Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 16’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 15, 2017 — Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows — “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me.” — “Because I live, you also will live.”

September 14, 2017

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Lectionary: 441/639

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Our Lady of Sorrows by Sassoferrato

Reading 1 1 TM 1:1-2, 12-14

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our savior
and of Christ Jesus our hope,
to Timothy, my true child in faith:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he considered me trustworthy
in appointing me to the ministry.
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.
Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1B-2A AND 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

mothercrucified3

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

Sequence (Optional) — Stabat Mater

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia)

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 19:25-27

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

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Our Lady of Sorrows by Tianna Mallett

Or LK 2:33-35

Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

https://www.markmallett.com/blog/category/mary/page/2/

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Our Lady of Sorrows – Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-9; Ps 30; Luke 2:33-35 or John 19:25-27 From Living Space

There are two choices for the Gospel reading. The first is from Luke’s account of the Presentation in the Temple. While they were in the Temple, Mary and Joseph met the holy man Simeon, who had been promised that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah.

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When he meets Mary and Joseph, he recognises the Messiah in the Baby she is holding. He then proceeds to make some prophecies about Jesus and, addressing Mary herself, tells her that a “sword of sorrow” will pierce her heart. He does not specify what that “sword” might be but now we can see that it particularly alludes to the suffering and death of Jesus which she witnessed. However, the “sword” can also be applied to the other painful experiences we remember in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

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The alternative Gospel reading is from John’s account of the Crucifixion where he mentions that the “mother of Jesus” was standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son died. With her were two other women, her sister called Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”.

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Seeing them there, Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to the care of his Mother, while telling the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ Mother is his also. Some would see in this scene the Mother of Jesus as symbolising the Christian community. There is to be a relationship of mutual support between the community and its dedicated members. The community exists for the well-being of the individual members and each member is committed in turn to the well-being of the community.

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The First Reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and speaks of Jesus’ passionate prayer to his Father that he not have to go through the terrible death of the Cross. And his prayer was heard, because of his total submission to his Father. It was precisely through the acceptance of his suffering that he learnt to be totally at one with the will of his Father. And, being made perfect through his obedience, he became a source of salvation for all others who unite themselves to him.

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And who was more united to Jesus than his Mother? It is because of her acceptance of and identification with the sufferings of her Son that we celebrate her memory today.

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Our Lady of Sorrows — The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From September 15, 2014)
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There are many ways to look at sufferings in life.   Those who are negative will look at sufferings as a curse from God.  Such an attitude can turn them bitter against God and the world.  When we try to run away from our sufferings or deny them, we will end up being miserable.

Fortunately, most of us assume a positive approach to suffering; seeing it as a pedagogy of life.  In other words, it teaches us about life and most of all, it purifies our attitude towards people.  It helps to sanctify us.  Indeed, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, Jesus Himself learned obedience through suffering.  In other words, we can embrace suffering as part of the mystery of life or fight it.  If we fight against suffering, then we open ourselves to greater pain, like when we harden our muscles when receiving an injection.  The way to overcome suffering is to let go and embrace it as God’s will for our growth, purification and strengthening of character.

However, it is not sufficient to see suffering in this manner as it is still very much focused on the self.  Rather, suffering should teach us to reach out, for it is only in reaching out that we are able to forget our own sufferings.  The clue to reaching out is found in the gospel of St John, when we are told that “the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  In other words, like John, we are called to feel with Mary, just as Mary felt with Jesus and identified herself with Him.

When St Paul tells us that if we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory, and that if we share in His death, we also share in His resurrection, he is not simply suggesting that if we suffer just like Jesus, we too will be glorified and raised like Jesus.  Of course, this is true, but there is a deeper significance to this exhortation of Paul.

St Paul is telling us that in sharing the sufferings of Christ, we will understand not only what Christ has gone through, but what He has suffered for us, for our sake and for our salvation.  In other words, by sharing in His sufferings, we can now identify with Him, not just in His sufferings, but also feel the depth of His love for us.  Only when we come to know how much He has loved us, can we come to love Him even more.  If we are called to know how much He suffered, it is so that we can appreciate the extent of His selfless love for us.  It is important that we understand the purpose of His sufferings.

Suffering in itself is not redeeming unless it is experienced for love of others.  So in sharing Christ’s sufferings and understanding His love for us, we are now ready to suffer for Him in return as our grateful response to His love.  Indeed, this was the way Christ suffered.  If He could suffer so much for us, it was because He had experienced the Father’s self-emptying love for Him.

Even in human relationships, we are inclined to be more sympathetic to people whom we encounter, and those who share their sufferings and pain with us.  Without understanding their struggles, the natural reaction would be for us to apply the laws to them objectively, without taking into consideration their existential context.  But justice, especially the justice of God, requires that we apply laws within the context and circumstances of each individual, as opposed to a legalistic manner.  Indeed, when we lack contact with a person and lack understanding of his or her personal struggles, we cannot empathize very much with the person.

That is why dialogue and communion enables us to feel with and for each other.  It is not in our nature to act objectively; only robots do that.  But neither do we act subjectively, for if we do, then we are not living out the truth.  Rather, we act objectively in a subjective manner, taking into consideration both the person and his circumstances.  Compassion and justice meet in God and in the Christian.  Once we recognize the person as a person and not a thing, then we too, can help the person to transcend his struggles.

Truly, if we feel with each other, then like Jesus, we will look upon others with compassion and sympathy rather than judgmentally.  In silent tears, we pray for those who are suffering and in pain, especially for our enemies, because like Jesus, we can understand why they are acting the way they do.  Like Jesus, we are called to forget our own sufferings but instead, to look towards the sufferings of others, so that no longer will we judge them with condemnation but with mercy.  For like Christ, we are called to share not just in His sufferings but we must also share in the sufferings of our enemies.

Today, Mary is our model.  If she is so associated with the redemptive suffering of Christ, it is because as a mother she must have felt with Jesus in His mission of love.  Most of all, if she could forgive the enemies of her Son, it was also because she could feel the way He felt for His enemies.  So, if we too, can feel with Jesus in His sufferings through our sufferings, we will repent of our own sins, return to Him in love and gratitude and undertake upon ourselves the same mission of love and mercy that we have received from Jesus.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/15-september-2014-our-lady-of-sorrows/#sthash.Z32XBVDT.dpuf

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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September 15, 2015
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SHARING THE SUFFERINGS OF OUR LOVED ONES IN SPIRIT
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Hebrews 5:7-9Luke 2:33-35

How often do we feel helpless in helping people, especially when they are suffering?  Not only are we unable to help them financially or physically, but even emotionally.  Indeed, we are often lost for words to encourage them.  We do not know what to say to comfort them.  We look at them and we feel so helpless and useless.  There is nothing we can do to relieve the suffering.  We use means in our power to help but to no avail.  We can only watch them suffer in pain and in depression.  We feel frustrated and even angry with God, besides being angry with ourselves.  In such a situation, what do we do?

Like Mary, we are called to simply stand by the cross of Jesus.  In celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we feel with Mary who stood by Jesus not just when He was rejected in His ministry and even thought to be mad by His relatives.  She had always stood by Him in good and in bad times.   Although alone and widowed, she did not prevent Jesus from leaving home for the work of His Father.  Mary was supportive of Jesus’ mission from beginning to the end.

But we have no sufferings that can be compared with Mary’s sufferings.  No one can and will ever be able to suffer the way Mary suffered with Jesus.  She was His mother.  He was her only son, her flesh and blood.  She was one in mind and heart with her Son.  At the wedding in Cana, she was one with the will of God and invited us to do the same, “Do whatever He tells you.”   When presented with a problem she did not once exert the obligations of filial piety on Jesus to solve it. She just informed the Son that “they had no wine” without instructing Him what to do.  She knew her Son better and trusted in His wisdom and judgement.  (cf Jn 2)

Hence, when we reflect on the death of Jesus on the Cross, it must be said, that although Mary did not suffer in body like Jesus, she suffered in spirit.  She was a martyr in spirit. St Bernard wrote, “Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.” She suffered not so much in her body but she suffered as much as what Jesus suffered on the cross morally.  Jesus suffered because of our sins, which He carried in His body. Not only did He carry our sins but He was also condemned for our sins. Like the Suffering Servant, He was crushed for our sins.

What went through the heart of Mary when she saw her Son carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem on His way to Mount Calvary?  We cannot imagine how much she would have suffered, seeing her Son bathed in blood, scourged beyond recognition, losing so much blood and with raw and open wounds, carrying the cross and being paraded as a criminal.  Yet, Mary stood bravely with Jesus and moved with the crowd as she watched helplessly her Son struggling all alone with the weight of the cross and enduring the ignominy of being ridiculed and shamed by the people and mocked by the soldiers.  Yet, Mary did not utter a word against God or against His enemies.  In sorrow and in pain she shared with Jesus His sufferings in her heart.  She must have been such a strong woman to carry such pain in her heart.  Her grief cannot be compared to ours even when we lose our own loved ones.

Most of all, when she was at the foot of the cross, she had to endure the last filial act of our Lord on the Cross when He gave His disciple to Mary, “Behold your son!”  And to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother!”  (Cf Jn 19:26f)  On the surface, Jesus was doing a filial act by entrusting the care of His mother to one of His disciples, since Jesus was her only son.  But how can the Son of God be replaced by the son of man; or a master by a disciple?  There is no substitute for Jesus.  This is true for us when we love someone dearly and deeply.  Can anyone replace our spouse, our boyfriend or girlfriend or even our dog?

Mary fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon who said that a sword will pierce her heart. “As the father and mother of Jesus stood wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’”  (Lk 2:33-35)  So deep is the wound and so sharp is the sword that no one can ever feel the way she felt.  After the death of Jesus, He no longer felt the pain in His body or in His soul, but her soul suffered the violence of sorrow.  For this reason, the Church gave her the title, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.  Beyond the prophecy of Simeon, she suffered when she had to flee for their lives to Egypt.  She suffered the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple.  She was filled with sorrow when she met Jesus on the way to Calvary.  Certainly, she must have been so overwhelmed at the way Jesus died on the cross.  As if it was not enough to see Him crucified, Mary had to see her Son pierced on the side by a soldier’s lance.  This last action would have pierced her heart even more.  Finally, all that was left for Mary was to receive the lifeless bloody body of Jesus in her arms and leave Him in the tomb.  Such were the seven sorrows of Mary.

Yet in all these events, she was not angry with God or vindictive of the enemies of her Son.  She stood by the cross in silence and joined her sufferings with that of her Son, forgiving those who killed Him.  There was no anger but only grief for her enemies because of their ignorance.  She was so full of love that she could love beyond herself and her own pain of seeing her Son suffering.   Like her Son on the cross, she would have uttered the same words of Jesus in her heart, “Father, forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.”  Like Jesus, Mary not only forgave her enemies but she prayed for them and made excuses for their actions, reducing them to ignorance.  Such was the magnanimity of Mary.  How many of us pray for our enemies with love and compassion, much less to make excuses for them for hurting us and making us suffer?

In the light of this feast of our Lady of Sorrows, we too are called to suffer in spirit with those who are suffering, especially when they suffer innocently and unjustly.  Our blessed Mother is asking us to suffer in silence and in love for them, whether they are our friends or our enemies.  If we feel helpless like her for her Son, let us offer that inadequacy in helping our loved ones with Mary to Jesus. With those who are the cause of our suffering, we must remember what St Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing.”  (1 Pt 3:9)  And again, he wrote, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”  (1 Pt 3:17f)

Indeed, following the example of Jesus in our weakness, we need to surrender everything to the Lord in faith and trust and in obedience.  If we surrender ourselves to Him in total obedience to His divine will and wisdom, the Lord will hear us and He will transform us.  This is all that is needed of us.  We cannot take things into our own hands.  We need to allow God to be God.  Just as He did the impossible by raising Jesus from the dead, He will do the same for us.   We only need to pray in faith.  We are called to stand by the cross like Mary.  We feel with them and for them.  Remaining helpless, we need to believe in the power and wisdom of God that He will act in His own time.

So let us obey Jesus and give a place to Mary in our home, in our spiritual life.  Like the beloved disciple, let us bring Mary to our home.  This means that we are called to accept Mary as our spiritual mother.  She is the mother of the Church represented by the unnamed disciple of the Lord.  We are called to learn from her to share the sufferings in spirit of those whom we cannot help in body.   We may not be able to take away the sufferings of the other person but we can always pray for them and offer them the hope of Christ.  Let us in faith take the assurance of Jesus to heart, “Because I live, you also will live.” (Jn 14:19)

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 19, 2017 — “If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve.”

August 18, 2017

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 418

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Art: Joshua’s Army Marches Around Jericho

Reading 1  JOS 24:14-29

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
and addressed them, saying:
“Fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely.
Cast out the gods your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt,
and serve the LORD.
If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

But the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey and among all the peoples
through whom we passed.
At our approach the LORD drove out all the peoples,
including the Amorites who dwelt in the land.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Joshua in turn said to the people,
“You may not be able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God;
he is a jealous God who will not forgive
your transgressions or your sins.
If, after the good he has done for you,
you forsake the LORD and serve strange gods,
he will do evil to you and destroy you.”

But the people answered Joshua, “We will still serve the LORD.”
Joshua therefore said to the people,
“You are your own witnesses that you have chosen to serve the LORD.”
They replied, “We are, indeed!”
Joshua continued:
“Now, therefore, put away the strange gods that are among you
and turn your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”
Then the people promised Joshua,
“We will serve the LORD, our God, and obey his voice.”

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day
and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem,
which he recorded in the book of the law of God.
Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak
that was in the sanctuary of the LORD.
And Joshua said to all the people, “This stone shall be our witness,
for it has heard all the words which the LORD spoke to us.
It shall be a witness against you, should you wish to deny your God.”
Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his own heritage.

After these events, Joshua, son of Nun, servant of the LORD,
died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Alleluia SEE MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 19:13-15

Children were brought to Jesus
that he might lay his hands on them and pray.
The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said,
“Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
After he placed his hands on them, he went away.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 AUGUST, 2017, Saturday, 19th Week, Ordinary Time
RENEWING OUR COMMITMENT TO THE LORD AND HIS PEOPLE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jos 24:14-29Ps 16:1-2,5,7-8,11Mt 19:13-15 ]

Today, it is difficult to find people who are committed to their vocation in life or the work they do.  This is particularly true of relationships.  Marriage is no longer a lifelong commitment.  People marry with great skepticism that the marriage would last.  What is true of marriage is also true of vocation.  The number of priests and religious leaving the ministry is increasing each day.  Some leave just a couple of years after their ordination.  Even those who stay are doing so for security reasons as they have lost their zeal in serving the Lord and His people.  This is even truer of jobs.  Very seldom do we have a worker who is loyal to the company for life.  The moment they find a better job, they leave.

Joshua who led the people into the Promised Land was fully aware of the temptations ahead of them. Upon settling down in the land of Canaan, they would become rich and influenced by the Canaanite culture and religion.  In the desert, they had nothing and no one to rely on except God alone.  But once they have settled down in the Promised Land, they would be able to plant their own crops and be self-sufficient.  For this reason, Joshua felt the need to have the people reaffirm their commitment to the Lord.  They were asked to renew their decision to follow the Lord with all their heart.

Today, we too are called to renew our commitment to the Lord.  This commitment could be our priestly or marriage promises or religious vows.  This is particularly relevant especially when we celebrate our anniversary.  It is an occasion to renew our promises and vows to the vocation that we have chosen.  What does it take to renew our commitment to the Lord and His people? 

Firstly, we need to put away our false gods.  If the Lord is our God, then we must destroy in us what makes us worship the alien gods in our lives.  It means that we put away every form of idolatry, such as pride, insecurity, greed, jealousy, and the vain pursuits of the world.   Instead of listening to the world, we listen only to the Lord.  “Joshua said to all the people: ‘Fear the Lord and serve him perfectly and sincerely; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve, whether the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are now living.”   Indeed, we need to examine how much we have strayed from the living God.  The truth is that many of us say “yes” to God, but along the way, like the Israelites, we turn away from the living God because we are attracted by the illusions of the world, power, glory and materialism.

Secondly, we need to encounter the Lord’s mercy and power.  We cannot commit ourselves to the Lord unless we know that He is indeed the Lord.  The decision to commit themsleves to the God of Israel was not just based on blind faith.  On the contrary, they had seen the powers and mercy of God. “The people answered, ‘We have no intention of deserting the Lord and serving other gods! Was it not the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes and preserved us all along the way we travelled and among all the peoples through whom we journeyed? What is more, the Lord drove all those people out before us, as well as the Amorites who used to live in this country. We too will serve the Lord, for he is our God.’”  The strength of our commitment to serve the Lord is affected by how we see the Lord at work in our lives, in our vocation, in our marriage and in our commitment.  When we see that what we are doing with the help of His grace is bringing fruits to those for whom we are laboring, that gives us the impetus to do even more and to trust Him more.

Thirdly, we need exemplary models like Joshua.  If there is a lack of commitment in vocation and relationships, it is because we have poor mentors.   Many of us join the priestly and religious vocation because we have observed the good mentors before us who gave up their lives to serve God and His people. It is the same for marriages as well.  But today, we lack mentors who live up to their commitment with fidelity, joy and passion.  Joshua, the leader of Israel, led not by using power over the people but by his own example.  With conviction, he unwaveringly declared, “As for me and my House, we serve the Lord.”   Regardless of what the others might choose, Joshua was definite about his choice, which was to serve the Lord.  This decision he made was not just a verbal decision but one that he lived out for the rest of his life.

Fourthly, we must consider the implications of our choice.  Joshua reminded the people of their decision.  He said, “You cannot serve the Lord, because he is a holy God, he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you desert the Lord to follow alien gods he in turn will afflict and destroy you after the goodness he has shown you.”   It is not enough simply to say “yes” without thinking of the implications.  Getting married is easy, staying married is difficult.  Indeed, there are serious implications when those who take promises and vows do not live up to them.  This is true of priests, religious and married people, or those appointed for leadership.  What we do does not only affect us but the community whom we are called to serve.  So the failure to live up to our commitment will not only hurt us but hurt everyone as well.

In the light of these challenges, how then can we live up to our promises and commitments knowing how difficult it is?  We must give our whole heart to the Lord.  “Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we obey.’”  To give our whole heart to the Lord means that we will obey His will in all that we do.  It means that we will do everything for the love of Him and the glory of His name.  Is the Lord the center of our lives?  Do we pledge total allegiance to Him above all things and persons?  The strength of our commitment and surrender will determine how much we will be faithful to Him.

Like the psalmist, we must be able to declare that the Lord is our portion. “You are my inheritance, O Lord.  Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.  I say to the Lord: ‘You are my God.’  O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup; it is you yourself who are my prize. I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart.  I keep the Lord ever in my sight: since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness for ever.”  Unless God is our inheritance and not the world, we cannot give ourselves utterly to our commitment.

In the final analysis, we must surrender in faith like a child to enter the Kingdom of God.  When the disciples wanted to turn away the little ones from coming to Him for a blessing, Jesus said, “Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  With a childlike faith, we are called to surrender our lives to the Lord and to our heavenly Father.  Only those who have experienced the Fatherly love of God can surrender in trust to Him.  Children trust in their parents and elders because they feel loved and protected.  Otherwise, they become suspicious of people, especially those in authority, if they have been abused or taken advantage of.   For this reason, we are called to have a special care for the young because how they are formed, guided and mentored in love will affect their ability to make their own commitments to God and their vocation in future.   If they have proper fatherly love and care, they would be able to be more stable in relationships and commitments.  Fatherly love on earth will help them to encounter the heavenly Father’s love for them in Christ Jesus.

Finally, let us remember our commitment to the Lord through the external sign, such as a wedding ring or a religious ring.  We need these external signs and ceremonies to keep our faith and promises alive.  Renewal of our commitment through the celebration of anniversaries are great moments to review and thank God for His commitment to us.  That was why, Joshua renewed the covenant by setting up a stone or an altar. “He took a great stone and set it up there, under the oak in the sanctuary of the Lord, and Joshua said to all the people, ‘See! This stone shall be a witness against us because it has heard all the words that the Lord has spoken to us: it shall be a witness against you in case you deny your God.’”

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

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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• The Gospel today is very brief; only three verses. The Gospel describes how Jesus accepts the children.

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• Matthew 19, 13: The attitude of the disciples concerning the children. People brought little children to Jesus, for him to lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples scolded the mothers. Why? Perhaps because this was according to the severe norms of the Law of purity, the small children in the conditions in which they lived were considered unclean, impure. If they touched Jesus, he would become impure. Because of this, it was important to avoid that they should get close to him and that they touch him. Because it already had happened one time, when a leper touched Jesus. Jesus became unclean, impure and could no longer enter the city. He had to remain in deserted places (Mk 1, 4-45).

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• Matthew 19, 14-15: The attitude of Jesus: he accepts and defends the life of the children. Jesus reproved the disciples and said: Let the little children alone, and do not stop them from coming to me, for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs”. Jesus does not care about transgressing the norms which prevent fraternity and acceptance to be given to the little ones. The new experience of God, the Father has marked the life of Jesus and gives him new eyes to perceive and to value the relationship between persons. Jesus gets on the side of the little ones, of the excluded and assumes their defence. It impresses when we see together everything which the Bible says regarding the attitudes of Jesus in defence of the life of the children, of the little ones:

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a) To give thanks for the Kingdom present in the little ones. Jesus’ joy is great when he sees that the children, the little ones understand the things of the Kingdom which he announced to the people. “Father, I thank you!” (Mt 11, 25-26) Jesus recognizes that the little ones understand more about the things of the Kingdom, than the doctors!

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b) To defend the right to shout or cry out. When Jesus, entered the Temple, he upset the tables of the money changers, and the children were those who shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David!” (Mt 21, 15). Criticized by the high priests and the Scribes, Jesus defends them and in his defence he recalls the Scriptures (Mt 21, 16).

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c) To identify oneself with the little ones. Jesus embraces the little ones and identifies himself with them. Anyone who accepts a little one accepts Jesus (Mk 9, 37). “In so far as you have done it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”. (Mt 25, 40).

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d) To accept and not to scandalize. One of the hardest words of Jesus is against those who are a cause of scandal for the little ones, that is, who are the cause why the little ones no longer believe in God. Because of this, it would have been better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around their neck (Lk 17, 1-2; Mt 18, 5-7). Jesus condemns the system, both the political one as well as the religious one, which is the reason why the little ones, the humble people, lose faith in God.

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e) To become like children. Jesus asks his disciples to become like children and to accept the Kingdom as children do. Without this, it is impossible to enter into the Kingdom (Lk 9,46-48). It indicates that the children are professors of the adults. That was not normal. We are accustomed to the contrary.

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f) To accept and to touch. (Today’s Gospel). The mothers with their children who get close to Jesus to ask him to bless the children. The Apostles react and drive them away. Jesus corrects the adults and accepts the mothers with the children. He touches the children and embraces them. “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them!” (Mk 10, 13-16; Mt 19, 13-15). According to the norms of that time, both the mothers and their small children, practically, lived in a state of legal impurity. Jesus does not allow himself to be drawn by this.

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g) To accept and to take care. Many are the children and the young people whom he accepts, takes care of and rises from the dead: the daughter of Jairus, who was 12 years old (Mk 5, 41-42), the daughter of the Canaanite woman (Mk 7, 29-30), the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7, 14-15), the epileptic child (Mk 9, 25-26), the son of the Centurion (Lk 7, 9-10), the son of the public officer (Jn 4,50), the boy with five loaves of bread and two fishes (Jn 6,9).

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Personal questions

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• Children: what have you learnt from children throughout the years of your life? And what do children learn about God, about Jesus and his life, from you?
• Which is the image of Jesus which I give to children? A sever God, a good God, distant or absent?

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Concluding Prayer

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Lord, give me back the joy of your salvation,
sustain in me a generous spirit.
I shall teach the wicked your paths,
and sinners will return to you. (Ps 51,12-13)

http://www.ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-1913-15

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Related:
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A theme repeated over and over again in the scriptures is, “Do not be afraid.”
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When someone today asks, “What do we get as Christians?” we might answer: “Do not be afraid. Everything is possible with God.”
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Related here on Peace and Freedom:
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God, I offer myself to Thee –
to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love and Thy Way of Life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank You God, AMEN!
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Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte  over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images) When the going gets tough, we have to get our faith going!

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From Last Year…..

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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13 AUGUST 2016, Saturday, 19th Week of Ordinary Time
INTER-GENERATIONAL SIN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EZ 18:1-10.13.30-32; MT 19:13-15 ]

The question of inter-generational sin and original sin has always been a source of contention and disagreement.  The objection lies in that if sin must be willingly committed by one who is free, then it is not fair that we suffer the sins of our parents and ancestors through no fault of ours.

The cause of such misunderstanding is due to the fact that the word “sin” is used analogously and not literally. Of course, we cannot inherit the sins personally committed by someone else.  Nevertheless, we can inherit the guilt as a consequence of their sins.

In the Old Testament, great emphasis was given to the collective sin of the community.  This was because salvation was always taken to be of a people or a nation.  People tended to see themselves as a community rather than as individuals.  The success or failure of one would have had repercussions on the rest of the community. More so, if the person who sinned was the head of the community, as his sin would have involved the whole nation.  Hence, the sin of the king or the leader of the tribe, or the father of the household, would cause all those under his care to suffer the punishment for his sins.

Thus, we can understand why the bible, since the time of Moses, speaks about the sins of our forefathers affecting us. We cannot deny that in some ways we are influenced by both the culture of the society we are born into and also the spiritual influence of our parents.  Although it would not be right to speak of genetic sin, certainly the emotions and the psychological state of our parents would have affected us even when we were in the womb of our mothers and when we were being brought up by them as well.  Therefore we must recognize that we do suffer the effects of the sins of our parents, although we do not and cannot inherit their sins.  Indeed, Ezekiel himself did not sin, but like the good and righteous ones of Israel, he too was in exile because of the sins of his fellowmen.

Of course, there is a danger that we can exonerate ourselves of all guilt and push the blame on our forefathers.  This is what Ezekiel sought to do in today’s first reading.  We must see sin in perspective. Ultimately, God does not condemn us for the sins of our parents, but only our personal sins.   So it is more important that we take cognizance of our own personal sins rather than blaming them on our parents. Yes, we suffer the consequences, but we have the freedom and the will to change the orientation.  The power to overcome our sins is within us.  We need not resign ourselves to committing the same sins our parents did.  In other words, the prophet is saying that we are responsible for our own sins.  “As I live – it is the Lord who speaks – there will no longer be any reason to repeat this proverb in Israel.  See now: all life belongs to me; the father’s life and the son’s life, both alike belong to me.  The man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.”

Isn’t this what the doctrine of original sin, and by extension, that of inter-generational sin, wants to convey, namely, that we share the fallen nature of our parents?  This fallen nature has affected us physically, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.  We are wounded right from the start.  Original sin itself strictly is not yet a sin, except insofar as the fact that right from the start of our conception we are not in union with God.  However, soon it will become a sin in a real sense because we will then reenact what our parents had done by our personal sins.

Of course, inter-generational healing does not exclude our asking forgiveness for our own personal sins.  The responsorial psalm and the prophet made it clear that we must repent of our personal sins and not lay all the blame on our relations.  Like the psalmist, we must seek sincere repentance for our sins and ask the Lord to cleanse us and recreate in us a new heart.

In the same vein too, baptism also takes away our sins insofar as we are separated from God.  Through baptism, we are reconciled with God. Our sins, original and personal, are forgiven.  As a consequence of the grace of Christ, we experience an inner renewal of body, mind and spirit.  We should not have any doubts about the power of the sacrament of baptism to free us from sin and the Evil One.  The grace given to us at baptism is always there.

How is it possible that our sins are taken away at baptism?  The same principle holds with regard to the vicarious death of Christ.  Jesus, as the New Adam, rescinded all that was lost by the First Adam.  As St Paul says, “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.  Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Rom 5:17-19).  Jesus as the head, and we being His body, enables us to share in His victory over sin and death.

However the Council of Trent also teaches that concupiscence still remains in us in spite of our baptism. Nevertheless it is not a sin, but a tendency to sin remains.  Our human nature remains weak but with the grace of Christ we can overcome temptation to sin.  Hence, we are now in communion with God in principle.  We are renewed in Him and we are His children.  But the warfare still carries on and the battle against sin must continue to be fought with the grace of God.  So, existentially we all remain sinners even after baptism.  After all, who does not sin after baptism; unless we are baptized before death!  Metaphysically however, we are saints.  To preserve our holiness, we must strengthen our prayer and spiritual life; frequent the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

The importance and relevance of inter-generational healing, therefore, is that it is not a matter of asking forgiveness for the sins we have inherited from our parents, rather, it is to ask God to forgive their sins on one hand; and on the other, we choose to forgive them for the effects of their sins upon us.   Through forgiveness we help the departed souls to rest in peace and return to the Lord; at the same time we free ourselves from curses, guilt and our bondage to their past.  So generational healing is the practical application of the grace of Christ given to us at baptism to heal our wounds, especially emotional and psychological traits inherited from our wounded forefathers and those who have had an influence over us directly or indirectly.

The gospel text today brings to light the relevance of generational healing.  If Jesus reprimanded the disciples for forbidding the children to go to Him, it was because He understood how we can influence our children for better or for worse.  Knowing that we come from dysfunctional and imperfect parents, they too, need prayers to be healed of the negative traits they received from their parents and relatives.  Of course the other meaning of blessing the children is to remind us that unless we are innocent, receptive and trusting in God, like children, we cannot share in the life of God.

As parents, we must therefore consider carefully what we do and say and how these will affect our children for better or for worse.  Recognizing how much influence we can have over our loved ones, let us strive to live a life of holiness so that we can impart goodness to them instead of evil.  On our part, recognizing that we are wounded from our past, we must continually seek the Lord for inner healing and at the same time, pray for the forgiveness of the souls of the faithful departed, that they too will embrace the loving mercy of God’s forgiveness and be united with the Lord in heaven.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, June 1, 2017 — “I have given them the glory you gave me”

May 31, 2017

Memorial of Saint Justin, Martyr
Lectionary: 300

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Reading 1  ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11

Wishing to determine the truth
about why Paul was being accused by the Jews,
the commander freed him
and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene.
Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
“My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection
or angels or spirits,
while the Pharisees acknowledge all three.
A great uproar occurred,
and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party
stood up and sharply argued,
“We find nothing wrong with this man.
Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
The dispute was so serious that the commander,
afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them,
ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst
and take him into the compound.
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage.
For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem,
so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 17:21

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that the world may believe that you sent me, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 17:20-26

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

June 1, 2017

01 JUNE, 2017, Thursday, 7th Week of Easter

PRESENTING CHRIST AS THE UNIVERSAL SAVIOUR TO NON-BELIEVERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 22:30; 23:6-11; John 17:20-26 ]

We all seek unity and love.  Regardless whether we are believers or not, it is in the human DNA to desire peace, love and unity.  This is the deepest quest of every human person.  We are created in the image and likeness of God and thus no man can find rest until he finds true love and peace.  The Church, as the Sacrament of Christ, has the task of leading all peoples to unity because we are all the children of God.  This is what the Lord prayed at the end of His life.  He said, “Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”

How is this best done?  Lasting unity and love must be founded on truth.  The deception of the world today is that although everyone desires love, not all desire to be truthful in love.  We are quite satisfied with a disguised form of love.   Many in the world confuse sex with love.  Many seek casual sex, believing that what they are getting is love. What they are really seeking is intimate relationships; not just physical but emotional, intellectual and even spiritual union.  Again, those who are not capable of handling relationships substitute relationships with things.  Instead of spending time with their children to bond, parents give them money and things to replace their absence and their incapacity to feel with and for them.

What is this truth if not faith in God, the Ultimate Reality?  Which God, or which religion, can bring us to encounter this absolute truth?  All religions claim to have the truth.  Today, it is politically incorrect to deny the claims of other religions to having the truth.  However, that does not prevent us from saying that Christ is the fullness of truth and that Christianity possesses the fullness of truth.  Whether others agree with us or not is their prerogative, but anyone can certainly claim that his or her religion offers the fullness of truth.

So it is not true, as some claim, that proclaiming Christ in Asia as the unique saviour of the world sounds triumphalistic to other religions, and that by so doing we are creating competition and even hostility.  But not to do so would also be wrong, because it would mean that we are forced to pretend to believe what we do not.  That would be hypocrisy!  To believe that Jesus is the Universal Saviour and our Lord and yet not say so would be to live a lie.  By suggesting to others that we believe in the same thing would make us fall into irenicism, a false compromise.  In so doing we do a disservice to inter-religious dialogue by misleading others in the nature of our real beliefs.  Indeed, all followers must be true to claims they make about their founder or religion.  There is no need to apologize for making the claims so long as we do not denigrate other religions, belittle them or deny them their claims.

Indeed, this was the mistake of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  For political interests, they came together with the objective of standing up to Rome and also for social and religious gains.  Although they were united as one in the Sanhedrin (the council that ruled on religious matters for the Jews), their unity was false.  It was not based on common truths and beliefs but purely for political and selfish motives.  Theirs was a superficial unity not based on truth but pragmatism.

How, then, do we present Jesus without belittling other religions?  We should begin by stressing our commonality.  This was what St Paul did when he concurred with the Pharisees on the doctrine of the resurrection.  We too must begin in this manner by sharing with other religions what we have in common.   This will promote trust and respect, paving the way for dialogue.   In truth, we have more in common than disagreement.  Fundamentally, all religions teach us how to love, forgive and to help each other.  Whilst we might not agree on how we interpret moral issues because we differ on what is truth, we are in agreement that we should seek authentic love.  All religions teach us to do good and avoid evil even if we do not agree on what exactly is evil, as many moral issues are ambiguous with a mix of love and selfishness, truth and falsehood.   In our case, we share with the world a desire to find lasting unity and love.  As believers of religions, we share this belief that unity must be based on eternal truths.  Of course, not all religions share faith in a personal God. There are many religions that speak of an impersonal, ultimate reality rather than a personal God.  With some religions, like the Muslims and the Jews, we share a common faith in the one God.

Only after we have begun with the basic beliefs that are common to all, should we then share our distinctiveness. I prefer to use the word “distinctiveness” rather than “differences.”  We should not talk about being different from others but rather that we have our own distinctive way of explaining something, with a distinctive culture, worldview and presuppositions.

What, then, is our distinctive contribution?  Namely, that this Ultimate Reality is the one God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This God whom we believe in is a personal God who is a communion of relations within Himself.  God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and both are united in the one Spirit.  That God is a Trinity of persons in communion, is rendered explicitly by the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ, “Father, Righteous One, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you sent me. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.”

Because the Trinitarian God is communion, He invites us to share in His communion of love and life.   Indeed, this is the Priestly prayer of Jesus.  What is this glory that Jesus wants to share with us but His intimacy with His Father?  It is this intimacy that He desires us all to have as well.  Jesus’ deepest desire for us is this, “ that they may be one as we are one. With me in them and you in me, may they be so completely one that the world will realise that it was you who sent me and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.”   Only from this intimacy with a personal God can we truly love our fellowmen and the whole of creation because His love in us will empower us to do the same.

The basis for real unity in this world is to love each other in the same way the Father loves the Son.   In the same Spirit of the Father and the Son, we are called to love each other the way the Father loves us in Christ.  By sharing our experience and faith in God in this manner we show them the way to a fuller understanding of God based on divine revelation through Christ in the Spirit.  We are not coercing others to believe what we believe unless they have the same experience of the love of the Trinity.  So the desire to proclaim the gospel is not so much a question of proselytism, of making converts, but to share the joy of intimacy with the Father through the Son in the Spirit.  In this way, without showing disrespect for other religions, and without any intimidation, we humbly share the gift we have received from Christ with them. They are free to accept or reject.

Of course, at the end of the day, if we do not live out this Trinitarian life, then our belief becomes an empty doctrine.  No one will believe, regardless how lofty our doctrines can be.  Thus, the greatest scandal in Christianity is the division among His disciples and in His church.  We do a disservice to the Church’s mission and proclamation when we are divided, like the Sanhedrin. Truly, by washing our dirty linen in public, we Catholics are no better than spouses and children exposing their family squabbles for the whole world to judge.  Instead of settling differences and disagreements quietly and in Christian charity, we often go on social media to express our frustrations, ventilate our anger on fellow Catholics or the Church, or even the bishops and the Holy Father, thinking that we are doing the Church a favour.  Instead, we cause division and allow our enemies to take advantage of us, knowing that we are divided within ourselves.  How can the world be our judge?

That is why Christ prayed for unity among His disciples before His departure.  As St John Paul II said, “our mission is communion and it must therefore be accomplished in communion.”  Thus, he urged us to promote a Spirituality of communion before embarking on any mission or ministry.  If we are disunited, all the good that we do would be destroyed by Catholics attacking each other.  No one will believe that we are Christ’s disciples if we do not love each other as He has loved us.  (Jn 13:34)

So how can unity be brought about among us all?  By once again asking for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, the love of God and His gift to us.  He is the bond of love between the Father and the Son.  He is therefore the principle of unity, the power for love.  As we await the feast of Pentecost, let us pray earnestly for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives by praying the Novena to the Holy Spirit.

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

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Today’s Gospel (Gospel JN 17:20-26) was discussed Sunday, May 8, 2016).
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What happens to us during the glorious days of Easter? It must be something exceptional, something even more significant than during the Season of Lent since we have only 40 days of Lent but celebrate 50 days of Easter! As we commemorate the seventh and last Sunday of Easter, it is worthwhile for us to pause and review what spiritual effects Easter is having on us.

Has not our desire for personally encounter with the Risen Christ grown as we have listened and pondered the Word of God recalling Christ’s appearances to His disciples after His Death and Resurrection?

Has not our devotion to the Holy Eucharist intensified, and has not our attention at Holy Mass increased as the Risen Lord Himself Breaks Open the Scriptures and Breaks the Bread for us?

Have we not noticed that Christ, more times than not, made His Resurrected Presence felt at a meal: in the Upper Room, on the way to Emmaus, and the breakfast setting at the Sea of Tiberius? Does this not reveal our need to always be present for the celebration of the holy meal and sacrifice at Sunday Eucharist?

Has not our confidence in our own resurrection grown as we embraced the Gospel story of Mary Magdalen arriving at the tomb and not finding a dead body but encountering her Risen Lord, our Risen Lord?

Pray God that all this has taken place! But, do not be discouraged if the above has only happened a little, because it also seems very clear from the Gospels that the disciples grew in faith and confidence in the Resurrected Christ only a little at a time. That is happening to us as well – a little at a time we are growing in faith, even though we are not noticing it.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus prayed, but this Sunday we are told that Jesus prayed for us, and we have His words: I pray … also for those (you and me) who will believe in me (Christ) through their word….

Jesus prays that we receive a threefold gift from the Father:

– that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you — brought to perfection as one;

– that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory;

– that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.

We have been consecrated by this prayer of Christ. This consecrating prayer gives us the power we need to give witness of Christ to the world: that the world may believe that you (Father) sent me (Jesus Christ). Christ has Ascended to heaven, but His Body – His Resurrected Body (you and me) remains on earth to witness to the truth that Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to be the Savior of the world! With the constant prayer of Jesus Christ before the Father, may we boldly proclaim JESUS AS LORD!

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

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http://malvernretreat.com/?sermons=gospel-reflection-seventh-sunday-of-easter

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 MAY 2016, Thursday, 7th Week of Easter
THE LIMITS OF DEMOCRACY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11; JOHN 17:20-26   ]

The most challenging task of any leader is to forge unity among those whom he or she has been entrusted to lead.   Indeed, trying to bring people at every level to agree and to work together is a most trying and often frustrating task.  Whether it is the country, organization, church or family, we do not agree on many things.  We hold different views and are not willing to compromise.  More so, when we live in a world of relativism which holds that no view is absolute or true.  As a consequence, there is division and political maneuvering leading to competition, backbiting and even slander.

The Church, although divine, is also human and thus is not spared from such divisions.   That is why the greatest scandal of Christianity is the disunity among Christians, whether among different ecclesial communities or within members of the community.

When we are divided among ourselves, how can we ever be a sign of unity and love in the world?  The whole purpose of Jesus’ coming is to unite us all in one Body and one Church.  This is apparently far from being realized in our Christian communities and in the Church.  We have become counter-witnesses to the gospel.  Our proclamations about love are mere words.  Like the Jews in the first reading, the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin, comprising the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were split over the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  St Paul tactfully exploited this division in his favour so that he could continue to spread the gospel.

What, then, is the basis for unity?  In the olden days, unity was enforced by an absolute ruler.  A monarchical form of government ensured that the people all worked as one and in unity with the ruler.  The power of the ruler was absolute and his decisions were obeyed by all, even if not accepted.  In such a form of government, unity is much easier to achieve although it gives rise to rebellion in some instances.  However, if the leader is not walking in the truth, does not live an upright life; and fails to see that his power is for the service of his people and their good, he could become abusive and self-serving. Indeed because of abuses of absolute authority, monarchy or dictatorial powers were replaced by democracy.

But is democracy the best way to ensure unity?  Ironically, democracy is rooted in Christianity, which advocates the freedom of the individual, especially the inviolability of his conscience.  But again, such freedom can be abused when exercised irresponsibly. In the face of relativism, in a democratic world, governments are elected on the basis of popularity.  Do we really believe that very voter understands what and who they are supporting?   Do we really believe that every voter is a conscientious voter?  Many are voted into leadership based on promises designed to pander to the whims and fancies of their supporters.  Many make empty promises that cannot be fulfilled.  Some even resort to bribing their voters with money.  With the power of communication, many are gullible and not critical enough to understand the complexities of running a country or any organization, including the Church.

Worse still, those in leadership, for fear of losing popularity and votes, will do what is popular; making policies that generate short term benefits but are disastrous for long term survival of the country or organization.  Instead of ruling the country, they spend all their time trying to win votes.   But why would they care because they know that most likely they will be serving at most one or two terms?   When leaders are no longer focused on doing the right things, both in the immediate term and the future for the people they serve, then democracy will result in leaders no longer leading, but are led by the people.  It will also be reduced to pleasing the people.  Policies will be framed to seek the greatest support, not because they are true or really good for the people, especially in the future.  Decisions will be based on consensus; not on whether it is true or good.  When we are shortsighted, the future of the country will suffer.

It seems ironical that the Church, which advocates freedom of the individual, in her own structure is still hierarchical and absolute.  The Holy Father remains absolute in his powers.  To some extent, the bishop in the diocese is responsible for everything that happens in his diocese.  So too is the parish priest.  Unlike the bishop, all other members are merely advisers but do not have executive powers.  Why did the Church not subject herself to the full range of democracy, that is, making decisions by the majority?  Clearly, in her view, democracy might end up with a rogue leader and a rogue government, as we have seen in some democratic countries.  By the time the damage is done, it would be too late to turn back the clock.

However, this is not to say that the Church is strictly monarchical as in those countries in the past where the monarchy held absolute powers.  The Church, whilst recognizing the final authority of the leaders, particularly the Pope and the bishops, ensures that decisions are not made without proper consultation and dialogue.  So whilst it is possible that Pope, bishops and priests can abuse their powers, this can be mitigated if proper consultation takes place.  However, this is not always done.  When that happens, people become disenchanted with the Church and eventually give up the faith.

So how then can we find unity?  Regardless of whatever form of governance we choose, since both absolute rule and democracy have their limitations, strengths and weaknesses, we need to ground unity not in consensus but in truth and love.  As leaders, unless our decisions and policies are founded on truth and love, we will not be able to always do the right things but instead do the popular things.  It is within this context that we appreciate the fundamental guideline provided by our Lord in the gospel.

Jesus prayed for unity among His disciples but this unity is based on the union of mind and heart with Him.  It is on the same basis as His relationship with the Father.  He said, “Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”  Jesus was in complete union with the Father in truth and in love.  For this reason, the Lord prayed, “Father, Righteous One, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you sent me. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.”   It is the desire of Jesus that we come to know the Father in truth and in love.  Jesus, in making the name of His Father known to us, reveals the mind and the heart of the Father.  The whole life of Jesus is to reveal the Father’s will and love for us.  That is why Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; and no one can come to the Father except through Him.  If we want to promote unity, it must be based on truth and on love.  It cannot be the result of consensus and popular votes because man will make decisions for his own interests rather than the wider interests of the community and the future of humanity.  In a world of relativism and individualism, it is about what they want here and now, their pleasures and needs; not others.

Hence, today, as we pray for unity, let us be clear that the leaders we vote to serve us are truly rooted in truth and love; and not in their own interests.  So whether our form of governance is monarchical or democratic, we must constantly seek to do what is right and true and therefore good for now and the future.  We must be courageous in standing up for the truth of the gospel.  If not, we will cause the present and future generations to suffer for the superficial unity we promote, namely, through popular votes.  In countries and organizations including the Church, when the people are ignorant or unenlightened and confused, it is the leader’s task to teach and enlighten them in the truth so that they can exercise their freedom responsibly and most of all, not to be deceived by enemies of truth and love.

As leaders, especially in Christian communities, we must seek to be like St Paul and our Lord.  We must seek the truth and the love of God through intense communion with the Lord in prayer, worship and meditation.   But we must also as one body in Christ put aside all individual and personal preferences for the greater good of the community.  This calls for humility and generosity to allow leaders appointed by God to lead us to further growth by working with and each other in truth, in love and in unity.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, April 30, 2017 — But God raised him up releasing him from the throes of death — With him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed

April 29, 2017

Third Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 46

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Jesus walking on the road to Emmaus

Reading 1 ACTS 2:14, 22-33

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
You who are Israelites, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:
I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

“My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father
and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (11a) Lord, you will show us the path of life.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
abounding joy in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Lord, you will show us the path of life.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2  1 PT 1:17-21

Beloved:
If you invoke as Father him who judges impartially
according to each one’s works,
conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,
realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct,
handed on by your ancestors,
not with perishable things like silver or gold
but with the precious blood of Christ
as of a spotless unblemished lamb.

He was known before the foundation of the world
but revealed in the final time for you,
who through him believe in God
who raised him from the dead and gave him glory,
so that your faith and hope are in God.

Alleluia CF. LK 24:32

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us;
make our hearts burn while you speak to us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 24:13-35

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

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Reflection for Luke 24:13-35 By 
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If you lost something; for example, if you lost your favorite book, if your favorite book suddenly disappeared, and mom and dad were there, what do you think you might say? What question might you ask mom and dad?  You’d probably ask them, “Where did my book go?”

In today’s Gospel, two of Jesus’ disciples are walking along the road to Emmaus.  And they are very sad because they’ve lost something.  They lost Jesus.

Just 3 days earlier, Jesus was crucified, hung upon the cross, died and was buried.  And so the disciples think Jesus was gone forever.  They are so sad at the loss of Jesus that they do not recognize him when he appears to them on the road to Emmaus on Easter Sunday.

However, Jesus slowly begins to reveal Himself to the disciples.

The first way Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples is by telling them about how the Sacred Scriptures talk about Jesus.  In the Gospel today, Jesus interprets the sayings of Moses and the prophets, showing the two disciples that Moses and the prophets were speaking about Jesus.  Jesus shares the Word of God with the disciples.

Have you ever noticed how the Mass, what we are celebrating right now is divided into two halves?Right now, we just finished the first half?  What was the main thing we did in the second half of the Mass?   That’s right we listened to the Word of God.

Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we listened to the Word of God. We hear about God’s plan for our lives. And we hear about Jesus too.  Jesus reveals Himself to us at every Mass through the Liturgy of the Word.

In a few moments, we will begin the second half of the Mass?  What is the main thing we get ready for and do in the second half of the Mass?  That’s right, we get ready for Holy Communion.

That’s what Jesus does for the two disciples too.  In the Gospel, the sun is starting to go down, it’s close to dinner time, so the disciples ask Jesus to stay and eat with them.  And Jesus does some amazing things during the dinner.  The Gospel says, “while He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to them.”

When was another time we heard about Jesus taking bread, saying the blessing, breaking the bread and giving it to people?”  The Last Supper with the Apostles on Holy Thursday.  The multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  And at this Mass!

In the second half of the Mass, Jesus will reveal Himself to us in the breaking of the bread, just like he did for the two disciples in the Gospel.  In just a few moments, Jesus will take bread, say the blessing, break the bread, and give it to all of you for the first time.  He does this through the priest.

Now, in the Gospel today, when Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to the disciples, something really amazing happened to Jesus.

Do you remember what happened to Jesus?  That’s right, he disappeared.  Doesn’t that sound strange? Why do you think Jesus would disappear like that?

How about this: maybe Jesus disappeared because He was still there in the bread!  The host you are about to receive isn’t bread – it’s the Body of Christ.  And what you are about to drink from the chalice isn’t wine – it’s the Blood of Christ.

When Jesus disappeared from the disciple’s sight, they don’t say, “Where did He go?”  They say (in a manner) of speaking, “Wow! That was awesome!” They say, “Were not our hearts burning within us when while he spoke to us… and opened the Scriptures to us?”

The disciples are no longer sad. Instead, they are the happiest they’ve ever been in their life.  Because they realize they didn’t lose Jesus.  Jesus remains with them in the Eucharist.  Jesus remains with them in the breaking of the bread.  And it wasn’t until Jesus broke the bread that they finally saw Jesus and recognized Him.  When Jesus breaks the bread, they see Jesus, they recognize Him, they know Him better than they’ve ever known Him before.  And in just a few moments, you will know Jesus better than you’ve ever known Him before.

The person you want to know better than anyone else in your life is Jesus.  And you will get to know Jesus the best through the Eucharist.  Like the disciples, you will come to know Jesus through the breaking of the bread.  Get to know Jesus more and more every single Sunday of your lives!

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“God raised him up!”  “Were not our heats burning within us?”  The experiences of these early followers of Jesus was incredible.  They went through completely doubt, through denial, through sadness, through lack of hope—and then….  Jesus begins to show up in their lives again, not as a memory, but as a living, eating, sleeping and completely present person once more—but not seen by everyone.  What an odd experience and how challenging!

This experience of Peter and of others eventually was expressed in these words:  “God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.”  Even to this day, many doubt and yet many are moved by this witness and believe.  Once we believe, our lives are changed because this world no longer is the end of life but only the beginning.  For sure, many of believers are not very people at many levels, just as many of the early believers were also weak and uneducated and sometimes social outcasts.  But when we believe, this life becomes so different and so full of possibilities of following Jesus.

Our faith and our hope are now in God and life is not a prison nor a place of competition, but simply a time to do the best we can in serving a God who loves us and invites us to strive to live out His love in this world, even if we fail over and over.  We always remember the words of Jesus:  I came for sinners, not for the righteous.

Inn today’s Gospel from Saint Luke, we have the wonderful story of Jesus meeting some of those who had followed Him but were now discouraged by the crucifixion.  They did not yet believe in His Resurrection.  They even tell Jesus about the women who went to the tomb and did not find the body!  They tell Him about others who went to the tomb.  Yet, at this point, these people who had followed Him still do not believe!  They are like the Apostle Thomas:  Unless I myself see Him and touch Him and have an experience, I will not believe!

Lots of us are like these early followers:  discouraged when we ourselves do not have some immediate and strong experience of the Lord.

We are invited today to meet the Lord again, almost for the first time, when we see Him present in the breaking of the bread.  We are invited to look once more at the Holy Scriptures and discover how God has spoken through all the ages, inviting us to believe, little by little.  We are invited to listen to the testimony of those who already believe, and particularly to the testimony of the many saints and martyrs of our own time.  As we listen, then perhaps like these followers on the road to Emmaus, we might come to feel the warmth in our heart, perhaps even our hearts burning within us!

Christ is risen!  Truly He is risen!  Alleluia!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

30 APRIL, 2017, Sunday, 3rd Week of Easter

TRAVELLING THE JOURNEY OF FAITH TOGETHER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:14.22-33; PS 16:1-2, 5, 7-11; 1 PT 1:17-21; LK 24:13-35 ]

All of us are like the disciples at Emmaus on the road of life.  This life is complex and there are many questions that we cannot answer and mysteries that we do not understand.  This is particularly true when we face crises, like the disciples.  Their great hope, as the gospel mentioned, was in Jesus.  “Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.”  But with the death of Jesus, their hopes were totally crushed.  It was almost an anti-climax because Jesus of Nazareth seemed to be “a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people.”

This could be true for us as well.  We might have had great hopes of doing well in our studies or getting into the school we want.  Or just when we thought that everything was going well for us, we suffer a broken relationship, or discover that we have an illness that is incurable.  When such things happen, our life crashes.  We feel that life is a chore; it is nothing more than keeping up with others. Doing well in our studies, getting a good job and being popular.  So much so, many of us wonder what life is all about.  Why all the stresses, competition, the vain pursuit of nothing?  Isn’t this the useless way of life that Jesus came to free us from that St Peter spoke about?  A life without meaning, an aimless life?

Indeed, Christ has come to set us free from this hopeless and aimless life.  St Peter wrote, “Remember, the ransom that was paid to free you from the useless way of life your ancestors handed down was not paid in anything corruptible, neither in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain, namely Christ; who, though known since before the world was made, has been revealed only in our time, the end of the ages, for your sake.”   By His death and resurrection, Christ has shown us that God has His plan for us.  “Through him you now have faith in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory for that very reason – so that you would have faith and hope in God.”  That God raised Him from the dead is the basis of Christian hope.  We too are certain of our hope in the future and what we are called to do here and now.  St Peter reminds us, “If you are acknowledging as your Father one who has no favourites and judges everyone according to what he has done, you must be scrupulously careful as long as you are living away from your home.”

But that is not all.  St Peter clearly demonstrated through scriptures that nothing happens outside the purview of God’s plan. “This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power”.  There are many things that happen in life that we might not understand for now.  We are called to have faith in God who does all things well.  Instead of allowing our sorrows and woes to discourage us, we must find faith in the Lord and entrust all things to Him as Jesus did in commending His life to the Father at the cross.

Today, the Lord continues to journey with us as He did with the disciples at Emmaus.  He understands our desire to walk the way of truth and love.  Like the psalmist, our prayer is “Show us, Lord, the path of life.  I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart.  I keep the Lord ever in my sight: since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right-hand happiness forever.”   Only by walking the path of life that Jesus walked can we find fullness of life.   But we must invite Him into our lives if we want Him to journey with us.

Today’s lesson from Emmaus teaches us how we can allow Jesus to journey with us so that we need not feel that we are alone in this journey.  The reason why many Catholics fall out of their faith is because they are loners.  They have no Catholic friends to help them grow in their faith or to make sense of their lives.  So in the face of trials, doubt and temptation, they are led astray by the world and lose their faith.  Today’s lesson has a two-fold purpose; the first, to teach us how to let the Lord enter into our lives, and the second, how we can help others to let the Lord enter their lives.

If we want to find hope in life, then we must begin by speaking to the Lord in prayer. Prayer is a dialogue and a conversation.  So we have Jesus initiating the conversation by inquiring into their sorrows.  The Lord is interested to hear from us.  Prayer is always the means by which we unload our fears, our sorrows, our pains and our aspirations onto Jesus.  In the gospel, we hear the disciples pouring out their disillusionment and confusion to the Lord.  They could not make sense of Jesus’ death and less still. the sightings of the empty tomb and the reports that He was alive.  Connecting with our wounds is a necessary stage to clearing our minds and to see things in perspective.  That is why prayer is always necessary in daily life.  It was at the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus came to terms with His passion as well.

Once the connection is made, once we have said all we need to say to the Lord, we are called to listen to Him.  Only after letting them pour out their fears, anxieties and pains, did the Lord begin to explain the meaning of the events that had happened.  To connect these events, the Lord used scriptures to help them understand the plan of God for humanity.  He said to them, “’You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.”  The way to understand life events is never to isolate them from the bigger picture.  When we do that, the single event does not make sense.  Life is out of perspective whenever we detach our problems, struggles, pains and disappointments from the larger picture of life.  In life, everything has a purpose.  It is how we connect them and make sense of them.  What better way to do so than to connect and interpret our events in the light of the Word of God!

But the healing would not be complete without a meal.  This was why the Lord shared a meal with them.  “Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.”  It was at the breaking of bread that they were reminded of the Jesus of Nazareth.  The Eucharist indeed sums up the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord.  So when they had the meal, they were reminded of how the Lord anticipated His death and resurrection at the Last Supper.  The Eucharist for us remains the hope for all of us that by undergoing the same passion of our Lord and death, we will rise with Him in glory. All sufferings in life when taken positively is our participation in Christ’s death.  Such sufferings will end in glory.

But all this is possible only with the grace of the Holy Spirit.  The personal encounter with the Risen Lord is always through the assistance of the Holy Spirit. St Peter’s first homily rendering an account of the resurrection of the Lord was the outcome of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  They could see for themselves the power of the Spirit at work in their lives.  This same Spirit is the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead.  St Peter reiterated, “God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witnesses to that. Now raised to the heights by Gods right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.”  This explains why the faith of Catholics who have not experienced the outpouring of the Spirit in their lives, remain an intellectual faith; not a personal faith.  But when we are receptive to the power of the Spirit at work in our lives, in prayer, in miracles, in healing and in the understanding of the Word of God, then we know that Jesus is Lord and that He is alive.

What the Lord has done for us, we must now do the same for others.  We must now journey with our fellow Catholics and all those who are seeking for meaning, purpose and hope in life.  Our hearts must go to those who need our fraternal support and encouragement.  As Catholics, we need to reach out to each other.  Church organizations must not only think of members as people who serve the Church and perform their duties and functions.  Rather, they must first be seen as brothers and sisters sharing the faith with each other in Christ.  Only when we travel together, will the journey become bearable and not too daunting.

How do we journey with each other?  We must begin by making friends and reaching out in sincerity. Then, we are called to listen to each other, sharing our joys and sorrows together in faith.  But this must be done in the context of the Word of God; not through licking each other’s wounds or gossiping.  Through the sharing of the Word of God, we are called to enlighten and encourage each other.  And out of this shared faith, shared community and love, we then pour out our love to the rest of the community.  Praying and sharing the Word of God together is critical in faith formation. Celebrating the Eucharist sums up the Christian experience of being in communion with God and with each other.  This is then expressed in Christian fellowship through shared activities, shared meals where we are called to enjoy each other’s company and Christian love.

 

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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“With him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed”
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Who in our world today is not disturbed? Who would want to be less disturbed?
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Our spirituality provides us, every one of us, an inner power of peace over disturbance.
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Perhaps the very reason God dwells in each and every one of us is this: we need some higher power to fight off all the disturbances of this earth.
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Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” But more than that, he gives us the peace we need when we need it and when we ask for it.
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“Knock and the door will open.”
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“Do not be afraid.”
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These are the constantly repeated messages of Jesus.
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He must be perplexed at how few of us listen, and knock, and find peace.
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From Peace and Freedom
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From The Book “Twenty Four Hours a Day” for April 30
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Each one of us is a child of God, and, as such, we are full of the promise of spiritual growth…. There is a spark of the Divine in every one of us. Each has some of god’s spirit that can be developed by spiritual exercise. Know that your life is full of glad promise. Such blessings can be yours, such joys, such wonders, as long as you develop in the sunshine of God’s love.
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Strangers in a Strange Land, Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World — By Charles J. Chaput
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In his new book, Charles  Chaput writes from his unique position to examine the interface between Catholic faith and morals, on the one hand, and today’s aggressively secular American society on the other.

February 13, 2017 11:24 EST

Michael J. Miller

Christians have always been “Resident Aliens,” the title of the first chapter of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s new book, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World. But “we [Americans] live in a country very different from that of the past. … People who hold a classic understanding of sexuality, marriage, and family have gone in just twenty years from pillars of mainstream conviction to the media equivalent of racists and bigots.” How are Christians to cope with this “sea change in American public life”?

Since the publication of his previous, widely acclaimed book on faith and American society, Render Unto Caesar (2008, second revised edition 2012), the archbishop of Philadelphia hosted the 2015 World Meeting of Families and participated in both Synods on the Family. He is in a unique position to examine the interface between Catholic faith and morals, on the one hand, and today’s aggressively secular American society on the other.

The book’s second chapter “revisits the America we thought we knew…, along with the ideals and virtues it embodied.” The Founding Fathers of the United States of America drew “from the Enlightenment’s trust in man’s ability to create good institutions. And they built on a biblical sense of justice in rejecting oppression.” Alexis de Tocqueville, whose insights as a Frenchman visiting early-19th century America are quoted often, noted that the new nation was “the product of two perfectly distinct elements…the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom.” Chaput identifies various components in the American system of government (republicanism, constitutionalism, natural law, and cultural tradition) and chronicles the stages by which Catholic immigrants to the United States gained full acceptance in American society.

After this short historical review, the author explains in Chapters 3 through 7 where the American experiment is now in the 21st century and how it got there. With striking examples he shows that the social trust of less than two generations ago is irretrievably gone. He points to early factors that started to undermine the successful and seemingly monolithic national culture of post-World-War-II America: rapid technological advances—especially in communication—the Vietnam War, the development of the birth control pill (and the resulting sexual revolution), radical feminism. Members of the most privileged generation in history, the Baby Boomers, became cultural revolutionaries, and now their grandchildren are growing up. “And that those new young adults and teens think and do will make the next America,” Chaput writes.

Chapter 4 tellingly contrasts the Judeo-Christian belief in the goodness and purposefulness of creation with the secular belief in progress. Chapter 5 looks at American customs of marriage and cohabitation, childrearing and divorce, sexual identity and gender ideology. “As the scholar Augusto Del Noce observed decades ago, the sexual revolution, for all its talk of freedom, has a distinctly totalitarian undercurrent,” the archbishop points out. He adds this indictment: “The crime of the modern sexual regime is that it robs Eros of its meaning and love of its grandeur. It’s a lie. It’s a theft. It makes us small and ignoble.” True personal fulfillment and the survival of society depend on taming and channeling Eros to serve the purpose for which it was created; “Our wholeness, our integrity, depends on the health of our friendship with God.”

Chapter 6 charts the malaise that has spread through society along with the politically correct notion that truth is merely personal and relative. The religion of the marketplace (the almighty dollar), corrosive political correctness, the numbing of consciences, and the decline of trusted institutions are some of the results. Chapter 7 draws on the book After Virtue by the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre to demonstrate how moral confusion asserts itself, gradually but inexorably, as the Western world becomes post-Christian.

Yet there is hope (Chapter 8)—not the slogan, but the supernatural virtue. Chaput defines it and describes its practical effects with the help of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the encyclical Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI. Detailed discussions of the Beatitudes (Chapter 9), scriptural images and parables (Chapter 10), and the second-century Letter to Diognetus (Chapter 11) on the position of the early Christians in a pagan society help the reader to understand how a life of faith is possible and beneficial, even in a hostile environment.

The final chapter highlights the beauty of creation and the nobility of the human person. It ends on the encouraging note that every individual life matters and that personal Christian witness can be simple and still effective.

Strangers in a Strange Land is a thought-provoking depiction of a complex contemporary scene. As he fills in his canvas, the author cites a wide variety of sources: magisterial documents and Church Fathers (especially Augustine), historical figures, contemporary ethicists and social scientists, and even poets. Yet throughout the book Chaput is much more than a cultural commentator; he is a pastor instructing souls. Although his message is challenging, the tone is always civil, conversational rather than controversial, and never preachy. In a non-academic way, with remarkable clarity and gentle wit, the author offers remedial lessons in Catholic morality and social doctrine for generations of poorly catechized Americans.

In a February 2 interview, Archbishop Chaput observed:

We’re living through a time of transition. It’s painful. Many people are angry and confused. That’s obvious both nationally and globally. I think the Obama years brought to fruition some cultural trends in the United States that were brewing for a long time. Some of them are distinctly unfriendly to the way Christians live their faith. … It’s a special shock for Catholics because we spent the last century or so trying to fit into a social environment that was skeptical of the Roman Church from the start. Now that we’ve finally arrived, the rules of the game have changed.

As though to remind readers that the rules of Catholicism have not changed, the author dedicated this book to his Capuchin confrere, “mentor and friend,” the late Ronald Lawler, O.F.M. Cap., who taught moral theology for years and published books and articles on that subject.

The year 2016 demonstrated conclusively that America is not about to stop getting stranger anytime soon. All the more reason, then, to read, ponder and enjoy Strangers in a Strange Land.

 

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2017), hardback, xiv + 273 pp.

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, April 17, 2017 — “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb — fearful yet overjoyed”

April 16, 2017

Monday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 261

Reading 1 ACTS 2:14, 22-33

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.

“You who are children of Israel, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:

I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit
that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

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

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Image result for jesus and mary magdela at the tomb, art, pictures

Gospel MT 28:8-15

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoor
Magdalene Mary recognises Jesus outside the tomb – by William Hole

….

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.

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Lectio Divina:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Time
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Easter! Today’s Gospel describes the experience of the Resurrection which the disciples of Jesus had. At the beginning of his Gospel, in presenting Jesus, Matthew had said that Jesus is the Emmanuel, God with us (Mt 1, 23). Now, at the end, he communicates and increases this certainty of faith, because he proclaims that Jesus is risen (Mt 28, 6) and that he will be with us always, up to the end of time! (Mt 28, 20). In the contradictions of life, this truth is questioned, contested very much. Opposition is not lacking. The enemies, the chief priests of the Jews, defended themselves against the Good News of the Resurrection and sent word to say that the body had been stolen by the disciples (Mt 28, 11-13). This also happens today. On the one side, the effort of many persons to live and to witness to the resurrection. On the other side, so many evil people who fight against the resurrection and against life.
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• In the Gospel of Matthew, the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus is told through a symbolical language, which reveals the hidden sense of the events. Matthew speaks about the earthquake, of lightening and of the angels who announce the victory of Jesus over death (Mt 2-4). It is an apocalyptic language, very common at that time, to announce that finally the world had been transformed by the power of God! The hope of the poor, who reaffirmed their faith, was fulfilled: “He is alive in our midst!”
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• Matthew 28, 8: The joy of the Resurrection overcomes fear. On Sunday morning, the first day of the week, two women went to the tomb, Mary of Magdala and Mary of James, also called the other Mary. All of a sudden the earth trembled and an angel appeared as lightening. The guards who were guarding the tomb were so shaken up with fear that they were like dead men. The women were frightened but the angel encouraged them, announcing the victory of Jesus over death and sending them to go join the disciples of Jesus in Galilee. And in Galilee they would be able to see him again. Everything began there; they received the great revelation of the Risen Lord. The joy of the Resurrection began to overcome fear. Thus the announcement of life and resurrection begins in this way.
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• Matthew 28, 9-10: Jesus appears to the women. The women left quickly. In them there is a mixture of fear and of joy. These are sentiments typical of those who have a profound experience of the Mystery of God. Suddenly, Jesus himself went to meet them and said to them: “”Rejoice!” And they fell on their knees and adored him. It is the attitude of the one who believes and accepts the presence of God, even if it surprises and goes beyond the human capacity of understanding. Now, Jesus himself orders them to go and join the brothers in Galilee: “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee and there they will see me”.
• Matthew 28, 11-15: The astuteness or guile of the enemies of the Good News. The opposition itself which Jesus had to face during his life, springs up again now after his Resurrection. The chief priests meet and give money to the guards. They should spread the news that the disciples have robbed the body of Jesus, and this in order to avoid everything which is said about the resurrection. The chief priests do not accept the Good News of the Resurrection. They prefer to believe that it is an invention on the part of the disciples – men and women – of Jesus.
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• The significance of the testimony of the women. The presence of the women at the death, at the burial and at the resurrection of Jesus is significant. They are witnesses of the death of Jesus (Mt 27, 54-56). At the moment of the burial, they remain sitting before the tomb and, therefore, they can render witness of the place where Jesus was buried (Mt 27, 61). Now, on Sunday morning, they are there once again. They know that the empty tomb is truly the tomb of Jesus! The profound experience of death and resurrection which they had, transformed their lives. They themselves become qualified witnesses of the Resurrection in the Christian Communities. This is why they receive the order to announce: “Jesus is alive! He has risen from the dead!”
Personal questions
• Which is the experience of resurrection that I have in my life? Is there in me some force which tries to oppose the experience of the resurrection? How do I react?
• Today, which is the mission of our community, of us, disciples of Jesus? From where can we draw force and strength and courage to fulfil our mission?
Concluding Prayer
I bless Yahweh who is my counsellor,
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep Yahweh before me always,
for with him at my right hand,
nothing can shake me. (Ps 16,7-8)
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Related:
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) as a Young Woman (detail) by François Gerard (1827)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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17 APRIL, 2017, Monday within Easter Octave
INTELLIGIBILITY OF THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:14. 22-33; MT 28:8-15]

Christian Faith stands or falls with our belief in the resurrection of our Lord.  Indeed, the resurrection of Christ is the foundational doctrine of Christian Faith.  All other doctrines of the Church depend on this sole doctrine.  Without the resurrection of Christ, there is no way for us to speak about the doctrines of the Incarnation, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, Justification, Judgement and Resurrection on the Last Day, the efficacy of the Sacraments, the reality of our Lord in the Eucharist and the forgiveness of sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the infallibility of the Church under the leadership of our Holy Father.

Truly, if you have absolute faith in the resurrection of Christ, then we will never be afraid of tomorrow, the future and especially death.  Because in Jesus, hatred has been overcome by love, death by life.  We know there will always be a tomorrow no matter what happens to us.  We should never fear death because we know our life on earth is but a pilgrimage.  Upon death, we will enter into the fullness of life.  On the last day, we will be resurrected like Christ.  We will have our transfigured bodies.  We will still be able to eat like Jesus, be in communion with everyone, not just with our loved ones.  We can transport ourselves from one place to another, walk through doors like Jesus with our transfigured bodies.

How, then, can we be sure that our faith in the Risen Lord is credible? As the gospel suggests, some could say that the Lord’s body was stolen.  Maybe, they only saw a ghost, not the resurrected Lord.  The truth is that it is very difficult to prove the resurrection of our Lord because seeing the Risen Lord is something beyond human imagination and expectation.  It is too difficult to believe it is true.  Even the apostles and the disciples initially greeted the news of the resurrection conveyed by the women with disbelief.  For the women themselves, when they encountered the Risen Lord, they were filled with awe and amazement.    Most of all, they were filled with a joy that was indescribable.  This is what the gospel said,  “Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.  And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said. And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet.”

For this reason, we can understand why today many people in the world still do not believe in the resurrection of our Lord.  This should not be surprising.  Since they have not seen the Risen Lord, why should they believe?  Whilst it is true that we can explain the missing body of Jesus as mentioned in the Story of the Empty Tomb, it could be, as suggested by some skeptics, that the body was stolen.  Maybe, the disciples were hallucinating when they claimed they saw the Lord because they were missing Him.  Indeed, those who cannot understand the mystery of the resurrection, like the religious leaders during the time of Jesus, try to explain this mystery away by covering up the facts and offering other interpretations.  Only those who are ready to accept the power of God’s intervention can be more receptive to the possibility of the resurrection.  This was what St Peter tried to show the logical or reasonableness of their belief in the resurrection of our Lord.

Firstly, we take note that the first instruction of the Lord to the women was: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.”  The command to go back to Galilee where Jesus began His ministry and where the disciples were chosen and formed was important because the Risen Lord was not another reality or another person but the one and same Jesus of Nazareth, risen and transformed.  The One who had risen was identical with the Jesus of Nazareth.

This explains why St Peter took pains to show that the Risen Lord was Jesus of Nazareth, “a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know.”  So the Risen Lord is the Jesus of Nazareth.  In His earthly life, through His miracles, teachings and love for the people, it was the same God who “worked through Him.”  Jesus was truly sent by God for the salvation of His people.  This was recognized by the people who encountered Him.

Secondly, St Peter made it clear that the passion and death of Christ, although carried out by sinful and ignorant men, was within the plan of God.  The death of Jesus was not contrary to the His divine plan.  “This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power”.  Quoting from the psalm (16:9f) and the scripture, St Peter illustrated that this was foreordained by God. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy of King David. “But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, what he foresaw and spoke about what the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not experience corruption. God raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witness to that.”  King David said, “And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad.  Even my body shall rest in safety for you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness forever.”

In fact, what he said was not new because Christ revealed to them the plan of God when He explained to the disciples at Emmaus.  “’Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’  Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”  (Lk 24:25-27) Christ’s death was necessary to show that death need not be feared because the last word is not death but life.  By dying in His human body, Jesus died to death.  With death conquered, the resurrection shows forth the fullness of life.

Thirdly, we know that the resurrection is real because of the transformation of life.  St Peter after Pentecost told the crowd, “Now raised to the heights by God’s hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.”  In other words, even if you do not believe that He is raised, we can see from the effects which are seen in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that the Father raised Jesus from the dead.  Now ascended on high, the Risen Lord bestows the same Spirit on all Christians so that we can have a foretaste of the risen life here.

In the light of the above, we can be confident that the witnesses to the Risen Lord are credible.  Even if the resurrection cannot be proven, the testimony is credible, faithful to the scriptures, and in continuity with the Jesus of Nazareth, in His teachings and life.  So the fact of the resurrection is credulous and faith invites us to submit to this revelation from God.

Finally, if the future of our life is to be with Christ and in Christ, then why are we still holding to the present life as if it is the fullness of life?  That is why St Paul himself quipped, “Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.   I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.”  (Phil 1:20b-24)  Let us now live the resurrected life and now, so that we can enjoy the fullness of it hereafter.  To live the resurrected life is to live a life of love, freedom from all fear and anxiety, to take one day at a time knowing that the Lord will show us the way; knowing that He holds tomorrow and He holds our hands.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, June 8, 2016 — “How long will you straddle the issue?”

June 7, 2016

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 361

Straddling the Issue. Photo courtesy of Arlene Ash
https://www.berklee.edu/news/173/wayne-wadhams-on-technology-art-and-life

Reading 1 1 KGS 18:20-39

Ahab sent to all the children of Israel
and had the prophets assemble on Mount Carmel.Elijah appealed to all the people and said,
“How long will you straddle the issue?
If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.”
The people, however, did not answer him.
So Elijah said to the people,
“I am the only surviving prophet of the LORD,
and there are four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal.
Give us two young bulls.
Let them choose one, cut it into pieces, and place it on the wood,
but start no fire.
I shall prepare the other and place it on the wood,
but shall start no fire.
You shall call on your gods, and I will call on the LORD.
The God who answers with fire is God.”
All the people answered, “Agreed!”Elijah then said to the prophets of Baal,
“Choose one young bull and prepare it first,
for there are more of you.
Call upon your gods, but do not start the fire.”
Taking the young bull that was turned over to them, they prepared it
and called on Baal from morning to noon, saying,
“Answer us, Baal!”
But there was no sound, and no one answering.
And they hopped around the altar they had prepared.
When it was noon, Elijah taunted them:
“Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating,
or may have retired, or may be on a journey.
Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
They called out louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears,
as was their custom, until blood gushed over them.
Noon passed and they remained in a prophetic state
until the time for offering sacrifice.
But there was not a sound;
no one answered, and no one was listening.

Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.”
When the people had done so, he repaired the altar of the LORD
that had been destroyed.
He took twelve stones, for the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob,
to whom the LORD had said, “Your name shall be Israel.”
He built an altar in honor of the LORD with the stones,
and made a trench around the altar
large enough for two measures of grain.
When he had arranged the wood,
he cut up the young bull and laid it on the wood.
“Fill four jars with water,” he said,
“and pour it over the burnt offering and over the wood.”
“Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
“Do it a third time,” he said,
and they did it a third time.
The water flowed around the altar,
and the trench was filled with the water.

At the time for offering sacrifice,
the prophet Elijah came forward and said,
“LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel,
let it be known this day that you are God in Israel
and that I am your servant
and have done all these things by your command.
Answer me, LORD!
Answer me, that this people may know that you, LORD, are God
and that you have brought them back to their senses.”
The LORD’s fire came down
and consumed the burnt offering, wood, stones, and dust,
and it lapped up the water in the trench.
Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said,
“The LORD is God! The LORD is God!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1B-2AB, 4, 5AB AND 8, 11

R. (1b) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
They multiply their sorrows
who court other gods.
Blood libations to them I will not pour out,
nor will I take their names upon my lips.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
O LORD, my allotted portion and cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.

Alleluia PS 25:4B, 5A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Teach me your paths, my God,
and guide me in your truth.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:17-19

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away,
not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter
will pass from the law,
until all things have taken place.
Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments
and teaches others to do so
will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven.
But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments
will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

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Commentary on Matthew 5:17-19 From Living Space

In Matthew’s gospel especially, Jesus is shown as not being a maverick breakaway from the traditions of the Jews. He was not a heretic or a blasphemer. He was the last in the great line of prophets sent by God to his people. “Last of all God sent his Son.” And so, in today’s passage, he strongly emphasises that it is not his intention to abrogate the Jewish law but rather to develop and complete it. In the verses that immediately follow today’s passage Jesus gives six very clear examples of what he means. He quotes a number of moral situations contained in the Law and shows how he expects his followers not only to observe them but to go much further in understanding their underlying meaning.

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The Law is not to be downgraded in any way; rather it is to be transcended to a higher level. Up to the time of Jesus, and this is clearly exemplified in the Pharisees and Scribes as they appear in the gospels, perfect observance of the Law focused on external observance. Jesus will show that true observance must also be in the heart and mind.

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Christians, too, can become obsessed with external observance of Church laws and regulations. It can become a source of scrupulosity and fear. This can happen during the Lenten season when we are encouraged to do ‘penitential acts’. We need to remember that these acts do not stand on their own and only have meaning if they deepen our relationship with God. In all things, our ultimate guide must be the law of love. No truly loving act can ever be sinful, although at times it may violate the letter of a law.

Source http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1034g/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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08 JUNE 2016, Wednesday, 10th Week in Ordinary Time
PERFECTING THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KINGS 18:20-39; PS 15:1-2, 4-5, 8, 11; MT 5:17-19  ]

Jesus was an unconventional rabbi.  In fact, He never even attended a rabbinic school for formal theological studies.   He was an itinerant preacher and the people popularly acclaimed Him with the title of Rabbi, teacher and master. His down to earth and simple teaching attracts the common people.  The use of parables taken from daily life appealed to the ordinary people.  They could identify with Him and relate with His message.  He lived in their midst and walked among them.  He was certainly loved by the people.  However, He was seen by the establishment as a rebel, revolutionary, heretic and a potential cause of social disorder.  They could not quite place Him as He was simply unique and in a class of His own.  Regardless, He was a threat to the institutions and the status quo. He was perceived as a real danger to Judaism, the aristocrats and its priestly class.

In truth, He was not seeking to destroy Judaism.  He came to bring Judaism to its fulfillment.  He did not see Himself as bringing about a new religion.  What He was teaching was what true Judaism should be.  He stood in continuity with Judaism and the Old Testament Law and the Prophets.  He came to purify the Jewish faith and bring it to fulfillment.  Hence, in the gospel, He made it clear, “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved.” Indeed, Jesus saw Himself as the Last and the Eschatological Prophet because in Him, the Word of God has taken flesh.  He did not simply speak the Word of God like the prophets; He is the Word of God in person.  Most of all, in the Transfiguration event, the appearance of Moses and Elijah confirmed that He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  (Cf Mk 9:2-8)

This was also the mission of Elijah in the first reading.  Among all the prophets, Elijah was considered the Old Testament prophet, comparable to none because of His zeal and passion for the purity of the faith of Israel.  He was the true prophet for he said, “I, I alone, am left as a prophet of the Lord, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty.” With courage, he sought to purify Israel’s faith from being contaminated by the pagan religions around them.  When they entered the Promised Land, the pristine faith of Israel was greatly compromised through inter-cultural and inter-religious contacts.  As a result, the leaders and the people were corrupt and not faithful to the Covenant and the Law of Moses.  Instead of living a covenanted life of love and charity, they were compromising their faith in Yahweh and practicing social injustice at the expense of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the weak.

How, then, did Elijah and the Lord purify the faith of Israel?  Firstly, they sought to bring the people into an uncompromising faith in the Lord.  Elijah asked the people, “How long, do you mean to hobble first on one leg then on the other? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.”   Indeed, confession of faith in the One God must be made without compromise if we are to find our focus in life.   Once we forget that there is only one Lord and God, we end up worshipping many others gods and fall into idolatry.  This was what happened to the people.  They were uncertain about who was the Lord and thus they worshipped Baal the god of fertility instead of trusting in Yahweh whom they only knew as the Trek God.  But there is only one God, the creator of heaven and earth.  For this reason, the Creed begins with “I believe in one God!”

And what did they do to demonstrate the power of the living God?  For Elijah, besides his candid and fiery preaching, he performed miracles in the name of the Lord.  Jesus too performed many miracles, the most important of which was His passion, death and resurrection.  Through His deeds and the Paschal Mystery, Jesus showed forth the power and the glory of God.  Faith is born through the faith of others, in this case, of Elijah and of our Lord.  And we read, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’”

Secondly, God is found not just in might and wonders, He is found when we practise social justice and compassion for the poor and the suffering.  Again, in the case of Elijah, we read how he performed a miracle for the poor widow and her son in a time of famine.  He healed Naaman who suffered from leprosy.  Jesus too cared for the sick, the suffering, the poor and the marginalized.  He stood up for them when they were used by the institutions for their own ends.  He fought for the poor who were being manipulated and cheated at the Temple when they were charged exorbitantly for the animals for sacrifices and the coins for the use of the Temple.  Indeed, it was against the oppression of the poor, the corruption and the injustices of their time that the prophets, particularly Amos, spoke strongly against. Consequently, we can appreciate why the prophets and our Lord were very hard with the political and religious leaders of the day, because instead of using their authority and influence to champion the cause of the poor and the weak, and to promote unity and justice, they used them for their selfish interests, for monetary gains, power and prestige.

Thirdly, they sought to purify the faith of Israel from legalism.  Whilst the Law of Moses was necessary for the preservation of the faith of Israel and the unity of the community, unfortunately, they were followed meticulously and slavishly out of fear and not according to the Spirit of the laws.  At times, such observances of the laws were over exaggerated to the extent that it became a burden. It led to external formalism, legalism, pride and judgmentalism.  Jesus came to purify the Law of Moses by restoring the true spirit of the laws, which was the practice of social justice, compassion for the poor and the weak and most of all, total devotion to the Lord.  In the final analysis, there is only one Law, as St Paul says, namely, the Law of love.  (cf Rom 13:8)

Fourthly, Jesus came to purify the worship of God.  Like their forefathers, the Jews were more concerned with the rituals than relationship with God.  They squabbled over the rituals and the practices, particularly, the rubrics and the customary practices of ritual purity.  As Jesus said, true worship of God is not on this mountain or in Jerusalem but the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth.  Without the heart, all sacrifices are useless for God, because He does not want our holocaust but hearts that are pure and loving. (cf Isa 1:11)  Paying lip service will not move the heart of God.  (cf Isa 29:13; Hos 6:6)   So, true worship of God is to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1)

Fifthly, Jesus came to perfect the Law and the Prophets by proclaiming salvation over judgment, mercy over punishment.  In the Old Testament, the prophets would always proclaim the imminent judgement of God, known as the Day of the Lord.  In the face of His imminent judgement, the prophets called the people to repentance.  However, often, the conversion was more out of fear of punishment rather than love. Jesus, however, underscored the primacy of salvation and mercy over judgment and punishment.  In the light of God’s love and mercy, the people were invited to repent from their selfishness and evil deeds.  God does not threaten us with judgment and punishment but He wants to win us over by His love.  God wants us to love Him as His children, not as slaves.  (cf Gal 3:26; Jn 3:10).

From this perspective, the gospel is more than just a mere continuity of the Old Testament; there is also a radical newness as well.  Continuity calls for growth and development.  In this case, Jesus brought newness and freshness to the faith, hence the Good News, as Jesus calls it, because it is about God’s mercy and our salvation.  Most of all, the newness is that He is the Word of God in person, the Son of the Father who calls us all to share in His sonship and daughtership by giving us His Holy Spirit.  Above all, in Jesus, we know that we are called to share in the divine nature of God and eternal life with Him.  Such is the great hope of the Christian.  This is the Good News.

However, there is always the danger that Christianity, as a 2,000-year old institution, can go back to the laws, as St Paul remarked.   We can fall back into the same trap of legalism, especially in the celebration of the liturgy, morality, Church discipline and ecclesiastical laws.  This is what Pope Francis seeks to eliminate.  The Church must once again come close to the ordinary people.  Ritualism in the Church without real participation of mind and spirit must be replaced with true worship of the heart.   Legalism over relationship in laws and rubrics must be simplified whilst retaining the dignity of the celebration. There should not be too much extravagance and pomp, for our God is the God of simplicity.  Against a growing individualism and elitism among the People of God, Pope Francis urges respect for the laity and their role in the Church.  We must overcome clericalism and the domination of the clergy over Church affairs and give our laity a greater role in the governance and the mission of the Church.  Most of all, the Church must once again be the Church of the poor for the poor, as Pope Francis asked of us.  In spite of it being a great institution, the Church must remain humble as a servant of the People of God and humanity. Without compromising our gospel values, we must remain firm in our faith even as we reach out to the world.  Yet, we do all these without condemnation of others, but only compassion, understanding, patience and respect for those who disagree with us.

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

As Ecclesiastes wrote, “There is a time for everything.. A time to tear, and a time to sow.. A time of war, and a time of peace.” Scripture lays various possibilities before us, each equally inspired by God: to reconcile and harmonize, or to make a clean break with an intolerable situation. To decide which course to follow at any stage in our lives, we must rely on prayer, on the guidance of the Holy Spirit who has called us to some responsibility whether as parent or teacher, as priest or doctor, as friend or confidant, as counselor or advisor.

Clearly, the ferocious stand of the prophet Elijah against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel was a drastic last resort, when he had four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal seized, dragged down to brook Kishon, and killed (1 Kings 18:40). Jesus warns his disciples against any such violence against their enemies. We leave the final judgement to God alone, and our challenge is to call others to conversion and reconciliation.

While there is something heroic in Elijah’s standing out so fiercely against the apostasy of his time, we cannot approve of his methods. There is no way to reconcile his ferocity with Our Lord’s teaching about love of enemies, and seeking a peaceful solution to disputed issues. Perhaps Elijah himself later came to realise that there must have been a better way to deal with the Baal-worship crisis, when, wandering in the wilderness, he found God in the small, still voice that spoke to his heart.


Respectful of tradition

In our gospel for today, Jesus the Jew is respectful of his own Jewish tradition, “don’t imagine that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets.” However, he also declares that he has come to complete the Law and the Prophets, to bring their true intention to fulfilment. Jesus valued the good in his religious tradition, but was also open to the ways that God was working to enrich that tradition. We too are called to value the good in our own religious tradition, to critique the shadow side to that tradition and to be open and receptive to the ways that the Lord is constantly renewing and enriching that tradition. God is like the potter who takes what is there and reshapes it so that it serves his purposes more fully. God is always ahead of us in that sense; our task is to keep up with what God is trying to do.

http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2016/06/08-june-wednesday-week-10/

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, May 12, 2016 — “Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world”

May 11, 2016

Photo: Wildfires glow underneath The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Credit Mark Blinch, Reuters

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Lectionary: 300

Reading 1 ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11

Wishing to determine the truth
about why Paul was being accused by the Jews,
the commander freed him
and ordered the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin to convene.
Then he brought Paul down and made him stand before them.Paul was aware that some were Sadducees and some Pharisees,
so he called out before the Sanhedrin,
“My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees;
I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.”
When he said this,
a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees,
and the group became divided.
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection
or angels or spirits,
while the Pharisees acknowledge all three.
A great uproar occurred,
and some scribes belonging to the Pharisee party
stood up and sharply argued,
“We find nothing wrong with this man.
Suppose a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
The dispute was so serious that the commander,
afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them,
ordered his troops to go down and rescue Paul from their midst
and take him into the compound.
The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage.
For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem,
so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 17:21

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that the world may believe that you sent me, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

“You will not abandon my soul to the nether world.”

Art: Into the Abyss by Brent Berry.

Gospel JN 17:20-26

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“I pray not only for these,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”
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Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 22:30, 23:6-11 (This is a “Drill Down Deeper” from Father Callan)

I’ve included a summary background to the events leading up to the subject of today’s readings. This is followed by Father Callan’s notes. I’ve also added some notes of my own which appear in red letters.

Background~St Paul’s so-called Third Missionary Journey has come to an end (Acts 18:21-23:16). As it neared completion, St Paul was the recipient of an ominous prophetic action by Agabus which indicated that he would be arrested by his own countrymen and turned over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:10-11). The news caused quite a disturbance among the faithful who tried to dissuade St Paul from going to Jerusalem (Acts 21:12), but he was determined to do so (Acts Acts 21:13-14).

Upon arrival in the city he meets with St James who tells him a rumor is spreading among the Jewish Christians: Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews that have believed: “and they are all zealous for the law. Now they have heard of thee that thou teachest those Jews, who are among the Gentiles to depart from Moses: saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, nor walk according to the custom” (Acts 21:21-22). To counteract this rumor St James advises St Paul to join four Jewish Christians who are going to take the nazarite vows in the Temple, and to pay for their expenses (Acts 21:22-24, see also Num 6:3-20).

St Paul does this, but during the course of the ritual days some Jews from Asia notice him in the Temple and assume that he has brought a non-Jew into the temple precincts and they stir up trouble (Acts 21:27-29). St Paul is seized by an angry crowd which drags him from the Temple and which attempts to kill him. The Roman cohort commander in Jerusalem is alerted to the riot and with his soldiers he intervenes, stopping the beating of St Paul whom he promptly arrests. He then begins to attempt to find out what the circumstances of the riot were, only to be given contradictory information by the crowd (Acts 21:31-35).

As the Romans attempt to lead Paul to their compound he asks to address the crowd (Acts 21:34-40). This leads to a lengthy defense speech which the crowd listens to but refuses to accept (Acts 22:1-22). As the threat of riot continues to loom the commander orders St Paul to be taken into the compound and interrogated “under the lash (whip)” to determine what he has done. As the Romans prepare to scourge him he informs them that he is a Roman citizen and therefore, subject to the due process guaranteed Roman citizens. The attempted lashing is halted (Acts 22:23-29).

St Paul is freed but, apparently, remains in some kind of protective custody. The cohort commander orders the Jewish Sanhedrin to meet and he brings St Paul before them, at which point St Paul delivers another defense speech (Act 22:30-23:6). The speech caused a division between Pharisee and Sadducees, with some Pharisees declaring St Paul innocent (Acts 23:7-9). The division among them was so great the Romans have to act to protect St Paul (Acts 23:10-11).

Father Callan’s Commentary~

30. But on the next day, meaning to know more diligently for what cause he was accused by the Jews, he (the cohort commander) loosed him, and commanded the priests to come together, and all the council: and bringing forth Paul, he set him before them.

The council; i.e., the Sanhedrin. Concerning the Sanhedrin see this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

6. And Paul knowing that the one part were Sadducees, and the otherPharisees, cried out in the council: Men, brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees: concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

Sadducees . . . Pharisees. See commentary on Acts 4:1 (I’ve reproduced them below) St. Paul thought by this appeal to turn the discussion from himself to a much controverted question between the Pharisees and Sadducees, namely, the doctrine of the resurrection. It was not false for St. Paul to say that he was still a Pharisee, for he really was in regard to all the good doctrines of that sect, but not as regarded their evil and erroneous teachings.

Here are Father Callan’s notes on Acts 4:1 referenced above:

“Sadducees. These were especially opposed to the doctrines of the Pharisees, rejecting all traditions and admitting only the written law. They denied the resurrection, the future life, and the existence of spirits or angels. Being very rich, and favored with high offices by the Romans, they were powerful, although few in number.

“The Pharisees, on the contrary, were the scrupulous observers of the Law of Moses, and of a multitude of their own traditions besides. They believed in the future life, in the resurrection, the existence of spirits, etc. In the time of our Lord, however, their religion and observance were wholly external and affected; their prevailing characteristics were hypocrisy and pride. And yet, because of their feigned observance and piety they enjoyed great influence with the people.”

7. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the multitude was divided.
8. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

St Paul’s declaration is sometime portrayed as nothing more than a ploy to cause division and thus extricate himself from legal trouble, but Luke Timothy Johnson, in is commentary on Acts, sees something more important at work: the highlighting of the main point of contention between St Paul and his opponents, namely, the Resurrection of Jesus which both groups refuse to accept.

9. And there arose a great cry. And some of the Pharisees rising up, strove, saying: We find no evil in this man. What if a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel?

Some of the Pharisees. In the Greek it is: ” Some scribes of the sect of the Pharisees.”

These people attempt to use St Paul as a weapon to infuriate the Sadducees. Notice they say nothing about accepting Jesus’ resurrection, they merely assert the possibility that a spirit or angel has spoken to Paul. L.T. Johnson see this as ‘bad faith” on their part.

For a good summary of the significance of this verse see Dennis J. Hamm’s Acts of the Apostles (scroll down slightly to the paragraph which begins: “But more is going on here than clever forensic strategy”).

10. And when there arose a great dissension, the tribune fearing lest Paul should be pulled in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle.

The response of the Sanhedrin shows that they are no better than the mob that originally formed against Paul, thus indicating that they are not acting in the orderly and authoritative manner they were supposed to.

Castle. Camp, compound, barracks.

11. And the night following the Lord standing by him, said: Be constant; for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

Our Lord appeared to Paul, whether in sleep or while awake we know not, and assured him that as he had defended the truth in Jerusalem, so he should also defend it in Rome. Be constant means “be of good cheer.”

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Today’s Gospel (Gospel JN 17:20-26) was discussed Sunday, May 8, 2016).
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What happens to us during the glorious days of Easter? It must be something exceptional, something even more significant than during the Season of Lent since we have only 40 days of Lent but celebrate 50 days of Easter! As we commemorate the seventh and last Sunday of Easter, it is worthwhile for us to pause and review what spiritual effects Easter is having on us.

Has not our desire for personally encounter with the Risen Christ grown as we have listened and pondered the Word of God recalling Christ’s appearances to His disciples after His Death and Resurrection?

Has not our devotion to the Holy Eucharist intensified, and has not our attention at Holy Mass increased as the Risen Lord Himself Breaks Open the Scriptures and Breaks the Bread for us?

Have we not noticed that Christ, more times than not, made His Resurrected Presence felt at a meal: in the Upper Room, on the way to Emmaus, and the breakfast setting at the Sea of Tiberius? Does this not reveal our need to always be present for the celebration of the holy meal and sacrifice at Sunday Eucharist?

Has not our confidence in our own resurrection grown as we embraced the Gospel story of Mary Magdalen arriving at the tomb and not finding a dead body but encountering her Risen Lord, our Risen Lord?

Pray God that all this has taken place! But, do not be discouraged if the above has only happened a little, because it also seems very clear from the Gospels that the disciples grew in faith and confidence in the Resurrected Christ only a little at a time. That is happening to us as well – a little at a time we are growing in faith, even though we are not noticing it.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus prayed, but this Sunday we are told that Jesus prayed for us, and we have His words: I pray … also for those (you and me) who will believe in me (Christ) through their word….

Jesus prays that we receive a threefold gift from the Father:

– that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you — brought to perfection as one;

– that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory;

– that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.

We have been consecrated by this prayer of Christ. This consecrating prayer gives us the power we need to give witness of Christ to the world: that the world may believe that you (Father) sent me (Jesus Christ). Christ has Ascended to heaven, but His Body – His Resurrected Body (you and me) remains on earth to witness to the truth that Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to be the Savior of the world! With the constant prayer of Jesus Christ before the Father, may we boldly proclaim JESUS AS LORD!

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

Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat. See our website for details: MalvernRetreat.com

http://malvernretreat.com/?sermons=gospel-reflection-seventh-sunday-of-easter

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 MAY 2016, Thursday, 7th Week of Easter
THE LIMITS OF DEMOCRACY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 22:30; 23:6-11; JOHN 17:20-26   ]

The most challenging task of any leader is to forge unity among those whom he or she has been entrusted to lead.   Indeed, trying to bring people at every level to agree and to work together is a most trying and often frustrating task.  Whether it is the country, organization, church or family, we do not agree on many things.  We hold different views and are not willing to compromise.  More so, when we live in a world of relativism which holds that no view is absolute or true.  As a consequence, there is division and political maneuvering leading to competition, backbiting and even slander.

The Church, although divine, is also human and thus is not spared from such divisions.   That is why the greatest scandal of Christianity is the disunity among Christians, whether among different ecclesial communities or within members of the community.

When we are divided among ourselves, how can we ever be a sign of unity and love in the world?  The whole purpose of Jesus’ coming is to unite us all in one Body and one Church.  This is apparently far from being realized in our Christian communities and in the Church.  We have become counter-witnesses to the gospel.  Our proclamations about love are mere words.  Like the Jews in the first reading, the Jewish leaders in the Sanhedrin, comprising the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were split over the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  St Paul tactfully exploited this division in his favour so that he could continue to spread the gospel.

What, then, is the basis for unity?  In the olden days, unity was enforced by an absolute ruler.  A monarchical form of government ensured that the people all worked as one and in unity with the ruler.  The power of the ruler was absolute and his decisions were obeyed by all, even if not accepted.  In such a form of government, unity is much easier to achieve although it gives rise to rebellion in some instances.  However, if the leader is not walking in the truth, does not live an upright life; and fails to see that his power is for the service of his people and their good, he could become abusive and self-serving. Indeed because of abuses of absolute authority, monarchy or dictatorial powers were replaced by democracy.

But is democracy the best way to ensure unity?  Ironically, democracy is rooted in Christianity, which advocates the freedom of the individual, especially the inviolability of his conscience.  But again, such freedom can be abused when exercised irresponsibly. In the face of relativism, in a democratic world, governments are elected on the basis of popularity.  Do we really believe that very voter understands what and who they are supporting?   Do we really believe that every voter is a conscientious voter?  Many are voted into leadership based on promises designed to pander to the whims and fancies of their supporters.  Many make empty promises that cannot be fulfilled.  Some even resort to bribing their voters with money.  With the power of communication, many are gullible and not critical enough to understand the complexities of running a country or any organization, including the Church.

Worse still, those in leadership, for fear of losing popularity and votes, will do what is popular; making policies that generate short term benefits but are disastrous for long term survival of the country or organization.  Instead of ruling the country, they spend all their time trying to win votes.   But why would they care because they know that most likely they will be serving at most one or two terms?   When leaders are no longer focused on doing the right things, both in the immediate term and the future for the people they serve, then democracy will result in leaders no longer leading, but are led by the people.  It will also be reduced to pleasing the people.  Policies will be framed to seek the greatest support, not because they are true or really good for the people, especially in the future.  Decisions will be based on consensus; not on whether it is true or good.  When we are shortsighted, the future of the country will suffer.

It seems ironical that the Church, which advocates freedom of the individual, in her own structure is still hierarchical and absolute.  The Holy Father remains absolute in his powers.  To some extent, the bishop in the diocese is responsible for everything that happens in his diocese.  So too is the parish priest.  Unlike the bishop, all other members are merely advisers but do not have executive powers.  Why did the Church not subject herself to the full range of democracy, that is, making decisions by the majority?  Clearly, in her view, democracy might end up with a rogue leader and a rogue government, as we have seen in some democratic countries.  By the time the damage is done, it would be too late to turn back the clock.

However, this is not to say that the Church is strictly monarchical as in those countries in the past where the monarchy held absolute powers.  The Church, whilst recognizing the final authority of the leaders, particularly the Pope and the bishops, ensures that decisions are not made without proper consultation and dialogue.  So whilst it is possible that Pope, bishops and priests can abuse their powers, this can be mitigated if proper consultation takes place.  However, this is not always done.  When that happens, people become disenchanted with the Church and eventually give up the faith.

So how then can we find unity?  Regardless of whatever form of governance we choose, since both absolute rule and democracy have their limitations, strengths and weaknesses, we need to ground unity not in consensus but in truth and love.  As leaders, unless our decisions and policies are founded on truth and love, we will not be able to always do the right things but instead do the popular things.  It is within this context that we appreciate the fundamental guideline provided by our Lord in the gospel.

Jesus prayed for unity among His disciples but this unity is based on the union of mind and heart with Him.  It is on the same basis as His relationship with the Father.  He said, “Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”  Jesus was in complete union with the Father in truth and in love.  For this reason, the Lord prayed, “Father, Righteous One, the world has not known you, but I have known you, and these have known that you sent me. I have made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and so that I may be in them.”   It is the desire of Jesus that we come to know the Father in truth and in love.  Jesus, in making the name of His Father known to us, reveals the mind and the heart of the Father.  The whole life of Jesus is to reveal the Father’s will and love for us.  That is why Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; and no one can come to the Father except through Him.  If we want to promote unity, it must be based on truth and on love.  It cannot be the result of consensus and popular votes because man will make decisions for his own interests rather than the wider interests of the community and the future of humanity.  In a world of relativism and individualism, it is about what they want here and now, their pleasures and needs; not others.

Hence, today, as we pray for unity, let us be clear that the leaders we vote to serve us are truly rooted in truth and love; and not in their own interests.  So whether our form of governance is monarchical or democratic, we must constantly seek to do what is right and true and therefore good for now and the future.  We must be courageous in standing up for the truth of the gospel.  If not, we will cause the present and future generations to suffer for the superficial unity we promote, namely, through popular votes.  In countries and organizations including the Church, when the people are ignorant or unenlightened and confused, it is the leader’s task to teach and enlighten them in the truth so that they can exercise their freedom responsibly and most of all, not to be deceived by enemies of truth and love.

As leaders, especially in Christian communities, we must seek to be like St Paul and our Lord.  We must seek the truth and the love of God through intense communion with the Lord in prayer, worship and meditation.   But we must also as one body in Christ put aside all individual and personal preferences for the greater good of the community.  This calls for humility and generosity to allow leaders appointed by God to lead us to further growth by working with and each other in truth, in love and in unity.

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 28, 2016 — “With him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.” — Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

March 27, 2016

Monday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 261

— “You have made known to me the paths of life”

Image result for Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt c.1638
Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt c.1638

Reading 1 ACTS 2:14, 22-33

On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.“You who are children of Israel, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.
My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit
that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1-2A AND 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
Because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaPS 118:24

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

Gospel:

MT 28:8-15

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb,
fearful yet overjoyed,
and ran to announce the news to his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid.
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee,
and there they will see me.”While they were going, some of the guard went into the city
and told the chief priests all that had happened.
The chief priests assembled with the elders and took counsel;
then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,
telling them, “You are to say,
‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’
And if this gets to the ears of the governor,
we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.”
The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.
And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day.
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Over and over again in the scripture we see the words “do not be afraid.” God expects us to know and believe that he has our back!
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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
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Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
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Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.
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St Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) as a Young Woman (detail) by François Gerard (1827)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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28 MARCH 2016, Monday Within Easter Octave
JESUS IS LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:14. 22-33; MT 28:8-15 ]

We can empathize with non-Christians who cannot accept our proclamation that Jesus is Lord and God.  How can a man be God?  This is ludicrous.  It was also true for the early Church as well.  The early disciples of Jesus were Jews and they professed faith in the One God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.   Furthermore, the stress is on the transcendence of God.  So how could they proclaim Jesus as Lord and God as it went against their own beliefs?   So should we be surprised that the world views us with skepticism and see as naïve and superstitious to believe that a man could be called Lord and God?

What is the crux of the matter?  What is the real obstacle to faith in Jesus as Lord?  It is all boils down not so much on whether Jesus is Lord and God but whether we believe that He has been raised by the Father from the dead.  In other words, faith in Jesus as Lord hinges on faith in His resurrection.  The claim of Jesus as Lord is unthinkable only because the resurrection of Jesus is always unacceptable, for no one has been raised from the dead, at most resuscitated.

Again, we can appreciate denial of the resurrection of Christ.  Non-Christians often make fun of our belief in Christ’s resurrection.  Again should we be surprised?  The women we read in today’s gospel too were amazed and ran away in awe when they saw the empty tomb instead of the corpse of Jesus.  In Mark’s gospel, they were filled with fear but in St Matthew’s gospel, they were “filled with awe and great joy” because it was simply incredible, too good to be true and an out-of-this-world kind of experience.  The joy that comes from the hope that He was still alive was too great.  Their hope was not disappointed because the Lord appeared to them along their way.  “And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus. ‘Greetings’ he said.”

Of course, this initial reluctance to believe in the resurrection was also true for the apostles and disciplesexcept St John.   We read that St Peter, who was the first to arrive and enter the tomb of our Lord, left mystified.  At any rate, the disciples would not believe the testimony of the women as they doubted their integrity.  As for others, they dismissed it as a hoax.  This explains the story that was circulated as recounted in the gospel.  They bribed the soldiers to say that “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”

So it is important that we are able to adduce the reasons for our faith in the resurrection of our Lord.  Right from the outset, we must state in no uncertain terms that the resurrection of our Lord is a trans-historical event.  This is to say that we are speaking of a resurrected body at the end of time, which is beyond history, and now made present in history.  This explains why it cannot be seen with ordinary eyes and without the grace of God.  Jesus gave this grace to the women who saw Him and touched His feet. Because the resurrection cannot be proven empirically like a scientific observation, then we need to draw from other supporting evidence to show the reasonableness of our claim.

St Peter established and verified the truth of the resurrection by referring to the fulfillment of scriptures.  Quoting from the prophecy of King David who said, “I saw the Lord before me always, for with him at my right hand nothing can shake me. So my heart was glad and my tongue cried out with joy; my body, too, will rest in the hope that you will not abandon my soul to Hades nor allow your holy one to experience corruption. You have made known the way of life to me, you will fill me with gladness through your presence.” (Cf Ps 16:8-11)  So the resurrection of our Lord fulfills the prophecy of David.

Secondly, we have the testimony of the life, passion, death of our Lord.  He was doing good on earth, and fulfilled the messianic promises of bringing healing and restoration.  St Peter said, “Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you, as you all know.” As Jesus said, even if we do not believe in Him at least believe in the works He had done.  Such works vouched for His identification with the Father.  “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”  (Jn 10:37f)

Thirdly, that He was raised from the dead, even though He was condemned unjustly as a criminal and political revolutionary, showed again the fulfillment of God’s plan.  God did not allow Him to be condemned to death.   St Peter said, “This man, who was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God, you took and had crucified by men outside the Law. You killed him, but God raised him to life, freeing him from the pangs of Hades; for it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”  Indeed, the power belongs to God ultimately, not to man.  So everything happened according to the plan of God and His divine wisdom.  No one can jeopardize and derail the plan of salvation.

Fourthly, note that on this first Monday of the Octave of Easter, the Church selected the discourse of St Peter from the Acts of the Apostles as the first reading when this discourse was given at Pentecost, not at His resurrection. Why?  The conclusion is obvious.  IfGod raised this man Jesus to life, and all of us are witness to that”, then it means that He has been “raised to the heights by God’s hand. “  It means that “he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.”  Jesus, in other words, at His resurrection was not simply raised from the dead but exalted and seated at the right of God, assuming all divine powers and therefore able to send us the Holy Spirit that He received from the Father.  Unless He is God, He would not have been able to send us the Holy Spirit.  Hence, in the mind of St Peter, it is beyond doubt that Jesus is Lord and God.

So what does it mean for us who confess that Jesus is Lord and God?  Firstly, it means that following the women, we too must do what the women did.  What did they do?   “And the women came up to him and, falling down before him, clasped his feet.”  To come up to Him implies that we must now approach Him in awe and devotion.  Like them, we must fall down in worship and adoration by clasping His feet.   Only because He is Lord do we bow down before Him.   But worshipping Jesus as Lord is more than just sentimental expression of love and reverence.

To confess that Jesus is Lord means that He will from now on be the center of our life, our devotion, all that we live for and die for.  In other words, “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Rom 14:7-9)   Jesus, as Lord, means that we will obey Him and take directions from Him because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Whatever we say or think, it will be rooted in the Lord and not in the wisdom of the world.  We will from now on measure all things by Christ’s standards, not that of the world.   With the psalmist, we pray, “I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel who even at night directs my heart. I keep the Lord ever in my sight.  Since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.”

Finally, it means to announce to our brothers and sisters that Jesus is Lord.  Jesus said to the women, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; they will see me there.”  By our lives, our words, actions and testimony, we are called to witness to His resurrection.  We are called to live adventurously and courageously.  “Be not afraid” is what the Lord told His disciples.  We are called to live as freed men and women.  Death has been overcome and life is certain, here and now and in the next life.  We can surrender our lives and future to Him because God is faithful to us.  Just as the Father showed His fidelity to His Son by raising Him from the dead, He too will be faithful to us.  As the psalmist says, He will preserve us from death and rescue us from our enemies.  “And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad.  Even my body shall rest in safety for you will not leave my soul among the dead, nor let your beloved know decay.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 28:8-15 from Living Space

The women who had come to the tomb early on Sunday morning to embalm the dead body of Jesus were amazed to find the stone rolled back from the entrance and the tomb empty. Their reactions are a mixture of anxiety and joy. They are anxious that the body may have been stolen; but there is also an expectant joy. Could it be that he is alive? We may contrast that with Mark where he tells us that the women in their fear “said nothing to anyone” (Mark 16:8).

And, while still wondering what could have happened, they run to tell the “good news” (obviously they were having optimistic thoughts) to tell the disciples when they ran into Jesus who gave them the Easter greeting of “Peace!” (Shalom).

As they cling to Jesus’ feet (like Mary Magdalene in John’s gospel, they do not want to lose him again), they are told not to be afraid, an admonition that will be heard frequently during these days, but to go to the disciples and instruct them to go to Galilee where they will see Jesus.

There are various, and to some extent, mutually conflicting versions of the resurrection story and of how and where the Risen Jesus was seen and by whom. There are basically two types of experiences. Appearances to individuals (Mary Magdalene, Emmaus disciples, Peter and Thomas) help prove the fact of the resurrection. Appearances to several disciples together are accompanied by a mandate to continue the work of Jesus.

In today’s reading, the women are to instruct the disciples that they will see him in Galilee, their own place and that is where we will expect to see him, too. Galilee is their home ground, the place where they were born, grew up and work. That is where the Risen Jesus is to be found.

He is saying the same thing to us too. We do not have to go to Jerusalem or Rome or Lourdes or Fatima to find him. If we cannot find him in the place where we live and work, we won’t find him in those other places either.

As well as the distinction between individual and collective appearances, there are two other distinct traditions: 1, they take place in Galilee (in the north); 2, they are in Judea (at Jerusalem, in the south). Commentators have pointed out that these seeming inconsistencies provide a better witness than any artificial uniformity to the antiquity of the evidence and their historical value. The physical details are not that important; it is the meaning that is all-important.

Meanwhile the leaders of the Jews put another twist on what is happening. They also are reporting that the tomb is empty. All sides agree that the tomb was empty; the disagreement was over the why. Obviously, they are wondering what could have happened but cannot accept the possibility of resurrection. The guards are bribed and told to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep. Guards who sleep on the job should be punished not bribed. And, if they were asleep, how did they know what happened?

But when people do not want to believe something, reason and logic can often go out the window. We see such rationalisations frequently in those who find it inconvenient to continue living a Christian life.

Those who take the Gospel seriously and try to live according to its vision have all the confirmation they need that it is the recipe for a happy and fulfilled life.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1012g/

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Above: Simon of Cyrene assists Jesus — “Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry His Cross” By James Patrick Reid

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 15, 2015 — Archbishop of Singapore: As World Headlines Indicate, Each of Us is in a War of Ideology

November 14, 2015

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 158

Reading 1 DN 12:1-3

In those days, I Daniel,
heard this word of the Lord:
“At that time there shall arise
Michael, the great prince,
guardian of your people;
it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress
since nations began until that time.
At that time your people shall escape,
everyone who is found written in the book.“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake;
some shall live forever,
others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.“But the wise shall shine brightly
like the splendor of the firmament,
and those who lead the many to justice
shall be like the stars forever.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

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R. (1) You are my inheritance, O Lord!
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!
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Reading 2 HEB 10:11-14, 18

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Brothers and sisters:
Every priest stands daily at his ministry,
offering frequently those same sacrifices
that can never take away sins.
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God;
now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool.
For by one offering
he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.Where there is forgiveness of these,
there is no longer offering for sin.

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Alleluia LK 21:36

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R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Art: Christ is in Clouds by Danny Hahlbohm

Gospel MK 13:24-32

Jesus said to his disciples:
“In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from the sky,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

“And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’
with great power and glory,
and then he will send out the angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves,
you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the gates.
Amen, I say to you,
this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.

“But of that day or hour, no one knows,
neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

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Commentary on Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14,18; Mark 13:24-32 From Living Space

TODAY IS THE SECOND LAST SUNDAY of the Church year. Next Sunday we will celebrate the Feast of Christ the King.

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On this Sunday the readings traditionally speak about the end of the world, the end of time, the final coming of Jesus to take all peoples and all creation to himself. For Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega: the source and the end of all things.

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In the passage immediately before today’s Gospel, Jesus spoke about the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. It was a catastrophic experience for the Jews: even worse than the destruction of Rome and St Peter’s would be for us. Because, for the Jews, Jerusalem and its Temple was the very dwelling place of God. It was not the first time the Temple had been desecrated and the Jews driven out into exile but this destruction has lasted 2,000 years. There is a Muslim mosque now on the site and that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future.

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For the early Church it was a very significant event. Even in the letters of Paul, which predated the destruction of the city and Temple, he already speaks of the “new Temple” which are the members of the Body of Christ. Christ was to be found in people and not in a building and that is why the destruction of the Vatican and St Peter’s would not affect the essential nature of the Church. In the early Church, Christians assembled in private homes. Churches, as we know them, only came into existence when, because of the rapid growth of Christianity, homes were too small. Assembly halls (‘basilicas’ from the Greek basileus, king) had to be used which, in the course of time, were exclusively used for religious worship.

The coming of the Son of Man

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Today Jesus speaks of the appearance of the Son of Man in glory and the final establishment of the Reign of God. Many people will come under that Reign, probably many more than we may expect. Others may reject it for ever and choose the outer darkness. In rejecting the Way of Jesus and the Kingship of God (and this is not necessarily the same as rejecting Christianity), they choose to be outsiders forever.
The Son of Man here is understood as Jesus, the man on earth that the disciples knew and loved, but now appearing in all the unparalleled glory of God’s own majesty. Today’s Gospel speaking about the Son of Man “coming in clouds with great power and glory” echoes a passage in the Book of Daniel but here the Son of Man is even more victorious.

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His appearance is described in terms usually used in the Old Testament for the appearances of God himself. He sends out angels or messengers and gathers all God’s people together: acts of God in the language of the Old Testament. In the OT prophecies where God manifests his glory in the final days (see the First Reading of today), the scattered people are gathered to Jerusalem and to God himself. Here they are gathered to the Son of Man, who commands the angels as if they were his own.

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Thus we have an affirmation of the central place Jesus, the Son of Man, has in the expectations of the Christians and a reflection of the divine role he is understood to exercise.

Inner meaning

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The first half of today’s Gospel leans heavily on traditional language and ideas from the Old Testament. We need to emphasise that the description of events is not to be understood literally as a prophecy of what is actually going to happen. Rather we are to look at the inner meaning of these happenings. The cosmic disturbances about the sun, moon and stars are traditional ways of describing manifestations of God’s judgment of Israel.

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In ancient Israelite times, people believed that the sun, moon and stars represented deities who controlled world affairs. Israel believed that when God acted, these celestial bodies would be disturbed. (They had no idea of the real nature and structure of our stellar world.)

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What is being said here is that these celestial bodies which other nations believed controlled history would be shown to be helpless under the power of God. And so, the sun and moon will stop giving light; stars will fall from the skies.

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In Mark’s time, of course, the belief in the power of the stars was very strong. In imperial China the role of the astronomers who could accurately predict eclipses was of the greatest importance. Because of their skill in such calculations the Jesuit missionaries in 17th century China had access to the very throne of the emperor himself. And even today there are many people who religiously consult the astrology columns in our newspapers.

No time frame

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While all these things are being forecast, there is no time frame given. There is no immediate link being given between the destruction of Jerusalem and the final coming of Jesus as King and Lord of all.

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Even so, the early Christians did expect that Jesus would come in their lifetime. This is reflected in the words, “This generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” This was natural for to those who grew up in the Jewish tradition, the end of Jerusalem could only mean the end of the world as some centuries later St Augustine thought that the conquering of Rome by pagan barbarians was the end of Christian civilisation. But already, by the time this Gospel was being written, people were beginning to have doubts about the imminent coming of Christ.

Parable of the fig tree

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Jesus then gives a short parable or lesson from the fig tree. Fig trees were a prominent and well-known feature on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus is speaking. This tree only sprouts its leaves in late spring. When they appear you know that summer is near.

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So Jesus, in effect, is saying that although the end of the world is being described in calamitous terms, his disciples are to respond with faith, with hope, with anticipation. The end of the world means good times, summer, for them. They are not signs that God has lost control of history but that he is bringing things to a triumphant end. It is indeed the victory of God and the twilight of all the lesser gods which men have created for themselves over the centuries.

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Heaven and earth, the sun, moon, stars, galaxies and our own little planet may all disappear but  God’s Truth, Love and Justice will prevail forever.

No one knows how or when

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Finally, in spite of the warnings that some people love to give, the ‘when’ of all this is completely unknown. As we came to the end of the millennium and entered a new one, there were many who warned that “the end is near”. There are those who warn – on the basis of various apparitions – that God, offended by so much evil, is going to take a terrible vengeance on our world.

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This is highly dangerous language we must be careful to avoid. God does not take revenge. God is not hurt or offended by what we do. His is a never-changing love. He has nothing but compassion for the sinner who does not, cannot hurt God but only hurts himself. (God, in the language of the day, is totally proactive, not reactive!)

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No one, says Jesus, not even he himself knows when the end will come. It is not for us to worry about that. Worrying will not help. On other hand, we should not play a kind of Russian roulette with life and keep putting off the day of our conversion to God. The only way is to live today and every day in his love and service. It is the present which determines the future; so let’s just concentrate on the here and now. Then we already have entered the Lord’s Kingdom and when, early or late, he comes to call us to himself, it will just be a reunion of old friends. In fact, he is already here and has always been and always will be. It is not that he will come to us but that we will enter into a deeper relationship with him when we pass through death to a different kind of life.
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Many of the ideas here come from
New International Biblical Commentary: Mark,
by Larry W. Hurtado

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/ob331/

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My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Always at the end of the Church Year, we hear these readings speaking of the end of time, the judgment and God’s love for us.  We should never be dismayed.  Even scientifically, the world will have an end.  Whether we shall destroy our world before it comes to a natural end is another question.  This seemed really possible and imminent a couple of decades ago.  Today we tend to trust that political negotiations will not end in a nuclear holocaust.

Why the end of the world?  Because speaking of the end of the world makes us much more aware of the question of a life beyond our death.  Lots of people no longer believe in these.  Lots of people in the time of Daniel also did not believe in life after death.  Scripture begins with a dim awareness of God’s creation and God’s love for us.  In time, there seems to be a growing understanding that there is a life beyond death.  By the time of Jesus we hear of this division between the Pharisees and Scribes, who seem to believe in a life after death, and the Sadducees who deny such a resurrection.

So as we come to the end of the year, we are challenged to believe in resurrection.  Followers of Jesus believe in resurrection, both His and our own.  The reading from the Book of Daniel is from that part of the book that believes in a life after death:  Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.

The Gospel of Mark which we have today speaks of the judgement because it speaks of choosing the elect.  Not all are chosen.  It is a question of how we live.  Always in our Christian tradition there is belief in the existence of Hell, even if we do not have to believe that anyone is actually there.  This possibility that we might choose eternally against God shows the incredible gift of freedom that God has given to us.  True freedom is in choosing God and walking in His way.  But there is still that freedom that takes us away from God and leads to Hell.

The second reading today, from the Letter to the Hebrews, tells us that Jesus offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.  Jesus has saved us.  Yet in order for us to receive salvation, we must believe.  That never means that we must believe in a way in which others can recognize our believe, but in a way in which Jesus, who sees our hearts, can recognize our belief.

My sisters and brothers, we have one life to live and it ends in death.  There is life after death in Christ Jesus if we accept Him as our Savior.  The end of the world is coming.  Our death is coming.  Let us choose life and the Lord Jesus.

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Metaphors like “burning your boats” or “burning your bridges,” suggest a radical option with no turning back. Having your lamp alight is a gentler image, but still a good one, for meeting the challenge of life. “What shall be the outcome?” is the question posed in both Old and New Testament. Where is this world headed? And more personally, what of my own destiny in the life to come? About that day or hour no one knows. And just as well, for it would be difficult knowledge to cope with. But his message is to be ready to meet him, whenever he comes. The Lord comes to us in many ways, both to gift us and challenge us. Welcoming him is what really makes us Christians, sharing the spirit of his first followers who said “Maranatha” — “Our Lord, come !” We are invited to live our lives within an awareness of eternity, seeing this life as preparation for and building towards an endless life with God.

The faster our cars become, it seems, the more we have to spend time waiting for the lights to change to green. The queue and the traffic-jam are signs of our times. The more we are in a hurry the more we feel held up. We travel at speed through the air, but wait interminably at airports. Business life is punctuated with frustrating times waiting for appointments. How do we wait? Sometimes with great impatience, sometimes with anxiety. But our waiting can also be coloured with joyful expectation. Expectation is often more pleasurable than realization. As Shakespeare said, “All things that are, are with more pleasure chased than enjoyed.”

How should a believer await the coming of the Lord? Carefully, as those employed and carrying great responsibility. We will have to give an account of all our doings. The books must be in order. Actively, with our lamps burning, not asleep. We have to keep on working until the end. There is no time when we can say we have arrived, we have it all made. Joyfully, for if we are ready, then it is a joy to await the bridegroom and enter into the marriage feast. Hopefully, for we await him who in his one sacrifice lives to make intercession for our sins. In him we have confidence. He comes to reward us who have remained faithful and whose names are written in the book of life.

Our vision of the last things should not sink us in pessimism, or despair at our sinfulness. But the question should be asked: How ready are we? Our faith tells us that some generation in history will experience the second coming of Christ. Then a person may have but a moment to wonder: “Am I ready? Am I prepared? Even if ours is not the generation to see the second coming, still each of us must face our personal day of death. For some it comes unexpectedly, out of the blue, even perhaps at a young age. For others it will be fairly predictable and follow the more natural course of ageing and decline. Regardless, there will be a time when each must ask the question: “Am I ready? Am I prepared? Meanwhile, we are faced with multiple choices to make each day which may seem insignificant; but they all add up pointing us in particular directions, sometimes good, sometimes less so. Are our everyday decisions helping to make us ready? Are they making us prepared?

With the busy-ness of life it is easy to forget about the second coming of Christ. We prefer to ignore our mortality and put off our preparation for the death which we all must face. How do we prepare ourselves? How do we get ready? How will we be sure that the Lord recognizes us? What are the right choices to make during our day? The end of chapter 25 reads: “Then the king will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Although we do not know the day or the hour of the second coming of Christ, Although we do not know the day or the hour of our own deaths, we have been told what staying awake entails. It seems that if we meet the response from the Lord: “Amen, I say to you, I do not know you, it will be because of our foolishness and not because of a lack of mercy or justice on the part of the Lord.

http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2015/11/15th-november-33rd-sunday-in-ordinary-time/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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15 NOVEMBER 2015, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
WHICH SIDE OF THE BATTLE ARE YOU ON?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: DN 12:1-3; PS 15:5, 8-11; HEB 10:11-14.18; MK: 24-32

When we look at the world today, we see lights and shadows.  Positively, we see the growing globalization taking place as a result of mass communication, technology and migration.  The world has become a global village.  With technological progress, there seems to be better communication, exchanges and mutual understanding among the peoples of the world and among nations.  Life is much more convenient than 50 years ago because of technology.  On the whole we enjoy a higher and better standard of living and even the extension of the span of life.

On the darker side, many battles are being fought in the world today.   The obvious battles are the wars that are going on over territorial rights, between races and religions.  There are also the wars against social injustices and terrorism, against famine, diseases, epidemics and drugs.  Underlying all these is the war of ideology.  There is a clash between fundamentalism and relativism.  The world is in tension because of the clash of values. On one hand, fundamentalism breeds intolerance, hatred and even violence, as can be seen in the terrorist activities committed all in the name of the purity of the faith and God. Yet at the deepest root of such fundamentalism is the reaction to social injustices and liberalism. On the other hand, relativism breeds materialism, consumerism and individualism, leading to lawlessness and nihilism.

Indeed, the scripture readings warn of the challenging and daunting time ahead for humanity.  The prophet Daniel and Jesus seem to predict the difficult times ahead for our peoples.  Daniel prophesied, “There is going to be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence.”  In a similar vein, Jesus said, “In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”  These warnings were not given to frighten us but to prepare us for the eventuality.   In this way, we cannot say that we do not know what is awaiting us if we continue to follow the individualistic and selfish ways of the world.   The writing is all over the wall.  We have all the signs that will happen to our future.  We have seen the happenings in Europe in the wake of secularism and secularization.   What we see in the West, where churches are becoming empty, faith is declining, family is weakened, divorce is rising, young people are becoming violent; and same sex union is endorsed, and Satanism is freely promoted, is a projection of what will happen to us in the East and in developing countries in due course.

In the final analysis, the real battle that is being fought today as in the days of old is the battle between light and darkness, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.  All the battles we have just mentioned are reducible to the battle between truth and falsehood, love and selfishness.   Indeed, the ultimate war is a spiritual war.  Everything is rooted in truth and love.  God as absolute truth and love gives meaning to the world.  But unfortunately, man wants to do away with God.  Today, secularism and humanism want to supplant the place of God.  They would have no masters except themselves.   By wanting total autonomy from God, man cannot find peace in the world.

Accordingly, the question confronting us today is, which side of the battle are you on?  Are you fighting for the Evil One and with him and his angels?   Or are you with Christ and His holy angels?   Are you in Christ’s army or among Satan’s army?  If you are with Christ’s army, then what must you do?

Firstly, like Christ, we must put sin to death.  In the second reading, we read that “Christ, has offered one single sacrifice for sins, and then taken his place for ever, at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made into a footstool for him.”   By His passion, death and resurrection, Jesus has not only conquered the power of sin but the greatest of all enemies, the fear of death.  Without death, sin has no more power over us because all sins thrive on the fear of death.  All the capital sins have to do with fear of death, be it biological or emotional threat to one’s existence and well-being.

Secondly, we must make sacrifices for the atonement of our sins, like the priests who stood “at their duties every day, offering over and over again the same sacrifices.”   The sacrifice we are called to make is to share in Christ’s “one single offering, he has achieved the eternal perfection of all whom he is sanctifying.”  That is to say, we are called to share in Christ’s sacrifice by dying to sins and most of all, to self, by giving up our lives for the service of God and of others.  By loving and dying for others, we share in the sacrifices of Christ.

Thirdly, we must now be prophets of truth and continue the work of the proclamation of the Good News.  The greatest enemy of the Church is falsehood because the devil is the Father of lies.   In the first reading, we read that “the learned will shine as brightly as the vault of heaven, and those who have instructed many in virtue, as bright as stars for all eternity.”  It is our duty to enlighten the world in truth through reason and faith.  We who have received the gospel of truth from our Lord must seek to be witnesses of His truth and love in the world.  We are called to enlighten those in error, ignorance and those who live in darkness.  We can engage them personally if we know them.  Otherwise, we can engage them through the media, via social and digital media.  We must spare no means to enlighten the world and those who are ignorant using all the means available.  The proper means is through sincere, fraternal, patient and open dialogue with those whom we disagree with; not through demonstrations, pressure or retaliation or, worse still, through hostile words and actions, or violence.

However, the battle against darkness is to be fought not just through words but it must be through works. We are called not just to proclaim the truth but to live a life of charity and truth.  Living a life of holiness is the way to bring light to those in darkness.  Nothing can turn the lives of skeptical and wounded people towards Christ unless we demonstrate by a life of compassion and understanding.  We must continue to do good, forgive those who have hurt us and overcome evil by doing good.

At times, we feel that we are fighting against the grain and that we are losing the battle.  But we should not be discouraged and tempted to give up.   It might seem that the world is winning the battle against life by advocating abortion, euthanasia or against love by advocating same sex union and free love and lust.  But we know that evil has been overcome by Christ in His death and resurrection.  The victory has been won.  As Jesus assured us, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.”  We are just bringing this victory of Christ into our lives.  

So all the more, we must join Jesus’ army.  At confirmation, we have become soldiers in Christ. We are called to join St Michael in being crusaders for Christ. We are called to be Spiritual warriors. So we must continue to be His prayer warriors by interceding for the Church and for His bishops and priests. As prayer warriors, we must also fast and live a life of mortification.  We must be prophets of truth and charity.  We must be evangelizers.   We must be models of faith for others.  This is what we are called to do.  Only by being witnesses of Christ can we change the world and be the salt and light of this earth.

We can also collaborate with other Christians and faith believers.  We are to work with them.  As Jesus says, “those not against us are with us.”   In these days, we need to be more ecumenical and engage in inter-religious dialogue.  We need to respect that religions share in the rays of truth.  So whatever is noble, good, true and holy, we must accept and affirm.  Together with them, we work for the greater good of humanity.  The situation of the world is frightening.  As St Michael the Archangel sought to defend the Church, we too must defend the Church for the future of the world is at stake. 

Finally, we must trust in Him.  We need to take refuge in Him, like the psalmist.  We must conquer sin with Christ and not use our own strength.  As the psalmist prays, “Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you. O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup; it is you yourself who are my prize.”   And even when we fail, we can trust in God’s mercy.  As the author says, “When all sins have been forgiven, there can be no more sin offerings.”   On that day, we will then be ready to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King when all His enemies are conquered especially of sin and death.  Then Christ will be the king of all and all will be in His heavenly Father’s kingdom.

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

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People light candles at a vigil outside the French consulate in Montreal, Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered “all of Canada’s support” to France on Friday night in the wake of “deeply worrying” terrorist attacks in Paris. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP)

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From “Pondering the Word The Anawim Way” for November 15, 2015

The word teaches us us that our identity is not in our careers or our talents or out bank accounts, but in being Chosen and loved by God. He has given us a share in the mission of Jesus in the world.