Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 33’

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

April 17, 2017

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

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

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

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

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

Alleluia PS 118:24

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

Gospel  JN 20:11-18

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

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


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


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


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


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


SO, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, March 12, 2017 — “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you.” — “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

March 11, 2017

Second Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 25

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Transfiguration of Jesus —  Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected

Reading 1 GN 12:1-4A

The LORD said to Abram:
“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk
and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.

“I will make of you a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
so that you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who curse you.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.”

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

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

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Reading 2 2 TM 1:8B-10

Beloved:
Bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.

Verse Before The Gospel CF. MT 17:5

From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard:
This is my beloved Son, hear him.

Gospel MT 17:1-9

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

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Homily From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, NM
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The transfiguration of Jesus is one of the great mysteries of our faith.  We are not entirely sure what happened at that point, but we do know that Jesus changed in front of His disciples in a way that they could sense the power of God flowing through Him.  The voice that they hear confirms that this is something from heaven and confirms the role of Jesus and the reality of Jesus as Son of God.

Jesus is the Son and Abram is also a son of God in the first reading, from Genesis.  God promises to Abram that he will become a great nation.  As with so many promises of God, the reality is greater and feels different from what people might have expected.

The second reading, from the Second Letter to Timothy, gives us another insight:  He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.  So often we are tempted to think that we must become holy, but rather it is God who makes us holy.  For sure, we must cooperate.  That is our work.

“All we have to do is cooperate.”

This brings us back to the Gospel from Matthew.  It is almost impossible for us to imagine the effect of the transfiguration on the three Apostles, Peter. James and John.  We can say truly that they were out of their minds!  But out of their minds and into faith in Jesus.

We are invited today to go out of our minds and trust completely in the Lord.  Let us walk these days of Lent so that we may share in the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord. Jesus.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

Related:

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All three Synoptic Gospels tell the story of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-9; Luke 9:28-36). With remarkable agreement, all three place the event shortly after Peter’s confession of faith that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ first prediction of his passion and death. Peter’s eagerness to erect tents or booths on the spot suggests it occurred during the Jewish weeklong, fall Feast of Booths.In spite of the texts’ agreement, it is difficult to reconstruct the disciples’ experience, according to Scripture scholars, because the Gospels draw heavily on Old Testament descriptions of the Sinai encounter with God and prophetic visions of the Son of Man. Certainly Peter, James and John had a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity strong enough to strike fear into their hearts. Such an experience defies description, so they drew on familiar religious language to describe it. And certainly Jesus warned them that his glory and his suffering were to be inextricably connected—a theme John highlights throughout his Gospel.

Tradition names Mt. Tabor as the site of the revelation. A church first raised there in the fourth century was dedicated on August 6. A feast in honor of the Transfiguration was celebrated in the Eastern Church from about that time. Western observance began in some localities about the eighth century.

http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1099

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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BEAR THE HARDSHIPS FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOOD NEWS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 12:1-4; PS 32:4-5,18-20,22; 2 TIM 1:8-10; MT 17:1-9 ]

All of us have dreams.  The future is born of dreams.  What we are enjoying today is the result of the dreams of our forefathers.  Much progress has been made in the scientific and technological world because people dare to dream the impossible dream.  It is important that we have our own dream.  We live on because of our dreams.  Without dreams, life would be meaningless.  We would just drift through the life, living in the past, without zeal and passion.

Abraham in the first reading was given a great dream for his people.  He heard the Lord telling him, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.”  Upon the reception of this dream, Abraham set out, not knowing clearly where this would lead him to.  All he knew was that God had a big plan for his people.   It was a dream for a better life than what they were already having.  

In the second reading too, we read of the dream of St Paul.  He wrote, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our savior Christ Jesus. He abolished death, and he has proclaimed life and immortality through the Good News.”  St Paul’s dream was to offer life and immortality to all.  In preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, his dream was that all who come to Him will find fullness of life, joy and peace. The Good News that St Paul taught is that the Father loves us in Christ Jesus and we are saved by His death and resurrection.  All that is needed is faith in Him, given through grace.  We are saved not because we are good or because of good works but purely by the grace of God.

In the gospel, the Lord was given a dream, a preview of what was to take place.  He had a vision. “There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him.”  God revealed to Jesus the future glory that had always been His.  This is the glory that is to be shared with us.  When we follow Jesus we too will be transfigured in time to come.  Through this experience, Jesus was affirmed to be the New Law and the final prophet.  He is the new Moses and the new Elijah.

Today, the dream of the universal Church is the New Evangelization, of making the Good News relevant to Catholics and understood by those who are searching for truth, love and life.  We are called to proclaim the Good News, which in today’s terms is to show forth the compassionate face of God in Christ Jesus.  Whereas Pope Emeritus Benedict underscored the love of God in Christ, the thrust of Pope Francis is to concretize this love of God in His mercy.

Indeed, more than ever, in this harsh world today, where competition is tough and we are rewarded for the good work we do and punished mercilessly for the mistakes we make, we need to proclaim the mercy of God.  This is the reason why Pope Francis wants us to go beyond the rigid laws and change the image of the Church as an institution that is cold and without a heart.   Pope Francis wants the world to encounter God’s compassionate love in Christ Jesus who comes to forgive us all our sins, to give us courage and hope, not to condemn us but to save us from perdition.   Accordingly, it is important to go back to the spirit of the laws rather than just insisting on the letter of the laws.

The Good News therefore is directed principally at the poor, those who are spiritually poor and those who are materially poor.  He wants the Church to move out of her comfort zone and to be with the poor.  Many Catholics have stopped coming for mass.  Some have left the Church completely.  Many of us are struggling in our sins, especially those related to lust, greed, envy, pride and anger.  The Church must show herself to be inclusive.  Not everyone can live up to the ideals of the gospel yet.  The Church, being a Church for sinners, should welcome all those who are struggling to live up to the teaching of Christ.  The divorced, people of same sex orientation, the sick and the poor must find a home in the Church.  This is the essence of the Good News, that Jesus loves us all, including the sinners.

But realizing our dreams for the Church and the country is not easy.  When we seek to make changes, inevitably, we are faced with opposition, not so much from without as from within.  This was the same for Abraham, Christ and for Paul. People oppose change for many reasons.  Some oppose it because the vision of their leaders is not their vision.  Some feel threatened because of the change of status quo and their comfort zone is affected.  Others are constrained by their strict dogmatic beliefs and feel that the Church is abandoning her traditions and the truth of the gospel.  Some are not able to feel with those who are marginalized in Church and even at home. Leaders too suffer much opposition from those people who are not happy with our attempts to bring the Church forward because their convenience is compromised.

So what must we do in the face of opposition?  We must not forget the dream before us.  In times of trials and difficulties, we must keep the dream clear in our minds.  Once we lose our dream, we lose hope.  St Paul was always conscious of his dream to be with Christ one day in heaven.  “Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:8)  Abraham too, in his long journey to the Promised Land, trusted in God and hoped in Him.   “

We must think of the greater good of the future of humanity, Church and society.  Our forefathers sacrificed much for us.  Without their sacrifices, we will not be where we are today,  As the letter of Hebrews says,  “And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”  (Heb 11:39f)  Abraham was a rich man with many flocks of animals.  He was living a comfortable life.  There was no need for him to venture out because when the call came, he was already 76, past retirement age!

Secondly, we must rely on the power of God’s grace.  St Paul wrote, “With me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace.”   This was his secret to peace and joy in his ministry.  Pope Francis says that “if there is a problem, I write a note to St. Joseph and put it under a statue that I have in my room. It is a statue of St. Joseph sleeping. And now he sleeps on a mattress of notes! That’s why I sleep well: it is the grace of God.”

We must pray fervently and with faith.  Pope Francis says, “I love the breviary so much and never leave it. Mass every day. The rosary … When I pray, I always take the Bible. And my peace grows. I do not know if this is the secret … My peace is a gift of the Lord.”  Prayer is the only way to find true peace of heart.  The psalmist tells us, “The Lord looks on those who revere him, on those who hope in his love, to rescue their souls from death, to keep them alive in famine.  Our soul is waiting for the Lord.  The Lord is our help and our shield.”

Finally, we must bask ourselves in the love of God as Jesus did.  “He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’”  So too did St Peter, for the experience was so profound that he wanted to keep it with him forever. Thus he suggested, “Lord, it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Indeed, later on, St Peter again recounted this experience when he wrote, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”  (1 Pt 1:16)  This transfiguration experience was both for Jesus and for the apostles so that they could face the future trials ahead of them.  

So let us be a blessing to others and to the world.  The Lord said to Abraham and to us all.  “I will bless those who bless you. I will curse those who slight you. All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”   Let us hold our dreams high as Paul did.  He said, “This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has only been revealed by the Appearing of our saviour Christ Jesus.”  We already have a foretaste of it.  We have seen for ourselves what the gospel can do for us.  It is not that we have not yet seen it, albeit not in its fullness.   Let us pray for the courage, the wisdom and strength to bring the Church forward and to bring the Good News to all, especially the poor, marginalized, those living in darkness and walking in the valley of death.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Pope John Paul II Homily on The Transfiguration on March 7, 1993  — He sees the transfiguration as a foretaste of our Christian victory over death:

“Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them” (Mt 17:1-2)

“Lord, it is good that we are here”

Mt 17:4

We can imagine the three disciples’ astonishment at the vision. They were used to seeing Jesus in the humble aspect of his daily humanity and how great must have been their awe and emotion at seeing the splendor of a transfigured Jesus! Peter’s offer to pitch three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah, expresses his desire to make this moment of grace and uncontainable joy last as long as possible.

“Lord, it is good that we are here”! On Tabor Jesus gave his favorite disciples an anticipation of the glory of the resurrection, a glimpse of heaven on earth, a taste of “paradise”.

While Peter “was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”‘ (Mt 17:5). It is a true manifestation of God, which recalls the “theophanies” experienced by the patriarchs of old, and it is similar to what took place on the banks of the Jordan after the Redeemer’s baptism. As then, here too a trinitarian presence is revealed: the voice of the Father, the person of the incarnate Son and the shining cloud, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, like the dove which rested on Christ when he was baptized by his fore-runner. The Apostles’ emotions change: their joy is replaced by a great fear; they fall prostrate to the ground. “Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid’. And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone” (Mt 17:7-8).

Transfiguration shows goal of our existence.

The mystery of the transfiguration takes place at a very precise moment in Jesus’ preaching, as he begins to confide to the disciples the necessity of his going up “to Jerusalem and suffer greatly. . . and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). Reluctantly they hear the first announcement of the passion and before stressing it again and confirming it, the divine Master wants to give them a proof of his total rootedness in the will of the Father so that they do not waver in the face of the scandal of the cross. In fact, the passion and death will be the way through which the heavenly Father will have his “beloved Son” achieve glory, risen from the dead. From now on this will also be the disciples’ way. No one will come to the light except through the cross, the symbol of the suffering which afflicts human existence. Thus the cross is transformed into an instrument for the expiation of the sins of all humanity. United with his Lord in love, the disciple participates in his redemptive passion. Therefore, in today’s reading St. Paul exhorts Timothy in these words: “Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. He saved us and called us to a holy life” (2 Tm 1:8-9). For the believer suffering is nothing but a temporary passage, a transitory condition. Jesus, the Apostle stresses, “has destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tm 1:10).

The goal of our existence is therefore as shining as the transfigured countenance of the Messiah: in him is salvation, happiness, glory, unlimited love of God. How, therefore, could we not be prepared to suffer for such a goal? It finds meaning in our effort to conform our weak nature to the demands of goodness. It takes into consideration the physical and spiritual limitations of our person and of our daily social relationships, unfortunately marred by selfishness and sin, which make our spiritual journey taxing.

Finally, the transfiguration offers us prospects for a change which is both fundamental and supernatural, of a victory and proclamation of the passover of Christ, an announcement of the cross and resurrection. It is the transfigured Christ, the Christ whom after his resurrection the Apostles and so many other witnesses of his resurrection will see with their own eyes. They are witnesses of the newness of the world inaugurated by his resurrection and foretold by his transfiguration.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus has given us the means to be victorious in fighting the good fight of faith in fidelity to his word and humble adherence to the cross. Assiduously listening to the Gospel, celebrating the saving mystery in the sacraments and the Eucharistic liturgy, we become capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to Christian newness with a generous, prompt readiness. Not by ourselves, however, but as part of the Body of Christ which is the Church, the universal sacrament of salvation. The Church is the great community of those who believe in Jesus Christ, led by the Pastors he has chosen. In his love for mankind he constituted the Twelve as his witnesses and entrusted to them the task of safe-guarding the faith and continuing his work under the guidance of Peter. The Apostles and their successors gave life to the particular Churches, foremost among which is our Church of Rome, the Diocese of Peter’s Successor.

http://faithleap.org/Transfiguration_of_the_Lord.htm

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Homily from the Abbot *(Homily from 2013)

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Lent is about transfiguration!  It is not just our Lord Jesus who becomes transfigured.  Rather, all of us can be transfigured if we want the path that He has shone us by His life, death and Resurrection.

The Book of Genesis today gives us the beginning of the story of Abraham, our faith in faith.  Abraham begins as Abram and hears God speaking to him, calling him to leave his own country and his people.  Abram is to live for God alone.  This never means that Abram will be without other people in his life or that he will not love other people.  It only means that God is first and that Abram will try to do God’s will to the best of his ability.  This is also what God is asking of you and of me today:  leave on an inner journey, go with God, do God’s will not matter how uneasy it may make us.

Saint Paul gives this same advice to Timothy in the second reading today, from the Second Letter to Timothy:  He called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus.

The secret of any spiritual life is to seek God’s will and then to try to do that will with as much faithfulness as possible.  We are humans and weak and most of us are not saints, but we can keep on trying to do the will of God.  Lent is a time to strengthen our resolve by becoming more aware of God’s love for us.

The Gospel of Matthew today gives us an account of the transfiguration of Jesus.  No one is really sure what happened to our Lord at the transfiguration.  It is as though the divine nature of our Lord cannot be contained and begins to break through.  Later in Christian spirituality, it comes to be recognized that this divine nature is also ours by adoption and can also begin to manifest itself in us if we  strive to be faithful.

Lent is the time of transfiguration for us!  We plead with the Lord in this time of Lent to transform us, to transfigure us, to help do His will with joy.  At times, we rebel against the Lord and then we plead for His mercy, but always trusting completely in His love and in His will to save us and transform us.  Lord, have mercy on us!  We are sinners and we trust in you!  May your love transform us.

http://christdesert.org/News/Abbot_s_Homily/

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, February 17, 2017 — What could one give in exchange for his life? — “Whoever loses his life for my sake must take up his cross, and follow me.”

February 16, 2017

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 339

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Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23 (NIV)

There is a chapel in Jerusalem at the Third Station of the cross, via dolorosa marking Jesus falling. A chapel was built to mark the spot in the second half of the 19th century.  This painting of taking your cross and following Jesus is inside the chapel.

The photo of this painting was taken December 2007 inside the Polish chapel at the Third Station of the cross, via dolorosa.

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Reading 1 GN 11:1-9

The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.
While the people were migrating in the east,
they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.
They said to one another,
“Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”
They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city
and a tower with its top in the sky,
and so make a name for ourselves;
otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower
that they had built.
Then the LORD said: “If now, while they are one people,
all speaking the same language,
they have started to do this,
nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.
Let us then go down and there confuse their language,
so that one will not understand what another says.”
Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth,
and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel,
because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world.
It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Alleluia JN 15:15B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I call you my friends, says the Lord,
for I have made known to you all that the Father has told me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 8:34—9:1

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What could one give in exchange for his life?
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words
in this faithless and sinful generation,
the Son of Man will be ashamed of
when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

He also said to them,
“Amen, I say to you,
there are some standing here who will not taste death
until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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17 FEBRUARY, 2017, Friday, 6th Week, Ordinary Time

FINDING FOCUS AND INTEGRATION IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 11:1-9; PS 33; MK 8:34–9:1  ]

It is generally accepted that everyone must have an ambition in life. The question is whether having an ambition is really the way to life and therefore a good thing.  Today, the liturgy tells us that ambition is a way to death rather than to life.  Why is that so?  The story of the Tower of Babel tells us that the people wanted to build a town and a tower so that they could make a name for themselves.  They were ambitious.  They wanted to be better than others.

The stark truth is that ambition makes a person competitive, unscrupulous and hostile towards others.  We can be very sure that the real cause of division of the people was not because God confused their language.  Rather, because of their ambition, they could no longer speak the common language of love and unity.  For anyone who wants to climb to the top must necessarily step on others.  When we are ambitious, we want to compete with others because we want to be the winner, often at the expense of others.  When we are ambitious, we are more concerned about achieving our objective than about the feelings and well-being of others.  So ambition is the cause of division and disunity among human beings because ambition is basically inward-looking and seeking for self-fulfillment without others.

Secondly, not only does ambition destroy love and unity, it also takes away life.  Indeed, Jesus asks us, “What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life?  And indeed what can man offer in exchange for his life?”  The question we need to examine honestly is, whether ambition and the achievement of our intended goal can truly bring us real happiness and give us that fullness of life.  Clearly, the answer is negative.

Ambition pretends to offer true happiness in life because it presupposes the attainment of a goal.  Thus, a person would have to spend years of his life working towards this goal.  And even then, only for some momentary happiness and satisfaction!  After that, he will have to seek anther goal.  So his life is but a series of endless ambitions and momentary fulfillment.  Consequently we live fragmented lives.  There are simply too many demands placed on us.  We are torn apart as individuals, as a nation and in the world.

That is why people are always in pursuit of happiness in life.  They are seeking for something outside of themselves.  They spend their whole life making a living but never begin to live.  They live in hope that one day when they retire they can find happiness.  They live in delayed gratification.  But when the time arrives, it is too late to enjoy, either because they are too sick or they are too old.

Being ambitious is to be engaged in activism.  We are restless the moment something is accomplished.  Hence, the need to look for another project to do!  What is frustrating is that we cannot find happiness until the goal is reached and even when realized, the happiness does not last very long.

From the outset, we must say that it is not wrong to take part in these mundane pursuits.  We are called to be co-operators of God’s creation.  The crux of the problem is that we must not lose our soul in the process of involving ourselves in the world.  This is what Jesus is warning us, “What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life?”  What does it mean to lose our soul?  To lose our soul is to lose our perspective of life.  It means that we have failed to distinguish between the means and the end.  What is the finality or purpose of life?

There is always the danger of repeating the same mistake of Babel.  We get so caught up with success and achievements that we lose our purpose in life,  like those people at Babel. They were arrogant.  They wanted to transcend themselves without God.  They wanted to reach God without God.  We have many people who are so caught up with success and achievements that they would sacrifice family and friends and loved ones for their ambition.  Hence, we must distinguish between the essentials and non-essentials.  What is it we are looking for if not life?  As the Chinese saying goes, it is a question of whether one wants money or life.  At times we cannot have both.

Today’s readings remind us of how easy it is to respond to the urgent but not the important.  The psalm highlights that the Lord will disregard the plans of nations and designs of peoples.  The Lord’s plan alone stands forever. Following the Lord’s plan is a response to what is truly important although not urgent. Following our own plans without regard to the Lord’s plan will result in failure.  The Lord will foil those plans.

Jesus reminds us that it doesn’t do much good to gain the whole world and forfeit one’s life.  To do so would be to follow the urgent at the expense of the important matters.  Jesus isn’t telling us to avoid wealth, power, nice things, comfort and the other gifts of modern lifeHe is telling us to keep them in perspective – God’s perspective.  He is telling us not to make them an end and to give up our attachment to them.  Jesus is telling us that if we respond to the cares and attractions of this world we are responding to the urgent.  He calls us to respond to what is truly important.  And so we must keep our focus, to discern the important from the urgent, and to have the wisdom and courage to choose the important.

Jesus poses some probing questions to challenge our assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile. In every decision that we take in life, we are making ourselves into a certain kind of person.  The kind of person we are, our character, determines to a large extent the kind of future we will face and live.  It is possible that some can gain all the things they set their heart on, only to wake up suddenly to discover that they missed out on the most important things. Of what value are material things if they don’t help you gain what truly lasts in eternity? Neither money nor possessions can buy heaven, mend a broken heart, or cheer a lonely person.

So what are the essentials of life?  Jesus challenges us to reflect, “what can man offer in exchange for his life?” 

If ambition is not the key to happiness, then what can bring us real happiness and real life?  The answer is vocation.  The word “vocation” comes from the Latin word, “voce”, that is, a voice that comes from without and heard from within.  In other words, if we want to find life, we cannot serve ourselves and be concerned only about our own needs.  Rather, true happiness in life is when we choose to serve God and serve our fellowmen.  Only a life of self-denial in humble service to God and to our fellow human beings can give us life.

Vocation therefore is the call to serve God and others; not ourselves. What is tragic today is that many people not only do not have any ambition but they have no sense of vocation either.  Without ambition, there is no sense of direction, focus or motivation.  Without a focus, we cannot motivate ourselves.  Only a vocation can add colour to life, give us zeal, enthusiasm and life.  In living out our vocation, which is to build the people of God, the living out itself is already a participation in the life of God.  In this sense, we do not need to fulfill any objective or goal in life, for our whole life is our goal.  Jesus said, “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”  Only the man who is able to give himself to others, can find life.

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

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Reflection on Mark 8:34-9:1 By Father John McKinnon

Finding Life by Losing Life (2) – Disciples’ Destiny

As happened often enough in Mark’s narrative there was a handy “crowd” of observers in the wings, as it were. By having Jesus address a crowd, Mark was often making the point that the message Jesus was about to convey was not just important but directed particularly at the readers, Mark’s community.

Mark 8:34-9:1 – Take Up the Cross

34 He called the crowd to him,
along with the disciples,
and said to them,
“If people wish to come after me,
let them utterly renounce self-interest,
take up their cross,
and follow me. 

The fate of Jesus was to be the fate also of the disciples, the ones who would follow him. The disciples were to take up their cross. The word cross seemed to have got in under the guard of Mark: Jesus had not yet explicitly stated that he would be killed by crucifixion.

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Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross, by Herald Copping

The Cross as Political Penalty

The modern reader tends not to hear the word “cross” in its brutal starkness. The idea of cross has become spiritualised to refer to all the difficulties and inconveniences that come across the path of the disciple. In the time of Jesus, and of Mark, the word had only one meaning. Death by crucifixion was reserved for political offences, specifically the rejection of the power and authority of Rome, and the undermining of its social order. It was the fate of rebels, and commonly of slaves who rebelled against their condition. The cross was understood clearly as the symbol of resistance to Rome. In this context, it was relevant more to disciples living directly under the rule of Rome throughout the Diaspora than to the immediate disciples of Jesus who so far had not ventured into directly controlled Roman territory (the region of Judaea and the city of Jerusalem).

To the minds of people of that era, crucifixion was the most shameful, dehumanising and excruciatingly painful and prolonged death imaginable. Jesus warned his followers to be prepared to face the prospect. Mark was giving the same warning to his community.

In any age, those in positions of social and political power inevitably see the serious following of Jesus as politically pertinent. When lived authentically, it is not a harmless way of life confined to purely private life.

35 Those who seek to save their lives will lose them;
those who lose their lives
for my sake
and for the sake of the Gospel
will save them.
36 For what good is it for people to gain the whole world
and to lose their life?
37 What equivalent can people give for their life?

Jesus developed the theme of denying oneself. In dealing with personal in-depth experience it was difficult to find exact language. To speak in paradox was perhaps inevitable – language limped.

To “Save Life”

What did Jesus mean by “saving” life? The word “save” had been used before in the context of healing where, generally, it had been associated with a response of faith in Jesus and in his message of hope. In that context, it meant health, wholeness. In a sin/forgiveness situation it meant personal reconciliation, freedom from the pressure to sin and removal of the destructive consequences of sinful decisions.

Understood thus, the saving of life as opposed to the losing of life obviously did not mean preservation from death. Jesus himself was not preserved from death. It meant that death was not an ultimate outcome, but a stage in the process of being saved.

Motivation. Jesus claimed that the motivation of the death was the relevant issue: “for my sake and the sake of the Gospel”.

Death for Jesus’ sake spoke of a personal relationship, not just of admiration (which suggested distance and separation) but of love; and not simply the sometimes overwhelming experience of feeling in love with Jesus but rather the tested response of persevering, committed, forgiving, unconditional and mature love.

Death for the sake of the Gospel would not be a death for a religious slogan. It would be death resulting from living the values of the Gospel, and met and faced with those same values – where persons would die

  • with deep trust in God,
  • peaceful acceptance of the limitations of love,
  • respect for people and hope in their eventual goodness,
  • forgiveness of those responsible for their murder,
  • and freedom anchored in strength and self control.

Jesus was not referring to death incurred as a result of being captivated by an ideology, the kind of death faced for example by suicide bombers who might kill themselves and others for some religiously defined ideal.

Salvation through death. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews (a contemporary of Mark) spoke of Jesus’ death as his experience of being saved by the God to whom he prayed.

… Jesus offered up prayers and supplications,
with loud cries and tears,
to the one who was able to save him from (= out of) death
and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
Although he was a Son,
he learned obedience through what he suffered; 
and having been made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 5:7-9)

That author saw Jesus’ death as his reaching perfection through the empowering support of this God. He saw it as a process in which Jesus learnt how totally and unconditionally God respected his integrity and love for humanity. Jesus depthed the most intimate reaches of his Father’s heart as his facing into death led him to wrestle in his own depths and to actualise his deepest convictions: he learnt to obey through suffering, and in the process he became fully human, fully alive. As disciples of Jesus faced life and death with this same attitude of Jesus, as they learnt to obey Jesus (in the truest sense of obeying), they, like Jesus, experienced salvation.

Seen in this light, salvation happens in death and through it, not after it. Though Jesus believed in resurrection after death and in the on-going experience of salvation after death, he did not see salvation as some extraneous reward for a life well lived but as the truly human experience of being fully alive: the outcome of the cooperation of the empowering God and the receptive human person.

Salvation – present or future? Was Jesus’ promise of salvation to be experienced beyond the grave, in heaven, in the resurrected lives of the disciples? It is often interpreted in this way; but was that all that Jesus was saying? Was he promising eternal life? Indeed, was his vision of God’s Kingdom ultimately of a Kingdom of heaven?

Heavenly fulfillment was not precisely where Jesus in Mark’s Gospel had focused his attention, not that it was explicitly ruled out. There is a danger, however, in too readily assuming that God’s Kingdom was essentially a matter of afterlife. That view could too easily lead to confining discipleship to the “sacred”, to separating it from any serious commitment to justice, inclusivity, compassion and other values in the real world of social interactions and cultural and political structures.

Mark had shown that Jesus’ own engagement in the world of his day was essentially a here and now involvement. Discipleship was lived in the concrete world where disciples’ lives took shape. Jesus prescinded from consideration of outcomes beyond the grave, not because they did not exist (he believed in resurrection), but because it was only in the “present and the immediate”, rather than in the “not yet and elsewhere”, that the values of Jesus and of the Kingdom took shape.


Mark emphasised the possibility of actual loss of life for the members of his own community. However, he also realised that some would not face that stark outcome. Their losing their lives would happen metaphorically and gradually.

Jesus asked his disciples to deny their selfishly oriented selves, the spontaneous drives that came from being simply human: the needs for survival, for security, for companionship, for esteem, for power and control. He believed that there was a deeper level of self, a deeper level of the spirit. For this level to develop, time, effort and perseverance were needed. Surface needs had to be recognised for what they were, and at times deliberately foregone. They would have to give way to more genuine, more deeply human needs: precisely the values of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus had come to make real.

The experience of surrendering these needs would be felt as a death to the superficial (but more strongly and immediately sensed) self – like the losing of one’s life. Yet Jesus saw this death as the condition for life at the deepest level.  In Jesus’ mind it would be the absolutely necessary condition for becoming genuinely human.

The choice facing the disciples was then the choice of the superficial needs or the deeper values. Jesus saw it translated into a choice between the attitudes of the contemporary world with its general cultural, social and religious expressions, or the values exemplified in the deeds of Jesus himself and expressed in his teachings..

38 Those who are ashamed of me
and of my message
in this unfaithful and sinful generation,
of them the Son of Man will feel ashamed
when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Even more graphically perhaps for Mark’s community, the choice would have to be made in the law courts, as they would be brought before the political power brokers of their day to face the actual alternatives of death or apostasy. Jesus seemed to have had that “courtroom” background in mind when he referred to the coming of the Son of Man. Daniel’s vision was of a kind of heavenly “courtroom”:

As I watched, thrones were set in place,
and an Ancient One took his throne… (Daniel 7:9)
 
… The court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened… (Daniel 7:10)
 
As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human being (Son of Man)
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship… (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus spoke about his being ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father, in the “heavenly law court” of those who would be ashamed of him in earthly courts. Did this indicate a kind of vindictive response on Jesus’ part? And if the ostensibly offensive words attributed to Jesus were not in fact his actual words (but the accumulated memories or Mark’s own editing), did they pick up the genuine attitudes of Jesus? If they did not, how much of the rest of Mark’s presentation of Jesus was credible?

During Jesus’ trial Peter would in fact deny having any acquaintance with Jesus, not precisely in a law court setting, but in one even less threatening. Jesus did not reject him, but instructed the women after his resurrection to tell Peter and the disciples that he would meet them again in Galilee.

It would seem, however, that in a situation where a former follower in a considered and cold-blooded way publicly rejected Jesus, the outcome would be different. It would not be that Jesus would react maliciously. Rather, Jesus, the utterly committed advocate of human dignity and of freedom, would have no alternative but to accept that option, albeit with profound reluctance. To do otherwise would be to do violence to the person. Jesus could not pretend that a heart turned against him and his values was in fact otherwise. A person could not follow and reject Jesus and his values at the same time. There was no way that Jesus could honestly identify that person as a follower of his. People’s decisions would have their consequences that Jesus could not but take seriously without compromising his own integrity.

In speaking of the stark alternatives facing the disciples, Jesus was not voicing some sort of metaphysical doctrine learnt from books. He was speaking from reflection on his own experience. The unfolding of his public life had led him to explore at greater depth the inner truth that energised him. He knew the experience of facing into what felt like the death of his dreams and hopes, the frustration of being unable to share convincingly with others, even with those he loved, his insights into the hopes of the God he loved so deeply. He wrestled with forgiveness. Perhaps he agonised with uncertainty over the practical steps he would have to take in continuing his mission. Could he risk the likelihood of being prematurely arrested and executed before the disciples had grasped anything much about the truth of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel he yearned to share with the world?

9:1 Listen clearly.
There are some of you standing here now
who will not taste death
before they see the Kingdom of God coming in power.”

Jesus’ final comment sounds confusing to the modern reader. It would make sense only as Mark described the encounter of Jesus before the Sanhedrin on the occasion of his trial. There Jesus would identify himself as: the Son of Man sitting at the right of the Powerful One, and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62).

Without developing the thought at this stage, Mark regarded Jesus’ death (and resurrection) as the occasion of the “coming of the Son of Man” and the definitive breaking into the world of the “Kingdom of God with power”.

Jesus had already told this generation that there would be no sign from heaven (8:11-13). The coming of the Son of Man would take place veiled in the messy details of his crucifixion and death.

A proper understanding of apocalyptic literature would suggest that the vision of the Son of Man’s coming with power referred not so much to a parousia in an undefined future but to what was really happening in the here and now at the deeper level. But for that to be recognised it would be necessary to have eyes that see, enlightened by faith and hope.

http://johnmckinnon.org/mark8v34-9v1

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, December 21, 2016 — “If the Lord is to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.”

December 20, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent
Lectionary: 197

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Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

Hark! my lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.
My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
and come!“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,
let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,
and you are lovely.”

Or ZEP 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
He will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

R. (1a; 3a) Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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The Visitation By Philippe de Champaigne.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

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From Living Space from The Carmelites

Commentary on Song of Solomon 2:8-14 and Zephaniah 3:14-18

We have a choice of two First Readings today. The second, which is from the prophet Zephaniah, is for those who may find the passionate love implied in the passage from the Song of Songs a little strong for a liturgical celebration. The Song of Songs (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a collection of about 25 poems or parts of poems about human love and courtship, suitable for singing at weddings. “The poetry is graceful, sensuous and replete with erotic imagery and allusions to the ancient myth of the love of a god and a goddess on which the fertility of nature was thought to depend. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, loc. cit.). The pronouns (He, She…) imply that the speakers are a bridegroom (Lover), bride (Beloved) and chorus. Although it is called ‘The Song of Solomon’ the actual author is unknown. And, although dating from about the 3rd century BC, the symbols and motifs date from early mythology and have become the language of human love and courtship.

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Strangely enough, the book has no obvious religious content compared to other books in the Bible and it can only be given such an interpretation by finding a deeper symbolism in its highly graphic language. Its inclusion in the Old Testament can be explained by the Lord being called the “husband” of his people (Hos 2:16-19). In the Christian tradition, it has been understood as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church (Rev 21:2,9), or as symbolising the intimate experience of divine love in the individual soul. The links between mystical experience and sexual ecstasy are not so far apart. We should be grateful that such a beautiful work has been included in our collection of God’s Word.
The choice of the reading for today is obviously linked to the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to Elizabeth and John. The love expressed in the First Reading clearly points to a close, warm relationship between Jesus and John, where John represents each one of us. Perhaps we do not use this kind of passionate language when speaking to Jesus but there have been mystics who have not hesitated to do so. One thinks of John of the Cross or Ignatius of Loyola and even more of Teresa of Avila.

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As the passage opens, it is the Beloved, the girl who is speaking. She is living with her parents in the city. Not unlike the lover in one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, the Lover appears at the Beloved’s window. The door is closed and there is a forbidding wall. “He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.” He urges her to come away with him to the countryside. “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”

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The cold of winter, which is also the rainy season is past. It is now spring, the time of new life. Nature is bursting out in leaf and flower and the migrant birds have returned to make their nests. The cooing of turtle doves is heard, the first figs are appearing and the vines are in fragrant flower. And, of course, for humans, too, it is the season of love.
The Beloved is hiding in the clefts of the rock, a euphemism for her home, a place inaccessible to the Lover. “Show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face beautiful.”

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Jesus, too, is still hidden in the womb of his mother. His mother’s voice is enough to create a joyful reaction in John, in Elizabeth’s womb. He knows that where the Mother is, the Son must also be close by.

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It is important to realise that our Christian faith is not just a list of intellectual doctrines. Ultimately it is a life based on love, intimacy and affection for our brothers and sisters.

ALTERNATIVE  FIRST READING – from the prophet Zephaniah (Zephaniah 3:14-18)

Zephaniah was a prophet during the reign of King Josiah (640-609 BC) who did much to restore traditional Jewish religious customs. But his example was not followed and Zephaniah foretold disaster and this indeed happened with the collapse of the Assyrian empire brought about by the Babylonians who went to attack Egypt, an ally of Assyria. Josiah took sides with Egypt and was killed in a battle. It was to set the stage for one of Israel’s most painful memories – the Babylonian Captivity. While much of Zephaniah is a condemnation of religious infidelity, the last part from which today’s reading comes is a promise of better times to come for those who wait patiently for the Lord.

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Today’s passage consists of two psalms or hymns looking forward to the full restoration of Jerusalem to its former glory and religious faithfulness. The whole people (“daughter of Zion…daughter of Jerusalem”) are invited to celebrate the coming salvation. Words echoed in the words of the angel to Mary: “Rejoice! The Lord is with you.”

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In today’s celebration, it is the close presence of the Lord which is emphasised. “The Lord, the King of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear.” And again: “The Lord your God is in your midst.”

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Again, “The lord your God is in your midst…
He will exult with joy over you,
he will renew you by his love;
he will dance with shouts of joy for you…”

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There is also an air of joy. “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion!.. Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem.”

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All of this can fittingly be applied to Elizabeth as she welcomes Mary and Jesus and indicated by John jumping for joy in the womb of his mother. Let us too share their joy as we prepare to welcome the coming of our God among us in Jesus.

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Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/A1221r/

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Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669). The Visitation, 1640

Rembrandt uses light and shadow to train the viewer’s eye through the canvas. The brightest light falls on Mary and then Elizabeth. Mary has just traveled to see her cousin, whom the angel told her would be with child in her old age. There they both stand, pregnant by divine intervention—Elizabeth with John the Baptist and Mary with the Christ.

Rembrandt’s light focuses on the two women like a spotlight coming down from the heavens. As our eyes adjust to the scene we see the two servants. Beyond them at the edges of the frame we see Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah the priest, to the left and Joseph down and to the right.

A few years ago this Rembrandt traveled to my city as part of an exhibit about the Dutch Golden Age. I was struck by small size of the painting. It is just a little bigger than two by two and half feet. Still, Rembrandt doesn’t waste an inch of composition space, filling the dark background with an elaborate cityscape and the foreground with detailed foliage and architecture. The peacock looking on from the bottom left signifies Jesus’s royalty and immortality. Peacocks were regarded as kingly and there was a myth in Rembrandt’s day that their flesh never decayed.

The scene shows an ornate world in motion, but the meeting between these two women, though their pregnancies would transform that world forever, takes place with no fan-fare. As Isaiah said, there would be nothing about Jesus’s coming that would capture the world’s attention.

 

Consider

“When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.

“As she listened, there rose inside her a sense that the glory of his tale was nothing new, but rather was older than time. She only needed uncommon light to see it. She had, Gabriel told her, found favor with God. She shouldn’t fear this visit or the message he brought.

“It must have been strange to stand before this seraph dressed in light, strong and otherworldly, and hear him tell her not to be afraid. Perhaps it was even stranger for Mary to discover that God had formed an overall impression of her. She was known by God, and he favored her. He liked what he saw?

“The angel then came to the reason for his visit. He told Mary she would conceive a son, who would rescue his people from their sins. God had already chosen his name— Jesus, which meant “salvation.”[1]

 

Examine

What do you think the angel means when he tells Mary she has found favor with God?

In what ways is the Christmas story globally epic? In what ways is it deeply personal? Are you drawn to one of those poles more than the other? Which one? Why?

Where are some places in your life where you need the help of a God who governs the cosmos? Where are some places in your life where you need a God who can cut into the deeply personal details of your heart?

http://russ-ramsey.com/day-19-the-ordinary-overshadowed-reflection-questions-and-art-during-advent/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 DECEMBER, 2016, Wednesday, Weekday of Advent
JOY IS BORN OF THE PROMISE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a; Ps 32:2-3,11-12,20-21; Luke 1:39-45   ]

Christmas is often associated with joy.  One of the carols that we like to sing is “Joy to the world!”   What is the basis of this joy?  Namely, that the savior has come and that Christ has come to reign with His love and truth.  With Christ’s coming, there will be peace in our land and there will be love among men.  The thought of Christ’s coming therefore fills those without love and without peace with expectant joy.  This joy is born out of this promise.  This is the message of today’s scripture readings as we enter the 5th day of the “O” Antiphons that prepare us for the coming of Christ.

Indeed in the first reading from the Book of Songs, the mystical love and union between God and His bride, the Church is portrayed in terms of human love between two lovers.  The Book of the Song of Songs is really a compendium of love songs for a wedding.  Love is full of joy and admiration at the beauty of our loved ones.  “I hear my Beloved.  See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My Beloved is like a gazelle, like a young stag.”  She says, “My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.”  Love is attentive, always paying attention and observing the details of our beloved.   “See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”   Where there is love, there is newness of life and we see things in a new perspective.  “For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance.”

Indeed, anyone who is in love with God is filled with joy.  When the love of God fills the person’s hearts, the things of this world pale in comparison with His love.  “If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.” (Songs 8:7b) Love gives us meaning and purpose in life.  To fall in love with God is the greatest thing on this earth.  When God’s love is in our hearts, we find deeper inner peace, joy and security.  St Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (1 Cor 13:19b-20)

Secondly, the joy of Christmas comes from liberation.  In the optional reading from Zephaniah, the prophet said, “Shout for joy, daughter of Zion, Israel, shout aloud! Rejoice, exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has repealed your sentence; he has driven your enemies away.”   Indeed, the Lord has come to take away our shame.  He has come to take away all that harm and destroy us.  He will help us to overcome our inner enemies, that is our sins and selfishness; and He will liberate us from our external enemies, pain, suffering and injustices.  The prophet assures us that God is our warrior.  He will fight the battle for us.  We only need to rely on His strength and might.  “The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear. When that day comes, word will come to Jerusalem: Zion, have no fear, do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior.”   Both in today’s acclamation before the gospel and at the Magnificat at vespers, we pray, “O Key of David, who open the gates of the eternal kingdom, come to liberate from prison the captive who lives in darkness.”

Truly, when the Lord is in us, we feel liberated from all fears, worries and anxieties.  All our sins come from fear and the desire to protect our self-interests.  We fear death, hunger and pain.  But the Lord shows us that love is stronger than death and selfishness.  So like the lover, we say to the Lord, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.”  (Songs 8:6-7a)

The Good News is that the Lord is coming and He has come.  “My Beloved lifts up his voice, he says to me, ‘Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  The Lord is saying to us, “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.”  In a real way, the Lord comes to us in the Incarnation.  In the gospel reading, we read of how the Lord came to visit Elizabeth in the womb of Mary.  “Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”   The coming of the Lord filled Elizabeth with joy and John the Baptist also leapt for joy.

The Lord comes to us again and again.  He comes to us when we receive Him in the Eucharist, just as our Blessed Mother carried the Lord in the tabernacle of her womb.  Whenever we receive the Eucharist with a pure heart, a clear conscience and a devout spirit, the Lord enters into our lives and renews the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism.   If our disposition is right, the Lord comes, but most of the time we do not recognize His real presence in the Eucharist.  This explains why although many Catholics receive communion every Sunday, nothing is happening in their lives. They receive without reverence, without a conscious recognition of Christ’s presence in the bread and most of all, in the seriousness of their sins.

Still, the Lord can come to us anew if we receive Him in the sacrament of reconciliation.  The Lord wants to set us free from our prison of sin and misery.  Our pride, self-righteousness, egotism and anger often blind us to the reality of the truth.   If we want to be set free to find love and peace, then we need to seek His forgiveness; and then extend this forgiveness to our fellowmen and all those who have hurt us.  So if we have not yet frequented the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we will be losing a great opportunity of grace.  How can there be peace and joy at Christmas when one is not reconciled with God and with our loved ones and our fellowmen?  If we want peace, let us make peace with ourselves, with God and others.

The Lord comes especially also in the compassion and mercy that others show to us, or vice versa.  Mary, hearing that Elizabeth was pregnant in her old age immediately responded to her help.  She travelled a great distance to help her cousin.  We too like Mary are called to be channels of grace and love.  She not only literally brought Jesus to Elizabeth and John the Baptist but she herself became the presence of Jesus to them.  Through her kindness and graciousness, Elizabeth immediately sensed the divine presence in her heart and womb.  We too must do the same.  As we reach out to the lonely, the sick, the wounded, the hungry and the poor, we come to encounter Christ in them and they encounter Christ in us.

If the Lord were to dwell in our hearts, we must make time for silence and prayer.  “Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp, with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs. O sing him a song that is new, play loudly, with all your skill.”  This last week of Advent is an intense period of expectancy which is aroused and strengthened by prayer, meditation and contemplation.  We must seek and desire that our Lord comes into our lives.  Like the love who said, “Upon my bed at night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” (Songs 3:1-2)  Let us wait for the Lord in prayer and good works.  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. In him do our hearts find joy. We trust in his holy name.”  Let us not delay any longer but have faith.  “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Related:

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Edward Leen totally believes in the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in every human being. His book “Holy Spirit” works for everbody.

Karl Rahner also believed in the gift of the Holy Spirit in every human being. Rahner says, “To get more, give more.”

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Worrying claim: Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ¿death pathway¿ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Worrying claim: In Britain, Professor Patrick Pullicino said doctors had turned the use of a controversial ‘death pathway’ into the equivalent of euthanasia of the elderly

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, October 20, 2016 — “To be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self” — Surely in today’s political climate and cultural changes, a true Christian will be less and less acceptable.

October 19, 2016

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 476

Reading 1 EPH 3:14-21

Brothers and sisters:
I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Gospel PHIL 3:8-9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I consider all things so much rubbish
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

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Reflection on Luke 12:49-53 By Abbot Philip, Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico
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The Gospel today is taken from Saint Luke and points out to us that our usual image of Jesus as sweet and loving needs a bit of correction.  Today Jesus tells us in His own words:  Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.

This division comes about because Jesus teaches a clear message of love for God and for all others.  Not all of us accept this message and allow it to form us.  Instead we continue to those who love us in return, we continue help those who already have enough and we continue to see our own good in preference to the good of others.  People who are stubborn and try to follow Jesus are often rejected as being rigid or too tough or even unrealistic.  Surely in today’s political climate and cultural changes, a true Christian will be less and less acceptable.  So many want to lessen the teachings of Jesus so that everyone will be happy, so that everyone will have the peace of no opposition.

Yet that kind of peace must be destroyed.  Instead, the only peace that lasts comes from striving to do God’s will and to live in accordance with God’s words and God’s teachings in the Scriptures.

Related:

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Related:

 (Chaldean, Assyrian, Armenian and Syriac communities)

Eleven missionaries, including a 12-year-old boy, were slaughtered 

The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) executed 12 Christians, including a 12-year-old boy, after they refused to abandon their faith and convert to Islam. The murders occurred on August 28, 2015 outside of Aleppo.

“In front of the team leader and relatives in the crowd, the Islamic extremists cut off the fingertips of the boy and severely beat him, telling his father they would stop the torture only if he, the father, returned to Islam,” revealed Christian Aid Mission. “When the team leader refused, relatives said, the ISIS militants also tortured and beat him and the two other ministry workers. The three men and the boy then met their deaths in crucifixion.”

The boy’s father was a “ministry team leader who planted nine churches.” One woman allegedly yelled “Jesus!” right before the terrorists beheaded her. Militants took eight aid workers, two of them females, to another village. They proceeded to rape the two females before they executed them.

“Villagers said some were praying in the name of Jesus, others said some were praying the Lord’s Prayer, and others said some of them lifted their heads to commend their spirits to Jesus,” described one source. “One of the women looked up and seemed to be almost smiling as she said, ‘Jesus!’”

The barbaric radical Islamic group has executed more than 11,000 people in “Iraq and Syria since its establishment of a self-proclaimed caliphate in June 2014.” ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in that month. For over 2,000 years, Christians and Muslims lived peacefully with each other. But when ISIS invaded, the Christians were told to either leave, convert, or pay a subjugation tax. They kidnapped the majority of the females to sell on their sex slave market while they slaughtered the males in front of their families.

“It is like going back 1,000 years seeing the barbarity that Christians are having to live under. I think we are dealing with a group which makes Nazism pale in comparison and I think they have lost all respect for human life,” explained Patrick Sookhdeo, founder of Barnabas Fund. “Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law. For them what they are doing is perfectly normal and they don’t see a problem with it. It is that religious justification which is so appalling.”

In July 2014, Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, told BBC Radio 4 that Christianity is coming to an end in the Middle Eastern country.

“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing,” he said. “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off. The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go.”

“Are we seeing the end of Christianity?” he continued. “We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”

Christians have spoken out about the treatment they endured from ISIS. They said ISIS destroyed churches and statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, and raised the black flag in Mary’s place. Terrorists robbed the Christians at checkpoints, taking the earrings women were wearing.

“There is not a single Christian family left in Mosul,” said Bashar Nasih Behnam, who left with his two children. “The last one was a disabled Christian woman. She stayed because she could not get out. They came to her and said you have to get out and if you don’t we will cut off your head with a sword. That was the last family.”

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/10/05/report-syrian-christians-cry-jesus-isis-mass-beheading/

Christians in the Middle East continue to be persecuted.Christians in the Middle East continue to be persecuted.

The Christians’ bodies were then hung on crosses and left as a warning to anyone who dares turn from Islam.

Patrick Sookhdeo, the founder of humanitarian aid group Barnabas Fund, claims ISIS’ actions take Christians back 1,000 years, then claimed the terrorist group makes Nazis look tame.

“Crucifying these people is sending a message and they are using forms of killing which they believe have been sanctioned by Sharia law,” Sookhdeo stated.

“For them what they are doing is perfectly normal and they don’t see a problem with it. It is that religious justification which is so appalling.”

http://www.catholic.org/news/international/middle_east/story.php?id=71425
Christians are fast becoming extinct in the Middle East as ISIS spreads its message of intolerance.

Father God,
We pray for the martyrs who refused to turn from you,
even in the midst of barbaric cruelty.
We pray comfort for their grieving families
and faith for Christians everywhere who love Your Name despite dangers around them.
We pray for peace, Lord,
and for Your grace, change and love.
Turn the horrors to Your glory, God,
and protect our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.
Please grant them all blessing after blessing.
Thank you, Lord, for your loving mercies.
Amen.

Who could have predicted that in 2016 so many new Christian Martyrs would be with us?

French priesr Father Jacques Hamel was killed in his church by Islamic State murderers  while saying Mass, July 26, 2016

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 OCTOBER 2016, Thursday, 29th Week of Ordinary Time
THE PURIFYING FIRE OF LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EPH 3:14-21; LK 12:49-53 ]

In the gospel Jesus says, “Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”  These words of Jesus seem to contradict that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.  In the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians he says that Jesus “is the peace between us, and had made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart …. he came to bring the good news of peace, peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near at hand.” How could we then think of Jesus bringing about division among us?  What a paradoxical way for Jesus to speak about His mission.

In order to understand why He conceived His mission in this manner, we must know the nature of His mission.  “Jesus said, ‘I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already!  There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over!” In these very words of Jesus, we see the context of His mission.  Baptism was that moment when He received the mission from the Father. He described His mission in terms of fire and baptism, both of which speak of cleansing and purification.   Fire is also a symbol of love.  So both fire and baptism symbolize the purifying work of Jesus.  He had come to purify the world of sin, selfishness, injustices, falsehood and evil.  Jesus’ coming is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi when he said, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” (Mal 3:1-3)  The mission of Jesus therefore entailed bringing about the fire of purifying love.  As such, inevitably, His presence, His message and actions would bring about division because men will be forced to choose Him and His Kingdom or Satan and his kingdom.  There is no question of being neutral in the face of this choice we have to make when confronted by the truth of Jesus.

Indeed, when we speak of the purifying fire of love, we speak of justice and truth.  Love entails justice.  Love also entails truth.  The reason why there is no real love and peace in the world is because the love of the world perpetuates injustice, falsehoods and deceit.  Love, in the understanding of the world, is to say nice things about each other even if they are wrong.  Hypocrisy and falsehood is often masqueraded as love.  The world claims that what they are promoting is love.  Euthanasia is done out of love for the sick, elderly and those whose lives do not seem to have value anymore.  Abortion is done in the name of love because they do not want the unwanted child to suffer.  Causal sex is promoted in the name of love since both can enjoy each other.  Stem cell research involving embryos is done for the sake of humanity.  Divorce is advocated in the name of love so that the couple can carry on with their lives.

But is this really done for love or simply for the love of oneself?   It is a selfish love of self; not of the other.  Euthanasia is practiced not because we do not want the elderly and sick to suffer any more but because we do not want them to be a nuisance and a hindrance to our freedom to do what we want.  Everyone wants to live.  Love does not want separation regardless of the person’s condition.  Whether it is the patient or the caregivers, if we love, we want to be with our loved ones forever.  Euthanasia is practiced because of the bankruptcy of love.  Abortion too is not for the sake of the unwanted baby but so that those who conceived the baby can continue to live their lives without any commitment and responsibility.  Every child that is conceived in the womb of the mother desires to be loved and accepted.  Killing an innocent and helpless baby is not love.  Free sex is not love either, because love is more than mere pleasure gain from the body.  Unless there is love, sex is cheap.  Sex merely for pleasure degrades the person and his or her body, turning it to a thing to be used, manipulated and discarded.  Sex and the body are sacred because they are the means to express intimacy and love.   Hence, true love requires truth and justice.

Indeed, the whole purpose of Christ’s message is to help us in purifying our love for God.  In a special way, it means that we need to be purified of our motive for serving the Lord.  It is good to examine ourselves deeply why many of us are serving in Church or voluntary organizations.  Do we really do it for the love of God and His people?  In truth, if we are not afraid to confront the real motives of what we do, we will find that our motives are less than noble.  We join Church activities mostly because of what we can get out of it.  Often those who volunteer to serve the Lord never ask what the Lord wants of them but what they like to do.  So I join the choir because I like to sing; not because I love God and I see my contribution as a means to evangelize.  Some join Church organizations because their friends are there; others because of the benefits of being members, etc.  It is necessary therefore for us to always examine ourselves and be more conscious of the motives of what we do and why we do.  Spiritual maturity requires that we reflect deeper into the reasons for what we have been doing or not doing.  Through a conscious awareness of our struggles and achievements, our weaknesses and strengths, hopefully we be clearer as to which areas of our lives need to be sanctified further.

Undoubtedly, the purifying fire of love is painful due to the purification process.  Many of us are unable to accept criticisms from others.  When we are corrected by others, how often do we immediately react to defend ourselves?  Our ego makes us defensive and even retaliatory.   We are too proud to accept correction and we feel hurt when we receive a negative comment.  That is why the Christian message is not welcome in the world.  Today, the world is divided because of Christianity! We speak out against the current relativistic, materialistic and individualistic trends in the world.  Not surprisingly, among all religions most hated by the world is Catholicism because we act as the moral spokesman for the world in condemning abortion, bioethical immorality, same sex union, etc.  The world likes to find fault with us and seeks to discredit the Church and her religious leaders so that we cannot speak with credibility.  News Media tend to report negative things that come out of the Church but positive issues are not given publicity because they are “boring.”  For instance, the so- called Vatican-leak by the Pope’s Butler was given so much coverage but nothing about the Year of Faith, which had greater ramifications.

On the other hand, because purification is a difficult process and people need time to absorb the truth, it is important that we also speak the truth but do so with love.  Consequently, any correction must be carried out as a service of love and for the sake of truth and justice.  It must not be used, or even seen as an instrument, to destroy the person but rather to purify, to correct and to build the person up.  It is important to search ourselves when we correct others.  Do we seek to point out people’s mistakes and errors in order to feel good about ourselves and to humiliate people; or we do sincerely highlight their mistakes to help them to become better for their own good and not ours?  If we are truly correcting purely out of love for the person, then our correction will be done with compassion and sensitivity and always with dignity.   When we are harsh in our criticisms of others, most of the time, they spring from anger, vindictiveness and pride.  If there are no self-interests involved, we would have been detached in offering fraternal correction to others.  In the case of Jesus, even when He was harsh with the religious leaders, it was done out of love for them, never out of spite or revenge.

Let us therefore pray that we have the humility to accept criticisms positively, even if we disagree with the judgment passed on us.  As long as we understand and see the judgment as a judgment in love, accepting correction should not be too difficult.  More often than not, pride blinds us from seeing others’ appraisal of us as God’s means to purify us in love.  Hence, in the first reading, St Paul exhorts us to found our love in His love, “Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.”

Love conquers all.  Without the love of God in us, we cannot render compassionate and yet truthful judgment without fear or favour; and for those being judged, we cannot be open and humble to accept the corrections given.  But for those of us who understand the power of God’s love, then indeed, St Paul says, “Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.”  Truly, in the final analysis, only God’s love in us can change us and transform us into integrated people and in the same love, keep us all united in love for each other, helping us each to grow in holiness and perfection in love and truth.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, October 14, 2016 — We were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One

October 13, 2016

Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 471

Art: Rejoice from the Rooftops

Reading 1 EPH 1:11-14

Brothers and sisters:
In Christ we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:1-2, 4-5, 12-13

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

AlleluiaPS 33:22

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May your kindness, LORD, be upon us;
who have put our hope in you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:1-7

At that time:
So many people were crowding together
that they were trampling one another underfoot.
Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples,
“Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.

“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
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I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more.
I shall show you whom to fear.
Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”

Art: Fear the one that can cast you into Gehenna

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Commentary on Eph 1:11-14 From Living Space

Today we continue our reading of God’s plan of salvation at the beginning of the Letter. As Paul continues his panoramic vision of God’s plan for the whole human race and the whole of creation, he speaks today first of the Jews, his own people, and then of the Gentiles or “pagans” (that is, non-Jews) who had responded to God’s call.

“It is in Christ we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning.” In using the word “we” Paul indicates his fellow-Jews. He tells them that Christ is at the centre of God’s plan. Whether we speak of the whole of creation or the individual, it is only in relationship to Christ that there is a meaningful future destiny. Christ is the paradigm for all creation, the visible re-presentation of God himself among us. He is the Alpha and the Omega. However, Paul goes on now to speak, not of the whole of creation, but of those who have responded to God’s call in Jesus.

“We were claimed as God’s own” – that is, the Jewish people, who were called in a special way to be his witnesses to the coming of the Messiah. The completion of their call would only take place in Jesus, who, of course, was also a Jew, a descendant of David and a son of Abraham (cf. Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies).

The Jews “put their hopes in Christ before he came”. That is to say, it was among the Jews that God would become incarnate and it was they who gave witness over the centuries to the hope of a saviour Messiah. A number of Jews would recognise that hoped-for Messiah in the person of Jesus but many others would not. These latter still live in the hope of a Messiah yet to come.

“Now, you too, in him [i.e. Christ] have heard the message of the truth and the good news of your salvation and have believed it.” Paul now turns to the Gentiles – very likely the majority of his readers – who have heard the message of the Gospel, have accepted it and become followers of Jesus.

They, like their Jewish brothers and sisters, have been “stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit”. Paul completes his trinitarian account of God’s plan with the Spirit, since the giving of the Spirit shows the plan has reached its final stage. The Gentiles, too, are called to share exactly the same salvation as the Jews. The proof of this is the clear evidence that the Spirit has come upon them and made them his own. They, too, share in that special kind of freedom that Christ gives to those who are truly his own and which puts an end to the moral slavery they experienced during their pre-Christian life.

Nevertheless, though this gift has already begun, it is only given in a hidden way while the unspiritual world lasts, and will only be given fully when the kingdom of God is complete and Christ comes in glory.

There is a great wealth of ideas in this magnificent presentation of what God has planned for his people through the saving work begun by his incarnate Son and carried out by the Spirit. These words are addressed as much to us as they were to the original readers of this letter. They can provide an endless source for prayer, reflection, praise and thanksgiving when we realise the kind of God we believe in.

Let us, too, ask him to help us live up to the calling which has come from him, a calling going back to long before we were even thought of.

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http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2286r/

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Commentary on Luke 12:1-7 From Living Space

After his confrontation with the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus now turns to the crowds. We are told that they were gathering round him in their thousands, so densely that they were trampling on each other. Clearly they were hungry to hear a man who had spoken in such an extraordinary and daring ways to their religious leaders.

But Jesus begins by speaking first to his own disciples. “Be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” The fermenting characteristic of yeast is seen by the Jews as a corrupting agent. That was why they only use unleavened bread at the Passover.

The corrupting agent in the Pharisees was their hypocrisy. On the outside they pretended to be what they were not on the inside. “There is nothing…hidden that will not be made known.” It can mean that the hypocrisy of the pharisaical will ultimately be laid bare. In contrast to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees the followers of Jesus must practice transparency. And, although much of the teaching that the disciples receive is in private, ultimately all will have to come out into the open.

The Church is not a secret society, although it has its “mysteries”, its special teachings and rituals, which are only fully understood by those who are “inside”. The Church is of its very essence evangelical. Its purpose is to share the vision of Christ with the whole world. This is crucial to the setting up of the kingdom, the accepted reign of God in the world.

“What you have whispered in locked rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops.” This, of course, will involve dangers. The Gospel will be resisted, it will be seen as a dangerous threat to other views of life. Christians will die and, in fact, thousands have sacrificed their lives simply because they were followers of Jesus.

But death is not the worst enemy. It is a fact of living. It is an end we will all have to face one day, sooner or later, one way or the other. The one we are really to fear is the one “who has the power to cast into Gehenna after he has killed”. Only God as the Supreme Judge has this power. Of course, the only person God “casts” into “hell” is one who has chosen to separate him- or herself definitively from God.

‘Gehenna’ (in Hebrew) ge-hinnom, ‘Valley of Hinnom’ or ge-ben-hinnom, ‘Valley of the Son of Hinnom’, was situated on the south-west of Jerusalem. In the time of the kings it had been the centre of a cult in which children were sacrificed (cf. 2 Kings 23:10; Jeremiah 7:31) and hence seen as a place of abomination. The Hebrew is transliterated into Greek as gaienna, which appears in the New Testament as geenna (geenna). The punishment of sinners by fire after death first appeared in Jewish apocalyptic literature but the name geenna for this punishment first appears in the New Testament. The term is only used in Matthew, Mark, the Letter of James and here. The word is not to be confused with Hades, which was a general name for the place of the dead.

The one we are really to fear is the one who can make us deny Christ and all that Christ means and to die in a state of denial. But, whatever threats hang over us, we are not to fear. We have the example of many before us who have gone to their deaths in peace and without hesitation. They knew they had no other choice: either death or Truth.

Even little birds sold in the market place for a few cents do not die unknown to God, says Jesus. The very hairs of our head are counted. So our duty is clear: to proclaim the good news of the Gospel with openness and integrity and not to fear the consequences. Because we are not alone.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2286g/

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“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” — Jeremiah 1:5

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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4 OCTOBER 2016, Friday, 28th Week of Ordinary Time
BEING FAITHFUL TO OUR VOCATION IS TO CO-OPERATE IN GOD’S PLAN FOR HUMANITY
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  EPHESIANS 1:11-14; LUKE 12:1-7]

Inspite of scientific and technological progress, the truth is that the materialistic and sensual man remains unfulfilled.  He is also lost.  There is a feeling of incompleteness and also paralysis.  He does not know what he is living for except to have a career, make money and live a luxurious life.  But life cannot simply be lived on this level.  Anyone who has gone through life will tell you that power, success and money cannot bring you happiness.  Indeed, when you arrive at that stage, you will feel even more frustrated and can even become nihilistic because everything seems meaningless.

Indeed, the key to life is meaning!  When we ask what the meaning of life is, what we are really asking is, what is our goal, destiny and purpose in life?  As Christians, we are fortunate because the purpose and goal of life is revealed to us.  We need not search for our origin or destiny because we know our origin and destiny; we also live with purpose.  What, then, is the meaning of life?

Today, in the first reading from the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians, we are given the grandiose vision of God for the world.  The letter of St Paul to the Ephesians is called the Queen of Epistles because it gives usthe vision and mission statement of God.  In biblical and Pauline terms, this vision and mission statement is what the mystery of God is all about.  The mystery of God for St Paul is His divine plan for creation and humanity.

There are two parts to this vision and mission statement.  In the first section of this outline of the plan of God, St Paul shows us that “the mystery of his purpose, the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning to act upon when the times had run their course to the end: that he would bring everything together under Christ, as head, everything in the heavens and everything on earth.”  Christ therefore is the basis and the agent of true unity in the world.   Indeed, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has “blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.”

Secondly, St Paul says that God “has chosen us in Christ even before the world began to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.” Indeed, when we contemplate on our great calling to be sons in the Son, that is, to share in the life of God, the Trinitarian life of love and giving in absolute freedom, we cannot but also marvel with St Paul “the richness of the grace which he has showered on us in all wisdom and insight.”

Today, in the last part of this hymn which we have read, St Paul reminds us that it is “in Christ that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.”  In other words, we were not chosen simply for ourselves but for His greater glory.

Consequently, we who are privileged to know our calling because we “have heard the message of the truth and the good news of our salvation, and have believed it; and have been stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance which brings freedom for those whom God has taken for his own, to make his glory praised” now have an obligation to make known to the whole world, their calling as well.  Indeed, we have a duty to share the vision of God with the whole of humanity waiting for salvation and fulfillment so that they too can be restored to their true freedom as sons of God by being freed from slavery to this world and the emptiness of life.

How can we do this if not by revealing the glory of God in and through our lives in this world?  Yes, in this great plan of God, each one of us is called to live a holy and spotless life, and show forth His glory in us through our contribution to the world, the building of humanity and the fostering of unity and peace, through the promotion of justice, truth and the dignity of the human person which is so much needed in the world today.  This is particularly true for those called to be leaders of society and church.  Being chosen for leadership, the future of humanity depends on them.  But all, regardless, are called to reveal the glory of God.   We need to discern how the Lord is calling us to witness His love in the world.

What is important in the discernment of vocation is that we must never exclude the possibility of being called to the priesthood or religious life.  Priests and religious are called to witness to the love of God in a special way and more direct manner of proclaiming the Good News both in word and in deed.  To be priest is to be a bridge between God and man.  Priests are called to bring humanity to God so that they know their true destiny and high calling in life.  In this way, humanity can live in peace and love.

Whichever vocation we choose, we must be true to the voice of God.  We should not choose something simply because we like to do or because it gives us satisfaction and fulfill our needs, be it material, affective, psychological or egoistic needs. Consequently, there is a danger of hypocrisy as the gospel warns us.  ”Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy. “  We, too, because of pressure from society or even from our loved ones, might end up choosing a vocation that is not truly ours.

For what is hypocrisy, if not to be what we are not?   A hypocrite is a person who pretends to be what he is not.  He puts on a mask just to please people.  In a certain sense, when we do not follow our calling in life, we are actually cheating ourselves and even those whom we purport to serve.  If we are not really called for a particular vocation, we can never excel in that particular area.  Most of all, we find ourselves lacking fulfillment and happiness in what we do because we have no passion or conviction or even aptitude for it.

This explains why Jesus said, “Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.”  Indeed, those who are not faithful to their calling in life will only be exposed later on and regret that they made the wrong choice.

Yes, the gospel invites us to be faithful to our calling, regardless whether it is to be involved in the civil and public life of society, in politics or economics, or to be his priests and religious.  We must not allow material gains or the pressures of society to make us fearful of choosing what is in our hearts.  For if we are afraid to be true to ourselves, we will only suffer more misery later on.  Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.  I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell.”  Clearly, we must not allow ourselves to sell our soul, that is, our spirit or enthusiasm or conviction to the world.  Truly, our soul is more important than material gains or worldly benefits.   Our personal and spiritual fulfillment is more satisfying and fulfilling than money, power and fame.  Money and pleasure cannot replace the higher need for love and service.

So, today we must be courageous in being faithful to our vocation, especially when it is a calling to the priestly and religious life or even civil and political office.  We must not be afraid to make conscientious choices.  We must find the strength to climb every mountain and every hill to find our dream.  Today, the Lord consoles us that He who has chosen us to be part of His divine plan will be the one who will help us to bring it to fulfillment.  We need not worry.  After all, He said, “Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight.  Why, every hair on your head has been counted.  There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.’”  Yes, we are worth more than just mere creatures because we are called to be sons in the Son.  We only have to do our part and God who chose us will never allow His plan to be wrecked by man.  All He wants of us is to cooperate generously with Him.

In this way, we will find true happiness for ourselves because we are faithful to our calling in Christ to be His glory in the world through our vocation.  At the same time, humanity will benefit from us and together with humanity, we become one with each other because we are called to be one in God and in Christ.   By so doing, the plan of God for humanity will be realized.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, August 31, 2016 — “Are you not merely men?” — “But you can be liberated from the power of evil spirits.”

August 30, 2016

Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 433

Reading 1 1 COR 3:1-9

Brothers and sisters,
I could not talk to you as spiritual people,
but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.
I fed you milk, not solid food,
because you were unable to take it.
Indeed, you are still not able, even now,
for you are still of the flesh.
While there is jealousy and rivalry among you,
are you not of the flesh, and walking
according to the manner of man?
Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another,
“I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men?What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul?
Ministers through whom you became believers,
just as the Lord assigned each one.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.
Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything,
but only God, who causes the growth.
He who plants and he who waters are one,
and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor.
For we are God’s co-workers;
you are God’s field, God’s building.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:12-13, 14-15, 20-21

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Alleluia LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Lord sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor
and to proclaim liberty to captives.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 4:38-44

After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon.
Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever,
and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.
She got up immediately and waited on them.

At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases
brought them to him.
He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.
And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.”
But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak
because they knew that he was the Christ.

At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place.
The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him,
they tried to prevent him from leaving them.
But he said to them, “To the other towns also
I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,
because for this purpose I have been sent.”
And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

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Art: Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law by John Bridges, 19th century.
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Commentary on Luke 4:38-44 From Living Space

After the scene in the synagogue where Jesus healed a man possessed by an evil spirit, he goes straight to Peter’s house. It was a sabbath day so Jesus could not move around or do any major activity. He seems to have used this house as his base when in Capernaum and that part of Galilee. (Jesus had “nowhere to lay his head”, no dwelling of his own, but it seems clear that he was not a streetsleeper. There were always people ready to offer him hospitality – a custom of the Middle East and a model for Christians of every age and place.)

Peter’s mother-in-law was in the grip of a fever and the disciples begged Jesus to do something for her. (We might remember that the first pope was married.) Jesus stood over her and, with a word, cured her. Immediately she got up and began to serve Jesus and his group.

There is a lesson here. Health and healing are not just for the individual. Her healing immediately restored her to the community and the duty of serving that community. (And not just because she was a woman! If it had been the father-in-law, the same would apply.) As long as we are in health our energies are meant to be directed to the building up of the community and not simply for our personal enjoyment.

“Now when the sun was setting” – we need to remember it was a sabbath. The sabbath went from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday (so Jesus could not be properly buried on the Friday evening when he died). According to the traditions, Jews could not travel more than two-thirds of a mile or carry any load. Only after sunset could the sick be brought to Jesus.

As soon as the sabbath was over, large numbers brought their sick to him. He “laid his hands on every one of them” and healed them all. As Jesus had announced in the synagogue at Nazareth, the Kingdom of God had arrived and was entering the lives of people, bringing them health and wholeness.

Many were also liberated from the power of evil spirits. These spirits shouted at Jesus “You are the Son of God”. As we mentioned earlier, by using Jesus’ title they hoped to exert control over him. It did not work, of course. Whether these were actual cases of possession or were psychological or moral disorders which made people behave in abnormal ways and perhaps ways harmful to themselves and others is not clear. But clearly the presence of the Kingdom is being felt.

At daybreak – Jesus had been working the whole night for the people – he went off into a quiet place. The desert is the place where God is to be found and very likely, as Mark tells us, Jesus went there to pray and to be alone. The people, who had seen what he did for them, wanted him to stay with them. Their attitude is in marked contrast to the people of Nazareth.

But he could and would not. “I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also; that is why I have been sent.” And so we are told that he was now preaching in the synagogues of Judea – in the south of the country, although the term may simply refer to the whole of Jewish territory.

No place could have a monopoly on his attentions. We need to attach ourselves to Jesus and keep close to him but we cannot cling to him in a way that prevents others from experiencing his healing touch.

On the contrary, it is our task as his disciples to see that as many as possible come to know and experience his love, his compassion and his healing.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2224g/

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A Procession of the Damned- Study for the Damned in Dante’s Inferno. By George Romney

Related:

Father Robert Barron says, “Jesus Christ was either the most important person ever to walk on the face of the earth or he was a liar and a fraud.”
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Fr. Robert Barron
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So there’s our choice.
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And for me I would have to deny all the apostles and all the followers of Jesus throughout the history of man to not believe in Jesus.
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I would have to say that Michelangelo was insane, Thomas Aquinas was a fool, and all the saints, and popes, and all the followers ever were just flat wrong.
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I would have to declare, if I choose not to follow Christ, that I am smarter and better informed that John the Baptist, John the Apostle, and the Apostle Thomas who traveled all the way to what is now India to spread the Word of God after Jesus Rose From The Dead.
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I can’t do that.
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Jesus’ impact on man, on mankind, is so profound that he cannot be denied — even in this “all knowing” Internet and technology Age.
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Jesus is not just the main thing. He is the only thing.
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Jesus is our  Raison d’être.
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I can either be a follower with conviction or face conviction and hell after the Court of Real Justice in Heaven!
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No. I have faced conviction and hell already.
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I choose life and conviction to Jesus and His Father — with the help and intercession of the Holy Spirit.
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John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom
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Related:

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!

Thomas Merton

Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.

“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he thought maybe he wanted to be a good Catholic.

Lax stopped him in his tracks.

“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”

Merton was dumbfounded.

“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.

Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one.Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”…

Thomas Merton knew his friend was right.

Merton, of course, would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century.

His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself — and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.

But the words Lax spoke ring down through the decades to all of us today. Because they speak so simply and profoundly to our calling as Catholic Christians.

 

Thomas Merton said: You should want to be a saint.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. Every one can do just enough to get by. It’s not hard.

But many of us are challenged to do more….

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Real Men Pray

Jeremiah Denton
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My creed for life is the Apostles’ Creed. My code of conduct is de-rived from the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ command to “love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” As an American naval officer, I derived motivation to serve my nation because of my love for my country. I also believe that Americans have a special justification to love their country derived from a love of God. America was founded as “one nation under God.” Our founding fathers deliberately based their experiment in democracy upon the premise that the compassion and the self-discipline required for the success of a democracy can only come from citizens who believe strongly in God.

Due to our nation’s founding premise, I found it easy to serve in a profession that protected our land. My generation helped to protect and ensure the survival of our nation against Fascism and Soviet Communism. Now our greatest enemy is the threat that would do away with America’s belief in the founding premise, its founding thesis.

If we continue to increase our forgetfulness of God’s ultimate significance, then America will not survive. I strive for the ultimate significant success —heaven—by loving and serving God, country and family.
THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

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To those who are non-Catholics among the readers, let me preface the story with an explanation of the Roman Catholic devotion to “The Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Jesus, of course, has both a human and divine nature and took on a human body, and all natural characteristics of a human when he was on earth. His brain and sensory system enabled him to think and feel as a human being. His divine nature rendered him a sinless soul but he felt the temptations of a human being, and all the physical pains, pleasures, sights, and emotions of a human being. Thus the immensity of his suffering for our salvation is more palpably understood and appreciated by us. It is a Catholic tradition to regard his heart as the center, the symbol of his own humanity, the “source” of his human compassion and his love as he felt it and showed it on earth.

The love resulting in the miracle of Cana is one example of what could be attributed to his Sacred Heart. We feel we can “get to him” better, if you will, by appealing to that copiously loving heart. I had adopted that devotion and frequently uttered the prayer, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee,” which was the standard prayer of that de-votion. I said it frequently, at least every night in prison.

Okay, with that said, let’s go back to 1967, about two years after I was shot down. Those years were probably the worst in terms of suffering for me. For a considerable portion of that time I had served as senior of-ficer for all the American POWs, responsible for issuing orders defining specific lines of resistance on unexpected challenges which arose, repre-senting our complaints about out treatment to our captors, and generally feeling responsible for our morale and performance of duty. Simply being a POW involved plenty of stress, long periods of physical and mental suf-fering. but for those finding themselves senior over an isolated group of POWs there was extra pressure.

The context of the timeframe of the incident I am about to relate was in the middle of the four years of intense mistreatment: mid 1967. Robbie Risner, then I, then Jim Stockdale had served as Senior Ranking Officer, (SRO), in that sequence since October 1965 when torture began. At this particular point in time, they were both isolated, and I was trying to act as SRO again in a camp called “Las Vegas” where most of the POWs were being kept. Vegas was like a hotel with fairly small cells, most of them were sharing common walls with one or two other cells.

Many of us had been moved to Vegas from the “zoo” where there were separate buildings, perhaps eight, holding a total of upwards of 100 prisoners. This arrangement permitted the North Vietnamese to erect bamboo walls cutting off visual contact between the buildings, and this greatly impeded audio contact because the walls limited maximum range of sound. The guards could use the walls to hide behind and catch people in one building trying to communicate with one another. Torture was al-ways bestowed on POWs caught communicating, along with other un-pleasant measures intended to intimidate the man from communicating in the future. This rendered communications difficult compared to the Vegas situation. We had been doing pretty well with tapping on the walls at Vegas for a number of months, but then the purge came that caused Stockdale’s temporary isolation, and I inherited the sack.

To inhibit and virtually prevent me from communicating as SRO, they stationed a guard in a chair at the door of my cell. At all times, his chair was leaned back against the door and the back of his head rested against the door. The acoustics were such that he could easily hear any tap, no matter how soft. Communications and prayer were by far the biggest factors supporting our morale and performance of duty.

At that time morale was low for three reasons: First, for a number of months, torture was being applied more intensely because the war was being intensified, the enemy was in an ugly mood and we knew prisoners were being promptly and severely tortured. We could hear their screams from a distance in another part of the prison complex. Also a purge among those POWs who had been in captivity longer was underway in an effort to break our chain of command and destroy our will to resist. Second, the news about the war which we were receiving was such that it was becoming evident that it was extremely unlikely the POWs would be released in any reasonable or early timeframe, and the conclusions that we would never be released were floating around in our minds. Third, com-munication was almost nil.

I was intensely frustrated and chagrined at my lack of ability to com-municate. Though I would have never admitted it, I was also of the belief that the U.S. was beginning to experience a growing anti-war movement. This sentiment would not likely improve our victory chances or any escala-tion of the scope and intensity of the U.S. offensive campaign which I and most others felt was necessary. Less importantly but of considerable effect on us, the end of the war did indeed seem further away, and release less certain.

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The screams of the prisoners in torture did not help my morale. During this phase I was enjoying the company of Jim Mulligan, my occasional cellmate. At this point in time, Jim was sleeping in the upper bunk. It was midday, siesta time, and the screams occasionally broke the normal silence for that time of day. I was praying, as usual, that God’s will be done, but that I hoped His will would include, among other things, improving our present situation because I was in leg irons and a guard was looking right at me.

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I prayed especially that He would let me come up with a means of communications that could be effectively used even when I was unable to move. Finally, as my last prayer, with special earnestness, I uttered the words, “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee.” In only a few seconds, I clearly heard an incredibly kind, dignified but commanding voice, which was taken by me to be the voice of Jesus Himself. The voice said clearly and rather slowly, “Say, Sacred Heart of Jesus, I give myself to you.” I was almost knocked down with a wave of awe upon hearing the voice. It was the most real and the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.

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The speaker of those words, of course, was not only assuring me of having heard my prayer, but had instructed me to deliver it in the future with new wording and meaning. I was not to say I merely trusted Him, but transcending that, I was to GIVE MYSELF, (all of me, all of my concerns) not just to THEE, as to a formal, omnipo-tent other type of suprem being, but to give myself to YOU, the familiar designation of a friend or a brother. And the tone and inflection of the voice conveyed the same mood of brotherly familiarity and assurance. It may sound kooky, but I know it happened, and I know it was real, more than I know my name is what it is, or that my wife is really my wife. For what it is worth, I can assure you that for me the prayer has worked.

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A few months later at a camp called Alcatraz where eleven of us were iso-lated for over two years, I did have a brainstorm which permitted me todevise the reliable, undetectable communications method for which I had specifically prayed. In many other painful situations, the prayer has since brought relief to me and to others who used it after I confided to them about the prayer.

http://www.agatheringofeagles.com/stories/prisoners-of-hope-a-gathering-of-eagles/jeremiah-denton-former-senator-alabama

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Sometimes people say they had a terrible father so they cannot relate to “God the Father” or the “Our Father.” Scott Hahn addresses this difficulty in his book “Understanding Our Father” which is also a good read for fathers of every age.

Sometimes Catholics say they left the Church because of the priest sexual abuse of children scandal. I like to ask them, if some doctors were accuses of malpractice, would you never again go to a doctor? Would you never again go into a hospital?

Every time I go into a church I say, “Jesus I am here for you. Maybe in spite of the pastor…”

JFC, Peace and Freedom

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 27, 2016 — “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise” — The Patron Saint of Alcoholics and Married Women — Humility may be the most important virtue

August 26, 2016

Memorial of Saint Monica
Lectionary: 430

Saint Monica, By Artist Karen DAnselmi.

Saint Monica, Mother of St. Augustine, Patron Saint of married women, alcoholics, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse

Reading 1 1 COR 1:26-31

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God.
It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God,
as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,
so that, as it is written,
Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Gospel  JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.
After a long time
the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents
came forward bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 AUGUST 2016, Saturday, 21st Week of Ordinary Time
REMEMBERING OUR HUMBLE BACKGROUND AS THE ANTIDOTE TO ARROGANCE AND INGRATITUDE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1COR 1:26-31; MT 25:14-30]

How often have we come across people who are successful, accomplished, rich, powerful, influential and famous, but have also become proud, arrogant, pretentious, snobbish, condescending, demanding and intolerant?  What is worse is that many of them actually came from humble beginnings, financially and socially.  We often wonder how these people, who have gone through a life of poverty and little social standing, could now act without compassion, understanding and respect for those who are marginalized in society, or who do not enjoy the same status in life as them.  Given what they had gone through, one would expect that they would be better placed to feel with and for such people.

What is the reason for their behaviour? They have forgotten their humble background.  Even for those who enjoyed an elite upbringing, they have failed to realize that what they now have came from their forefathers who worked hard to accumulate wealth and built up their family wealth. They, too, were once jobless and lived in poverty, despised by the rich and the powerful.  Indeed, it is when we forget our humble beginnings, whether it be in terms of our family background, education or career, that we become haughty and self-conceited.

Today, St Paul reminded his fellow Christians and all of us as well, the importance of remembering our nothingness and how, through the grace of God, we have become what we are today.  He wrote to the wealthy and intellectually snobbish and morally corrupt Corinthians, “Take yourselves, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame the strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”  Indeed, if they had come to find the true wisdom and riches in Christ who made everything else pale and insignificant to Him, it is by God’s graciousness and mercy.

St Paul could vouch for this himself, for although he came from a noble and influential family, well-educated as a rabbi and a strict orthodox Jew, he realized that all he possessed was “rubbish” compared to his encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ.  It was out of this humble experience of encountering Jesus along the road to Damascus that changed his whole outlook in life and what true religion is all about.   Having experienced the unconditional love of Christ and enlightened on the depth of God’s love and His unfathomable divine plan for humanity, he knew that this revelation was given to him not only for himself, but in order that he might reveal the mystery of Christ to all of humanity.

In the gospel, this theme of gratitude and the corollary response of commitment prevail.  The lazy servant in the gospel kept the talent that his master entrusted to him, not so much out of fear as out of sheer ingratitude.  After all, his words belied his line of defense when he said, “Sir, I have heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.”   If he was aware of how much confidence and love the master had for him in entrusting him with the talent, which is worth about one million US dollars in today’s terms, then surely he would have been so grateful and sought to increase that amount through investment, even if it was done conservatively. But he allowed it to stay idle, as if he had not even received it, and almost forgot all about it.

In contrast, the other servants, including the master himself, were aware of the blessings they received from God.  The master himself reiterated this fact when he said, “I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered.”  It is true that he worked hard to grow his wealth, but in the first place, it had been given freely by God.  So in gratitude for God’s blessings, he worked hard to make it grow.  He was cooperative with the grace of God.  He did not take what was given to him for granted, but developed further what he had been bestowed with.  This was true for the rest of the servants who had invested the money as well.

What about us?  Are we grateful for the talents we have received?  Have we made use of them for the service of God and humanity?   Or have we forgotten what we have received freely from God through our parents, relatives, and friends and from the Christian community?  Is it not true that some of us have learnt certain skills, like music or computer, or some trades but fail to use them for the good of humanity and the Christian community?  But even if we have, does rendering our services make us proud, arrogant, demanding, dictatorial and boastful of what we have been given in the first place?  Has our success in business, in education or in our professions made us consider ourselves better than others?

If we do, St Paul reminds us thus, “The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.”  Indeed, let us learn from the psalmist and be grateful to God for all that we are today.   Like the psalmist, let us sing out our praises, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down he sees all mankind. But see, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.”

Truly, let us keep ourselves humble before the Lord and His people.  The truly great person is one who is so successful, popular and accomplished in the eyes of the world and yet stays humble, unpretentious, without any airs in his dealings and relationship with others, rich or poor, influential or ordinary, small or great.   He is truly the great man because of his ordinariness and modesty.

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

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

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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Homily From The Abbot in The Desert
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It is clear that a husband and wife can be great and wonderful gifts to one another.

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But it is not automatic! What a gift the worthy wife!

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What a gift the man who entrusts his heart to his wife! We all know that it does not always work that way. When it does, we can see the Sacrament of Matrimony at work in a way that is convincing. The second reading, from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, is also clear that the end of the world, or our personal death as well, will come when we are not expecting it. We need to be prepared at all times to meet the Lord.

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We may think that we have years left, but God can come at any time, either to end the whole world or to take us to His Kingdom.

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This is a message reflected throughout all of Scripture: Be ready now! Be alert! Be prepared!

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The Gospel, from Saint Matthew, repeats both of these themes as it speaks about how to use the talents given to us. We can think of human talents, but the Gospel is really about how to use the gifts of faith given to us.

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Whatever we are given in this life, we need to use for God’s glory and for others. Perhaps at times we want to shrug off responsibility and let others take care of things.

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The Gospel keeps telling us: we are ourselves Christ present in the world. We are the hands and the love of God.

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We must live our faith or it is no faith. If we look at today’s world, we can well believe that the end is here. Yet this is so in every age. There is never a time when the world is completely obedient to the Lord and to the love the Father has for us in the Holy Spirit. There is never a time when everyone is seeking the face of the Lord.

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This cannot surprise us.

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On the other hand, in every age, God’s love and God’s word are present. We are being called to respond to that love and that word. Especially those of us who have professed faith in Jesus Christ must be willing to take up the Cross each day and to follow Him, even when it may mean suffering. Perhaps we do not do world-shaking actions!

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That should not surprise us. Yet a small act of love to another person changes the world. The smallest act of faith transforms the whole universe. We don’t have to think huge.

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We are invited to take even the smallest steps in the direction of this God who loves us. He Himself can transform that littleness. All glory to Him forever.

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First published here on Peace and Freedom on November 16, 21014
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom:
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Maybe we all know a saint like Saint Monica!

She prayed and prayed for both her husband and her son. Both might have driven a lesser woman crazy — but Monica. She turned to God and saved them both!

St. Augustine “started wrong but finished strong” like Mary Magdalene and others. He’s one of our favorite saints because he invented “The Not Yet Prayer.”

Augustine is one of those Olympian Sinners of faith history. After all, he was a lawyer.

His short story goes something like this: He’s living with his slave/pregnant girlfriend while still living under the roof of  his Mom’s house.  He is what today we would consider a lawyer or an advocate. He actually wins the case of a man accused of planning a murder. After the trial his client is set free and completes the murder he had been planning. Augustine shows no remorse but instead he is filled with pride because he won such a difficult trial! In his part time after the day’s drinking and frolicking, he is writing attacks of the followers of  Jesus Christ.

But St. Augustine’s Mom (Saint Monica) is instructing him on Jesus and constantly prays that Augustine will “get it.”

So Augustine starts to pray “Oh God, I know I have to clean up my life and follow your way — BUT NOT YET!”

I call “The Not Yet Prayer.”  I prayed it often myself!

Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) also “started wrong but finished strong.”  When he was knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus, he saw a bright light and was never the same.

There a few others examples of lives with hardship that became a transformational event, or period, in life.
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Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, had a transformational experience much like that of Paul on the road to Damascus. Like Paul before him, Wilson told others that the room filled with light and “the scales fell from my eyes.” Those are the same words Paul chose to describe his experience!
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I’ll be you know dozens if not hundreds of people who can say their hardships caused them a new awareness of God, a kind of re-awakening or conversion….
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What doesn’t kill us truly does make us stronger!
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Related:
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On Our Use of Our Talents
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Once during my writing career I became so depressed that I told my editor I was quitting.  After a brief pause, she looked over her glasses at me and said, “Let’s think about this. This could be a God given talent you have….”
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Leave it to the learned editor not to allow the writer to take any credit.
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But the message was clear and correct: many of our abilities are God given gifts and talents that we have a responsibility to develop and refine and mature.
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A recovering drug addict told me one time he’d never stop thanking God for his sobriety — and he would continue until the end of his life to use that gift to “God’s good purposes.”
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How we view our talents says a lot about who we are. It’s in the Good Book!
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JFC
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Caravaggio’s Conversion on the Way to Damascus — Saul says The Scales fell from my eyes — 1600
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St. Monica
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From Catholic Online
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St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. His mother Lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370. He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life.St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back toAfrica from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.
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The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home.
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Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.
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Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.
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When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric.
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Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below).
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Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been inTagaste.She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.”
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She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.

Source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1120.

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, August 26, 2016 — “Stay awake for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

August 25, 2016

Friday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 429

Parable of the 10 Virgins — One stands ready

 

Reading 1 1 COR 1:17-25

Brothers and sisters:
Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel,
and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,
so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written:

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the learning of the learned I will set aside.

Where is the wise one?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?
For since in the wisdom of God
the world did not come to know God through wisdom,
it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation
to save those who have faith.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
but we proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,
and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:1-2, 4-5, 10-11

R. (5) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
The LORD brings to nought the plans of nations;
he foils the designs of peoples.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Alleluia LK 21:36

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

Gospel MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

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Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Dan Burr — (Also called the Parable of the Five Wise Virgins)
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Commentary on Matthew 25:1-13 From Living Space

Eschatological discourse (continued)

The second chapter of this discourse consists of three long parables, with all of which we are familiar. They all have the common theme of preparation for the final coming of the Lord whenever that will be.

Today’s reading is the parable about the wise and foolish bridesmaids, literally, ‘virgins’. The story reflects common wedding customs of the time. The bridesmaids who attend on the bride are waiting for the bridegroom to come. The time of his arrival is not known. Perhaps it is his way of asserting his male authority from the very beginning of their marriage! (Just as today it is the bride who asserts her last moments of freedom by coming late!)

In the story there are 10 bridesmaids altogether. Of these we are told five were “sensible” and the others were “foolish”. The sensible girls all brought an extra supply of oil with them while the foolish ones only had their lamps. The lamps consisted of oil-soaked rags at the top of a pole and needed to have oil added every 15 minutes or so.

The bridegroom was long in coming. The implication is that he was taking much longer than expected. In fact, he was so long in coming that the girls all fell asleep. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, the call went up: “The bridegroom is on his way! Go out to meet him!”

Immediately the girls got ready and trimmed their torches. The charred edges had to be cut away and the rags soaked in more oil. The foolish ones immediately realised they were running out of oil; quite a lot was needed for this kind of torch. They ask their companions to share some of their oil. These refused on the grounds that there was not enough to go round and none of them would have enough. The foolish ones were told to go off and buy some more for themselves.

However, while they were still away, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went into the marriage celebration with him and the doors were shut. When the foolish girls finally arrived with their new supply of oil, they found the doors closed in their face. They cried out: “Lord, Lord, open to us!” But the bridegroom answered: “I do not know you.”

Again this is a parable warning us all to be ready when the Lord comes. In the early Church, he had at first been expected to come in the very lifetime of the early Christians. This belief is reflected in the First Letter to the Thessalonians (which is read at this time in Year I) and which is the earliest writing of the New Testament.

But Jesus did not come and, by the time Matthew’s gospel appeared, people were beginning to realise that his coming could be in a more distant future. It is in this context that today’s parable gives a warning. If the Lord was not going to come soon, then some people might begin to take things easy and become lax in their living of the Gospel. Today’s passage suggests that that is not a very wise way of behaving.

The bridegroom may not have come when expected but he did come. And, when he came, half of the group were not ready. In other places, Jesus has warned that we do not know the day or the hour, for he will come like a thief in the night. The only policy is constant readiness. If we are not ready and he does come, then we may find the doors closed and hear what are perhaps the most chilling words in the whole Gospel: “I do not know you.”

In John’s gospel Jesus says that, as the Shepherd, he knows his sheep and they know him. Not to be known by Jesus means to have broken our relationship with him through sinful and loveless behaviour. To be in that state when he comes is truly tragic. The choice is ours; we have been given adequate warning.

While the Gospel is speaking about the final or eschatological coming of Jesus as King and Lord, it would be very complacent of us to think that there are no signs of it happening in the near future. That would put us in the same category as the foolish bridesmaids! While the final coming may still be far off, our own rendezvous with the Lord can be at any time. For all practical purposes, that is the time we have to prepare for.

Just yesterday our newspapers in the city where I am writing this reported an unmarked police car going out of control in a crowded downtown area, killing two people and seriously injuring others. You or I could have been one of those victims, young and in perfect health with a whole life before us. But the Lord called.

If it had been me, would I have had “oil in my lamp”? That is, what would I be able to show the Lord in terms of Gospel-centred living? Maybe we think the “sensible” girls in the story were selfish not to have shared their oil, but there are some things which we have to bring to the Lord on our own. We cannot borrow the good life that someone else has led. It is has to be totally ours.

Clearly, the best way to prepare is not to think anxiously of the future but to concentrate on the here and now. Let us learn to live totally in the present, to seek and find God there. If we can do that, then all the rest will take care of itself. And, whether the Groom arrives early or late, it will not matter. Because he has been constantly part of my everyday life. And, apart from the insurance that it gives, is it not by far the best way to spend our days?

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2216g/

Related:

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 AUGUST 2016, Friday, 21st Week of Ordinary Time
BE READY FOR THE TEST

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1COR 1:17-25; MT 25:1-13]

This parable of the Bridesmaids is chiefly about people who are ready and people who are not ready to welcome Christ. The central idea is preparedness.   The parable is clear that we must be ready for the coming of God’s Kingdom, which can be at any time.  Hence, we must make a decision for Him. Otherwise, we will be greatly disappointed and disaster will befall us.  But it is still not too late to change our ways as we can learn from the bridesmaids.

This is particularly so when we do not know when the Parousia, that is the advent of the Lord, would take place.  In the context of the evangelist and the early Church, this parable was told to prepare the early Christians who thought then that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent, although it never took place. In the light of the delay of the Second Coming, symbolized by the delay of the bridegroom, Christians were exhorted to be ready to welcome Him at a time unknown, but certain to come.  This calls for constant preparedness.

How, then, can we be alert to Christ’s coming?  Firstly, the truth is that even before the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time, Christ is existentially coming here and now, at every moment of our lives, in so many different ways.  Indeed, God comes to us in different ways, in nature, in people we meet each day, in world events and in our personal life.  Unless we are conscious of His presence, such graced moments would pass us by. But with the eyes of faith, we will be able to see the presence of God even in our failures, trials and tribulations, as St Paul tells us that the wisdom of God is revealed in the crucified Christ. The tragedy is that we often overlook these moments of manifestations because we are sleeping, like the bridesmaids.   We fail to see the presence of love, kindness, goodness; the blessings of health, vocation, work, that we experience each day in our lives. 

Secondly, we are called to be ready for the trials that come together with the Kingdom of God.  The coming of God’s kingdom entails suffering and a struggle against evil and sin. We must never think that Christian life is a bed of roses.  There will be persecutions from within and without.  Our faith will be put to the test.  In such moments, we feel like giving up our faith, because life does not seem to be worth living. Worse still, Jesus appears to be absent when we need Him most.  We do not feel His presence.  Will we continue to hold on to our faith like St Paul and rely on the Wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of the world?  Only with faith in Christ, can we continue to trust that God is at work in our lives, even when we encounter failure, rejection and disappointment.  Only those who endure to the end will be able to see the power of God at work in their lives.

Thirdly, the trials would demonstrate whether we are ready to stand firm in our Christian values.  Will we have the Christian character to stand up for what we believe when we are tested in our virtues?  Can we still remain humble and generous in service? Will we be led astray and carried away by our achievements, our successes, falling into the snares of power, glory and status, those very temptations that Jesus fought throughout His ministry? The bridesmaids were tested on their vigilance and initiative.   The careless ones did not bother to anticipate the challenges ahead of them, whereas the diligent bridesmaids took the necessary precautions.  The danger is that we can be lax and careless in cultivating a virtuous life and hence in the face of temptation, succumb easily.

How then can one be prepared?  The Gospel says we need the oil of Christ, the oil that gives light and new vision to us, the oil of love.  But we need to be prudent and store up enough oil to last us through the hard times as well.  And this oil of Christ is found in our spiritual and intellectual formation. We want to be spiritually strong and deep so that we will see the world and life differently from the worldly people; and be able to ward off all kinds of temptations in the world.   We want to be intellectually informed, so that we might not mislead those who look to us for leadership and guidance into falsehood.  We want to bask in His love so that His love can see us through in those moments when we feel so alone.  Our formation in virtues and living a life of grace will enable us to withstand the trials in our lives.

Most of all, to be prepared is to immerse ourselves in the passion and death of Christ.  Unless we come to understand the full import of inserting ourselves in the passion of Christ by dying to ourselves, our sins, and trust in the grace of God, we can never experience the power of His resurrection.  Faith in the crucified Christ therefore, as St Paul tells us in the first reading, is the key to be prepared for the fullness of Christ’s coming, here and at the end of our lives.

Having said all these, there is a warning for us too.  This oil cannot be shared.  We must be ready to deepen our relationship with the Lord.  No one else can make us ready for the great time of testing if we do not take steps to strengthen ourselves.  In the parable, the bridesmaid who had oil could not share with the others.  “Buy it for yourself!” they advised the others without oil, because they knew that love for the Lord requires a personal commitment.  Yes, there are certain things in life that we have to do for ourselves.  We cannot borrow a relationship with Christ but we have to personally cultivate a friendship with Him.  We cannot pray for others to live a good life if they themselves do not also pray; we cannot meditate for others if they do not contemplate the Lord themselves; we cannot study for others or experience God for others, or go through the trials of life for others expecting that they could benefit from what we have gone through.  No, each one of us will have to face our own trials and be tested accordingly.  Others can support us, but ultimately, we have to fight the battle alone with the help of Jesus.    It is therefore vital that above all, we must deepen our prayer life so that our relationship with Christ deepens.  It behooves us to spend time to meditate on the Word of God and to do regular examen so that we can become conscious of His presence in our lives throughout the day and accordingly, live out the kind of life He wants us to live.  Like the wise virgins, let us always be prepared and ready for the coming of God’s Kingdom.

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, August 7, 2016 — “The Gift of Faith is The Greatest Treasure in Life”

August 6, 2016

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 117

“The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 28).

Art By Albert Gustaf Aristides Edelfelt

Reading 1 WIS 18:6-9

The night of the passover was known beforehand to our fathers,
that, with sure knowledge of the oaths in which they put their faith,
they might have courage.
Your people awaited the salvation of the just
and the destruction of their foes.
For when you punished our adversaries,
in this you glorified us whom you had summoned.
For in secret the holy children of the good were offering sacrifice
and putting into effect with one accord the divine institution.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:1, 12, 18-19, 20-22

R. (12b) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Reading 2 HEB 11:1-2, 8-19

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
—and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was
trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised
but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac,
and he who had received the promises was ready to offer his only son,
of whom it was said,
“Through Isaac descendants shall bear your name.”
He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead,
and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Or HEB 11:1-2, 8-12

Brothers and sisters:
Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
—and Sarah herself was sterile—
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was
trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.

Alleluia MT 24:42A, 44

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Stay awake and be ready!
For you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

“They begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak.”

Divine healing — Art by Ron DiCianni

Gospel LK 12:32-48

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out,
an inexhaustible treasure in heaven
that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Or LK 12:35-40

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”

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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,

Some parts of Sacred Scripture, the Old and New Testaments, are more interesting, engaging and memorable than others. I have to confess that this Sunday’s selections are not immediately appealing to me, but believing they contain a message nonetheless, and an important one, I am committed to trying to find that message.

The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, written only one hundred years before the birth of Christ, left me wondering on first reading the other day (though no doubt I have heard it many times over the course of the years), “What’s this all about?” Are you surprised a monk and priest might think this way? Please don’t be. I am only human and sometimes as confused as the next person about the deeper meaning of our sacred texts, which make up the Bible.

In any case, this Sunday’s passage from the Book of Wisdom, I’ve come to learn, actually presents a developed Old Testament theology of religious living. Today’s reading is a description of the night of the original Passover meal, when God’s people were moving from slavery in Egypt toward freedom in the Promised Land.

The reading for this Sunday is in fact a praise of the religious spirit of the Israelites, on the night when their history changed forever and they “went forth” from Egypt into a more hopeful future under God’s watchful care. The author of the Book of Wisdom is looking back to centuries earlier when the first Passover took place. The sacred writer uses the reference to the first Passover as an opportunity to point out with confidence that the pursuit of true wisdom, the source of all good, is obtained especially through upright living and fervent prayer. He fully trusts his hearers will grasp and heed this message.

God had promised to the ancestors that He would free the people from the bondage of Egypt. The people put their trust in these promises and saw God’s wonders (Book of Wisdom, chapter 18, verses 6 -7). Egyptians had slain the male children of God’s people and the crime was punished by the death of the first-born of Egypt. This intervention by God identified Israel as God’ people (verse 8). The Passover meal was thereby established as a sacred bond among the Israelites for sharing their joys and sorrows in common (verse 9), always under God’s loving care.

This notion links us to the Gospel text for this Sunday, which is about living without fear and always trusting in God who is capable of making his “little flock,” the poor in spirit, sharers in the Kingdom or Reign of God. “The poor” are not so much those who have little or nothing in the realm of material things, but those who know their need for God and who follow the Lord’s instructions about trusting in God.

If we place our hope in God, placing our hearts where our treasure is to be found, that is, simply in God, then our treasure is secure (free from “thieves and moths”) and well invested, since nothing can be lost (“like purses that do not wear out”). The phrases in quotes about thieves, moths and purses are simply images of security to be found in adhering to God.

Another way to express the truth is this: love entrusts what it has (even if it’s nothing in the material realm) into God’s faithful and loving hands. This Christian attitude toward life is not based on human wisdom, but flows from a love of Christ. That is spiritual wisdom at its purest and simplest.

The follower of Jesus, called a “servant” in the Gospel text this Sunday, must always be ready for whenever the Master returns, either when we are young, middle aged or elderly. We live in the period between the two comings of Christ. How should we act during this time? If the believer is found awake when the Master returns, the Master will seat that one at the heavenly banquet and even wait on the believer. This may seem preposterous, but it is what Christ teaches. Lamps are to be burning for the Master’s return, without fear and trembling, but in love and joy!

All of us who follow Jesus are challenged to be faithful to the task entrusted to us, the responsibility of service to the community of believers to which we belong. Fidelity is being asked of us, who are urged to be always watchful, for we know not the day nor the hour of God’s return. Again, not a cause for fright or fleeing, but a call to living mindfully, not haphazardly or blindly, in the presence of God.

The faith and trust that often characterized the ancestors in the faith is the basis on which we today can “give up all” to have God at the center of our life. Therein we find the strength and inspiration to wait for the coming of the Lord, each and every day, but also at the end our life. It is by watchfulness (the word in Greek is nepsis), a readiness and sense of responsibility because of the promises of old, that we should desire to live and share in order to obtain the peace and riches that the world cannot give.

 

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico

Source: https://christdesert.org/2016/08/nineteenth-sunday-ordinary-time-year-c-august-7-2016/

Related:

A Brief History of the Servant Leader: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2014/august/the-art-and-science-of-servant-leader

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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07 AUGUST 2016, 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
RECOVERING THE GIFT OF FAITH AS THE GREATEST TREASURE OF OUR LIVES
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  DT 30:10-14; COL 1:15-20; LK 10:25-37]Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  What is your greatest treasure in life?  If your treasure is money, power or even health, you can be assured that none of these will last, and because such treasures cannot last, you will forever be insecure, anxious and worried, whether you possess them or not.

What then is the greatest treasure one could receive in life?  It is the gift of Faith!  Only when there is faith, are hope and charity possible.  Without hope and charity, we cannot live our life with confidence and love.

When there is faith in God, we canlive in hope each day.  The letter to the Hebrews speaks of the faith of the Fathers beginning with Abraham and Sarah.  Indeed, “it was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country… without knowing where he was going… It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.”

Secondly, unless we have faith in God, we will not becapable of generosity and charity.  Indeed, the command of Jesus in today’s gospel to sell our possessions and give to the poor presupposes faith and confidence in God now and hereafter. It was only because of Abraham’s faith in God’s love and divine providence that he could “when put to the test, offered up Isaac” his only real possession.

Thirdly, without faith in God, we cannot livebeyond this transient life.  Only through faith in God, is one able to escape disillusionment in life.  Truly, if we have faith, nothing in this life can affect us very much.  We will never be a slave to this world and we can let go more easily.  After all, we know that this world is passing and we too are passing. We are simply a pilgrim passing through.  Indeed, that was the attitude of those who died in faith.

Faith makes it possible for one to enter the kingdom of God, which is our true and lasting home.  If we desire the kingdom of God more than this life, it is only because faith enables us to believe that the kingdom is one of everlasting love and unity.  Neither money nor power can make us happy but a loving family and good friends that can give us real joy and happiness.  That is why Jesus in today’s parable describes the kingdom as a banquet, a wedding feast.  Yes, heaven is when one celebrates love as in a nuptial celebration.  Most of all, we are told that in heaven, God serves us, for Jesus said, “Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them.”

Have we been responsible with the faithwhich we have received as a gift?  Unfortunately, the truth is that many baptized Catholics are unappreciative of their faith, especially those of us who are cradle Catholics.  We tend to take our faith for granted.  Since we did not work for it, nor paid a price for it, we do not treasure it.  How many of our young people take their faith seriously?  Isn’t it true that many of them are coming to church because they are forced to come by their parents?  And even when they come, they are either talking throughout the mass and disturbing others or sending smses to their friends even when the mass is on?  And isn’t it true that many of them hardly pray or even study about their faith?  The clearest sign is that after confirmation, some do not even come to church anymore!

But the problem lies deeper. If our children lack faith, it is because parents are irresponsible in their own faith.  We do not set examples for our children in our spiritual life.  We hardly pray or even ask them to pray with us.  We do not read the scriptures, attend faith formation courses or read up on our faith.  If our faith is weak, surely we do not expect the disciple to be greater than his master!

Indeed, weare irresponsible and poor stewards of God’s grace!  When St Peter asked Jesus, “Lord do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’, the Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.”  Unfortunately, most of us behave like the lazy servant who said to himself, “My master is taking his time coming”, and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk.”

If we are irresponsible in our faith or in guarding the faith of our children and those entrusted to us,not only is our salvation at risk, but theirs as well.  But for those of us who are responsible for the faith of others, then punishment will be even more severe, for as Jesus said, “The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.”  It is certainly a tragedy to be blessed with authority and the gifts of the Lord and not exercise them for the good of others.  It is a double offence, because it is an insult to God and a social injustice to our neighbours.  Hence, Jesus warns us, “‘the servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes.”

Even if we are not responsible for the faith of others, by not guarding and developing our faith,the gift which we have received will also be taken away.

The gift of faith is not a static possession.  Like any organic thing, it must grow to be alive. The moment it stops growing, not only does it become stagnant, it decays and deteriorates.  If our faith has become insipid and we have lost the taste for God in our lives, what can we do to recover our faith?

Firstly, we need to rediscover the joy of being in the fellowship of God.  This is the only treasure that makes all other treasures secure.  If we are in deep relationship with the Lord and in love with Him, just like a wedding couple, then we can surrender our lives to Him, confident that He will look after us because we know that the Lord will personally wait on us since that is what lovers do.

Secondly, we need to experience the fidelity of God’s love for us.  If today’s parables underscore the importance of faithfulness to the gift we have received, it is because faithfulness is the foundation for any enduring and meaningful relationship.  Without faithfulness, there cannot be trust.  That is why faith and trust go together.  To have faith in God is to trust Him at the same time because faith implies faithfulness and commitment.

Thirdly, we need to experience God’s unconditional love for usin forgiveness, especially when we sin.  God will never condemn us when we sin, rather the effects of our sins will condemn us.  But we can overcome our sins and fears if only we are healed by God’s love and forgiveness, thereby setting us free to love and forgive in return.

Fourthly, we need to see life in perspective.  We need to realize that we do not live just for the moment, but we live for eternity today.  That is to say, we live today fully in view of the future.   Knowing what the future holds for us, and that our home is in heaven when we are one with God and with each other, then we can go through this life without undue anxiety.

Yes, the gospelexhorts us not to wait or delay any longer.  We do not know the time and day of the master’s return.  Hence, “See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.”

Indeed, it is therefore urgent that we recover our gift of faith before we lose it all together, or become so overcome by sins in our lives that we begin to live in fear because he who lives in sin lives in fear of being burdened by guilt, or of others because he feels others are a threat to him, and fear of God, because he is too ashamed to meet Him.  So the choice is ours.  Will you seize the opportunity to turn to God, find His love and mercy and reclaim your faith as your real treasure so that your life can be transformed to one of joy, love and peace?  Do it whilst you still have time!  If you do not say “yes” today, how can you be so sure you will say “yes” tomorrow to His invitation?  Let us reflect.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Life is about what we do after we get bad news…..
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I had the brain imaging pattern and genetic make up of a full-blown psychopath. Photograph by Sebastian Kaulitzki, Alamy
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How I discovered I have the brain of a psychopath
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By James Fallon
The Guardian

Monday 2 June 2014 19.01 EDT
I found I had the brain imaging pattern and genetic make up of a full-blown psychopath while conducting research – and yet, I turned out to be a successful scientist and family man

I first discovered my “hidden” psychopathy in 2006 during a series of scientific and clinical studies of murderers and patients with psychopathy and schizophrenia, as well as a separate imaging genetics study of Alzheimer’s disease in which I happened to be a control subject.

In that study, we were more than a little surprised to find that I had the brain imaging pattern and genetic make up of a full-blown psychopath. But it wasn’t until 2010, following a public talk in a University of Oslo symposium on bipolar disorder, that I first took my psychopathic traits seriously.

Upon returning to my home in Southern California, I started to ask people close to me what they really thought of me, and if they believed me to be psychopathic. And tell me they did.

The people who knew me well, including family, friends and psychiatrists who examined me all, with the exception of my mother (who later relented and told me secrets of my early life problems that she had kept to herself for over 50 years), finally told me what they felt about my psychopathic behaviors. When tested for psychopathy, I consistently scored as a “pro-social” psychopathic, and borderline to being a categorical psychopath.

There were early signs, but these disturbances were largely offset by my otherwise cheerful, positive and agreeable outgoing traits, ones that would mark me as both class clown in my high school class and Catholic boy of the year in my post-pubertal years. I was athletic, funny, good looking, and popular, often being asked to take on leadership positions from high school to this day as a professor.

But throughout those years, there was always the odd clinician, cleric, or teacher here and there who told me point blank that there was something decidedly evil about me. I always blew them off. While I laughed at their comments, they never even cracked a smile. After all, I knew my constant manipulation of people and of situations was all in good fun.

Although I made pipe bombs as a kid, and did some joy riding in stolen cars and broke into some liquor cabinets as an early teen, we always returned every piece of stolen property. And any time we were stopped by the police, my lack of anxiety meant the police always let me go, even while my buddies were hauled off for questioning. I was devilish for sure, but a sort of tolerable lovable devil. The pranks and manipulations and party mayhem got riskier and would involve tens and hundreds of others as I got older.

One thing pointed out to me was that simply taking on highly risky behaviors by myself was hardly psychopathic. It was when I endangered the lives of others, unwittingly sucked into my games, that they started to resemble psychopathy.

One example occurred in the 1990s when I was living in Africa. One of my brothers from New York visited me and I took him to the Kitum Caves in Mt Elgon, on the border of Uganda and Kenya. After the trip, about two years later, my brother called me in a fury, and really has not trusted me since. He had found out that I had taken him to the abandoned mountain and caves because that is where the deadly Marburg virus was thought to originate. Knowing he would have refused to go if I told him about the virus there (let alone sleeping around a campfire surrounded by close-in lions, hyenas and a leopard all night), I never said a word. Until he found out.

This pattern of dangerous behaviour throughout my life was a telltale sign. I had justified it, and still do, by pointing out that I always engage in the same activities as those I put in danger.

Of the 20 traits of psychopathy on the Hare psychopathy checklist, I score very high on the traits associated with “positive” behaviours within factor 1, or Aggressive Narcissism, and what is called fearless dominance in the psychopathic personality inventory. Some of these traits are prevalent in the most successful CEOs and world leaders. A recent study done on US presidents shows that those such as JFK, FDR, and Bill Clinton, with high scores on this “psychopathic” trait, are also perceived as the best leaders (even though they lied to us).

Can psychopathy be cured? I know of no case of a teenager or adult who has ever reversed categorical, full blown psychopathy. At present pre-pubescent children with signs of emerging psychopathy are undergoing behavioural re-training and although early results are promising, the real test of permanence is not yet known.

For myself, I decided to try to treat my wife and other loved ones with more care. Each time I’m about to interact with them, I pause for a moment and asked “what would a good person do here?” and notice that my instinct is to always do the most selfish thing at that moment. My wife started noticing this and after two months said “what has come over you?”. When I told her that I was trying to use my own narcissism to show that I could, against all odds, overcome my psychopathy, she said she appreciated the effort even though I was not sincere. I still don’t understand how she can accept that insincerity. Perhaps people just want to be treated with respect and kindness. I find that astonishing.

But why, in the light of the fact I have all of the biological markers for psychopathy, including a turned off limbic system, the high risk genetic alleles, and the attendant behaviours, including well over half of those listed in the psychopathy tests and low emotional empathy, did I turn out to be a successful professor and family man? One most likely reason is that although I have the genetic makeup of a “born” psychopath, some of those very same “risk” genes in someone showered with love (versus abuse or abandonment), from childbirth through the critical first few years of life, appear to offset the psychopathy-inducing effects of the other “risk” genes.

This is why I tell my 97 year old mother that the book I wrote about a young boy who could have turned out to be quite a danger to society is just about someone who will do anything to beat you in a game of Scrabble, or follow you into a deadly cave. She still doesn’t realise that the book is not about me, it is about her.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/03/how-i-discovered-i-have-the-brain-of-a-psychopath

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Photo: Pope Francis hugs a recovering drug addict  at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro July 24. The pope addressed a group of recovering drug addicts offering them a message of compassion and hope as well as a call to s elf-determination. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
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Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate at the juvenile detention center of Casal del Marmo, Rome, on March 28, 2013.  Photo: AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis kisses the foot of a refugee during the foot washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center near Rome, Italy, March 24, 2016. OSSERVATORE ROMANO / REUTERS

Pope Francis hugs a child, Dominic Gondreau, who is 8 years old and has cerebral palsy, after celebrating his first Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Sunday, March 31, 2013. Pope Francis celebrated his first Easter Sunday Mass as pontiff in St. Peter’s Square, packed by joyous pilgrims, tourists and Romans and bedecked by spring flowers. Wearing cream-colored vestments, Francis strode onto the esplanade in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and took his place at an altar set up under a white canopy. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
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