Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 149’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 12, 2019 — “He must increase; I must decrease.”

January 11, 2019

Here John shows the essence of humility, which has many forms. In what ways do I exemplify humility?

Image result for Jesus and his disciples in Judea,, art, pictures

Detail of “The Charge to Peter” by James Tissot.

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Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

Reading 1 1 JN 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.
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Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a)  The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R.  Alleluia.

Alleluia MT 4:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 3:22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JANUARY, 2019, Saturday after the Epiphany

THE JOY OF RECONCILING MAN WITH GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 JOHN 5:14-21PSALM 149:1-69JOHN 3:22-30 ]

Christmas celebrates the gift of God to us in the person of Jesus.  In assuming our humanity, Jesus reveals to us our identity as children of God.  Indeed, God became man so that man could become god.  However, many of us fail to recognize our dignity as children of God and as a consequence do not live as one.   This is because of sin.  Indeed, our sins prevent us from being conscious of our identity as sons and daughters of God.

St John in the first reading warns us of the danger of sin.  “Every kind of wrong-doing is sin, but not all sin is deadly.”  The truth is that a man begins by committing small sins.  If such things spring from his wounded nature and the manifestation of his human weakness, it is a venial sin.  Such sins are normally committed because of temptations and the weakness of the will to resist sin.   Such sins can be forgiven through prayers and the reception of the sacraments.  This is why, St John says, “If anybody sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner – not those who commit a deadly sin; for there is a sin that is death, and I will not say that you must pray about that.”

However, the sins that really destroy us are those deliberate sins which we purposefully seek to commit, knowing full well that it is a sin.  When such sins are planned and a person chooses to go against God’s will and hurt his neighbours, it is a serious sin leading to death.  Hence, we call them mortal sins.  St Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Rom 6:23)  The truth is that one begins with a small sin and then we become more daring and commit bigger sins because our hearts and minds are clouded by our sins and selfishness.  After some time, what is sinful and serious is no longer felt in our conscience.  We become dead to sin and as the consequence of sin, we hurt ourselves more and more by hurting others.

Once we commit a serious sin, unless we repent and turn to God in contrition, it will lead to a repetition of our sins.  This is what the Lord warns us.  That is why a sin of lust will lead to another and more serious sin of lust. Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Mt 5:27f)  An act of anger will lead to revenge and eventually killing.  “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Mt 5:21f)

Prayers will help a person to grow in holiness and be attuned to the will of God.  “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we ask of him.”   St John is saying that Christ will hear our prayers if we pray in accordance with His will.  Indeed, all prayers are directed towards finding and doing the will of God.  Many of us think that prayer is to change the mind of God.  Rather, prayer is to align ourselves with His holy will, which is always best for us.  That is why, if our prayers are to be answered, we need to be obedient to His will.  Indeed, we must ask whatever the Lord wants of us.  Jesus said, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  (Jn 14:13f) To ask in the name of Jesus is to ask everything for His sake and for the glory of His name.  Therefore, there is nothing more effective in growing in holiness than through prayers and intimacy with the Lord.

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Prayers will help us to know Jesus.  Knowledge of Jesus is the key to overcoming our sins because using our will is not sufficient because the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  St Paul struggled with sin himself.  “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Rom 7:21-25)  Indeed, through our own strength alone, we cannot be delivered from sin except in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus’ love and mercy helps us to conquer sin, not out of fear of punishment but out of love for the Lord.

This is what St John meant when he wrote that if we are baptized, we will not sin.  “We know that anyone who has been begotten by God does not sin, because the begotten Son of God protects him, and the Evil One does not touch him.”  It does not mean that Christians can no longer sin.  What St John meant is that we do not sin deliberately because of God’s spirit in us.  But we will still sin out of weakness.  However, we do not fall into despair but continue to trust in the mercy of God, knowing that He has won victory over sin.  “We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One. We know, too, that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.”   This is what baptism is all about.  We have Jesus in the gospel baptizing in the river Jordan.  To be baptized is to ask for forgiveness of our sins and most of all, to be filled with the Spirit of Jesus so that we can share in His sonship.

Today, like John the Baptist, we are called to direct sinners to the Lord.  Today, it is very difficult to convince people of the truth because of relativism.  We are bombarded with all kinds of philosophy and reasoning.  There is so much information and so many viewpoints on any issue that many of us are more confused than ever after reading all the different views.  We no longer know what is right or wrong anymore.  When reasoning and all arguments fail, the sure way to get people to accept Jesus is to lead them to Him.  If they know Jesus and if they fall in love with Him, then they will be able to see everything from the perspective of our Lord in the scriptures.  So instead of seeking to reason out with those who are disagreeable, although, it still might be necessary at times to defend our faith, yet, the better approach is through the testimony of our lives and our faith. Only through a life of holiness and faith in our Lord, can we convince others to come to Him so that He can be the Lord of their lives.

For this reason, we must pray for sinners even as we seek to reach out to them in compassion and love.  Our Lady, in all her apparitions, constantly urged us to repent and pray for sinners.  If words cannot change them, then prayers will change their hearts through God’s grace.  It is not enough just to pray for physical health and material needs.  If the body is important, how much more important is the soul because that soul is destined for eternal life.  We need to pray for the salvation of souls so that united with the Lord, they are saved for eternity, not just for this world.  If God answers prayers for material and physical needs, more so, He will hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners.

Indeed, like John the Baptist, great is our joy when we bring a sinner to Jesus to be reconciled with God.  “The bride is only for the bridegroom; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. This same joy I feel, and now it is complete.”  In bringing sinners back to God, we also save our own souls.  St James wrote, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  (Jms 5:19f)  Indeed, like John the Baptist, we must be conscious of our role as mediator to Jesus.  Once that is done, we should move aside and not be an obstacle for others to come to know the Lord.  With John the Baptist, we say, “I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him. He must grow greater, I must grow smaller.”

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

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Reflection from Lectio Divina

Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus, after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created His own movement. He baptized  people  in the Jordan River when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

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• Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification,” that is, concerning the value of baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus.

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• John’s  response to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. He uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God. If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3:27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3:28). c) In the end, he uses a comparison taken from the wedding feast.

At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride, John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds. At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in Him the voice of their bridegroom! And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must increase, I must decrease!” This statement is also the program for anyone  who follows Jesus.

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• At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19:3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cf. Mt 3:1-2; 4:17). There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important.

The four Gospels are concerned about transmitting the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, John’s response, “He must increase but I must decrease” was valid not only for the disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-john-322-30

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Homily By Pastor Mark Driscoll

How odd would it be if you attended a wedding in which the star of the show was one of the groomsmen? Imagine if he demanded to be at the center of the photos, stood in front of the pastor for the ceremony, cut the cake, and had the first dance.

That would be incredibly awkward and wrong. Why? Because that is not his place.

Humility literally means, “to know your place.” Being humble requires knowing and accepting your place. None of us can say we are humble, but we should seek to say that we are pursuing humility by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Before Jesus started His ministry, John the Baptizer’s ministry began and got off to a rocket-ship launch. Before long, some of the people and leaders following John left him and started following Jesus instead. Some of John’s leaders were a bit miffed, so they brought their concerns to John. John’s response is amazing. In humility, he says that Jesus is the groom, the Church is the bride, and he was just the groomsman there to help – he’s not the star of the show.

The phenomenon of people leaving one ministry for another is nothing new. When someone transitions, some people immediately think it’s a bad thing and start to blame others. Sometimes the leader, ministry, or person leaving is tagged as bad.

John reveals that sometimes it is good for a person to transition from one ministry to another. Jesus and John the Baptizer were both good leaders with good ministries, and the people moving to Jesus’ ministry from John’s were seemingly good people. John rightly saw this as a good thing.

At the end of the day, people belong to God, not to the human leaders in a ministry. Sometimes, God moves people from one ministry to another because they are needed. This is precisely what John is saying – that the people were being sent by God to help Jesus, which is a good thing. This is a healthy model for handling transition in a godly way.

Are you more prone to encourage or criticize other ministries? If God calls you to move from one ministry to another, how can you do that in a healthy and godly way?

https://markdriscoll.org/he-must-increase-i-must-decrease/

Related:

More later….

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Bishops Describe Retreat With Father Raniero Cantalamessa

By Carol Zimmermann 
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Although the weeklong retreat for U.S. Catholic bishops emphasized quiet reflection, several bishops spoke out on social media during the retreat and after it wrapped up Jan. 8 with positive reaction about it and to give shoutouts to the retreat leader, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who has preached to popes and top officials of the Roman Curia for nearly 40 years.

One bishop said listening to Father Cantalamessa was akin to being in the presence of the early Christian theologians. “Clear, intensely filled with the Holy Spirit, and all for the Kingdom of God,” Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Boulette of San Antonio said in a tweet. “Let us continue to pray for one another, our church and our world. A blessing to be here!”

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the official preacher of the papal household, delivers the homily to U.S. bishops during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mundelein Seminary during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska, tweeted that the retreat leader was a “true instrument of the Lord” and that the Holy Spirit was at work during the retreat.

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie, Pennsylvania, described Father Cantalamessa’s talks and homilies as “powerful and engaging.”

He tweeted that he was glad they had time to reflect and pray about their role as shepherds, stressing: “We must start there to be able to offer healing. I am taking this very seriously but feeling positive.”

Boston Auxiliary Bishop Mark W. O’Connell said it was a “truly blessed experience” to be on retreat with Father Cantalamessa and fellow U.S. bishops.

“The Holy Spirit was powerfully present, and I was quite moved,” he tweeted. He also thanked the pope for giving the bishops this gift.

Pope Francis suggested the bishops hold the retreat and offered the services of the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household since 1980. The time of prayer Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago was planned largely in response to last summer’s revelations of allegations of sex abuse that reached the highest levels of the U.S. church.

In a Jan. 8 column for Angelus News, the archdiocesan news outlet of Los Angeles, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles said the bishops’ retreat leader focused “our attention on the vocation and responsibility of bishops in this moment in the church.”

“We are praying together as a visible sign of our unity as bishops and our communion with the Holy Father. There is a collegial spirit here and a firm commitment to address the causes of the abuse crisis we face and continue the work of renewing the church,” he added.

The archbishop said Father Cantalamessa asked them to “trust more in the Holy Spirit. We need to have confidence that we are always living in God’s loving presence.”

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services listens to the homily during Mass Jan. 3 in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception during the bishops’ Jan. 2-8 retreat at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Illinois, near Chicago. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, wrote a few blog posts about the retreat with some reflection about the retreat leader’s message.

 

He said they heard about the need to emphasize in their preaching the fundamental belief in Jesus before delving into his message and teachings.

He also said Father Cantalamessa emphasized the need to root out “love of money” and all that it implies, including material possessions, honor or power.

“If this pursuit for ‘money’ needs to be rooted out from our Christian lives, then we need to embrace a true spirit of detachment,” the bishop wrote, adding that he would add more to that topic in the days ahead.

The theme of the U.S. bishops’ retreat was “the mission of the apostles and of their successors” drawing from Mark 3:14, which says Jesus “appointed 12 — whom he also named apostles — that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach.”

Reflections from the retreat do not seem to be about the crisis in particular, maybe for a reason.

In an email to Catholic News Service weeks before the retreat, Father Cantalamessa said he would “not talk about pedophilia and will not give advice about eventual solutions; that is not my task and I would not have the competence to do so.”

“The Holy Father asked for my availability to lead a series of spiritual exercises for the episcopal conference so that the bishops, far from their daily commitments, in a climate of prayer and silence and in a personal encounter with the Lord, can receive the strength and light of the Holy Spirit to find the right solutions for the problems that afflict the U.S. church today,” he added.

In a Jan. 9 column for the Chicago Catholic, the archdiocesan newspaper, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said the pope’s intention for the retreat went beyond “this particular moment or challenge facing us bishops.”

“We are not leaving this retreat with all the answers to the important questions facing the church in these days,” he wrote, but he said the bishops now have a renewed sense of the importance of taking their cues from “Christ’s spirit rather than our own efforts.”

Another blessing from the week, he said, was being drawn closer to each other and to the pope.

“I have no doubt that just as the early church relied on Peter’s unique ministry to meet the challenges of the day, so we will draw strength and insight from our unity with his successor,” he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

Source:https://cnstopstories.com/2019/01/10/bishops-describe-their-retreat-as-inspiring-spirit-filled/

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 11, 2018 — How can any one of you with a case against another dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment?

September 10, 2018

The unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God…

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

Reading 1 1 COR 6:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
How can any one of you with a case against another
dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment
instead of to the holy ones?
Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?
If the world is to be judged by you,
are you unqualified for the lowest law courts?
Do you not know that we will judge angels?
Then why not everyday matters?
If, therefore, you have courts for everyday matters,
do you seat as judges people of no standing in the Church?
I say this to shame you.
Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough
to be able to settle a case between brothers?
But rather brother goes to court against brother,
and that before unbelievers?

Now indeed then it is, in any case,
a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another.
Why not rather put up with injustice?
Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?
Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers.
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived;
neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers
nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers
will inherit the Kingdom of God.
That is what some of you used to be;
but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and in the Spirit of our God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4) The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Alleluia SEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
That you may go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel  LK 6:12-19

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

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

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Reflection by Father Alfonse
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In these days, it is not easy to find a good friend. It was not easy for the Lord either. Scripture reminds us, “Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure.” I need a faithful friend. Someone I can turn to, speak to, open my heart to and trust my most inner secrets to. The Lord prayed and chose The Twelve. How lonely he must have felt. Thomas who seemed to question everything; Peter who appeared to “know it all”; John who reminds us over and over again that he was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”; Judas who would betray the Lord.

How lonely the Lord must have felt on earth. No place to rest his head and no one to open his heart to.Jesus would often spend his evenings – his nights – in prayer. He did so this one evening with his Father.When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles. In hindsight, given their names and given their history, we can honestly say, this list is amazing!

But what is shocking is that near the end of Christ’s life, when his hour had come; knowing full well that darkness would fill the night and that one of his very own would soon betray him, and betray him with a kiss; and that his little flock would run away out of fear and he would be abandoned by all, he decided to call them his “friends.”

The Lord did not find friends the day he consecrated them Apostles. He made them his friends. He opened their hearts to the Father’s heart. He opened their minds to God’s holy Will. He strengthened their faith with the Holy Spirit. He made them his friends. He entrusted to them the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. He entrusted to them the keys of salvation. He shared with them his love, mercy and compassion. He spilled his blood for them so that they would learn to spill their blood for us.

This is the life of Christ. This is the life of the Apostles. This is our life as Christians. Sacrifice is the only way to show true, unfiltered and unselfish love. This is the mark of a Christian. We read how “Great crowds would follow the Lord” hoping for? Miracles to be seen, healings to be made, bread to eat, stomachs to be filled. They did not go away with empty stomachs but they did go away, the vast majority of them, with empty hearts. We know because the crowds grew smaller as his passion grew nearer. The Lord chose his friends well, even Judas. He earned their friendship, and in turn the Saints and Martyrs have earned our friendship. What we do with this is up to us! May we never depart from this holy band of brothers and sisters!

Dear Jesus, I want to be your friend today. Do with me as you will. Whoever gives to the Lord, receives one hundred times more!

http://fralfonse.blogspot.com/2010/09/lk-612-19-he-prayed-and-chose-his.html

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Comment:

Christ chose me just as he chose his Apostles. 

He didn’t choose them because they shined above the rest. “Thomas who seemed to question everything; Peter who appeared to “know it all”; John who reminds us over and over again that he was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”; Judas who would betray the Lord.”

They didn’t do anything to deserve his love and friendship, he gave it freely. I too have done nothing to deserve Christ’s love and friendship, nor will I ever be able to do enough to deserve his love so I need to quit using that as an excuse. Thinking that if I work a little harder at being a good Christian it will make a difference in how much he loves me. He wants me to come to him NOW, just as I am. He loves me just as I am.

“He opened their hearts to the Father’s heart. He opened their minds to God’s holy Will. He strengthened their faith with the Holy Spirit. He made them his friends. He entrusted to them the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. He entrusted to them the keys of salvation. He shared with them his love, mercy and compassion. He spilled his blood for them so that they would learn to spell their blood for us.”

He did this for the Apostles and he wants to do it for me. He wants to send me forth to live a life of sacrifice, to love as he loves. I just have to cooperate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Personal questions

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

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Concluding Prayer

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

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

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 7, 2018 — The Holy Spirit as the Agent of Conversion

May 6, 2018

“The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father will testify to me…”

Image result for Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, bible, art, photos

Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 291

Reading 1  ACTS 16:11-15

We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace,
and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi,
a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.
We spent some time in that city.
On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river
where we thought there would be a place of prayer.
We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there.
One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth,
from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened,
and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention
to what Paul was saying.
After she and her household had been baptized,
she offered us an invitation,
“If you consider me a believer in the Lord,
come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia  JN 15:26B, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord,
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 15:26—16:4A

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.”I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.
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Reflection on Lydia By Matthew McDonald 

As the apostle Paul was on his travels, he went into the city on the Sabbath to find a place of prayer, no doubt directed by the Holy Spirit on were to sit. As Paul sat down, along came Lydia, by a Divine appointment. Notice, she was also at the place of prayer, because she was a religious worshipper and follower of God. As she listened, her religion turned into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for the Lord opened her heart to respond to the preaching of the gospel. Not only did she give her life to Jesus Christ, but she was also baptised, and then she invited Paul and his companions to her house for fellowship.

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“I knew this had to be a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God. She listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”

Lydia was a very successful business woman, who had excellent administration skills. Not only did she sell quality clothes, but she purchased products for her stock. It is also very interesting to note that the Bible calls her, a woman, specifically by name.

Lydia was the hinge which opened the door for the gospel in Asia. From there, the gospel spread like wild fire by way of all the cloth industry and silk routes which brought caravans carrying royal robes, which were made exclusively from purple cloth.

God is calling men and woman, young and old, from all walks of life. We may never know how much God can use us for His glory and who we can reach and touch with the powerful message of the gospel. We can be the hinge which opens the door for the gospel to be spread into our place of work, our work trade. Just as Lydia listened and let faith arise in her heart, so as we start to talk about Jesus to whosoever we meet may God allow their hearts to be receptive to the message of the gospel. May we be obedient enough to go where God wants us to go, at His Divinely appointed time and sit beside, stand beside or even walk beside someone and tell them about Jesus.

My friend, Lydia was a worshipper of God, but now she could worship God in Spirit and in truth. Now, she did not have a religion, but a relationship with the Living God. She then opened up not only her heart to the gospel, but also her home. All the business associates which she knew before she received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour were now Divine appointments to sit down with and share the gospel with. If God called a business woman in the professional fabric trade to reach Asia with the gospel of Jesus Christ, then what can God use you to do for Him?

May we be like Paul, ready to be at the right place, at the right time, ready to share the gospel message, given by a Divine appointment from God. If we would do so, then who knows what part in God’s end-time harvest of souls we may be play. We need only to be ready and willing.

https://peebles.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/acts-1614-one-of-those-listening-was-a-woman-named-lydia-a-dealer-in-purple-cloth-from-the-city-of-thyatira-who-was-a-worshipper-of-god-the-lord-opened-her-heart-to-respond-to-pauls-message/

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Homily Ideas for ACTS 16:11-15
By J.D. Davis
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Have you ever had an experience where you knew God was calling you to do something, but it didn’t come out the way you thought it would? When you answered the call of God, you were excited and energized about the possibility of service. You couldn’t wait to get where you were going or do what you needed to do. But it was so unlike what you expected. I have had that happen to me, and I would ask God, “Are you sure this is what I am supposed to be doing?”

Sometimes our heart is willing to serve God, but our circumstances cause us to draw back or limit our service. A similar situation confronted Paul on one of his missionary journeys. I want you to know that when you serve God, when you go where He sends you and do what He tells you, you never know what the results might be.

Inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing an unrecognized religion into the city. This may explain why there was a Jewish prayer meeting being held outside the city, on the riverbank.

Having been trained by the Jews to be a leader among Jews, Paul would have been well acquainted with their views of women. The rabbis were known to say, “It is better that the words of the Law be burned that be delivered to a woman.”

The fact that Paul was willing to speak to these women indicates he no longer held that view. But the lack of a synagogue, no influence in the city, a prohibition against religion, and a prayer meeting at a riverbank does not seem to be the formula for a powerful revival.

What you and I may see as dangerous or hostile may be an opportunity for the kingdom of God. In the words of Esther, “Who knows but that I have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Here is my problem: I am too quick to allow the circumstances of my life to define my level of service to God. If things get hard, I look for a way out. I look for a way to diminish my dedication to the task. If people don’t respond immediately, I look for a new plan or gimmick.

If Paul had done that, he would have bailed on Phillipi. But Paul understood that service for God is always about our faithfulness to God, not the results. The reason I want to bail on bad situations is because I do not see the profitability of it. But that is faulty theology. Such an approach says that God only does what it profitable, like He is a business that only cares about the bottom line. It also means God is limited in power, so He will only use it in prime locations.

We talk about building and growing churches, as if it is something that we can do. That is something only God can do. God wants a relationship with you, and part of that relationship is commitment, dedication, and faithfulness.

You may be in a place like Paul. You look at the things around you and ask, “Am I in the right place, God? Am I doing what you want me to?” The circumstances may be overwhelming. Don’t be too quick to throw in the towel. As we are about to find out, just one convert can make all the difference.

There’s more and “J.D.” is well worth reading:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-lydia-model-service-hospitality-acts-16

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Commentary on John 15:26 from Living Space

We continue reading the discourse of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper.

Today he promises that the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth will come, sent both by the Father and by Jesus the Son. As we saw earlier, Paraclete (Gkparakletes, paraklhths) means a person who stands by one and gives support. It can be applied to a defence lawyer in a court of law. So the word is sometimes translated ‘Advocate’. It can be anyone who gives comfort, good advice or moral support. Various forms of the word are used about eight times in a short and beautiful passage at the opening of St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:3-7).

Here the Spirit that God bestows through Jesus on his disciples will be one who will comfort and strengthen them in the sometimes difficult days ahead and will guide them in their fuller understanding of what Jesus has taught them. The Spirit will confirm all that Jesus has said and done.

The disciples too are, with the help of the same Spirit, to give witness to all that Jesus has said and done.

And again he warns them that they will need all the help they can get from the support of the Spirit. “They will expel you from synagogues and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.” A prophecy which was very soon to be fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled down to our own day.

And people will do this because they do not really know the Father or Jesus. If they did, they too would believe and would recognise the presence of Jesus in the Christian community and its message.

So, as has been mentioned several times already, we are not to be surprised if we find ourselves – as Christians – the object of attack, of slander, of abuse, of misunderstandings, of contempt. St Ignatius of Loyola is said to have prayed that the members of the order which he founded would always be persecuted. It was a sign that they were doing their job. It is a strange paradox but the message of Christian love and forgiveness, the message of peace and justice is found by many to be very threatening and must be attacked.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 MAY, 2018, Monday, 6th Week of Easter
HOLY SPIRIT AS THE AGENT OF CONVERSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 16:11-15PS 149:1-6,9JOHN 15:26-16:4 ]

We are called to witness to Christ and the gospel.  But this call to witness to Christ explicitly is increasingly difficult in today’s world.  We are faced with the challenge of promoting religious harmony on the one hand, whilst grappling with the growing number of secularists who claim that they do not profess any particular religion but believe in the Sacred, and those who are professed humanists, agnostics and atheists on the other.  Countries in the first world promote secularism.   And they are seeking to export their ideology to the rest of the world through trade and technology.  Of course, the rise of secularism is also due to the quarrels and divisions among religions; and not least, the loss of credibility of religious leaders due to scandals.   At the other end of the spectrum, we have many countries that are still deeply religious but often discriminate minority religions.  Many are subtly, if not overtly, persecuted or marginalized because of their faith.

The rise in secularism is further complicated or reinforced by the ideology and dictatorship of relativism and individualism.  The former champions a contradictory ideology claiming that relativism is the absolute way to see life.  Everything, according to the relativists, is relative except relativism, which is absolute.  There is no truth or rather, no one can find the truth because truth is seen from different perspectives.  Hence, there is no objective truth but it is pure subjectivity. So there is no right or wrong. The ideology of relativism is strengthened by an individualistic mentality.  In those days, our parents and forefathers would sacrifice their happiness for the sake of their children and children’s children.   Nowadays, people only live for themselves and for today.  The future is not our business because we will be dead and gone.  Let the people of tomorrow handle their own problems.

The challenge in witnessing to Christ is also made more difficult because of two other factors. With advancement in technology and mass media, especially digital and social media, news travel fast, almost in an instant.  But technology is a double-edged sword.  We can harness it for good or for evil.  Some use social media to spread fake news or distort the message.   Instead of using it to spread goodwill, some will use it to cause division, sow hatred and even cause civil wars.  Because religious views and doctrines are easily accessible, those who do not agree with the doctrines or morality preached and taught would often speak out against them.  They extract the message out of context and circulate it, causing misunderstandings, dismay and anger.  Of course, when used positively, mass media and technology are powerful means to spread the Good News.  But it behooves preachers and teachers to be more sensitive and careful in what they say.

The other factor in witnessing to Christ is global migration where society is no more homogenous.  When society is cosmopolitan, there is a need to find common space among the different religions and cultures. When society is homogenous, it is easier to unite the people because all have a shared religion, culture, belief and values.   Seeing it positively, it is a great opportunity to share our faith with each other and our cultures too, so that in the process we are enriched in our own faith and in our cultures.   But there is also the danger of aggressive competition leading to oppression, persecution and discrimination.

There is still another obstacle in the proclamation of the gospel.  This could come from government policies.  Most democratic governments will formulate policies to reflect the common will of the people, as one of the most important tasks of the government is to preserve harmony, ensure law and order so that everyone can live in peace.  In a cosmopolitan country, it appears that a secular government is the way to manage the differences among all religions. By adopting secularist policies, there is an apparent neutrality of the government towards all religions.  But unwittingly, it also renders support to secularism as well, since religions are taken out of public life.  So such policies, whilst not favouring people of faith, does inadvertently favour people who are without faith.  In truth, secularism is another form of “religion”, if we see religion as a way of life and belief.   On the other hand, countries that do not have a secular government tend to oppress those of minority religions where there is a dominant religion or where atheism is considered the professed “religion” of the nation.

So what do we do in the light of the heightened sensitive situation we are in?  Evangelization can no longer be conducted as in the first or second millennium.  We need to find new ways to overcome these challenges in sharing the gospel with everyone. 

Right from the outset, we must accept the fact that we will always be misunderstood at some time and by some people.   Persecution is inevitable in some countries because there is a state religion or state atheism.  Misunderstanding and criticism of our doctrines, beliefs and practices are even more unavoidable.  But should we be surprised?   “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you.”  (Jn 15:18f)

Indeed, the reason why Christians are persecuted or misunderstood is because those who are not believers do not share in our religious experience or encounter with the Risen Lord. For such people, we need to forgive them for their ignorance.  As Jesus said to His disciples, “They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God. They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself.” The prophecy of Jesus came true during the time of the early Church when the Jewish leaders were arresting the Jewish Christians whom they considered as adopting an outlawed religion that was deviant, subversive and divisive. (cf 1 Tim 1:12-14)  So we should not blame those who misunderstand us and cannot accept our beliefs and doctrines simply because they have not enjoyed the same encounter we have had with the Risen Lord.  Those who sincerely object to our beliefs are doing so in ignorance and we should not fault them but to pray for them and enlighten them.

But there are those who persecute us because of sin, that is, because they want to protect their interests, their positions in society, money and power.  Some persecute us because we preach a morality that offends them or compromises their economic interests in promoting unhealthy entertainment and a promiscuous lifestyle.   Again, Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.   It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’”  (Jn 15:2225)

So, as Christians, we must exercise patience in dealing with opposition and persecution.  We must also exercise greater sensitivity in the way we proclaim the gospel and avoid giving ammunition for others to distort our message of truth and love.  But it does not mean that we need to compromise what we believe in.  As St Peter exhorts us,  “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;  yet do it with gentleness and reverence.  Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.”  (1 Pt 3:15f)  We must also proclaim the truth with charity!

In the final analysis, we must remember that conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  This was true for the conversion of Lydia, “a devout woman from the town of Thyatira who was in the purple-dye trade. She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying.”  Without the Holy Spirit opening her heart, she would not have had the gift of faith.  This is why the Lord said, “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.”

More importantly, we must sing praises to God for what He has done for us through testimony in songs, words and deeds.  We must sing the Lord’s praises through works of charity and love.  These are means to help people to open their hearts to the love of God.  It is preferable that we steer away from doctrinal arguments because it presupposes faith and experience.  As the Lord said,  “you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.”  Unless we have been companions of Jesus, seen and heard Him, we cannot have faith or be His witnesses.

Only with matured believers of all faith who are lovers of God and men, can we can then dialogue in charity and truth.  Inter-religious dialogue must make progress beyond cordial friendship to the sharing of religious experiences and how our doctrines are expressive of what we experience and what we believe.  By humble sharing of our faith, we can actually enrich each other’s faith, making us re-examine our beliefs and practices.  Indeed, at the end of the day, our desire is that all peoples will come to know God more and more and love Him in our brothers and sisters, so that we all become one family of God.  We should not envy people of other faiths but rejoice that they too have found God and to give praise to Him, for God indeed works in many ways unknown to us.  Even though we believe that Christ is the image of the invisible God (cf Heb 1:1-3a), yet  we also hold that salvation “holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.  (GS 22)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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https://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 28, 2017 — John the Baptist’s Death Doesn’t Slow the Time of Christ

September 27, 2017

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 452

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

John the Baptist appears before Herod

Reading 1 HG 1:1-8

On the first day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius,
The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai
to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak:

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
This people says:
“The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”
(Then this word of the LORD came through Haggai, the prophet:)
Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses,
while this house lies in ruins?

Now thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
You have sown much, but have brought in little;
you have eaten, but have not been satisfied;
You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated;
have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed;
And whoever earned wages
earned them for a bag with holes in it.

Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
Go up into the hill country;
bring timber, and build the house
That I may take pleasure in it
and receive my glory, says the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

Alleluia JN 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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Image result for Elijah has appeared, photos, pictures, bible

“Elijah has appeared”

Gospel LK 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.

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Homily By Fr. Steve Grunow
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In the year 587 BC the temple of Solomon was razed to the ground by the armies of the Babylonian Empire. This event was not mourned by the Israelites as merely the destruction of an important civic monument, but as a sign, that the God of Israel had abandoned his people.

For years, the Israelites languished in exile, beset by the fear that God had given up on them. The prophets reminded the Israelites of their many refusals of God, and this cast a pall over them. They could not deny their infidelity to the covenant. Had they driven God away? Would God ever return? If God didn’t come back to his people, would they ever get to go home?

This week the Church has selected readings from Old Testament Books of Ezra and Haggai. Both men spoke the Lord’s word of truth around the year 520 BC, during a time when the Israelites had returned from a long exile and had begun the difficult task of rebuilding the temple. The temple was not, as I said just a civic center, it was a house for God to dwell in. From this house, God reigned over Israel as their king and offered the people communion with his divine presence. The rebuilding of the temple was an act of faith that God had not abandoned his people and the covenant had been restored.

There were many obstacles to this project of rebuilding, and political intrigues brought everything to a standstill, money ran out, and it took the intervention of a foreign king to get things going again. Ezra and Haggai acted to organize and encourage the Israelites to rebuild the temple and to get on with the mission God had given them. Their long exile had ended. God had brought them home. God had not abandoned them. The Israelites were not to live in nostalgia or in regret, but to be the people God had created them to be: a light to the nations, witnesses to the world of the living, divine presence of the one, true God.

The lesson in all this is not just historical, but immediate to the mission of the Church right now. The Church is the continuation of the story of Israel. The stories in the Old Testament are reference points for understanding what the Church is and what the Church is supposed to be doing.

The mission of the Church is too often blocked by nostalgia, mitigated by practical concerns that are construed as insurmountable obstacles, fear holds us back, too many times we prefer to argue about the mission rather than doing it. The Church’s mission is that of Israel- to be a light in a dark world, to be an invitation to the world to bask in the divine life and presence of the one, true God Jesus Christ. In the temple of the Church’s worship, God in Christ offers communion with all who would come to him in faith and humility. We build up that temple through lives of virtue and works of mercy. Christ’s faithful are the missionaries of the temple of the Church, the Lord sends us from the temple of the Church out into the world so as to invite people to come in.

Today’s Gospel testifies that Herod (the son of Herod the King who tried to murder the infant Lord Jesus and killed the children of Bethlehem) is both curious and fearful of Christ, wondering if an even greater prophet than John the Baptist (whom he had killed) had been sent to the Israelites.

John had proclaimed that the Lord God was coming to Israel to set things right that had gone terribly wrong. God would drive out the family of Herod who had usurped the kingdom of God and purify the temple that the Herod had gilded as a monument to his own glory. The family of Herod hoped that with John’s death, none of his prophecies would come to fulfillment.

News of the signs and wonders worked by Christ troubles Herod because it seems that John’s death didn’t stop what he had set in motion and his prophecies would come true.

Thus, Herod wants to see Christ. Why? The Gospel of Luke will testify later that it is because he wants to see if the Lord Jesus can perform miracles for him, provide him with an experience of faith-based entertainment. He doesn’t seek the Lord Jesus so that he can be liberated from his sacrilege and blasphemy, but so that he can be entertained! He thinks of Christ as a kind of celebrity whom he can use for his own benefit!

The desire for Christ is a gift of the Holy Spirit but even that gift can be distorted and destroyed by sin. Had Herod opened himself up to the authentic potential of the gift of Christ, he would have been freed from the debauchery that imprisoned him.   But that would have meant Herod would have to let Christ be himself- Lord and Savior. Herod would have to repent of the terrible things that he had done. Faith based entertainment was easier.

The reduction of our relationship with Christ to superficiality and worship to entertainment is a perennial temptation for us all. Herod’s tragic refusal of Christ displays where that temptation leads. It is not enough to be interested in the Lord Jesus, even fascinated by him. Instead, we must be willing to be changed by him.

SODOMA-Il-Head-of-Christ-Painting-

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 SEPTEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 25th Week, Ordinary Time
REBUILDING THE HOUSE OF THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [HAG 1:1-8PS 149:1-69LK 9:7-9 ]

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, King Cyrus of Persia granted permission to 50,000 Jews exiled in Babylon to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city.  Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest, they tried to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem.  During the second year of their return, they managed to lay the foundation of the temple.  The altar was reestablished but the work of rebuilding the temple was slow because they faced opposition from the Samaritans.  As a result they were unable to finish their work as their enemies hindered the reconstruction.   For the next 15 years, no further work was done on the Temple.  The people felt disheartened and discouraged.  They became spiritually apathetic and gave up on the project.

It was within this context that God dispatched two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people to put more effort, time and resources into the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem.  Haggai challenged the people to keep their focus right.  He asked them, “Is this a time for you to live in your panelled houses, when this House lies in ruins?”  Indeed, how could the people live in luxury whilst the Temple of the Lord was in ruins?  Instead of rebuilding the Temple of the Lord, they were only interested in rebuilding their homes.   Their own houses were adorned with beautiful cedars while the Temple was lying in ruins.  This was inexcusable because the Temple was supposed to be the center and focal point of their relationship with God.

As a consequence, the Lord warned the people for not putting God as the center of their lives and their priority.   “Reflect carefully how things have gone for you.  You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm.  The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes.”   Because God was not the center of their lives, as seen in their priorities in allocating their resources and time, what they did were not successful.  Their hard work did not produce the fruits that they expected.  No matter how much they ate or earned, they could not have their fill.  This was because the foundation of their lives was missing.

This is true for us even today.  How many of us put God as the center of our lives?  Is God the most important consideration in all that we do or say?  Is He the foundation of our life?   Have we taken seriously what the Lord said, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  (Mk 12:29f)   If God were the center of our lives, then we would give Him preference above all other things.  But the truth is that other things and people take precedence over the Lord.  We give priority and importance to our loved ones, spouse and children.   We take care of our own material needs and comfort before thinking of our Lord.  We pay lip service to our love for God.  We claim that He is the most important person in our lives, but we hardly spend time to worship Him, pray to Him or listen to Him.   He seems to be the last person in our lives.   We come to Him only when we are in need or in trouble.  Otherwise, God is far from our hearts.

Even in giving an external place to God, many of us fail to show that respect and consideration.  Many of our churches are in ruins and in a sorry state, but many of our Catholics do not care about the church, the House of God, even though they are living in luxurious houses. They contribute little of their money to build the church but spend millions on their homes.  They spend much money decorating their house but they do not give prominence to the altar in their homes.

When we do not put God as the center of our lives, then this is where all our problems begin.  By failing to teach our children to honour God as the foundation of everything, they begin to worship their studies, their achievements, their jobs and careers.  They put their enjoyment, pleasures and interests before their spiritual life.  When God is out of the picture and worldly values take over, they can never be truly successful in life.   They might be doing well materially, have a great career and possess many things of this world, but their lives are empty.  There is division in the family, because of the lack of Christian values being promoted by their parents. They do not speak about forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, understanding and generosity.   Instead, they speak of their rights and having things their own way.

When God is not the center of our lives and the gospel has no place in our relationships and family life, the world’s values will take over.  For this reason, as the prophet says, we too will be like the Jews who lost the blessings from God because they were living self-centered and worldly lives.  They showed little interest in the vision of God for the world.  When God has no influence in our lives, at home or at work, then we can expect to lose the blessings of God in all that we do.  However hard we work, we will have less because greed and selfishness will destroy whatever we have gained.  When God is not the center of our lives, even with all our material wealth, we will find life rather empty and unfulfilling.  Caring for our physical needs whilst neglecting our relationship with God will ruin our happiness in life.

However, if we put God as the center of our lives, then we can expect to receive His blessings.  With God, we learn how to appreciate all things in perspective.  We come to value things as means for love and service and not as ends in themselves.  We will put relationships above achievements and success.  Unless we put God’s work and His Kingdom as the highest priority in our lives, we will not be able to enjoy life properly.  That is why the Lord taught us, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.   Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”  (Mt 6:31-34)  What we set as our priority manifests how much we love God, not so much in words but in actions.

We must take a page from Herod.  He did not put God as the center of his life.  Instead, he put Herodias as the center of his life.  Caught in his adulterous relationship with Herodias, he lost his focus in life and ended up doing things against his wishes, like killing John the Baptist.  For that, he was haunted by his conscience for killing a holy man of God.  Thus, when he heard “about all that was being done by Jesus; and he was puzzled.”  Then “some people was saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.”   The mention of John the Baptist unsettled him.   “But Herod said, ‘John?  I beheaded him.  So who is this I hear such reports about?’  And he was anxious to see Jesus.”

If we do not want to live with a guilty conscience and with doubts about Jesus, then we must search for Jesus and come to know Him.  We must make Jesus the goal of our life.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Instead of hearing rumours about who Jesus was, we are called to find out ourselves.  How can this be done unless we rebuild the House of God in our hearts?    The Lord said, “So go to the hill country, fetch wood, and rebuild the House: I shall then take pleasure in it, and be glorified there, says the Lord.”   In other words, let us put Him first in our hearts once again.  Let all we have be used for the glory of God, whether it be used to build a physical House of God, or the spiritual house of God or for the extension of His kingdom on earth.  All that we have must be returned to the Lord and be used for His glory, His mission and for the salvation of humanity.  In this way, we will be blessed in and through Him for we will find true peace, joy and love.  He will then provide us our deepest needs, that which will truly make us happy and fulfilled in life.

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 Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Luke 9: 7-9 From Living Space

Today we have a short interlude which is leading to some very special revelations.

Herod the tetrarch (his father Herod the Great’s kingdom had been divided among four sons) is hearing stories about what Jesus is doing. ‘Tetrarch’ means the ruler of the fourth part of a kingdom. This one, Herod Antipas, was one of several sons; the kingdom was divided among four of them. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. Although not strictly speaking a ‘king’ he is called that in Matthew and Mark following popular usage.

Herod is puzzled because he is being told that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead. At the same time others are saying that Elijah, whose expected return would signal the arrival of the Messiah, or some of the former biblical prophets has reappeared. Herod has recently beheaded John the Baptist and the superstitious king is filled with a mixture of fear and curiosity. He “kept trying to see Jesus”.

Luke does not actually record the death of John and, in this short passage, he prepares the reader for the later meeting of Herod with Jesus (23:8-12). So Herod’s wish will be partially fulfilled at a later date though under very unexpected circumstances and in a way that Herod will find very unsatisfactory. He is hoping that Jesus, like some circus dog, will do some ‘tricks’ or ‘miracles’ for him. [In the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Herod asks Jesus to walk across his swimming pool.]

Herod’s desire was almost entirely one of curiosity, it was the desire of the hedonist and the seeker of novelty. To see Jesus, in the full Gospel sense, is something totally other. It can only happen to those who have the eyes of faith and who can see in the person of Jesus the presence and power of God. We may recall the request of some “Greeks” who told Philip they wanted to see Jesus and the reply that Jesus gave about the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying (John 12:20-26). We have not seen Jesus if we do not know him in his suffering and dying as his way to new life.

Let us ask to see Jesus today, a seeing that leads to a total acceptance of his way of life and following him all the way, through the cross and beyond to a life that never ends.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2255g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• Today’s Gospel presents a reaction from Herod listening to the preaching of Jesus. Herod does not know how to place himself before Jesus He had killed John the Baptist and now he wants to see Jesus close to him. It is always threatening.
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• Luke 9, 7-8: Who is Jesus? The text begins with the exposition of the opinion of the people and of Herod on Jesus. Some associated Jesus to John the Baptist and to Elijah. Others identified him with a Prophet, that is, with a person who speaks in the name of God, who has the courage to denounce injustices of those in power and who knows how to give hope to the little ones. He is the Prophet announced in the Old Testament like a new Moses (Dt 18, 15). These are the same opinions that Jesus received from the disciples when he asked them: “Who do people say I am?” (Lk 9, 18). Persons tried to understand Jesus starting from things that they knew, thought and expected. They tried to set him against the background of the familiar criteria of the Old Testament with its prophecies and hopes, and of the Tradition of the Ancients with their laws. But these were insufficient criteria; Jesus could not enter into them, he was much bigger!
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• Luke 9, 9: Herod wants to see Jesus. But Herod said: “John, I beheaded him; so who is this of whom I hear such things?” “And he was anxious to see him”. Herod, a superstitious man without scruples, recognizes that he was the murderer of John the Baptist. Now, he wants to see Jesus. Luke suggests thus that the threats begin to appear on the horizon of the preaching of Jesus. Herod had no fear to kill John. He will not be afraid to kill Jesus. On the other side, Jesus does no fear Herod. When they tell him that Herod wanted to take him to kill him, he sent someone to tell him: “You may go and give that fox this message: Look, today and tomorrow I drive out devils and heal, and on the third day I attain my end.” (Lk 13, 32). Herod has no power over Jesus. When at the hour of the passion, Pilate sends Jesus to be judged by Herod, Jesus does not respond anything (Lk 23, 9). Herod does not deserve a response.
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• From father to son. Some times the three Herods, who lived during that time are confused, then the three appear in the New Testament with the same name: a) Herod, called the Great, governed over the whole of Palestine from 37 before Christ. He appears at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2, 1). He kills the new-born babies of Bethlehem (Mt 2, 16). b) Herod, called Antipas, governed in Galilee from the year 4 to 39 after Christ. He appears at the death of Jesus (Lk 23, 7). He killed John the Baptist (Mk 6, 14-29). c) Herod, called Agrippa, governed all over Palestine from the year 41 to 44 after Christ. He appears in the Acts of the Apostles (Ac 12, 1.20). He killed the Apostle James (Ac 12, 2).
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When Jesus was about four years old, King Herod, the one who killed the new-born babies of Bethlehem died (Mt 2, 16). His territory was divided among his sons, Archelaus, would govern Judea. He was less intelligent than his father, but more violent. When he assumed the power, approximately 3000 persons were massacred on the square of the Temple! The Gospel of Matthew says that Mary and Joseph, when they learnt that Archelaus had taken over the government of Galilee, were afraid and returned on the road and went to Nazareth, in Galilee, which was governed by another son of Herod, called Herod Antipas (Lk 3, 1). This Antipas governed over 40 years. During the thirty-three years of Jesus there was no change of government in Galilee.
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Herod, the Great, the father of Herod Antipas, had constructed the city of Caesarea Maritime, inaugurated in the year 15 before Christ. It was the new port to get out the products of the region. They had to compete with the large port of Tyron in the North and, thus, help to develop trade and business in Samaria and in Galilee. Because of this, from the time of Herod the Great, the agricultural production in Galilee began to orientate itself no longer according to the needs of the families, as before, but according to the demands of the market. This process of change in the economy continued during all the time of the government of Herod Antipas, another forty years, and found in him an efficient organizer. All these governors were ‘servants of power’. In fact, the one who commanded in Palestine, from the year 63 before Christ, was Rome, the Empire.
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Personal questions
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• It is well always to ask ourselves: Who is Jesus for me?
• Herod wants to see Jesus. His was a superstitious and morbid curiosity. Others want to see Jesus because they seek a sense for their life. And I, what motivation do I have which moves me to see and encounter Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Each morning fill us with your faithful love,
we shall sing and be happy all our days;
let our joy be as long as the time that you afflicted us,
the years when we experienced disaster. (Ps 90,14-15)
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 28, 2017 — “How St. Augustine Found Me”

August 27, 2017

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 425

Image result for Saint Augustine, art, pictures

Saint Augustine by Antonio Rodríguez

Reading 1  1 THES 1:1-5, 8B-10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father,
knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen.
For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
In every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead, Jesus,
who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia!
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 23:13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(First published on Monday August 26 2013)
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Where do you stand in your faith?  Is your faith more like that of the scribes and Pharisees or that of the early Christians in Thessalonica?   The answer to this question determines our happiness in this life and hereafter for the warning of Jesus is this, “Alas for you … you hypocrites!  You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”

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What then is wrong with the so called faith of the scribes and Pharisees?  Their faith was merely an intellectual and legalistic faith.   Perhaps, it would not even be right to call it faith!  More correctly, their faith was a religion in so far as one uses religion to fulfill one’s selfish interests.  In the first place, their faith in God was based on merit.  They did not believe in grace.  They believed one can earn his place in the eyes of God.  The corollary of this is that even when they obeyed the laws of God or when they performed good works, it was done more out of selfish interests than out of pure love for God and for others, since such works were done simply to accumulate merits.   For those who were less authentic, good works were not motivated by love but by egoism or at most, by fear of rejection.

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This explains why they sought ways to circumvent the laws by rationalizing them or finding loopholes in the laws so that they could break them without being faulted.  Religion then became like a game of rules.  Observe the rules and you will be saved.  The spirit of the laws is forgotten.

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Conversely, one can observe the laws so strictly without taking into the peculiar circumstances that it becomes ludicrous and even unjust.  This is how civil lawyers try to get their clients out of trouble.  So long as they can circumvent the letter of the law, they are not guilty.  That is why, at times, one wonders how just the laws are as it depends on whether one engages a good legal counsel to fight the case. A good lawyer can often go round the law to get us out of trouble.  So it is not just a matter of whether one is guilty or innocent, but about having someone present our case convincingly before the judge who is obliged to judge based on the facts presented within the limits of the laws.

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Jesus exposed their insincerity in the way they fulfilled the Laws. He cited the ludicrous attempts of the Jews to avoid any obligation to their promises made to God by splitting hairs over when a promise would be considered valid.  When Moses gave them the Laws, it was meant to help them to live a life of love and harmony. If observing the law makes us less loving, then the purpose of the law is defeated.  Laws are not observed for laws’ sake but for the service of love.   Otherwise, such observance of the law is mere hypocrisy.

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If Jesus’ words appeared to be harsh, it was not spoken in anger but in compassion for them, for as religious leaders, not only were they misleading their flock, but they would also miss out on the life of the kingdom.  We must not be misled into thinking that Jesus’ reprimand of the scribes and Pharisees lacked love.  On the contrary, at the end of the same chapter of the gospel we read Jesus lamenting, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Mt 23:37-39)

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For Jesus, everything is done in the name of love and for love.

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Similarly, we have the exemplary and lively faith of the Thessalonians.  These Christians knew little about their faith, for we will read later how they misunderstood the second coming of Christ.  However, they were people docile to the Spirit, open to the Word of God and sincere in living out the gospel life.  St Paul was full of admiration for them when he wrote how he constantly thanked God for how they “have shown (their) faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The faith of the Thessalonians was not simply an intellectual faith, but a faith that acts.  In the first place, St Paul commended them, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.” In other words, they surrendered in obedience to the preaching of the apostles and accepted their words as from God in faith.  This was demonstrated in the way they broke with idolatry, the worship of false gods.  They might not be schooled in theology and scriptures, but in their simplicity, they accepted the teaching of the apostles as the Word of God.

Secondly, this faith in God was demonstrated in right living, as St Paul praised them saying, “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction” and how “When you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   In other words, they became servants of God and of each other in animated charity.   Theirs was not simply faith in God but for this faith to be real and true it must issue in love.  This was what they did.  They put their faith into action by works of charity.

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Thirdly, this faith was a faith that lived in hope, for they were waiting in hope for the coming of Jesus to save them from retribution.  The early Christians were so full of faith that in their simplicity, they thought that the Second Coming was near.  They were willing to abandon everything for the hope that was before them.  Faith, therefore, is the basis of hope.  Without faith, hope would be weak and be reduced to mere wishful thinking.  A firm hope must be rooted in faith and our faith is not in oneself but in God who alone can restore the world and redeem us.  Because of the surety of the hope before them, they could continue to love and give themselves to others even when they had to suffer for Christ.

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What about us?  Is our faith animated by charity and strengthened by hope?  Or do we give up easily and become disillusioned in times of difficulties and trials?  We must evaluate our faith seriously today.  Has my faith in God grown each day?  Do I trust in God more and more in living out my vocation in life?  Is this faith expressed in a growing charity manifested in generosity, kindness and compassion both for the poor, the marginalized and for members of the community?  Is our faith lived beyond this world and do we have a persevering hope in Jesus, especially in those moments when we face crises in our faith or in our struggles to be faithful in carrying our daily cross after Jesus?  Most of all, have we become more sensitive to sin in our lives so that we can grow in holiness and charity?

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As St Paul said, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen.”  Indeed, the key to a real living faith is to know that we are loved by the Lord and chosen by Him.  Only when we have experienced His love can we then in turn be empowered to love and continue to hope in Him, especially when trials come into our lives.   Yes, only this kind of faith can save us.  We can love God more and more when we know that He loves us because faith is the foundation of love and also the basis for the augmentation of love.  When we open ourselves to someone in faith, love will soon develop.  As we love, we learn to trust a person even more.  So faith and love accompanies each other and strengthens each other.  A legalistic faith will only make us self-righteous and unable to love freely from our hearts.  Let us pray that the faith of the Thessalonians will also be ours as we open our lives to Him in faith.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter, but will not be strong enough.” (Luke 13:24)

Part of this process is understanding who we are as human beings — all the good we can do and all the mistakes we can make!

But we don’t stop there. Throughout our lives, Jesus expects us to get better and better. Our journey may be a tough one — but He promises all the support and help he can give, plus the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” inside of us as we encounter tougher and tougher challenges.

Related:

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From Bishop Robert Barron — “Strive to enter through the narrow gate”

To gain eternal life is to participate to the fullest degree possible in the very life of God. It is to walk the path of love, surrendering to grace and allowing this grace to flow through you to the wider world. Is this an easy task? No. The Gospel of Luke tells reminds us that the gate is narrow precisely because it is in the very shape of Jesus Himself, and entrance through the gate involves conformity to his state of being. The path of love is traveled by taking up one’s cross every day.

http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/the-narrow-gate/5249/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 AUGUST, 2017, Monday
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A LIVING COMMUNITY OF FAITH IN THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TH 1:1-58-10PS 149:1-69MT 23:13-22 ]

The first reading presents to us a primitive Church that was very much alive in the faith, life-giving and fulfilling.  In contrast, the gospel presents to us a religion that is sterile and not life-giving.   These two illustrations show us what living faith entails and what causes a religion to lose favor with the people. Consequently, we must reflect on the struggles between those who have been institutionalized over a period of time and those who are still in their infancy.   

Firstly, St Paul praised his fellow Christians for breaking away from idolatry “when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   They became aware that there was only one God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   He is whom we are called to place our absolute trust.  Only this God is to be worshipped and served.  In Jesus, they came to know who God is.   In contrast, while the religious leaders during the time of Jesus claimed to love and serve God, they were worshipping themselves.  The real focus was not the worship of God but it was about their glory, status and appearing good before others.   Religion was made use for their own benefits.

Secondly, Paul commended the Thessalonians for observing “the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction.”  They were living out the Christian life of which Paul was a shining example of what it meant to worship the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul was conscious that he was setting himself to be a model of how Christian life should be lived.    They in turn were serious in living the life of the gospel and the life of Christ.  It was not just a nominal faith, like that which many of us subscribe to. This precisely was the case of the religious leaders.  They were finding fault with others who could not observe the laws.  Although they observed the laws meticulously, it was done more out of guilt and pride than out of love.  They knew that the poor could never observe the laws adequately.  Theirs was a religion for the rich and the elite.

Thirdly, their faith was not an abstract faith but with consequences in terms of relationship with others.  Paul said that we “constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Their faith was translated into works of love and charity.  They cared for and loved each other and reached out to those who were in need.  Faith was not a private affair or simply an escape into mystification but manifesting God through their lives of love and service.   But for the religious leaders, faith was simply about observance of the ritual laws.  It was not about their brothers and sisters.  There was no love for those who were sinners.  They were ever ready to condemn those who failed in their weaknesses to observe the laws.   In truth, the religious leaders were selective in choosing those laws that made them superior to the rest.  But they were not primarily concerned with whether what they were doing were really done out of love and compassion for their fellowmen.  

What is our analysis of the faith of the early Christians and that of the Jewish people? In the same way, we can also compare the vibrant and evangelistic fervor of the early Christians with that of our institutionalized churches today.  It is true that even today, new-found Christian evangelical communities tend to be more alive, adaptive and creative.  But those that have been established over the years, particularly, the traditional Churches like the Catholic and the reformed Churches, tend to be much more protective of their traditions. Indeed, this seems to be the sociological development of any community or organization.  The founders and the pioneers of the movements tend to be prophetic, zealous and filled with the spirit.  But over the years, the members of that movement or organization that carries the spirit of the founder would tend to become ritualistic, routine and mechanical.

What is the cause?  It is the absence of the Spirit at work in our lives.   St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, saying, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.”   Indeed, the early Christians felt strongly the presence of God in their lives.  They encountered the love of God in Jesus Christ.  They were deeply grateful for encountering the Good News and to be chosen as Jesus’ adopted brothers and sisters.   And because they believed wholeheartedly the Good News, they in turn became people who acted under the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the early Church, we read of the use of their charisms and the working of miracles that testify to the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord at work in their lives.

Unfortunately for us today, many of us are born into the faith.  We were brought up in a Catholic ambiance.   We breathe the faith the moment we were born because of our parents’ faith and religious upbringing.   Many of us through habit and custom, inherited the faith and practise them without questioning.   At times we can experience, like our parents, the love and mercy of God.   But if our parents are not faith-filled, then our experience of God is going to be rather shallow and weak.  We will only end up doing all the Catholic practices such as attending mass and abstinence, but there is no real personal relationship with the Lord as there are no family prayers, no sharing of the Word of God, no personal testimony of how God is at work in our lives.   It is reduced to mere observance of the commandments of the Church, going for boring masses and listening to uninspiring homilies that do not speak to our needs.  In such a situation, we lose the zeal and the fire of our forefathers’ faith in Christ.

This is what the Lord is warning those of us who are supposedly to be leaders in faith, whether we are religious or lay.  “You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”   If we ourselves have not encountered God like the Jewish leaders, how can we ever help people to experience the love and mercy of God?  Instead of leading people closer to God, we lead them further away from Him.  If we have not learnt the meaning of prayer and who God is, how can we ever instruct others to pray rightly.   If we do not have faith in God and the Bible as the Word of God, how can we teach?  The truth is that the blind is leading the blind.

We will be like the religious leaders, using our knowledge of the doctrines and the laws to find loopholes so that we can circumvent from having to observe the laws.  They were not interested in observing the laws but finding ways and means to bypass the laws and feel justified before God and men.  Such people twist and turn the gospel, as many do today, to justify their rationale for subscribing to teachings that are contrary to the bible.  Of course we can always rationalize for all that we want to do.  We can make the bible fit our ways rather than fit our ways to the Word of God.   Unlike the early Christians, we do not take the Word of God as God’s words.  “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13)

Indeed, as Jesus sighed, “You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.”   Instead of helping people to become more Christ-like by converting them to Catholicism, we form them to become bigoted, legalistic, judgmental.  Then there is also the irony of bringing new converts to the faith every year when there are many more who have left the Church without us batting our eyelids, because their faith is weak and they are ill-formed in the faith?

So let us renew our love for the Lord.  This is what the psalmist is inviting us, Sing a new song to the Lord, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let the praise of God be on their lips: this honour is for all his faithful.”   Only in praising God and worshipping Him in faith and love, can we find the strength to live out our faith in hope and confidence.

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

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How St. Augustine came into My Own Life

Troubled in the middle of the night, I went to an  Adoration Chapel to pray. After an our or so, I paced around and noticed a bookshelf. I pulled out “Confessions” by St. Augustine and opened it at random to this page and read:

But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. Which that I might pour forth wholly, in its natural expressions, I rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the business of weeping; so I retired so far that even his presence could not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived something of it; for something I suppose I had spoken, wherein the tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen up. He then remained where we were sitting, most extremely astonished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry for ever? Remember not our former iniquities, for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, “to-morrow, and tomorrow?” Why not now? why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, I shut the volume, and with a calmed countenance made it known to Alypius. And what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus showed me. He asked to see what I had read: I showed him; and he looked even further than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This followed, him that is weak in the faith, receive; which he applied to himself, and disclosed to me. And by this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, and most corresponding to his character, wherein he did always very far differ from me, for the better, without any turbulent delay he joined me. Thence we go in to my mother; we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate in order how it took place; she leaps for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee, Who are able to do above that which we ask or think; for she perceived that Thou hadst given her more for me, than she was wont to beg by her pitiful and most sorrowful groanings. For thou convertedst me unto Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world, standing in that rule of faith, where Thou hadst showed me unto her in a vision, so many years before. And Thou didst convert her mourning into joy, much more plentiful than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer way than she erst required, by having grandchildren of my body.

 

St. Augustine found me and encouraged me to read. Since that encounter I have read and studied many of the great “Christian Classics.”

John Francis Carey

Related:

The Ladder of St. Augustine
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

All common things, each day’s events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.

The low desire, the base design,
That makes another’s virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;

The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will;

All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.

Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern — unseen before —
A path to higher destinies,

Nor deem the irrevocable Past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.

Related:
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, May 22, 2017 — Lydia: The hinge that opened the door for the gospel in Asia

May 21, 2017

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Lectionary: 291

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Reading 1 ACTS 16:11-15

We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace,
and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi,
a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony.
We spent some time in that city.
On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river
where we thought there would be a place of prayer.
We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there.
One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth,
from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened,
and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention
to what Paul was saying.
After she and her household had been baptized,
she offered us an invitation,
“If you consider me a believer in the Lord,
come and stay at my home,” and she prevailed on us.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 15:26B, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord,
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 15:26—16:4A

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away.
They will expel you from the synagogues;
in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you
will think he is offering worship to God.
They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me.
I have told you this so that when their hour comes
you may remember that I told you.”

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Reflection on Lydia By Matthew McDonald 

As the apostle Paul was on his travels, he went into the city on the Sabbath to find a place of prayer, no doubt directed by the Holy Spirit on were to sit. As Paul sat down, along came Lydia, by a Divine appointment. Notice, she was also at the place of prayer, because she was a religious worshipper and follower of God. As she listened, her religion turned into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for the Lord opened her heart to respond to the preaching of the gospel. Not only did she give her life to Jesus Christ, but she was also baptised, and then she invited Paul and his companions to her house for fellowship.

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“I knew this had to be a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God. She listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying.”

Lydia was a very successful business woman, who had excellent administration skills. Not only did she sell quality clothes, but she purchased products for her stock. It is also very interesting to note that the Bible calls her, a woman, specifically by name.

Lydia was the hinge which opened the door for the gospel in Asia. From there, the gospel spread like wild fire by way of all the cloth industry and silk routes which brought caravans carrying royal robes, which were made exclusively from purple cloth.

God is calling men and woman, young and old, from all walks of life. We may never know how much God can use us for His glory and who we can reach and touch with the powerful message of the gospel. We can be the hinge which opens the door for the gospel to be spread into our place of work, our work trade. Just as Lydia listened and let faith arise in her heart, so as we start to talk about Jesus to whosoever we meet may God allow their hearts to be receptive to the message of the gospel. May we be obedient enough to go where God wants us to go, at His Divinely appointed time and sit beside, stand beside or even walk beside someone and tell them about Jesus.

My friend, Lydia was a worshipper of God, but now she could worship God in Spirit and in truth. Now, she did not have a religion, but a relationship with the Living God. She then opened up not only her heart to the gospel, but also her home. All the business associates which she knew before she received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour were now Divine appointments to sit down with and share the gospel with. If God called a business woman in the professional fabric trade to reach Asia with the gospel of Jesus Christ, then what can God use you to do for Him?

May we be like Paul, ready to be at the right place, at the right time, ready to share the gospel message, given by a Divine appointment from God. If we would do so, then who knows what part in God’s end-time harvest of souls we may be play. We need only to be ready and willing.

https://peebles.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/acts-1614-one-of-those-listening-was-a-woman-named-lydia-a-dealer-in-purple-cloth-from-the-city-of-thyatira-who-was-a-worshipper-of-god-the-lord-opened-her-heart-to-respond-to-pauls-message/

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Homily Ideas for ACTS 16:11-15
By J.D. Davis
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Have you ever had an experience where you knew God was calling you to do something, but it didn’t come out the way you thought it would? When you answered the call of God, you were excited and energized about the possibility of service. You couldn’t wait to get where you were going or do what you needed to do. But it was so unlike what you expected. I have had that happen to me, and I would ask God, “Are you sure this is what I am supposed to be doing?”

Sometimes our heart is willing to serve God, but our circumstances cause us to draw back or limit our service. A similar situation confronted Paul on one of his missionary journeys. I want you to know that when you serve God, when you go where He sends you and do what He tells you, you never know what the results might be.

Inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing an unrecognized religion into the city. This may explain why there was a Jewish prayer meeting being held outside the city, on the riverbank.

Having been trained by the Jews to be a leader among Jews, Paul would have been well acquainted with their views of women. The rabbis were known to say, “It is better that the words of the Law be burned that be delivered to a woman.”

The fact that Paul was willing to speak to these women indicates he no longer held that view. But the lack of a synagogue, no influence in the city, a prohibition against religion, and a prayer meeting at a riverbank does not seem to be the formula for a powerful revival.

What you and I may see as dangerous or hostile may be an opportunity for the kingdom of God. In the words of Esther, “Who knows but that I have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Here is my problem: I am too quick to allow the circumstances of my life to define my level of service to God. If things get hard, I look for a way out. I look for a way to diminish my dedication to the task. If people don’t respond immediately, I look for a new plan or gimmick.

If Paul had done that, he would have bailed on Phillipi. But Paul understood that service for God is always about our faithfulness to God, not the results. The reason I want to bail on bad situations is because I do not see the profitability of it. But that is faulty theology. Such an approach says that God only does what it profitable, like He is a business that only cares about the bottom line. It also means God is limited in power, so He will only use it in prime locations.

We talk about building and growing churches, as if it is something that we can do. That is something only God can do. God wants a relationship with you, and part of that relationship is commitment, dedication, and faithfulness.

You may be in a place like Paul. You look at the things around you and ask, “Am I in the right place, God? Am I doing what you want me to?” The circumstances may be overwhelming. Don’t be too quick to throw in the towel. As we are about to find out, just one convert can make all the difference.

There’s more and “J.D.” is well worth reading:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-lydia-model-service-hospitality-acts-16

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Commentary on John 15:26 from Living Space

We continue reading the discourse of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper.

Today he promises that the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth will come, sent both by the Father and by Jesus the Son. As we saw earlier, Paraclete (Gkparakletes, paraklhths) means a person who stands by one and gives support. It can be applied to a defence lawyer in a court of law. So the word is sometimes translated ‘Advocate’. It can be anyone who gives comfort, good advice or moral support. Various forms of the word are used about eight times in a short and beautiful passage at the opening of St Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 1:3-7).

Here the Spirit that God bestows through Jesus on his disciples will be one who will comfort and strengthen them in the sometimes difficult days ahead and will guide them in their fuller understanding of what Jesus has taught them. The Spirit will confirm all that Jesus has said and done.

The disciples too are, with the help of the same Spirit, to give witness to all that Jesus has said and done.

And again he warns them that they will need all the help they can get from the support of the Spirit. “They will expel you from synagogues and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.” A prophecy which was very soon to be fulfilled and continues to be fulfilled down to our own day.

And people will do this because they do not really know the Father or Jesus. If they did, they too would believe and would recognise the presence of Jesus in the Christian community and its message.

So, as has been mentioned several times already, we are not to be surprised if we find ourselves – as Christians – the object of attack, of slander, of abuse, of misunderstandings, of contempt. St Ignatius of Loyola is said to have prayed that the members of the order which he founded would always be persecuted. It was a sign that they were doing their job. It is a strange paradox but the message of Christian love and forgiveness, the message of peace and justice is found by many to be very threatening and must be attacked.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 MAY, 2017, Monday, 6th Week of Easter
THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES US THE POWER TO WITNESS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS  16:11-15; PS 149:1-6,9; JOHN 15:26-16:4 ]

Why did you choose to become a Christian? Most people choose the Christian Faith or the Catholic Faith because they find it meaningful. It gives them a purpose for life, hope for the future, direction in life, support in their trials and the challenges of life.  Others like the solemn worship of the Catholic liturgy, some find the Charismatic form of praise and worship speaking to their hearts and they find strength, healing and consolation just by singing these contemporary Christian songs.  For others still, they like the fellowship and support of the Christian community.  If these are the reasons why one becomes a Christian, it is not wrong but this is not what it means to be a Christian.  It is too inward-looking, self-centered and individualistic.  It reduces the Christian Faith to a utilitarian religion where we go to find help for our needs, like a dispensing machine.

Christianity is not about self but about the person, Jesus Christ.  Pope Emeritus Benedict puts it succinctly, “We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”  (Deus Caritas Est, 1)   Christianity is about Jesus Christ who is the Saviour of the World.  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)  Peter said, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”  (Jn 6:68f)  In a nutshell, St John summarized it in this manner.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life” (3:16).

The litmus test of a true Christian is whether he is a fair-weather friend of Jesus, coming to Him only for things, for satisfaction of their desires and needs, or whether he is a loyal and faithful friend of Jesus who would stand by Him and His name at all times and in whatever circumstance he is in.   In other words, will we stand up for Jesus and the gospel?  If we are truly disciples of Jesus, we must be ready to stand up for Him, defend Him and the gospel He taught us.  All true friends will stand by their friends and defend them when they are attacked, slandered or misunderstood.  But how do Catholics stand up for Jesus, for the teachings of Christ when they are challenged?  Most of us would sit by quietly and let the world tear down the Church and the gospel truth without coming to the defense of Jesus and the gospel.

That is why Jesus made clear what discipleship entails.  He did not mince His words about the trials ahead for His disciples.  “I have told you all this so that your faith may not be shaken …  so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you.”  Jesus knew the sufferings ahead for His disciples after His death.  If it had not been easy for Jesus in His earthly ministry when He was confronted and opposed by the religious institutions of the day, why should the disciples be exempted from the same persecution?  A Christian is called to be a witness in the world.  Jesus said, “you too will be witnesses.”  A Christian does not live for himself!  He lives for Christ.  St Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ;  and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life, I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Gal 2:19b-20)  To be a Christian is to live for Jesus and offer one’s whole life in union with Jesus for the spread of the gospel according to the vocation that the Lord has given to each one of us.  We are called to testify for Jesus and to be His witnesses in the world.  However, this will not be smooth sailing, although a service to humanity, it will be met by fierce oppositions.

We read that by the time of St John, the Jews were expelled from the synagogues.  By professing their faith in Christ as the Lord and the Messiah, they were no longer considered as Jews.  They were ostracized from their community.  It must have been a very painful separation for the Christian Jews.  For years and for generations, they gathered in the synagogue to pray and to worship.  Life was always centered on the synagogue where they found strength, encouragement and fraternal support.  There are Catholics who, because of their faith, are excluded from their own family members or friends or colleagues.  There will be some who simply do not like Christians.  Being alone in a non-Catholic family can be lonely and trying if the other members continually taunt and ridicule us.

Secondly, Jesus also warned us that “the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy duty for God.”  This is already happening in our world when we have radical Muslims and fundamentalists from other religions, including the humanists, condemning those of other faiths.  What is frightening is that some of these radicals are confused and indoctrinated to consider other religions as Evil, and to use violence to eliminate those opposed to their faith. Today, the world continues to attack the Catholic Faith for the beliefs that we stand for.  They mock at us and seek to destroy us, believing that they are doing the right thing.  That is why we must not be vindictive and retaliate.  The Lord declares them to be innocent because of their ignorance. “They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself.”

So how can we be strong and courageous in witnessing to the Lord?  We need the power of the Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit can stir in our hearts and enlighten our minds to understand the truth of the gospel.  This is why Jesus said, “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.”   Only the Holy Spirit can help us to understand and grasp deeper the teachings of our Lord and help us to communicate clearly to the world in such a way that they can understand and accept the Word of God.  This was the case of “Lydia, a devout woman … who was in the purple-dye trade.  She listened to us, and the Lord opened her heart to accept what Paul was saying.”

Secondly, we need the Holy Spirit to give us an inner conviction of the gospel.  There is no way to speak of the gospel to anyone unless we are fully convinced of Christ and His teaching.  Many of us have some knowledge about Christ which we have read and heard about.  But we do not have a personal encounter with the Lord and hence lack inner conviction.  Our faith is by hear-say, through the testimonies of others, or the objective teaching of the Church but it is not something that they can say, “I know Jesus and I know all that is said about Him and by Him is true!”   If we have not seen Him, how can we testify to what we have not seen or heard?  A witness must have a personal knowledge of the Lord.

Thirdly, we need the Holy Spirit to help us walk with Jesus and know Him intimately. The prerequisite of being His witness is that we must have walked with Him. “And you too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.”  Surely, we never knew Jesus of Nazareth because we were not living then.  But we can still claim to be with Him from the outset if we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, especially at prayer and worship.  The Holy Spirit is the one that leads us to Jesus and helps us to experience His presence intimately when we read the Word of God, receive the Eucharist or celebrate the sacraments or when we are deep in prayer. 

Finally, the Holy Spirit gives us a family so that we can remain strong. This was what happened to Lydia. “After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.”  In Christ, we become one Body.  In the Spirit, we are brought together.  The Christian does not stand alone but He has the Holy Spirit to help him to live the Christian life, and most of all, a family to lean on and find strength in His trials.

As Christians, we must never journey alone.  If we follow Lydia’s example of inviting fellow Catholics into our life to share our faith journey together, regardless of the trials in our life and the rejection and persecution of the world, we will stand strong and firm in our faith.  We need the Christian family to give courage and strength.  A Catholic who does not belong to any Catholic family or does not have a group of intimate friends to share their faith will not last long in the faith, especially when tragedies strike. Every Catholic must find a small group of Catholic friends to share the Word of God and their faith experiences.  So long as we are inserted into the body of Christ, we will remain firm in our faith because we are rooted in the Lord.

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

https://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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02 MAY 2016, Monday, 6th Week of Easter
FINDING THE TRUTH IN CHRIST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 16:11-15; JN 15:26-16:4  ]

There is so much division in the world today because everybody thinks that he or she has the truth.  All of us claim that we are speaking and fighting for the truth.  This happens in every aspect of our lives.  In religion, people are divided because one claims that his religion is the truth and the other as false.  In daily living, one would think that his is the correct way to deal with a problem; another, however, thinks otherwise.  This occurs very often in family life and in our offices.  We have disagreements because we view the truth very differently.

What is even more tragic is that sometimes we are persecuted because others think that we are living in falsehood.  They want us to accept the truth as they see it.  In some cases it may even lead to persecution.  This was how Jesus warned the disciples, “They will expel you from the synagogues, and indeed the hour is coming when anyone who kills you will think that he is doing a holy duty for God.”  Indeed, all fanatics, even if we find them a nuisance, certainly mean well in their aggressive preaching.

What about us Catholics?  We too claim that we have the Truth.  If that were the case, is there any distinction between adherents of other religions or philosophical systems and ours?

The first thing we need to understand is that if we proclaim Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life, it is because there is no other way.  If Jesus is the Risen Christ, the Lord of Life as we encounter Him in His resurrection, then being God Himself, we cannot imagine Him to be less than the Truth, for that would be a denial of Jesus as Lord.  So, if Jesus is the Truth it is because He is the expression of the Father in person, as Jesus Himself tells us in the gospel. Only because Jesus comes from the bosom of the Father, could He tell us who God is.  No religion has ever claimed their founder to be the one and only God.

Secondly, in confessing that Jesus is the Truth, it does not mean that we have grasped the fullness of Jesus as Truth.  We are still growing in the Truth.  The Constitution on Divine Revelation (DV 8b) says that “The Tradition that comes from the apostles makes progress in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit.  There is a growth in insight into the realities and words that are being passed on.  This comes about in various ways.  It comes through the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts (cf. Lk 2:19 and 51).  It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experienced.  And it comes from the preaching of those who have received, along with their right of succession in the episcopate, the sure charism of truth.  Thus as the centuries go by, the Church is always advancing towards the plenitude of divine truth, until eventually the words of God are fulfilled in her.”

In order that for the Church to make progress in deepening the Truth that she has received from Christ, the Church needs the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, the Advocate promised to us by Jesus, who comes from the Father, it would not be possible to grow in the fullness of the Truth.  The Holy Spirit who dwells in us will enable us to know the truth from the depths of our innermost being.  Hence, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is His witness.  This means that we must be humble and open to the Holy Spirit, who is speaking to us each day, and revealing to us the Truth that Jesus intends for us.

Thirdly, to know the Truth entails that we come to know the Father through Jesus.  In the gospel, Jesus told His disciples, “And you too will be witnesses because you have been with me from the outset.”  There is no way to be in the Truth unless we are in close intimacy with Jesus.  Like the disciples, we must walk with Jesus so that we can come to know Him more and more.  Of course, to be with Jesus today is only possible through the Word of God.  We must contemplate His face in the Scriptures so that we know Jesus personally.  Only in knowing Him in person, will we be able to instinctively perceive the Truth when the Holy Spirit reveals this to us.

Fourthly, we must remember that only the Holy Spirit can convince us of the Truth and open our hearts and minds to understand the Truth when it is given to us.  Indeed, in the first reading, St Luke makes it clear that it was the Lord who opened the heart of Lydia to accept what Paul was preaching and she was consequently baptized.  The conversion of Lydia was the least expected because she was a wealthy widow, a successful entrepreneur, probably the least to desire Christ.  Yet, the Holy Spirit must have struck the ears of her heart.  God is full of surprises.  God longs to give His Spirit to those of us who are receptive to Him and His Word, as Lydia was.  So touched was she by the Lord’s love for her that immediately, she insisted that Paul used her house for Christian gathering.  St Luke wrote, “After she and her household had been baptised she sent us an invitation: ‘If you really think me a true believer in the Lord,’ she said ‘come and stay with us’; and she would take no refusal.”

In the final analysis, we must remember that it is the Lord, through His Spirit, who will convert us.  Conversion is not the work of man; it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit.  We must not usurp His place, because that would be to take things into our own hands.  We are only called be to His witnesses in proclaiming the Good News by word and deed.  This is what Jesus commanded us to do.  But we must leave the work of conversion to the Holy Spirit.  His Spirit will touch the hearts of men, convict them and lead them to the Truth and be converted to the Lord. Consequently, we must not get angry or become vindictive or take things into our own hands, using force to convert people to the gospel truth.  This is because they are ignorant, as Jesus said, “They will do these things because they have never known either the Father or myself. But I have told you all this, so that when the time for it comes you may remember that I told you.’”  Patient dialogue and, most of all, our acts of love and kindness in humility will help them to open their hearts to the truth.  Isn’t this was what St Peter wrote, “Reverence the Lord Christ in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander you when you are living a good life in Christ may be proved wrong in the accusations that they bring.” (1 Pt 3:15f)

Finally, fidelity to the truth might cause us much suffering.  To suffer for Him, of course, is a great honour, as Blessed Mother Teresa said, “Suffering, pain, humiliation, feelings of loneliness are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign that you have come so close that He can kiss you.”  Alas, these beautiful words from her are difficult to practise.  Most of us are not ready to suffer with and for Jesus, much less to die Him.  Even the apostles were cowards when Jesus was arrested. But what a difference after they received the Holy Spirit! They fearlessly proclaimed the truth about Jesus before the Sanhedrin and refused to keep silent even when threatened with imprisonment and death.  St Paul himself was stoned and driven out of the cities when he tried to proclaim the message of the kingdom.  But the Holy Spirit gave them courage and fortitude.  We too need a constant renewal of the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to persevere in the face of trials and tribulation.

Let us therefore, as we prepare for the coming feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, be open to the Holy Spirit so that we can be enlightened in the Truth and lead others to Him, even as we ourselves are growing in the Truth, and be ready to recognize whatever truths the Holy Spirit has revealed to others, even if they are not Christian.  Let us pray for the Spirit of openness to the Truth, for there is only one Truth, that is, God Himself.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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https://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 7, 2016 — Pray to God and he will give life

January 6, 2017

Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 210

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Reading 1 1 JN 5:14-21

Beloved:
We have this confidence in God,
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.

We know that no one begotten by God sins;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.

Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1-2, 3-4, 5 AND 6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia LK 7:16

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

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Gospel JN 2:1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
(although the servers who had drawn the water knew),
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.

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Jesus at The Wedding Feast in Cana By Gerard David

Related:

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From Father Tommy Lane

We have been meditating frequently on the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) since Pope John Paul II added this to the Rosary as the Second Luminous Mystery in 2001. It must have been a big embarrassment in Cana when the wedding party ran out of wine. When we consider that at that time a wedding celebration lasted not just for a day like our celebrations but for a whole week the embarrassment would be even more acute. Because the wedding celebration was so long it is no wonder that Jesus changed so many gallons of water into wine. The bad situation began to turn right when Mary turned to Jesus and said, “They have no wine.” (John 2:3) Mary interceded and pleaded before Jesus to turn the situation around. It was not just then that Mary intervened in Cana, she continues to plea before God on our behalf now. One of the documents of Vatican II,Lumen Gentium,says,

“This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix. This, however, is so understood that it neither takes away anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator.”
(Lumen Gentium Vatican II §62)

One of the titles Vatican II gave Mary in that document is Advocate because she intercedes before God on our behalf as our advocate and also on December 8th 2000 Pope John Paul referred to Our Lady as our Advocate of Mercy. In the prayer which we pray after the Rosary, the “Hail Holy Queen”, we ask Mary to intercede before God for us. We ask Mary to be our “gracious advocate” before God.

Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy towards us,
and after this exile
show to us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

After Mary’s intercession and advocacy to remedy the situation at Cana, some people are puzzled by Jesus’ reply, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) Sometimes people ask me if Jesus is being rude or disrespectful to his mother. Many things in John’s Gospel have a hidden second meaning, they are symbols, and when Jesus called Mary “Woman” at Cana he was not rude or disrespectful. This is not the only time when Jesus called Mary “Woman.” The other time was when Jesus was dying on the cross and he said, “Woman, behold your son” (John 19:26) and to John he said, “This is your mother” (John 19:27) and we know Jesus was not disrespectful to his mother then. On the cross Jesus means that Mary is the spiritual mother of us all. Mary, by co-operating with God’s plan of salvation, became the New Eve. She is the woman who fixed what the first woman, Eve, had broken. So at Cana when Jesus calls Mary “Woman” we only understand fully what Jesus means when Jesus calls Mary “Woman” on the cross as he gives her to us as our spiritual mother, the New Eve. So instead of being an insult or disrespectful to call Mary “Woman” Jesus is saying she is the New Eve, she is the woman who has been awaited for centuries since God’s prediction to the serpent in Genesis that Eve’s offspring would bruise its head (Gen 3:15).

Mary’s response to Jesus was to tell the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5) It shows us Mary’s total trust in the Word of God. She is the first person in John’s Gospel to show total trust in the Word of God. Mary is therefore a model Christian for us as she says, “Do whatever he tells you.” Let us ask Mary to help us to do whatever Jesus tells us. As Mary says, “Do whatever he tells you” once again we see Mary’s importance as our intercessor, pleading on our behalf.

In conclusion, we remember that many times each day we ask Mary to intercede before God for us, to be our Advocate, as we pray the “Hail Mary” and say,

Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now, and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/year_c/02.htm

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 JANUARY, 2017, Saturday, Weekday of Christmas Time
FIGHTING THE BATTLE AGAINST SIN THROUGH INTIMACY WITH THE LORD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 JOHN 5:14-21; JOHN 2:1-11 ]

How can we fight against sin?  This seems an uphill task.  We all want to be good and to do the right thing.  We want to worship God and make Him the center of our lives.  Yet, as St John says, “The whole world lies in the power of the Evil One.”  We keep falling into sin no matter how much we try.  Indeed, it is so frustrating, especially with the sins of pride, anger, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony and greed.  Now and again, we fall into one of these sins.  So much so, some of us give up struggling against sin for our ego gets bruised just when we think after a good confession, we can now live a holy life.  Before we know it, there, we fall into sin again!  The tendency for us is to admit defeat and surrender to the temptations of the Evil One.  As it is often said, “if you cannot beat them, join them!” If we are having a defeatist attitude, then think twice again, as we read today’s first reading.

Firstly, St John tells us that “every kind of wrong-doing is sin, but not all sin is deadly.”  We must make a distinction between the sin that rejects God fundamentally in our lives and those venial sins that offend God out of human weakness because of human passion.   Among the mortal sins, the most deadly of all is the sin that rejects God wholly in our lives.  It is the refusal to acknowledge God and the truth.  It is the sin of impiety or practical atheism, that is, living in evil and shutting God completely out from our lives.  This deadly sin cannot be forgiven because the person is deliberately and freely choosing evil instead of goodness; Satan and His works instead of Christ and the gospel.  This sin “is a sin that is death, and I will not say that you must pray about that.”

Hence, St John urges us, “Children, be on your guard against false gods.”  We need to be on guard all the time.  The seven capital sins are the false gods in our lives where we worship ourselves primarily, and the world, which includes people and things.  By addressing us as “children” St John is reminding us that we are not the offspring of Satan but of God.  We are the children of God.  This is our true identity.  St John reiterates that ”anyone who has been begotten by God does not sin, because the begotten Son of God protects him, and the Evil One does not touch him. We know that we belong to God, but the whole world lies in the power of the Evil One.”  If we are truly children of God, and God is in us, in principle, we should not give ourselves to the Evil One as it contradicts our identity as sons and daughters of God in Christ.

But the existential fact is that we do sin.  This is our real frustration.  Not only do we sin, but we sin again and again.  So much so, we give up going for the sacrament of reconciliation because it seems we are repeating the same old sins and even adding new ones.  It appears that we are not getting any better.  This is precisely what the Devil wants.  He wants us to be discouraged and give up hope that we can ever live the life of God.  Even Jesus was tempted after His baptism in the desert when the Devil challenged His divine sonship by tempting Him to prove Himself by changing stone into bread or even jumping from the pinnacle of the Temple.  (Cf Lk 4:1-13)  So should we be surprised that after our baptism or after a good sacrament of reconciliation, the Devil would tempt us even more?

This is where St John, realizing that we are still children in faith, urges us, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to the sinner.” Yes, we must pray all the more for forgiveness and for the strength to resist the relentless attempts of the devil to derail our path to holiness.  And this is the assurance that St John gives us, “We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have been granted what we asked of him.” God will give us the grace to overcome sin, and greater grace still, when we sin, since St Paul says “where sin increases grace abounds all the more.” (Rom 5:20)

What does prayer entail?  It means coming into intimacy with the Lord.  As we grow in intimacy with the Lord, we will find ourselves more and more drawn towards Him than to the world.  Fighting against sin requires more than a passive resistance against temptation but an active offensive against sin by intensifying our relationship with the Lord.  If we focus too much on our sins and weaknesses, we become weak and discouraged.  Worse still, we become even more obsessed with the very thing that we want to give up. This is true particularly when it comes to the sin of lust and gluttony.  The more we want to give up, the more we are compelled and tempted, as it fills our minds and our hearts all day and night, thinking about sex and food.  So instead of giving in to further fantasies, we should be proactive by growing in love and in intimacy with our Lord.  The more we come to share in His love, the more we feel that we are loved by Him, the more secure we become and the less desire we have for the world and its goods.  When we are loved, we have everything.  The rest is secondary.  Why are we so lustful, greedy, envious and angry if not because we feel empty within, especially the vacuum of love in our lives?  But if God fills us with His love, then we will find ourselves complete and fulfilled.

Isn’t this what the gospel is inviting us through Mary and the miracle at Cana?  Mary was a great woman of prayer and hence also sensitive to the needs of others.  She knew Jesus so intimately that she also knew the needs of her fellowmen as well.  She is not only sensitive to God but also to those around her.  So when the wedding couple ran out of wine and it would have been so embarrassing for them, she told Jesus, “They have no wine.”  When Jesus replied to her, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet”, Mary simply instructed the servants saying, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Such was the utter confidence in her Son.  Without pressurizing Him, she just entrusted the whole quandary to Jesus.  If Mary was so great an intercessor, it was because not only did she unite herself with the needs and sufferings of her brothers and sisters but she was also in union with God and knows the mind and heart of God.  If she could pray so confidently as St John asked of us, it was because she knew that her Son is full of compassion and would somehow answer her request for the wedding couple even though it was not yet His Hour of glorification, which would only take place at His passion, death and resurrection. (Cf Jn 12:23-36)  The key to Mary’s powerful intercession is intimacy leading to obedience in doing His will.  So if we want to overcome sin, we need to know the Lord so that we can surrender our lives to Him since we would then have heard Him so clearly in our minds and feel His love so tenderly in our hearts.  We can be certain that Mary’s love for God and for her fellowmen had a part to play in moving the heart of Jesus to respond the same way to the couple’s predicament, notwithstanding His plan.

But something even more significant about today’s gospel is that the marriage feast at Cana is an anticipation of the sacrament of the Eucharist.  By associating this miracle with His Hour, that is, His death and resurrection, St John posits that by changing water into wine in Cana, Jesus was anticipating the cross where blood and water flowed from His side.  (cf Jn 19:34)  In other words, it prepares us for the sacrament of Baptism and the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist, we drink the new wine of the blood of Christ which gives us the Holy Spirit and we become one with Christ in Holy Communion. In uniting ourselves with the Lord, beginning with Baptism and reinforced by the reception of His body and blood, our intimacy with the Lord is intensified.  With Christ as our bridegroom and we His bride, we can then be confident that united in heart and mind with Him, we will find greater strength to resist sin and even if we fail, we know that He is there waiting to console us and encourage us to persevere.  Repeatedly, St John wrote in his letter, “we know” the heart of God that has been revealed to us by Jesus and so we need not be afraid.

Indeed, we must be patient because God does not force us to grow in love against our human nature.  He knows that because we are fallen creatures, we need time to learn, to grow in grace and wisdom.  That is why we must pick ourselves up again every time we fall, never thinking that we are without hope. And our hope is certain because it is founded in our Lord.

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

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https://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Jesus dining with sinners
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‘What?’ you may react! God Incarnate in the Person of Jesus imperfect as a ‘family man?’ I thought Jesus is supposed to be God the Father’s Perfect Human (Son of Man) example to each of us.
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there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples.When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 

He was known as a son of the deceased Joseph of Nazareth and his widow Mary, who raised His younger brothers at home.  Jesus was not a married man who could invite His friends over to His house. His Disciples met at Peter’s house, feasted in the homes of others or even gathered in fields on hillsides or park-like olive groves. Jesus seemed always to be a guest and never the host.

In many ways Jesus can NOT provide a perfect example for us in every life situation.

As a husband, does any human experience of Jesus show you how you should behave toward your wife? (Of course Jesus was not married to a woman.) Jesus does not model the role or place for a woman.  This Son of Man who had no children didn’t write a book of how to deal with your teen’s technology or your terrible two’s tantrums.

In a sense, Jesus was just like us in that He was imperfect as a family man.

Jesus loved celebrating with loved ones. He had to choose which parties He would attend and the company with whom He would spend His measured mortal time. Jesus celebrated as a guest with those He loved.

Read the rest:

http://talkofjesus.com/imperfect-family/

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, November 17, 2016 — “They were unable to enter because of unbelief.”

November 16, 2016

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious
Lectionary: 500

Reading 1 RV 5:1-10

I, John, saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who sat on the throne.
It had writing on both sides and was sealed with seven seals.
Then I saw a mighty angel who proclaimed in a loud voice,
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”
But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth
was able to open the scroll or to examine it.
I shed many tears because no one was found worthy
to open the scroll or to examine it.
One of the elders said to me, “Do not weep.
The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed,
enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.”Then I saw standing in the midst of the throne
and the four living creatures and the elders
a Lamb that seemed to have been slain.
He had seven horns and seven eyes;
these are the seven spirits of God sent out into the whole world.
He came and received the scroll from the right hand
of the one who sat on the throne.
When he took it,
the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders
fell down before the Lamb.
Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense,
which are the prayers of the holy ones.
They sang a new hymn:“Worthy are you to receive the scroll
and break open its seals,
for you were slain and with your Blood you purchased for God
those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation.
You made them a kingdom and priests for our God,
and they will reign on earth.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (Rev. 5:10) The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,
he saw the city and wept over it, saying,
“If this day you only knew what makes for peace–
but now it is hidden from your eyes.
For the days are coming upon you
when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;
they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.
They will smash you to the ground and your children within you,
and they will not leave one stone upon another within you
because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

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Commentary on Luke 19:41-44 From Living Space

Jesus is now on the last stage of his mission. He approaches Jerusalem, which will be the scene for the last great act of his life – his passion, death and resurrection. From here too will rise up the new community founded in his name, commissioned to continue the work he had started.

As he approaches the city he weeps over its tragic end. He implies that, if the city had received him as Lord and King, it might not have met the fate that was in store for it. “If only you had known the path to peace this day; but you have completely lost it from view.” The second half of the word ‘Jeru-salem‘ means ‘peace’,shalom. The city had not known the ‘path to peace’, which, of course, was that which led to Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the source of all peace in our lives. And it has hardly known peace since that time, especially where the Jewish people are concerned.

The rest of the passage is a prophecy of what in fact is going to happen to the city. We know that it was besieged by the Emperor Titus in the year 70 AD. However, Jesus’ words are built up from many Old Testament references and seem to refer rather to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC as much, if not more, than that brought about by the Romans. And, as none of the distinctive features of the Roman siege are mentioned, the words seem to date from before that time.

But, of course, it was the Romans who destroyed the city and its huge Temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world, was reduced to ruins. The Temple was ransacked and its most precious ornaments, including the seven-branched candlestick, were carried off. All of this is sculpturally recorded in the triumphal Arch of Titus erected in Rome to commemorate his victory and which can be seen in the Forum to this day.

All this will take place, Jesus says, “because you did not recognise the time of your visitation”. So many failed to recognise in Jesus as Messiah God’s coming to visit them and rejected him.

With the destruction of the Temple, the Jewish faith was dealt a serious blow from which it may be said it has never fully recovered. No temple has ever taken its place for it is felt it can only be on the same sacred site in Jerusalem. Unfortunately for the Jews, a mosque stands on the site today and is not likely to be removed. All that is left of Herod’s temple is the Wailing Wall, where Jews go to lament their lost glory.

For us Christians, there is no exclusively holy place, although certain places are of special significance to us. But, as Paul reminds us, each baptised person is a temple of the Spirit and is to act as such and be respected as such. “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them,” Jesus told his disciples (Matthew 18:20).

Such a gathering may be at a solemn papal Mass in the magnificent basilica of St Peter’s in Rome or it may be Christians gathering secretly in prayer in a labour camp in China. It does not matter. It is the closeness to Christ and to each other that matters and not the place.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2335g/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
FROM LAST YEAR
19 NOVEMBER 2015, Thursday, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time
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DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE BLINDED TO THE TRUTH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 MC 2:15-29; LK 19:41-44

When we read today’s scripture readings, we can easily empathize with both Mattathias in the first reading and Jesus in the gospel.  Both were very much in touch with the situation of their fellow human beings. They knew the problem and they could anticipate what would befall them if they did not change their lives.  Unfortunately, their fellow human beings could not see the truth because of their blindness.  So how should they best help them to see the reality of their situation so that they can be saved from their catastrophes?

This, too, is also our question today.  Very often we see certain situations so clearly.  We know, for example, how a man’s relationship with another woman would lead to adultery and cause a break-up with his family.  We see how a person who keeps working like a dog, day and night without rest will eventually suffer a break-down, destroying not only his health but his family as well.  We see how a person who smokes and drinks heavily will one day cause himself or his loved ones to die of cancer or a car accident.  In all these cases, we do not need any special inspiration from God to understand the consequences of such actions.  Yet, there are many people who are so blind to such realities until they encounter them; but by then it is often almost too late to regret.  So how do we help such people who are so blinded by their own passions and selfish desires?  What would be the best way to bring them out of their precarious path to suffering?

The scripture readings present us with two different approaches to dealing with sinners and those who are recalcitrant.  In the case of Mattathias, he was so incensed by a fellow Jew who apostatized in offering sacrifice to the pagan gods that he had him killed together with the rest of the King’s commissioners.  For Mattathias, he felt that the best way to transform the situation was to use force.  And indeed, besides killing his oppressors, he, his children and some others fled into the desert and started a rebel force to fight against the Roman oppressors.

However, in the case of Jesus, we see Him weeping over Jerusalem because the people would not accept His message of truth and peace.  This failure to respond to His message would eventually lead them to their own destruction. Indeed, Jesus’ foresightedness came true because Jerusalem was historically destroyed in the year AD 70.  But in spite of His certainty that Jerusalem and the people would be destroyed, Jesus did not force the people to accept His message.  He could only extend His invitation, feel with them and pray for them.  Indeed, He felt very sorry for His people because they could not recognize the visitation of the Lord.  He was helpless in love.

What can we say about these two approaches?  Although Mattathias meant well for his people, yet, we cannot but detect a certain selfish element in his action.  Firstly, he manifested a kind of intolerance towards his weak fellow Jews.  He did not feel with them.  By killing his fellow Jew, he was simply imposing his will on him and the other Jews.  He put fear into their hearts.  The danger for Mattathias is that he could become self-righteous and was certainly lacking in compassion and love.  Although we need not question his motives and zeal for the House of the Lord by killing the weak Jew who apostatized, regardless of his good intentions, he lacked charity.  Perhaps, like many people during his time, they mistook that fidelity to God and zeal for Him would require them even to kill their enemies.  Furthermore, He had confused religion with politics even though it is true that both do overlap in many areas.   Indeed, he was fighting for the religious freedom of his people, yet we know that at the same time, he confused the need for religious freedom with political freedom as well. But because he was not clear and discerning enough, his zeal, supposedly for the purity of the faith of the Jews, also became a political struggle against the Roman intruders.

Isn’t it true that very often when we help people we do have selfish motives as well?  On the surface we want to help people, but it is also because we have something to gain from it.  For example, parents want their children to do well in their studies and often they have to pressurize or nag them into disciplining themselves.  In itself, it is a noble thing to do.  But quite often when we examine our deeper motives for forcing them to study hard, under the pretext that we want them to do very well in their exams for their own good, we are also thinking of our interests.  We want them to do well not simply for themselves but also for our glory and perhaps we even see them as our investments for our old age.   Indeed, whatever we do in life, we tend to confuse our love for people and love for self.  For this reason, very often, we are intolerant of people who refuse to change even when they have been told of their mistakes.  Most anger is always the result of some self-centered needs that are not fulfilled.

But the way of Jesus is so different. One thing is certain, Jesus was weeping over Jerusalem not for Himself but for the people.  He was not weeping for Himself; that He would soon have to suffer a miserable death in the hands of His enemies.  He wept because He knew His time was near and that He would die soon and if His message was not heeded by the people, they would have missed the opportunity of life that God was offering them.  He wept for them in compassion and love.  Indeed, it is because Jesus had no selfish motives in helping them that He was not at all angry for their lack of response.  Instead, He felt very much with them.  He felt sorry for them.  But He did not feel the need to force people into conversion.  He did not threaten them.  No, His way is that of love, compassion and understanding. 

Yes, the way of Jesus is the way of God.  This is the heart of God’s love.  His love for us is unconditional and free.   He is free in loving us.  God knows that the only way to really win us over is not through force and compulsion but by love and understanding.  He knows that once He wins our hearts over in love, then we will come to understand the truth as well.  Christianity does not advocate violence of any sort, even in the struggle against religious freedom and social justice.  The way of the gospel is one of compassion, forgiveness and tolerance. If we lack patience and tolerance for those who are weak in faith or even compassion for the enemies of our faith, it is because we are also lacking in love.   It is this lack of love that blinds us to the truth.  But with love in our hearts, our minds will be open to the truth and we will see the situation in perspective.  This is particularly true even when we have misunderstandings with people.  We are so fixated in our views that we are no longer open to the views of others, thereby feeling that we are the victims of injustice when sometimes we could be the very ones who are acting unjustly.

Indeed, we see this so clearly in our spiritual life as well.  Many people do not wish to read the scriptures or deepen their faith nor even come to Church.  No matter how much we try to reason with them, they simply have no taste for the spiritual.  But when they have been touched by the love of God, they suddenly feel the urge to read the scriptures more, to pray more and to grow in understanding of their faith.  Only through an experience of God’s love and compassion, will people then come to search for the truth.

What is true in our relationship with God is also true in our relationship with our fellow human beings.  Even though we know that they are in the wrong and we have the truth, we cannot force truth on others.  We must first win them over by love, through patient dialogue and understanding.  Gradually, when they realize that we truly love them and are ready to hear them out in love and truth, they will one day begin to open their minds to what we are saying also.  Yes, the only way to the mind is first through the heart, for the heart knows and understands what the mind cannot know.  Only one language, in the final analysis, can speak to all; it is the language of love, not the language of truth.  Truth can be understood only through love.  This is undoubtedly a more difficult and long way to help a person to come to his senses and come to the truth.  But it is definitely more effective and enduring as well.

But to be able to love people freely and patiently, we certainly need to cultivate the heart and mind of Jesus.  We need to be filled with the love and compassion of Jesus.  Unless we ourselves experience the love and compassion of Jesus ourselves, we cannot give that compassion to others.  And the truth is that when we reflect on our own lives, we will realize that God has always treated us in such a way.  He has always been patient, forgiving and understanding towards us whenever we turned against Him and His ways.   For this reason we need to pray and meditate.  Only through prayer and contemplation will we come to experience the depth of God’s love for us in Jesus.  With this experience, we will find that we will also be able to love others with the love and compassion that Jesus has for us.   In this way, not only can we truly help others to find the truth and therefore find God also, but we also help ourselves to live in love and in the truth.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Above: By the way of Jesus…

John 10:1, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. Did you understand that? Anyone who attempts to enter into Heaven by human effort (works, sacraments, goodness, religious devotion, et cetera) is a THIEF and a ROBBER (because you’re trying to get into Heaven without going through the door. John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Jesus was asked if few people are going to Heaven. Jesus replied that MANY will seek to enter into Heaven, but only a few will be allowed.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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MISSING OUT ON THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  REVELATION  5:1-10; LUKE 19:41-44  ]

We can feel with Jesus when He shed tears over Jerusalem.  He came with a message of peace but the people did not understand.  In His infused knowledge, we could see the impending disaster that would befall the city unless the people changed from being revolutionaries to peacemakers.  Indeed, this prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans overran the city leaving many dead.  Many died of hunger as the city was under siege.  In their desperate desire to regain political power, they did not foresee the consequences for their citizens.  It led to mass massacres and innocent deaths.  Indeed, often political leaders do not weigh carefully the sufferings to the masses and their peoples when they take up arms for battle.

How tragic the words of Jesus when He said, all this happened “because you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it!”  This is true in our daily life.  How often have we felt helpless when those whom we advised refused to take heed of our counsel or even premonition!   We see our loved ones living an unhealthy lifestyle, eating, drinking and smoking excessively.  We know they are overweight and it would be a matter of time before they suffer a stroke or a heart attack.  But in spite of our reminders, they could not be bothered till it is too late.  Another case in point is gambling.  We see someone addicted to gambling.  We try to dissuade and encourage the person to cease such activities.  But the gambler of course would not admit that he has an addiction.  He would tell lies and try to cover up his tracks.  He starts to borrow money and then when he runs of resources and his debts begin to mount and the money lenders start to hound him, he starts to cheat, steal and commit criminal breach of trust.

Indeed, there are many stories of people who would not take heed of our advice.  It could be asking our children to study hard for their exams.  It could be someone who is coping with too much stress at work, more than he could handle.  It could be someone becoming addicted to drink and drugs.  We know from past experience the consequences for not breaking free from our bondages or a careless lifestyle.  We might not have the infused knowledge of Jesus but we would have foresight gained from hindsight.  We give advice and often our messages fall on deaf ears.  At times, those who hear our advice get offended, become defensive and even attack us for trying to help them.  They just want to follow their will and their desires.

Unfortunately, they will have to pay the price for their folly.  Sadly, that is how people learn.  They need to be brought low and be brought down before they could rise again.  Only when a smoker gets cancer, would he then stop smoking.  Only when a drunk driver has killed someone, would he then realize how important it is to drive safely and when he is sober. But by then, not only do they suffer for their recklessness but worst of all, their loved ones who are innocent have to bear and shoulder their sins.  Their families are destroyed.  Their lives are wrecked.  They have lost their security.  From then on, there is no peace at home.   And then we start to regret.  “If only I recognized the signs that were warning me already, this would not have happened.”  But it is too late to regret because what has been done cannot be undone.  Because of our selfishness, pride, self-will, we have hurt not just ourselves but our loved ones deeply.

For this reason, today, in the first reading, we are invited to come to Jesus, the Lamb of God sacrificed for us.  Only He can break the seven seals of the scroll and reveal to us our future and our destiny.   Only Christ can reveal to us what is to come.  Only He can reveal to us the mysteries of life.  Jesus who has seven eyes and seven spirits means that He is omniscient.   Only He knows the mysteries and the Hidden Plan of God.  By coming to Jesus, the Word of God, we can be enlightened in the truth and be convicted of our sins.  Otherwise, we live in darkness and confusion.

Jesus is not only the revealer of history and our future.  He is also our strength and our fortress.  He is called the Lion of Judah.  He is the One with the seven horns.  Seven stands for perfection.  Not only has He absolute knowledge, He has absolute power over His enemies.  If we face any trials and difficulties, Jesus as the Lion and with seven horns will ensure victory for us.  What we need is the inner strength that comes from God if we are to remain steadfast in times of opposition.  He can give us the power to break from our bondages if we are ready to submit our will to the Lord.  Indeed, on our own strength we cannot do many things, especially forgiving our enemies, those who have hurt us and all forms of obsessions and addictions.

He has shown Himself to be victorious over evil, sin and death by the fact that He was sacrificed.  Indeed, it was His sacrifice on the cross that made Him worthy to open the scroll of life and death. “You are worthy to take the scroll and break the seals of it, because you were sacrificed, and with your blood you bought men for God of every race, language, people and nation and made them a line of kings and priests to serve our God and to rule the world.”  With the cross and the resurrection of Christ, He demonstrated to us that nothing is impossible to overcome, not even sin, falsehood and hatred.

Most of all, Christ has “made us a line of kings and priests to serve our God.”  Christ wants to share His power with us.  We too are made kings in Christ.  We are given the power of self-control.  To be a king is to learn to manage ourselves before we can manage others.  As kings, we are called to govern and to be responsible for those under our care.  But we need to allow Christ to rule our lives.  To be priest, means that we have direct access to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Unlike in the Old Testament, where only priests could have access to the sanctuary of God, for Christians, we are the Temple of God and His sanctuary.  We are called to worship Him like the saints in heaven, singing praises to God.  We read what the saints do in heaven.   “The four animals prostrated themselves before him and with them the twenty-four elders; each one of them was holding a harp and had a golden bowl full of incense made of the prayers of the saints.  They sang a new hymn …”

So today, let us not miss out on the grace of God given to us.  His grace comes to us in many ways each day.  His message comes through our friends, a phone call, an email, an SMS or through a movie or a TV drama that we watch.  Most of all, His grace comes to us through prayer and contemplation. Let us listen for the voice of the Lord and enter in His peace. (cf Ps 85:8)  Only when we obey His word, can we find life.  Again the letter of Hebrews warns us, “And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”  (Heb 3:18f)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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

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Stopped At The Gates of Heaven

What does it take to enter heaven? Would a bag of M&Ms make the difference, if offered at just the right time?

When you stand by the pearly gates of heaven and St. Peter decides your fate, does he check out your posse too? When you want to head out onto the big back loops of Sugarbush, should you be stopped by the beginners you’re skiing with?

I took my sister’s family cross country skiing this weekend at the North Shore’s famous Sugarbush trail system. Helen had skied a lot in high school but her urban art and architecture career has kept her off the ski trails. None of her boys (husband and two preteens) had ever XC skied.

The Sugarbush trails at Britton Peak start with three perfect beginner loops. From the last of these, Piece of Cake, some of my most favorite ski trails take off. But before we even got to Piece of Cake, the younger cousin had demonstrated his love for falling in the bottomless snow enough times to tire even himself out.

The Homestead Loop starts with the big bomber downhill of Bridge Loop. That’s where our group stopped. My oldest son skied to the lip of the big hill to check it out. I had a BIG bag of M&Ms at the ready.

I chatted and schemed a bit. I had a bag of candy for rewards or bribes. Maybe the better skiers could just take the first bit of Bridge Loop around and catch up with the crowd on the way back. The cousins were ready to turn the corner, stay on the easy trails and loop back to the car. I was ready to go go go.

In the end, we all stuck together. I stood at the gates of heaven and I turned away.

They say it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. But what if you had the chance to love again, to ski that trail one more time…but cannot? Is that better?

Of course it is better…we were out on a gorgeous day on a great ski trail. We had a great time. The Sugarbush trails worked their magic.

But next time I stand at the gates of heaven, I’m going straight through them. Maybe St. Peter would like some M&Ms.

Stopped at the gates of heaven

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 22, 2016 — I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father except through me. — “Reject resentment and disappointment.”

September 21, 2016

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 452

Reading 1 ECCL 1:2-11

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
What profit has man from all the labor
which he toils at under the sun?
One generation passes and another comes,
but the world forever stays.
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The sun rises and the sun goes down;
then it presses on to the place where it rises.
Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north,
the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds.
All rivers go to the sea,
yet never does the sea become full.
To the place where they go,
the rivers keep on going.
All speech is labored;
there is nothing one can say.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing
nor is the ear satisfied with hearing.What has been, that will be;
what has been done, that will be done.
Nothing is new under the sun.
Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!”
has already existed in the ages that preceded us.
There is no remembrance of the men of old;
nor of those to come will there be any remembrance
among those who come after them.

Responsorial Psalm PS 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 AND 17BC

R. (1) In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
Prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Alleluia JN 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.

Gospel LK 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.

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Commentary on Luke 9: 7-9 From Living Space

Today we have a short interlude which is leading to some very special revelations.

Herod the tetrarch (his father Herod the Great’s kingdom had been divided among four sons) is hearing stories about what Jesus is doing. ‘Tetrarch’ means the ruler of the fourth part of a kingdom. This one, Herod Antipas, was one of several sons; the kingdom was divided among four of them. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. Although not strictly speaking a ‘king’ he is called that in Matthew and Mark following popular usage.

Herod is puzzled because he is being told that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead. At the same time others are saying that Elijah, whose expected return would signal the arrival of the Messiah, or some of the former biblical prophets has reappeared. Herod has recently beheaded John the Baptist and the superstitious king is filled with a mixture of fear and curiosity. He “kept trying to see Jesus”.

Luke does not actually record the death of John and, in this short passage, he prepares the reader for the later meeting of Herod with Jesus (23:8-12). So Herod’s wish will be partially fulfilled at a later date though under very unexpected circumstances and in a way that Herod will find very unsatisfactory. He is hoping that Jesus, like some circus dog, will do some ‘tricks’ or ‘miracles’ for him. [In the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Herod asks Jesus to walk across his swimming pool.]

Herod’s desire was almost entirely one of curiosity, it was the desire of the hedonist and the seeker of novelty. To see Jesus, in the full Gospel sense, is something totally other. It can only happen to those who have the eyes of faith and who can see in the person of Jesus the presence and power of God. We may recall the request of some “Greeks” who told Philip they wanted to see Jesus and the reply that Jesus gave about the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying (John 12:20-26). We have not seen Jesus if we do not know him in his suffering and dying as his way to new life.

Let us ask to see Jesus today, a seeing that leads to a total acceptance of his way of life and following him all the way, through the cross and beyond to a life that never ends.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2255g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• Today’s Gospel presents a reaction from Herod listening to the preaching of Jesus. Herod does not know how to place himself before Jesus He had killed John the Baptist and now he wants to see Jesus close to him. It is always threatening.
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• Luke 9, 7-8: Who is Jesus? The text begins with the exposition of the opinion of the people and of Herod on Jesus. Some associated Jesus to John the Baptist and to Elijah. Others identified him with a Prophet, that is, with a person who speaks in the name of God, who has the courage to denounce injustices of those in power and who knows how to give hope to the little ones. He is the Prophet announced in the Old Testament like a new Moses (Dt 18, 15). These are the same opinions that Jesus received from the disciples when he asked them: “Who do people say I am?” (Lk 9, 18). Persons tried to understand Jesus starting from things that they knew, thought and expected. They tried to set him against the background of the familiar criteria of the Old Testament with its prophecies and hopes, and of the Tradition of the Ancients with their laws. But these were insufficient criteria; Jesus could not enter into them, he was much bigger!
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• Luke 9, 9: Herod wants to see Jesus. But Herod said: “John, I beheaded him; so who is this of whom I hear such things?” “And he was anxious to see him”. Herod, a superstitious man without scruples, recognizes that he was the murderer of John the Baptist. Now, he wants to see Jesus. Luke suggests thus that the threats begin to appear on the horizon of the preaching of Jesus. Herod had no fear to kill John. He will not be afraid to kill Jesus. On the other side, Jesus does no fear Herod. When they tell him that Herod wanted to take him to kill him, he sent someone to tell him: “You may go and give that fox this message: Look, today and tomorrow I drive out devils and heal, and on the third day I attain my end.” (Lk 13, 32). Herod has no power over Jesus. When at the hour of the passion, Pilate sends Jesus to be judged by Herod, Jesus does not respond anything (Lk 23, 9). Herod does not deserve a response.
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• From father to son. Some times the three Herods, who lived during that time are confused, then the three appear in the New Testament with the same name: a) Herod, called the Great, governed over the whole of Palestine from 37 before Christ. He appears at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2, 1). He kills the new-born babies of Bethlehem (Mt 2, 16). b) Herod, called Antipas, governed in Galilee from the year 4 to 39 after Christ. He appears at the death of Jesus (Lk 23, 7). He killed John the Baptist (Mk 6, 14-29). c) Herod, called Agrippa, governed all over Palestine from the year 41 to 44 after Christ. He appears in the Acts of the Apostles (Ac 12, 1.20). He killed the Apostle James (Ac 12, 2).
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When Jesus was about four years old, King Herod, the one who killed the new-born babies of Bethlehem died (Mt 2, 16). His territory was divided among his sons, Archelaus, would govern Judea. He was less intelligent than his father, but more violent. When he assumed the power, approximately 3000 persons were massacred on the square of the Temple! The Gospel of Matthew says that Mary and Joseph, when they learnt that Archelaus had taken over the government of Galilee, were afraid and returned on the road and went to Nazareth, in Galilee, which was governed by another son of Herod, called Herod Antipas (Lk 3, 1). This Antipas governed over 40 years. During the thirty-three years of Jesus there was no change of government in Galilee.
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Herod, the Great, the father of Herod Antipas, had constructed the city of Caesarea Maritime, inaugurated in the year 15 before Christ. It was the new port to get out the products of the region. They had to compete with the large port of Tyron in the North and, thus, help to develop trade and business in Samaria and in Galilee. Because of this, from the time of Herod the Great, the agricultural production in Galilee began to orientate itself no longer according to the needs of the families, as before, but according to the demands of the market. This process of change in the economy continued during all the time of the government of Herod Antipas, another forty years, and found in him an efficient organizer. All these governors were ‘servants of power’. In fact, the one who commanded in Palestine, from the year 63 before Christ, was Rome, the Empire.
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Personal questions
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• It is well always to ask ourselves: Who is Jesus for me?
• Herod wants to see Jesus. His was a superstitious and morbid curiosity. Others want to see Jesus because they seek a sense for their life. And I, what motivation do I have which moves me to see and encounter Jesus?
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Concluding Prayer
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Each morning fill us with your faithful love,
we shall sing and be happy all our days;
let our joy be as long as the time that you afflicted us,
the years when we experienced disaster. (Ps 90,14-15)
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 SEPTEMBER 2016, Thursday, 25th Week of Ordinary Time
LOOK TO WHAT IS LASTING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  ECCLESIASTES 1:2-11; LUKE 9:7-9 ]

Today, we begin reading the Book of Ecclesiastes.  If we are not careful in reading this book in perspective, it can lead us to have a very pessimistic and fatalistic view of life.  This is because what the Preacher says is so true that we cannot but immediately identify with his sentiments.  So we can end up giving up on life.  Life seems to have no meaning.  No matter what we do, what we achieve, what we have, all will come to naught.  If that is the case, why work so hard and why seek to build anything at all?  They will ultimately be destroyed.  All our hard work and toil and labour will be in vain.  So we enter into a state of despondency and lose all zeal for life and work, wishing that we die earlier.

We can even go to the other extreme of just enjoying life.  Since life has no meaning, pleasure is what is left.  So there are many people whose life is reduced to pleasure, eating, drinking and merry-making.  They have no thought of tomorrow because there is no tomorrow.  Left with today, they want to enjoy everything they can, including indulging in immoral activities because once dead, life is no more.  So in desperation to seek happiness in life, they get themselves involved in all kinds of adventure, even risky ones to get the most out of life.  Yet, at the end of the day, those whose lives are filled with pleasure, entertainment, sex and eating, are they really happy or fulfilled?  Isn’t such a life no better than that of an animal?

Hence, it is important to read the teachings of the Preacher in context.  Supposedly, the author of this book is King Solomon who was writing in his old age, around the 9th century.  Appropriately, this book is placed next to the Song of Solomon.  However, the style of writing appears to come much later, perhaps in the 3rdcentury before Christ.  Regardless, the point remains that whoever the author was, he had arrived at the climax of his career and had begun to wonder what life was all about.  Like King Solomon, he had all he wanted in life.   He had riches, power, wives, glory and a beautiful palace to live in.  So he was not lacking in anything.  Yet, he was not at peace.  He was not happy or fulfilled.  This is very true for many people in the world.  When they arrive at the height of their career and are now wealthy, powerful and have whatever life can afford, having enjoyed all these, they begin to wonder whether there is more to life than just eating, drinking, sex and entertainment.

Most painful of all is that if we live longer, we will see that all that we have done would be undone.  Life just carries on with or without us.  This is what the first reading seeks to express.  Life is a cycle. History will repeat itself.   “A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm forever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; back then to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea all the rivers go, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome.”  It is an endless repetition.  We have seen what happened to those before us, great, wealthy and powerful men.  Where are they today?  So with us as well!  We will go and join our forefathers in time to come.

And the reality is that we never learn.  We should not be surprised.  We know what history is like.  We know that we cannot escape from the same end our forefathers had gone through.  “No man can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was will be again; what has been done will be done again; and there is nothing new under the sun. Take anything of which it may be said, ‘Look now, this is new.’ Already, long before our time, it existed. Only no memory of remains of earlier times, just as in times to come next year itself will not be remembered.”   Nothing is new under the sun!

That is why we need to pray for wisdom of heart.  The psalmist says, “Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart. Lord, relent! Is your anger forever? Show pity to your servants.”  Indeed, we need to see life in perspective.  Otherwise we will end up disillusioned, like the Preacher, if we just continue with our worldly pursuits, giving so much time and energy and arrive at nothing.  We are no happier than one who is less wealthy and powerful than us.  This has happened to so many people because we keep listening to the world that says that we will only be happy if we are successful, have more money, a big house, a big car and food and holidays.  Are these people really happy and at peace?

Realizing the mistakes of our forefathers, we must therefore avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.  We must learn from them so that we can live happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives.  Firstly, let us remember that life is short.  “You turn men back to dust and say: ‘Go back, sons of men.’ To your eyes a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, no more than a watch in the night. You sweep men away like a dream, like the grass which springs up in the morning. In the morning it springs up and flowers: by evening it withers and fades.”  For this reason, we must live as fully as possible and not allow time to be wasted away.

Secondly, to be happy presupposes we live a life of integrity, a life of responsibility, according to our conscience.   We have King Herod in the gospel.  He too was rich and successful.  He had power and money but he was also living in guilt and fear, especially after sentencing the prophet, John the Baptist to death.  He could not live with his guilt and could not forgive himself for committing such a heinous crime.   He might have been able to continue with his adulterous relationship with Herodias but there was no peace.  How can a couple truly love when there is no peace in that relationship?  They can be together in bed but there is no real joy in love because there is no peace.  A guilty person tends to read into every situation even when it has nothing to do with him.  That was the case of Herod when he heard about Jesus, thinking it was John the Baptist who came back to life.

Thirdly, happiness is simply to enjoy whatever life can afford, especially spending time with our loved ones and friends in fellowship.  Be happy and contented with what we have and make the best of it.  Do not be envious of what others have that we do not have.  If only we just make full use of what is given to us, we would be happy enough. This is what the psalmist says, “In the morning, fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days.”  We are to enjoy the little and big pleasures of life, the flowers in the garden, the morning exercise, the simple breakfast and occasionally, a holiday or a big meal and celebration.  Such moments are little reprieves for the hard work we do and the stressful life we lead.

Fourthly, happiness and meaning is found in work.  The psalmist prays, “Let the favour of the Lord be upon us: give success to the work of our hands.”  Life is not all pleasure and enjoyment because they can satisfy the body but not the spirit.  We have a soul and we have a mind.  We need to feel and think.  This is what makes us human.  We need to exercise and use our potentials so that we can grow intellectually and mentally.  Otherwise, we become demented in no time if we do not use our brains often.  God gives us a mind to think and to be creative.  So having a balanced life includes finding work that gives us meaning and purpose and can enrich us.

Fifthly, happiness in life comes when we give ourselves to others.  If we want to be happy in life, it is not sufficient to take care of ourselves or our work; we need to expand our humanity by reaching out to those who need help.  In reaching out to the poor and the suffering, we become more aware of our humanity; and it helps to develop the humanity inside us, drawing out from us our compassion, love and kindness.  Knowing that we are capable of feeling with and caring for those who are suffering or deprived makes us more human.  As we love them, we feel loved also in return.  It is the human touch that keeps us human and not like a robot without feelings.

Finally, happiness ultimately depends on our relationship with God.  A man without God, a man without a good prayer life will find that his life has no foundation, no goal and no purpose.  That is why faith in God and in eternal life is what gives meaning to our life and brings everything we do on earth together. Faith in God is that thread that sews all things together, giving us a holistic life.  This explains why those without God and without faith, in spite of their success, live unfulfilled lives.  There is a vacuum and at the end of their life, they leave without hope for tomorrow.  Such is the vanity of life without God.   It seems this life is futile.

Indeed, if we observe these basic principles of life, then we need not end our life in resentment and disappointment.  By living our life to the fullest in enjoyment, love, work and service, we have a foretaste of the life to come.  By living a contented life, but not a complacent life, doing what we can, enjoying what is given to us and making ourselves useful to the world, we find that life is not too bad at all, even if this life will come to an end.  What is important is not whether what we have achieved would continue but that through our involvement and contributions, we have built ourselves up in maturity in the manhood of Christ.  The world is the arena in which we help to build the lasting city of love, peace and joy.

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

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Repeat warnings

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel. — Galatians 1:6

“Caution, the moving walkway is ending. Caution, the moving walkway is ending.” If you’ve ever used an automated walkway at an airport, you’ve heard this kind of announcement repeatedly.

Why do airports repeat this announcement over and over? To ensure safety and to protect them from liability if someone were to be injured.

Repeated announcements can be annoying, but they do have value. As a matter of fact, the apostle Paul thought repeating a warning was so vital that he did it in the text of Galatians. But his statement had value far beyond the danger of tripping at the airport. Paul warned them not to listen to, nor believe, him or an angel from heaven if they preached “any other gospel” than what they had already heard (1:8). In the next verse, Paul said it again. It was a warning worth repeating. The Galatians had begun to believe that their salvation was dependent on good works instead of the true gospel: faith in Christ’s work.

The gospel of Jesus—His death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins—is the story that we have the privilege and responsibility to share. When we present the gospel, let’s share that the risen Jesus is the only solution to the problem of sin. – Dave Branon

He is the way, the truth, the life—

That One whose name is Jesus;

There is no other name on earth

That has the power to save us. —Sper

Read: Galatians 1:6-10

Only one road leads to heaven — Jesus Christ is the way.

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, September 6, 2016 — “And even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.”

September 5, 2016

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

Christ Calling the Apostles James and John by Edward Armitage (1817–1896)

 

Reading 1 1 COR 6:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
How can any one of you with a case against another
dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment
instead of to the holy ones?
Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?
If the world is to be judged by you,
are you unqualified for the lowest law courts?
Do you not know that we will judge angels?
Then why not everyday matters?
If, therefore, you have courts for everyday matters,
do you seat as judges people of no standing in the Church?
I say this to shame you.
Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough
to be able to settle a case between brothers?
But rather brother goes to court against brother,
and that before unbelievers?Now indeed then it is, in any case,
a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another.
Why not rather put up with injustice?
Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?
Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers.
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived;
neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers
nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves
nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers
will inherit the Kingdom of God.
That is what some of you used to be;
but now you have had yourselves washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and in the Spirit of our God.

Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4) The Lord takes delight in his people.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.

AlleluiaSEE JN 15:16

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

Gospel LK 6:12-19

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

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

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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In our world today, it has become quite common for people to take one another to court as they fight over grievances. One of the ugly fruits of our modern “divorce mentality” is that husbands and wives battle each other in court.
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And what does Paul write to the Corinthians?
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“How can any one of you with a case against another
dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment
instead of to the holy ones?
Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?
If the world is to be judged by you,
are you unqualified for the lowest law courts?”
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“The very fact that you have lawsuits against one another is disastrous for you.”
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Personal questions

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

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Concluding Prayer

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

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

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 SEPTEMBER 2016, Tuesday, 23rd Week of Ordinary Time
PRAYER BEFORE SERVICE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 COR 6:1-11; LK 6:12-19 ]

Many of us are not happy in ministry or in work.  We are burnt-out because of work and stress. We find difficulties working with our superiors and our colleagues.  Of course, we also make many blunders and wrong decisions in our work and ministry as well.

What is the cause of such unhappy consequences?  Simply because we do not pray before we work or serve.  Most of us serve out of goodwill in Church and in voluntary organizations.  Most of us work simply for monetary remuneration.  Otherwise, we are driven by ambition and our ego.  We want to feel good and be recognized by others as being capable and good.  We are not motivated purely by love but by self-love.  Most of all, we rely on our own strength and abilities and talents.  As a consequence, we often lack direction and the right motives in whatever we do. We lose our center and live a fragmented life, torn apart by so many demands from different quarters in our lives.  No wonder we feel tired, drained out, edgy and irritable.

Jesus, too, had a very hectic ministry.   He was busy the whole day, attending to the sick, mentoring His disciples, teaching the crowd and most of all, managing His enemies.  So what is the secret of Jesus if not the fact that He always prayed before He began His work the next day.  Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.  Indeed, if we want to find wisdom, clarity, strength and power to do what we have to do in our daily life and work, we need to draw from the Lord.  We cannot depend on ourselves, thinking that hard work alone will ensure success and plentiful fruits for our labour.  We must be humble enough to know that only God can work wonders beyond our imagination.

So how did Jesus pray?  What did He do all night when He was with His Father?  What did He talk about with His Father?  In other words, what should we do in prayer?  What should we be asking or saying?  Truly, many of us are at a loss when it comes to discursive or contemplative prayer.  We just sit before the Lord in silence but do not seem to be getting any insights.  There is only a monologue and we feel the absence of God.  This explains why many give up easily in prayer after a few minutes because they are at a loss as to how they should spend their quiet time with the Lord.

Well, Jesus must have first and foremost been basking in His Father’s love.  He would have sat before His Father like a child listening attentively to his father.  Jesus would have been in deep intimacy, wonder and love for His Father, just like a child who is so happy to sit on the lap of his father.  Recalling the love of His Father during the day and the many times the Father came to His help, must have renewed His love for His Father.  Indeed, the first stage of prayer is always being present to the love of our Father.

We just need to bask ourselves in His love and mercy for us by recalling the wonders He has done for us in our daily life; and there are so many.  If we think there is none, it is because we have taken our blessings for granted; things that are so essential, like being able to use our senses, seeing, hearing, touching, eating, smelling etc.  Isn’t good health the greatest gift from God?  Shouldn’t we be thanking God for our house, our job and our loved ones?  We must thank God for all the angels He sent to help us through each day as well.

Secondly, Jesus would have spoken to the Father about the many people who were suffering from all kinds of afflictions, the sick, the blind, the lame, the lepers and those who were possessed.  We know this because the next morning, like the other days, “a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.”  Jesus must have felt burdened by the incessant cries and pains of the people seeking for help, relief and cure from their misery.  He must have interceded with His Father to heal them.  We recall that He did the same thing before He raised Lazarus from the dead.  “And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.’” (Jn 11:41f)  Indeed, it was because of His prayer that the Father hears because we read that “People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.”  Power came out of Jesus because He prayed to the Father.

Thirdly, in His conversation with His Father, He would have discussed about the future of His ministry.  He knew that He could not carry on this work all by Himself.  He would need help from His disciples.  More so, when the time came for Him to return to the Father, He would need them to continue His mission. So the Lord was seriously considering who to appoint as His apostles, His inner circle of disciples, so that He could prepare them for the ministry. He would have spent time thinking through whom He should appoint among the many disciples.  As all leaders know, there is no perfect worker or assistant.  Every member in the team has his or her strength and liability.  If we are waiting to find a perfect worker, it will never happen.  As leaders, if we want our vision to be realized, it is important that we find a good team to help us in our mission and to continue what we have started.

Finding the right team of leaders is not just a matter of studying their Curriculum Vitae or interviewing them, but we need to ask the Lord for wisdom in discernment as there are certain things that are not based on mere objective credentials.  We need an intuitive knowledge of whether the person, although capable, will truly be passionate and be convicted in what we are doing.  Only after spending the whole night in prayerful discernment, did he “summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; he called them ‘apostles’”.

Finally, in His discernment process, He must have also been worried that the diverse backgrounds of His disciples might not make them suitable for the ministry.  Most of them are uneducated.  Some were revolutionaries.  There was a zealot whom the Roman soldiers would be wary of.  There was a tax-collector who was hated by all Jews.  So there was a motley group of apostles.  They were probably in human eyes, the worst possible team to assemble as the leaders of the future Church.  Worst of all, would they able to work together, considering their different backgrounds, characters, ideologies and talents?  Again, He would have spoken to His Father of the challenges in handing them.   Indeed, we know that often they apostles were bickering among themselves and jostling for power, honour and wealth.

We can be sure that the Father reassured Jesus that the strange team that He chose was the best team.  It would not be them that will ensure the success of His plan but He would demonstrate His power by transforming them.  And indeed, through the death and resurrection of our Lord and the sending of the Holy Spirit, these ambitious, self-centered and uncouth men became great apostles for our Lord, even to the extent of giving up their lives for Jesus in martyrdom.  With the help of His Father, the Spirit gave Him that power.  Yes, we read, “People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.”

The great thing about our Christian faith is that we do not rely on our own strength.  We must cooperate with the grace of God, but we can only change lives through prayer, especially intercessory prayer. Indeed, as a regular preacher, minister and retreat master, I know that it is never my preaching alone that touches hearts and changes lives, but rather it is the power of God at work through me, His inadequate instrument.  This is the implication of what St Paul was writing to the Corinthians.  The rationale for why Christians should not go to court is because the secular court does not use Christian values to judge a case.  Most of the legal laws are vindictive and more a “humane” way to take revenge on those who have hurt us.  For Christians, however, we believe in forgiveness, overcoming evil with good, not with evil, and suffering unjustly for the sake of Christ.  We do not believe in revenge and seeing our enemies suffer because of their sins and crimes.

Hence, St Paul reminded them how they were transformed by the mercy and power of God too. “You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God: people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God.  These are the sort of people some of you were once, but how you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.”  We, too, were once without mercy and walking in darkness.  So we are called to transform lives by living a life of love, compassion and forgiveness.

But we cannot adopt such a Christ-like outlook in life without spending time in prayer before service each day.  The higher the position and greater the responsibility you hold in life, the more you need to pray because your decisions and actions will affect a larger number of people for good or for bad. Thus, it behooves all of us in leadership to make more time for prayer in silent contemplation of His love for us so that we can seek His wisdom and tap His power to accomplish the task He has given us to do for the good of the Church and humanity.  It would do us much good if we begin each day, spending an hour before the Eucharist and then celebrating the Eucharist, before we start our work.  This will ensure that we are always walking in the Spirit of the Lord.

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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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