Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 145’

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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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 30, 2016 — “We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose.”

October 29, 2016

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 153

Going to any length to get it? —   Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus by James Tissot

Reading 1 WIS 11:22-12:2

Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14

R. (cf. 1) I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
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. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
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, my king and my God.
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, my king and my God.
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. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

Reading 2 2 THES 1:11-2:2

Brothers and sisters:
We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

We ask you, brothers and sisters,
with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our assembling with him,
not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed
either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us
to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.

Alleluia JN 3:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Jesus calls Zacchaeus down from the tree by Niels Larsen Stevns

Gospel LK 19:1-10

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

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Commentary on Luke 19:1-10 From Living Space

Today we have one of the most delightful stories of Luke and indeed of the whole Gospel. It follows immediately – and not by accident – after the healing of a blind man as Jesus enters the city of Jericho, to the northeast of Jerusalem.

The central figure is Zacchaeus, who, Luke tells us, was a chief tax collector and a rich man. This is the only reference in Scripture to a ‘chief tax collector’. It probably means he was responsible for a district or region with other tax collectors answerable to him. The region at this time was prosperous so more tax collectors were needed.

Knowing he was a chief tax collector it was hardly necessary to mention that he was wealthy. Tax collectors were studiously avoided and despised by their fellow-Jews. They made contracts with the Roman authorities to collect taxes and made sure that they got from the public what today we might call generous “commissions”. After all, it was a kind of business and they had to make a living. And, if an ordinary tax collector could do well, it is easy to imagine how much a chief tax collector might make. One commentator refers to him as a ‘creep’.

Apart from forcing people to part with their hard-earned money, they were seen as traitors to their own people by taking their money and giving it to the pagan Roman colonialists occupying their country. One can see how Jesus could cause great offence to the religious-minded by sitting down and eating with such ‘scum’.

Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was in town and he was very curious to see what Jesus was like. Already we have here an echo of yesterday’s story, because Zacchaeus too wants to see. However, at this stage, it seems to be only a kind of curiosity. He just wanted to get a glimpse of a person of whom he undoubtedly heard people talk. Maybe he had even heard that Jesus had a name for mixing with people like himself.

Because he was a small man (in more ways than one?), he could not see over the large crowd of people surrounding Jesus. So he ran on ahead and climbed into the branches of a sycamore tree to get a better look. A sycamore tree can grow to a height of 10 to 15 metres, with a short trunk and spreading branches and hence easy to climb and easily capable of carrying a grown man.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but he did not expect that Jesus would see him. He must have practically fallen out of the tree from surprise when he heard Jesus look in his direction and say, “Zacchaeus, hurry down. I want to stay in your house today.” What beautiful words! And yet it is a self-invitation that Jesus constantly extends to us. It is right there in our First Reading for today: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Is my house ready, is my door open to let him in?

Zacchaeus could hardly believe his ears. He rushed down and delightedly welcomed Jesus into his house. Immediately those around began to grumble. “He has gone to a sinner’s house as a guest.” Of all the people in Jericho, Jesus picks the house of the one person in the town who was regarded as a social and religious outcast.

But, as usual, Jesus sees beyond the public image to the real person. Zacchaeus may be a chief tax collector but he is ready to give half of his property to the poor and, if he has cheated anyone, he promises to pay them back four times what they lost. Fourfold restitution was demanded by Jewish law, but in one case only, the theft of a sheep (Exodus 21:37). Roman law demanded such restitution from all convicted thieves. Zacchaeus, however, promises to pay in any case of injustice for which he has been responsible.

Some commentators read the passage as saying that Zacchaeus has already been making these forms of restitution and sharing his wealth with the poor. In which case, Jesus is able to see beyond the stereotype which makes Zacchaeus the tax collector an outcast. He was not going to the house of a sinner but to that of a good man. Jesus always sees the real person and goes beyond the label. Can we always claim to do the same?

Whatever the interpretation, we can see that, though Zacchaeus may have belonged to a discredited profession, his heart was in the right place, in the place of compassion and justice.

And so Jesus tells Zacchaeus that “salvation”, wholeness and integrity has come to his house. In spite of his despised profession he is “a descendant of Abraham” because his behaviour is totally in harmony with the requirements of the Law and in fact goes well beyond it. For Jesus, too, no social status closes the door to salvation. For this is what it means to be a “son of Abraham”, namely, to be a loving, caring person full of compassion and a sense of justice and not just a keeper of ritualistic observances.

Zacchaeus, who had originally just wanted to have an external glimpse of Jesus, has now come to see Jesus in a much deeper sense. A seeing that changed his whole life as it did that of the beggar in yesterday’s story.

Further, in answer to the accusation that he has entered the house of a sinner, Jesus says, “The Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost.” As he said on another occasion, the healthy have no need of a physician but only the sick. Jesus is the good Shepherd leaving the well-behaved 99 and going in search of the single one that has gone astray.

As we read this story, there are a number of things we could reflect on. We too want to see Jesus in the deepest possible sense. Only then can we truly become his disciples. We need to hear him saying to us, “I want to stay in your house today.” Let us open the door and welcome him in.

And we need to be careful in judging people from their appearance or their social position or their occupation. As a Church, we could spend a lot more time looking for those who are lost instead of concentrating on serving the already converted. In fact, only when people become active evangelisers themselves can we speak of them as “converted”, as “good Christians”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2333g/

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From The Abbot in the Desert
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Book of Wisdom, from which comes our first reading today, tells us “you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.”  We hear this statement more frequently during the time of Lent, but it is important that we recognize its truth always.  This first reading points us clearly to the Gospel from Saint Luke today, where we meet the tax collector, Zacchaeus.  Jesus asks this tax collector to come and eat at his house, and Zacchaeus promises that he will repay anything that he has taken unjustly and also give half of his belongings to the poor.  That is real repentance!

The Book of Wisdom gives us the insight and understanding from an earlier period of Jewish history.  All of us must seek to live wisely in our lives, because wisdom is the ability to discern and judge which aspects of knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to our lives.  Wisdom is a way to understand what really will give us the best life—particularly with relationship to God.  Not all of us live wisely, but if we seek to follow Jesus Christ and set out on His path, then in time, we learn wisdom because Jesus shows us the way.

The second reading today is from the Second Letter to the Thessalonians.  The passage given us today is a piece of wisdom, telling us to be very cautious when speaking about the end of time.  This piece of advice needs to be repeated in every age because there are always people telling us that the end is coming.  This is always true, for sure, but we need not be alarmed about it.  What we need is daily conversion of our own lives.  If we are living in Jesus Christ, then it matters not when the end comes.

We return to the Gospel from Luke today and meet Zacchaeus, a short man who is the chief tax collector and a wealthy man.  We can note immediately that Zacchaeus is not a proud man.  Think of this short man running ahead of Jesus and climbing a tree to see him.  How undignified and comic!  We can hope that we might have this enthusiasm to know the Lord, to see Jesus.  Jesus never turns people away.  There are times when Jesus tests those who come to see him, such as the foreign woman in the Gospel of Matthew to whom he replies that he cannot give to the dogs food for those at table.  But Jesus knows the people and knows how far He can test them.

We need to  have this enthusiasm of Zacchaeus and the strength of character of the foreign woman when we come seeking Jesus.  Zacchaeus is ready to give a lot (we can note that he does not offer to give up everything!) in order to follow Jesus.  How much are we willing to give to the Lord?  Are we willing to make fools of ourselves so that we can see Jesus?  Are we willing to seek wisdom?

Let us give whatever we can give at this moment, even if it is not yet all!  Let us walk with the Lord and ask Him to help us.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Related:

Today’s Gospel is one of our favorites because Zacchaeus “Goes to any length” to get what’s he’s after and what he needs. He even climbs a tree so he can see the Lord…..

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 OCTOBER 2016, 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
THE CALL TO REACH OUT TO INSIGNIFICANT, DIFFICULT AND LOWLY PEOPLE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  WIS 11:22 – 12:2; 2 THESS 1:11 – 2:2; LK 19:1-10 ]It is only natural to favour a good child over a naughty one, a good student over a poor one, and a well-behaved man over an uncouth man.  Yes, we prefer not to mix with insignificant and troublesome people.  We want to be seen with respectable and great people.  Some of us are even ashamed of our own parents because they are not so well dressed or educated.  When we behave in this manner, then we are no better than the Pharisees in today’s gospel.  They too avoided associating with sinners and people with low reputation for fear that they might be identified with them and compromise themselves.

This kind of love is at most a pagan love.  It cannot be called Christian love since we only care for those who are good, healthy, rich and upright.  In reality, we do not love them since we love them only because they are good to us and they can offer us happiness.  We love them for our sake rather than for theirs, since they do not cause us much trouble and do not inconvenience us.

Regrettably, the problematic ones are those who really need us but we drive them further away from us.  We consider them a nuisance in our lives since they give us nothing but trouble. We must realize that if there are some people who seem so unlovable; it is because they have been rejected in love in the first place.  Thus, we often find people who are jilted in love acting in a resentful, bitter and skeptical manner.  This is equally true of us who are sinners and living sinful lives.  Some hate themselves because they cannot overcome their sins. Yes, we hate ourselves for being powerless in this situation.

But it is to such people who feel unworthy that today’s liturgy seeks to assure them that they are loved and accepted. The first reading reminds us that although we are insignificant, “like a grain of dust that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground”, yet God counts us important. It is because we are important in His eyes that we continue to exist. The author of Wisdom says that God holds nothing of what He has made in abhorrence, for had He hated anything; He would not have formed it.

This was certainly the way of Jesus too. Even though Zacchaeus was a sinner and short and insignificant, yet He singled him out of the crowd. He did not ignore him simply because he was not living a good and holy life. He did not try to dissociate Himself from him even though others were cynical when they saw Him reaching out to him.  Jesus did not care what they thought since for Him, Zacchaeus too was a son of Abraham and He “has come to seek out and save what was lost.”  So we can imagine how happy and honoured Zacchaeus must have been to be recognized.  He was so touched when Jesus noticed him.  Like God, Jesus came for the outcast and those ostracized by society.   Everyone was important to Him and He regarded everyone personally.

Secondly, the scriptures proclaim that God loves all, including sinners.  Even in our sinfulness, grace is present.  He is merciful to all, because He can do all things and overlook man’s sins.  God is patient with us and wants us all to share in His life.  The Lord wants us to repent and be converted.  He does not want us to die or live an aimless and meaningless life.  He helps us at times by allowing us to go through the trials in life so that we can learn from our sorrows, recognize the power of God and the consequences of sins.  But this must not be mistaken as God’s punishment.  He does not punish us because we have sinned.  Rather, our suffering is the result and consequence of our foolish actions.  God loves us too much to want to see us suffer, just as parents would not want to see their children suffer as well.

But even if we suffer because of our sins, we must realize that it is also the grace of God working in us.  Sufferings are not meant to make us bitter but better.  They are meant to awaken us to our consciousness since many of us cannot understand unless we suffer.  More often than not, through sufferings in life, broken relationships, and mistakes made, we come to know ourselves better and see our foolishness and blindness.  This too was also the case of Zacchaeus.  The gospel said he was a rich man.  But he was poor in love, in friendships and meaning in life.  It was his isolation and rejection that awakened him to his misery, emptiness, loneliness and selfishness.  It took suffering to help him come to realize his own sinfulness.

Thirdly, we are told that God takes the initiative to reach out to us even in our sinfulness and unworthiness.  As if this was not already a great surprise for Jesus to notice Zacchaeus, Jesus went further and called out to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ That must have been the happiest day of his life for, “he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully.”   Of course, the people around him grumbled, “He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house.”  But aren’t we the same too because at every mass before communion we say, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof”. In the second reading St Paul too exhorted the primacy of God’s grace.  He knew that it was the grace of God that saved him.

The result was conversion.  Yes, it was Jesus’ graciousness and goodness that eventually converted him. He was overwhelmed by His love, concern and acceptance in spite of his unworthiness. The love of Jesus restored his self-esteem.  He began to love himself again.   And when he did, he lived a dignified life by making a decision to live an honest and upright life.  Hence, he said to Jesus, “Look, Sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody, I will pay him back four times the amount.”  Yes, to be saved means to be restored to our original dignity of being God’s children whom He loves because He created us.

What are the implications for us?  Firstly, for those of us supposedly good and righteous Catholics, instead of feeling envious like the Pharisees “who complained when they saw what happened”, we must be kind to such people and feel happy for them when they return home.  Hence, instead of feeling smug, complimenting and praising ourselves like the self-righteous Pharisees, we must be humble to realize that everything is but the grace of God. If God treats us thus, then we too are called to reach out to the difficult people, the criminals and drug addicts, since they too are the sons of Abraham and the children of God, just as Jesus said of Zacchaeus.

Secondly, for those of us who have very low self-esteem or feel that we are unworthy sinners, we must find courage to seek out Jesus.  The path of conversion does not exempt us from co-operating with the grace of God.  God will not force us to welcome Him and be reconciled with Him.  But He will give the opportunity, just as He gave Zacchaeus the occasion.  But like Zacchaeus, we must be sincere in wanting Jesus to come into our lives.  We cannot simply sit at home, paralyzed, bemoaning the fact that we are stupid, useless, unloved or that we are great sinners.  No, we must do something about our situation.

So if we are still staying away from Church, from Jesus, or the sacraments or just feeling rejected and unloved, then the gospel is addressed to us in a special way to us.  We must make some effort to pray the scriptures, receive the sacraments, and make contact with those who can help and enlighten us.  In other words, we must be open to the grace of God.  Zacchaeus did not simply sit in his house and wait for Jesus to knock at his door.  Grace requires that we must also cooperate with God at least by receiving it.

Yes, let those of us who are blessed with the grace of God, those of us who are sinners or feel insignificant, beg for the grace of conversion and the experience of His overpowering and unconditional love.  Only God can make us worthy of His call, and only by His power can our desire for goodness be fulfilled.  Indeed, it is through faith in Him and in His love that we will have the power to live out the good news in our lives.  Without this fundamental faith that God loves us unconditionally, even if we are sinners, no real conversion is possible.

Most of all, we must begin now.  We must respond to the grace of God whilst we have the opportunity before it is too late.  We cannot delay any longer and wait until our deathbed.  It might be too late.  It would be foolish to think that that day would not come until the end of the world.  This was the warning given by St Paul when he said, “please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.”   No, we cannot afford to wait for the last day because any day can be our last day.  Let us grasp the opportunity and start living the good life now and share this good life with others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Zacchaeus is worthy of our imitation
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More Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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WE are the works of God. When the psalmist writes, “The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works” he is referring to us; to mankind.
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Yesterday someone told me about a woman’s suicide and ended by saying, “She could never believe that God would love her and forgive her.”
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God loves us all, forgives us all and is always compassionate toward us all. The Word of God repeats these themes of The Good News over and over and over.
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When we deny Him His job —  the job of love and compassion and forgiveness — we start to play God ourselves and act like Judas. Judas’ great sin was not trusting in the Word of God that he heard so many times. His sin was not believing in the forgiveness of Jesus and his Father and not believing in the strength available to him from the Holy Spirit. He rejected what he knew to be the truth.
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“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
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By our faith we are saved. By are arrogance of not believing we are lost.
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This belief only in self, this selfish belief, this arrogance of self took Judas toward the self destruction of suicide.
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“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
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“Without Him we are nothing.”
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Related:
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More from Olier:

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Come down

The story is told about an usher who saw a man lying prone on three seats in a movie house. The usher told him: “Sorry, sir. You are allowed only one seat.” The man groaned but did not budge. So the usher called the security guard, who asked the man: “Sir, what’s your name and where are you from?” The man said, in pain: “My name is Sam and I’m from the balcony.”

In today’s Gospel (Lk. 19, 1-10), we hear the story of a man who came down from a tree to encounter Jesus.  From a mere spectator, Zacchaeus became a follower and a disciple. If we want to encounter and follow Jesus, we must come down from our tree of comfort and security. Discipleship begins when we let go of our pride and take the road of humility.

Like Zacchaeus, many of us cannot see, encounter, and follow Jesus because of the crowd. What is your crowd? Who is your crowd that prevents you from truly seeing, encountering, and following Jesus? But the crowd is not so much outside as within us. We have to let go of the gods we have made of and for ourselves—especially the gods called selfishness and pride.

No matter how sinful we are, no matter how dirty, no matter how tough, in time the Lord’s grace will catch up with each and every one of us. In time, in God’s time, we all will encounter God’s power and love. Let us not give up on ourselves and on one another. God’s love and power are stronger far than we. Sooner or later we all will come down from whatever our tree is, voluntarily or forcibly. No one stays atop a tree forever.

How consoling to know that Jesus stops for us. Yes, we all are worth stopping for. May we also learn to make time and stop for the last, the least, and the lost in our midst. If you feel or think that you are entitled to bypass or overtake people, and even institutions and traditions, slow down. You’re moving too fast, or you’re getting too fat in your ego and in your mind.

I heard the confession of a terminally ill man last week. He made a rather impressive confession, giving a rundown of how he may or may not have violated each of the 10 commandments. After listening to his long soliloquy, which was very cerebral and philosophical, I just asked him if he was really sorry, and if he believed that God loves him. That’s when he began to cry. And that’s when grace finally caught up with him, and set him free. Finally, he came down from his tree.

May our celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day remind us of the shortness of our lives and the certainty of death. We are all called to become saints in our own way, and live meaningful and fruitful lives in the best way we can. And let us not forget that eternity awaits us, and that divine justice will catch up with each one of us.

Rest in peace. How about living in peace first? Peace is not, and should not, just be at the end of our earthly journey. It should be sought and strived for daily. Want a more peaceful journey? Take the road of prayer, humility, kindness, and joy every day, not just today.

Aside from our “bucket list” of things we want to do before our life ends, maybe we should now make our “regret list” to make sure that we will have little or no regret toward anything or anyone while there is still time. It could be a quarrel to mend, a person to forgive, a fault to be corrected, or a blessing to be shared. Perhaps there is still a “thank you,” a “sorry” or an “I love you” left unsaid. Start where you are and who you are with right now.

To alumni of San Sebastian College, Manila: You are invited to a joint reunion of Elementary Batch 1966 (our batch!) and High School Batch 1970 on Nov. 19. Registration starts at 1 p.m., Mass is at 1:30 p.m.  For inquiries, please call: Benjie Salvador (09277240578), Mon Pestaño (09165574718), or Tony Yñiguez (09178487451).

And to all: final reunion and homecoming in heaven. Sorry, no exact date and time. For inquiries, be in constant touch with our Creator in heaven!

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help us to come down from our tree of comfort and security so that we can follow You on the road of prayer, kindness, joy and humility. Amen.

TAGS: Bucket list, Humility, regret, Zacchaeus

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/98813/come-down-2#ixzz4ObLbR7Tf
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, October 26, 2016 — Do we manifest the needed Self Discipline? — We have to walk — We cannot stop — “We are on the way of Jesus”

October 25, 2016

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 481

Reading 1 EPH 6:1-9

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Honor your father and mother.
This is the first commandment with a promise,
that it may go well with you
and that you may have a long life on earth.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,
but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.Slaves, be obedient to your human masters with fear and trembling,
in sincerity of heart, as to Christ,
not only when being watched, as currying favor,
but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,
willingly serving the Lord and not men,
knowing that each will be requited from the Lord
for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.
Masters, act in the same way towards them, and stop bullying,
knowing that both they and you have a Master in heaven
and that with him there is no partiality.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:10-11, 12-13AB, 13CD-14

R. (13c) The Lord is faithful in all his words.
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 faithful in all his words.
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 faithful in all his words.
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 faithful in all his words.

AlleluiaSEE 2 THESS 2:14

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

Gospel LK 13:22-30

Jesus passed through towns and villages,
teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.
Someone asked him,
“Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
He answered them,
“Strive to enter through the narrow gate,
for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter
but will not be strong enough.
After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door,
then will you stand outside knocking and saying,
‘Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
‘I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
‘I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’
And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth
when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God
and you yourselves cast out.
And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
For behold, some are last who will be first,
and some are first who will be last.”

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Luke 13:22-30 — Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
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Reflection

● The Gospel today narrates an episode that took place along the road that Jesus was going through from Galilee to Jerusalem, the description of which occupies one third part of Luke’s Gospel (Lk 9, 51 to 19, 28).

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● Luke 13, 22: The journey toward Jerusalem. “Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem”. More than once Luke mentions that Jesus is on the way toward Jerusalem. During ten chapters he describes the journey up to Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51 to 19, 28), Luke constantly recalls that Jesus is on the way toward Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51.53.57; 10, 1.38; 11, 1; 13, 22.33; 14, 25; 17, 11; 18, 31; 18, 37; 19, 1.11.28). What is clear and definitive from the beginning is the destiny or end of the journey: Jerusalem, the capital city where Jesus suffers his Passion and dies (Lk 9, 31.51). But Luke rarely tells us about the places through which Jesus passed.

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This he says only at the beginning of the journey (Lk 9, 51), in the middle (Lk 17, 11) and at the end (Lk 18, 35; 19, 1), and thus we know something about the places through which Jesus was passing. In this way, Luke suggests the following teaching: the objective of our life should be clear, and we should assume it decidedly like Jesus did. We have to walk, we cannot stop. The places through which we have to pass are not always clear and definitive: what is sure, certain, is the objective: Jerusalem, where the “exodus” awaits us (Lk 9, 31), the Passion, Death and the Resurrection.

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● Luke 13, 23: The question regarding the number of those who are saved.Along the road all kinds of things happen: information on the massacre and the disasters (Lk 13, 1-5), the parable (Lk 13, 6-9. 18-21), discussions (Lk 13, 10-13) and, in today’s Gospel, a question from the people: “Sir will there be only a few saved?” It is always the same question concerning salvation!
● Luke 13, 24-25: The narrow door. Jesus says that the door is narrow: “Try your hardest to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you, many will try to enter but will not succeed”. Does Jesus, perhaps, says this to fill us with fear and to oblige us to observe the Law as the Pharisees taught? What does this narrow door signify? About which door is he speaking?

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In the Sermon on the Mountain Jesus suggests that the entrance into the Kingdom has eight doors. These are the eight categories of persons of the Beatitudes: (a) the poor in spirit, (b) the meek, (c) the afflicted, (d) the hungry and thirsty for justice, (e) the merciful, (f) the pure of heart, (g) the peace makers and (h) those persecuted for justice (Mt 5, 3-10). Luke reduces them to four categories: (a) the poor, (b) the hungry, (c) those who are sad and (d) those who are persecuted (Lc 6,20-22). Only those who belong to one of these categories mentioned in the Beatitudes will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the narrow door.

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It is the new look on the salvation which Jesus communicates to us. There is no other door! It is a question of the conversion which Jesus asks from us. And he insists: “Try your hardest to enter by the narrow door, because I tell you many will try to enter and will not succeed. Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself standing outside knocking on the door, saying ‘Lord, open to us’, but he will answer, ‘I do not know where you come from’”. In what concerns the hour of judgment, now is the favourable time for conversion, to change our opinion, our vision on salvation and to enter into one of the eight categories.

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● Luke 13, 26-28: The tragic misunderstanding. God responds to the one who knocks at the door: “I do not know where you come from”. But they insist and argue: “We have eaten and we drank in your presence, you taught on our streets!” It is not sufficient to have eaten with Jesus, to have participated in the multiplication of the loaves and to have listened to his teachings on the streets of the cities and of the villages! It is not sufficient to be in Church and to have participated in the instruction of the catechism. God will answer: ”I do not know where you come from; away from me, all evil doers!” This is a tragic misunderstanding and a total lack of conversion, of understanding. Jesus considers unjust what others consider something to be just and pleasing to God. It is a totally new way of seeing our salvation. The door is truly narrow.

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● Luke 13, 29-30: The key that explains the misunderstanding. “People from east and west, from north and south, will come and sit down at the feast in the Kingdom of God. Look, there are those now last who will be the first, and those now first who will be last”. It is a question of the great change which takes place with the coming of God down to us in Jesus. All the people will have access and will pass through the narrow door.

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Personal questions

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● To have a clear objective and to travel toward Jerusalem: are the objectives of my life clear or do I allow myself to be transported by the wind of the moment by public opinion?
● The narrow door. What idea do I have of God, of life, of salvation?

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Concluding prayer

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All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh,
and your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingship
and tell of your might. (Ps 145,10-11)

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-1322-30

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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From October 24, 2014 (From Our Archives)
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: EPH 6:1-9; LK 13:22-30
http://www.universalis.com/20141029/mass.htm

The scripture readings invite us to be faithful to our vocation in life.  St Paul in the first reading reminds the Ephesians that regardless of whatever vocation and state of life they are in, they must remain faithful.  Children must therefore obey and respect their parents, since they are their guardians; parents must love their children and treat them with compassion and understanding; servants must serve faithfully whoever is in charge of them, and employers must treat servants with dignity and respect.

This call to faithfulness is rooted in God’s fidelity to us.  This is proclaimed in the responsorial psalm when the psalmist calls us all to praise God for His mercy and love.  Indeed, as the psalmist says, “the Lord is faithful in all His words and holy in all His works.”   His works glorify the goodness of God and His compassion for us shows that He is truly the King of all creation.

How then can we be faithful to our calling in life?  We need to grow in discipleship.  What does this entail?  To be a disciple means to be disciplined.  Hence, Jesus’ warning to enter the narrow door is timely.  He said, “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.”  Jesus was not interested in theoretical and speculative questions as to how many would be saved.  It is more important to know how one can be saved.

Of course in speaking about the narrow door, we remember too that Jesus not only called Himself the Shepherd but also the Gate, the door.  So the door which Jesus is referring to is Himself, since He is the gate.  In John 10:9 He said, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved.”   This door He had in mind was the way of the passion, death and resurrection.  Through the cross and the resurrection, He makes it possible for us to find the way to heaven and His Father’s house.

Faithful disciples of Christ must follow Him by struggling to enter this Door.  If not, Jesus warns us in today’s gospel, “there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside.  And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”  There is also a warning from Jesus when He said, “Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.”  Baptism and membership in the Church alone does not guarantee our salvation, unless we walk the same path of Jesus in doing the will of the Father and fulfill the vocation that God has given to us in life.

Thus, when Jesus advised us to strive to enter the narrow door, it implies the need to struggle to grow in fidelity to our identity as Christians as well as to our vocation in life.  Although in principle we are children of God, like the Jews, yet unless we live out our identity concretely in our roles, we will not be able to find ourselves, nor find God. The Evil One is always tempting us to rebel and be unfaithful to who we are and what we are called to do.

Thus, to enter the kingdom of God, we must fight against the temptations of the flesh, so that we might not fall into the traps of the Evil one and sin against God by not doing His will through negligence, laziness, indifference and compromise.   We must always be on guard since we do not know the time the Master would be coming.

For this reason, we must exercise discipline and not become lax in our spiritual and personal life. If the Church insists on obedience and discipline in following the doctrines, and especially in our prayer life, including works of mortifications and penance, it is because we need to strengthen ourselves for the battle against Satan and all his temptations.  Discipline is necessary because the flesh is weak, even if the spirit is willing.  Without exercising discipline in the way we practice our faith and in the way we live, we can easily lose focus and direction.  So discipline is essential to fend off the devil’s temptations, especially in moments of weakness.

Hence, anyone who is serious about his spiritual life and growth in discipleship would understand the importance not just of obedience to the laws of the Church but more especially self discipline.  External obedience and discipline are only tools to bring about interior change and conversion of heart.   Thus, it behooves us not to disregard the significance of self-discipline that is required of us.  Whether it is faithfulness in prayer and spiritual exercises, or ongoing formation, or our duties at work or family life, we must be faithful and responsible.  Although some matters might seem trivial, yet disobedience or failure to be faithful to our responsibilities can be signs of rebellion and pride in our hearts.  Fact is, if we are not faithful in small things, we cannot be faithful in big things.  Like the Jews, Jesus warns us not to rely on our office, position and natural claims but that we must prove the worthiness of our calling by the works that we do and the lives that we lead.

However, this exercise of discipline must be inspired and motivated by Christ.  This is what the first reading is reminding us about.  Paul was not trying to resolve family or working relationships.  What is important is that everything is done from the perspective of Christ.  “Work hard and willingly, but do it for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of men.”  Christian discipline is not motivated by self effort or personal gain, but for the love of Christ. Christian discipline is not discipline resulting from personal efforts.  Rather, it is the consequence of the grace we have received through Christ.

Christian discipline in the final analysis simply means that everything must be done in the Lord, for the Lord, and with the Lord.   When St Paul urged the different groups of individuals, whether children, parents or slaves to be responsible to their state of life, he always included the Lord as the basis for acting thus.  To do everything in the Lord means sharing His mind and heart in the way He obeyed and served the Father.  To do everything for the Lord means to do everything for His greater glory and for love of Him.

Finally, to do everything with the Lord means to rely on grace, and working in union with Him.   Yes, the good news is that we do not struggle or work alone. God is with us and His grace is sufficient! All we need is to trust Him and cooperate with His grace at work in our lives.  Otherwise, self-discipline can either make us proud and self-righteous or disheartened by our failures.  To be able to walk the life of Christ in itself is His grace.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/29-october-2014-wednesday-30th-week-in-ordinary-time/#sthash.eR4Rnghu.dpuf

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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26 OCTOBER 2016, Wednesday, 30th Week of Ordinary Time

GROUNDING ALL RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EPHESIANS 6:1-9; LUKE 13:22-30 ]

What is life if not about relationships? Happiness in life is ultimately dependent on relationships. Of course, this is not to discount the importance of meaningful work, recreation and the pleasures of life.  But without meaningful and healthy relationships with those who are connected with us, be they our loved ones, family members, colleagues, friends and collaborators, life would be so empty.

Indeed, this was the question posed to the Lord.  “Sir, will there be only a few saved?”  Obviously, the one who asked this question was a Jew.  He was thinking that only the Chosen People of God would be saved and all others would be condemned to perdition.  The response of Jesus is clear.  It is not by membership in any organization that we are saved.  Just because we belong to a chosen race, it does not mean that we are automatically saved.  Indeed, many Catholics think that just because they are baptized, they are guaranteed of salvation.  Instead, Jesus made it clear, “Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.”

What is this door?  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He is the Gate to the sheepfold.  “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (Jn 10:9)  To enter into life, we need to have a personal relationship with the Lord.  Without entering this door, we will not be able to find the fullness of life.  Unfortunately, like the Jews, we are content with a superficial relationship with the Lord.  We appear to be with Him but our hearts are far from Him.  We attend Church services and are even involved in all kinds of activities in the Church, but we do not know Him personally.  That is why Jesus warns us that such a relationship will not save us. Jesus said, “You will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, ‘I do not know where you come from.  Away from me, all you wicked men!’”

Why is our relationship with the Lord so primary for us to live a meaningful life?  This is because it determines all other human relationships as well.  Our relationship with God grounds all other relationships.  In other words, what is the reference point in our relationship with our fellow human beings?  For those in the world, the reference point is themselves.  We look at others from our perspective.  Being selfish, self-centered and insecure as we are, we will therefore relate to others in a way that will benefit us.  Even couples get married not to love but to be loved and adored.   Employers treat their workers as tools for their success.  Workers curry favour with their bosses to gain promotion and material rewards.  Even parents can regard their children as trophies to be displayed to the world.  Children regard their parents not as mentors but as financial providers.  Beyond money and material things, they have no real relationship with them.  Instead of relating with others from the perspective of selfless love, we are more concerned about others loving us and caring for us.  And if we are broken and wounded, we will view all others negatively with suspicion and fear.

St Paul explains why it is so important to see all relationships in Christ.  To enter the narrow gate is to look at all our relationships with our fellowmen from the perspective of Christ.  Holiness is about purifying our relationships at every level of life.  They key word is “in Christ.”  If all relationships are founded in Christ, then every relationship will be loving and authentic.  The tragedy of life is that married couples, although married in Church, are not married in Christ because Christ is not the center of their relationships.  In their relationships, Christ hardly factors in their lives.  They do not share their faith or pray with each other.  It is true for young couples.  They want to be loving but without the help of Christ.  As a result, they become possessive of each other, insecure and jealous.  This leads to physical, emotional and sexual manipulation.  The relationship is no longer chaste and pure but always inward-looking.  When Christ is taken out of every relationship, the selfish nature of the wounded man takes over and sees everyone from his or her narrow needs.

Thus, St Paul urges us to see all our relationships in Christ.  With respect to our parents, we are called to see them in Christ.  He wrote, “Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord – that is your duty.  The first commandment that has a promise attached to it is: Honour your father and mother; and the promise is: and you will prosper and have a long life in the land.”   God wants us to honour our parents, take care of them especially in their old age when they can no longer work or take care of themselves.   Caring and respecting our parents is the way in which we honour and serve the Lord.  That was how our Lord honoured His Father by doing His will.

As for parents, how do we form our children?  We do not make them miniatures of ourselves.  We do not determine their career choices and how they should live their lives.  St Paul says, “And parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does.”   If we see our children as gifts from the Lord and that we are guardians on behalf of the Lord, then we seek how best to bring the children up according to the mind of Christ.  We need to be careful that we do not drive them to resentment, putting demands on them or controlling them in such a way that we give them no room for growth and for making mistakes.

Similarly, with respect to those who are superiors, employers and bosses, we need to ask how we see our workers in the Lord.  Do we see them as collaborators in the vineyard of the Lord?  Do we see our responsibility in helping to build up our workers, their potentials and to provide them the necessary means to look after their own family?  As employers, we cannot treat our workers like tools and robots meant to serve us and then dispose of them accordingly.  Rather, we are stewards of God’s blessings and our task is to nurture and develop the skills of our workers so that they can perform well in life.  The purpose of success is to create more jobs and provide for our workers and their families so that all can live meaningful and happy lives.  Success belongs not just to the entrepreneur or the leaders but the fruits of success must be shared with all.

Finally, for those of us who are workers, we must regard our bosses in the Lord.  They are placed over us so that cooperating and working with them, we can bring profits to the company so that all can share in the fruits.  We do not see ourselves as slaves but rather collaborating with those who are in charge.  In the final analysis, we are working for the Lord, not for men.  What we should be concerned is not whether our bosses are happy with our work but whether we are glorifying God by our work.  What is important is that we do our best and give our best in whatever we do, with or without the bosses’ knowledge.  For in doing our work well, we grow in efficiency and knowledge.  When we are focused on pleasing and glorifying the Lord by our work, then we will naturally be the best workers.

There is a warning for those who do not cooperate with the grace of God by placing Him at the center of our relationships.  Jesus said, “Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside.  And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”   We will not share the joy of the kingdom which is that of love, peace, joy and unity.   Unless we form good and beautiful relationships on earth in the Lord, we cannot enter heaven because heaven is where all are deeply in love for each other and all united in the love of the Lord.  Forming and deepening our relationship with the Lord is the key to all other relationships.


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

 

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, October, 18, 2016 — Jesus Instructs the disciples

October 17, 2016

Feast of Saint Luke, Evangelist
Lectionary: 661

Art: St. Luke, Evangelist, by Guido Reni (1621)

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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Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:10-17b; Ps 145; Luke 10:1-9 From Living Space

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The Gospel reading comes – appropriately – from Luke. It is a description of Jesus sending out 72 disciples in pairs to every town and place that he himself was going to visit. As mentioned in the word picture given above, there is a tradition that Luke was one of these, although there is no way to confirm it as a fact. At the same time, what Luke describes here must also have matched in many ways his own experience as a missionary in the company of Paul in their journeys through Asia Minor and Greece and, finally, in Rome.
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Jesus begins by reminding his disciples that there is a huge harvest out there and that many workers are needed to bring it in. As he sends them out with a message of love to the world, he warns them not to be surprised if they meet with opposition. They will be like a flock of lambs among a pack of wolves. Luke must have seen this happen many times in the company of Paul.
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They are to travel with the absolute minimum of belongings – not even a staff or travelling bag. They are to walk in their bare feet and not to waste time chatting idly with people they meet on the way. Much of this must have been practised by Jesus himself, who did not even have his own bed to sleep in.  When they enter any house offering them hospitality, they are to wish God’s peace on that house. But, if they are not accepted, they are to leave without a blessing. And, on their travels, they are to stay in the one house, satisfied with whatever is offered them. On the one hand, because of the work they are doing, they deserve to be taken care of. At the same time, they are not to be hopping from house to house in search of better conditions and more comfort.
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Once welcomed in any place, they are to preach their message which is twofold. On the one hand, they are to bring healing to all those who need it and they are to proclaim that “the Reign of God is at hand”.   This Reign of God is personified, of course, in Jesus himself who will be coming to these places after his disciples. The Reign of God comes into existence when people lead their lives according to the will of God – when they are people filled with love and compassion, ready and eager to serve each other, attending to people’s genuine needs and in general sharing with each other everything they have.
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We are grateful to Luke for the wonderful picture of Jesus he has given us and in telling us how Jesus’ disciples, especially Paul, put the Gospel of Jesus into action and brought the message of the Kingdom all the way to Rome, then the capital and administrative centre of their world. And from Rome it would extend to the furthest corners of our planet.
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The First Reading is taken from the Second Letter to Timothy. Here Paul, who is now a prisoner in Rome and awaiting execution, complains of his loneliness and asks Timothy, who seems to be in Ephesus to come and join him. Many of his companions (e.g. Demas) have left him or he has sent them (e.g. Tychicus) away on some mission. However, one person is still with him and that is Luke. Timothy is also asked to bring Mark along.
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Paul regrets that during his trial no one stood by him. (Paul’s experience is not unlike that of his Master, Jesus.) But through it all, God has stood by him and given him the strength to complete his mission that all nations would hear the message of the Gospel.
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Let us, too, make the message of Luke’s gospel and the Acts part of us and be ready, even in difficult circumstances, to live and spread it in all the situations of our life.
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Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1286g-2/
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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 18 OCTOBER 2016, Tuesday, St Luke the Evangelist

PROCLAIMING AND OFFERING THE GOOD NEWS IN FREEDOM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  2 TIM 4:9-17; LK 10:1-9 ]Today we celebrate the Feast of St Luke, an apostle of the Good News.  We know that Luke is the writer of one of the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and also a companion of St Paul in his missionary journeys.  Like him too, we are called to be messengers of the Good News.  Indeed, many of us take this commission of Jesus seriously for as the gospel appeals to us, “The harvest is rich but the workers are few.”  Yes, today there are many people in the world who are awaiting the Good News, many are lost and have no meaning in life and many are still searching for direction; thus the urgency of bringing the Good News to them.  This was why the disciples of Jesus were told to “greet no one along the way” in case they forget or neglect their mission while making friends and having fellowship.

Yet, although many of us are carrying out this command of Jesus, the irony is that the supposedly Good News which we are called to bring to non-believers has become Bad News to them.  How could this have happened?  This is due to our wrong attitude and approach to evangelization.  For some, getting people to accept the Good News must be done at all cost, even to the extent of compelling them to accept it.  This is true, especially if they are their loved ones since they would like them very much to share in their faith.  As if this is not bad enough, some of us even go to the extent of belittling and ridiculing the religious beliefs of others.

Of course when we attack other people’s beliefs, they become even more resentful of us and become closed to whatever we want to say.  Instead of seeing us as people of the Good News, we are now perceived as people of the Bad News.   This in turn makes us annoyed with them due to their intransigence and their lack of response.  But when we are transformed from loving people to angry people, this surely contradicts what the gospel tells us about the need to remain at peace even if others reject the peace we bring.  Yes, Jesus said that “On entering any house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If there is a peaceable man there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.”

Hence, it is important that we ask ourselves, why are we angry with those who do not accept the Good Newswe are offering them?  If we are angry with those who reject the Good News we bring, is it because we are angry that they are rejecting the message or because they are rejecting us?  Let me give you an analogy in life.  Some of us get very angry with those who reject our gifts.  Now, if we are angry that our friends have rejected our gifts, isn’t it because we need them to receive the gifts so that we might feel happy for ourselves, that we are good and caring people?  For many of us, when our gifts are rejected, it is tantamount to a personal rejection.  They also deprive us of the joy of giving, and perhaps our need to feel superior and useful and good.

Consequently, we must be honest enough to admit that if others reject our gifts or the Good News we bring, it is not because we care about them, but we care about ourselves more than them.  It is because our ego and pride is hurt that we become angry.  If not why should we be angry?  Why should we get irritated if a person does not want the gifts we give them, especially when he sincerely does not need them?  We should be too happy to take back the gifts and pass them to those who need them. There is no need to be angry.  That is why Jesus tells us if others reject our peace, then it comes back to us.  If we are truly happy for the person, would we not only want what is best and can make him happy, rather than making ourselves happy?

Perhaps, others feel angry because they feel guilty.  They think that they are responsible if their loved ones are not converted.  They think that conversion is the result of their efforts rather than the work of God.  Thus, guilt makes them angry and resentful of others.  The truth is that ultimately, conversion is the action of the Holy Spirit and not ours.

Jesus in the gospel asks us to be patient and to give freedom to our recipients.  This is very clear when He told His disciples not to impose their message of peace on others.  St Paul himself in the first reading precisely adopted such an attitude when he wrote of how his fellow associate, Demas, had left him for the world.  Furthermore, when he had to stand on trial alone because everyone deserted him, he prayed that nothing would be held against them.  Such also was the attitude of Jesus when He was hanging on the cross, for He said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”  Indeed, if people reject our offer of the Good News, it is simply because they are ignorant.  They do not see the Good News as really good for them.  Hence, instead of getting angry with them, we should show even more empathy and understanding.

So, the question is, how can one be so open to such a way of relating with people who are not interested in the Good News?  The key lies in the Spirit of poverty.  This is the deeper meaning of what Jesus wants to tell us in the gospel when He told His disciples not to carry a walking staff, a travelling bag or to wear sandals.  He was not simply speaking about material detachments.  This is of course included.  But more importantly, He was speaking of the emotional, psychological baggages that we carry with us in our proclamation of the Good News.  These baggages are our deep insecurities, our need for attention, for acceptance, for power and control over others.   Yes, the baggages we carry in the secular world are normally transformed into the religious sphere when we become so-called religious people.  The same old pursuits continue but only in a subtle way, in a new form, namely, that of spiritual power, greed and superiority.

How then can we learn to let go of all these baggages?  We can let go completely, even those whom we desire to convert, only when we ourselves have experienced the unconditional love of God in our lives.  Once we have experienced the love of Jesus, we will find so much happiness in it, that our happiness will no longer be dependent on people; and surely not on whether they accept the Good News or not, or whether they are converted to the Lord.  Of course, we will be happy for them if they really find the Lord in their lives.  This is our wish for them.  But note that does not mean our happiness is dependent on them.  We must be interiorly happy and then this happiness increases when they too share in our happiness.

For if we are truly happy Christians then our happiness must not be dependent on others’ happiness nor on their conversion.  If not, it seems that the conversion of others is not for their own sake but for ours.  If not, it seems that we convert them to make ourselves happy and not for their happiness.  Once we are aware that real happiness must come from our own sufficiency in the Lord, like Paul himself who said:  “the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength”, then we can avoid falling into a false messianic zeal – a zeal that springs from our own needs rather than for the well-being of others.

Yes, a true messenger of the Good News is one who has emptied himself of his ego and his impulsive desire to convert others.  The paradox is that when he is emptied of this desire to convert others, he can then share the Good News in a non-threatening way, a sharing that is based on true compassion, love and respect for the other person.  In that way, when the messenger of the Good News becomes the Good News in person, we can be sure that the message would then be more readily given an audience.  In the final analysis, we should simply do our part and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.  What is necessary besides trying to bring them to Christ is that such attempts must be accompanied by fervent intercessory prayer for them and backed up by mortifications and penance.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, September 7, 2016 — “Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.” Archbishop Goh: “Life is much deeper and richer when we live on the transcendental level.”

September 6, 2016

Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 439

“How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.  Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied. Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.”

“Your reward will be in heaven.”

 

Reading 1 1 COR 7:25-31

Brothers and sisters:
In regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord,
but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.
So this is what I think best because of the present distress:
that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is.
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation.
Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife.
If you marry, however, you do not sin,
nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries;
but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life,
and I would like to spare you that.I tell you, brothers, the time is running out.
From now on, let those having wives act as not having them,
those weeping as not weeping,
those rejoicing as not rejoicing,
those buying as not owning,
those using the world as not using it fully.
For the world in its present form is passing away.

Responsorial Psalm PS 45:11-12, 14-15, 16-17

R. (11) Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,
forget your people and your father’s house.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord, and you must worship him.
R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
All glorious is the king’s daughter as she enters;
her raiment is threaded with spun gold.
In embroidered apparel she is borne in to the king;
behind her the virgins of her train are brought to you.
R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.
They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king.
The place of your fathers your sons shall have;
you shall make them princes through all the land.
R. Listen to me, daughter; see and bend your ear.

Alleluia LK 6:23AB

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

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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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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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 SEPTEMBER 2016, Wednesday, 23rd Week of Ordinary Time
DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT THERE IS A TOMORROW?
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 COR 7:25-31; LUKE 6:20-26  ]

In the olden days, most people believed that there was a tomorrow after death.  As a result, they lived a good life, knowing that there would be retribution in the next life.  So many of our forefathers lived in view of the fullness of life promised to them.  They lived with the great hope that the sufferings in this life cannot be compared to the life hereafter.  They waited for the “inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” for them. (1 Pt 1:4)  This was the same attitude of the early Christians in the first reading.  St Paul reminded them, “I say this because the world as we know it is passing away.”   This attitude is true even of non-Christians.  Although they might not believe in the resurrection of the dead, most would believe a certain continuity of life and the doctrine of karma, what you sow is what you reap.

But in the modern generation, the thought of tomorrow and of life after death seems to be something too far-fetched or too remote even to think of.  Like the Corinthians, we are all so engrossed with this life, busy doing many things besides enjoying ourselves, that we hardly spare a thought for tomorrow.  Furthermore, with a longer life span and finitude of life masked by cosmetics and aesthetic surgery, we delude ourselves into thinking that we are still young and can live for many more years.  Indeed, if we honestly examine ourselves, most of us, even believers in Christ, live as if there is no tomorrow.  The fact that our faith in life after death does not affect the decisions as to how we live today, shows that it is just an idea, not a conviction.  At most, we might worry only when we are sick or facing the possibility of death.

What is the cause?  It springs from a loss of the sense of the Sacred and faith in God.  Through science and technology and in an age of information, many people no longer turn to God to solve their problems.  They think so highly of themselves, that they can manage on their own and solve all the problems of the world.  This has led to materialism and individualism.  Being absorbed by the world, God becomes more and more distant from their lives.  Left to themselves, without understanding that life is much deeper and richer when we live on the transcendental level, they sink to living merely a sensual life.  The more they live this kind of life, the emptier they become.  In truth, for those who live such a life, especially when they have become successful and have all the material things they need and want, they are often restlessness and lonely.  They know that something is missing in their life, which they experience as a deep vacuum.  Unfortunately, many do not realize that it is their spirit seeking for God.  This is what the Lord warns us of today, “But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now. Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall go hungry. Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.  Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way the ancestors treated the false prophets.”

In the gospel, when Jesus presented the Blessed Life to His disciples, He was precisely speaking about what fullness of life entails.  It means to live in a spirit of poverty, knowing that happiness in life is to live simply and be freed from the worldly concerns of life. When we live with detachment and are grateful for what we have, we will always be happy because we are not a prisoner of anyone.  We are called to live in love for the truth.  Even when we are rejected and hated because of our Christian belief, we should be at peace.  Truth and love will prevail at the end; if not in this life, it will be so in the next life.  It is this confidence of the final liberation that made many Christians give their life for their faith and devote themselves to the service of God and the Church as hermits, monks, religious and priests.  Many more spend their whole life in service to the poor and needy.

St Paul in the first reading lived with such a vivid hope for the fullness of life in the future.  In his letter to the Philippians, he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”  (Phil 1:21-24)  Again in the second letter of Peter, St Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (1 Pt 3:9)

St Paul saw the urgency of preparing ourselves for the next life.  Within this context, he advised the Christians that in whatever they did, they had to focus their eyes on the Lord. Accordingly “those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it.”  He was not saying that we cannot marry, or enjoy life here and now, but that we must bear in mind that because “the world as we know it is passing away.” We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are here forever.  Hence, it is important that we live our lives in perspective.

Living for the future does not mean that we do not live in the present.  Rather, the present is lived even more fully because of the future.  Realizing what is ahead of us, we will not take the things of this life too seriously.  They are means by which we are called to love and grow in grace.  Realizing that the future is a life lived with God in love, then this life must already be a foretaste here and now.  “Therefore, beloved, since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the forbearance of our Lord as salvation.”  (1 Pt 3:14f)

What actually makes us happy today is not whether we have much food, a beautiful house, a great career or fame, but whether we are making a difference in the life of our fellowmen.  Only when we live in such a way that is contributive to Church, society and country, can we be happy with ourselves and be at peace.  Knowing that we can bring much joy to those who are suffering, food to those who are without, shelter to those who have none, relief and cure to those who are sick, work to those who are without jobs, reconciliation to those who are alienated from their loved ones, peace to those who are troubled in their conscience, forgiveness to those who condemn themselves, and all the good works we can think of, will make us more human and fulfilled. That is why, as we weep with them, identifying ourselves with them in their poverty and their sickness and suffering, we learn to feel with them.  In reaching out to them, they will draw out the goodness that is latent in our hearts.  By so doing, we will find a joy that the world cannot give. “How happy are you who are poor: yours is the kingdom of God.  Happy you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied. Happy you who weep now: you shall laugh.”

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, September 3, 2016 — “None of you will be inflated with pride”

September 2, 2016

Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 436

Reading 1 1 COR 4:6B-15

Brothers and sisters:
Learn from myself and Apollos not to go beyond what is written,
so that none of you will be inflated with pride
in favor of one person over against another.
Who confers distinction upon you?
What do you possess that you have not received?
But if you have received it,
why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?
You are already satisfied; you have already grown rich;
you have become kings without us!
Indeed, I wish that you had become kings,
so that we also might become kings with you.For as I see it, God has exhibited us Apostles as the last of all,
like people sentenced to death,
since we have become a spectacle to the world,
to angels and men alike.
We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ;
we are weak, but you are strong;
you are held in honor, but we in disrepute.
To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty,
we are poorly clad and roughly treated,
we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands.
When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
when slandered, we respond gently.
We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all,
to this very moment.I am writing you this not to shame you,
but to admonish you as my beloved children.
Even if you should have countless guides to Christ,
yet you do not have many fathers,
for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:17-18, 19-20, 21

R. (18) 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.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him,
he hears their cry and saves them.
The LORD keeps all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
May my mouth speak the praise of the LORD,
and may all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

AlleluiaJN 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Art: Gleaning by Arthur Hughes

Gospel LK 6:1-5

While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a sabbath,
his disciples were picking the heads of grain,
rubbing them in their hands, and eating them.
Some Pharisees said,
“Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Have you not read what David did
when he and those who were with him were hungry?
How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering,
which only the priests could lawfully eat,
ate of it, and shared it with his companions?”
Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
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The Gospel today speaks about the conflict concerning the observance of the Sabbath –Saturday. The observance of the Sabbath was a central law, one of the Ten Commandments.
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This was a very ancient Law the value of which was stressed after the Exile. During the Exile, the people had to work seven days a week from morning until evening, without any conditions to meet and meditate on the Word of God, to pray together and to share faith, their problems and their hopes.
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Therefore, there was an urgent need to stop at least one day a week to get together and encourage one another during the very difficult situation of the exile. Otherwise they would have lost their faith. It was then that faith was reborn and the observance of Saturday was re-established.
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Luke 6, 1-2: The cause of the conflict. On Saturday the disciples were walking across the cornfields and they were picking ears of corn. Matthew 12, 1 says that they were hungry (Mt 12, 1). The Pharisees invoke the Bible to say it was a transgression of the Law of Saturday: Why do you do this which is not permitted to do on Saturday?” (cf. Ex 20, 8-11).
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Luke 6, 3-4: The response of Jesus. Immediately Jesus responds recalling that David himself also did things which were prohibited, because he took the sacred bread from the Temple and gave it to the soldiers to eat because they were hungry (I S 21, 2-7). Jesus knew the Bible and referred to it to show that the arguments of others had no foundation.
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In Matthew, the response of Jesus is more complete. He not only recalls the story of David, but also quotes the Legislation which permits the priests to work on Saturday and he quotes Prophet Hosea: “Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice”. He quotes a Biblical text or a historical text, a legislative text and a prophetic text (cf. Mt 12, 1-18). At that time there was no printed Bible as we have it today. In each community there was only one Bible, hand written, which remained in the Synagogue.
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If Jesus knew the Bible so well, it means that in the 30 years of his life in Nazareth he participated intensely in the life of the community, where every Saturday the Scriptures were read. We still lack very much to have the same familiarity with the Bible and the same participation in the community.
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Luke 6, 5: The conclusion for all of us. And Jesus ends with the following phrase: The Son of Man is Master of the Sabbath! The Lord of Saturday! Jesus, Son of Man, who lives in intimacy with God, discovers the sense of the Bible not from outside, from without, but from inside, that is, discovers the sense starting at the roots, beginning from his intimacy with the author of the Bible who is God himself. Because of this, he calls himself Master of Saturday. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus revitalizes the law of Saturday saying: “Saturday was instituted for man and not man for Saturday”.
Personal questions
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• How do you spend Sunday, which is our “Sabbath”? Do you go to Mass because it is an obligation, in order to avoid sin or to be with God?
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• Jesus knew the Bible almost by heart. What does the Bible represent for me?
Concluding Prayer
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My mouth shall always praise Yahweh,
let every creature bless his holy name
for ever and ever. (Ps 145,21)
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Source: http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-luke-61-5
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Commentary on Luke 6:1-5 From Living Space

Yet another confrontation between Jesus and some Pharisees. Following immediately, as it does, after the parable about the patch and the wineskins, it confirms what Jesus said about the gap between the traditionalists and his vision.

He and his disciples were walking through a cornfield and it was a sabbath day. The disciples were plucking heads of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them. The sabbath did not forbid walking short distances. And custom did not forbid “gleaning”, that is, taking corn left over by reapers. It did forbid reaping and threshing. Only a very narrow-minded interpretation could have described plucking as reaping and rubbing between the hands as threshing but that seems to be what is happening here.

The disciples are asked, “Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?” Jesus answers very quickly and to the point. He makes no reference to the narrow-minded legalism that his critics reveal, the “old wineskin” mentality. Instead, he throws at them an incident. David and his men were hungry so they went into the house of God and, with his approval, ate the holy bread which only the priests were allowed to eat (1 Sam 21:6). Each sabbath, 12 loaves of fresh bread were set on a table in the Holy Place. The stale bread was eaten by the priests.

As king, David put himself above the law. Both David’s and the disciples’ actions involved godly men doing something forbidden by law. However, it is never a violation of a law to do what is good and to save life (eating for survival). In that sense both David and the disciples were within the spirit, though not the letter, of the law.

And Jesus, too, is above the law, “The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.” Jesus has the authority to overrule man-made laws concerning the Sabbath, particularly as interpreted by the Pharisees. This does not mean, of course, that Jesus (or even God for that matter) can or will do anything he feels like doing. Jesus will never go against anything that involves the True or the Good; with his Father he is the Source of all that is true and good.

But many of the Jewish laws (like civil laws) are positive law. In themselves, they involve matters which are neither good nor bad. In itself, it is neither good nor bad to stop at a green light or go through a red one. It is neither good nor bad in itself to abstain from work on the sabbath. What makes these acts good or bad is the deeper good of which they are a sign. That deeper good may sometimes involve their non-observance. Hunger and survival may over-ride a rule to fast. In a matter of extreme urgency it may be necessary to drive (safely) through a red light. The letter of the law is violated but not the good it intends.

Some manuscripts of Luke contain a very pertinent saying at this point: “On the same day, seeing a man working on the sabbath day, Jesus said to him: ‘Friend, if you know what you are doing, you are blessed; but if you do not know, you are accursed as a breaker of the Law’.” (Jerusalem Bible, loc. cit.) That is a sentiment that goes with new wine and new wineskins.

If truth and goodness are not violated by doing or not doing something, can we way there is sin or evil there?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2227g/

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The disciples of Jesus are accused by the Pharisees of not keeping the Sabbath holy — Because they picked grain and ate it

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Homily Ideas from Fr. Jason Mitchell LC
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“Paul reprimands self-righteous Christians for their egotism and unfair criticisms. Although he describes them as wise and prosperous, his rhetorical irony implies the opposite, i.e., they are ignorant and impoverished. Their refusal to embrace the foolishness of Christ exposes their pride and reveals how petty their problems look compared to the humiliation of the apostles” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).
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On account of Christ, Paul and the other Apostles have become like publicly disgraced criminals, fools in the eyes of the world, weak; they are held in disrepute, hungry and thirsty, poorly clad, roughly treated, homeless; and they have to work and toil to sustain themselves.
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They are ridiculed and persecuted, slandered and treated like rubbish and scum.Paul admonishes the Christians in Corinth, not to shame them, but to lead them to Christ through the Gospel. Paul considers himself a father to the Corinthians, having brought them new life through the Gospel (2 Corinthians 12:14).
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Paul here could be referring to the connection between priesthood and fatherhood. “In the patriarchal age, fathers and first-born sons exercised the cultic ministry of building altars and offering sacrifices for their families (Gen 12:8; 22:9-13; 31:54; 46:1; Job 1:5).
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In the Mosaic age, God elevated Aaron and his levitical sons (Ex 40:12-15) to be the fathers and priests of the tribal family of Israel (Judg 17:10; 18:19). The same principle carries over on a spiritual level in the age of the New Covenant, where Christ, our great high priest, ordains men to the ministry of spiritual fatherhood for ‘the priestly service of the gospel’ (Rom 15:16)” (Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).Jesus, then, is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him.Through the calling of the twelve Apostles, Jesus forms the new Israel, the New People of God. As Christians, we are called to imitate Jesus’ humility and meekness of heart. Throughout the centuries many saints, like Paul, offer to Christians models worthy of imitation.

Read the source: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/daily-homily-the-lord-of-the-Sabbath

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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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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 SEPTEMBER 2016, Saturday, 22nd Week of Ordinary Time
KEEPING THE SABBATH HOLY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 COR 4: 6B-15; LUKE 6:1-5 ]

For those of us unfamiliar with the customs of the Jews, we find it incomprehensible, even ludicrous, that they were so sticky on the observance of the Sabbath Law.  Why the big fuss and petty squabbles over Jesus’ breaking the Sabbath Law?  This was because the Sabbath law was given by God Himself through Moses and therefore it is held to be sacrosanct.

But the crux of the problem, or contention, lies in the divergent way of applying this law concretely in daily life. The Sabbath Law can be interpreted widely or narrowly. The Ultra-orthodox Jews dictated the details of what constituted “work”, and hence, infringement of the law, in every imaginable scenario.  The day is supposed to be kept holy and consecrated entirely to God by reading the Torah.  Unfortunately, in their anxiety to observe the letter of the law, they overlooked the spirit of the Law.  So intent were they in making sure that they did not break the law on the Sabbath Day that they would not even lend a hand to someone who might be in trouble, because that was considered “work”.

It was this total disregard for their fellowmen in the name of giving honour to God that irked Jesus, as it is against the sin of charity.  To state His case, Jesus deliberately healed the sick on the Sabbath day, and in today’s instance, He also defended His disciples for “picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them.”  The intention of the Sabbath is to help them and us to remember that God is our Lord; that He is the provider of all our needs, so that we will learn to trust in His Divine providence.  It is also a time for us to deepen our bonds and relationships with our loved ones, besides giving rest to our physical bodies. The observance of the Sabbath was not intended to become a hindrance to helping those in need, or be the cause of our neglect of the essential things in life.  So in truth, Jesus did not break the Sabbath Law, but He rejected the extremist interpretation of the law.

Indeed, St Paul warned the Corinthians about being judgmental and having self-importance.  He wrote, “it is not for you, so full of your own importance, to go taking sides for one man against another. In any case, brother, has anybody given you some special right? What do you have that was not given to you? And if it was given, how can you boast as though it were not?” Even if we could observe the Sabbath Law, we should not allow pride to take the better of us.  Although holiness requires our cooperation, it is itself the grace of God.  So if we are living a holy and righteous life, rather than acting smug, we should praise and thank God in humility for His grace and pray that others who are living in sin would be able to respond to His grace as well.

St Paul exhorted the Christians to put the unity of the community and the love of Christ above all else.  Indeed, we must not act and behave like the Christians at Corinth, who were proud of their wisdom, superior knowledge and their spiritual gifts.  St Paul reminded them that all these gifts that they had received came from God; hence there was no basis for them to feel proud or superior to others.

However, the real problem today is laxity rather than strict observance of the Sabbath.  For many Catholics, the practice of the Sabbath, if it is observed at all, is often reduced to attending Sunday Mass.  Many have the impression that this is what the observance of the Sabbath is all about.  On the contrary, giving time to God is not to be confined to a Church service.  We are called to give reverence to God the whole day.   Sabbath is a day of rest so that instead of devoting ourselves to the mundane tasks of life, the non-essentials, we dedicate the day to what is truly essential, namely, the adoration of God who is our creator, and the fostering of relationships with our loved ones in the family and with friends and the Christian community.

Indeed, what does it mean to keep the Sabbath holy?   It means that we do not waste the day sleeping or idling, and engaging in frivolous activities, but to consecrate the day by living well and glorifying God in all that we do.  Of course, one should take some physical rest to recuperate from the week’s labour. But to rest our body without God is not complete.  We also need spiritual rest for the soul.  The Sabbath is a time when we are called to cultivate and strengthen our union with God and with our fellowmen.   It is a time to appreciate the wonders of creation, and especially a time to bask ourselves in the love of God and to transmit this love to our loved ones and friends and even the poor.

But to exclude God from Sunday and all our activities is contrary to the spirit of the Sabbath.  Some Catholic parents even demand that Catechism classes be held on Saturdays, so that they can “finish” their obligations by Saturday evening and have the whole Sunday free to do whatever they like. Even if we have activities, these activities must be wholesome and edifying, not activities that are worldly and worse still, a disgrace to the gospel life.

This also explains why works of love and essential services not only can, but must be performed, on the Sabbath day.  If Jesus was annoyed with the scribes and Pharisees in the way they observed the Sabbath, it was because they fulfilled the requirement at the expense of charity and compassion.  Hence we read in the first reading how St Paul worked tirelessly for the gospel day in and day out.  We too must use this day well for the service of the gospel.

How then should we observe the Sabbath?  It would be ideal to begin the day with prayer, especially going early to Church, at least half an hour before the service, to spend time in prayer, meditating on the scripture readings of the day, reviewing the week’s activities, the times when we have failed to manifest the love of God, the times when God revealed His love and mercy to us; and finally, consider how we want to live life anew in the new week ahead of us.  After the celebration of the Mass, we must then take the opportunity to spread the love of Christ received at the Eucharist, either by spending quality time with our loved ones, spouse, children, elders, or visiting the sick, or rendering service to the people of God.  Can you truly say at the end of the day that your day has truly been pleasing to the Lord and that God has been glorified in all that you said and did?  If you can, then the day has been kept holy.


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

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

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Jesus and the Sabbath
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Jesus then summarized his argument about the Sabbath and about his own identity: “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (verses 7-8). Again, Jesus is using a ritual law (sacrifice) as a basis for his disciples’ activity on the Sabbath. Just as mercy is more important than sacrifice, mercy is also more important than Sabbath rules.

Jesus is telling the Pharisees that love for humans is more important than sticking to worship rituals. Holy bread can be given to ordinary people when they are hungry. Holy time can be used in an ordinary way when people are hungry. If the Pharisees had understood the intent of the law, they would not have been criticizing the disciples. They would have been merciful, not judgmental.

Jesus ends the discussion with his claim to be Lord of the Sabbath — someone who had more authority than the Sabbath. It is not just that Jesus claimed to have a more accurate understanding of how the day should be kept — he claimed to be more important than the day itself. This claim was so stupendous that some Pharisees thought he blasphemed and deserved to die (verse 14).

See more:

https://www.gci.org/law/sct12

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Feast of Saint Gregory The Great

Related:

  (An essay on Gregory the Great or Albert the Great — how’s your memory?)

http://vultus.stblogs.org/2007

Art: Pope St Gregory the Great by Joseph Marie Vien — Musee Fabre

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 30, 2016 — “Who knows what pertains to the man except his spirit that is within?”

August 29, 2016

Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 432

Reading 1 1 COR 2:10B-16

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.
Among men, who knows what pertains to the man
except his spirit that is within?
Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God.
We have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand the things freely given us by God.
And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom,
but with words taught by the Spirit,
describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.Now the natural man does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God,
for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it,
because it is judged spiritually.
The one who is spiritual, however, can judge everything
but is not subject to judgment by anyone.For “who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13AB, 13CD-14

R. (17) The Lord is just in all his ways.
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 just in all his ways.
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 just in all his ways.
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 just in all his ways.
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 just in all his ways.

Alleluia LK 7:16

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

Jesus Heals The Possessed Man in the Synagogue at Capernaum — By James Tissot

Gospel LK 4:31-37

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee.
He taught them on the sabbath,
and they were astonished at his teaching
because he spoke with authority.
In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon,
and he cried out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”

Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
Then the demon threw the man down in front of them
and came out of him without doing him any harm.
They were all amazed and said to one another,
“What is there about his word?
For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits,
and they come out.”
And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.
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Commentary on Luke 4:31-37 from Living Space

Immediately after his mixed reception in Nazareth, Jesus moves on to Capernaum, a town on the north shore of Galilee, which was to be the base from which Jesus did much of his missionary work. As in Nazareth, he taught the people in the synagogue on the sabbath. Unlike in Nazareth, “his teaching made a deep impression” on the people because he spoke “with authority”. He did not quote other authorities, like the teachers of the law, because his authority was directly from God, it was his own.

At the same time, it was not the authority of domination. It was the authority of someone who has access to special knowledge, the authority of someone who speaks in his own name and not just on behalf of others, the authority of one who empowers others and makes them grow. (‘Authority’ comes from the Latin auctoritas, which in turn comes from the verb augere, to increase or augment).

And Jesus’ authority is not only in word and teaching. Right there in the synagogue as he speaks is a man possessed by an “unclean spirit”. The spirit speaks through the man. It speaks in fear of the power of Jesus. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” This title seems to indicate that the spirit recognises Jesus’ divine origin but not his Messiahship. There was a belief in those times that knowing the exact name of one’s opponent gave one power over him.

Jesus ordered the evil spirit of the man who was thrown to the ground but not hurt. The people are amazed. Exorcism was not new to them but they had never seen it done with such speed and effectiveness. They are astounded again at the power and authority of Jesus. They realise they are in the presence of someone very special, in fact, the “Holy One of God”.

Each one of us is given authority of some kind – as a parent, a teacher, our job responsibility… Let us make sure that we use it in such a way as to enhance the abilities of others rather than diminish them.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2223g/

Related:

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• In today’s Gospel we can see the facts more closely: the admiration of the people because of the way Jesus taught and the cure of a man who was possessed by an unclean spirit. Not all the Evangelists give this account in the same way. For Luke, the first miracle is the peace with which Jesus liberates himself from the threat of death on the part of the people of Nazareth (Lk 4, 29-30) and the cure of the possessed man (Lk 4, 33-35). For Matthew, the first miracle is the cure of the sick and of the possessed (Mt 4, 23) or, more specifically, the cure of a leper (Mt 8, 1-4). For Mark, the miracle was the expulsion of the devil (Mk 1, 23-26). For John, the first miracle was Cana, where Jesus changed the water into wine (Jn 2, 1-11). Thus, in the way of narrating things, each Evangelist, accordingly, indicates which was the greatest concern of Jesus.
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• Luke 4, 31: The change of Jesus toward Capernaum: “Jesus descends to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and on Saturday he taught the people”. Matthew says that Jesus went to live in Capernaum (Mt 4, 13). He changed his residence. Capernaum was a small city on the crossroad between two important streets: the one coming from Asia Minor and was leading to Petra on the south of Transjordan, and the other one coming from the region of the two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates, and descended toward Egypt. The change toward Capernaum facilitated the contact with the people and the diffusion of the Good News.
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• Luke 4, 32: Admiration of the people at the teaching of Jesus. The first thing that people perceive is that Jesus teaches in a different way. It is not so much the content that strikes them, but rather his way of teaching: “Jesus speaks with authority”. Mark adds that because of his different way of teaching; Jesus created a critical conscience among the people in regard to the religious authority of his time. The people perceived and compared: “He teaches with authority, unlike the Scribes” (Mk 1, 22.27). The Scribes taught quoting authority. Jesus does not quote any authority; rather he speaks starting from his experience of God and of his life.
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• Luke 4, 33-35: Jesus fights against the power of evil. The first miracle is the expulsion of the devil. The power of evil took possession of persons, alienating them. Jesus restores the persons to be themselves again, giving them back the consciousness and liberty. He does this thanks to the force of his word: “Be quiet! Come out of him!” And on another occasion he says: “But if it is through the finger of God that I drive devils out, then the Kingdom of God has indeed caught you unawares” (Lk 11, 20). Today, also, many people live alienated from themselves, subjugated by the means of communication, by the propaganda of the government and of business. They live slaves of consumerism, oppressed by debts and threatened by creditors. People think that they do not live well if they do not have everything which the propaganda announces. It is not easy to expel this power which today, alienates many people, and return the persons to be themselves again.
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• Luke 4, 36-37: The reaction of the people: he gives orders to the unclean spirits. Jesus not only has a diverse way of teaching the things of God, but another aspect which causes admiration in the people is his power over unclean spirits: “What is it in his words? He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out”. Jesus opens a new path so that the people can place themselves before God to pray and to receive the blessings promised to Abraham. Before, they had to purify themselves. There were many laws and norms which made the life of the people difficult and marginalized many persons who were considered impure. But now, purified by faith in Jesus, persons could once again place themselves before God and pray to him, without the need to have recourse to the complicated norms of purity which were frequently expensive.
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Personal questions
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• Jesus causes admiration and astonishment among the people. Does the way of acting of our community cause admiration among the people of the neighbourhood? What type of admiration?
• Jesus drives out the power of evil and restores the persons to be themselves again. Today many persons live alienated from everything and from all. How can we help them to recover and be themselves again?
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Concluding Prayer
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Yahweh is tenderness and pity,
slow to anger, full of faithful love.
Yahweh is generous to all,
his tenderness embraces all his creatures. (Ps 145,8-9)
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They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
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“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
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—Mark 1:21-28, NIV
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 AUGUST 2016, Tuesday, 22nd Week of Ordinary Time
THE AUTHORITY OF A LEADER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1CORINTHIANS 2:10-16; LUKE 4:31-37]

In the gospel, we are told twice how the people reacted to the teaching of Jesus and His works. With regard to His teaching, it “made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.”  Indeed, the authority of our Lord was different from that of the other rabbis and teachers.  Whereas they all referred to other authorities, namely God and Moses, Jesus preached in His own name and in His own authority.  He did not have to preface His words, with “thus says the Lord”, like the prophets and the teachers of the day.  He spoke from His own conviction and in His own person and in His own authority.

Not only did He teach with authority, but He also acted with authority and power.  Whether it is with respect to man or even the evil spirits, Jesus could command with authority.  When “the spirit of an unclean devil … shouted at the top of its voice, ‘Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?’  But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet!  Come out of him!’  And the devil throwing the man down in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all.” Just with a command, the evil spirit left the possessed man.  In contrast, the exorcists of His days had to recite long incantations and even used other objects and herbs to drive out the evil spirits.  Jesus did not need to say long prayers but simply at His word, the evil spirits obeyed immediately.

What gave Jesus that absolute authority that commanded respect and obedience? Jesus was fully aware of His own identity.  Hence, when the devil said, “I know who you are: the Holy One of God”, He told him to be quiet.  He did not need the devil to announce His identity.  He did not need the devil to affirm His identity.  He knew who He was.  Furthermore, in letting the people know His identity, they might mistake His messiahship as a political one.   Jesus knew the devil’s tactic to derail His plans.  As the Son of God, He was conscious that He was not acting by Himself but in union with the Father.  He was aware that He had the Father’s backing and support in what He was doing.   Everything He did was in according with the Father’s will and His plan for us.

Secondly, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit.  After His baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert.  He began His ministry in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not only acting by Himself but always in the power of the Holy Spirit.   It was the Spirit at work in His ministry, empowering Him to heal, to teach authoritatively and giving Him discernment and understanding that the human mind cannot understand or perceive. It was His docility to be led by the Spirit that enabled Jesus to do what He did.  Hence, we read that “astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another, ‘What teaching!  He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.’  And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.”

In contrast, many of us, even as leaders, act without personal authority.  The only authority we have is human authority.  This is the authority that comes from our academic studies.  Just because we hold an academic degree on a certain subject, people will listen to us and respect what we say because we are supposedly experts in that subject matter.  But then many might disagree with us as well in our findings and analysis.   Intellectual knowledge and scholarship are not sufficient to command full authority from our listeners, especially when there are so many diverse opinions on every issue.  It is a matter of reliability but there is no guarantee of truth.

When academic authority fails, some exercise juridical authority that comes from the Office.   We use force and power to make them submit to our authority.  Using the power that comes from the office means to use the force of the law.  If you break the laws, you would be penalized accordingly.  So our subordinates and those under our charge obey us more out of fear of punishment than conviction or even understanding.  We cannot change the hearts of men through fear and punishment.  We only make them hostile towards authority.  They will await their chance to usurp our authority one day so that they can change the rules.

Finally, when that fails, many of us will use authority that comes from our connection with influential or powerful people.  We use them or name drop to get things done.  Indeed, we would quote this and that famous person to make our point because no one will respect us for our own opinions.  This was what the prophets and many teachers did.  When they taught, they would quote some established teachers and leaders to back up what they were saying.  Some of us may even use money and rewards to get others to collaborate with us.  By so doing we enter into that slippery path of corruption, cronyism and become obligated to them.

As a consequence, we destroy ourselves and lose our credibility as leaders.  St Paul makes it clear what an unspiritual man is. “An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit.”  Those who are unspiritual cannot understand or see beyond the superficiality of life for the eternal values.  They cannot understand why living a life of love and giving is better than simply acquiring things and wealth and power.  They are not able to appreciate why spending time with God in contemplation brings more joy and happiness than indulging oneself in the things of the world, like getting drunk, fighting, arguing and living in debauchery.  They cannot understand why sex alone cannot bring happiness without love.

Whereas a spiritual man understands what really matters in life.  He distinguishes the means from the end.  “A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men.  As scripture says: Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him? But we are those who have the mind of Christ.”  When we have the mind and the spirit of Christ, we will look at everything through the eyes of Christ.  This is what St Paul wrote elsewhere too, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col 3:2f) “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)

Thus, we need to ask for the Spirit of God to enlighten and guide us.  Only the Spirit of God can lead us to understand life the way God sees.  “The Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.  After all, the depths of a man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God.”  Human understanding of the world will not bring us very far.  Science can help us in technology and knowledge of the world.  But science does not deal with the matters of the heart which is love and truth.  Science of course, when seen with faith, can help us to encounter God.  “Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us.  Therefore we teach, not in the way in which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us: we teach spiritual things spiritually.”

Thus, today, if we are serious in acquiring the Spirit of God in our lives so that we can discern and judge wisely, then we need to pray.  There is no other way to be filled with the Spirit of God except through prayer and contemplation of the Word of God.  He speaks to us through the Word and He fills us with His Spirit in prayer and through worship, especially through the means of the sacraments.  Only when we are imbued with His Spirit, can we then speak with conviction and act with courage and authority.

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

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

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Capernaum, a town of Galilee — Today

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, August 25, 2016 — “Called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” — At Antioch, the disciples of Christ were called “The People of the Way”

August 24, 2016

Thursday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 428

Parable of the conscientious steward

Reading 1 1 COR 1:1-9

Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and Sosthenes our brother,
to the Church of God that is in Corinth,
to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy,
with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
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.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (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.

Alleluia MT 24:42A, 44

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Stay awake!
For you do not know when the Son of Man will come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 24:42-51

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant,
whom the master has put in charge of his household
to distribute to them their food at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.
Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.
But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’
and begins to beat his fellow servants,
and eat and drink with drunkards,
the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day
and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely
and assign him a place with the hypocrites,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

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Are We On “The Way”?
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Each of the four Gospels has its own unique style, or form of presentation.   St. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest Gospel, and Mark presents Jesus always on the move – healing at one place to another.  St. Matthew couches all his materials in a Jewish context because in his approach Jesus is the New Moses.  St. John’s Gospel makes incredible use of symbols that have many levels of meaning.  St. Luke’s Gospel, from which we have been reading all year at Sunday Mass, has Jesus on a perpetual journey which is always leading to Jerusalem, the place of martyrdom for all prophets.

Jesus is determined to complete His appointed sojourn and to fulfill His mission, and therefore, He is Dead-Set on making his way to Jerusalem.  His way, and only his way will bring about salvation and eternal life for the world, because, as Jesus says of Himself:

I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord;

No one comes to the Father, except through me!

The Way of Jesus – the way of being a Christian is self-sacrifice … whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39) — It is the only Way!

Before the followers of Jesus were called Christians at Antioch, the disciples of Christ were called the People of the Way!  Authentic Christians from the beginning knew they needed to fully and completely imitate Jesus in life and death.  The way in which Jesus lived, His attentiveness to the poor, sick and outcasts, was the narrow gate always talked about by the Christian communities.  The Way of Jesus is the narrow gate, the singular, focused way of living.  There is no duplicity; no other way will do!

So then, how can the Lord, open the door for us, if we attempt to enter by another way, or live by another way?  There is only one door, and that is Jesus Christ.  Consequently, in Gospel truth and boldness, there can be only one route of approach, only one way of living to arrive at the door and enter.

The world in its non-spiritual way and focus tries to deceive us into thinking that there are many ways, and that we should not be so narrow as to think that the way of Jesus is the only way – BUT IT IS THE ONLY WAY!  There are some ways that are similar or share in the divine way of Jesus, but the way of Jesus is the pinnacle of all those efforts.  The way of Jesus is the one and only true, complete way of God!

Saint Luke’s Gospel is clear: the one who desires to arrive at the Kingdom of God, or live in the Kingdom of heaven must follow the way of Jesus.  Following the way of Jesus requires attentiveness to the values of Jesus and determination in applying those principles to every decision we make.

This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live [just] as he lived (1 John 2: 5-6).

Is it any wonder that the devotion that attempts to capture the finality and completeness of this way of Jesus is called: The Way of the Cross – Via Dolorosa!

WE BELIEVE, AND THEREFORE SPEAK (2 Corinthians 4:13)

Source http://malvernretreat.com/?sermons=gospel-reflection-twenty-first

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

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Reflection

• The Gospel today speaks about the coming of the Lord at the end of time and exhorts us to be watchful, to watch. At the time of the first Christians, many persons thought that the end of this world was close at hand and that Jesus would have returned afterwards. Today many persons think that the end of the world is close at hand. And therefore, it is well to reflect on the meaning of vigilance, of watching.
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• Matthew 24, 42: Watch. “So stay awake! Watch, because you do not know the day when your master is coming”. Concerning the day and the hour of the end of the world, Jesus had said: “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father!” (Mk 13, 32). Today, many people live concerned thinking about the end of the world. Have you seen when walking through the streets of the city that it is written on the walls: “Jesus will return!” And how will this coming be? After the year 1000, basing themselves on the Gospel of John, people began to say (Rev 20, 7): “1000 years have gone by, but 2000 will not pas by!”
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This is why, as the year 2000 approached, many were worried. There were even some people who were anguished because of the proximity of the end of the world, so much so that they committed suicide. Others, reading the Apocalypse of John, even were able to foretell the exact hour of the end. But the year 2000 came and nothing happened. The end of the world does not arrive! Many times, the affirmation “Jesus will return” is used to frighten people and oblige them to belong to a given church! Others, because they have waited so long and have speculated so much concerning the coming of Jesus, are not aware of his presence among us, in the most common things of life, in the facts of every day.
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• The same problems existed in the Christian communities of the first centuries. Many persons of the communities said that the end of this world was close at hand and that Jesus would have returned. Some of the community of Thessalonica in Greece, basing themselves on the preaching of Paul said: “Jesus will return!” (1 Th 4, 13-18; 2 Th 2, 2). And this is why, there were even persons who no longer worked because they thought that the coming of the end was so close at hand, within a few days or a few weeks so, “Why work, if Jesus will return afterwards?” (cf. 2 Th 3, 11).
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Paul responds that it was not so simple as they imagined. And to those who had stopped working he would say: “Anyone who does not want to work, has no right to eat!” Others remained looking up at the sky, waiting for the return of Jesus in the clouds (cf. Ac 1, 11). Others rebelled because he delayed coming back (2 P 3, 4-9). In general the Christians lived with the expectation of the imminent coming of Jesus. Jesus was coming to realize or carry out the Final Judgement to end with the unjust history of this world and to inaugurate the new phase of history, the definitive phase of the New Heaven and the New Earth. They believed that this would have taken place within one or two generations. Many persons would still be alive when Jesus would have appeared again, glorious in Heaven (1Th 4, 16-17; Mc 9, 1). Others, tired of waiting would say: “He will never come back!” (2 P 3,).
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• Up until now the coming of Jesus has not arrived! How can this delay be understood? It is because they are not aware that Jesus has already returned and lives in our midst: “I am with you always, till the end of time.” (Mt 28, 20). He is already at our side, in the struggle for justice, for peace, for life. The fullness has not as yet been attained, but a guarantee of the Kingdom is already in our midst. This is why, we expect with a firm hope the full liberation of humanity and of nature (Rm 8, 22-25). And while we wait and struggle, we say with certainty: “He is already in our midst” (Mt 25, 40).
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• Matthew 24, 43-51: The example of the householder and of his servants. “Consider this: if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.” Jesus says this very clearly. Nobody knows anything regarding the hour: “Concerning this day and this hour, nobody knows anything, neither the angels, or the Son, but only the Father
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What is important is not to know the hour of the end of this world, but rather to be capable to perceive the coming of Jesus who is already present in our midst in the person of the poor (cf. Mt 25, 40) and in so many other ways and events of our daily life. What is important is to open the eyes and to keep in mind the commitment of the good servant of whom Jesus speaks about in the parable.
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Personal questions
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• On which signs do people base themselves to say that the end of the world is close at hand? Do you believe that the end of the world is close at hand?
• What can we respond to those who say that the end of the world is close at hand? Which is the force which impels you to resist and to have hope?
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Concluding Prayer
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Day after day I shall bless you, Lord,
I shall praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is Yahweh and worthy of all praise,
his greatness beyond all reckoning. (Ps 145,2-3)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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25 AUGUST 2016, Thursday, 21st Week of Ordinary Time

GOD COMES WHENEVER WE ARE PRESENT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1Cor 1:1-9; Mt 24:42-51]

 

As we approach the last chapters of Matthew’s gospel, the parable of the conscientious steward reminds us of the need to be alert and be watchful of Christ’s coming.  The context of today’s pericope cannot but give us the impression that Jesus is telling us to be prepared for the last day when His Kingdom would come in its fullness.  In other words, just like the community of Matthew, we are called to be prepared for judgment on the last day.  Such interpretation on the level of the evangelist and his community is of course correct and valid.

Nevertheless, such an interpretation does not do justice to the real intention of Christ when He told this parable.  This is because when this parable is interpreted as keeping ourselves prepared for the final judgment, it can be misunderstood that eternal life begins only after death.  That being the case, some would adopt an attitude of postponement. Since judgment would only come on the last day, many of us would then live in such a way that heaven can wait.  So long as I die a happy death (meaning having received the last sacraments or make my conversion before deathbed) it does not matter how I live my life now.  In fact such is the attitude of many people.  Believing that they are still young or still healthy with many more years to come, they live an irresponsible life, just like the dishonest servant in the parable.  They are not concerned about their spiritual and personal life, least of all about the kingdom life that God wants to give us, here and now.  Eat, drink and be merry; living a selfish, superficial and unproductive life seems to be the order of the day.  This certainly is not the life of the Spirit because it is a self-centered, sensual and impoverished way of living.  A life that is not lived in love and service cannot be considered a godly or a happy and liberating life.

On the other hand, they do fear the last day and want to be assured of a place in heaven.  As such, their only prayer is simply to ask that they have the privilege of receiving the sacraments before they die.  Not surprisingly, we can understand why many Christians are not looking forward to death or to the last day of the world.  On the contrary, the talk of the last day is often approached with great trepidation and anxiety.  As is often uttered by most people when we speak to them about the next life, “heaven can wait.”   But such a view of the coming of Christ is totally opposed to the early Christians’ joyful expectations of the last day.  For them, they were looking forward intensely to the coming of Christ and His kingdom.  This is something they yearned and prayed for.  Like Paul, they could not wait to be with Christ. The early Christians were always living in such a way that being with Christ is their goal and joy.  St Paul said, “while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”

When such an attitude is applied to our daily life, the implications are far reaching.  If we are only concerned about the last day, then it would also mean that we need not bother very much about our lives, even now.  Consequently, we can take life easy; not expending ourselves in our work, not really bothering whether we are advancing in our spiritual life or not.  And so we find ourselves living a life of mediocrity, a life sloth, without purpose and direction.  At the end of our lives, we will of course regret, albeit it might be a bit too late at times.  Then Christ’s prophecy would come true for there will be “weeping and grinding of teeth” because we know that we have wasted the golden opportunities to enrich ourselves by growing in the life of the Spirit through using our gifts for the service of others.  We could have grown in wisdom, grace and understanding through the many opportunities that come our way but we have not been faithful to the graces we have received.

Consequently, we must balance such a view of eschatology with that of the original message of Jesus.  In the original preaching of Jesus, this parable was not concerned with the end-time specifically but the messianic time.  Of course, the messianic time is already the beginning of that end-time.  Hence, what Jesus wants His listeners to be aware was that the Kingdom of God has already come.  The master is already here.  If the people are not aware of the presence of the master, it is because they are too drunk with themselves to be sensitive to the presence of the master.

So how can one be present to the reality of the Kingdom which has come with the Son of man?  Simply by attending to what we have to do and be faithful to our duties and ourselves.  Jesus says, “Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.”  Similarly, if only we are fully engaged in what we have to do each day, be it sleeping, praying, recreating, studying, all according to their proper time, then we would have already experienced the joys of the kingdom.  For how do we suppose the kingdom to be present if it is not experienced in the concrete situations in our lives?

This means that we can already live in the kingdom when we live our vocation according to the state that we are in to its fullest.  If we only learn to enjoy our state of life, we would have experienced the joys of the kingdom.  Regardless of our state of life or vocation, we must put our whole heart and soul into what we do.  Fidelity to our state of life and our vocation itself is the cause of our joy and freedom.  Accepting and being content with God’s will for us will give us peace and joy.  If we are miserable, it is because we are fighting against the will of God, living a double-life and most of all, an irresponsible life of self-indulgence like the unfaithful servant.  Indeed, if one is fully absorbed in what one is doing then one would find life such a joy because in giving oneself to love and service, one is empowered and enriched as a person.   There will be no boredom nor would our mind be so free as to let it be the devil’s workshop to disturb our peace.

That is why, while we certainly await the full revelation of Jesus Christ as St Paul tells us in the second reading, we are already experiencing His presence from the gifts of the Spirit given to us.  These gifts of the Spirit are meant for the service of love and the building of the community.  Whenever we exercise our talents in this manner, we will keep ourselves “steady and without blame”.  In expending ourselves for the service of the kingdom, we live the kingdom life at the same time.  This has been the way of Jesus as well, for we know that He fulfilled the kingdom of God in His life and ministry by simply carrying out the mission that His Father had entrusted Him to do.   In doing the Father’s will even unto death, the kingdom was accomplished in Him.  We too, as we fulfill the Father’s will by maximizing all the graces He gives to us for His greater glory, living our lives to the fullest, will share in the joy of the kingdom now and in its fullness on the last day.

In the final analysis, of course, there is no dichotomy between the kingdom that will come at the end of time and the kingdom which is already present.  When we live our lives fully wherever we are, then we are already living the life of the kingdom that is to come. Thus, we are always prepared for the final consummation of the kingdom.  Hence, the coming of Christ would not be looked upon with fear but as the fulfillment of what we are already experiencing here on earth.  When we exhaust the joys of living our life on this earth, we cannot but desire to move to a higher level of life given to us by Christ in the resurrection.  The transition from this life to the next should be like that of Mary in her Assumption when she seamlessly moved from an earthly life to the heavenly life.  She who already lived the life of the kingdom entered into the fullness of life in heaven without any struggle or tension.

For us, because of our fallen nature, we know that we live in this tension of wanting to be faithful to the Lord and wanting to please ourselves.  Again and again, especially in times of struggles, trials and sufferings, we do feel like giving up being good and loving.  We know that quite often, like God, we feel that our kindness has been taken advantage of by those whom we love or serve.  At times we are misjudged and unappreciated.  In such times as these, we feel like doing what the lazy servant did, giving up the life of the kingdom and living just for ourselves.  When we feel like giving up, let us take courage from the words of St Paul when he said, “God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”  In other words, let us share in Christ’s sonship both in suffering, death and resurrection.  Just as the Father was faithful to Jesus, He too will be faithful to us when we are going through tough and demanding times living out our vocation.  Let us, whilst waiting for deliverance from our suffering and misery, cling to the fidelity of God’s love for us.  Most of all, by being faithful in times of trials, we will become stronger and readier to embrace the fullness of God’s life which requires ultimately a total self-emptying.  That is why Jesus said, “Happy that servant if his Master’s arrival finds him at this employment.  I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns.”

reminds us of the need to be alert and be watchful of Christ’s coming.  The context of today’s pericope cannot but give us the impression that Jesus is telling us to be prepared for the last day when His Kingdom would come in its fullness.  In other words, just like the community of Matthew, we are called to be prepared for judgment on the last day.  Such interpretation on the level of the evangelist and his community is of course correct and valid.

Nevertheless, such an interpretation does not do justice to the real intention of Christ when He told this parable.  This is because when this parable is interpreted as keeping ourselves prepared for the final judgment, it can be misunderstood that eternal life begins only after death.  That being the case, some would adopt an attitude of postponement. Since judgment would only come on the last day, many of us would then live in such a way that heaven can wait.  So long as I die a happy death (meaning having received the last sacraments or make my conversion before deathbed) it does not matter how I live my life now.  In fact such is the attitude of many people.  Believing that they are still young or still healthy with many more years to come, they live an irresponsible life, just like the dishonest servant in the parable.  They are not concerned about their spiritual and personal life, least of all about the kingdom life that God wants to give us, here and now.  Eat, drink and be merry; living a selfish, superficial and unproductive life seems to be the order of the day.  This certainly is not the life of the Spirit because it is a self-centered, sensual and impoverished way of living.  A life that is not lived in love and service cannot be considered a godly or a happy and liberating life.

On the other hand, they do fear the last day and want to be assured of a place in heaven.  As such, their only prayer is simply to ask that they have the privilege of receiving the sacraments before they die.  Not surprisingly, we can understand why many Christians are not looking forward to death or to the last day of the world.  On the contrary, the talk of the last day is often approached with great trepidation and anxiety.  As is often uttered by most people when we speak to them about the next life, “heaven can wait.”   But such a view of the coming of Christ is totally opposed to the early Christians’ joyful expectations of the last day.  For them, they were looking forward intensely to the coming of Christ and His kingdom.  This is something they yearned and prayed for.  Like Paul, they could not wait to be with Christ. The early Christians were always living in such a way that being with Christ is their goal and joy.  St Paul said, “while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”

When such an attitude is applied to our daily life, the implications are far reaching.  If we are only concerned about the last day, then it would also mean that we need not bother very much about our lives, even now.  Consequently, we can take life easy; not expending ourselves in our work, not really bothering whether we are advancing in our spiritual life or not.  And so we find ourselves living a life of mediocrity, a life sloth, without purpose and direction.  At the end of our lives, we will of course regret, albeit it might be a bit too late at times.  Then Christ’s prophecy would come true for there will be “weeping and grinding of teeth” because we know that we have wasted the golden opportunities to enrich ourselves by growing in the life of the Spirit through using our gifts for the service of others.  We could have grown in wisdom, grace and understanding through the many opportunities that come our way but we have not been faithful to the graces we have received.

Consequently, we must balance such a view of eschatology with that of the original message of Jesus.  In the original preaching of Jesus, this parable was not concerned with the end-time specifically but the messianic time.  Of course, the messianic time is already the beginning of that end-time.  Hence, what Jesus wants His listeners to be aware was that the Kingdom of God has already come.  The master is already here.  If the people are not aware of the presence of the master, it is because they are too drunk with themselves to be sensitive to the presence of the master.

So how can one be present to the reality of the Kingdom which has come with the Son of man?  Simply by attending to what we have to do and be faithful to our duties and ourselves.  Jesus says, “Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.”  Similarly, if only we are fully engaged in what we have to do each day, be it sleeping, praying, recreating, studying, all according to their proper time, then we would have already experienced the joys of the kingdom.  For how do we suppose the kingdom to be present if it is not experienced in the concrete situations in our lives?

This means that we can already live in the kingdom when we live our vocation according to the state that we are in to its fullest.  If we only learn to enjoy our state of life, we would have experienced the joys of the kingdom.  Regardless of our state of life or vocation, we must put our whole heart and soul into what we do.  Fidelity to our state of life and our vocation itself is the cause of our joy and freedom.  Accepting and being content with God’s will for us will give us peace and joy.  If we are miserable, it is because we are fighting against the will of God, living a double-life and most of all, an irresponsible life of self-indulgence like the unfaithful servant.  Indeed, if one is fully absorbed in what one is doing then one would find life such a joy because in giving oneself to love and service, one is empowered and enriched as a person.   There will be no boredom nor would our mind be so free as to let it be the devil’s workshop to disturb our peace.

That is why, while we certainly await the full revelation of Jesus Christ as St Paul tells us in the second reading, we are already experiencing His presence from the gifts of the Spirit given to us.  These gifts of the Spirit are meant for the service of love and the building of the community.  Whenever we exercise our talents in this manner, we will keep ourselves “steady and without blame”.  In expending ourselves for the service of the kingdom, we live the kingdom life at the same time.  This has been the way of Jesus as well, for we know that He fulfilled the kingdom of God in His life and ministry by simply carrying out the mission that His Father had entrusted Him to do.   In doing the Father’s will even unto death, the kingdom was accomplished in Him.  We too, as we fulfill the Father’s will by maximizing all the graces He gives to us for His greater glory, living our lives to the fullest, will share in the joy of the kingdom now and in its fullness on the last day.

In the final analysis, of course, there is no dichotomy between the kingdom that will come at the end of time and the kingdom which is already present.  When we live our lives fully wherever we are, then we are already living the life of the kingdom that is to come. Thus, we are always prepared for the final consummation of the kingdom.  Hence, the coming of Christ would not be looked upon with fear but as the fulfillment of what we are already experiencing here on earth.  When we exhaust the joys of living our life on this earth, we cannot but desire to move to a higher level of life given to us by Christ in the resurrection.  The transition from this life to the next should be like that of Mary in her Assumption when she seamlessly moved from an earthly life to the heavenly life.  She who already lived the life of the kingdom entered into the fullness of life in heaven without any struggle or tension.

For us, because of our fallen nature, we know that we live in this tension of wanting to be faithful to the Lord and wanting to please ourselves.  Again and again, especially in times of struggles, trials and sufferings, we do feel like giving up being good and loving.  We know that quite often, like God, we feel that our kindness has been taken advantage of by those whom we love or serve.  At times we are misjudged and unappreciated.  In such times as these, we feel like doing what the lazy servant did, giving up the life of the kingdom and living just for ourselves.  When we feel like giving up, let us take courage from the words of St Paul when he said, “God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.”  In other words, let us share in Christ’s sonship both in suffering, death and resurrection.  Just as the Father was faithful to Jesus, He too will be faithful to us when we are going through tough and demanding times living out our vocation.  Let us, whilst waiting for deliverance from our suffering and misery, cling to the fidelity of God’s love for us.  Most of all, by being faithful in times of trials, we will become stronger and readier to embrace the fullness of God’s life which requires ultimately a total self-emptying.  That is why Jesus said, “Happy that servant if his Master’s arrival finds him at this employment.  I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns.”

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

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

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Can we comprehend Christ’s way from his birth in the Spirit and his baptism in the Spirit to his self-surrender on Golgotha. To see it all makes it possible to understand the path of Christ as the way leading from his resurrection to his parousia—the way he takes in the Spirit to Israel, to the nations, and into the breadth and depth of the cosmos.

The symbol of the way makes us aware that every human christology is historically conditioned and limited. Every human christology is a ‘christology of the way,’ not yet a ‘christology of the home country,’ a christology of faith, not yet a christology of sight. So christology is no more than the beginning of eschatology; and eschatology, as the Christian faith understands it, is always the consummation of christology.

Finally, but not least important: every way is an invitation. A way is something to be followed. ‘The way of Jesus Christ’ is not merely a christological category. It is an ethical category too. Anyone who enters upon Christ’s way will discover who Jesus really is; and anyone who really believes in Jesus and the Christ of God will follow him along the way he himself took. Christology and christopraxis find one another in the full and completed knowledge of Christ. This christology links dogmatics and ethics in closer detail than in the previous volumes.

http://fortresspress.com/product/way-jesus-christ-christology-messianic-dimensions

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 24, 2016 — St. Bartholomew carried the Word of God to India and Armenia — And Was Skinned Alive and Beheaded (This means we can all do more than we are doing for Christ now)

August 23, 2016

Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle
Lectionary: 629

Little Children — We Are Called To Constantly Seek The Face of The Lord

 

Reading 1 REV 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.

Alleluia JN 1:49B

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

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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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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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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Jesus returned to Galilee. He met Philip and called him telling him: “Follow me!” The purpose of the call is always the same: “to follow Jesus”. The first Christians sought to preserve the names of the first disciples, and of some they even kept their family names and the name of their place of origin. Philip, Andrew and Peter were from Bethsaida (Jn 1, 44). Nathanael was from Cana.

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Today many forget the names of the persons who were at the origin of their communities. To remember the names is a way of preserving the identity.

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Philip meets Nathanael and speaks to him about Jesus: “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the Prophets wrote, Jesus, son of Joseph from Nazareth”. Jesus is the one to whom all the history of the Old Testament refers.

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Nathanael asks: “From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?”

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Probably, even in his question there was some of the rivalry which existed among the small villages of the same region: Cana and Nazareth. Besides, according to the official teaching of the Scribes, the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, in Judah. He could not come from Nazareth in Galilee (Jn 7, 41-42). Andrew gives the same answer which Jesus had given to the other two disciples: “Come and see for yourself!” It is not by imposing, but rather by seeing that persons are convinced. Once again the same way: to meet, to experience, to share, to witness, to lead toward Jesus!

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Jesus sees Nathanael and says: “Truly, he is an Israelite in whom there is no deception”. And affirms that he already knew him when he was under the fig tree. How could Nathanael be an “authentic or true Israelite” if he did not accept Jesus as the Messiah? Nathanael “was under the fig tree”. The fig tree was the symbol of Israel (cf. Mi 4, 4; Zc 3, 10; 1 Kg 5,5).

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An authentic Israelite is the one who knows how to detach himself from his own ideas when he perceives that they are not in agreement with God’s project.

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The Israelite who is not ready to bring about this conversion is neither authentic nor honest. Nathanael is authentic. He was waiting for the Messiah according to the official teaching of the time (Jn 7, 41-42.52). This is why at the beginning, he did not accept a Messiah coming from Nazareth. But the encounter with Jesus helped him to understand that God’s project is not always as people imagine or desire that it be. He recognizes, acknowledges his deception or mistake, he changes his idea, accepts God as Messiah and confesses: “Rabi, you are the Son of God: you are the King of Israel !”

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The confession of Nathanael is only at the beginning: The one who will be faithful will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man. He will experience that Jesus is the new bond of union between God and us, human beings. It is the dream of Jacob which has become a reality (Gen 28, 10-22).

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 Personal questions
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Which is the title of Jesus that pleases you the most? Why?
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Have you had an intermediary between you and Jesus?

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Concluding prayer
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Upright in all that he does, Yahweh acts only in faithful love. (Ps 145,17)

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http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-john-145-51

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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24 AUGUST 2016, Wednesday, St Bartholomew, Apostle

THE RIGHT APPROACH TO DEALING WITH ATHEISTS AND AGNOSTICS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  Apocalypse 21:9-14; Psalm 144:10-13, 17-18; John 1:45-51]

How do we deal with atheists and agnostics and skeptics of our faith?

We must first begin by trying to understand them.  Like Nathanael, they are sincere people but skeptical for many reasons.  This explains why Nathanael was scornful when Philip told him that he had found the Messiah.  Many of us have been deceived by empty promises and even betrayed by so-called believers. With the scandals committed by so-called religious people, it is understandable why many are skeptical of religions.

Secondly, we must also begin with the premise that all are seeking truth and love, for meaning and purpose in life.  This is only human.   All of us are looking for truth and love.  We are all looking for happiness in life.   This, too, was the case for Nathanael.

What is singular about Nathanael is that he was a sincere searcher of God.  Jesus described him as a true “Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.”  This is a great compliment indeed, for to be free of deceit and guilt is a great blessing from God.  He was not just following any religion or god.  He wanted to be sure that it was the Messiah that he had been waiting for.  Many are not sincere in wanting to find God.  The God they are seeking is one that satisfies their selfish needs; not one that gives them truth and love.

The second remarkable quality of Nathanael is that he did not just hope to find God but he took action.  This is quite unlike many people who, like the agnostics, just give up on finding God; or the relativist who says that the truth cannot be found.  When Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree”, the implication was that Nathanael was deep in prayer and meditation, seeking true peace.  The fig tree is a symbol of peace and also because it provides shade, it is a good place to pray and contemplate.

Thirdly, Nathanael was receptive.  Although skeptical initially, he did not brush off the invitation of Philip when invited to come and see.  He was open, not totally closed because of pride or prejudice.  Many refuse to be invited because of pride.   Indeed, Nathanael was from Cana and when he heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he was derisive initially.   It was natural, and still is true, for villages and organizations to compete to see who is the best.   But Nathanael was willing to set aside his reservations and pride to meet the man from Galilee.

So far what we have said concerns the side of the searcher for God.  But in truth the messengers of God have an essential role to play.  More often than not, the fault lies with the evangelizer.  These are the mid-wives of God who help those who want new life to be born.  Hence, if we do not first remove the emotional and psychological barriers, then it would be difficult for the recipients to come to know and encounter this God that we want to introduce them to.

We must learn from Philip who was not defensive or reactive in dealing with Nathanael.  Instead of feeling angry at his response, Philip simply said, “Come and see!”  He did not try to intellectually reason with him as to why the Messiah was from Nazareth.  There was no scholarly debate or argument of that sort.  Indeed, there is no better way to evangelize than to bring someone, not through argument, to meet Jesus, to know Him and to personally experience His love and mercy.  Very few are converted through reason.  All are converted through faith in Christ, His love and mercy.  So what is needed is not philosophy or reason but a personal knowledge and relationship with the Lord. When someone encounters Jesus personally, no philosophical and theological argument is needed.

Similarly, Jesus responded to Nathanael warmly in a personal way.  He encouraged his desire to search for God by affirming him of his sincerity in the first place and revealing that He saw him under the fig tree.  By recognizing Nathanael and feeling with him, Jesus won Nathanael’s trust.  At that moment, Nathanael dropped his defenses because he knew that Jesus knew him and accepted him.  At last he found someone who understood his struggles and inner desire to seek the true God.  Most of all, he found hope when Jesus told him that He could lead him to God, just like how Jacob encountered God.  Jesus would help him to climb the ladder to meet God.

At the end of the day, the crux is whether we, as the ambassadors of Christ, have had a personal encounter with the Lord.  If we know Him personally, then we won’t need to argue with others but confidently show them Jesus by our personal testimony of what He has done for us and who He is to us; and most of all, by our transformed life of joy and peace.  We cannot lead others to Jesus or to invite someone to “come and see” unless we have seen Him and become His friends ourselves.  This is what the psalmist says. “Your friends, O Lord, make known the glorious splendour of your reign. They make known to men your mighty deeds and the glorious splendour of your reign. Yours is an everlasting kingdom; your rule lasts from age to age. 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.”

This certainly was the case of the apostles whose lives were transformed by Christ. The Twelve apostles who were uneducated men must have encountered the Risen Lord or else we cannot explain their transformation from being cowards to martyrs for Christ.   They could not be deluded, or attempting to deceive, unless the Lord was risen in their lives.  If the Lord could not save Himself from death in spite of the miracles He did, how could He protect them?  So it is clear that if they had not seen the Lord, they would not have had the courage to risk their lives for Him.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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St. Bartholomew, 1st. Century, One of the 12.

All that is known of him with certainty is that he is mentioned in the synoptic gospels and Acts as one of the twelve apostles. His name, a patronymic, means “son of Tolomai” and scholars believe he is the same as Nathanael mentioned in John, who says he is from Cana and that Jesus called him an “Israelite…incapable of deceit.” The Roman Martyrology says he preached in India and Greater Armenia, where he was flayed and beheaded by King Astyages. Tradition has the place as Abanopolis on the west coast of the Caspian Sea and that he also preached in Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt. The Gospel ofBartholomew is apochryphal and was condemned in the decree of Pseudo-Gelasius. Feast Day August 24.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=390

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Art: Saint John and Saint Bartholomew (right) by Dosso Dossi, 1527.

St. Bartholomew (Greek: Βαρθολομαῖος Bartholomaíos, Latin: Bartholomaeus) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He has been identified with Nathanael (alternatively spelled Nathaniel),[1] who appears in the Gospel according to John as being introduced to Christ by Philip (who would also become an apostle),[Jn 1:43-51] although some modern commentators reject the identification of Nathanael with Bartholomew.[2]

According to the Synaxarium of the Coptic Orthodox Church, his martyrdom is commemorated on the first day of the Coptic Calendar (i.e. the first day of the month of Thout), which currently falls on September 11 (corresponding to August 29 in the Julian Calendar). His feast is June 11 in Eastern Christianity and August 24 in the Anglican Communion and both forms of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church.

Bartholomew (Greek: Βαρθολομαῖος, transliterated “Bartholomaios”) comes from the Aramaic bar-Tôlmay (בר-תולמי), meaning son of Talmai[3] or son of the furrows (perhaps a ploughman). Bartholomew was born at Cana of Galilee[4] and is listed among the Twelve Apostles of Jesus in the three Synoptic gospels: Matthew,[10:1–4] Mark,[3:13–19] and Luke,[6:12–16] and also appears as one of the witnesses of the Ascension[Acts 1:4,12,13]; on each occasion, however, he is named in the company of Philip. He is not mentioned by the name Bartholomew in the Gospel of John, nor are there any early acta,[5] the earliest being written by a pseudepigraphical writer who assumed the identity of Abdias of Babylon and to whom is attributed the Saint-Thierry Manuscript and Pseudo-Abdias Manuscripts.

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