “Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

What is the secret of his generosity?  St Lawrence knew Christ intimately.  He loved Him so much and thus he was able to see Christ in the poor.  He knew that Christ who lives in us is hungry, thirsty, naked and sick in the poor.  So when we refuse the poor, it is Christ whom we reject since He said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it unto me.”  In the gospel, Jesus reminds us, “If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.”

Today, we are called to follow St Lawrence in giving ourselves to others by dying to ourselves; many will benefit from our self-sacrifice.   The call to die to ourselves so that others might live is in imitation of Christ.  By His death, He has brought life to many.  All of us are called according to our vocation in life, to live for others, for the poor includes all, the material and spiritual poor. It also includes those who are emotionally broken and those who lack love in their lives.  But we must do so cheerfully, not grudgingly.  We too can surely learn from St Lawrence because more often than not, even if we do give, we would give grudgingly and reluctantly, whether in kind or in service.  Sometimes we do it more out of obligation than true love for the person in need.

In the light of St Lawrence’s martyrdom for the poor, St Paul reminds us that “Thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap.”  We must begin to start giving in small ways now.  We cannot die for Christ as a martyr if we cannot even die to our passions, desires, attachment and sins. But as we learn how to give, our hearts will grow.  So if we do not know how to give, begin by giving small things and doing small works of mercy.  In giving alms to the poor or in serving others, we will experience the joy of loving, which in turn will empower us to give ourselves more and more.  But let us not just talk about giving; do something today by helping someone, especially one who is hungry and lonely.

If we find the call to empty ourselves for others rather daunting, we can find inspiration from St Paul’s assurance that God cannot be outdone in generosity.  “There is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works. As scripture says: He was free in almsgiving, and gave to the poor: his good deeds will never be forgotten.”  We give Him material things of the earth; He gives us the eternal gifts of heaven, especially His mercy and forgiveness.   We give Him our death, He gives us His Life.  Yes, St Caesarius wrote, “give earthly mercy and you will receive the heavenly kind. The poor man asks of you, and you ask of God: the poor man for food, you for eternal life.”

Let us therefore not withhold anything from the Lord who wants us to serve Him, especially in the poor.  The more we give, the more we will receive from Him.  As St Paul wrote, “The one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will provide you with all the seed you want and make the harvest of your good deeds a larger one.”  Indeed you will be surprised how the Lord helps you to overcome your insecurities and anxieties about the future and your material needs as you give them away.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, August 10, 2018 — Whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully — We have everything we need

August 9, 2018

St. Lawrence in stained glass window by Franz Mayer & Co.. He is holding a palm branch, a symbol for martyrdom, and a griddle, the instrument of his death.

Saint Lawrence or Laurence (LatinLaurentiuslit. “laurelled“; 31 December AD 225[1] – 10 August 258) was one of the seven deacons of the city of RomeItaly, under Pope Sixtus II who were martyred in the persecution of the Christians that the Roman Emperor Valerian ordered in 258.

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

The year was 258 A.D. It was a difficult beginning for what would become the First Christian Millennium. Hostility against the early followers of Jesus Christ was growing. The barbarism and severity of pagan Rome had begun to reach a fever pitch. It would soon lead to a blood lust. The newborn Christian Church, faithful to the One who had given Himself for the life of the world, continued the work of His redemption.

 

Roman authorities charged Christians of that era with “odium humani generis” [hatred of the human race]. The Romans claimed to be citizens of a great empire, yet they practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as “exposure”, the killing of unwanted newborns.

First and Second century Rome was a challenging mission field for these early Christians. Rome proclaimed itself the shining example to the world of its age while it violated the Natural Moral Law and embraced debauchery. Sound familiar?

The day that Deacon Lawrence experienced his birth from death to life was an ominous and frightful day in ancient Rome. Four days earlier, the great Bishop of Rome, Sixtus, was arrested by soldiers of the emperor Valerian, along with his beloved deacons, and beheaded.

Valerian had issued an edict to the Roman Senate that all the Christian clergy-bishops, priests and deacons-were to be arrested and executed. There were so many holy people among the martyrs of early Rome. That makes it even more remarkable that the life and death of this one humble Deacon-Lawrence-is attributed with all of Rome becoming Christian.

Sentenced to death in the Emperor Valerian’s sweeping condemnation of all Christian clergy, Lawrence offended the Emperor  – and endeared himself to all Christians since then – by assembling before Valerian the real gold and silver of the Church, the poor.

According to the Christian tradition, Deacon Lawrence, knowing that the fervor of Valerians’ hatred was extending to all Christians who owned property, began to give it all away. He distributed the money and treasures of the Church to the city’s poor-believing the clear admonition of the Savior that they were blessed and especially loved by Him.

Valerian heard the news and wanted the treasure to satisfy his unbridled lust for worldly power. So, he offered Deacon Lawrence a way out of sure death. If he would show him where the Church’s great gold and silver were located, he would issue an order of clemency, sparing his life so that he could continue his work.

Valerian was delighted when the deacon asked for three days to gather all the gold and silver of the Church together in one central place! His pride and greed filled blinded him from seeing the truth.

For three days, Deacon Lawrence went throughout the city and invited all the beloved poor, handicapped, and misfortunate to come together. They were being supported by a thriving early Christian community who understood the Gospel imperative to recognize Jesus in the poor.

When Valerian arrived, Deacon Lawrence presented him with the true gold and silver of the Church, the poor! The emperor was filled with rage! Beheading was not enough for this Christian Deacon. He ordered Deacon Lawrence to be burned alive, in public, on a griddle. Witnesses recorded the public martyrdom. The deacon cheerfully offered himself to the Lord Jesus and even joked with his executioners!

The tradition records massive conversions to the Christian faith as a result of the holy life and death of one Deacon who understood the true heart of his vocation. He was poured out, like his Master, Jesus Christ the Servant, in redemptive love, on behalf of others. It is still said to this day that all of Rome became Christian as a result of the faithful life, and the death, of this one humble deacon. He was buried in a cemetery on the Via Tiburtina. On that spot, Constantine would later build a Basilica.

A special devotion to Lawrence, deacon and martyr, spread throughout the entire Christian community. Early Christians had no doubt that those who had gone to be with the Lord continued to pray for those who still struggled in this earthly life. They saw in Lawrence a great example of how to live, and how to die, faithful to the Gospel.

Years later, St Augustine reflected on the heroism of this great deacon in a sermon preached on his feast day, emphasizing that his life and death were an example for all Christians to emulate: “I tell you again and again my brethren, that in the Lord’s garden are to be found not only the roses of His martyrs. In it there are also the lilies of the virgins, the ivy of wedded couples, and the violets of widows. On no account may any class of people despair, thinking that God has not called them.”

The life and death of Deacon Lawrence speaks the timeless message of the Gospel to all who will listen.  Whether we are ever called to shed our blood in what has traditionally been called red martyrdom or simply called to offer our sacrifices daily in a continuous life of poured-out love, traditionally called white martyrdom, we continue the redemptive work of the Lord through our daily Christian lives and participation in the life of the Church.

The Deacon and martyr Lawrence offered himself fully to Jesus Christ – and shows us the way to do the same.

Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, Pray for us

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=366

Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr
Lectionary: 618

Reading 1 2 COR 9:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.

The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

Responsorial Psalm PS 112:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

R. (5) Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Blessed the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commands.
His posterity shall be mighty upon the earth;
the upright generation shall be blessed.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Well for the man who is gracious and lends,
who conducts his affairs with justice;
He shall never be moved;
the just one shall be in everlasting remembrance.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
An evil report he shall not fear;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear
till he looks down upon his foes.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.
Lavishly he gives to the poor,
his generosity shall endure forever;
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
R. Blessed the man who is gracious and lends to those in need.

Alleluia JN 8:12BC

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness
but will have the light of life, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 12:24-26

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me.”
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Related image
Simon of Cyrene assisting Jesus to carry the cross
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Our very first thought upon reading in today’s Gospel “Whoever serves me must follow me” (John 12: 26) is we must accept our cross in order to achieve eternal life. No cross, no resurrection.
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Acceptance is the key. After that we try daily to do the “Will of God.”
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Lectio Divina From the Carmelites
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Reflection
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This passage contains solemn and crucial words concerning the modality with which the mission of Jesus and of his disciples “produces much fruit”. But in this solemn and central declaration of Jesus; “unless a wheat grain falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a large harvest” (v.24), it is inserted in that narrative context of 12, 12-36 where the encounter of Jesus as Messiah with Israel is narrated and the rejection of the Jews of his Messianic proposal.
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Which are the principal themes that describe the Messianism of Jesus?
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The Jews expected a Messiah who would be a powerful king, who would continue with the royal style of David and would restore to Israel its glorious past. Instead, Jesus, places in the centre of his Messianism the gift of his life and the possibility given to man to be able to accept God’s project on his life.
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The story of a seed.
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The gift of his life, as a crucial characteristic of his Messianism, Jesus outlines it with a mini parable. He describes a central and decisive event of his life drawing from the agricultural environment from where he takes the images to render his parables interesting and immediate. It is the story of a seed: a small parable to communicate with the people in a simple and transparent way: a seed begins its course or journey in the dark meander of the earth, where it is suffocated and withers but in the Spring it becomes a green stalk and in the Summer a spike charged with grain. The focal points of the parable are two: the production of much fruit; the finding of eternal life. The seed that breaks through the darkness of earth has been interpreted by the First Fathers of the Church as a symbolical reference to the Incarnation of the Son of God.
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In the ground it seems that the vital force of the seed is destined to get lost because the seed withers and dies. But then the surprise of nature: in the summer when the spikes turn golden, the profound secret of that death is revealed. Jesus knows that death is becoming imminent, threatens on his person, even though he does not see it as a beast that devours. It is true that it has the characteristics of darkness and of being ripped, but for Jesus it contains the secret force typical of child birth, a mystery of fecundity and of life.
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In the light of this vision one can understand another expression used by Jesus: “Anyone who loves his life will lose it and anyone who hates his own life in this world will preserve it for eternal life”. Anyone who considers his own life as a cold property to be lived in egoism is like a seed closed in itself and without any perspective of life. On the contrary who “hates his life”, a very sharp Semitic expression to indicate the renunciation of only fulfilling oneself applied to the axis of the meaning of an existence on the donation to others; it is only thus that life becomes creative: it is a source of peace, of happiness and of life. It is the reality of the seed that sprouts. But the reader can also get in the mini parable of Jesus another dimension, that of the “Passover”. Jesus knows that in order to lead humanity to the threshold of divine love he has to go through the dark way of death on the cross. On the trail of this life the disciple also faces his own “hour”, that of death, with the certainty that it will lead to eternal life, that is to say, to full communion with God.
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 In synthesis. The story of the seed is that of dying in order to multiply itself; its function is that of a service to life. The annihilation of Jesus is comparable to the seed of life buried in the earth. In Jesus’ life to love is to serve and to serve is to lose oneself in the life of others, to die to oneself in order to allow others to live. While his “hour” is approaching, the conclusion of his mission, Jesus assures his own with the promise of a consolation and of a joy without end, accompanied, by every type of disturbance or trouble.
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He gives the example of the seed that has to wither and of the woman who has to give birth in the pangs of child birth. Christ has chosen the cross for himself and for his own: anyone who wants to be his disciple is called to share his same itinerary. He has always spoken to his disciples in a radical way: «Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it” (Lk 9, 24).
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Personal questions
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Does your life express the gift of yourself? Is it a seed of love that makes love be born? Are you aware that in order to be a seed of joy, so that there will be joy in the field of wheat grain the moment of sowing is necessary?
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Can you say that you have chosen the Lord if later you do not embrace the cross with him?
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When the hard struggle breaks out in you between “yes” or “no”, between courage and fear, between faith and unbelief, between love and egoism, do you feel lost thinking that such temptations are not suitable to those who follow Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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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)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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

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