Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 145’

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

November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Day
Lectionary: 943-947

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

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Jesus cures 10 lepers but only one comes to give thanks

Reading 1 SIR 50:22-24

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

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

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

Reading 2 1 COR 1:3-9

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

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

Alleluia 1 THES 5:18

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

Gospel LK 17:11-19

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

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

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

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

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

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

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

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

 

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

Amen.

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If we are “spiritual” what do we get?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, November 11, 2017 — “For what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

November 10, 2017

Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, Bishop
Lectionary: 490

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Christ Driving the Moneychangers from the Temple by Rembrandt — 1626

Reading 1 ROM 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

Brothers and sisters:
Greet Prisca and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus,
who risked their necks for my life,
to whom not only I am grateful but also all the churches of the Gentiles;
greet also the Church at their house.
Greet my beloved Epaenetus,
who was the firstfruits in Asia for Christ.
Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.
Greet Andronicus and Junia,
my relatives and my fellow prisoners;
they are prominent among the Apostles
and they were in Christ before me.
Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.
Greet Urbanus, our co-worker in Christ,
and my beloved Stachys.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the churches of Christ greet you.I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord.
Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole Church, greets you.
Erastus, the city treasurer,
and our brother Quartus greet you.Now to him who can strengthen you,
according to my Gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages
but now manifested through the prophetic writings and,
according to the command of the eternal God,
made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith,
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ
be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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

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

Alleluia 2 COR 8:9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus Christ became poor although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 16:9-15

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon.”

The Pharisees, who loved money,
heard all these things and sneered at him.
And he said to them,
“You justify yourselves in the sight of others,
but God knows your hearts;
for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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11 NOVEMBER 2017
11 NOVEMBER, 2017, Saturday, 31st Week, Ordinary Time
USING YOUR RICHES FOR THE SPREAD OF THE GOSPEL

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ROM 16:3-9.16.22-27PS 145:2-5,10-11LK 16:9-15 ]

In the first reading, we come to the end of the letter of St Paul to the Romans.  St Paul was writing from Corinth in AD 57.  He himself had not been to Rome.  But he heard of the Christians in Rome and so he wanted to introduce himself to them.  Even though he was so far from them, he felt close to them because they were all brothers and sisters in Christ.  After giving a long treatise on justification by faith through God’s grace alone, he concluded with a great doxology, thanking God for the wonderful plan of salvation.  What can we learn from today’s scripture readings?

Firstly, the gospel is meant for all, irrespective of race, language or status in life.  It is significant that there were many Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome even before St Paul went there.  He wrote, “Greetings to my friend Epaenetus, the first of Asia’s gifts to Christ; greetings to Mary who worked so hard for you; to those outstanding apostles Andronicus and Junias, my compatriots and fellow prisoners who became Christians before me.”  The gospel was received by all kinds of people; influential and ordinary, slaves and free people, Jews and Gentiles, men and women.  In this way, we see how the gospel had indeed reached the ends of the world, as the Lord prophesied.  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8)

Secondly, the gospel went out to the whole world because of the Christians in Rome.  The economic, political and cultural center of the Roman Empire was in Rome.   It was the heart of the Roman Empire and all decisions were made there.  It was also a cosmopolitan city where peoples from all over the world would gather.  This made it a very strategic location to spread the gospel to the whole world. Indeed, it was from Rome that Christianity became a world religion.  However, until the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christians were persecuted for their faith in the first three centuries.  It was only in AD 313, by the Edict of Milan, that persecutions formally ended.  Later on in 324, the Emperor was converted to Catholicism and eventually, Christianity became the religion of the Empire. It was then that the Church extended to the whole world, beginning from Europe.

Thirdly, many missionaries besides St Paul brought the gospel to others.  In his letter, St Paul mentioned his many collaborators.  It is edifying that some were married couples working as a team in the spread of the Good News as in Prisca and Aquila; Andronicus and Junias, whom he called as his fellow workers and apostles.  Each in his or her own way spread the gospel and they all helped each other in this common mission to bring Christ to all.  We do not see them being inward-looking or protectionistic, as we are in our churches, parishes, organizations and religious orders.   They were all clear that they were working for the glory of God and for the spread of the gospel.  It was not about themselves but all about Christ and for Christ and the people.

Indeed, when St Paul took an overview of the spread of the Gospel to the heart of the world in Rome, he could not but give glory to God in thanksgiving.  “Glory to him who is able to give you the strength to live according to the Good News I preach, and in which I proclaim Jesus Christ, the revelation of a mystery kept secret for endless ages, but now so clear that it must be broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith.  This is only what scripture has predicted, and it is all part of the way the eternal God wants things to be.  He alone is wisdom; give glory therefore to him through Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.”   Truly, God’s plan for humanity is too wonderful for us to grasp.  His plan for the salvation of humanity is unfolded each day, gradually, slowly but surely.

In the light of what we read in today’s first reading, we cannot but ask ourselves whether we, especially in Singapore, living in a cosmopolitan society, also imitate St Paul and the early Christians in making use of the opportunity to spread the Good News to all peoples.  The truth is that we are rather complacent in the work of evangelization.  We are too inward-looking and are contented with our so-called spiritual life, living in our own world, where there is security, self-sufficiency and we do not want to be disturbed.  We bury ourselves in our work and in our homes and the little community we have.  We are not excited about reaching out to the many who are lost, who are seeking hope, meaning and purpose in life.

And the truth is that we are blessed with the greatest of all gifts, which is the gift of faith as St Paul mentioned.  We have inherited the gospel of grace and the revelation of Christ as the mystery of God, showing us our identity and our goal in life.  We have come to know that Christ is our Saviour and that we are saved by grace and restored to the dignity of His sonship.  We now belong to Him and belong to one another in Christ.  United as the family of God, living in freedom, love, unity and charity, we witness His love to everyone.   We who have been blessed with the gospel, do we follow St Paul and the early Christians to ask for the “strength to live according to the Good News”  and to “broadcast to pagans everywhere to bring them to the obedience of faith?”

Jesus is challenging us today as He did in the gospel about those who are blessed with riches.  These riches go beyond money and wealth, but include talents and resources.  Jesus reminds us that these riches that we have, tainted as they are, can be used to “win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.”  Indeed, we can use our riches for good or for evil.  In themselves, they are neutral.  We can use our talents, not just our wealth, to destroy people for our selfish gains and promotion.  But we can also use them for the good and service of humanity and the glory of God.   Indeed, all riches are meant to be shared with others who do not have so that together we become a loving, caring and supportive family.

Unfortunately, many of us do not go beyond the blessings and riches we have received. Like the Jewish leaders, they prided themselves for being rich as they saw riches and prosperity as God’s blessings on them for the kind of life that they lived.   But Jesus said to them, “You are the very ones who pass yourselves as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts.  For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.”  In truth, they were living self-centered lives.   Their hearts were far from God.  They were making use of religion to gain power, status and wealth for themselves.  When we serve ourselves, we cannot find real happiness in life because our hearts remain closed to the hearts of humanity and of God.

Consequently, let us remember that God has entrusted us with the things of this world so that we can employ them for the service of the gospel.  Jesus said, “No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.  You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”  We need to check ourselves whether we are slaves of money or slaves for God.  If it is money, then everything we do and decide is based on the benefits that we can get out of what we do. If it is for the glory of God and the service of humanity, then we will be more than happy to do everything for the love of God and our fellowmen.

So let us be grateful to God and bless His name for everyone to hear and come to faith in Christ.  With the psalmist, we must glorify God with our words and with our lives.  “The Lord is great, highly to be praised, his greatness cannot be measured.  Age to age shall proclaim your works, shall declare your mighty deeds, shall speak of your splendor and glory, tell the tale of your wonderful works.  All your creatures shall thank you, O Lord. They shall speak of the glory of your reign and declare your might, O God.”  In this way, all will come to know the Lord and submit in obedience in faith.

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

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What man thinks important God holds in contempt
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Commentary on Luke 16:9-15 From Living Space

Yesterday we saw Jesus give the example of a corrupt but astute manager who took effective steps to guarantee his future employment. Today he goes on to warn us about our own use of material things.

We are to use “dishonest wealth” in such a way that we “make friends for ourselves” (our most important friend being God!) and when it fails us (as it ultimately will) that “a lasting reception” will be ours. We are reminded of how the crafty steward in the parable ensured his future.

In the mind of Luke, the friends we should be making are the poor and needy who will be on our side before God’s judgement seat because we had “invested” our wealth in them. As we read in Matthew: “As often as you did it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” (Matt 25:40).

Earlier we saw a good example of a man who had made so much money out of his harvest that he sat back to enjoy the rest of his life – which ended that very night. That is not the way to “make friends” with one’s material goods. In one sense there is nothing wrong with having a lot of money. It is how we use it that is the question.

“If you can trust a man in little things, you can also trust him in greater.” In other words, if we can be trusted with the material goods that come into our lives and use them to build the Kingdom of God, to create a more just and equitable society, then we can be trusted with something much greater, to live forever face to face with our God.

“If you cannot be trusted with elusive wealth, who will trust you with that which lasts?” And again, “If you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s money, who will give you what is your own?” And that reminds us that the material goods that come into our lives (no matter how they may have been acquired) do not belong absolutely to us. Everything on this earth belongs to all. We are only the stewards of what has come into our possession and we will be judged on how we make use of it. On our use will depend to a large extent our receiving the one thing that will really become our own, the unending happiness that God wishes us to have in company with him.

That leads obviously to the next warning that we cannot be at the same time give ourselves totally to God and become slaves of money and the material. We saw that in the case of the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus. He was the slave of his possessions and so could not surrender his life to Jesus. Many of us think we can and we try to compromise but, to give ourselves to God completely, we must become free of the lure of money and the acquisition of material things. It does not mean we do not have money or material things but what we do have is ultimately used only for God’s love and service and the love and service of our brothers and sisters.

On hearing all this, the Pharisees, whom Luke calls “avaricious”, mocked Jesus for what they felt was unrealistic idealism. There are many today who would echo their views but those who have taken Jesus’ words to heart know that what he says is true. We have seen that in the lives of people like Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day among others. I believe that Princess Diana, with all her money and fame and luxurious living knew she did not have something precious that Mother Teresa had found – the freedom to give and share her whole self with the destitute.

“What man thinks important, God holds in contempt.” The opposite is also true. On which side do I find myself?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2317g/

Related:

“You cannot serve God and mammon.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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05 NOVEMBER 2016, Saturday, 31st Week of Ordinary Time
THE VALUE OF MONEY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  PHILIPPIANS 4:10-19LUKE 16:9-15 ]

We all need money.  Who does not need money?  Even St Paul needed financial assistance in his ministry.  He was indeed very appreciative and grateful to those who provided for his needs.  “In the early days of the Good News, as you people of Philippi well know, when I left Macedonia, no other church helped me with gifts of money.  You were the only ones; and twice since my stay in Thessalonika you have sent me what I needed.”  Money has its value and importance.  This cannot be denied.

But it is a different thing to have a love for money.  Money is a means not the end.  St Paul tells us that the love of money is the root of all evils.  “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”  (1 Tim 6:9f)  So the real problem is not money but the love of money.  This was the case of the Pharisees who loved money as the evangelist noted.

For this reason, St Paul taught us to learn contentment.  He said, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”  (1 Tim 6:6-8)  He said, “I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too.  I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty.”  Even though money is useful and can be good for our use, there is always the temptation to greed and allow money to possess us.  To avoid falling into the snare of money, we need to practice contentment and indifference with regard to money.  Instead, we are called to place our trust in divine providence.  He said, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength.”

Only when we remain detached from money, could we then use our money wisely and objectively.  So long as we are attached to our money, we will look at people and situations through the lens of money rather than the lens of love and compassion.  If our loved ones are sick or even when our beloved pet is sick, we would do all we can to heal them even if it costs us much money to bring them to see a doctor.  Through the eyes of love, money then becomes only a means to an end.  We do not hoard money as our security but we use them wisely for the good of others and ourselves.

Jesus underscored this truth when He remarked, “No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.  You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”  Indeed, if we place money above everything else, we become very calculative in how we spend money on people.  But if we put God and people first before money, we would then employ our resources and wealth in such a way that they are always at the service of God and our fellowmen.   It is therefore important to examine where our heart is.

The truth, as Jesus said, is that money is not the most important thing in life.  He told the Pharisees, “You are the very ones who pass yourselves as virtuous in people’s sight, but God knows your hearts.  For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God.”   Money does not really belong to us.  We cannot bring a single cent to the next life.  Money is not meant to be kept but to be used.  Money has power only when used.  Otherwise, money is just paper.

What is more important is how money is used.  It is a question of stewardship.  Jesus reminds us, “The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great.”  All of us have to answer and give an account of how we use our money and wealth.  We can use them for good or for evil.  Unfortunately, quite often money is used to buy power, glory and status.  It is used for one’s selfish interests.  Indeed, if we cannot be trusted with money, then we cannot be trusted with any real responsibilities in life.  Because of money, we commit adultery and use sex to gain favours and win businesses.  Because of money, we are willing to sell our soul at the expense of our spouse and family.  Truly, many people because of greed cheat and steal, commit fraud and land themselves in prison whilst their family members suffer shame.

Rather, Jesus made it clear how money should be used.  He advised, “I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when is fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity.”  Money must be used for the good of all, especially in the promotion of friendship and unity.  We use our money to help people and to bring love and joy to them.   At times, money is used to bring about fellowship, especially in meals.  Quite often too, many come together to raise funds for a common cause.  This too strengthens the bonds among those who share a common cause, besides helping those who are their beneficiaries.

Indeed, this was how St Paul saw the purpose of money.  When money is used for the good of others, the donor is twice blessed for giving away his money.  He made it clear that he was not “talking about shortage of money.”  Rather, he reiterated, “It is not your gift that I value; what is valuable to me is the interest that is mounting up in your account.  Now for the time being I have everything that I need and more: I am fully provided now that I have received from Epaphroditus the offering that you sent, a sweet fragrance – the sacrifice that God accepts and finds pleasing.  In return my God will fulfill all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.”

St Paul rejoiced not so much that he received but that the Christians could give.  In showing their generosity, it means that they have been touched by God and shared in the life of God. St Paul was happier for them than for himself who received their gifts.  In giving, they received a much greater gift, the gift of God’s love and joy. What makes us happy is love and relationship. What helps us to transcend ourselves is when we are in touch with our humanity.  Sharing always brings out our human emotions of compassion, sympathy and joy.  That is why there are so many philanthropists around even though many do not even have faith in God.  They arrive at a point in their life when they begin to ask what is there more to life than enjoyment, success and fame.  Only when we are identified with our fellowmen, their joys and pains, do we become truly human and humane.

What, then, is the genuine riches that God wants to give us?  He wants to give us love, friendship and joy.   He said, “If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?”  In other words, He wants to give us the fullness of life.  Who then is the happy man?  The psalmist says, “Happy the man who fears the Lord. The good man takes pity and lends, he conducts his affairs with honour. The just man will never waver: he will be remembered forever. With a steadfast heart he will not fear.  Open-handed, he gives to the poor; his justice stands firm for ever. His head will be raised in glory.”  Indeed, the man who is truly happy is one who trusts in the Lord, “takes delight in all his commands.  His sons will be powerful on earth; the children of the upright are blessed.”  With St Paul, therefore, let us trust in the Lord, that He will provide for our needs so long as we are responsible in life and use our resources for His people and for His glory.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, October 18, 2017 — “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength” — “I am sending you like lambs among wolves”

October 17, 2017

Feast of Saint Luke, evangelist
Lectionary: 661

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Saint Luke, 1621 – Guido Reni

Reading 1 2 TM 4:10-17B

Beloved:
Demas, enamored of the present world,
deserted me and went to Thessalonica,
Crescens to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.
Luke is the only one with me.
Get Mark and bring him with you,
for he is helpful to me in the ministry.
I have sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
When you come, bring the cloak I left with Carpus in Troas,
the papyrus rolls, and especially the parchments.

Alexander the coppersmith did me a great deal of harm;
the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.
You too be on guard against him,
for he has strongly resisted our preaching.

At my first defense no one appeared on my behalf,
but everyone deserted me.
May it not be held against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed
and all the Gentiles might hear it.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18

R. (12) Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.

Alleluia SEE JN 15:16

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

Gospel LK 10:1-9

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter,
first say, ‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.'”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 OCTOBER, 2017, Wednesday, St Luke, Evangelist
LONELINESS AND TRIALS IN THE MINISTRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 TIM 4:10-17LUKE 10:1-9 ]

Many of us are happy to share in the ministry of Jesus.  We are called to proclaim the Good News in words and deeds.  “Cure those in it who are sick, and say, ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you.’”  But not many realize that our ministry is more than just doing good, healing people, praying over the sick or serving the poor.  As Jesus reminds us, “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”  We have to deal with enemies from within and without.   When it comes to working together, we will have differences in approaches. We have to contend with different personalities and different views.

Besides dealing with our enemies, we also need to contend with the sacrifices of the ministry; time, resources, energy, sleep and convenience.   We might be rejected and unwelcomed. “Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, ‘Peace to this house!’ And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.”

It calls for lots of sacrifices and adaptation, like the first missionaries.  That was what Jesus told them.  “Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you.”   It is not easy to be a real missionary.  We do not have missionaries today who have to suffer what our forefathers had to go through.  Many of our missionaries today even live in comfortable houses and are well taken care of.

It was for this reason that the Lord sent the disciples to go out two by two.   “The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit.”  We need to help each other in the ministry.   We cannot undertake this ministry alone.   We cannot travel alone in this journey.  Dangers and difficulties must be faced together.

But, perhaps the difficult part of being in the ministry is loneliness and abandonment.  Quite often, we would have to carry our crosses alone when no one understands us.  This was the cross Jesus carried in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was alone in His agony in the garden.  St Paul in the first reading also spoke of his loneliness in the ministry.

His loneliness came from disappointment with those who were supposed to help him but who turned out to be irresponsible.  That was what St Pope Gregory the Great remarked when he reflected on today’s gospel, “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.”  He said that labourers were few because those few who were chosen as labourers did not commit themselves to the ministry fully.  This was how Paul felt when he lamented, “Demas has deserted me for love of this life and gone to Thessalonika.”  Indeed, this is true even in today’s time.  We have many priests and religious but how many of them are actually laboring in the vineyard for the People of God.  Many have become worldly minded and only take care of their own comforts and enjoyment in life.

Then there are those who are out to oppose us for whatever reasons.  It could be jealousy or envy.   It could be because we did not give them what they want.  It could be because of pride.   That was how lonely Paul felt, “Alexander the coppersmith has done me a lot of harm; the Lord will repay him for what he has done. Be on your guard against him yourself; because he has been bitterly contesting everything that we say.”   He was finding fault with Paul.

Most of all, there is the loneliness of having to stand up alone for what we believe.   “The first time I had to present my defences, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it.”  Being alone to stand up for the truth is perhaps the true sign of martyrdom.  Jesus was abandoned by all His friends when He was going through His passion.

In the face of such situations, we need to be like St Paul who depended on God alone.  “But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear.”   Our fellow brothers and sisters can disappoint us because they are weak and human.  But God will remain our strength and refuge.  That is why the Lord instructed His disciples to “carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.”  He does not abandon us completely.  In the case of Paul, He sent Luke to be with him.  Later on, Timothy would bring Mark along.  So we are never without assistance.  We need to be patient and wait for His help.

But most of all, we must not become bitter as many do in the ministry.  Those who feel betrayed, misunderstood or rejected become angry, resentful and vindictive.   This happens to many clerical and lay workers in the Church.  They cannot forgive.  They bear grudges.  They act from their wounds and brokenness.   We need to pray for forgiveness and a heart of peace, otherwise, how can we be messengers of peace?

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Who was St. Luke and what debt do we owe to him? Here are 10 things to know and share . . .
Who was St. Luke and what debt do we owe to him? Here are 10 things to know and share . . .
St Luke: 10 things to know and share

October 18th is the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist.

Who was he and what do we know about him?

Here are 10 things to know and share . . .

 

1) Who was St. Luke?

St. Luke is mentioned by name in three passages of Scripture:

  • In Colossians 4:14, St. Paul writes: “Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.”
  • In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul writes: “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me.”
  • And in Philemon 23-24, Paul writes: “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.”

Since Luke is mentioned in three letters, we can infer that he was a frequent companion of St. Paul.

He also shared in Paul’s labors, since he is referred to as one of Paul’s “fellow workers.”

The fact that Paul says, in his final letter, that “Luke alone is with me” suggests that he was a particularly intimate and faithful companion.

Finally, the reference to Luke as “the beloved physician” indicates that his “day job” (as opposed to his apostolic efforts) was as a medical practitioner.

 

2) What books of Scripture did St. Luke write?

St. Luke is identified by early (2nd century) tradition as the author of the third Gospel and as the author of the book of Acts.

He also may have had a role in composing some of the letters attributed to St. Paul (see below).

Even if he only wrote Luke and Acts, though, he still wrote more of the New Testament than any other author! Luke and Acts together total almost 38,000 words, or 24% of the whole New Testament.

 

3) What debt do we owe to St. Luke for his Gospel?

St. Luke’s Gospel is one of the three “Synoptic Gospels,” which means that it covers much of the same territory as those of St. Matthew and St. Mark.

As a result, if Luke’s Gospel had not been written, there would still be a great deal of the Jesus story that would have been preserved (not only by Matthew and Mark but also by John). However, there are certain things that only Luke records.

Among them are these passages (plus a number of others):

  • The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold (1:5-25)
  • The Birth of Jesus Foretold (1:26-38)
  • The Visitation (1:39-56)
  • The Birth of John the Baptist (1:57-80)
  • The Circumcision and Presentation of Jesus (2:21-40)
  • The Finding in the Temple (2:41-52)
  • The Widow of Nain’s Son (7:11-17)
  • The Mission of the Seventy (10:01-20)
  • The Good Samaritan (10:29-37)
  • “Mary has chosen the good portion” (10:38-42)
  • The Friend at Midnight (11:5-8)
  • The Parable of the Rich Fool (12:13-21)
  • The Parable of the Lost Coin (15:8-10)
  • The Parable of the Lost Son (15:11-32)
  • The Parable of the Shrewd Steward (16:1-8)
  • Lazarus and the Rich Man (16:19-31)
  • Ten Lepers Cleansed (17:11-19)
  • The Parable of the Persistent Widow (18:1-8)
  • The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14)
  • Dinner with Zacchaeus (19:1-10)
  • Who Is the Greatest? (22:24-32)
  • Jesus Before Herod Antipas (23:6-12)

If these weren’t recorded in Luke’s Gospel, we wouldn’t know about them, because they aren’t recorded elsewhere in the New Testament.

 

4) Where did Luke get the information for his Gospel?

At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke writes:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you [Luke 1:1-3].

Luke’s reference to narratives of the events in the Gospel that preceded his and his reference to having followed “all things,” with those forming of his own account seem to indicate that he used written sources for some of his information.

Given the similarities that Luke has to Matthew and Mark (the other two Synoptic Gospels), it is likely that he used one or both of these.

He also says that he drew information from “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.”

One of the eyewitnesses he likely interviewed was the Virgin Mary herself. Luke records the material in the infancy narrative in a way that implies Mary was the source of much or all of it (Luke 2:19, 51; more here).

One of the ministers of the word he likely used as a source was St. Paul. One way of showing this is that the words of institution for the Eucharist in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 22:19-20) is very similar to the formula used by St. Paul (see 1 Cor. 11:24-25). It is less similar to the formula used in Matthew and Mark (see Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24). It is likely he used the formula used by St. Paul because he frequently heard Paul saying Mass and this was the most familiar version to him.

An individual who was both an eyewitness and a minister of the word that Luke likely interviewed is St. Peter. We have good reason to think that St. Peter was one of the sources of Acts (see below), and if Luke interviewed him for that, he likely interviewed him for his Gospel as well.

 

5) What debt do we owe to St. Luke for his writing the book of Acts?

Acts covers the earliest history of the Church after the earthly ministry of Jesus.

It covers a period stretching from A.D. 33 to A.D. 60.

Without Acts we would be able to deduce few things about this period from the letters in the New Testament (e.g., that churches existed in the cities that the letters were sent to, a few events in the life of Paul).

However, we would otherwise be completely ignorant of this period. Luke thus did us a huge service by not stopping with the end of his Gospel and by continuing to record the history of the early Church beyond Jesus’ death and resurrection.

He immeasurably enriched our knowledge of this period.

 

6) Where did Luke get his information for Acts?

As with the Gospel, Luke likely got his information for Acts from both written sources and from interviews with eyewitnesses and ministers of the word.

He also, notably, witnessed many of the events in the Gospel himself. This is indicated by what are known as the “we” passages in Acts—places in which the author speaks of what “we” did and where “we” went, indicating that the author was present for these events.

There are four such passages:

  • Acts 16:10–17
  • Acts 20:5–15
  • Acts 21:1–18
  • Acts 27:1–28

A written source that Luke likely used is a travel diary that was kept of Paul’s journeys. Luke himself may have been the author of this diary, though it may have been kept by someone else in the Pauline circle.

There are also three individuals who likely served as major sources for the book:

  • Peter (featured in Acts 1-6 and 9-12)
  • Philip the Evangelist (featured in Acts 8)
  • Paul (featured in Acts 9, 11, and 13-28)

The “we” passages indicate that he had frequent access to Paul, and we know he had access to Peter and Philip the Evangelist as well:

  • He would have had access to Peter during the two years that Paul stayed in house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30), where Peter was also ministering.
  • He would have access to Philip the Evangelist during the two years that Paul stayed in custody at Caesarea Maritima (Acts 23:33, 24:27), where Philip the Evangelist lived (Acts 21:8-9).

 

7) When were Luke’s Gospel and Acts written?

They were written as companion pieces and dedicated to the same individual (Theophilius). They were thus likely written at the same time.

Since Acts cuts off suddenly in A.D. 60, before Paul has had a chance to appear before Caesar, this is likely when Acts was finished.

Both Luke and Acts were likely written at Rome in A.D. 59-60.

 

8) Did Luke have a hand in any of Paul’s letters?

Luke is never named as one of Paul’s co-authors, but Paul frequently used secretaries in the process of writing his letters (see, e.g., Rom. 16:22).

Such secretaries—known as amanuenses—could be tasked with writing a letter on behalf of another, based on talking-points given to him by the one for whom he was writing.

Particularly when he was in prison, Paul may have used Luke in this capacity, and some have noted similarities in the style of Luke-Acts and some of the letters attributed to Paul—particularly the pastoral letters (1-2 Tim., Titus).

The fact that, in 2 Timothy, Paul says that “Luke alone is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11) may indicate that Luke was the scribe that Paul used to write this letter.

Although the book of Hebrews does not attribute itself to Paul, many have noted the similarity of the style of this book to Luke-Acts also, and Luke has been proposed as a possible author for it.

 

9) Was Luke a Jew or a Gentile?

Though some have argued that he was a Jew, it is normally thought that Luke was a Gentile. One of the reasons is that, in Colossians he is mentioned separately from those “of the circumcision”:

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, receive him), and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. . . . Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you [Col. 4:10-14].

 

10) What do the Church Fathers say about Luke?

We can’t review what the Church Fathers have to say in detail, but here is part of what St. Jerome wrote about Luke in his Lives Illustrious Men:

Luke a physician of Antioch, as his writings indicate, was not unskilled in the Greek language.

An adherent of the apostle Paul, and companion of all his journeying, he wrote a Gospel, concerning which the same Paul says, “We send with him a brother whose praise in the gospel is among all the churches” and to the Colossians, “Luke the beloved physician salutes you,” and to Timothy, “Luke only is with me.”

He also wrote another excellent volume to which he prefixed the title Acts of the Apostles, a history which extends to the second year of Paul’s sojourn at Rome, that is to the fourth year of Nero, from which we learn that the book was composed in that same city. . . .

He was buried at Constantinople to which city, in the twentieth year of Constantius, his bones together with the remains of Andrew the apostle were transferred [Lives of Illustrious Men 7].

 

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/st-luke-10-things-to-know-and-share

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

September 23, 2017

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 133

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Prophet Isaiah by Maarten van Heemskerck

Reading 1 IS 55:6-9

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

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

R. (18a) The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Reading 2 PHIL 1:20C-24, 27A

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

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

Alleluia CF. ACTS 16:14B

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

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Art: Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard By Rembrandt

Gospel MT 20:1-16A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Related:

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The Laborers in the Vineyard by Christopher Holdsworth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, September 13, 2017 — “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth” — “Take off the old self and those practices and put on the new self”

September 12, 2017

Memorial of Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 439

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Reading 1 COL 3:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
If 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.

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.
By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.
But now you must put them all away:
anger, fury, malice, slander,
and obscene language out of your mouths.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 10-11, 12-13AB

R. (9) The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.

Alleluia LK 6:23AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and leap for joy!
Your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Christ surrounded by His Apostles by Kamille Corry

Gospel LK 6:20-26

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets
in the same way.

But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Luke 6:20-26 From Living Space

Today we begin what is known as Luke’s ‘Sermon on the Plain’ which more or less parallels Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Luke’s is much shorter but both begin with the Beatitudes and end with the parable of the house builders. Some of what is found in Matthew’s Sermon is found elsewhere in Luke as Matthew’s ‘Sermon’ it consists of disparate sayings of Jesus gathered into one place. Luke also omits Matthew’s specifically Jewish material which would not have been relevant to his Gentile readers.

The Sermon can be summarised as follows:

An introduction of blessings and woes (20-26)
The love of one’s enemies (27-36)
The demands of loving one’s neighbour (37-42)
Good deeds as proof of one’s goodness (43-45)
A parable on listening to and acting on the words of Jesus (46-49).

Similar to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Luke begins the Sermon on the Plain with his version of the Beatitudes. But there are striking differences. Whereas Matthew has eight (some would say seven) Beatitudes, Luke has four “Blesseds” and four contrasting “Woes”. As is typical of his uncompromising style when it comes to following Jesus, the language of Luke is much more direct and hard-hitting and it may well be closer to what Jesus actually said.

Matthew’s Beatitudes propose a set of attitudes which reflect the spirit of the Kingdom, qualities to be found in the truly Christian and human life. Luke, on the other hand, speaks of material conditions in this life which will be overturned. Later in this gospel, this is illustrated graphically in the story of the rich man and Lazarus (16:25).

Luke also has Jesus speak in the second person: “Blessed are you” and “Woe to you” rather than in the third person as Matthew does (“Blessed are those who…”). Nor does he speak of the “poor in spirit” but of “you who are poor” and he certainly means the materially poor.

He goes on to say how blessed too are “you who are hungry; you who weep; you who are hated and who are rejected and marginalised and whose name is regarded as evil” because of their connection with Jesus. Undoubtedly Matthew’s Beatitudes can be read to consider just ‘spiritual’ poverty and a hunger for ‘righteousness’, which in fact are also a form of real poverty and real hunger but Luke is a gospel for the materially poor and distressed and we must be careful not to turn our focus away from them. That is why he has Jesus born in poverty and dying naked and destitute (even of his ‘friends’).

Jesus tells those who are poor and hungry and abused to rejoice when that happens and “dance for joy”. There are two reasons:

  1. because their reward will be “great in heaven” and
  2. because that is the way the prophets in the past were treated (and the way Jesus the Prophet will also be treated).

At a first reading, it seems like a classical example of religion as the ‘opium of the people’: Be happy that you are having such a hard time now because there is a wonderful future waiting for you in the next world. It was the message that Karl Marx mocked the capitalist-ruled churches of preaching to the exploited ‘proletariat’.

And the second part is not likely to go down well in our contemporary developed world. “”Woe to you who are rich [he can’t be serious!], you have received your comfort already.” “Woe to you who are full, because you will be hungry; woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep; woe to you who are spoken well of. That is how they treated the false prophets.”

How are we to understand these sayings which turn our common worldview upside down? I think they have to be seen in the light of the Kingdom, in the kind of society that Jesus came to set up, a society based on mutual love and sharing and support. A Kingdom for this world and not just the next. The coming of such a society could only be good news for the poor and destitute (material and otherwise), for those suffering from hunger (physical and otherwise), for those depressed by deep sorrow and for those abused and rejected for their commitment to Jesus and his Way.

On the other hand it would not be good news for those self-focused people who amass material wealth at the expense of others, who indulge in excessive consumption of the world’s goods, who live lives centred on personal hedonism and pleasure, and who feed off the envy and adulation of those around them. There is really no place for such people in the Kingdom. To enter fully into the Kingdom they have to unload all these concerns and obsessions and let go. Instead of focusing on what they can get; they will focus on what they can share of what they have.

A clear example is of the rich young man in the Gospel. How rich he was – and yet how sad he was! Compare him with Zacchaeus, whom we will be meeting later on.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1234g/

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Lectio Divina from The Carmelites

Reflection

• The Gospel today presents four blessings and four curses in Luke’s Gospel. There is a progressive revelation in the way in which Luke presents the teaching of Jesus. Up to 6, 16, he says many times, that Jesus taught the people, but he did not describe the content of the teaching (Lk 4, 15.31-32.44; 5, 1.3.15.17; 6, 6). Now, after having said that Jesus sees the crowd desirous to hear the Word of God, Luke presents the first great discourse which begins with the exclamation: “Blessed are you who are poor!” And “Alas for you, rich!” and then takes up all the rest of the chapter (Lk 6, 12-49). Some call this Discourse the “Discourse of the Plain” because, according to Luke, Jesus came down from the mountain and stopped in a place which was plain and there he pronounced his discourse. In Matthew’s Gospel, this same discourse is given on the mountain (Mt 5, 1) and is called “The Sermon on the Mountain”. In Matthew, in this discourse there are eight Beatitudes, which trace a program of life for the Christian communities of Jewish origin. In Luke, the sermon is shorter and more radical. It contains only four Beatitudes and four curses, directed to the Hellenistic communities, formed by rich and poor. This discourse of Jesus will be meditated on in the daily Gospel of the next days.

• Luke 6, 20: Blessed are you, poor! Looking at the disciples, Jesus declares: “Blessed are you who are poor, the Kingdom of Heaven is yours!” This declaration identifies the social category of the disciples. They are poor! And Jesus promises to them: “The Kingdom is yours!” It is not a promise made for the future. The verb is in the present. The Kingdom belongs to them already. They are blessed now. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus makes explicit the sense of this and says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit!” (Mt 5, 3). They are the poor who have the Spirit of Jesus; because there are some poor who have the mentality of the rich. The disciples of Jesus are poor and have the mentality of the poor. Like Jesus, they do not want to accumulate, but they assume their poverty and with him, they struggle for a more just life together, where there will be fraternity and sharing of goods, without any discrimination.

• Luke 6, 21-22: Blessed are you, who now hunger and weep. In the second and third Beatitude, Jesus says: “Blessed are who are hungry now, because you shall have your full! Blessed are you, who are weeping now, you shall laugh!” One part of the phrase is in the present and the other in the future. What we live and suffer now is not definitive; what is definitive is the Kingdom of God which we are constructing with the force of the Spirit of Jesus. To construct the Kingdom presupposes pain, suffering and persecution, but something is certain: the Kingdom will be attained, and you will have your fill and you will laugh!”

• Luke 6, 23: Blessed are you when people hate you…! The 4thBeatitude refers to the future: “Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out on account of the Son of Man!” Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look, your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way your ancestors treated the prophets!” With these words of Jesus, Luke encourages the communities of his time, because they were persecuted. Suffering is not death rattle, but the pain of birth pangs. It is a source of hope! Persecution was a sign that the future that had been announced by Jesus was arriving, being reached. The communities were following the right path.

• Luke 6, 24-25: Alas for you who are rich! Alas for you who now have your fill and who laugh! After the four Beatitudes in favour of the poor and of the excluded, follow four threats or curses against the rich and those for whom everything goes well and are praised by everybody. The four threats have the same identical literary form as the four Beatitudes. The first one is expressed in the present. The second and the third one have a part in the present and another part in the future. And the fourth one refers completely to the future. These threats are found only in Luke’s Gospel and not in that of Matthew. Luke is more radical in denouncing injustices.

Before Jesus, on the plains there are no rich people. There are only sick and poor people, who have come from all parts (Lk 6, 17-19). But Jesus says: “Alas for you the rich!” And this because Luke, in transmitting these words of Jesus, is thinking more of the communities of his time. In those communities there are rich and poor people, and there is discrimination of the poor on the part of the rich, the same discrimination which marked the structure of the Roman Empire (cf. Tg 5, 1-6; Rv 3, 17-19). Jesus criticizes the rich very hard and directly: You rich have already received consolation! You are already filled, but you are still hungry! Now you are laughing, but you will be afflicted and will weep! This is a sign that for Jesus poverty is not something fatal, nor the fruit of prejudices, but it is the fruit of unjust enrichment on the part of others.

• Luke 6, 26: Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you, because this was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets! This fourth threat refers to the sons of those who in the past praised the false prophets; because some authority of the Jews used its prestige and authority to criticize Jesus.

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Personal questions

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• Do we look at life and at persons with the same look of Jesus? What do you think in your heart: is a poor and hungry person truly happy? The stories which we see on Television and the propaganda of the market, what ideal of happiness do they present?
• In saying: “Blessed are the poor”, did Jesus want to say that the poor have to continue to be poor?

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Concluding Prayer

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Upright in all that he does,
Yahweh acts only in faithful love.
He is close to all who call upon him,
all who call on him from the heart. (Ps 145,17-18)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-620-26

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From The “Anawim” for Today’s Mass Readings
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Temporal blessings yield temporal rewards at best: “Your consolation is now.” At worst, they can interfere with our real purpose in life. Woe to us if we exchange our eternal glory for a few days or years of earthly satisfaction. We are blessed if we keep in mind the joys that await those who remain faithful: “Rejoice and exult, for your reward shall be great in heaven.”
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 12, 2017 — Even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured

September 11, 2017

Tuesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 438

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Jesus addressed the Twelve by Tissot

Reading 1 COL 2:6-15

Brothers and sisters:
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him,
rooted in him and built upon him
and established in the faith as you were taught,
abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy
according to the tradition of men,
according to the elemental powers of the world
and not according to Christ.

For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily,
and you share in this fullness in him,
who is the head of every principality and power.
In him you were also circumcised
with a circumcision not administered by hand,
by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ.
You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him
through faith in the power of God,
who raised him from the dead.
And even when you were dead in transgressions
and the uncircumcision of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him,
having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims,
which was opposed to us,
he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross;
despoiling the principalities and the powers,
he made a public spectacle of them,
leading them away in triumph by it.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:1B-2, 8-9, 10-11

R. (9) The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.

AlleluiaSEE JN 15:16

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

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Jesus chooses the Twelve

Gospel LK 6:12-19

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray,
and he spent the night in prayer to God.
When day came, he called his disciples to himself,
and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles:
Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew,
James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,
Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called a Zealot,
and Judas the son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground.
A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon
came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases;
and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.
Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him
because power came forth from him and healed them all.

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

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• The Gospel today presents two facts: the choice of the twelve apostles (Lk 6, 12-16) and the enormous crowds who want to meet Jesus (Lk 6, 17-19). The Gospel today invites us to reflect on the Twelve who were chosen to live with Jesus, being apostles. The first Christians remembered and registered the name of these twelve and of some other men and women, who followed Jesus and who, after His Resurrection, began to create the communities for the world outside. Today, also, all remember some catechists or persons, significant for their own Christian formation.
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• Luke 6, 12-13: The choice of the 12 apostles. Before choosing the twelve apostles definitively, Jesus spent a whole night in prayer. He prays in order to know whom to choose and then chooses the Twelve, whose names are in the Gospels and they will receive the name of apostles. Apostle means sent, missionary. They were called to carry out a mission, the same mission that Jesus received from the Father (Jn 20, 21). Mark is more concrete and says that God called them to be with him and he sends them on mission (Mk 3, 14)..
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• Luke 6, 14-16: The names of the 12 Apostles. With small differences the names of the Twelve are the same in the Gospels of Matthew (Mt 10, 2-4), Mark (Mk 3, 16-19) and Luke (Lk 6, 14-16). The majority of these names come from the Old Testament. For example, Simeon is the name of one of the sons of the Patriarch Jacob (Gn 29, 33). James (Giacomo) is the same name of Jacob (Gn 25, 26), Judah is the name of the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Matthew also had the name of Levi (Mk 2, 14), the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23) Of the twelve apostles, seven have a name that comes from the time of the Patriarchs: two times Simon, two times, James, two times Judah, and one time Levi! That reveals the wisdom and the pedagogy of the people. Through the names of the Patriarchs and the matriarchs, which were given to the sons and daughters, people maintained alive the tradition of the ancestors and helped their own children not to lose their identity. Which are the names which we give our children today?
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• Luke 6, 17-19: Jesus goes down from the mountain and people are looking for him. Coming down from the mountain with the twelve, Jesus finds an immense crowd of people who were trying to hear his words and to touch him, because people knew that from him came out a force of life. In this crowd there were Jews and foreigners, people from Judaea and also from Tyre and Sidon. These were people who were abandoned, disoriented. Jesus accepts all those who look for him Jews and Pagans! This is one of the themes preferred by Luke!

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These twelve persons, called by Jesus to form the first community, were not saints. They were common persons, like all of us. They had their virtues and their defects. The Gospels tell us very little on the temperament and the character of each one of them. But what they say, even if not much is for us a reason for consolation.

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– Peter was a generous person and full of enthusiasm (Mk 14, 29.31; Mt 14, 28-29), but at the moment of danger and of taking a decision, his heart becomes small and cannot go ahead (Mt 14, 30; Mc 14, 66-72). He was even Satan for Jesus (Mk 8, 33). Jesus calls him Rock (Peter). Peter of himself was not ‘Pietra’ – Rock, he becomes Rock (Pietra) because Jesus prays for him (Lc 22, 31-32).

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– James and John are ready to suffer with and for Jesus (Mk 10, 39), but they were very violent (Lk 9, 54), Jesus calls them “sons of thunder” (Mk 3, 17). John seemed to have some sort of envy. He wanted Jesus only for his group (Mk 9, 38).

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– Philip had a nice welcoming way. He knew how to put others in contact with Jesus (Jn 1, 45-46), but he was not too practical in solving the problems (Jn 12, 20-22; 6, 7). Sometimes he was very naïve. There was a moment when Jesus lost his patience with him: Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? (Jn 14, 8-9).

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– Andrew, the brother of Peter and friend of Philip, he was more practical. Philip goes to him to solve the problems (Jn 12, 21-22). Andrew calls Peter (Jn 1, 40-41), and Andrew found the boy who had five loaves of bread and two fish (Jn 6, 8-9).

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– Bartholomew seems to be the same as Nathanael. This one was from there and could not admit that anything good could come from Nazareth (Jn 1, 46).

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– Thomas was capable of sustaining his own opinion, for a whole week, against the witness of all the others (Jn 20, 24-25). But when he saw that he was mistaken, he was not afraid to acknowledge his error (Jn 20, 26-28). He was generous, ready to die with Jesus (Jn 11, 16).

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– Matthew or Levi was a Publican, a tax collector, like Zaccheus (Mt 9, 9; Lk 19, 2). They were persons who held to the system of oppression of that time.

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– Simon, instead, seems that he belonged to the movement which radically opposed the system which the Roman Empire imposed on the Jewish people. This is why he was also called Zealot (Lk 6, 15). The group of the Zealots even succeeded to bring about an armed revolt against the Romans.

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– Judah was the one who was in charge of the money in the group (Jn 13, 29). He betrayed Jesus.

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– James, son of Alphaeus and Judas Taddeus. The Gospels say nothing of these two, they only mention their name.

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Personal questions

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• Jesus spends the whole night in prayer to know whom to choose, and then he chooses those twelve. Which conclusions can you draw?
• Do you recall the persons who began the community to which you belong? What do you remember about them: the content of what they taught or the witness they gave?

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Concluding Prayer

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They shall dance in praise of his name,
play to him on tambourines and harp!
For Yahweh loves his people,
he will crown the humble with salvation. (Ps 149,3-4)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-612-19

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 24, 2017 — Men without Guile

August 23, 2017

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
Lectionary: 629

Image result for with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed, art, pictures, bible

Reading 1 RV 21:9B-14

The angel spoke to me, saying,
“Come here.
I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain
and showed me the holy city Jerusalem
coming down out of heaven from God.
It gleamed with the splendor of God.
Its radiance was like that of a precious stone,
like jasper, clear as crystal.
It had a massive, high wall,
with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed
and on which names were inscribed,
the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.
There were three gates facing east,
three north, three south, and three west.
The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation,
on which were inscribed the twelve names
of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18

R. (12) Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.

AlleluiaJN 1:49B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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St. Bartholomew the Apostle by Marco d’Agrate, 1562, Milano

Gospel  JN 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

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Homily  by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Homily by Fr. Roger J. Landry
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It’s providential that during this retreat we have a chance to ponder the life of St. Bartholomew, a holy disciple of the Lord who became a servant of the Gospel giving his life to preach it, as the great early Church historian Eusebius tells us, in India, which in ancient usage included Arabia, Ethiopia, Libya, Parthia, Persia and India proper and then Greater Armenia, where converted many people before being flayed alive by the barbarians in Albanopolis, on the west coast of the Caspian Sea. We’re here today because of his work and the work of the other apostles.

We have the Gospel of Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael because from the earliest days of the Church Nathanael (a first name which means “Given by God”) and Bartholomew (an Aramaic patronym that means “Son of Tolmay”) have been identified as the same person. The synoptics all mention Bartholomew, but never Nathanael; St. John uses Nathanael but never Bartholomew. And so it seems clear that the two included in the lists of apostles are almost certainly the same person.

In this midst of this retreat on faith, we begged the Lord at the beginning of Mass, “Strengthen in us, O Lord, the faith by which the blessed Apostle Bartholomew clung wholeheartedly to your Son.” We want to cling to Christ with our whole heart, not just during a retreat but during our entire life. Today we’ll ponder through the prism of his life how.

Guileless

Jesus gives him a great compliment when he meets him. “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no guile.” There was no deception in him. Jesus could see right away that he was forthright, honest, open, plainspoken, straightforward, upfront, earnest, innocent, and unpretentious.

The Suffering Servant who was prophesied by Isaiah as a man in whom “no deceit was in his mouth” (Is 53:9) recognized Bartholomew as a man praised by Psalm 32:2 “Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no inquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

These are word that should be able to be said about each of us as Christians, but all the more as priests, deacons and deacon candidates.

St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy saying that deacons must not be “double-tongued” but “hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim 3:8-10). The Basic Norms for the Formation of Deacons says that “Of particular important for deacons [is] … that they be … sincere in their words and heart.”

You’re preparing for candidacy tomorrow. The very word “candidacy” comes from the Latin root candidum which means “white, pure, sincere, honest, upright.” It also flows from the verb candere, which means  “to shine,” to shine with a splendor that is as “clear as crystal,” as the Book of Revelation describes the pillars and walls of the heavenly Jerusalem.

But the word candidate has taken on a totally different meaning in our culture. Candidates for political office are often the most dissembling, hypocritical, circuitous, and evasive people of all. They earned the term candidate because any seeker of office would wear a toga candida, a white toga, in the ancient world, but they were also called to be truthful. That’s no longer the way they behave.

Likewise those who serve the Church should be totally sincere, men of the truth, who realize that lies flow from the Father of Lies, who is a man-killer and a liar from the beginning.

One of the greatest corruptions that happen in the Church is when the clergy cease telling the truth and cease to have candid consciences. It infects dioceses. People can start to gossip, to connive, to evade, as if Jesus told us something other than “let your yes mean yes and your no mean no, everything else is from the devil.” We become ecclesiastical politicians rather than mean of “clear conscience” who are “sincere in their words and heart.”

As we make this retreat, the words of Blessed John Paul II from Detroit ring out, in which he begged the Lord that the deacons of the US would “remain strong and steadfast in Christ, giving to the world the witness of a pure conscience.”

The Fig Tree

The whole scene with St. Bartholomew takes off when Jesus said he saw him under the fig tree.

St. Vincent’s in KC, depicted with fig tree.

This has been much commented upon in the reflections of the fathers of the Church. I think Pope Benedict’s explanation of it in his 2006 catechesis on St. Bartholomew shows how important it is for us in our prayer and one day in our preaching.

“Jesus’ reply,” Pope Benedict said, “cannot immediately be understood. He says: ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree,  I  saw  you’ (Jn  1: 48).  We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life. His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: ‘This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man.’ And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel! (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus. Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him.

We all have our fig trees. Jesus sees us and knows us, and we’re called to respond to him with the same type of confession, with both elements, to relate to him in his humanity and divinity.

The introduction to Jesus

A very important part of his discipleship is found in the fact that he may never have met Jesus if it weren’t for his friend Philip, who after meeting Jesus, ran to him and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus.”

Philip couldn’t keep Jesus to himself. It’s always the way for those who truly encounter Christ.

After Bartholomew wondered if anything good could come from Nazareth, because there was nothing in Sacred Scripture pointing out that the Messiah would come from there.

Philip’s response was not to argue with him, but to introduce him to Jesus.

B16: “In our relationship with Jesus we must not be satisfied with words  alone. In his answer,  Philip offers Nathanael a meaningful invitation:  “Come and see!” (Jn 1: 46). Our knowledge of Jesus needs above all a first-hand experience: someone else’s testimony is of course important, for normally the  whole  of  our  Christian life begins with the proclamation handed  down  to  us  by  one  or  more  witnesses. However, we ourselves must then be personally involved in a close and deep relationship with Jesus.”

This is something we don’t often get. Criticism of Pope Francis for not mentioning controversial issues in Brazil or speaking out much about them in the first five months of his pontificate. There’s a reason for it. Because he’s trying to introduce people to Jesus.

In El Jesuita, Cardinal Bergoglio was asked whether the Church preaches too much on sexual issues. His response was: “The Church preaches about what it thinks is best for people, so that they may be fulfilled, be happy. But sometimes there’s a degrading reductionism. What I mean is that the most important thing in preaching is to proclaim Jesus Christ, what in theology is called the kerygma, that Jesus Christ is God, became man to save us, lived in the world like any one of us, suffered, tied, was buried and rose. This is the kerygma, the proclamation of Christ, which provokes astonishment, brings one to contemplation and to faith. Some believe immediately, like Mary Magdalene. Others believe but begin to doubt a little. Others need to put their finger in the wounds, like Thomas. Each one has his own path of arriving at faith. But the faith is the encounter with Jesus. … After the encounter with Jesus comes reflection, which is the work of catechesis, reflection about God, Christ and the Church, where one can deduce the principles of religious and moral behavior.… Generally I have observed in some well known Christian circles a weakening of the religious sense because of the absence of a living of the faith. … There is no attention to the kerygma and everything quickly passes to catechesis, especially to morality. It’s enough to listen to some homilies that should be kerygmatic with some catechesis, but end up being about morality and above all catechetical. And within the subject of morality… one prefers to speak about sexual morality, about anything that has any connection at all to sex, this one can do, this one can’t, one’s guilty about this, not guilty about that. When this happens, we bury the treasure of the living Jesus, the treasure of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the treasure of the project of Christian life that has many other aspects beyond sexual questions. We push to the side a rich catechesis, with the mysteries of faith, the Creed, and we center ourselves in whether we should organize a rally against a political proposal to legalize condoms.”

Bartholomew sough to do the same, bring people to Jesus.

“Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.” He was a true friend.

B16: We can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary.

Skin in the game.

The most famous iconography of St. Bartholomew is of his holding his flayed skin. Michelangelo prominently featured it in the Last Judgment, putting his own face on St. Bartholomew right near the throne of Jesus. Bernini’s pupils famously executed his design in the tremendous statue of St. Bartholomew at the front of the basilica of St. John Lateran, so that all of us entering that Church would know that our skin is meant to be in the game, just as Bartholomew’s was. His martyrdom was just the culmination of a life giving in union to God from his heart to his dermis. It’s an example for us all.

Jacob’s ladder

Jesus promised at the end of this scene that Bartholomew would see Jacob’s ladder, the ladder that Jesus had come to establish between heaven and earth by means of his Cross.

Bartholomew was present at the first Mass. He had his feet washed by the Lord and was instructed to do likewise to others. He received Jesus’ body and blood in the Upper Room. He, in turn, celebrated Mass for the first Christians and likely for the Blessed Virgin.

He’s with us now seeking to strengthen us by faith so that we may love the Lord as wholeheartedly as he did, all the days of our life.

http://catholicpreaching.com/men-without-guile-feast-of-st-bartholomew-august-24-2013/

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Commentary on Matthew 23:13-22 From Living Space

We continue with the attack of Jesus on the mentality of the Scribes and Pharisees, keeping in mind as we mentioned last Saturday that, first, we are dealing more with a state of mind than a blanket condemnation of a whole group of people, and, secondly, that the words are mainly to be heard as providing reflection for our own Christian communities and the way we behave.

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Today and for the following two days we read of the seven ‘Woes’ that Jesus hurls against corrupt religious leaders. We have seen already how the number seven is a favourite of Matthew.

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The Seven Woes are:
1. You shut up the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces… (v.13)
[You devour the property of widows… (a verse not included in some texts). (v.14)]
2. You travel over land and sea to make a single convert… (v.15)
3. You say, if a man swears by the Temple it has no force… (vv.16-22)
4. You pay your tithe of mint and dill… (vv.23-24)
5. You clean the outside of cup and dish… (vv.25-26)
6. You are like whitewashed tombs… (vv.27-28)
7. You build the sepulchres of the prophets… (vv.29-32)
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Today we read the first three Woes.

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1, You shut up the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces…v.13
[You devour the property of widows… (not included in some texts). (v.14)]

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Jesus accuses the leaders of closing the entrance to the Kingdom, preventing others from going in and not going in themselves either. On the one hand, this can be a reference to their rejection of Jesus who was himself the embodiment of the Kingdom, was preaching the Kingdom and who, by his presence, had made the Kingdom accessible to all who came to him. On the other, it can also mean that they made the observance of the Law impossibly difficult by their complex interpretations of what was and was not allowed.

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Whether we are parents, or teachers, or priests or religious, we can also by our behaviour both block people’s access to Jesus and be far from him ourselves also.

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Included here is verse 14, left out of some texts, where Jesus accuses the Pharisees of saying long prayers but not hesitating to take money (for the Temple, of course) from widows, the poorest of the poor. Considering that widows were among the most destitute and insecure of  people in Jewish society, this was exploitation of the most base kind. A comparison in our own day would be with the ways in which some “televangelists” have been known to rake in money from poor and gullible people who should be receiving rather than giving.

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2, You travel over land and sea to make a single convert… (v.15)

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While they try to prevent people approaching Jesus, they themselves zealously go to great lengths to make even a single convert, only to make that person even worse than themselves. They do this by corrupting them with false ideas of what true religion is. They fill them ideas about ritual purification and thus create a false sense of security about what really brings about salvation. At this time Jewish proselytisation was very active in the Greek and Roman world.

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Parallels can be found in our own days among Christian groups.

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3, You say, if a man swears by the Temple it has no force… (vv.16-22)

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Here Jesus’ attack is directed at the leaders’ greed and their corruption of religion for material gain. They persuade people to swear by the gold of the temple and make them pay. People are told not to swear by the altar but by the gift they have put there. Which is more holy, Jesus asks, the temple or the gold which the temple makes holy, the altar or the gift which the altar sanctifies? Again, in the name of holiness, the Pharisee-types are exploiting the poor.

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Daily we see the abuse of authority and power, whether in the Church, in government, in business leading to all kinds of greed and corruption which undermines the very fabric of societies. Positions of service are turned into instruments of personal gain, often at the expense of the weakest and the most needy. Countries which long ago should have become rich and prosperous and provided with a high quality of life for their people are bankrupt, in every sense of the word, while a small elite live lives of shameless luxury.

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The Church, too, can find itself over-concerned with matters of money at the expense of its pastoral mission. A diocese, a parish, a bishop or priest who is rich in a world of poverty and need is a major stumbling block to the hearing of the Gospel.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/f0824bg/

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Homily  by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(This is Bishop Goh’s sermon for August 24, 2013)
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Today we celebrate the feast of St Bartholomew, who is also called Nathaniel in the gospel of St John.  In celebrating his feast, we are called to reflect on how Nathaniel grew in faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Israel.  But before we reflect on his process of growth in faith, we must first clarify from the outset what we mean by faith.  In general, faith isopenness to life, to others and to God.  A person, regardless of his religious inclination, can be said to have faith if he or she is positively open to the future and to life itself.  Conversely, we say a person has no faith if he or she loses trust in the meaningfulness and reality of life; or when one cannot see the goodness in others or within oneself.  Such an attitude necessarily also leads to a denial of hope and therefore of God.  As such, we conclude that faith in life, in self and in others presupposes faith in God, or that it has at least intrinsic bearing on our faith in God.

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With this framework, we can now proceed to examine the faith journey of Nathaniel.  What we see in him initially is that he was a skeptical man.  He was rather doubtful of Jesus when Philip invited him to “Come and see.” He was cynical about Philip’s claim that he had found the One whom Moses and the prophets had written about.  His response was: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Yes, Nathaniel wasprejudiced against Jesus. This prejudice is reflected in his remark that nothing good could come from an insignificant and humble village.  As such, he was disinterested to see Jesus.

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But the real root of Nathaniel’s skepticism lies in the fact that he was more skeptical of himself and of life.  He must have been a bitter man. For the truth is that if people are cynical and skeptical, it is because they cannot see the good in anyone or anything anymore.  Those who have been hurt in life as a result of broken relationships or setbacks in their fortunes become very negative towards life.   If we have no faith in God, in life or in others, it is because we have lost faith even in ourselves.  It is our disillusionment with life, with others, that causes us to lose faith in God.  The rejection of God is simply a scapegoat or a symbol of our own despair over life.  Nathaniel could not see any goodness in Jesus until he first learnt to see goodness in himself.

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In contrast, we are told that Jesus saw Nathaniel under the fig tree.  There is a play on the word “see” in today’s gospel.  Not only was Jesus able to see Nathaniel as a person and therefore important to Him, but He even greeted Nathaniel with the affirmation that he “is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit” and that He saw him under the fig tree.  In making these remarks, Jesus wanted Nathaniel to know first and foremost that he was important to Him; that he was unique and special.  And in affirming that he is incapable of deceit, Jesus did not mean to flatter him.  Rather, Jesus was being extremely truthful to him.  He wanted to bring the best out of him.  How?

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In describing Nathaniel as a man who is incapable of deceit, Jesus was helping Nathaniel to see his true self.  Firstly, if Nathaniel was a man incapable of deceit, it was because Nathaniel must have gone through much in life, so much so that he had become too skeptical to bother to hide his sentiments.  Likewise, his skepticism had also caused him to be closed to influence by others.  Such a person cannot be easily deceived.  Secondly, in declaring that Nathaniel was such a person, Jesus gave a boost to Nathaniel’s ego. This incapability of being deceived can certainly be understood as a positive asset. That is to say, he is an honest person, without any pretext whatsoever.  This is illustrated in his response to the invitation when he said, “Can anything good come from that place?”  Nathaniel did not mince his words, for he knew the poor reputation of people who came from Nazareth.  By praising Nathaniel for his honesty and integrity, Jesus helped Nathaniel regain his self-esteem and self-confidence. But even in His candidness, Jesus was never negative. Jesus could see that Nathaniel’s skepticism was a plus factor because it showed that Nathaniel was also sincere in his search for God and for life.   He would not just follow the crowd because others were doing so.

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The outcome of Jesus’ affirmation of Nathaniel was the recovery of his faith in life, others and in God.  In coming to accept his goodness, he could even recognize Jesus as a Rabbi, the Son of God and the King of Israel.   But Jesus went on further to say that if Nathaniel’s recognition of Him happened simply because Jesus affirmed him, that He had seen him under the fig tree, that is, that He had taken notice of him and his goodness, then what more if He were to affirm the many other qualities which were found in him?  Hence, if Nathaniel were to see his true identity, with all his goodness, then according to Jesus, Nathaniel would “see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.”  Yes, if only Nathaniel were able to see his true goodness and dignity, then he would be able to see God more clearly as well; for the more one comes to know oneself, the more one comes to know God also. 

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The implication for us in helping people to grow in faith is that we must take the cue from Jesus.  We must help those who are skeptical of God or of life by helping them to see the goodness in themselves.  Our initial task therefore is to help them to remove their blindness with regard to themselves and their goodness.  This is an important preliminary stage.  We must not be too quick to counsel such a person on what is right or wrong, or attempt to prove our faith about God and the beauty and meaning of life, in spite all the sufferings and sins of humanity.  So to gain someone’s trust, we must begin by noticing them, or by recognizing their uniqueness and their qualities.  Instead of reacting negatively towards them, we must see what is positive in them and affirm them in their goodness.  To be able to see what the person could be tomorrow, rather than just what he or she is today, was what Jesus did.  Even though Nathaniel was negative towards Him, Jesus remained very positive towards him. He saw in Nathaniel his potential to do greater things, just as He did with St Peter and St Paul.  Both of them were also great sinners but Jesus was able to see the saint in them.  Neither did He condemn Nathaniel for his skepticism.  Instead, He helped him to see the positive aspect of it. Jesus understood Nathaniel’s anger and fears. He felt with him in His compassion, and because Jesus accepted him, Nathaniel was able to accept himself.

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So, when we encounter faithless and hopeless people, we must try to overcome their hostility with love and patience, not with hatred or resentment.  The latter approach would only reinforce their bitterness with life and with themselves, and most of all, confirm their negative outlook towards people and life.  Instead, we need to affirm them so that they can open their eyes once again to the love of God in them and for them.  Only then can they see the goodness of God in others, in life and find Him in all things.  And of course, when they find God in all things, in all events of life, then they will not only see heaven as Jesus promised Nathaniel, but that they are already in heaven, because they will see everyone as the Son of Man and as the angels of God in their lives, angels sent by God, ascending and descending to them in manifold ways.

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Like Nathaniel, we are all so wounded by our sins and the sufferings of life, either because of our foolishness or due to the selfishness of men.  Let us always be that messenger of Christ to give hope to people, bringing light instead of darkness, love instead of hatred, hope instead of despair.  So long as there is hope, people will live on.  Will you be like Jesus today, seeing only the goodness in every person, and even in “bad” and nasty people, to see the love and goodness hidden beneath their fears and arrogance?  Truly, there is no better way to help people change their lives than to affirm their sincerely when we see goodness and virtues in them, even it if is just only in its embryonic stage.  But that seed of love will one day blossom if watered generously by love and encouragement to that of a magnificent tree, giving shelter and refuge to all.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore.

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

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In the New Testament, Bartholomew is mentioned only in the lists of the apostles. Some scholars identify him with Nathanael, a man of Cana in Galilee who was summoned to Jesus by Philip. Jesus paid him a great compliment: “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him” (John 1:47b). When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree” (John 1:48b). Whatever amazing revelation this involved, it brought Nathanael to exclaim, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49b). But Jesus countered with, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this” (John 1:50b).

Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection (see John 21:1-14). They had been fishing all night without success. In the morning, they saw someone standing on the shore though no one knew it was Jesus. He told them to cast their net again, and they made so great a catch that they could not haul the net in. Then John cried out to Peter, “It is the Lord.”

When they brought the boat to shore, they found a fire burning, with some fish laid on it and some bread. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish they had caught, and invited them to come and eat their meal. John relates that although they knew it was Jesus, none of the apostles presumed to inquire who he was. This, John notes, was the third time Jesus appeared to the apostles.


Reflection

Bartholomew or Nathanael? We are confronted again with the fact that we know almost nothing about most of the apostles. Yet the unknown ones were also foundation stones, the 12 pillars of the new Israel whose 12 tribes now encompass the whole earth. Their personalities were secondary–without thereby being demeaned–to their great office of bearing tradition from their firsthand experience, speaking in the name of Jesus, putting the Word Made Flesh into human words for the enlightenment of the world. Their holiness was not an introverted contemplation of their status before God. It was a gift that they had to share with others. The Good News was that all are called to the holiness of being Christ’s members, by the gracious gift of God.

The simple fact is that humanity is totally meaningless unless God is its total concern. Then humanity, made holy with God’s own holiness, becomes the most precious creation of God.

He is said to have been martyred in Albanopolis in Armenia. According to one account, he was beheaded, but a more popular tradition holds that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward.

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-bartholomew/

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, May 16, 2017 — Stoning of Paul — “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

May 15, 2017

Tuesday of Fifth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 286

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Stoning of Paul

Reading 1 ACTS 14:19-28

In those days, some Jews from Antioch and Iconium
arrived and won over the crowds.
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
supposing that he was dead.
But when the disciples gathered around him,
he got up and entered the city.
On the following day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

After they had proclaimed the good news to that city
and made a considerable number of disciples,
they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
“It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the Kingdom of God.”
They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and,
with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord
in whom they had put their faith.
Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
From there they sailed to Antioch,
where they had been commended to the grace of God
for the work they had now accomplished.
And when they arrived, they called the Church together
and reported what God had done with them
and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
Then they spent no little time with the disciples.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:10-11, 12-13AB, 21

R. (see 12) Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.
May my mouth speak the praise of the LORD,
and may all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
R. Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE LK 24:46, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ had to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 14:27-31A

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.
I will no longer speak much with you,
for the ruler of the world is coming.
He has no power over me,
but the world must know that I love the Father
and that I do just as the Father has commanded me.”

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

There is nothing new in the themes presented in today’s readings.

It may come as some surprise to our society that wants nothing to do with pain and suffering that pain and suffering can have meaning in our lives. In fact, not to many human being escape pain and suffering.

Jusus tell us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” This may be one of the most frequent teachings in the Gospels.

Related: (Pain and Suffering)

Do not be afraid:

Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) as a Young Woman (detail) by François Gerard (1827)
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Related:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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16 MAY, 2017, Tuesday, 5th Week of Easter
THE PEACE OF A CHRISTIAN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 14:19-28; PS 144:10-13,21; JOHN 14:27-31 ]

Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.”  We all look for peace.  We are tired because every day, we have to fight so many battles.  There is conflict and tension at home, at work and in church.  People are not talking or they are gossiping and there is much bitterness.  Trying to reconcile and deal with misunderstandings, accusations and mediating the different parties is exhausting.  Sometimes, we look for peace in terms of finding rest from our work and our business.  We are drained out by responsibilities and by our commitments.  So the world’s notion of peace is freedom from stress and from human conflicts.

But this is not the kind of peace that Jesus has come to offer us.  The peace we just mentioned is the peace of the world.  The peace of Christ is very different.  It does not mean that we will be free of troubles, problems, challenges and difficulties.  It does not mean that we can rest, do nothing and be free from all responsibilities of life.  Peace is not retirement from work and from life.  Peace is not escapism from the world of real life.

On the contrary, peace comes from a greater commitment to our work and responsibilities.   Peace comes from continuing the mission of Christ to proclaim the Good News to all, like St Paul and Barnabas.  Peace comes from saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus.  Indeed, this was the peace of Paul.  His conscience was clear.  His life was so full of hazardous events.  But he never stopped fulfilling the mission entrusted to him.   Even when he faced so many enemies wherever he went, he did not give up his responsibility of proclaiming Christ to the people.  He was totally focused.  It is hard to believe that he was stoned almost to death and yet “he stood up and went back to the town.”  St Paul was not afraid of death or of his enemies.  He was willing to face death and suffering.  By overcoming the fear of death and suffering, he was fearless in proclaiming the Good News, for nothing could hinder him.   Without wasting any time, the next day, he continued his journey to preach the Good News elsewhere.  There was no time to lament, to moan or to complain.  Such was the peace that St Paul experienced.  A peace that came from doing God’s will in proclaiming the Good News to all.

Peace comes from surrendering our work and mission to the Lord.  We read that “In each of these churches they appointed elders, and with prayer and fasting they commended them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.”  Wherever they went, they would commend what they intended to accomplish to the grace of God.  We should not be too concerned whether our ministry is successful or not, whether it bears fruit or otherwise.  Success is the work of God and His grace.  Our task is to do our best in the ministry and be faithful to our vocation.  So long as we seek to do our best, we should be contented to entrust the work we do to God.  If He wants to bless our work and ministry, we are grateful.  But even if He does not, we trust in His divine wisdom and plan for us.  Paul never thought that any accomplishment was due to their hard work alone but he knew that he was just a servant of God.  It is the Lord who accomplishes His plan in and through us.

Peace comes from knowing that the Lord is helping us to fulfill His mission well.  “On their arrival they assembled the church and gave an account of all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith to the pagans. They stayed there with the disciples for some time.”  The great joy of a priest and for anyone of us is to feel that we have made a difference in the lives of others.  This peace of knowing that we have done our part and fulfilled our duty and responsibility to our loved ones and those entrusted to us should bring us great satisfaction.  This is a peace that is the consequence of overcoming all the trials of life.  It is a peace that comes from the conquest of evil and falsehood.

Peace comes from loving the Father unto death.  This was the peace of Jesus.  Jesus told the disciples, “I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe. I shall not talk with you any longer, because the prince of this world is on his way. He has no power over me, but the world must be brought to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.”  Jesus at the last supper was prophesying about His imminent death.  He knew that the power of evil would manifest itself and apparently win the victory over Him. But Jesus was very confident that His Father would vindicate Him.  Jesus refused to submit to the power of evil and the temptations of the Evil One.  He withstood the temptations of the Devil and overcame sin by dying on the cross.  By so doing, He revealed His utter love for the Father by His total obedience to His will.

Peace comes from the assurance of the future.  “They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith. ‘We all have to experience many hardships’ they said ‘before we enter the kingdom of God.’”   St Paul never gave false hope when inviting them to become Christians.  There are some Catholics who invite others to become Christians or to join some church organization or ministry, but fail to forewarn them of the challenges and trials ahead of them.  So like Jesus, St Paul was outrightly honest about the trials of the Christians.  But in the same breath, he offered hope.  He did not talk about the sufferings but he focused on the future of what was to come.  If we suffer only for the present, we feel discouraged.  But the sufferings we are going through is to prepare us for the future.  For the sake of the future, we can tolerate the sufferings of the present.  We follow “Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Heb 12:2)

So the peace that comes is for the greater good of the certain future that is promised to us.  This was what St Peter wrote to the Christians as well. “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.”  (1 Pt 1:6-9) That is why we should be happy when our loved ones, like Jesus, have to return to the Father.  Jesus said, “If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father.”   So too if we love our loved ones, when the time comes for them to return Home, we should not prevent them from doing so simply because we want them for ourselves.  We should not prevent them from entering into the fullness of their rest and reward.  We will miss them, just like the apostles.  But it is important that they find their ultimate rest in the bosom of the Lord.

Most of all, peace comes from the assurance of His presence in our midst.  Jesus told the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”  We never suffer alone.  A Christian does not need to suffer alone because the Father is with him in His Son and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is giving us the Holy Spirit to be with us so that He can lead us to the fullness of truth and life.  To know that the Lord is with us, we can overcome all trials and all difficulties.  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 8:37-39)  Let us therefore find our peace in Christ’s love and His presence in us in the Holy Spirit.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 29, 2017 — “They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them….”

March 28, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 246

I bless the Lord:  O Lord my God, how great you are!  You are robed with honor and majesty and light!

Reading 1 IS 49:8-15

Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18

R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 11:25A, 26

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.

Gospel JN 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

The counterintuitive propositions of the Gospels.

Society tells us: be strong. Seek money. Show off your skills. Rise to the top.

Jesus tells us: be humble. Become totally dependent upon the father. Seek out and do service for the marginalized.

Embraces all his creatures.

Eat my body. Drink my blood.

Can we follow him? Can we imitate him? There is little in the way of reward here on earth…..

Do not be afraid…

The Gospels also say, “No matter what you encounter, be joyful. Your reward shall be in heaven.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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29 MARCH, 2017, Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

THE FOUNDATION FOR DOING GOOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 49:8-15; Ps 144:8-9,13-14,17-18; Jn 5:17-30]

Today, the liturgy continues with the theme of joy in expectation of the feast of the resurrection, albeit in the shadow of hostility and death.  “Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For Yahweh has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones.”  In the first reading, we read the consoling words of the Lord to the Israelites who felt forsaken and abandoned in their exile at Babylon, “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast; feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.”   On the day of salvation, the Lord would restore Israel.  “Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.”

This promise of the Lord of course was fulfilled in Jesus who is the Suffering Servant prophesied in the first reading.   The words spoken to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah aptly applies to Jesus when God said, “I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties, to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’” In the last few days, the gospel narrated how Jesus manifested Himself as a life-giver.  He told the story of the Prodigal Son and the mercy of His Father whom He sought to imitate.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.”

The works of Jesus was done in union with the Father.  He said, “My father goes on working, and so do I.”  So like the Father, Jesus gave life to the Court Official’s son who was on the brink of death.  Yesterday, we read how Jesus healed the paralyzed man and forgave his sins.  This is justified by the fact that “the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does himself, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses.”   The authority and powers of Jesus to heal, raise and forgive were given by the Father.  Jesus saw Himself as acting on His behalf.

On this basis, Jesus claimed identification with the Father!   And the Jews knew what He was implying.  “That only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the Sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.”   By healing on the Sabbath and giving the basis for doing good works of mercy on the Sabbath, in imitation of His Father, Jesus was making implicit claims that He was God.  They were fully aware that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of Man mentioned in the Book of Daniel, chapter 7.  The miracles He performed were messianic signs, especially the raising of the dead, curing the lame and giving sight to the blind. He was thus seen as making a blasphemous claim to be the Son of God.

Secondly, He claimed to speak the Word of God.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; I tell you most solemnly, the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.”   He is the Word of God in person.  If He were to speak God’s words, then it means that one has to believe in Him and all that He said.  It means that we need to accept Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life.   Only by accepting Jesus, can we find life, not just life after death but life on this earth.   In following the path that Jesus set out for us, the way of love and humble service, in obedience to the Father’s will, in everything, we will live the fullness of life.  Hence, for such a person, “without being brought to judgement he has passed from death to life.”

Thirdly, Jesus claimed to be the Judge as well, a position reserved for the Father.  He said, “For the Father, who is the source of life, has made the Son the source of life; and, because he is the Son of Man, has appointed him supreme judge.  Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graces at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation.  I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just.”   Jesus could judge only because He is holy and perfect like the Father.  Because He is the Word of God, He could judge with full knowledge and understanding.   He judges with love and compassion, as the psalmist says. “The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.”  So the judgement of Jesus is founded on truth, love and compassion.  In speaking of Himself as the judge, He takes the place of God.

How could Jesus dare to make such claims of divinity and authority to act on behalf of the Father?  How could He be so confident and courageous to make such claims at the risk of courting death?  How is it that He was not afraid of being misunderstood, condemned or opposed? How do we explain the confidence in Jesus if not because of His intimate relationship with the Father? 

This identity with the Father is based on a mutual union between the Father and the Son.  This union with the Father must be seen as a union of mind and heart.  Jesus performed everything in union with the Father, based on the union of mind and will.  Jesus would not do anything except in alignment with the Father’s will.  He reiterated, “I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just, because my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”   Jesus’ obedience to the Father was not a reluctant obedience or simply a submission of will. Rather, His obedience was the consequence of a union of will and love.  As Jesus said to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (Jn 4:34)  Jesus loved His Father because of His Father’s love for Him.  He lived and died for His Father.  He said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”  (Jn 10:17f)

What about us?  What is the basis for our good works?  What is the basis for living a life of love and truth?  Is it based on purely humanitarian reasons, simply because we feel the sufferings of our fellowmen or because of moral obligation to contribute to society because we have been beneficiaries?   In truth, many of us do good out of guilt, or at most out of responsibility because of our conscience.  Of course, some do out of love for their fellowmen but many help because of fear of condemnation or at least to gain respect and honour from the world.

In the case of Jesus, His good works came from His identification with the compassion and love of His Father.  His union with the Father was the cause of His mission to humanity.  As the psalmist says, “The Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds.  The Lord supports all who fall and raises all who are bowed down. The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds. He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts.”  So it was out of the love of the Father in Him that He went about doing good so that the Father could be seen through Him. This too must also be the source of our strength in doing good. We must not be like the pagans.  “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Mt 5:46-48)

So today, we need to return to the ancient times when Catechumens were instructed more intensely during this time.  At this mass, salt would be placed in their mouths so that they would receive the Word of God and be the salt of the earth.  They too would be given the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Four Gospels so that they will become more identified with the Lord in how they live their lives.  For those of us who are baptized, let us renew our appreciation for the love of God in Christ as we contemplate on His passion.  We must come to know the identity of Jesus more and more so that we can truly be identified with Him in mind and in heart as Jesus is with the Father.

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Related:

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“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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Commentary on John 5:17-30 From Living Space

Let us not be afraid or cast down; God is on his way in the person of Jesus

Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s story of the healing of the crippled man by the pool. That passage had ended with the words: “The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this [i.e. the healing] on a sabbath.” We might point out, as with some other sabbath healings, that there was absolutely no urgency to do the healing on a sabbath for someone who had waited 38 years. It is just another indication of the divine authority with which Jesus works.

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So Jesus’ reply is direct and unapologetic: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” Because Genesis speaks of God resting on the seventh day (the origin of the Jewish sabbath), it was disputed whether God was in any way active on the sabbath. Some believed that the creating and conserving work of his creation went on and others that he continued to pass judgement on that day. In any case, Jesus is claiming here the same authority to work on the sabbath as his Father and has the same powers over life and death.

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The Jewish leaders are enraged that Jesus speaks of God as his own Father. They want to kill him. They understand by his words that Jesus is making himself God’s equal. Jesus, far from denying the accusation, only confirms it.

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“A son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” This saying is taken from the model of an apprentice in a trade. The apprentice son does exactly what his father does. Jesus’ relation to his Father is similar. “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, so that you may be amazed.” And “just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes” – and whenever he wishes. And such giving of life is something that belongs only to God. As does the right to judge, which Jesus says has been delegated to him.

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Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father. The Father is acting in him and through him. He is the Word of God – God speaks and acts directly through him. God’s Word is a creative Word. Jesus, like the Father, is life-giving, a source of life.

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The right to judge has been delegated by the Father to the Son. And to refuse to honour the Son is to refuse the same honour to the Father. In everything Jesus acts only according to the will of his Father and does what his Father wants.

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Jesus, then, is the Way, the Way through whom we go to God. For us, there is no other Way. He is God’s Word to us and for us.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1044g/

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I cannot fathom what it must have been like for You Lord. Most of our hearts cried out for salvation while others could not, having been bound and gagged by Sin.

Your love for us was so great that You promised to come save us, prepared us for Your coming and then fulfilled Your promise to us. What did we do? How did we welcome You? We turned our backs on You, We mocked You, plotted to kill You and eventually did.

Knowing all this You still came seeking out Your lost sheep. You brought light into our darkness, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to nourish bodies and souls. With Your precious blood You washed us so that we can stand spotless before our heavenly Father. How great is our God!

Our lives are nothing without You and without You there is no relationship with our heavenly Father. All love, peace and joy comes from You for in You is life eternal. May we always seek to do our Father’s Will. Amen

Source http://catholicjules.net/2014/04/01/on-todays-gospel-395/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Reflection

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• The Gospel of John is different from the other three. It reveals a more profound dimension which only faith is able to perceive in the words and gestures of Jesus. The Fathers of the Church would say that the Gospel of John is “spiritual”, it reveals what the Spirit makes one discover in the words of Jesus (cf. Jn 16, 12-13). A beautiful example of this spiritual dimension of the Gospel of John is the passage which we are going to meditate on today.

• John 5, 17-18: Jesus explains the profound meaning of the healing of the paralytic. Criticized by the Jews for having cured on Saturday, Jesus answers: “My Father still goes on working, and I am at work too!” The Jews taught that no work could be done on Saturday, because even God had rested and had not worked on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20, 8-11). Jesus affirms the contrary. He says that the Father has always worked even until now. And for this reason, Jesus also works, and even on Saturday. He imitates his Father! For Jesus the work of creation is not finished as yet. God continues to work, unceasingly, day and night, holding up the Universe and all of us. Jesus collaborates with the Father continuing the work of creation in such a way that one day all may be able to enter into the eternal rest that has been promised. The reaction of the Jews was violent. They wanted to kill him for two reasons: because he denied the sense of Saturday and for saying he was equal to God.

• John 5, 19-21: It is love which allows the creative action of God to shine and be visible. These verses reveal something of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Jesus, the Son, lives permanently attentive before the Father. What he sees the Father do, he does it also. Jesus is the reflection of the Father. He is the face of the Father! This total attention of the Son to the Father makes it possible for the love of the Father to enter totally into the Son and through the Son, carry out his action in the world. The great concern of the Father is that of overcoming death and to give life. It is a way of continuing the creative work of the Father.

• John 5, 22-23: The Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgment to the Son. What is decisive in life is the way in which we place ourselves before the Creator, because it radically depends on him. Now the Creator becomes present for us in Jesus. The plenitude of the divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 1, 19). And therefore, according to the way in which we are before Jesus, we express our position before God, the Creator. What the Father wants is that we know him and honour him in the revelation which he makes of himself in Jesus.

• John 5, 24: The life of God in us through Jesus. God is life, he is creating force. Wherever he is present, there is life. He becomes present in the Word of Jesus. The one who listens to the word of Jesus as a word that comes from God has already risen. He has already received the vivifying touch which leads him beyond death. Jesus passed from death to life. The proof of this is in the healing of the paralytic.

• John 5, 25-29: The resurrection is already taking place. All of us are the dead who still have not opened ourselves to the voice of Jesus which comes from the Father. But “the hour will come” and it is now, in which the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who will listen, will live”. With the Word of Jesus which comes from the Father, the new creation begins; it is already on the way. The creative word of Jesus will reach all, even those who have already died. They will hear and will live.

• John 5, 30: Jesus is the reflection of the Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me”. This last phrase is the summary of all that has been said before. This was the idea that the community of the time of John had and diffused regarding Jesus.

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

February 17, 2017

Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 340

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The Transfiguration Jesus by James Tissot

Reading 1 HEB 11:1-7

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

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

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

AlleluiaMK 9:6

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

Gospel MK 9:2-13

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

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

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Transfiguration of Jesus. Source – Orthodox Metropolitanate Of Singapore And South Asia
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Why Peters, James and John were Chosen Witnesses of the Transfiguration
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According to the explanation of St. John of Damascus, “the Lord took Peter in order to show that His testimony truly given to him will be affirmed by the testimony of the Father and that one should believe him in His words, that the heavenly Father revealed this testimony to him (Mt. 16:17). He took James as the one who before all the Apostles would die for Christ, to drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism (Acts 12:2). Finally, He took John, as the virgin and purest organ of Theology so that he, after having beheld the eternal glory of the Son of God, has thundered these words: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (Jn. 1:1). Besides this on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter who hadn’t yet spread the ideas about the suffering and death of his Teacher and Lord (Mt. 16:22), might mature in the truth of His glory, which forever remains inviolable despite all hostile efforts; James and John, awaiting the opening of the earthly kingdom of the Messiah and pursued the first places in this kingdom (Mk. 10:37), might behold the true majesty of Christ the Savior, surpassing every terrestrial power. The three disciples were under the law (Deut. 19:15) sufficient witnesses of the revelation of the glory of God and, according to the expression of St. Proclus, ‘in spirit personally represented all the others’.”
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 FEBRUARY, 2017, Saturday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time
FAITH AND VISIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

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