Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 118’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 7, 2017 — Who will enter the Kingdom of God? Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven…

December 6, 2017

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 178

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The promise of the Savior by Yongsung Kim

Reading 1  IS 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A

R. (26a) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia IS 55:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call him while he is near.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

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Commentary on Matthew 7:21, 24-27
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Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of what true discipleship means. People often confess that they have not said their morning and evening prayers or that they have not been to Mass. Perhaps they should remember the words of today’s Gospel: “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven…”
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On the other hand, those of us who always do say our morning and evening prayers and never miss a Mass also need to remember them. Something more is needed than just being a pray-er. What is needed is that we “do the will of the Father”.
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What is that will? It is that we be filled with the spirit of the Kingdom and work to make that Kingdom a reality in our world. It involves constant outreach beyond ourselves. We have to go to God by finding him present in the world around us and helping others to be aware of that loving presence also. We will not do that by piously calling on God’s name while ignoring the needs of our brothers and sisters. To do that is to build our house on sand.
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That is not to say that prayer is not important. We cannot effectively do God’s work unless we spend time listening to and responding to his Word in times of undisturbed quiet. But our prayer is only genuine when it becomes the spur for us to go out and bring something of God’s love and compassion into our world.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 DECEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 1st Week of Advent

BUILDING A HUMANITY WITHOUT FOUNDATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 26:1-6Ps 118:1,8-9,19-21,25-27Mt 7:21,24-27  ]

The world is in such a confused state.  Leaders no longer lead but obey the sheep.  This is what democracy is all about.   Do what the people say, not what is good for the future of the country or the organization.  Give them what they want, even though it might hurt them in the long run.  But then we do not have to worry because we will no longer be leaders by then.   Then again, we cannot blame the leaders of the day entirely because the world has been bought over by this ideology which we call ‘relativism’.  This philosophy claims that everything is relative except of course, relativism itself.

The dictatorship of relativism is the cause of much confusion in the world today. With relativism, nothing has any real foundation or ground to support.  There is no truth by which we all can agree on.  It all depends on who speaks the loudest and makes the most noise so that others will buy into their ideas or ideology.  Relativism is fueled also by mass media and digital technology.  Ideas and views spread widely.  As a result, we have an overload of information.  Much of the information is fake news and they are often innocently passed around without verification.

With a diarrhea of information available, not all of which can easily be verified, it is no wonder why pragmatism has become the order of the day.  Since we are paralyzed by so much information and choices, and lacking the time to weigh all the available data, we just have to choose at random according to our personal preferences and liking.  Choices are made not based on whether it is right or true but whether it satisfies one’s needs and desires, even if they are detrimental to our future or when they infringe the rights of others.

Indeed, when we examine some of the trends of society, we cannot but lament the shortsightedness of those who formulated the policies.  They are more concerned with fixing the problem now than being be far-sighted to see whether the solution they propose will cause greater problems in the future.  This is true in terms of population control.  Many countries forced their people to stop at one or two children.  Now these countries are facing depopulation and an aging demographic.  The first world countries are now importing citizens and workers from so-called over-crowded countries in the third world.  Has the world seriously considered the long-term implications of legalizing same-sex union, adoption of children by same sex couples, euthanasia, cloning, etc?  But leaders are desperate to please the people, notwithstanding the fact that such choices are often engineered through publicity and aggressive marketing.

Jesus warns us in today’s gospel that if our house is not built on solid foundation, then it will crash and it will be disastrous.  “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand.  Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!”   Indeed, today, we are called to examine the fundamental principles that can help humanity and grow the country. If what we build is not based on lasting principles, then we will find ourselves having to keep changing our goal post to suit us.  We will just go where the wind blows.  We change with the tide and we are swept along by societal trends.  Instead of molding and steering society, we allow society, which is blind, to lead us.  We have no direction in life.  We have no focus and without any shared values there is nothing that can bring everyone together.  But values must be true and good, otherwise they cannot be valued.

So we might be doing many things and yet not achieving anything that is really good.  That is why Jesus warned us about self-deception.  He said, “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven.”  Just praying and calling ourselves Catholic will not lead us to heaven.  Just saying that we are not justified by good works but by faith alone will not lead us to happiness.  Jesus said, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’”  (Mt 7:22f)   Indeed, we can be doing many things, but without focus or direction, such works will do us no good.  This is what many are doing even in Church.  They are involved in all kinds of activity but they do not pray, they are not conscious of their roles and responsibilities, their alignment with the parish and the diocesan vision; their objectives in the work they do.  So we have many good doers but they are blind.  They just do what they have been told but they are not motivated by a higher vision and goal.

As Christians, we are focused in all that we do.  Our foundational principles are clear.  We know who we are, what we are called to do and where our final destiny lies.  We know that God is the Ultimate Ground of life.  We know that God has revealed Himself to us through His Son in the Holy Spirit.  We know that we are called to be sons and daughters of God to share in the divine life.  “But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.”  (Phil 3:20)  Until then, we must fight the good fight.   “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.”  (Tit 2:11-14)

Indeed, our values are founded on the Eternal truths because they come from Christ who is the Word of God in person.  He is our rock.  Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.”   He said these concluding words at His Sermon on the Mount.  In other words, Jesus is inviting us to place our total trust in His Word, the values that He preached.   The fundamental values of life are beautifully summed up in the Beatitudes, which is the preface to the three chapters of the Sermon on the Mount.  The beatitudes are the keys to a blessed life.  Some of these foundational values taught by the Lord are humility and poverty of spirit, holiness and purity of life, mercy and compassion, charity and justice, love and forgiveness, peacemaking and prophets for truth.  These are the principles that Christians live by.

Not only is Jesus our rock, He is our fortress as well.  The prophet said, “We have a strong city; to guard us he has set wall and rampart about us.”   The wall of Jesus, which is His word, shields us from the attack of our enemies, especially in the face of attack and false doctrines and undesirable values that come into our lives.  St Paul wrote, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  (2 Tim 3:16f)  He also reminded the Christians that “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, (is) the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”  (1 Tim 3:15) Besides being the wall of defence, God is the one that gives us an overview and fuller perspective of life.  This is what it means to say that God is our rampart, which is that part on top of the wall of a castle where there is a walkway for the soldiers to see from afar anyone who is approaching the city.   In this way, we will have the foresight to see far and near the outcome of the policies that we formulate for our people.

Since Jesus is our rock and fortress, we place our entire trust and confidence as the psalmist invites us, “Trust in the Lord for ever, for the Lord is the everlasting Rock; he has brought low those who lived high up in the steep citadel; brings it down, brings it down to the ground, flings it down in the dust: the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor trample on it.”   Indeed, because Christ is our rock and fortress, we are called to build our lives on Him.   Only by trusting in Him, can we win victory.

So today, let us delay no longer.  With the psalmist we pray, “Open to me the gates of holiness: I will enter and give thanks. This is the Lord’s own gate where the just may enter. I will thank you for you have answered and you are my saviour.”  If our minds are focused on the Lord, our hearts will be at rest because we know He will help us to fight this battle.  With upright heart and upright life, we march on with confidence and peace.   Putting into practice what the Lord teaches us is what ultimately matters. “Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 23, 2017 — “Who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith.” — “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

April 22, 2017

Second Sunday of Easter (or Sunday of Divine Mercy)
Lectionary: 43

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Doubting Thomas?  ART : The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

Reading 1 ACTS 2:42-47

They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
Every day they devoted themselves
to meeting together in the temple area
and to breaking bread in their homes.
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,
praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.
And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24

R. (1) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just:
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 1 PT 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,
kept in heaven for you
who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith,
to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time.
In this you rejoice, although now for a little while
you may have to suffer through various trials,
so that the genuineness of your faith,
more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire,
may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor
at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy,
as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Alleluia JN 20:29

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You believe in me, Thomas, because you have seen me, says the Lord;
blessed are they who have not seen me, but still believe!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Thomas the Apostle Sunday! Divine Providence Sunday! Octave of Easter Sunday! And many other names have been used for this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, the First Sunday after Easter, etc. Christ is risen! He is our life.

The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, is about the early life of these Christians. “They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.” We all know that the early Christians eventually had their challenges as well. But, like and new movement, at first everyone was so taken up with the Resurrection of Jesus and His presence among them, that community life was almost completely positive.

Like any human community, however, eventually our flawed and broken humanity shows up once again and we must begin the struggle to be faithful to that first and glorious revelation: He is risen! Incredible! I can love others and give everything for others! But in time, my brokenness or the brokenness of another person comes back into play and I must struggle.

These early Christians had a wonderful gift of being so close to the Resurrection. But they also began to falter. We who live so many centuries later are given the same gift of faith. Those early Christians, those followers, are the same as we followers today: we must struggle to be faithful and never be dismayed by sin and brokenness. Christ can conquer all. Christ does conquer all. But in the way of Christ: a completely faithful love and forgiveness. Christ is risen! Alleluia!

The second reading is from the First Letter of Peter and tells us the same message today: “rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” That salvation only comes because Jesus loves us and forgives us. We are asked by Jesus to do the same with all others, no matter how awful they may be to us.

And then in today’s Gospel, from Saint John, we have the wonderful account of Saint Thomas, who doubts, who expresses his doubts and who, in the end, embraces completely His Lord, who invites him once more to believe. What a wonderful account! It reflects at times our own challenges of faith. We are invited on this great Sunday to give ourselves completely to belief, no matter how often doubts may come to us, no matter how often we fail in our faith, no matter how often we sin and deny the Lord.

Christ is risen! Christ gives us redemption! Christ forgives us and pardons us! Christ loves us all! You and I are asked to live that same faith and to love and forgive all others, no matter how often we have failed. No despair! No think that we are unworthy! We are unworthy, but we are loved and forgiven! Christ is risen! Let us rejoice in HIM.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Related:

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Keith Wheeler carriers across from Tacloban to tanauan, the Philippines after the Typhoon. Photo by Dan Kitwood, Getty Images. — Typhoon Haiyan, November 2013

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

23 APRIL, 2017, Divine Mercy Sunday

WHERE IS DIVINE MERCY TO BE FOUND?


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:42-47; 1 PETER 1:3-9; JOHN 20:19-31 ]

Like the apostles in the Upper Room, we are living in fear and anxiety each day.  With growing instances of terrorist acts committed by wounded, confused and wrongly indoctrinated individuals and groups, the world is such an unsafe place to live in. Even if such incidents are not terrorist acts, we read of very disturbed and angry people taking innocent lives.  Indeed, in spite of technology and better standards of living, the world remains a very precarious place to live in.  Wars abound, crime, religious fanaticism, religious division and discrimination are on the increase.  On the personal front, we are besieged with the demands of daily living; marital conflicts, rebellious children, worries about our finances and our work, illnesses and the challenges of looking after elderly, demented parents or those with sicknesses.

Like the apostles, we just want to hide from all these problems and challenges.  We too want to run away from it all.  We wish we could have some peace.  Sometimes we wish we could die earlier as this life is so difficult, challenging and tiring.  Is there peace?  Is peace possible?  Is peace a dream?  Maybe it is true after all, that there can be no peace until we die.  Even then, those who survive after us would simply write on our tombstone, “May he rest in peace!”   Again, it is just a wish. Those of us who die full of bitterness, anger and disillusionment might not only not die in peace but even after death, the soul remains restless and unhappy.  This would be even more tragic than simply suffering on earth, for at least, as St Peter says, we only suffer for a while.

So where can we find peace?  Peace comes from Divine Mercy.  This is the lesson in today’s liturgy.  Indeed, the Church today celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday.  In the gospel, Jesus reveals the mercy of God in the wounds of His hands.  Although He came as the Risen Lord, He came as a crucified Lord.   He appeared to Thomas and the apostles in the wounds that He suffered from the betrayal of men, including the apostles, the injustice of the authorities, the jealousy of the religious leaders and the ignorance of the crowd who simply went where the wind blew.  By appearing to Thomas in His holy wounds, He wanted to remind Thomas that He is the Lord of Mercy only because He had experienced all our pains and sufferings.  Having forgiven His enemies, felt the abandonment of His Father, entered into the hell of the atheist, died completely to His ego in the humiliation of the cross, we can, looking at Christ now, truly say that He is Divine Mercy.

Hence, for those of us who are skeptical of God’s mercy, the Lord wants us to remember His passion and death on the cross for us.   Like St Thomas, this is particularly true for the atheist and agnostics who do not believe in the resurrection.  And so true for many of us too!  Many have given up on God because they cannot feel the mercy of God.  They feel that God has let them down and abandoned them in their difficulties, suffering, failures in study and work, illnesses, abandonment and bereavement.  If this God has no mercy, then He has no love and therefore it does not matter whether He exists or not.  If this God cannot look after us or help us, then we had better direct our entire attention to looking after ourselves as He is not reliable and maybe does not exist at all.

How, then, do we explain the reality of suffering and Divine Mercy in our lives?  How can we say that Jesus came to give us peace as His first Easter gift when we are still suffering?  In fact, many of us might feel that we are still in our tomb.  There is no solution in sight.  We are still persecuted at home, in our workplace and in church.  We have not resolved our financial woes and personal conflicts.  There is still no reconciliation with our loved ones.  We are still sick and abandoned.  So where is the peace and mercy of Christ?

We must, at the outset, be clear that the peace of the Risen Lord is not pacifism or inactivity.  The peace of the Risen Lord is the peace of the heart.  The joy of Easter is not like the peace of the world.  It does not mean that we should be smiling all the time and project a happy face.  Of course, some of us do genuinely feel liberated and therefore happy.   Even then, it does not mean that we have no problems, sufferings or challenges in daily life.

Rather, the peace of Easter comes from knowing that the Lord is with us in our difficulties and challenges. Even after they left the Upper Room, the apostles did not have peace in the sense that they no longer had problems with their enemies.  On the contrary, the moment they began preaching about Jesus as the Risen Lord, they were arrested, threatened and beaten up.  But they were at peace in spite of the persecutions because they knew that the Lord was with them.   In His resurrection, He is now with us always.  Indeed, the parting words of Jesus to the apostles at the Ascension was, “I will be with you till the end of time.”  Knowing that the Lord is with us is enough to give us peace, just as when our friends assure us of their support and prayers during difficult moments in our lives.  We live on the assurance of their love and support.  But how does the Lord draw near to us?    He gives us the Holy Spirit.  He gives us the power to do what He did.  “After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”  With the Holy Spirit, we can go out to the world to face our challenges and enemies.

Secondly, we are at peace because we are always assured of His divine mercy and forgiveness.  By manifesting Himself to the apostles after His death, the Lord wanted to assure them that He understood their fears, their betrayal and their flight.  He did not hold their sins or infidelity against them.  On the contrary, He continued to have confidence in them.  Instead of reprimanding them, He forgave them and as if that was not enough, He made them emissaries of His forgiveness and peace.  He commanded them, “’As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’” Today, through the sacrament of reconciliation, we continue to be assured of His divine mercy and forgiveness.  The Lord readily forgives us, knowing how weak we are.  So we should never deprive ourselves of the experience and celebration of His divine mercy in the sacrament of reconciliation.

Thirdly, divine mercy is shown by the Lord when He made us children of God.  St Peter wrote, “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy has given us a new birth as his sons, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.”  Only because of His death and resurrection are we now reconciled with God, and through the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, we are given a new birth as God’s sons and daughters.  How wonderful to know that we are given a new lease of life in Christ!  Through Christ, we have recovered our true identity. 

Fourthly, divine mercy comes through His Church, the Body of Christ.  In the first reading, we read of the early Christian community coming together to listen “to the teaching of the apostles”, for “the brotherhood, the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”  Coming together as Church, “they all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed.”  Such was the union and fellowship that the early Church enjoyed.  They did everything together, supporting each other, “shared their food gladly and generously” so much so that “day by day the Lord added to their community those destined to be saved.”  If we are to experience divine mercy today, the Christian community needs to be more supportive of each other.  We need to care for each other, especially the less privileged.  What saddens me is that Catholics are often intolerant of each other, whether at the car park, in church, over noisy crying children, etc.  Many have left the Church because the Church is perceived to be businesslike, calculative, strict, regimental, lacking compassion and sensitivity.  We must learn from St Thomas never to leave the Christian community, if we want to see the resurrected Christ.

Finally, divine mercy is seen in Christian charity. The world is looking for God’s mercy.  We cannot contain God’s mercy within the Church.  It springs forth from the mercy of God in His Church but it must be spread to all regardless of language, race or religion.  Through works of charity, let us spread His divine mercy to all.   Only mercy is capable of overcoming evil and destroying selfishness and hatred.  If we love the Lord, then we must ensure that God’s merciful love reaches to all.  Let the mercy of God in our hearts bring peace to the world, between peoples and among religions and cultures. 

In view of our great hope that is now certain because of the resurrection, we can live our lives courageously and purposefully like the apostles.  With the resurrection, we know where our future lies.  “You did not see him, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.”  With the resurrection, we know where true power lies.  “I was thrust down, thrust down and falling, but the Lord was my helper. The Lord is my strength and my song; he was my saviour.”   What is needed for us is to strengthen our faith in His divine mercy each day, for only faith in Christ will help us to withstand the trials of life so that “when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold.”   With St Thomas, we confess, “My Lord and my God!”

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 APRIL 2016, Divine Mercy Sunday (LAST YEAR)
LOSS OF CONTACT WITH GOD’S MERCY AS THE CAUSE OF UNBELIEF

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 5:12-16; PS 117:2-4, 22-27; REV 1:9-13.17-19; JN 20:19-31  ]We are living in a very harsh world. It has no patience for those who are weak or make mistakes in life.  There is no second chance.  Not only is there no mercy for those who fail, there is no compassion for the weak, the sick and the hungry.

If we are going through such straits in life, we can understand why people lose faith in God.  If there is God, why are we suffering?  Why is this God so indifferent to our pains and struggles?  How could God be love and mercy when we only experience just the opposite of what is taught to us in the bible.  When God is not feeling with us, then this God does not exist.  Life has no meaning and purpose. Indeed, the primary cause of atheism in the world is the experience of suffering and the lack of encounter with the mercy of God.

Consequently, today as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, and especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we need to proclaim loudly the mercy of God, just like the apostles in the Portico of Solomon who were “loud in their praise” and as a result, “the numbers of men and women who came to believe in the Lord increased steadily.”  All three scripture readings today underscore the same message that God is mercy.  He is not only love but mercy as well.  His love is expressed most clearly in His mercy.

In the gospel, Jesus shows the mercy of God, especially to those imprisoned by fear and guilt because of their sins and their enemies.  “In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews.” Who were their enemies?  It was not primarily the Jews.  They were external enemies.   The real enemy was their guilt because of their shamefor abandoning their master when He most needed them at the Garden of Gethsemane and during His passion, and most of all, when He was hanging on the cross.   But Jesus forgave them.  He knew their fears and shame.  So “Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side.’”   The first gift of the Risen Lord is peace to those who live in guilt, shame and fear of their past.

Secondly, Jesus comes to free us from our external enemies.  These enemies come from fear of the world and our anxieties.   Most of all, the greatest enemy is the fear of death.  To such people, the Lord assures us that He has conquered death by His resurrection.  St John shares with us his encounter with God’s mercy when he was praying. The Lord said, “Do not be afraid; it is I, the First and the Last; I am the Living One. I was dead and now I am to live for ever and ever.”  Indeed, Christ, by His death and resurrection, has overcome all fear of death and the injustices of the world.  We know that nothing can overcome us or destroy us.  Even in death, we will triumph with the Lord.

Thirdly, God also shows His mercy to the sick.  The Church, like the apostles, continues to be the channels of God’s mercy through miraculous healings as a consequence of prayer and intercession.  We too can continue to come to Him for healing both directly through prayer and also through the help of medical care workers.

Fourthly, God shows His mercy even to the skeptics and atheists.  In the person of St Thomas who doubted the resurrection of the Lord, the Risen Christ made a special appearance to Him.  And not only did He show Himself but most of all revealed to St Thomas that the Risen Lord is the Crucified Christ of mercy.  By showing all the marks in His body, Jesus demonstrated with total clarity His mercy and forgiveness even to unbelievers and atheists like Thomas.  He invites them, “Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.”   So the Lord can identify even with believers in their emptiness.

Finally, Christ comes to show His mercy to those who live without meaning and hope. With Christ’s death and resurrection, everything is now made clear.  We know that suffering will not end in tragedy or meaninglessness.  Just as God used the redemptive suffering of the innocent Christ, He will use our sufferings and sacrifices for the conversion of the world and for the salvation of all.  We know that the Lord is in control and all things will work out for our good.

Indeed, without fear of suffering and death, we can now live fully for God and for others. This explains the change in the attitude of the apostles.  They were then hiding in the Upper Room in fear for their lives.  But in just a while, they were out in the open proclaiming the mercy of God, singing His praises. “Let the sons of Israel say: ‘His love has no end.’ The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone. This is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes.”  With Jesus our cornerstone, our foundation is firm and strong.

As we celebrate the Year of Mercy, we are called to be apostles of divine mercy to the world by being mediators and reconcilers.  After showing His mercy to the apostles, He sent them to do likewise: “’As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’”  The power to forgive sins includes both the sacrament of baptism and reconciliation.  By extension, it refers to the invitation to reconcile all men and women with each other and with Christ.  Hence, the Church as the Sacrament of Jesus must now extend His Divine mercy to the world, those who are lost in life, those who are suffering in guilt, unable to let go and forgive, those who are sick and in all sorts of difficulties.  We are called to heal them and show them mercy through spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  We are to pray for them and pray over those who are sick and unwell.

For spiritual works of mercy, we are called to lead them to Jesus through catechesis, sacraments and prayers.  We are called to lead them to Jesus the Divine Mercy through catechesis and the proclamation of the Word of God.  What greater gift of mercy can we give to our people than giving them Jesus in the Eucharist and reconciling them in the Sacrament of reconciliation?   This is the direct proclamation of Divine Mercy, through preaching and the sacraments.  We can extend Divine Mercy to the sick, especially when they receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.  Indeed, through counselling and spiritual direction, through preaching and sharing of the Word of God, we can give hope to the world, especially those who have given up on life.  We are to pray for them and pray over those who are sick and unwell.

The concrete way of being a channel of God’s mercy is shown through the corporal works of mercy as we attend to those who are suffering physically, emotionally and mentally. Thus, the Church must never lack in her works of mercy to the poor, the suffering and the marginalized.  We are call to serve the poor in Christ and to relieve them of their suffering and pain.  Catholics must be involved directly or indirectly in serving and helping the poor, either through involvement in charitable organizations, helping financially or just providing resources.  Those without resources can visit the poor and give them hope and encouragement.

If we reveal the mercy of God and Christ to the world, we can be sure that having encountered the mercy of God through us, just like what Blessed Mother Teresa did, we will bring about conversion of hearts.  This is what we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  Many were converted because of the miraculous works of mercy of healing and the proclamation of the Word of God.   Only when people see that God is mercy and love, will they believe in Him.  People are not converted simply by preaching and doctrines but by the concrete experience of God’s mercy and compassion.

But before we do that, let us be exposed to God’s mercy in our own lives through the love we receive from the faith community.  We need the support of the Church, like St Thomas, if we are to encounter the mercy of God.   When St Thomas was not with them, he could not find the faith to see the Risen Lord.  We too can be merciful if we experience the divine mercy through the love and faith of the Christian community, especially in, worship and fellowship.  We need the encouragement and forgiveness of our brothers and sisters in the community who could accept us even in our weaknesses.  We cannot work alone, for joy comes from working together for the love and service of God and our neighbours.  In this way, those who receive divine mercy will become effective and gracious channels of God’s mercy.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 22, 2017 — “He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.” — It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.

April 21, 2017

Saturday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 266

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He appeared to them walking along the road. Art by Greg Olsen

Reading 1 ACTS 4:13-21

Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.
So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin,
and conferred with one another, saying,
“What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name.”

So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
After threatening them further,
they released them,
finding no way to punish them,
on account of the people who were all praising God
for what had happened.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 14-15AB, 16-18, 19-21

R. (21a) I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
the right hand of the LORD has struck with power.”
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
Though the LORD has indeed chastised me,
yet he has not delivered me to death.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This is the gate of the LORD;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia PS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 16:9-15

When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

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Reflection From Christian Women’s Corner

Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene.  Who he had cast out seven demons from!

What does it mean to have demons?  In the New Testament demons often appeared in the form of mental illness.  Mary had seven; seven different demons each most likely of a different type.

Why in the world would Jesus appear first to a woman and one who happened to have had seven demons?

Throughout the New Testament Jesus had many interactions with women, he spoke to them freely, ignoring the social restrictions of the time.  They also served multiple important roles, such as preparing his body for burial using costly perfumed oils, they were the ones who were there as he made his way to his crucifixion; no woman denied Jesus.

Women had the role of being in tune intuitionally with Jesus.  They are receptive, where as the men disciples are doers.  Jesus counted on them for action, and on women for understanding.

Is it really so surprising then than Jesus appeared first to a woman; a woman who had been purified from the demons that possessed her.  She was the perfect person to be receptive to his rising from the dead, the perfect person to see, because he had opened her eyes.

https://christianwomenscorner.wordpress.com/tag/reading-and-reflection-from-the-gospel-of-mark-169-15/

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Gospel Reflection From Father Afonse

Doubts, disbelief, fears and terror. These are the sights and sounds of the early Church as they waited for their eyes to see the Risen Lord.
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Surprise, joy, boldness and outreach. These are the sights and sounds of those whom the Lord revealed himself to.
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In the Acts of the Apostles we witness an on-going transformation that continues to rock our world today. The Eleven, who were once locked in fear, can no longer contain themselves. They must proclaim the Good News, not because they received a death threat from the Lord but because they received his life. What was once considered impossible or dangerous (like being recognized, going out into the streets and preaching the Truth; preaching Jesus as Lord and God; preaching to the Jews and standing before the leaders, the elders and the chief priests, etc.) they now do without hesitation. They believe in themselves because the Lord believes in them.
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When we believe in God, we begin to believe in ourselves. Nothing is impossible! Nothing, for nothing matters more than the Lord. What will separate me from the love of God: tribulations, betrayals, fear, suffering and pain, anxieties, bitterness, ridicule, loss of life, death, even death on a cross? Nothing. Nothing will separate me from the love of God. The old man is dead, buried and gone away. The new man has risen from the dead, and has been sent by the Lord.
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Here I am Lord, send me! And he does, like he always has, and he will continue to bear fruit through me and after me.
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How many times have I said, Enough!? Too many. How many times have I said, I can’t do this anymore!? Too many. How many times have I said, I will never make a difference”? Too many. I could go on and on, so many more doubts come to my mind as I write this list. But the Lord loves me and loves sharing everything with me, even my dirty laundry list! The doubts we have the Apostles shared too. We, the modern-intelligent creatures, have the same doubts as the Apostles, those uncivilized-uneducated men. Yes, they may have said the exact same thing, but look and see for yourself what they did. They lived for the Lord and not for themselves. They believed in God because God shared his belief in them. He lifted them up! He told them as he told me, “Go and sin no more.” God has more faith in us than we have in Him!
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The Apostles woke up one morning and rocked the world. They had finally learned all things from the Master, and they began to imitate Him in everything – even his resurrection; for the Lord was the first to wake up one Sunday morning and change the world forever! We must do the same thing. Awake, O sleeper, arise from thy slumber. Christ is calling you by name!
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 APRIL, 2017, Saturday within Easter Octave
IRRESISTIBLE POWER OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:13-21; PS 117:1,14-21; MARK 16:9-15 ]

It is man’s nature to want to be in control of their lives.  This was the sin of Adam and Eve.  The devil promised them that if they ate the forbidden fruit, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  (Gn 3:5) That is why we do not like situations that are unpredictable.  We want our lives to run like clockwork, precise and in a mechanical manner.  We hate surprises because it means upsetting our program and our schedule.  Things must go according to our way and according to our plan.  This, too, was the attitude of the Jewish leaders.  They sought to be in control of the situation and to ensure that everyone toed the line.  The scriptures clearly spelt out the laws, and the traditions had kept the Jews together for centuries.  So, too, the Romans were always fearful of rebellion, social and political upheavals.

But this God is a God of surprises.  He does not follow the laws all the time!  Not even the laws of nature!  Indeed, we are always being challenged to think out of the box.  This God works out of the box and brings us new situations that we have no control over.  When the Jewish leaders saw “the man who had been cured standing by their side, they could find no answer.”  Indeed, no human, scientific or natural explanation could be found.  They themselves admitted this fact.  “It is obvious to everybody in Jerusalem that a miracle has been worked through them in public, and we cannot deny it.”

This was also the experience of the apostles in encountering the power of grace.  They initially could not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  They were “in mourning and in tears!”  When Mary Magdalene and the two disciples from Emmaus recounted their encounter with the Risen Lord, they did not believe them.  Only when the Lord appeared to them, did they come to believe.  “He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy, because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.”  We can appreciate their reluctance because it was too good to be true, and it was a trans-historical event.  Their fears, sadness and despair prevented them from looking beyond the fact of the crucifixion.  Once again, one has to drop all logic and human reasoning to accept this event of encountering the Risen Lord.  Furthermore, this encounter was beyond description as they were encountering someone that came from the future to the present.

In the face of the power of grace, we can take two approaches.  One is to reject and the other is to accept.  The Jewish leaders took the path of denial and rejection.  “So they ordered them to stand outside while the Sanhedrin had a private discussion. ‘What are we going to do with these men?’ they asked.”  And the decision reached was “to stop the whole thing spreading any further among the people, let us caution them never to speak to anyone in this name again.”  Instead of dealing and reflecting on the marvelous event, they sought to quash it for fear of losing their status quo, their position in society and their institutions.  And they knew that they were wrong.  Instead, “the court repeated the warnings and then released them; they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened.”   They refused to recognize the facts that were so obvious before their eyes.

How true for many of us as well.  When we see miracles happening, we still do not want to admit that it is the power of grace and the power of God.  There are many agnostics who would not surrender themselves to the power of grace.  They see the facts and conclude that science cannot explain, but they would not ascribe the event to the power of God’s grace at work in their lives.  We are simply too proud to submit to a higher authority because we think we are in control and we have the answers to everything.  Human pride and fear are the causes of unbelief.

The other response is to bow down before the power of God, as St Peter asks of us.  “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you.”  (1 Pt 5:6)  That was what the apostles did even when they were under threat not to repeat what they said and especially  “on no account to make statements or to teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John retorted, ‘You must judge whether in God’s eyes it is right to listen to you and not to God. We cannot promise to stop proclaiming what we have seen and heard.’”  For the apostles, it was clear that the healing of the crippled man was the power of God, regardless whether they believed it or not.  It was in the name of the Lord Jesus that the man was healed.  Indeed, if we have seen and heard the power of God at work in our lives, there is no way for us to remain quiet.  This in itself is the proof of the work of God!  The grace of God is irresistible and overwhelming for anyone who encounters Him.  

So, what brought about the powerful grace of God? What gave the apostles who were uneducated, ordinary men such boldness, courage and confidence to preach the Good News about Jesus?  The cause of their radical change, they came to realize, was that they were simply “associates of Jesus.”  Indeed, those who associated with Jesus were radically transformed after the resurrection and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit.  Their fears were removed completely and they could stand tall before the Jewish leaders testifying to the power of the Risen Lord.  Once, they were fearful of the authorities and afraid of suffering and prosecution.  But now they were ready to suffer anything for the Lord Jesus.  We can explain such radical change only because they walked with Jesus, they saw Him, they loved Him and they were inspired by Him and, last but not least, they encountered Him alive after being put to death.  The resurrection as the radical expression of grace was enough to transform their lives radically.

This means that if we are to see the Risen Lord in our lives, the first thing we need to do is to associate with Jesus!  Unless we are in contact with Jesus, reading the scriptures, studying about the faith, reading spiritual books and making contact with the disciples of Christ, we cannot know Jesus sufficiently to have faith in Him. Hearing and seeing open our hearts and minds to the grace of God.  This is the purpose of preaching;to help potential believers to respond to the grace of God.  That is why sharing of faith among Catholics, finding a faith community for spiritual and moral support is so critical for anyone who wants to be an associate of Christ.  Where is Christ today if not in His Church, in the liturgy, in the priests and in their fellow Catholics?

This, however, is just the first stage.  The second stage to respond to grace is through intimacy and love.  It is significant to take note that it was not to Peter that the Risen Lord first appeared but to “Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils.”  St Peter was using too much of his head, logic and reasoning.  But the Lord appeared to those who loved Him.  Mary Magdalene had been forgiven much and liberated from her severe bondages to her sins and her past.  For that, she loved Jesus deeply and passionately.  She was the first to arrive at the Tomb on Sunday.  She could not wait to see Jesus, even if He were just a corpse.   Love enables us to see the Lord that reason cannot.  Jesus said, “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  (Jn 14:21)

So today, we are invited to come to God not through reason but in faith and in love.  Only faith and love can allow the grace of God to open our hearts and our minds.  It is not wrong to have a rationalizing and empirical spirit, but it should come only after the experience of the power of grace.  We are called to take the leap of faith, relying not on our own strength but the power of God.  If we behave like the Sanhedrin, we will end up fighting against God. The question of Peter is also ours when he retorted, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”  We ignore the power of grace to our disadvantage.  Those who seek to smother grace will be the ones who will lose out to the greater things of life that the Lord wants to offer them.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, April 21, 2017 — Jesus is revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead

April 20, 2017

Friday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 265

Reading 1 ACTS 4:1-12

After the crippled man had been cured,
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people,
the priests, the captain of the temple guard,
and the Sadducees confronted them,
disturbed that they were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They laid hands on Peter and John
and put them in custody until the next day,
since it was already evening.
But many of those who heard the word came to believe
and the number of men grew to about five thousand.

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Even after they are arrested, Peter and John continue to preach the gospel…

On the next day, their leaders, elders, and scribes
were assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest,
Caiaphas, John, Alexander,
and all who were of the high-priestly class.
They brought them into their presence and questioned them,
“By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them,
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.

There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1-2 AND 4, 22-24, 25-27A

R. (22) The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 21:1-14

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Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

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“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone” (Psalm 118:22).

The image comes from the ancient quarries where highly-trained stonemasons carefully chose the stones used in construction. No stone was more important than the cornerstone because the integrity of the whole structure depended on the cornerstone containing exactly the right lines. If the cornerstone was not exactly right, the entire building would be out of line. For that reason, builders inspected many stones, rejecting each one until they found the one they wanted. Rejected stones might be used in other parts of the building, but they would never become the cornerstone or the capstone (the first and last stones put in place).

When Peter preached to the Jewish leaders in Acts 4:8–12, he quoted Psalm 118:22 to show that Jesus is the rejected stone whom God made to be the cornerstone of salvation. They (the Jewish leaders) rejected him, but God not only accepted him but put him in the position of highest honor.

Peter pressed the point home with this powerful conclusion: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These words are utterly exclusive. There is no other hope, no other way, and no other name than the name of Jesus. If we would be saved, we must come God’s way or we won’t come at all.

Do not be like the builders who rejected God’s Stone of salvation! Do not reject Jesus Christ. Do not stumble over this rejected stone. The very stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. May God open your eyes to see Jesus as he really is—the Cornerstone of eternal salvation.

Taken from “Rejected Stone” by Keep Believing Ministries 

http://www.jesus.org/is-jesus-god/old-testament-prophecies/the-stone-that-the-builders-rejected-became-the-cornerstone.html

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Reflection
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• Chapter 21 of the Gospel of Saint John seems like an appendix which was added later after the Gospel had already been written. The conclusion of the previous chapter (Jn 20, 30-31) makes one perceive that it is an addition. However, whether it is an addition or not, it is the Word of God which presents us the beautiful message of the Resurrection on this fifth day of Easter week.
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• John 21, 1-3: The fisherman of men returns to be a fisherman of fish. Jesus has died and has risen. At the end of three years of life together with Jesus, the disciples returned toward Galilee. A group of them find themselves together before the lake. Peter goes back to the past and says: “I am going fishing!” The others answer: “We will come with you!” Thus, Thomas, Nathanael, John and James together with Peter go to the boat to go fishing. They go back to the life of the past as if nothing had happened. But something did happen. Something was taking place! The past did not return! “We have caught nothing!” They go back to the shore, tired. This had been a night filled with frustration.
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• John 21, 4-5: The context of the new apparition of Jesus. Jesus was on the shore, but they did not recognize him. Jesus asks: “Little children, have you anything to eat?” They answered: “No!” In the negative response they realize that the night had been deceiving because they had caught nothing, no fish. They had been called to be fishermen of men (Mk 1, 17; Lk 5, 10), and they go back to be fishermen of fish. But something had changed in their life! The experience of three years with Jesus produces in them an irreversible change. It was no longer possible to return to the past as if nothing had happened, as if nothing had changed.
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• John 21, 6-8: “Throw the net out to the right of the boat and you will find something” They did something which perhaps they had never done in their life. Five experienced fishermen obey a foreigner who orders them to do something which is in contrast to their experience. Jesus, that unknown person, who is on the shore, orders them to throw the net on the right side of the boat. They obey; they throw the net, and behold the unexpected result. The net was full of fish! How was this possible! How to explain this surprise so unexpected, unforeseen! Love makes one discover. The beloved disciple says: “It is the Lord”. This intuition clarifies everything. Peter jumped into the water to get close to Jesus very quickly. The other disciples follow him, pulling the boat, and dragging the net full of fish.
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• John 21, 9-14: The kindness of Jesus. Coming ashore, they saw a charcoal fire which had been lit by Jesus, where he was roasting fish and bread. He asked them to take some of the fish they had caught and immediately Peter went to the boat and towed the net containing one hundred and fifty fish. A great number of fish and the net did not break. Jesus calls the multitude: “Come and eat!” He had the kindness to prepare something to eat after a deceiving night during which they had caught nothing. A very simple gesture which reveals something of God’s love for us. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14, 9). None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, Who are you, because they knew he was the Lord. And recalling the Eucharist, John, the Evangelist contemplates: “Jesus stepping forward took the bread and gave it to them”. Thus, he suggests that the Eucharist is the privileged place for the encounter with the Risen Jesus.
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Personal questions
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• Has it ever happened to you that someone has told you to throw the net to the right side of your life, to do something contrary to your experience? Have you obeyed? Have you thrown in the net?
• The kindness of Jesus. How is your kindness in the small things of life?
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Concluding Prayer
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Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good,
for his faithful love endures for ever.
Let those who fear Yahweh say,
‘His faithful love endures for ever.’ (Ps 118)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 APRIL, 2017, Friday within Easter Octave
BEING HEALED AS A PREREQUISITE FOR THE MISSION OF LOVE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:1-12; JN 21:1-14 ]

In the first reading, St Peter, when being interrogated before the Jewish leaders, said, “that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence today.” We cannot but wonder where Peter got such enthusiasm, courage and joy to proclaim the Good News.  Even when under threat and intimidation from the authorities, St Peter saw it as an opportunity to witness to Christ.

What about us?  Why is it that many of us do not have that great enthusiasm and urgency to proclaim Christ and be His witnesses?  Some of us lose the zeal to live out the Catholic Faith only a few years after our baptism.  Catholics who have been active in Church ministry also lose their interest and commitment after some time.  How have we become jaded so quickly, losing our sense of mission and apostolic zeal?

This is because we have been hurt. To live an authentic Christian life surely involves many sacrifices.  Quite often, we are misunderstood and unappreciated.  People say all kinds of things about us.  As humans we tend to react by withdrawing our services and our love.  Perhaps, we had a tiff or row with the priest in charge, or some fellow Catholics.  As a result, we become angry and resentful.   Indeed, most of us are broken in many ways and we need healing.  We are like Peter who was feeling depressed and guilty for denying Jesus in His hour of need, but also hurt that Jesus was innocently crucified, and disillusioned at His death.  Indeed, as we have read in last Sunday’s gospel story of the empty tomb, when Peter went into the tomb, he was silent.  He could not understand the significance of the empty tomb. The stone of unbelief had not yet been rolled away from him.  When one is wallowing and indulging in self-pity, weighed down by sin and guilt, one cannot see beyond oneself.  Consequently, today, the liturgy invites us to recognize the need for healing in our lives.

What, then, are the stages in the healing process?

Firstly, in such a situation, it is only natural to seek an escape route.  Peter wanted to get away from it all. Being so demoralized and losing all hope, he went back to doing what he had always been good at, namely, fishing.  So too, when we are discouraged, we want to go back to our familiar background and situation.   Yet, going back to his fishing was but an occasion for personal reflection.  It is said that fishing is truly a meditative hobby.  It gives us time to mull over our lives in a relaxed environment. Peter needed time to go through the tragic events that happened.  We too, when we are broken and feeling hopeless, we need to withdraw and be alone with God and ourselves to reflect over our lives.

What is notable in this healing process is the support that his friends gave to him.  John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, already recognized Jesus as the Risen Lord.  Yet, he knew that Peter needed support and so when asked, he went with the other disciples and followed Peter to the sea.  Perhaps, this tells us that friends can play a great part in the healing process.  Whilst such support can help, without Christ, one will continue to remain lost. It is important to note that it was dark when they went fishing. We read “they went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.”  Night is a symbol of being lost and broken.  Their efforts did not bear any fruit because they were in darkness.  Without Christ, we are all in darkness and hence lost.  Hence, we do not bear fruit.

But the good news is that Christ has come to reach out to us in our darkness.  Hence, the gospel tells us “it was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.”  In St John’s understanding, Jesus is the light of the world.  He had come to show us the way to life.  Once again, we must realize that for John, the scene of Jesus standing on the shore is a symbol of stability.  Jesus was standing on safe ground whereas the disciples were in the sea, which is a symbol of uncertainty because of the storms of life and where Satan lurks.   It is interesting to consider how Jesus helped Peter to heal himself.  Jesus began the process of healing by inviting them for reconciliation.  He called out to them, “Have you caught anything, friends?”   Note how He called them friends and even enlightened them as to where they could find the fish.  Jesus was not resentful that they had betrayed Him.  He took the initiative to reach out to them.

But for Peter to encounter the Lord, he needed to be freed from his fears.  He could not see Jesus if not for John, the disciple Jesus loved, who prompted him by saying, “It is the Lord!” Again, if John could notice Jesus so quickly, it was because he was without any guilty baggage.  When he saw the catch, he was immediately reminded of an earlier incident in the life of Peter at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he called Peter to be one of His disciples.  Hence, we read that “Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water.” The significance of this jumping down the water was actually a kind of baptism.  St Peter needed to be washed clean of his guilt and sins. And thus, with a little help from John, he took the plunge of faith in Christ’s forgiveness.  It is good to note that we did not read of the other disciples doing the same.

The next stage of reconciliation was the breakfast scene. Of course to have a meal is truly a sign of friendship.  So once again, Jesus allowed the disciples to know that they had been forgiven by inviting them to a meal with Him.  And so Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’”  What was the significance of the charcoal fire, the bread and the fish?  The charcoal fire would have reminded Peter of how he had denied Jesus that night at the charcoal fire in the presence of a maidservant.   It was a most humiliating moment when he cried for not having had the courage to admit that he was a disciple of the Lord. In contrast now, Peter showed that he was now more than a disciple, for we are told that “Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken.”

What about the bread and the fish?  The fact that Jesus invited them saying, “Come and have breakfast”, implies that they were now reconciled with Him.  Of course, it was also to remind them of the paschal meal and the multiplication of loaves earlier on in His ministry.  So, like the loaves being multiplied and how He gave Himself in the Eucharist, the disciples were now called to increase the membership of the people of God by feeding them the bread of life just as Jesus did.

What can we surmise and learn from all these?  It gives us the process for inner healing.  The healing process requires the healing of memories so that the healing of the heart can take place.  This healing takes place by returning us to our past, especially our psychological pains.  The necessity of reenacting the past is necessary so that the wounds can be reopened for healing.  The truth is that suppressing our guilt and our hurts will not liberate us.  Only what is exposed can be healed.

In the case of Peter, Jesus led him to remember his past by first and foremost helping him to recall his first encounter with Him through the miraculous catch of fish.  So inner healing begins with the recalling of God’s prior love and mercy. Next, Jesus helped Peter to recall his sins and relive his psychological pain by going back to his moments of failure when he denied Him. In tomorrow’s gospel, we read how Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to redeem himself by overriding his threefold denial with a threefold affirmation of love. So the steps of healing are to recall God’s mercy and love, followed by confession of sins and forgiveness.  With freedom, the Lord is then encountered.

Finally, what must be noted is that the end process of healing and reconciliation is always the call to mission.  In the first reading, we read how St Peter, having been healed of his pains and past, was so elated to be given the great joy of proclaiming Jesus as the universal saviour.   Because he himself was crippled by his sins and his past and now set free by faith, he could now also heal others through the same power that he was given.  His own experience told him that Jesus is the cornerstone.  He is the one who can deliver us from our sinful situation and even the past that continues to weigh us down. Hence, he declared, “This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’” Truly, Peter was a wounded healer.

Consequently, if find ourselves unable to reach out to others or go beyond ourselves, it is because of our brokenness.  Many of us, especially in ministry and in Church involvements, often become jaded because of hurtful experiences, especially from within our Catholic community.  As a result, we lose our zeal and desire to proclaim the gospel.  When such a situation exists, when we find ourselves lacking a sense of mission, it could be that our sins and pains prevent us from seeing Jesus as the Good News in our lives.  This means that we need to pray for healing.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, April 20, 2017 — The Miracle of Healing — “God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand”

April 19, 2017

Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 264

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Peter and John heal the crippled man. LDS photo library

Reading 1  ACTS 3:11-26

As the crippled man who had been cured clung to Peter and John,
all the people hurried in amazement toward them
in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.”
When Peter saw this, he addressed the people,
“You children of Israel, why are you amazed at this,
and why do you look so intently at us
as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety?
The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus
whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence,
when he had decided to release him.

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You denied the Holy and Righteous One
and asked that a murderer be released to you.
The author of life you put to death,
but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.
And by faith in his name,
this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong,
and the faith that comes through it
has given him this perfect health,
in the presence of all of you.
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Now I know, brothers and sisters,
that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did;
but God has thus brought to fulfillment
what he had announced beforehand
through the mouth of all the prophets,
that his Christ would suffer.
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away,
and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment
and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus,
whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration
of which God spoke through the mouth
of his holy prophets from of old.
For Moses said:A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people.
“Moreover, all the prophets who spoke,
from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days.
You are the children of the prophets
and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors
when he said to Abraham,
In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you
by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 8:2AB AND 5, 6-7, 8-9

R. (2ab) O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, our Lord,
how glorious is your name over all the earth!
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.
All sheep and oxen,
yes, and the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fishes of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
R. O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  PS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Jesus Appears to the Disciples After the Resurrection by Imre Morocz

Gospel LK 24:35-48

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

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Commentary on Acts 3:11-26 From Living Space

Immediately after the dramatic cure of the crippled beggar in the Temple, Peter takes the opportunity to address the crowds which had gathered round Peter, John and the healed beggar to explain the meaning of what they have just witnessed.

The scene takes place at “Solomon’s Portico”. This was a porch along the inner side of the wall enclosing the outer court, with rows of 27-foot high stone columns and a roof of cedar. So it was a roofed structure – somewhat similar to a Greek stoa. There was a common, but mistaken, belief that it dated back to Solomon’s time.

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Solomon’s Portico

The message that Peter now gives the amazed crowd gathering around is similar to other addresses in the early Church: 1, an explanation of what is happening; 2, the Gospel of Jesus Christ – death, resurrection and glorification; 3, a call to repentance and change of life, symbolised by baptism.

First, Peter makes clear that the healing that has just taken place before their eyes is not by his own power or that of his companion, John. They are not to be gaped at as having supernatural powers. What has been done has been through the power of Jesus, who has been empowered by the God they all believe in, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He is the one his hearers “handed over” to Pilate. Here again we have this “handing over”, a phrase which runs like a refrain through the Gospel. And him whom they handed over was the “Holy and Righteous One”, indicating Jesus’ special relationship to the Father and his sinlessness which are in stark contrast to the guilt of the murderous Barabbas.

Pilate was only too anxious to let Jesus go, being aware of his innocence, but he yielded to the demands of the crowd and yielded to their choice of a convicted murder, Barabbas. In a pregnant phrase – “the Author of life you put to death”. Barabbas had taken away life and is freed; Jesus will be the source of life by being condemned to death. As the sequence of the Easter Sunday Mass says: Dux vitae mortuus regnat vivus, which when literally translated means: “The Leader of life, having died, reigns alive.”

Peter and his companions are witnesses that Jesus was raised again. And it was in the name of this same Jesus that the poor beggar has been restored to health and mobility.

God has “glorified” his servant through his resurrection and ascension. The word “servant” is reminiscent of the songs of the suffering servant in Isaiah (and which we read early in Holy Week), especially Is 52:13-53:12. Jesus himself spoke of being a servant when he washed his disciples’ feet and when he said that he had come to serve and not be served. All of this did not quite fit the image of the kind of Messiah the Jews were expecting.

And it is by faith in this very Jesus that the crippled beggar, a character well known to the crowds who came regularly to the Temple, has been “made strong” again. “Faith…has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.”

Peter excuses his hearers (as Jesus himself did), saying they did not fully realise at the time what they were doing. Yet, the sufferings of the Christ had long been foretold by the prophets. The early Christians saw the sufferings and death of Jesus clearly indicated in Old Testament prophecies. The Jews, however, did not expect a suffering and dying Messiah – quite the opposite. They saw in Isaiah’s Servant Songs their own suffering as a people.

Now it is not too late for them to ‘repent’ (there is that metanoia, metanoia again), that is, radically to change their ways and thus have their sin taken away. To ‘repent’ is not just to express sorrow; it involves re-establishing one’s close relationship with God and submitting totally to his Way. The nearest English equivalent is ‘con-version’, a ‘turning round’, which means, of course, a ‘turning towards’.

Jesus, after all, is the prophet who was foretold by Moses, who, Peter tells the crowd, had said: “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you.” This is a loose quotation from Deuteronomy (18:15). In fact, at the time of Jesus, some Jews expected a unique prophet to come in fulfilment of this text. So early Christianity applied this tradition and text to Jesus and used them especially where Christian teaching seemed to diverge from traditional Judaism.

And indeed, says Peter, every prophet from Samuel down predicted what is now taking place before their eyes. Samuel was one of the earliest of the prophets and the one who anointed David, Jesus’ ancestor, as king. So the Jews in his audience are the heirs of the prophets’ messages, they are the heirs to the covenant first made way back with Abraham: “in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed”.

It is time now for the people to acknowledge this sacred covenant, made new through Jesus Christ, and they will do that by their accepting Jesus as their Saviour and abandoning their sinful ways to walk the Way of Jesus.

Exactly the same applies to us.

Comments Off on Thursday of week 1 of Easter – First Reading

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 APRIL, 2017, Thursday within Easter Octave

FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION AS THE BASIS FOR HEALING MIRACLES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 3:11-26; LK 24:35-48 ]

How did the early Church establish the truth of Jesus’ resurrection?  Firstly, the reality of the Risen Lord is made manifest in a miracle of healing.  St Peter made it clear that the healing of the crippled man was not “by our own power or holiness.”  Rather, “it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”   The denial of any power on their part in the healing of the man means that the power came from somewhere.  Only if the Lord were alive, could there be healing.  Indeed, there are no healers except the Lord Himself who makes use of us as His instruments.

Consequently, the power to heal is dependent on whether we have faith in the Lord’s resurrection.  If the Lord had healed during His earthly ministry, we should expect Him to continue the same works He did when He was on earth.  In fact, we would expect Him to do more now because He is no longer limited by space and time.  If the Risen Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth, then surely the Lord would want to continue His healing works.  In fact, He had told the disciples earlier, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (Jn 14:12-14)

This explains why the gospel insists on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection; that He has a body as opposed to being simply a pure spirit.  The Lord said to them, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  And as if that was not sufficient, Jesus said to them, “’Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.”  Clearly, therefore, the resurrected Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth.  Indeed, this was something beyond their imagination.  “And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.”

Having faith in the resurrection means to say that God is triumphant in the end.  No one can hinder the plan of God.  The resurrection of our Lord is His vindication.  As St Peter said, “it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate, after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses.”   The raising of Jesus is the proof that Jesus is Lord and Saviour.  Death could not imprison Him.  With the resurrection, it means there is nothing the Lord cannot do for us.

What is necessary for us is to surrender our lives in faith to the Risen Lord.  The question is whether we are willing to allow the Risen Lord to enter into our lives.  Do we have the faith of the apostles who healed in the name of the Risen Lord? They were so sure of Jesus’ presence and assistance that they did not have any doubt that Jesus would heal the crippled man.  Twice, they insisted on the necessity of faith. They said, “Through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”   Faith therefore is the key to access the power of the Risen Lord and for Him to act in our lives.  Without faith in His real presence, there can be no miracles in the Church or the sacraments.

Our faith in the Risen Lord is not just based on the testimony of the apostles but on the scriptures as well. The resurrection of our Lord, although a wholly other experience, yet it is not a total discontinuity with the faith of Israel.  In truth, it is the fulfillment of the prophecies of old.  This was what the Lord sought to explain and how the apostles justified the truth of the resurrection.  Moses prophesied this event when he said, “The Lord God will raise up a prophet like myself for you, from among your own brothers; you must listen to whatever he tells you. The man who does not listen to that prophet is to be cut off from the people. In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days.”   Jesus in the gospel clarified the texts of the Old Testament as referring to Him.  “’This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me, in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”

But with faith in Him, the Lord works marvelously in and through us.  This is the act of God’s goodness; that He would make use of us weaklings to do His work.  So like the psalmist, we can only rejoice and say, “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth! What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honour you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet.”  God counts us worthy to be His instruments of healing and grace.  Indeed, when I reflect on my own ministry, I feel completely unworthy and humbled at how God works in and through me.  There have been many times when I was at a loss as to what to preach, or what to write, but the Lord inspired me again and again.  There have been many situations when I felt so hopeless and helpless, but God showed Himself to be the Lord by coming to my rescue, again and again.  He indeed is the Lord and the mighty one.

Thus, with faith in the resurrection, “in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.”  Following the apostles, we must continue the work of healing which the Lord has begun.  Healing does not need to be confined to physical healing but also the healing of emotions, the mind, the heart and the soul.  That is why the proclamation of healing begins with repentance of our sins and the corollary experience of forgiveness.  When we repent of our sins, we remove the causes of our misery, brokenness and bondages.  By receiving forgiveness from the Lord, we are healed emotionally and spiritually.   When we are liberated from fear, pride and ego, then we can be totally open to God’s full healing grace, which in turn will also affect our physical healing as well.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Jesus teaches us to trust in God and remain at peace. All the way back to the Old Testament we see stories of men and women just like us learning to trust in God and stop flying into fits of anxiety, fear, anger and the like. The faith of the followers of Moses is tested over and over again. But when they need food, manna arrives. When they need to escape from the enemy, the sea is parted. They complain most of the way but God always “has their back” and prevents their most terrible imagined disasters.
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Here, in today’s reading, Jesus Himself says “Why are you troubled?” and “Peace be with you.” In Monday’s readings, Mary Magdalene meets an angel who says, “Do not be afraid” and then sees someone she thinks is the gardener and he too says “Do not be afraid.”
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Christians live in the faith that teaches peace — and Jesus is the teacher. When we are filled with anxiety, fear, anger and the more destructive emotions — we need to take a time out to remember that God is always with us — and His Son constantly reminds us “Do not be afraid.”
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We have come to believe that “Do not be afraid” is one of the most often repeated messages in the Bible.
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If we live in a constant state of fear, we pray that someone will remind us: “You of so little faith….”
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The antidote to fear is faith.
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What is the secret of letting go? Christ saw everything in the light of God’s plan. “So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning with Jerusalem.” St Peter said the same thing, “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.” He trusted in the Father’s will. He saw the big picture. He knew that there was nothing that was outside the Father’s will.
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Related:
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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Last Year
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31 MARCH 2016, Thursday Within Easter Octave
ENCOUNTERING, SHARING AND ANNOUNCING THE GOOD NEWS
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 3:11-26; LK 24:35-48 ]What does the work of evangelization entail? Is it an attempt to propagate an ideology? Is it a matter of skills, techniques and strategizing? Is it a means to indoctrinate people or to proselytize? Is it a system of thoughts that we have arranged logically so that we can convince people of what we believe and the values we subscribe to?
Nay, the work of evangelization springs primarily from a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. This is the beginning and the pre-requisite of evangelization. This is what we read in the scripture readings. The disciples encountered the Risen Lord on the way to Emmaus during the sharing of scriptures and the breaking of bread. Then we are told how the Lord appeared to them showing them His hands and feet. He even ate a piece of grilled fish before their eyes, proving that He was no ghost, nor a hallucination on the part of the disciples, not a vision but truly His resurrected body. The consequence of such an encounter brings joy, peace and hope. “Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.”

After so great an encounter, the natural response is to share the Good News of the Risen Lord. In fact, the sure sign that you have had a personal encounter with the Risen Lord is your desire to share this encounter with others. The deeper the encounter, the greater is the enthusiasm to share with others about this experience. This is done without asking, without coercion and without obligation. Indeed, we know that those who have encountered the Risen Lord, like the women of Jerusalem, the disciples and apostles of Jesus, could not stop sharing their amazing encounter with the Risen Lord. Good News must be shared as those who receive them cannot contain them in their hearts.

Indeed, the great thing about being a Christian is that we have a group of fellow Christians whom we can share our experiences with. Every religious experience needs to be authenticated and strengthened. As Christians, we are not alone in our encounter with the Lord. When we start sharing our experiences, it is wonderful to have other Christians identify with us. Such fellowship among Christians strengthens faith and reinforces the truth of the resurrection encounter. This was what happened when the disciples at Emmaus shared with the apostles. As they recounted their story, they must have been so reassured to know that what they saw was confirmed by the apostles as well.

It is also important that in Christian sharing of their encounters with the Lord, His presence is manifested. We read how when they were sharing their story, the Lord appeared to them in their midst. “They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost.” Very often, in the resurrection narratives, the Risen Lord is portrayed as coming from nowhere and then after manifesting Himself, disappeared to nowhere. He is also portrayed as passing through walls and doors; making Himself visible and invisible as He wishes. What is the lesson that the evangelist wants to share with us? Simply this, that whenever Christians gather together to share their faith with each other, the Lord is present always in their midst even when they do not see them with their eyes. In sharing their faith stories, the Lord will open their eyes, touch their hearts and move them to feel the reality of His presence among them. That was why the Lord told the disciples that whenever two or three are gathered together, He is among them. (Mt 18:20) Hence, we see the importance of faith-sharing among Christians. It is the failure to share our faith stories among ourselves that we begin to feel alone in our relationship with the Lord and very soon, we begin to doubt whether He is real at all. That was why the Lord said, “Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?”

Through faith sharing too, we come to understand deeper our experience by turning to the scriptures. Again, to help the disciples ground their encounter; the Risen Lord referred them to the scriptures that foretold His coming and His paschal mystery. He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Besides sharing faith stories, we must share and study the scriptures together if we are to grow in faith in the Risen Lord and deepen His presence in our midst because the Lord comes to us not just when we gather together but when we search the scriptures together in faith and love.

Arising from this deepening encounter and confirmation of the reality of the presence of the Risen Lord, the next natural development is to announce the Kergyma, that is, the Good News of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. This is what we read in the first reading when St Peter addressed the people who came “running towards Peter and John in great excitement, to the Portico of Solomon, as it is called, where the man was still clinging to them.” In obedience to our Lord’s command to announce the forgiveness of sins in His name, St Peter took the occasion of the miracle to make clear to them that the healing of the paralyzed man was not their work but that of the man, Jesus, whom they handed over to be crucified. “It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses; and it is the name of Jesus which, through our faith in it, has brought back the strength of this man whom you see here and who is well known to you. It is faith in that name that has restored this man to health, as you can all see.”

It is significant that the preaching of the Good News was not a philosophical discourse on some doctrines or some lofty thoughts like Greek philosophy but it was about a miracle that happened before their very eyes. This is why the Church today cannot dispense with miracles and works of mercy in announcing the Good News, otherwise she has no power in her preaching because there is no Good News to show. Proclamation of the gospel in words without deeds will be reducible to mere propaganda of an ideology. As a consequence of a personal and direct preaching of the Risen Lord that they knew, the apostles could convict the hearts of their listeners. Effective proclamation of the gospel demands both the event and the interpretation of the event through the scriptures.

Yet, in laying the guilt upon them, St Peter was no anti-Semitist. He acknowledged their ignorance and did not lay blame on them. He justified them, saying, “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing, this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that Christ would suffer.” What is important is not what happened in the past, because this was all God’s plan.

Instead of regretting our past mistakes, what is more important is that we humbly recognize our ignorance and repent, so that we can also receive the author of life. St Peter urged them, “Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, and so that the Lord may send the time of comfort. Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets.” Truly, the goal of proclamation is to bring about a change of hearts.

The gospel is preached not to condemn or make people feel guilty but to enlighten them in their ignorance and failures so that they could repent and receive the fullness of life. That was why St Peter reminded them of how Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses. This is what God desires for us all, as St Peter said, “You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when he told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed. It was for you in the first place that God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Commentary on Luke 24:35-48 from Living Space

We pick up from yesterday’s story of the disciples going to Emmaus. Back in Jerusalem they share their experience of the risen Jesus with their comrades who have also heard that Jesus has appeared to Simon Peter.

Suddenly Jesus himself appears in their midst. The fact that he comes suddenly, although the doors were locked, indicates that his presence is now of a different kind.

He wishes them peace. It is the ordinary Jewish greeting of ‘Shalom’ but one which has special meaning in this Easter context. Before his Passion Jesus had told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world do I give it to you…” (John 14:27). The peace of the Risen Jesus is fully of messianic blessings.

In spite of what they had heard, they are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. “What are you afraid of?” Jesus asks them. He shows them his pierced hands and feet. The Greeks mocked at the idea of bodily resurrection but Luke emphasises the physical reality of Christ’s risen body, that is, the wholeness of the person of the risen Jesus.

He invites them to come and touch him. Ghosts do not have flesh and bones. As he shows them the wounds in his hands and feet their fear turns to a mixture of joy and utter astonishment. They can’t believe their eyes. Jesus has to ask them to give him something to eat. Ghosts don’t eat and Jesus is no ghost, he is no disembodied soul. There is also an emphasis that death is not an escape from the body but that the whole person goes into the next life.

Jesus then goes on to explain, as he did with the Emmaus disciples, how all that had happened to him was fully in harmony with and the fulfilment of the Law, the prophets and psalms. Mentioning the three constituent parts of the Old Testament Jesus indicates that the Messiah was foretold through the whole of the Hebrew scriptures.

And out of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection comes the mission to proclaim reconciliation with God through Jesus to the whole word. “You are witnesses to this.” It is their mission to carry on the establishment of the Kingdom throughout the world. Or, as it is put here, “that repentance, for the forgiveness of sin, would be preached in the [Messiah’s] name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem”.

The Kingdom is being realised when people go through that process of radical conversion and change of life (‘repentance’ metanoia) which brings about a deep reconciliation of each one with God, with all those around them and with themselves, when all divisions fall away, when fear and hostility are replaced with a caring love for each other.

If we have not yet done so, let us become part of that great enterprise today.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1015g/

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 18, 2017 — “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” — Will we be willing and able to recognize Jesus when he appears before us?

April 17, 2017

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 AND 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia PS 118:24

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.

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Image may contain: outdoor and nature
Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb, by Rembrandt. ASt Mary’s right she has her breakfast — a jug of water and some eggs in a basket. Jesus is seen wearing a hat because “She thought it was the gardener.”
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Why Did Mary Turn Around? Reflection by Albert Holtz, OSB of “Downtown Monks”
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St. John Chrysostom suggests that the two angels suddenly caught sight of the Risen Lord standing behind Mary and she read their faces and so turned to see what they were looking at.


She may have turned only partly around, because v.16 tells us that when Jesus called her by name, “She turned and said to him, ‘Rabouni.’”


But the phrase that really caught my interest came when she first turned and saw this figure standing there “but she did not know that it was Jesus.”


Maybe her eyes were filled with tears, or maybe she was so overwhelmed with grief that she wasn’t really thinking sraight. And she certainly had no concept of a “risen Jesus” – Judaism had no such concept nor any vocabulary to express it, so she was not prepared to see a “risen Lord.”


In addition, there are other places in the Easter narratives where other people don’t recognize Jesus either ( e.g. the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples out fishing when Jesus calls to them from the shore), which indicates that there was now something different about his appearance. So we can’t blame poor Magdalene for mistaking Jesus for the gardener. “She did not know it was Jesus.


SO, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

But what about you and me? We have the gospel accounts along with the hindsight and the insights of two millennia of Christian tradition, all preparing us to recognize Christ in every person we meet. But the same thing happens to you and me as happened to Magadelene: we don’t know that it is Jesus standing before us when he comes.


I’ve learned that He often comes in the guise of the person who puts their umbrella into the spokes of my life’s bicycle: he phones at an inconvenient hour looking for someone to talk to, he needs help pouring cereal into his bowl because his Alzheimer’s is bad this morning, he is a homeless woman asking for a handout on the sidewalk down the hill from the monastery. I need to be on the watch all the time for these “appearances” of the Risen Lord so that I don’t make the same mistake that Magdalene made when “she did not know that it was Jesus.”
We’re about to start classes on Monday after a two-week Easter break. There are lots of terrific kids who I’ll be delighted to see after a two-week vacation; I’ll see Jesus in them right way and enjoy His presence. But will I be willing and able to recognize the same Jesus when he starts acting out his adolescent anger in class because he doesn’t know what else to do with it, or when he starts chatting with his classmate while he’s supposed to be taking notes in class? That will be the test for me.


Let’s pray to the Risen Jesus that He’ll give each of us the eyes of Easter Faith, that he’ll open our eyes to see His presence in every person and every circumstance.
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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
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Reflection
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• Today’s Gospel describes the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. The death if her great friend urges Mary to lose the sense of life. But she does not give up her search. She goes to the tomb in order to meet again the one whom death has taken away. There are moments in our life in which everything crumbles. It seems that everything is finished. Death, disasters, pain and suffering, disillusions, betrayals! So many things which may cause us to feel in the air, without standing on firm ground and which can lead us to fall into a deep crisis. But other things also happen. For example, that suddenly we meet a friend again and that can give us hope anew and can make us discover that love is stronger than death and defeat.
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• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Magdalene, it also speaks about diverse episodes which reveal the richness, indicate the richness of the experience of the Resurrection: (a) to the beloved disciple and to Peter (Jn 20, 1-10); (b) to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20, 11-18); (c) to the community of disciples (Jn 20, 19-23) and (d) to the Apostle Thomas (Jn 20, 24-29). The purpose of the writing of the Gospel is that of leading persons to believe in Jesus, and believing in him, to have life (Jn 20, 30-3).
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• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one perceives, one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search up to the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, seeking God and living the Gospel.
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• John 20, 11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but she seeks. There was a very strong love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few persons who had the courage to remain with Jesus up to the moment of his death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest on Saturday, she goes back to the tomb to be in the place where she had met her Beloved for the last time. But, surprisingly, the tomb is empty! The angels ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” and her response is: “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put him!” Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus, that Jesus whom she had known during three years.
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• John 20, 14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing him. The Disciples of Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize him. She thinks that he is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks: “Why are you weeping?” and he adds: “Who are you looking for?” The response: “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him”. She was still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. And it is precisely the image of the Jesus of the past which prevents her to recognize the living Jesus, who is present before her.
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• John 20, 16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name: “Mary!” This was the sign to recognize him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the name. She answers: “Master!” Jesus had returned the same, as the one who had died on the cross. The first impression was that death was only a painful incident on the journey, but now everything has again become as before. Mary embraces Jesus strongly. He was the same Jesus whom she had known and loved. And thus, is fulfilled what the Parable of the Good Shepherd said: “He calls them by name and they recognize his voice”. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10, 3.4.14).
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• John 20, 17-18: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the Apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being together with her is not the same as before. Jesus tells her: “Do not cling to me, because I have not as yet ascended to the Father!” He goes toward the Father. Mary Magdalene has to let Jesus go and assume her mission: to announce to the brothers that he, Jesus, has ascended to the Father. Jesus has opened up the way for us and thus, once more, God is close to us.
Personal questions
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• Have you ever had an experience which has given you the impression of loss and of death? How was it? What is it that gave you new life and gave you the hope and the joy of living?
• Which is the change that took place in Mary Magdalene throughout the dialogue? Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus in a certain way and found him in a different way. How does this take place in our life?
Concluding Prayer
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We are waiting for Yahweh;
he is our help and our shield,
for in him our heart rejoices,
in his holy name we trust.
Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in you. (Ps 33,20-22)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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18 APRIL, 2017, Tuesday within Easter Octave
THE DYNAMICS OF FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:36-41; PS 32:4-5,18-20,22; JN 20:11-18]

Christ is Risen.  This is the heart of the Church’s proclamation.  The resurrection of Christ is the central doctrine of the Christian Faith.  The Church began with faith in the resurrection of Christ.  Without this confession of faith in the resurrection, all the other doctrines will not hold water, whether it is the incarnation or the identity of Jesus as Lord, Saviour and the Son of God or the inerrancy of scriptures and the efficacious power of the sacraments and the authority of the institutions.

But how do we arrive at faith in the Risen Lord when we have not seen Him ourselves?  How do we enter into the faith of the apostles who claimed that they had seen the Risen Lord and were witnesses to the resurrected Lord?  Unless we can enter into the faith of the apostles and make it our own, we cannot truly proclaim that Jesus is risen and He is Lord.  What then are the stages to arrive at the apostolic faith which is the faith of the Church?

Firstly, faith begins with proclamation.  One can come to faith only through the proclamation of the witnesses of the Lord.  This is what St Paul wrote, “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”  (Rom 10:14f)  Indeed, this was what St Peter did at Pentecost, as we read in today’s first reading.  Proclamation therefore is necessary to bring people to faith.  Not just proclamation but proclamation with faith and conviction!  It is not only what we say but how we say it.   Proclamation is not an intellectual discourse.  It is a teaching that is rooted in faith.   It seeks to strike the heart of the listeners.

Secondly, besides proclamation, the way to bring people to faith is through testimony.  There is nothing more convincing than personal testimony. Faith in God is never the outcome of an intellectual process by which we come to agree on the facts.  That would be reasoning and it is weak because reasoning can change with new evidence or findings.  That is why the theories offered by science keep changing as they discover new evidence.  But personal testimony is based on a personal encounter and a living out of our experience.  Again, this is what we read in the early testimonies and account of the resurrection apparitions.   The Lord appeared to the apostles and the disciples.  According to St Paul, “he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”  (1 Cor 15:5-8)  In the gospel, we have Mary Magdalene who saw the Lord and “went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.”

Thirdly, we need to substantiate our testimonies with credible reasons, otherwise we can be accused of subjectivism, emotionalism and even hallucination.  Faith is never against reason and so it is our duty to show the logic of our faith and belief.  Again, this was what St Peter did.  “He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments, and he urged them, ‘Save yourselves from this perverse generation.’ They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. That very day about three thousand were added to their number.”  Clearly, it was not only through their testimonies alone that brought about the conversion of his listeners but he could show through scriptures and reasoning that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah foretold by the prophets.

As such, although the resurrection can only be perceived by faith, yet, we cannot do without reason as well.  We need to help people to understand and find confidence to believe.  That was how conversion in the early Church took place.  It was not only personal testimony and proclamation but also a systematic explanation for their faith in the Risen Lord. Of course, we cannot prove the resurrection but we can establish the facts that strengthen our case for belief.  Otherwise we might appear to be credulous and superstitious. For many intellectuals today, without some reasonable explanation, it would be difficult for them to make the leap of faith lest they are accused of being too credulous.  Theology precisely seeks to understand so that one might believe.  Theology seeks to give a systematic presentation for the credibility of a doctrine.  Reason does not destroy faith but buttress our faith even more firmly.   And for those who believe through study already, they may understand more deeply what they already believe.

Fourthly, we need to make an act of repentance.  This is not just repentance from sin.  This is included.  But this fundamental repentance is a call to believe.  In the gospel, Jesus began His ministry by proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”  (Mk 1:15)   In other words, we are called to repent by believing in the Good News.  If we accept in faith the Good News, then great things can happen.   If we believe in the Good News, then the outcome is repentance from our sins.  The motivation for change is never fear but love.  This was the response of the listeners to the discourse of Peter’s first homily.  “They were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent.’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.’”  Thus, the call for change is based on the fact of the promise of the Holy Spirit and the gift of sonship in Christ.

Finally, those who believe will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and will come to know the Risen Lord personally, for this is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit.  The work of the Holy Spirit is not to announce new things but to bring us to a personal encounter with the Lord.  “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  (Jn 16:12-14) This explains why the Charismatic renewal has helped many Christians to have a personal encounter of the Risen Lord through the release of the Holy Spirit.   Only through the grace of the Holy Spirit can we know the Father through the Son.

Furthermore, through the same Holy Spirit, the apostles would be able to perform the same works that Jesus did as He promised.  “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” (Jn 14:12-14)  We read that in the early Church, when they prayed in the name of the Lord and in the power of the Spirit, miracles and wonders happened.   “’And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.”  (Acts 4:29-31) Clearly, therefore, such miracles could only be possible unless the Lord is risen since every healing miracle is done in the name of the Lord.

In the final analysis, the foundation of faith, the motivation for proclamation and the power of belief in Christ’s resurrection must be that of a personal encounter with the Risen Lord in prayer, worship and in our daily life, witnessing to His presence and love at work in our lives.   This gift is given to us if we are receptive to His love.  The psalmist says, “The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.”  When we love the Lord like Mary, He will reward us with the gift of seeing Him.  We can see Him through the intellect but we can see better through the heart.  For the heart has an intuition of the lover that the intellect does not.  No wonder, it is recorded in the scriptures that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene even before the apostles, perhaps because Magdalene loved the Lord most among all His disciples.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017 — “He is Risen!” The women are the first to believe

April 15, 2017

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Eugène Burnand: Peter and John Running to the Tomb

Art: Peter and John Running to the Tomb by Eugene Burnaud

The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Day
Lectionary: 42

Reading 1 ACTS 10:34A, 37-43

Peter proceeded to speak and said:
“You know what has happened all over Judea,
beginning in Galilee after the baptism
that John preached,
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth
with the Holy Spirit and power.
He went about doing good
and healing all those oppressed by the devil,
for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible,
not to all the people, but to us,
the witnesses chosen by God in advance,
who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people
and testify that he is the one appointed by God
as judge of the living and the dead.
To him all the prophets bear witness,
that everyone who believes in him
will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R. (24) This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
“The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.”
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 COL 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

Or 1 COR 5:6B-8

Brothers and sisters:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sequence — Victimae Paschali Laudes

Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems;
Christ, who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw, wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen;
to Galilee he goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.

Alleluia CF. 1 COR 5:7B-8A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed;
let us feast with joy in the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Gospel JN 20:1-9

On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.

OrMT 28:1-10

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning,
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.
And behold, there was a great earthquake;
for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven,
approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.
His appearance was like lightning
and his clothing was white as snow.
The guards were shaken with fear of him
and became like dead men.
Then the angel said to the women in reply,
“Do not be afraid!
I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
Come and see the place where he lay.
Then go quickly and tell his disciples,
‘He has been raised from the dead,
and he is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him.’
Behold, I have told you.”
Then they went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce this to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

OrLK 24:13-35

At an afternoon or evening Mass.

That very day, the first day of the week,
two of Jesus’ disciples were going
to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus,
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating,
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
He asked them,
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stopped, looking downcast.
One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply,
“Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem
who does not know of the things
that have taken place there in these days?”
And he replied to them, “What sort of things?”
They said to him,
“The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene,
who was a prophet mighty in deed and word
before God and all the people,
how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over
to a sentence of death and crucified him.
But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel;
and besides all this,
it is now the third day since this took place.
Some women from our group, however, have astounded us:
they were at the tomb early in the morning
and did not find his body;
they came back and reported
that they had indeed seen a vision of angels
who announced that he was alive.
Then some of those with us went to the tomb
and found things just as the women had described,
but him they did not see.”
And he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are!
How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!
Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?”
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets,
he interpreted to them what referred to him
in all the Scriptures.
As they approached the village to which they were going,
he gave the impression that he was going on farther.
But they urged him, “Stay with us,
for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.”
So he went in to stay with them.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table,
he took bread, said the blessing,
broke it, and gave it to them.
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him,
but he vanished from their sight.
Then they said to each other,
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem
where they found gathered together
the eleven and those with them who were saying,
“The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!”
Then the two recounted
what had taken place on the way
and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

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Image result for angel speaks to mary magdalene at tomb, art
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Christ and Mary at the Tomb, by Joseph Brickey
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From The Abbot in the Desert

Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Christ is risen, alleluia!  “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.  This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”

Christ is truly risen!  You and I must be witnesses also to these facts:  Jesus lived among us and was killed and really died.  God raised him from the dead!  Jesus is God and Lord of all.

The Acts of the Apostles, from where the first reading is taken, challenges us on this Easter Day:  Be witnesses to the Lord.  The second reading, from the Letter to the Colossians, tells us “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.”  We humans, even after we believe and are baptized, still find ourselves sinning.  We don’t always seek the things that are above.  The hold of pleasure, of power and of money seems to draw us away from seeking that which is above.

Yet, God continues to seek us out in mercy and love.  This is why the Father sent the Son and why the Holy Spirit constantly is drawing us back to God.  We celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus because Jesus died for us and was raised for us.  We die in our sins but Jesus is always raising us.  Christ is risen.  Alleluia.

The Gospel, from John at this Mass, tells us again the confusion, the surprise, the challenge to faith of those first believers.  In the Gospels, it is the women who are faithful.  They are the ones who stay with Jesus at the Cross and they are the ones who go to the tomb.  The women are the first to believe.  The women are those who recognize the Lord.

Still, in this Gospel of John, we see Peter and John running to the tomb after getting word from Mary of Magdala.  John runs more quickly but does not go in.  He waits for Peter.  Peter goes in and sees various things in the tomb.  That is all that is said about Peter.  John goes is and believes.

We are invited to follow these women and these apostles and allow their witness to draw us to faith.  Christ is risen!  Our own faith is received from others, either directly from people in our lives, or from reading that which has been written by others.  Wherever we are in our faith, may this day of the Resurrection of Jesus become more real for us and draw us into the mystery of God’s love for us.  Christ is risen.  Alleluia.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/

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The Risen Christ Greets Mary at the Tomb — By Rembrandt

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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16 APRIL, 2017, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection
ENTERING INTO THE JOY OF THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 10:34.37-43; PS 117:1-2,16-17,22-23; COL 3:1-4 OR 1 COR 5:6-8; JN 20:1-9]

In the responsorial psalm, we pray, “This day was made by the Lord: we rejoice and are glad.”  Do we really mean what we say?  Can we share that same joy of the Israelites when they were set free from Egypt, or with the early Christians when they encountered the Risen Lord?  If we are to share their joy, we must enter into their experience to be able to truly rejoice with them.  If we cannot, it is because we have no real experience of liberation and deliverance.  Isn’t this true in any event in life?  If we are not part of the story, the history, we cannot feel with those who are rejoicing or mourning.  When we see a tragedy, we will feel with the people who are suffering.  Otherwise, it is just an event.  

So, if we are to connect with the sentiments of the Israelites we must know their context.  They were in slavery, suffering harsh treatment from the Pharaoh.  Through the intervention of Moses and the miracles worked through him by the Lord, they were eventually delivered from the power of the Egyptians.  They were set free from slavery, walked across the waters of the Red Sea dry-shod, and given new life and new purpose.  This was the context of the psalm when they sang the song of thanksgiving and rejoicing. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.  The Lord’s right hand has triumphed; his right hand raised me up.  I shall not die, I shall live and recount his deeds.”  It was an unimaginable experience of being liberated and redeemed from the slavery of the Egyptians and the powerful Egyptian army.

In the same vein, we must seek to understand the joy of the Church in celebrating Easter, the feast of the resurrection.  Those outside the Church will never understand what is so great about Easter.  For them, Easter is just another day.  This is because they think our faith in the resurrection of Jesus is a myth.  Even among Catholics and Christians, what excitement do we have when we think of Easter?  Are we overjoyed, like the early disciples when the Lord rose from the dead?  Perhaps not as well.   Again, we do not have the context.  We might have the doctrines but we do not have the experience.  We have not seen the Risen Lord.  We have not even seen the Jesus of Nazareth in His ministry, not even His passion and death.  What we do not see, we do not feel.  So, how can we ever rejoice as they did?

Again, we must recapture the context of their experience of the Crucified Lord.  St Peter said, “God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil.”   For the disciples, Jesus was truly a man of God and the anointed One.  They saw His miracles and they were inspired by His teaching.  They were edified by His life and inspired by His love and compassion for others.  His tragic death was totally shocking.  So we can imagine how distraught they were, thinking that Jesus, their political liberator, was killed by the Romans.  All their hopes about the establishment of the kingdom of God as preached by the Lord were crushed.   What was a great hope became a shattered dream!  They were totally disillusioned.

But when they heard that the Lord was risen, it was yet another unthinkable experience.  Again, we can imagine the excitement of the disciples of Jesus.  It began with Mary Magdalene who was in tears after discovering the loss of Jesus’ body.   After which, Peter ran to the tomb with John and the body was not found.  But it was too good to be true that Jesus had been raised.  We read that “till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”  Indeed, it took them some time before they could grasp the fact of the resurrection.  It was too far-fetched and amazing.

Perhaps this is so for most of us as well.   We say that the Lord is risen.  Is this what we are celebrating? Is it true?  Do we really believe?  Are we happy?  Do we feel liberated? Or are we just repeating what others are saying.  If we are, then the signs can tell.  We would be excited about Easter.  We would be ready to announce Jesus as our Risen Lord to the world.  The truth is that, like the women, we are silent because we have not yet seen the Risen Lord.  Our encounter with Him is not a personal encounter.  For many of us, it is just a testimony, part of the scriptures, but “of him, we have not seen!”

In the case of the apostles, upon encountering the Risen Lord, they could not resist telling the whole world about Christ.  “Now we are those witnesses – we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead.”  They had a first-hand encounter of the Risen Lord. Hence, their testimony was convincing because they knew the Risen Lord was the same Jesus of Nazareth, now risen and transfigured.  It was not a concocted story but a personal encounter with Him.   Indeed, they underscored the fact that they ate and drank with Him.  He was not a ghost.  Only a body can eat.  Spirits do not.

Their witnessing of Christ was not just the fact that He was raised.  More importantly, they also drew out the implications of a criminal condemned to death for claiming to be king, and now raised from the dead by the power of God.  If the Father had vindicated Jesus in the resurrection, He was at the same time, putting His divine seal on all that Jesus had said and done.  This means that the words of Jesus were identical with the Father.  As such, to reject Jesus is to reject the Father.  The conclusion therefore is that Jesus is the one who was appointed by the Father.  St Peter said, “he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead.”

So, how then can we enter into this Easter Experience?  Since we do not have the privilege of encountering the Risen Lord as the early disciples did, our access to Him is via the testimony of the Church.  In the gospel, we read that like John, we must defer to the judgment of the Church, represented by St Peter as the head.  Although John reached the tomb first, he was not the one who announced the resurrection.  It was the task of Peter as the head of the apostolic college.

By believing in their testimony, we too can enter into that experience.  Without faith, we cannot see the Risen Lord.   Faith is the key to entering into the Easter experience.  We must be ready to let go of the intellectual and cultural prejudices of the Jewish leaders. Even Mary Magdalene was not able to see the Lord initially because she was looking for Jesus of Nazareth.  She did not yet have the faith to see the Risen Lord.  We too can allow our limited knowledge and study, ego and pride to prevent us from being open to the reality of the Risen Lord simply because we cannot explain how it was possible.  Intellectuals often cannot encounter Him because they want to reduce God to their own level of understanding instead of admitting that the mysteries of God can only be revealed by God Himself.  Indeed, in conducting retreats, I always find that those who use too much of their intellect often have great difficulty experiencing the power of God at work in their lives.  Only when they humbled themselves before God, was the Lord then able to work in their lives and reveal His love to them through a miracle, a healing, a vision or receiving the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes, it is because our sins hinder us from being receptive to God’s grace.  When we are angry, bitter, resentful and proud, we cannot see the Risen Lord.  Our sins will blind us from the light of the Risen Christ.  This is why St Paul urges us, to “celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”   The yeast of sin darkens our intellect and causes us to look inwards instead of outwards.  Our intellectual pride finds excuses and justifications to reject Christ, lest in accepting Him, we have to give up our sins and the life of slavery to the Evil One.

Following the surrender of our sins, especially of pride, we must follow the way of St John who loved the Lord.  We read that “the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.”  Real believing does not come from physical seeing but the seeing of the eyes of love.  Intimacy causes one to believe without physical sight.  Indeed, when there is love, no proof is needed.  We take the word of one whom we love for granted without the need to verify.  But when there is no love, we will doubt whatever the person says.   So too, our faith in the Risen Christ is strengthened by love that comes from prayer.

Finally, the experience of the Risen Lord is real when we experience a true liberation from fear, anxiety and sin, which comes from living in Christ.  St Paul wrote, “Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.”   Now, we no longer live for this earth and this life alone but we live for the fullness of life in love and service which is our share in Christ’s resurrection.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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From Last Year:

Updated March 27, 2016 8:16 a.m. ET

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VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis tempered his Easter Sunday message of Christian hope with a denunciation of “blind” terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere, as well as expressing dismay that people fleeing war or poverty are being denied welcome as European countries squabble over the refugee crisis.

Tens of thousands of people patiently endured long lines, backpack inspections and metal-detecting checks Sunday to enter St. Peter’s Square. Under a brilliant sun, they listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.
To their delight, Francis completed a whirl through the square, made colorful with sprays of tulips and other spring flowers, in his open-topped pope-mobile after celebrating Mass on the steps of the basilica. He leaned over barriers to shake hands, as the vehicle ventured past the Vatican’s confines, with his bodyguards jogging alongside on the boulevard.

For years, Islamist extremists in social media have listed the Vatican and Rome as potential targets due to hosting the headquarters of the Roman Catholic church and several basilicas. Despite the threats, Francis has kept to his habit of trying to be in close physical contact with ordinary people.

Francis said, for the faithful, Jesus who rose after death by crucifixion “triumphed over evil and sin.” He expressed hope that “will draw us closer to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence.”

At the end of Mass, he chatted briefly with the former king and queen of Belgium, Albert II and Paola, who attended the ceremony.

In his speech, Francis cited recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Iraq.

He called the message of Easter “a message of life for all humanity.”

Easter “invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice,” he said.

As he has done repeatedly, Francis lamented that “all too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance.”

Some European countries have erected barbed-wire fences and other barriers to keep out those who continue to arrive on Greek and Italian shores after risky sea voyages on smugglers’ boats. Another strategy has been for some European countries to express a preference for accepting Christian refugees over Muslim ones – which would effectively rule out the vast majority of Syrian refugees.

Most recently, a host of countries along Europe’s main migrant route north of Greece to central Europe have simply closed their borders to refugees, stranding thousands of refugee families at different border points.

Francis also decried the destruction and “contempt for humanitarian law” in Syria, millions of whose people have fled to Europe or to refugee camps closer to their homeland.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 MARCH 2016, Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection (Vigil)
DEEPENING OUR FAITH IN THE RESURRECTION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gen 22:1-18; Ps 15:5, 8-11; Ex 14:15–15; Ex 15 canticle; Isa 54:5-14; Ps 29:2,4-6,11-13; Rom 6:3-11; Ps 117:1-2,16-17,22-23; Lk 24:1-12 ]

Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen.  He is risen indeed!   Do you believe this confession of faith of the early Christians?  Indeed, for us Christians, it is nothing great to believe that Jesus died on Good Friday because even pagans and the world believe.  Few have questioned the crucifixion and the death of Jesus on the cross.   But not many believe that He rose from the dead and is alive.  This is not surprising, considering that even the disciples of Jesus initially could not believe that Jesus had risen.  In the gospel, the proclamation of the resurrection of our Lord was met either with disbelief, skepticism and reservation.  When the women told the apostles their story, it “seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.”  St Peter, as the head of the college of apostles, ran to the tomb, he “bent down and saw the binding cloths but nothing else; he then went back home, amazed at what had happened.”

If they who knew the Lord on earth, worked with Him, talked with Him and yet disbelieved, why should we be surprised that many cannot accept the resurrection of Christ.   Many of our Catholics are not too sure of Jesus’ resurrection because their faith in the resurrection is an intellectual assent to a doctrine but not a conviction of the heart.   St Paul tells us in Romans, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Rom 10:9f)

Faith in the resurrection cannot be simply an idea, a notion or a doctrine, but it must be faith from the heart.  This explains why the Empty Tomb means nothing much.  It is not a basis for faith.  St Paul proclaimed the resurrection of our Lord without the story of the Empty Tomb.  This shows that faith in the Empty Tomb is not necessary for faith in the resurrection of the Lord.  The early Christians got on very well without the story of the Empty Tomb.  The fact of the empty tomb only declares that the body was not there.  But faith must add to the fact by saying, He is risen.  Faith interprets the missing body as the Lord has been raised from the dead.  Only because of a prior faith in the resurrection could the early Christians use the story of the Empty Tomb meaningfully, not to prove the resurrection but to substantiate their claims of the Risen Lord.  The empty tomb is at most an indicator that the Lord’s body was not there and therefore it was plausible that one of the reasons was that He had risen.  Of course skeptics, as we read in the gospel, suggested that the body was stolen or even claimed that Jesus was taken down from the cross half-dead and then resuscitated and then proclaimed as risen!

How can we know that our faith in the Risen Lord is not an empty faith?  We have not seen the Risen Lord like some of the apostles or the women of Jerusalem did.  What then is the basis of our claim that Jesus is truly risen from the dead?   How can we be so sure of our claims?

Firstly, faith in the resurrection is more than a matter of saying, “Alleluia, Jesus is Lord or Jesus is Risen!” The proof of our faith in the resurrection is that we have overcome the fear of death ourselves.  Death is always the last enemy of man.  Death cripples us from living our life fully.  The fear of death hinders us from giving our lives, our possessions and things to the poor.   When we fear death, we dare not live adventurously and fully.   The fear of death prevents us from doing many things in life, whether it is the death of our loved ones or ourselves.

The fear of death of course is that instrument by which the Evil One leads us to commit sin.  We sin only because of fear of death.  St Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)  Because of sin, we become indifferent to God and our fellowmen.  We no longer feel the presence of God and lose our goal and final destiny in life.  Because of sin, we no longer feel for others and we are blind to the truth.  Because of sin, we live for ourselves and as we live for ourselves, life becomes empty and meaningless, leading to nihilism.

Hence, the proof of our faith in the resurrection is that we are ready to enter into the tomb with Him and rise to a new life, as St Paul says.   “If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection. We must realise that our former selves have been crucified with him to destroy this sinful body and to free us from the slavery of sin. When a Christian dies, of course, he has finished with sin.”   Only when we have decided that sin causes us to be more miserable and makes us slaves like the Israelites in Egypt, then we will be ready to give up our sins.

Secondly, faith in the resurrection means that we are ready to witness for Jesus as the women did.  Even though the women’s testimony was met with disbelief and skepticism, it did not stop them from announcing the Good News that Jesus is risen.   What about us?  Are we ready to confess the resurrection with our lips as Paul urges us?  Are we ready to stand up for Jesus even when the world ridicules our faith and cast aspersions on us?  In the face of critics and opposition to our belief in Christ and the gospel, are we ready to take risks in defending Jesus and our faith in Him, that He is risen and He is our Lord and saviour of the world?   Abraham, the Father of faith, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, for God.  He was ready to take risks when the Lord called him out of the land of Ur to the Promised Land.

If we find our faith still weak and not sufficient to confess with our lips and believe in our hearts that Jesus is risen, what must we do?

We need to follow the example of Abraham our father in faith in surrendering ourselves to the promises of God.  Abraham trusted in God fully and did what he was told to do, even to the point of sacrificing his only son.   He knew that obedience to the will of God is the sure way of finding life.  Thus, again and again, in obedience to the will of God, he surrendered his entire self to Him.  We too must follow him and be ready to say “yes” at all times to His holy will in all things.  With Abraham, we can trust in divine providence, knowing that because He is still with us in our midst, He will provide us with what is necessary to arrive at our goal and to accomplish His divine plan of which we are all participants in our own ways.

Secondly, to strengthen our faith, we need to rely on the testimonies of those who have seen the Lord.  In the early Church, the early Christians relied on the testimonies of the apostles when they claimed that they saw the risen Lord.  Testimonies are important in strengthening faith.  We still have such testimonies in our day when people witness to the power of God at work in their lives, much like the works of wonders the Lord worked when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.  Indeed, the miracles that the Lord worked during the time of the Israelites are still being worked today because the Lord we believe in is a living God, not a God of history but in history.  In truth, many of us lack faith in the resurrected Lord because, like the Israelites, we have been forgetful of the many events when God showed forth the power of His arm and His divine mercy in our lives.  The angels told the women, “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee: that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?”  When we recall the love of God in sacrificing His only Son for our salvation, we should be moved to repentance and love.   So great and merciful is our God that He who spared the only son of Abraham, Isaac, did not spare His own begotten Son because of His great love for us.

Thirdly, to strengthen our faith in the Risen Lord, we need to develop a personal relationship with Him.   Faith in God and in Christ, in the final analysis, is based on a personal relationship, not an intellectual assent to a doctrine.  If the women and John could look at the empty tomb and come to the conclusion in faith that “he is not here, he is risen”; it was because they loved the Lord intensely.  They had intimacy with the Lord and knew Him from their hearts.  The rest, including Peter, operated from the level of the head and could only arrive at amazement or puzzlement at what happened.  Logical love for the Lord will not bring about deep faith because God has “hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent” and revealed them to mere children.  (Mt 11:25)

So today, let us renew and deepen our faith in the resurrection of our Lord.  Let us remove that stone of sin, of pride and blindness to the truth from the tomb so that the rays of the Risen Lord can shine upon us and set us free from fear, from sin and from eternal death.  In faith, relying on the testimonies of the early Church, let us say with joy, Alleluia!  He is Risen indeed!

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Easter Homily
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The story is told of a child who began to read the Gospels. Like billions before her. She quickly became charmed by Jesus. Suddenly, she ran out of her room crying hysterically. She ran into the arms of her alarmed mother. She cried: “They killed him. They killed him.” Her mother comforted her and then whispered to her, “now go back and finish the story.”

Unlike that child, we know the rest of the story. Our hearts rejoice as we hear how the story finished — not with defeat and death, but with victory and new life. “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Similar good news is proclaimed in our first reading: “… They put [Jesus] to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised up on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” No wonder the Church exults in the opening words of the Easter Proclamation which we heard last night during the Easter Vigil: “Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God’s throne! Jesus Christ our King, is risen!”

The Easter Good News is, in fact, the core or center of the Gospel: Jesus Christ has died and now lives! His “love to the end” in the end has triumphed. In my homilies during the first two days of the Easter Triduum — on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, — I repeatedly used that phrase: “love to the end.” I pointed out that each of the celebrations during the Easter Triduum, from Holy Thursday through Easter Day, has a particular emphasis, but that all of them together form one prolonged celebration of the central mystery of our faith: the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. As you and I have been reliving Christ’s Dying and Rising in these days of the Easter Triduum, we see so clearly revealed before us the love Christ has for each of us — for each member of the human family, a love forever faithful and enduring, truly “love to the end;” not only to the end of Christ’s earthly life, but love continuing on, because today we proclaim that Christ is the Risen Lord, and, therefore, His love remains to the end of time into eternity.

Christ’s “love to the end” in the end has triumphed. Because He has triumphed over sin and death, He gives us newness of life. This celebration of Easter pulsates with this gift: a radical newness! Nothing is the same again! Sin will never have the final victory nor will human death! As we pray over and over throughout the Easter season and indeed throughout the year: “Dying, You destroyed our death, rising You restored our life, Lord Jesus, come in glory!”

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is made visible for us through symbols. We see before us in the sanctuary the newly blessed Paschal Candle, whose flame symbolizes Christ the Light. Yes, Christ is our Light, going before us to lead us in our pilgrimage through life, dispelling the darkness of sin and death, warming us in our loneliness and difficulties, guiding us in our uncertainty and fears.

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is likewise made visible through the symbol of water. Soon, you will be sprinkled with water, which I blessed last night during the Easter Vigil. This water symbolizes Christ our Life, who strengthens us to live daily according to His Gospel and the teachings of the Church His Body of which we are members.

This “newness of life,” the result of Christ’s “love to the end,” is also made visible in the reality of the Eucharist, both sacrament and sacrifice, the Eucharist we celebrate with such faith and joy today, whereby in our midst the dying and rising of Christ is made present, whereby Christ’s Real Presence continues among us in the Blessed Sacrament. In the Eucharist, Christ’s “love to the end” is revealed in a unique way and He remains to be our nourishment on the journey that ends at our Father’s House.

We are observing the Holy Year of the Great Jubilee, recalling in a special way the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s Birth in Bethlehem. He was born in order to become, by His dying and rising, the One Saviour of the world, our Saviour! Today, as we renew our commitment to live in close union with the Risen Lord Jesus, let us ask the Lord to deepen His life within us and to make us His witnesses of Easter joy and hope. Let us promise our Risen Saviour and Lord that we will follow Him, our Light and our Life, everyday and invite others to come to Him by the witness of our lives — our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends — everyone we meet! With Christ the Risen One, let us make all things new — with the joy and hope He gives! With Christ the Risen One, Let us be Easter People! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

By Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Bishop of Arlington and Northern Virginia

Arlington Catholic Herald

Source http://catholicherald.com/stories/Bishop-Loverdes-Easter-Sunday-Homily,4794

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 26, 2016 — Feast of Saint Stephen — “He was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

December 25, 2016

Feast of Saint Stephen, first martyr
Lectionary: 696

Reading 1 ACTS 6:8-10; 7:54-59

Stephen, filled with grace and power,
was working great wonders and signs among the people.
Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen,
Cyrenians, and Alexandrians,
and people from Cilicia and Asia,
came forward and debated with Stephen,
but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But he, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven
and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and he said,
“Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man
standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears,
and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 31:3CD-4, 6 AND 8AB, 16BC AND 17

R. (6) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I will rejoice and be glad because of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
Rescue me from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.

Alleluia PS 118:26A, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD:
the LORD is God and has given us light.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 10:17-22

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

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Commentary on Matt 10:17-22 From Living Space

Today’s passage from Matthew is taken from the discourse which Jesus spoke to his disciples, sending them out on their mission to do the same work that he was doing and instructing them on how to go about it. In today’s section he foretells what they can look forward to. They can expect to be “handed over” (a key word in the gospels) to governors and kings, which will give them an opportunity to bear witness before unbelievers. At the same time, they are not to be anxious about what they should say. The words they need will be given when the time comes. This has been consistently confirmed by people arrested for their beliefs in recent times. They find in themselves a strength and confidence they never knew they had.

Again, Jesus sadly predicts that following him will result in families being broken up – father against child, children against parents. Alas, this prediction, too, has been fulfilled all too often both in the past and in recent times.

“You will be hated by all on account of my name,” says Jesus. A strange fate indeed for those whose lives are built on truth, love and peace. Yet a fate only too sadly confirmed right down the centuries to this very day. Jesus had said that all those who wished to follow him would have to take up their cross and go after him. The servant is no greater than his master. “Whoever loves his own life will lose it; whoever hates his own life in this world will keep it for life eternal. Whoever wants to serve me must follow me, so that my servant will be with me where I am” (John 12:25-26). Stephen clearly is a perfect model of such a Christian disciple.

Some of us may find it strange to be talking about such painful things during the Christmas season. If we think like that then it may indicate that we do not fully understand the nature and purpose of Jesus’ birth. We tend to insulate the whole Christmas scene with romanticism and even a great deal of sentimentality but there was nothing sentimental about the Child being born in those rough surroundings, far from home, already ignored by the religious leadership of the day and whose only visitors were a group of poor and marginalised men and some mysterious visitors from out of the “pagan” darkness.

Ahead of this Child was a life of total service ending in the sacrifice of his life in shame and humiliation as the necessary step to our total liberation and sharing in his life. Christmas is the beginning of all this and Stephen is its eloquent symbol.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 DECEMBER, 2016, Monday, St Stephen, Protomartyr
ACQUIRING THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Acts 6:8-10,7:54-59; Matthew 10:17-22   ]

We have hardly done away with the feast of Christmas and just right after Christmas, we celebrate the tragic martyrdom of St Stephen.   This feast does not seem to gel with the peaceful atmosphere of the joyful season.  How can Christianity, an apparently harmless religion be a cause of concern for others?

How could Jesus the innocent and harmless baby be seen as a threat to the institutions?  How could Christianity be seen as against humanity?  The truth is that while Christmas is a season of peace and Jesus is our peace, it is so only to those who seek to walk in the light.  Peace is always the fruit of justice; justice is based on truth.  Jesus has come to reveal to us the truth about ourselves, the truth about God.  Consequently, with Jesus’ coming, peace is in sight only to those who seek true peace built on justice, truth and love.

Yet we know that almost immediately after He was born, darkness sought to extinguish the light.  We have King Herod who felt threatened by the infant child.  As a result, he had to flee for safety.  As Jesus entered the ministry, which was one of liberation and healing, the religious institutions of the day took offence and felt challenged by His popularity and the stark truth of His message.  It was difficult to accept and their egos were wounded.  Their interests were being compromised.  The fear of the loss of power, control, wealth and influence prevented them from being receptive to the message of Jesus.

So it is not surprising that when Stephen came to the scene, he faced the same challenges that his master faced.  Not only did he suffer the same fate, but he was also rejected and condemned by the Sanhedrin, then stoned to death.  Stephen was faithful to Christ and the gospel message. He was not afraid to face the Sanhedrin.  He looked at them calmly and with confidence and clarity spoke of Christ as the Messiah.  Even before kings and governors, he remained defiant and firm in his beliefs.  He did not allow death threats or imprisonment to intimidate him.  Such was the courageous faith of Stephen.

The fate of Stephen was not unexpected because Jesus in the gospel already warned His disciples about the future.  Jesus as a leader was open and transparent with His disciples.  He did not promise them a rose garden, wealth, power or status.  Rather, Jesus was completely honest and frank with them as to what discipleship entailed.  He prepared the disciples for the trials ahead.

These challenges remain real for us today.  We are being challenged by secularism more than ever.  To some extent, Christianity is under siege.  Unlike in those days, now it is no longer safe to declare oneself a Catholic because the world looks at us with cynicism as to how we could ever choose to be Catholic.  Today, it is not a novelty to have a religion.  That is why most of us keep our religion private, especially at the office.  To be known as a Catholic makes us look uncool, irrelevant to society and out of touch with the times because of the values we extol, especially in marriage, sex and family or entertainment.  They consider us backward, oppressed, narrow-minded and restrictive.

What are the three areas of challenges we face?  Firstly, whilst Catholics seek to be good citizens, obedient to the State and to the laws of the country, there will be occasions when Catholics need to speak out against laws and policies we deem to be short-sighted from the perspective of morality and justice.  When that happens, the prophecy of Jesus that “You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans” will come true.  Indeed, the Church, whilst not interfering with the State in the governance of the country, is required morally to contribute to the policy making of the State, especially those that affect moral values, the good of the people; and promoting unity based on justice and equality.  Such conflicts become more real in cases when governments do not seek the interests of the people but their own.  Exposing the falsehood of the politicians, injustices and corruption would certainly bring the Church to a head with the State.  If the government is good, such as in Singapore where religions are seen as partners to the development and growth of the country, then there will be cooperation and respectful disagreement when dialogue does not bring about consensus.

Secondly, Jesus also warns us about being handed “over to Sanhedrin” and they would “scourge you in their synagogues.”  This is the confrontation that comes from within established religions and the institutions.  In seeking change and renewal, we will face opposition not just from without but from within.  The Church is human even though it is divinely instituted.  We remain sinners seeking to be saints.  Working with imperfect and sinful leaders and fellow Christians, there will be misunderstandings, quarrels and frictions due to the lack of humility, selflessness and Christian charity.  Often many goodwill Catholics who seek to renew the Church are seen as threats to the institutions and the authorities because they threaten the status quo.  They end up being persecuted and marginalized.  Many leave the Church disillusioned and bitter at the injustice of those in power and the cronyism that is at work in some organizations.

Most of all, persecution often comes from within our own families.  It is very difficult to be a Christian within our own family, our workplace and our community.  A prophet is not accepted in his own country.  Matters of faith and religion are very personal and our family members may not be receptive to our faith and practices, especially if we come from a family of different faiths.  At times, our Catholic students are ridiculed at school for being Catholic and for subscribing to our gospel values.  They are made fun of and mocked when they fail to live up to their Christian values, as if those who are not Christians are entitled to live selfish and unjust lives.  Indeed, at times, there can be much tension at home as Jesus warns us, “Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.”   Because of religion, some are ostracized by their loved ones.

In all these trials, the Christian is asked to remain strong and firm.  “You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.”  How can we be strong in our faith like Stephen in the face of persecution and discrimination?  Jesus assures us this, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you.”  What we need to do is to be like Stephen, a man who was “filled with grace and power and began to work miracles and great signs among the people.”

Like Stephen, we need to be attuned to the Holy Spirit at work in our lives.   If we are receptive to the Spirit of Jesus, He will speak through us and from the depth of our hearts.  Stephen acquired the Spirit of Jesus by contemplating on His life, passion, death and resurrection.  We too must learn from him to focus on the Lord.  Christmas invites to be like Mary, contemplating on the wonderful things that happened because of Jesus.

In this way, the Spirit of Jesus will live in us and we become more identified with Him in truth.  With the power of the Lord working in and through us, we will grow in wisdom in dealing with the world and its evil ways.   With the conviction of our faith in Christ, we will be given the gift of truth spoken directly from our hearts with eloquence that even our enemies cannot argue with us.

Most of all, with Stephen, we are always ready to forgive our enemies even when we have been wronged.  Until we arrive at this spirit of forgiveness of our enemies, we are still far from what a Christian should be.  There is no greater witnessing than forgiving our enemies and those who have hurt us.  When we are vindictive and revengeful, we are no better than our enemies.  A Christian accepts innocent and vicarious suffering for the greater good of all.  This is the hallmark and the final litmus test of being a true Christian when we are able to say with Stephen, “’Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’   Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.”

Like Stephen, we do not take things into our own hands but with faith in the power of God’s justice and deliverance, we must follow Jesus in saying, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”  With the psalmist, we pray “Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me, for you are my rock, my stronghold.  For your name’s sake, lead me and guide me.  Into your hands I commend my spirit. It is you who will redeem me, Lord. As for me, I trust in the Lord: let me be glad and rejoice in your love.  My life is in your hands, deliver me from the hands of those who hate me. Let your face shine on your servant. Save me in your love.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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Stephen’s name means “crown,” and he was the first disciple of Jesusto receive the martyr’s crown. Stephen was a deacon in the earlyChristian Church. The apostles had found that they needed helpers to look after the care of the widows and the poor. So they ordained seven deacons, and Stephen is the most famous of these.

God worked many miracles through St. Stephen and he spoke with such wisdom and grace that many of his hearers became followers of Jesus. The enemies of the Church of Jesus were furious to see how successful Stephen’s preaching was. At last, they laid a plot for him. They could not answer his wise argument, so they got men to lie about him, saying that he had spoken sinfully against God. St. Stephen faced that great assembly of enemies without fear. In fact, the Holy Bible says that his face looked like the face of an angel.

The saint spoke about Jesus, showing that He is the Savior, God had promised to send. He scolded his enemies for not having believed in Jesus. At that, they rose up in great anger and shouted at him. But Stephen looked up to Heaven and said that he saw the heavens opening and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

His hearers plugged their ears and refused to listen to another word. They dragged St. Stephen outside the city of Jerusalem and stoned him to death. The saint prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and begged God not to punish his enemies for killing him.

After such an expression of love, the holy martyr went to his heavenly reward. His feast day is December 26th.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=137

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St. Luke testified about St. Stephen, the Archdeacon and the first martyr (protomartyr), in the Acts of the Apostles saying, Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8). The Jews envied him and seized him and brought him to the Council. They also set up false witnesses who said, This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us (Acts 6:12-13). And all who sat in the Council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel (Acts 6:13). Then the high priest said, Are these things so?

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St. Stephen answered with convincing words and told them the history from Abraham to Moses. The coming out of Abraham from Haran, the birth and the circumcision of Isaac, Jacob and his sons and their selling of Joseph, and how Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. St. Stephen continued to narrate to them all the events until the building of the temple. He concluded by saying, You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of Whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers; who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it (Acts 7:51-53).

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When they heard these things they were cut to their hearts, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran toward him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. They stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit. Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not charge them with this sin. And when he said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:51-60). Devout men carried St. Stephen to his burial and made great lamentation over him.

http://www.saint-mary.net/sundayschool/saints/stephen.html

Related:

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The Martyrdom of St Stephen by RUBENS 1616

Stephen or Stephan (Greek: Στέφανος, Stephanos; Latin: Stephanus, meaning wreath or crowned, often given as a title rather than as a name), traditionally venerated as the Protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity,[1]was according to the Acts of the Apostles a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial he made a long speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who would later himself become a follower of Jesus.

The only primary source for information about Stephen is the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles.[2] Stephen is mentioned in Acts 6 as one of the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews selected to participate in a fairer distribution of welfare to the Greek-speaking widows.[3]

The Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Church of the East venerate Stephen as a saint. Stephen’s name is derived from the Greek language Stephanos, meaning “crown”. Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; artistic representations often depict him with three stones and the martyr’s palm frond. Eastern Christian iconography shows him as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon’s vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 1, 2016 — “Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven will enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

November 30, 2016

Thursday of the First Week in Advent
Lectionary: 178

Reunion at the Gates of Heaven by Naomi Van Doren

Reading 1 IS 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

“A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you.”

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1 AND 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A

R. (26a) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia IS 55:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call him while he is near.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

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Commentary on Matthew 7:21, 24-27 From Living Space
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Today’s Gospel reading reminds us of what true discipleship means. People often confess that they have not said their morning and evening prayers or that they have not been to Mass. Perhaps they should remember the words of today’s Gospel: “It is not those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, who will enter the kingdom of heaven…”
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On the other hand, those of us who always do say our morning and evening prayers and never miss a Mass also need to remember them. Something more is needed than just being a pray-er. What is needed is that we “do the will of the Father”.
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What is that will? It is that we be filled with the spirit of the Kingdom and work to make that Kingdom a reality in our world. It involves constant outreach beyond ourselves. We have to go to God by finding him present in the world around us and helping others to be aware of that loving presence also. We will not do that by piously calling on God’s name while ignoring the needs of our brothers and sisters. To do that is to build our house on sand.
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That is not to say that prayer is not important. We cannot effectively do God’s work unless we spend time listening to and responding to his Word in times of undisturbed quiet. But our prayer is only genuine when it becomes the spur for us to go out and bring something of God’s love and compassion into our world.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 DECEMBER 2016, Thursday, 1st Week of Advent
WHAT IS THE FOUNDATION OF YOUR LIFE?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 26:1-6; MT 7:21.24-27  ]

It is obvious to anyone who wants to build a house that he must ensure that the building has a good foundation, whether with respect to the soil or the pillars on which everything is built. Without laying a good foundation, as Jesus says in the gospel, when “rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!”  When it comes to laying down a good foundation, there cannot be any let up; otherwise the price to pay will be heavy, not just in monetary or material terms but even at the cost of lives.

If this is true for physical buildings, what about the human person?  Why is it that many do not take seriously the need to ensure that their lives have good foundation.  Many people get married and have children.  But have they carefully given thought to the kind of foundation they want their marriage to be built on, or that of their family life, particularly in the way they raise their children?  The truth is that many couples enter into marriage without agreeing on the kind of foundation they intend to build their relationship on.  They do not even have time to really speak about the things that really matter to their hearts and to their lives together as a couple.

This is equally true with respect to the raising of children.  Isn’t it true that many couples have no real idea what it takes to raise up holistic and integrated children?  All they are concerned about is that they do well in life, which is reduced to giving them a good academic education, getting good results and performing well in sports and the arts.   But have they given thought to the importance of forming their character, inculcating them with good and lasting values?  How could they, if the parents themselves are lacking in moral values, when all they care about are the values of this world: success, riches, fame and status?  If only parents know that what they say and do will affect their children, then they will think twice before they say or do anything, whether in their interpersonal relationships or the way they relate with their children.  Many of us today are deeply wounded and broken, suffering from low self-esteem, insecurity, and failure in relationships because we are not capable of love, as we have never received unconditional love and forgiveness from those who were supposed to be our mentors, tutors, models and exemplars.

Hence, we must reflect carefully the kind of foundation we are building our lives and that of our children’s on.   If the foundation is built only on this world, then we are building on sand, because like sand, the world is unstable, unpredictable and illusory.  Even if one becomes rich, successful and achieves status in life, the heart remains empty, especially when one’s personal life is a failure with regard to relationships. In vain are all our successes when we have no one to share our life and joy with because we are estranged from our spouse, misunderstood by our parents, marginalized by our siblings, treated with hostility by our colleagues and stressed out by jealousy and competition in the office.   Worse still, if because of the lack of ethical values, we fall into debt, are addicted to drugs, drink and gambling and live a wanton and promiscuous life.

Alas, history will repeat itself.  If we are so broken, our children will only mimic us.  That is why the bible warns us, “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” (Ex 20:5; Dt 5:9)  The effects of our sins will continue to affect them.  Although we cannot pass down our personal sins to others, we can affect them negatively because of the wounds we inflict on them and the negative values and lifestyles they imbibe from us.  That is why sin is a vicious cycle, which is one of the meanings of Original Sin.

So if we want to build a lasting future for ourselves, and this is what the scripture readings at Advent are exhorting us, then let us, at the very start of Advent, lay down the right foundation for ourselves, our family and society.  If society today is so divided and confused, it is because when there is no strong leadership in morality, then all those with compromised values will begin to exert their influence on the world.  This is true in every aspect of life.  If an organization is divided, it is always the consequence of a lack of strong leadership.  When there is no strong leader to provide the vision for the people, then those with smaller visions will impose theirs on others, resulting in disunity and division.

Our position as Christians is clear.  Only God can provide us with the absolute and lasting values.  Man cannot, because he is neither absolute nor lasting.  The scriptures call God, the Rock, for the simple reason that rock stands for stability, strength and durability.  The Prophet says, “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the everlasting Rock.”  Jesus in the same vein tells us to build our house on solid rock.  Jesus of course is the rock and that was why He told Peter that He would build the Church on the rock of his faith in Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. (Mt 16:16)  If we build our house on Him, then He will bring “low those who lived high up in the steep citadel; brings it down, brings it down to the ground, flings it down in the dust: the feet of the lowly, the footsteps of the poor trample on it.”  Such a house can withstand rain, floods, gales and all the storms of life, and it will not fall as it is built on rock.  Indeed, only a life that is founded on the love of God, His wisdom and His love, is secure against all forms of disasters and suffering. 

For those of who do not put God as the center of their lives, their ignorance and folly will cause them to suffer not just in this life but in the life hereafter.  Preferring to trust in themselves, their pride will destroy them.  Indeed, the psalmist urges us, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” Why must we wait to meet disaster before we turn to Him?  Why are we not awakened from our blindness to the truly important matters in life?

If we want to take the right step in providing for our future and that of those under our care, then we must avoid taking short cuts, as this is a slippery path to self-destruction.  This was what the man did in building his house on the sand.  One does not need much effort to build such a house.  If we cheat in our exams, we will soon be caught out because the time will come when our inadequacies will show up at work.  If we pursue success without hard work, gamble and speculate in the stock market in the hope of making a quick buck, we may end up bankrupt and eventually break up the family.  If we cheat the company, evade taxes and manipulate the company’s accounts, we may find the law pursuing us in years to come.  We will live in fear and with a bad conscience.

Consequently, if we want to build our house on solid rock, we must not only come to Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but we must also put into practice all that He has taught us and shown us.  Faith in Christ is not just an intellectual or verbal assent but a commitment of the heart to His person, His works and His words.  As Jesus warns us, “It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord”, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.”   We must let the Word of God transform our lives.  So to build the house on solid rock in the final analysis is to do the will of the Father, putting into practice what the Lord has taught us.

This Advent, as we await the coming of Christ and His kingdom of love and peace in our lives, we must welcome the Word of the Lord, first into our hearts and minds, then live it out in our daily life.  When we keep His word, “the Father will love him, and we shall come to him.  (Jn 14:23)

It is His presence in us that will strengthen us to resist any temptation and evil.  As the prophet declares, “That day, this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; to guard us he has set wall and rampart about us. Open the gates! Let the upright nation come in, she, the faithful one whose mind is steadfast, who keeps the peace, because she trusts in you.”   Let us form ourselves with a strong Christian character so that we will remain unmoved by all the temptations of the world and be wise enough to reject the illusory values the world is offering us.  There is no short cut to happiness.  It is the way of the cross, the way of forming ourselves in the light of Christ’s teaching and walking in the Spirit of Christ.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Stained glass church window in Béthanie, Hong Kong, of St Francis Xavier baptizing a Chinese man
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 20, 2016 — “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

September 19, 2016

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
Lectionary: 450

Statue of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean Catholic priest.

Reading 1 PRV 21:1-6, 10-13

Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the LORD;
wherever it pleases him, he directs it.All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes,
but it is the LORD who proves hearts.To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.Haughty eyes and a proud heart–
the tillage of the wicked is sin.The plans of the diligent are sure of profit,
but all rash haste leads certainly to poverty.

Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue
is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.

The soul of the wicked man desires evil;
his neighbor finds no pity in his eyes.

When the arrogant man is punished, the simple are the wiser;
when the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.

The just man appraises the house of the wicked:
there is one who brings down the wicked to ruin.

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself also call and not be heard.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44

R. (35) Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
And I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Alleluia LK 11:28

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

Gospel LK 8:19-21

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

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Commentary on Luke 8:19-21 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (From September 22, 2015)
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MAKING OURSELVES THE TEMPLE OF GOD THROUGH WORSHIP AND ASSIMILATION OF THE WORD OF GOD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EZR 6:7-8. 12. 14-20; LK 8:19-21 In the first reading, we read of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon.  The first thing they did was to rebuild the Temple.  For the Jews, the Temple was what gave them a sense of identity, namely, that they are the people of God.  Indeed, for the Jews, the Kingdom and the Temple were sacred to them.  That is why many of the psalms are devoted to the king and to Jerusalem where the Temple of God is.  Similarly, we regard ourselves as the New Temple of God and each individual as the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  We call ourselves Christians and are proud to be known as Christians.   Yet, for many, they are just Catholics or Christians in name but not in fact.  Just being called “Christians” or going to Church will not change us or give us life.  This was what happened to the Israelites and Jews. They were clinging to their race and status as the People of God. But Jesus warned them “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”  Only such people belong to the people of God.Secondly, we note that the Jews progressed from founding their identity in the Temple to the Word of God.  In the Old Testament, the Israelites were deeply ritualistic people.  They were meticulous in offering sacrifices at the Temple of Jerusalem.  Their lives were centered on the Temple. This explains why they felt so lost without the Temple.  Their only thought was to return home to rebuild the grandiose and magnificent Temple once built by King Solomon when Israel was in its glory.  Hence, we can imagine the joy of the people when the Temple was at last restored, as we read in the first reading, even though it was not as grand as before. “The Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully dedicated this Temple of God; for the dedication of this Temple of God they offered one hundred bulls … Then they installed the priests according to their orders in the service of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as is written in the Book of Moses.”Nevertheless there was a gradual, subtle shift from focusing on the Temple to the Word of God. This was because during the period of exile, without the Temple, their only worship was focused on the Word of God.  Thus, by the time of Jesus, the Synagogue grew in importance.  God wanted to teach the people that true worship is more than just offering sacrifices and rituals.  The temptation for offering such sacrifices, which were certainly meaningful if properly interiorized’ at the same time caused those who reduced these sacrifices to mere rituals to become extraneous participants.  This is true also of many Catholics attending Church services as mere spectators, or “out-standing” Catholics, who do not fully participate in the service.  These have reduced faith to the performance of rituals and fulfillment of some obligations.  But their hearts and minds are far from the celebration.  To be sure, one of the reasons for the new translation of the Mass is to bring about a greater and more solemn participation through a more accurate translation of the original texts, aided by chanting. It is hoped that in time to come, everyone, regardless which church they attend, can worship, pray and sing as one community, rather than be mere observers.Yet, our spiritual life cannot be reduced to mere worship and vocal prayers alone.  This accounts for the apparent dichotomy of those who attend daily Mass and community prayers and worship, yet live lives that have not changed much over the years.  Why is this so?  Why is it that their lives produce no fruits even though they are daily communicants of the Eucharist?  Such people are really people of good will.  They come for services regularly, attend retreats, help out in Church, etc.  But like many of our Church volunteers and members in organizations, their spiritual life is weak. And so is their moral life.  Many are in fact living a double life, apparently very active in Church activities but living a sinful life outside the Church.  We do not see an increase in virtues, in a change of lifestyle, in compassion, humility, forgiveness, tolerance and charity.  The truth is that spiritually they have not grown.  Indeed, the warning of Jesus is pertinent.  “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’  St Teresa of Avila reminds us that progress in prayer life must be seen by the fruits.  Regardless of whatever spiritual exercises we do, if we do not bear fruits of charity, it means that we are not praying rightly or fervently.

Consequently, in today’s gospel, Jesus spoke of one’s true identity as those who hear the Word of God and keep it.  Just as we find our family identity through the family, so to find our spiritual identity, we must be rooted in the Word.  No progress in spiritual life is possible if we abandon daily and diligent meditation on the Word of God.

When we speak of meditation, we are not even referring to discursive meditation on the Word of God alone.  There are some who might have realized the importance of meditation on the Word of God for spiritual growth.  But quite often, they only use their head to attempt to penetrate the meaning of the Word of God.  They are keener on gaining insights into the Word of God to understand themselves better, which is certainly noble.  But of course there are some who fall in love with their “insights” so much so that they feel intellectually superior to others.

For this reason, discursive meditation must move towards the level of affective prayer and ending with the prayer of simplicity.  All spiritual writers and mystics invite us to arrive at the prayer of simplicity in order that our wills are moved by the intellect.  Otherwise, it remains merely a cerebral exercise.  The purpose of meditation is not solely to gain insights. This could be done by attending a course, a seminar or just reading some theological and spiritual books.  The ultimate goal of meditation is to enlighten the intellect so that it can then offer to the will something good to acquire.  So the intellect is to activate the will to desire the truth as good.  In other words, discursive meditation is but the first step to help a person to surrender his will to the Lord so that he can then experience the love of God and make a real commitment to Him, a commitment that comes not from the head but from a heart that is so in love with God as a person.  Only affective prayer that engages in a colloquy with the Lord can effect such a transformation of the heart.  And when the heart and mind coalesce, knowledge and love are united in the prayer of simplicity; one experiences the joy of being one with God in mind, heart and soul.  This prayer of simplicity is but the first step towards mystical prayer.

Finally, when all is done, we must make some resolutions at the end of the meditation. Without making resolutions, we are in danger of falling either into intellectualism or sentimentalism.  As St James warns us, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25)  Hence, it is necessary for us to conclude all our meditation with resolutions that spring not from some intellectual conclusion after the meditation, but from a heart so moved to desire to live out the truths revealed to us by the Lord about ourselves or the needs of people around us.  Not only do we make resolutions but we must, throughout the day, pause at least once or twice, to reexamine ourselves by periodic examen.  Without these frequently recollections it would be difficult to put what we meditate into practice.  Most of all, we must not simply contemplate on the Word, but put it into practice whenever the opportunity arises.  

Indeed, we cannot find our identity simply by worshipping in the Temple of God.  Rather, we are called to be the Temple of God.  We are all called to be who we are, namely, as the people of God.  God dwells in us only when we abide in His Word.  This is what Jesus promised us.  He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (Jn 14:21)  Again Jesus reiterated, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  (Jn 14:23)  Truly, if we abide in Him, He will abide in us and the Holy Spirit will transform us into the Temple of God.  In this way we no longer just worship in the temple or in church, watching the priest offering the Eucharistic sacrifice, or even just hearing the Word of God; we become active participants of the sacrifice, offering ourselves in union with Jesus as a living sacrifice to the Father.

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

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Healing of the Lepers at Capernaum (Guérison des lépreux à Capernaum) By James Tissot
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 SEPTEMBER 2016, Tuesday, 25th Week of Ordinary Time
BELONGING TO THE CATHOLIC FAMILY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  PROVERBS 21:1-6, 10-13; LUKE 8:19-21 ]

The gospel today is very short and yet very powerful.  Jesus goes to the heart of discipleship.  In the final analysis, relationship with the Lord is not a matter of being physically related to Him or nominally related.   This is what the Lord is warning us today.  In His time, the relatives of Jesus, although biologically related to Him, did not know Jesus.  They thought He was mad and overboard in His love for God.  Hence, they came to seek Him out to bring Him home.  This is understandable as they were not the disciples of Jesus.  They did not hear Him nor were they with Him, unlike the disciples.  So they were outsiders although they were His blood relations.  This is how many of us feel towards our own relations.  We no longer meet with our relatives, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews, unlike in those days when we lived together in the Kampong and spent time together frequently, especially during family celebrations.  Nowadays, if we do meet, it is perhaps for a short while during festive occasions or funeral wakes.  So if we do not even know our immediate family members well, as everyone is busy with their work and activities, much less do we know our extended family members.

Obviously none of us are also His blood relatives.  But we act like them because although baptized, we do not have any real relationship with the Lord.   He is a stranger to us.  We hardly spend time with the Lord.  Catholics who hardly pray and read the scriptures cannot be said to be the relations of Jesus.   What kind of relationship is that when we hardly communicate with Him?  Indeed, this is my fear for our Catholics.  We have the numbers, the quantity, but we do not have the quality.  We have so many Catholics but so few are taking their faith seriously.  Less than one third are going to our services.  Less than 10% are active in Church ministry.  I seriously wonder how many Catholics take the trouble to educate themselves in the faith, go for faith formation, either by attending courses or through reading up on the faith; and most of all, spend minimally half an hour a day in quiet prayer and contemplation of the Word of God.  Without such a relationship with the Lord, how can one claim that he or she knows the Lord?

In the gospel, Jesus makes it clear that spiritual relationship through baptism, even blood relationships, does not qualify us to be His relatives.  In no uncertain terms, He said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice”.  Indeed, even the biological motherhood of Mary did not qualify her to be the mother of our Lord.  It would be a mistake to think that Mary is so privileged to be the mother of the Saviour without first recognizing that she was first and foremost a woman of grace.  She was graced by God right from the start to live a holy life, a life of total dedication in doing the will of God.  It was her complete devotion to God’s will and God’s word that made it also possible for her to embrace God’s call to be the mother of the Saviour.

What does it mean to be known as a mother, brother and sister of our Lord?  Suppose you were related to someone great or important, how you feel?  Indeed, it would be a great honour, but with it comes the responsibility.  We do not want to destroy or harm the reputation of that person.  So it is important that we conduct ourselves well because others see us as related to that dignitary.  Otherwise we will bring disrepute to that person or at least to his or her office.   So, too, if we call ourselves the mother, brother and sister of our Lord, then we need to conduct ourselves accordingly.  We do not want to bring shame to our family just as we do not want any member of our family to get into crime and bring shame to the family.  But isn’t this is what we are doing, when we do not live as Christians do, when we act contrary to what is expected of a Christian?  Many have left the Church or are skeptical of the Catholic faith because of the bad examples of Catholics. 

If our Catholics are not living out their Catholic life, it is simply because they are nominal Catholics or just practicing Catholics, which means “Sunday Catholics.”  Their relationship with the Lord is superficial.   It is more one of need and fear; not of love and intimacy.  Most Catholics come to Church not to praise Him and thank Him but to ask for favours and protection.   Many come out of fear and obligation without any love in their hearts.  With such a disposition, it is a matter of time when the storms of life will break in and they will leave the Church.  This is not surprising because in truth their hearts have already left the Church, waiting for the body to go as well.

Without hearing the Word of God, how could one model himself or herself in the ways of the Lord?  How can one put His word into practice unless we have first heard Him?  Although we are Catholic, our direction and values are that of the world’s and not from the Bible.  The way we live our lives is not much different from that of the world.  Such Catholics put the Church to shame just as some members of our family do when they do evil and scandalous things that put us to shame.  Do you want the world to know that your father is a robber, your brother, a rapist, your sister, a swindler?  But that is what our spiritual family members, our fellow Catholics are doing to the family of God!

The psalmist reminds us that we can only be happy when we walk the way of the Lord.  “They are happy whose life is blameless, who follow God’s law! Make me grasp the way of your precepts and I will muse on your wonders. I have chosen the way of truth with your decrees before me. Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart. Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight. I shall always keep your law for ever and ever.”  Conversely, the book of Proverbs warns us, “Haughty eye, proud heart, lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin. To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue, such the idle fantasy of those who look for death. The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil, he looks on his neighbour with dislike. He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry shall himself plead and not be heard.”

But how do we hear the Word of God if not through personal prayer and meditation on the Word of God?  We need to make time before work or during lunch break to be with the Lord, or at least in the evening when we can quieten ourselves after a long day.  Instead of watching TV and doing all the mundane things, we could make time to withdraw and be with the Lord, basking in His presence.  With the Lord, we purify our self-awareness and motives as well.  The book of Proverbs reminds us, “A man’s conduct may strike him as upright, the Lord, however, weighs the heart. The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain; too much haste, and all that comes of it is want. When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser, when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.” But this is only the first level of coming to a deeper relationship with the Lord.  We find the Lord not only in prayer but in the community of faith.  Faith is communitarian even if it is personal.

Catholics must also come back to the family of God if we wish to remain true to our Lord.  Catholics needs Catholic relationships.  Do you have a Catholic friend that you could share your faith with?  There are many Catholics who do not have a faith relationship with any Catholic.  Some do not even have good Catholic friends at work, in school or in personal life.  So we can imagine what kind of influence they would be getting.  But it is not enough to have friends who happen to be Catholic. We need to have a faith relationship. It is necessary to have some Catholics whom we can share our faith with and our lives in the context of prayer, reflection and personal testimonies.  We need to have mentors around us to help us shore up our faith.  Hence, it is important that we find a small community of Catholics that we feel belonged to and can share deeply our faith struggles, joys and pains with each other.  So long as we have someone to share our faith with, we will find strength and consolation to carry on in our faith life.  Be a Catholic who is in relationship and fellowship with the members of the Catholic family if we are to grow in relationship with the Lord.

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

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Roman Catholicism began to take root slowly in Korea and was introduced by laypeople. In 1836 Korea saw its first consecrated missionaries (members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society) arrive, only to find out that the people there were already practicing Korean Catholics.

“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”

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

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Martyrs of Korea: Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest  and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang

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Andrew Kim Taegon in English, was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is the patron saint of Korea. In the late 18th century, Roman Catholicism began to take root slowly in KoreaThis first native Korean priest was the son of Korean converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. After Baptism at the age of 15, Andrew travelled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. Kim was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. His last words were: “This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”Before Ferréol, the first Bishop of Korea, died from exhaustion on the third of February, 1853, he wanted to be buried beside Kim, stating, “You will never know how sad I was to lose this young native priest. I have loved him as a father loved his son; it is a consolation for me to think of his eternal happiness.”

Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and married man, aged 45. Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for bringing taxes to Beijing annually. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883.

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Paul Chong Hasang — When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984 he canonized, besides Andrew and Paul, 98 Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part theywere lay persons: 47 women, 45 men.Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of 13, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.Today, there are almost 5.1 million Catholics in Korea.

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Saint Paul Chong Hasang (1794 or 1795–September 22, 1839) was one of the Korean Martyrs. His feast day is September 22,[1] and he is also venerated along with the rest of the 103 Korean martyrs on September 20.

He was the son of the martyr Augustine Jeong Yak-Jong and a nephew of noted philosopher John Jeong Yak-Yong, who were among the first converts of Korea, who wrote the first catechism for the Roman Catholic Church in Korea (entitled “Jugyo Yoji”).

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