Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 33’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, October 21, 2018 — Giving our lives for others

October 21, 2018

Image result for James and John, the sons of Zebedee, art

Jesus is clear that we can have spiritual gifts.  What our role in the final Kingdom of Heaven will be is already prepared.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 146

Reading 1 IS 53:10-11

The LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness
of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

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 HEB 4:14-16

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Alleluia  MK 10:45

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Son of Man came to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 10:35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him,
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”
He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?”
They answered him, “Grant that in your glory
we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.”
Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.
Can you drink the cup that I drink
or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”
They said to him, “We can.”
Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink, you will drink,
and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized;
but to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give
but is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John.
Jesus summoned them and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Or MK 10:42-45

Jesus summoned the twelve and said to them,
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

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Reflection from The Abbot
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Jesus shows us the way to give glory to the Father:  become the servant of all and give our lives for others.  Are we willing to do that?

The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah.  He is very clear that even long before the time of Jesus, a deeply religious person could see that one person could take on suffering for the good of others.  And the person who does that will have many come after who are able to live in the light of God.  A truly righteous person can offer himself for others and even carry the sins of others in some mysterious way.  We see that gift of self-offering clearly in the life of Jesus.  We are also called to share in that self-offering.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and continues the same theme.  We have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses because he has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.  There is a lesson here for all of us.  Even if we have sinned, we often find that we can sympathize with others and even help others when we have struggle with sin and overcome it in the Lord Jesus.  Jesus can help others without sinning.  We can sometimes learn from our struggles with sin to offer ourselves for others and to give insight about the struggle with sin.

The Gospel from Saint Mark gives us two teachings.  One is about wanting spiritual gifts.  Jesus is clear that we can have spiritual gifts.  What our role in the final Kingdom of Heaven will be is already prepared.  Our role is to do the Father’s will in this life and to trust that what the Father gives us in heaven will be completely wonderful and beyond anything that we can imagine.

Probably many of us never think about our role in heaven or what we will do there.  The challenge is simply to love God in this life and leave the future to the Lord.  If we follow the Lord Jesus, we will surely suffer.  Yet at the same time we will share more intimately in His life.  In the life to come, we will not be jealous or even want to be anything other than we are.  We will be loved beyond all that we can imagine.

So let us be servants to one another, seeking only to love one another and to do what will benefit the other.  Let us walk with Jesus and accept the sufferings that must come if we are truly loving others.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

 

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 OCTOBER, 2018, Sunday, 29th Week, Ordinary Time

GREAT LEADERS GIVE THEIR LIVES AS A RANSOM FOR THEIR PEOPLE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 53:10-11Ps 33:4-5,18-20,22Heb 4:14-16Mk 10:35-45 (or >< 10:42-45) ]

Many people seek positions of leadership.  We are no different from the apostles in today’s gospel.  James and John asked Jesus for a favour, “Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.”  They wanted to be given places of glory and power when Jesus restored the kingdom back to Israel.  However, they were not the only ones.  “When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John.”   They were envious of their bold request.

Indeed, many of us seek leadership for ourselves.  We seek positions of power in life, not for the good of others but for our own interests.  The focus is not on those whom we are leading, but it is about us.  It is about our needs, our fulfillment and our desires.  We seek office so that we can feel great about ourselves, control the lives of others, get the attention of the world, be famous and well known, have money and pleasure at our disposal.  Hence, Jesus warned His disciples, “You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you.”

Such selfish and worldly motives for seeking leadership will bring greater destruction and division, not just to themselves but to the people they are leading.  When it is about acquiring power to control and dominate the lives of others, we act as if we are the master.  When we portray ourselves as the master, the slaves will retaliate one day.  They are in secret hostility against us.  They suck up to those in powers only because they need them.  So both leaders and subordinates make use of each other.  The day we are no longer in power, no one would care for us.   Others will be vying for our power as well and finding ways to bring us down so that they could be in power.  Many will seek those who have money, not because they are their friends but because they have an ulterior motive. Rich people never know who their true friends are.  They live under deception because one day when they are no longer rich and wealthy, they will lose all these so-called friends and supporters.  For this reason, worldly motives for leadership will not bring peace and unity, both for those in leadership and the people whom they lead.

True leadership is when a leader puts the people above himself.  Jesus said, “For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  A true leader gives his life as a ransom for his people.  In other words, he sacrifices his life for others.  He gives up his life, his time, his money, his resources, his energy, his sleep and everything he has for the greater good of his people.  For such a leader, the people’s needs come before his own.  He makes himself available to the people.  This is what parents do when they give everything they have to their children, ensuring that they have the best education and that their needs are provided before their own.  Parents will reserve the best food for their children and eat what they do not want.  This too should be the attitude of a leader.  He regards the people as his own children and family.

For this reason, a leader is a selfless servant.  Jesus said, “anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.”  Leaders must always be conscious that they are servants.  They are providing a service to the people they lead.  Leadership is not about commanding people and ordering them around.  It is about servant leadership, always thinking how best to serve the people, provide for their needs, give them security, and bring unity among the community.  The leader is always the last to be served because he cannot rest until the rest have had their needs.

Secondly, in order to be an effective servant leader, a leader must suffer with the people.  He must be one with the sufferings and the aspirations of his people.  The more leaders are detached from the realities of life, the less effective they become.  That is why leaders must always be on the ground, moving among their people, working with them, living amongst them, sharing their joys and their woes.  A leader who sits in his office and simply attends meetings and make decisions will soon lose touch with his people.  He would not be able to identify with them and render the necessary assistance.  Leaders who concern themselves only with administrative roles and making policies often forget the needs of the ordinary people because they do not walk the ground or speak to them.

This is the case for the Suffering Servant in today’s first reading.  “The Lord has been pleased to crush his servant with suffering.”  In addition, the author of Hebrews speaks of Jesus as the compassionate High Priest. “It is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin.”  Indeed, if God became man in Christ Jesus, it was in order to demonstrate to us that God knows our pain, our struggles against temptation.  Jesus, in sharing our human nature, suffers with us.  He knows what it is to be misunderstood, ridiculed, unjustly treated, and accused falsely and to suffer.  Only because God understands our misery and pains, that He reserves nothing for Himself but gave Himself through Jesus to save us from our sins.

This is where we speak of the third dimension of leadership.  A leader suffers with his people so much that he chooses to suffer for his people so that he can save them from their suffering.  The task of a leader is to be an atonement sacrifice for the sufferings and the sins of his people.  This is what the Suffering Servant was asked to do for his people.  “If he offers his life in atonement … By his sufferings shall my servant justify many, taking their faults on himself.”  This is what the Lord also warned the apostles, “You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them, ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’”

Leaders are called to make personal sacrifices for their people.  They choose to suffer for their sake so that the greater number of people would suffer less.   At times, in fighting for their rights, especially those in oppression or suffering injustices, they will be misunderstood, attacked innocently and suffer rejection.  But through their sacrifices, their sufferings and being offered as a ransom, a price for the salvation of the people, they will find peace and contentment.  The prophet said, “he shall see his heirs, he shall have a long life and through him what the Lord wishes will be done. His soul’s anguish over, he shall see the light and be content.”

When a leader suffers with the people, for the people, giving his life as a ransom and in atonement for their sins, he truly brings harmony and unity.  The people will not vie over his position because he is not clinging to an office that gives him power, money or fame.  They know that the leader is giving up his body and blood for the people, reserving nothing for himself.  When a leader is only focused on giving and helping people, not caring for power or recognition or personal gains, he commands respect.  No one will fight with him but rather he will inspire people to work with him and join him in giving themselves to the service of God and humanity.  This was what the Lord did.  The apostles eventually learnt from our Lord.  Instead of seeking for position, they became servants of the gospel.  Instead of seeking for security and safety, they gave their lives for the gospel.  James was martyred and John was exiled.  This is what Christian leadership is all about.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, September 19, 2018 — Can we surrender our lives completely to Him as St Paul did?

September 19, 2018

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Love is patient, love is kind.  It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude…

Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 445

Reading 1 1 COR 12:31-13:13

Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 33:2-3, 4-5, 12 AND 22

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
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. 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.
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.

Alleluia  SEE JN 6:63C, 68C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life,
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 7:31-35

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like?
They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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19 SEPTEMBER, 2018, Wednesday, 24th Week, Ordinary Time

LOVE IS THE KEY TO WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 COR 12:31-13:13LUKE 7:31-35  ]

There are many questions in life for which we seek answers.  Many of us have questions regarding their faith and the existence of God.  We wonder whether He loves us and cares for us, or even if He could help us at all.  We cannot understand why we have to suffer and why there is so much innocent and senseless suffering in the world.  We also feel powerless to do good, and even if we do, we end up doing evil and selfish things.  No matter how we search, we know that every answer is inadequate and imperfect.  This was how St Paul felt when he wrote, “When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me.  Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but them we shall be seeing face to face.  The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.”

Indeed, in this life, we can never have the full answers to the mysteries of life.  Our minds are finite and limited.  We will never be able to comprehend everything even if they are revealed to us because we do not have the capacity to understand, just like a child who does not understand why his or her parents make him or her do certain things.  When compared to the mind of God, our minds are like little children.  St Paul exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him, to receive a gift in return?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.”  (Rom 11:33-36)  Like St Paul, we can only surrender in faith to the mystery of God’s plan and love for us.

It is not the answers to our intellectual questions that we ultimately need, so long as we are assured that we are safe and secure in love.  We look for answer after answer simply because we do not trust God enough to surrender our lives to Him.  In the same way, if we do not trust someone, we will always be suspicious and keep asking what he is doing or where he is. We will keep checking on that person because we are unsure of the person’s love and fidelity.  However, if we know that the person loves us above everything else and will protect us in love, then all questions and doubts will cease.  When there is an assurance of love, all the questions become secondary.  One does not need to know all about the person in order to love.  One only needs to know that the person loves us for us to entrust our life to that person.

So too, it is, in our relationship with God.  When we know that God loves us, we will stop asking all the intellectual questions about Him.  Those of us who keep doubting God and asking questions are simply saying that we do not know Him well enough to entrust our lives to Him because He might not even exist, much less that He loves us.  St Paul makes it clear, “among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”  (1 Cor 2:6f) For this reason, St Paul remarks, “there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.”  When there is love, our faith in Him is strong and our hope is certain.  Only faith, hope and love give us the grace to persevere in times of difficulties and trials.   Love pulls faith and hope together in this journey of life.  So long as there is love, we will continue to keep our faith in God or in anyone whom we love, never giving up hope in God or in anyone.

It is love that enables us to see life from the perspective of our beloved.  Love is not self-centered but always focused on the other.  “It is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish.”  Love makes us able to enter into the other person’s life. Such a love is always non-judgmental and always understanding.  Even when the person fails us, love is always patient and kind.  Indeed, St Paul says that love “does not take offence, and is not resentful.  Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.”  Love therefore is the key to enter into the heart and mind of our beloved.  Instead of judging them from our vantage point, we see them the way they look at themselves and their life.

When we lack this kind of love, then we become judgmental and inconsistent, like the religious leaders during the time of Jesus.  They were not ready to accept the love of God and His Word spoken through John the Baptist or Jesus.  They were always finding excuses and rationalizing to reject the truth spoken by them.  “For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, ‘He is possessed.’  The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”  Jesus likened them to children in the market square shouting to one another, “We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn’t dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn’t cry.”  Their wisdom was the human wisdom of the world.  It was not the wisdom that came from their love of God.

This also explains why many of us do not know how to truly love, because our love lacks trust.  For many people love is reducible to having gifts from their loved ones.  We need tangible signs for us to encounter the love of someone.  Like the Corinthians, we seek to have more and more gifts, and we think that the gifts we receive is love itself.  But it is not the gifts that we need, what we need is love itself.  Gifts are important, but they are just signs.  St Paul wrote, “But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.”

Consequently, St Paul urges us, “Be ambitious for the higher gifts.  And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.”  The only gift that can fulfill and complete us is when we have the love of God in our hearts.  Otherwise, “If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all.  If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.”   When there is love, we are always happy.  The gifts we possess are means for us to express the love in our hearts when we share them with others.  Unless the gifts come from a heart of love, they will only be used to manipulate others for our self-interests and insecurity. 

To find the greatest love in life is to find Christ.  The true wisdom is God’s love for us in Christ crucified.  This is what the Lord prophesied, “Yet wisdom has been proved right by all her children.” St Paul wrote, “Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  (1 Cor 1:22-24)  Christ’s love is captured in St Paul’s poem of love.  His love is unconditional and forgiving.  His love is enduring and faithful.   When we experience such love, we can surrender our lives completely to Him as St Paul did.   With the psalmist, we say, “They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.”

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, September 5, 2018 — “For we are God’s co-workers”

September 4, 2018

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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.

Picture: Jesus cures the mother-in-law of Peter of her illness

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.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, September 1, 2018 — God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise

September 1, 2018

God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something….
Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

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“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 430

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.

Alleluia 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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From The Abbot

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

One of the remarkable aspects of aging is that people come face to face with the reality of death.  Some of us struggle in every way possible to stay young and to pretend that we are young.  Others of us seem to embrace getting old, sometimes before old age has even come upon us.  For most of us, getting older is simply a part of living to be accepted.  The point of the reading today is that part of getting older is being prepared to die and to meet the Lord.  We need to ask ourselves:  “Am I ready to meet the Lord right now?”  If I am not, then I had better begin the work to prepare myself!

The Gospel today, from Saint Matthew, tells us about how to live.  Each of us has been given a personal life.  Each of us has been given gifts and talents and capacities.  What do we do with them?  Are we truly living?  Do we use our lives for others?  Do we seek to be faithful to what the Lord asks of us?

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Related:

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 SEPTEMBER, 2018, Saturday, 21st Week, Ordinary Time

INTERPLAY BETWEEN GRACE AND MERIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 CORINTHIANS 1:26-31MATTHEW 25:14-30 ]

In the first reading, St Paul makes it clear that who we are and what we are is the result of grace alone.  Indeed, we have nothing to boast about except the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He wrote to the 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.”  That is why we must not think too highly of ourselves in our accomplishments.  In our pride, some of us think that we are so great and so good because we have accomplished so much in life, winning many laurels.

Yet the truth in life is that without God’s grace, we cannot do anything.  If the Lord had not given us talents, such as money, health, intelligence, opportunities, contacts, mentors and good people that come our way, could we be successful in life?  Without money, we cannot go for further studies or start a business.  Without good health, we cannot do well in our studies or in our work. Without gray matter, we will not have the capacity to earn a degree or be creative in managing our business.  Without good contacts, teachers, friends, counsellors we would not have known our talents.  So all these are God-given.  This is what the gospel wants to underscore in the parable of the Talents.  Each one of us is given talents in life, some five, some two and some one.  Why did God give others more talents than us, this is a question of grace belonging to the realm of mystery.

Indeed, it is the grace of God alone that we are saved and have become a new creation. St Paul writing to the Ephesians said, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God – not the result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”  (Eph 2:8-10)  To the Corinthians, he said, “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.”  Hence in his own life, he said “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”  (2 Cor 11:30)  His personal life taught him this when the Lord spoke to him saying, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, and then I am strong.”  (2 Cor 12:9f)

Having underscored the primacy of grace, does it mean that good works is not important?  There is the other extreme danger of emphasizing grace to the extent of removing merit from Catholic theology.  To do so would be to contract the teaching of the Church on grace and merit.  Catholic theology speaks about the reward of eternal life for those who live a good life.  St Paul wrote towards the end of his life, “As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  (2 Tim 4:6-8)  We also have the parable of the Final Judgement when those who lack mercy will be condemned to hell. (cf Mt 25:31ff)

So how do we resolve the conundrum between grace and merit?  We must begin by asserting that grace precedes, accompanies and ends in the person.   From beginning to end, it is the work of grace.  We are not saved by our own efforts but truly the pure grace of God alone.  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  (Tit 3:4f)  We do not earn grace but it is freely bestowed upon us.  The psalmist says, “They are happy, whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen as his own. From the heavens the Lord looks forth, he sees all the children of men.”  We have been chosen by grace for grace!

However, grace given requires our cooperation, namely our response.  The part that we play in the work of grace is simply to accept graciously the gift of God.  We need to say “yes’ to His grace so that His grace can work in, with and through us.  This is what the parable of the Talents is teaching us.  The servants were given different amounts of talents.  Having received the talents, they needed to put them to good use.  The last servant was lazy and irresponsible.  He received the talent, that is, the grace of God but did not use it to build himself up or for the service of others.  This is the tragedy of many of us.  We have received so many blessings from the Lord, of health, money, friends, jobs and opportunities.  Instead of using them well for our growth and development through our service to the community, either we abuse them by neglecting to use them properly or we use them for our self-destruction.

Most of our miseries come from negligence and irresponsibility.  This was why the last servant was punished severely.  His master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.”

By not developing what we have, we eventually lose them.  This is true with regard to our body.  If we do not exercise the different parts of our body, we will fall sick and eventually some parts will malfunction.  If we do not use our gifts of teaching, writing and singing or organizing, we eventually will lose the art as well.  The best way to develop, grow and excel in what we have is to use them repeatedly, especially for the service of Church and society.  Their appreciation and the meaningfulness of our contributions will motivate us to work even harder in helping others.

However, even if we are able to do good, let us not forget that without His grace in the first place, it would not be possible for us to contribute anything.  The Lord does not expect us to give more than what He has given us.  Hence, to the servant given five talents, only five more were expected and for the servant with two talents, only two more were expected.  We are to give a hundred percent, that is, full commitment to the grace that He has bestowed on us.  Happiness in life is not about how much we achieve or what we do.  It is immaterial whether we produce five or two talents.  That is why we need not be envious of others who have more talents.  Because the more we have the more is expected from us in rendering back to society.  “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”  (Lk 12:48)  Rather, happiness in life is when each one of us according to our capacity fully exercises his potentials.  Hence, we must complete the doctrine of grace with the teaching of St James.  “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”  (Jms 2:14,17f) St Paul says, “the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, August 31, 2018 — We do not know the day or the hour; Act in “holiness and honor, not in lustful passion.”

August 30, 2018

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Faith at the end of the day cannot be based on reason but on submission of our reason in obedience

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

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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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?

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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31 AUGUST, 2018, Friday, 21st Week, Ordinary Time

THE ILLOGICAL LOGIC OF CHRISTIANITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 Cor 1:17-25Psalm 33:1-24-510-11Mt 25:1-13 ]

Is there logic in the Christian Faith?  The Church has always maintained that faith is reasonable but not reasoned.  In other words, the starting point of Christianity is always faith, and then to show that this faith is not unreasonable.  In other words, it is a credible faith.  The faith claims of Christianity are not explained by logic.  That is why the faith claims of Christianity appear to be ridiculous to those who have no faith.

The doctrines of the Christian Faith give rise to many objections.  For the humanists, it is difficult to accept the fact of divine revelation.  Many religions claim to have some kind of divine revelation.  The scriptures are considered sacred and not questionable.  Even the founders of religions, although not claimed to be divine, are given a status of demi-gods. The scandal of Christianity is that we go beyond merely claiming that the Christian Faith is a revealed faith like some other religions.

We make the astonishing claim that the Crucified Christ is the Crucified God.  This is what St Paul said, “And so, while the Jews demanded miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.”   For the Jews, it was difficult to reconcile a messiah that was crucified when he was to be the triumphant Messiah who would liberate Israel from their enemies.  All the time, they were looking for signs and miracles to authenticate their claims.  When Jesus was performing miracles, they thought He was the One.  But with His crucifixion, all His claims were called into question.  The book of Deuteronomy teaches that “When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” (Dt 21:23) The crucifixion of Christ for the Jews proved that they were right that Jesus was not the Messiah.

For the Greek Gentiles, God was supposedly to be immutable.  God is pure act because He is all that He can be.  He cannot be perfected as He is absolutely perfect.  His attributes are identical with His essence.  Creatures, however, are in a state of potentiality, seeking to arrive at perfection.  So if God can change and suffer in Christ, it would be impossible to claim that the Crucified One is the Son of God.  So to claim that God could suffer and even die is totally absurd.  The God of the philosophers was a God who cannot feel, cannot change, cannot be incarnated and of course, cannot suffer and die!  Otherwise, He would be subject to change and therefore is no longer perfect.

But this is precisely the greatest miracle of Christianity, the claims of a crucified God.  “Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.  The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save.  As scripture says: I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned.  Where are the philosophers now? Where are the scribes? Where are any of our thinkers today?”  In speaking about the Crucified God in Christ, Christianity is making the wildest claim that no religion dares to make for their founder.   We are not only claiming that Christ is the Son of God but that the Crucified One is the Son of God.   By so doing, we are also saying that God is not a monad as in other monotheistic religions but a Trinity of persons.

What is the basis of this claim?  It is based on the resurrection of the Crucified Christ.  Without the resurrection, then indeed all the objections that are raised are valid.  St Paul could preach so convincingly about the Crucified Christ only because He has encountered the Risen Lord.  It was his personal encounter with the Risen Lord on his way to Damascus that made him change, not just his mind but his entire life.  Before that, like the rest of the Jews, he could not accept the claims of the early Christians, so much so he took upon himself to persecute the Christians for destroying the Jewish faith.

But what of the Crucified Christ condemned as a criminal and then risen from the dead? What is the implication?  If God had raised a criminal back to life, it clearly demonstrates that the heavenly Father endorses all that Jesus said, did and claimed.  It is the divine seal upon the life and teaching of Christ.  The resurrection of our Lord is His vindication.  So faith in the Crucified God is dependent on faith in the resurrected Christ.

This also means that we have to accept all that Jesus taught and claimed, implicitly and explicitly.  In the life of Christ, He had claimed to speak in the name of His Father and to act on His behalf.  He identified Himself with the Father and claimed that His sonship was unique and different from ours.  Faith in the resurrection is the foundation of the Christian confession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God.   Indeed, because of the resurrection of our Lord, we could accept the doctrine of the Incarnation, the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the Bible as the Word of God, the reality and effectiveness of the sacraments, the teaching authority of the Holy Father as the successor of St Peter and the magisterium.   Without faith in the resurrection, such claims cannot be justified.

But that is not all, when we contemplate that the One who was crucified is truly the Son of God, then our whole understanding of God has to change.  The death and resurrection of Christ debunks all our philosophical concepts of God through human reasoning.  The philosophical presupposition of God’s immutability cannot hold anymore and challenges us to rethink our concept of God.  This God whom we believe in can become incarnated.  He can feel with us and suffer with us.  This is a God of compassion and mercy.  He is not detached from us and oblivious to our pains.  He carries within Himself our suffering and our sins.  With His death and resurrection, the heart of God is shown.  Indeed, St Paul wrote, “Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom? If it was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach.”

Thus, the key to faith in Christ cannot be mere reason alone.  No amount of argument can bring a person to faith.  The intellectual arguments at most can supply the logic to our illogical belief in Christ.  That is to say, that we have reason to believe that the claims are true to enable us to take the leap of faith in Christ.  Faith at the end of the day cannot be based on reason but on submission of our reason in obedience to the revelation received.  In order to arrive at belief, we must in faith surrender our minds and enter into the experience of the Christians.  Only when we surrender in faith can we see what the mind cannot.  In daily life, this is true because only in faith and trust, can we understand a person better than when we relate with a person with doubt and skepticism.  As we open ourselves to a relationship, then we will see more and the evidence will only further what we believe.

For this reason, the gospel warns us that the Oil of faith cannot be borrowed or shared.  In the final analysis, we must bring our own Oil of faith to welcome the bridegroom.  There are certain things in life that cannot be borrowed, especially relationship.  Unless we open our hearts to the Lord in faith and engage Him in prayer, worship and the meditation on His word, we cannot find our faith strengthened.  We need to discover for ourselves the Christ that is proclaimed in the Church if we were to find a deeper faith in Him.

Finally, there is a warning that this must begin now before it is too late.  If we do not strengthen our faith in Christ now, when the time comes, it would be too late.  If we do not study hard now, it would be too late when our exams arrive.  This is particularly true when we are speaking about making our preparations to meet God.

How do we make our preparations? We must realize ourselves according to God’s plan for us.  We must become the person we are called to be.  Every little thing we do now, every good action we do will strengthen and reinforce our virtues and increase our capacity for love and holiness. Hence, we must actualize ourselves more and more each day to become the son and daughter of God that we are meant to be.   To help us to make preparations for this long journey, we need to receive Christ often, especially in the Eucharist, the bread of life and reading the Word of God.  In this way, by receiving the Viaticum, we will have the strength to journey to our heavenly Father’s home.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Holy Trinity Sunday: God Is Love — The mystery of the Holy Trinity simplified — God’s simplicity — Are we seeking ‘Oneness’? — Am I a beacon of love?

May 27, 2018

Fr Matthew Jarvis delights in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, The Triune God who, as a beacon of Love, draws us ever further into glory.

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‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Or more literally: ‘into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ That’s also what the original Creed says: ‘I believe into God the Father… and into the Son… and into the Holy Spirit.’ We are on a journey into God, a journey into the dynamic life of the Holy Trinity. It’s a journey into love.

‘I love you.’ Three of the simplest words in the world, but we use them to express an inexhaustible mystery in our human relationships. 

‘God is love.’ Again, three simple words but they open up the infinite mystery of the Trinity.

‘The Lord is God indeed,’ we read in Moses today, ‘he and no other.’ Reason finds no problem in thinking of God as the Absolute, the One, but we need revelation to teach us about the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is Three and God is One; both are true mysteries, and they are connected. To appreciate why we cannot fully comprehend the mystery of the Holy Trinity (God’s personal threeness), it helps to remember that we really cannot grasp the mystery of the Divine Simplicity (God’s substantial oneness) either.

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The doctrine of divine simplicity states that God is not complex (made up of parts) in any way. Father, Son and Spirit are not parts of God, but One God. Easier said than understood! G. K. Chesterton recounts the story: ‘A lady I knew picked up a book of selections from St Thomas [Aquinas], with a commentary; and began hopefully to read a section with the innocent heading, The Simplicity of God. She then laid the book down with a sigh and said: “Well, if that’s His simplicity, I wonder what His complexity is like.”’

But God is not complex. The Platonists understood that simplicity is found at both the highest and lowest realities, both in the mere potentiality of ‘pure matter’ and in the luminous glory of the One. Is this what a modern American writer, variously cited as Ralph Waldo Emerson or Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, is also saying? ‘I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.’

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God’s simplicity is not like pure matter, because God is pure Actuality, white-hot Light, total and unconditional Love. This actuality envelops and drives everything, as its source and goal, the Alpha and Omega. I’m deliberately mixing philosophical language with Scriptural images, because both reason and revelation should guide us on our journey into the mystery of the Triune God.

Our journey into God’s simplicity will not take us back again to square one, empty-handed, but instead we will discover that a fullness has sent us out and a fullness will receive us home, transformed. There is a fullness in the simplicity that encloses complexity, like there is a fullness in the God whose eternity encloses time and is not enclosed by it. So, our journey into the Trinity is an attraction to the divine simplicity, not a stagnation in human simple-mindedness.

After all, there is a lovely simplicity in genius that differs from simple-mindedness. Often a beautiful object is found to have a simple rationale, despite its manifold appearance, whether it’s the mathematical iteration of the ‘Hofstadter butterfly’ or the musical unfurling of a Bach fugue.

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We cannot draw the Trinity or compose its theme-tune, but there’s a decent medieval attempt in the simple yet profound pictogram called the Scutum Fidei (Shield of Faith) that summarises: the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, yet the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father.

The Trinity does not undermine the simplicity of God, because there’s nothing simpler nor stronger than persons united in love. The unity of God is a perfect communion of persons. And then St Paul pronounces God’s extraordinary invitation to us: receive the Spirit of God, let God dwell within you and make you his child, his heir, and take you into his glory.

The Light is too bright for our eyes right now; it’s too pure and simple, but it beckons us, a beacon of Love, drawing us ever further into glory – into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Spirit.

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Deut 4:32-34, 39-40  |  Rom 8:14-17  |  Matt 28:16-20

Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of the ‘scutum Fidei’ depicted in a window in the church of St Denis in Hanover, MA.

https://www.english.op.org/torch/journeying-into-love

Related:

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 27, 2018 — Trying To Understand What Often Cannot Be Understood — Time For Faith

May 26, 2018

TODAY’S FEAST is one which many preachers would prefer not to have to talk about.  What can one say that is meaningful about such an abstract concept as the Holy Trinity?  In one sense, of course, they are right.  It was the great St Thomas Aquinas who said that it was much easier to say what God was not than what he is.  In other words, every positive statement made about God has to be immediately denied.  If we say God is “good”, it is obviously true but our concept of “goodness”, however exalted, is so limited that God’s “goodness” cannot remotely correspond to our limited concept of it.  And so of every other attribute applied to God.

Art: Holy Trinity by Nicoletto Semitecolo

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Lectionary: 165

Reading 1DT 4:32-34, 39-40

Moses said to the people:
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
This is why you must now know,
and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.
You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today,
that you and your children after you may prosper,
and that you may have long life on the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 33:4-5, 6, 9, 18-19, 20, 22

R. (12b) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
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.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
For he spoke, and it was made;
he commanded, and it stood forth.
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  ROM 8:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

AlleluiaRV 1:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit;
to God who is, who was, and who is to come.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Art: The Holy Trinity by José de Ribera

Gospel MT 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
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From The Abbot
Monastery of Christ In The Desert
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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Abba, Father!  We come to the Lord today, asking that He keep us aware of this great mystery of the Trinity.  It is this belief that God is Trinity, three in one, that distinguishes the Christian faith from all other beliefs.  We believe that God is Father, that Jesus is Son and equal to the Father and is God, and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son and also God.  It is a truly challenging belief and we believe because Jesus taught us to believe.

The first reading today is from the Book of Deuteronomy.  This passage tells us of the incredible experience of our ancestors in the faith.  God spoke to them!  This is what you and I receive from our ancestors in the faith:  God speaks to His people!  Today not many still believe in such revelation.  We believe and because of that belief, we believe in Jesus Christ and in the Spirit.  God speaks to us today in His Church and through the Sacraments and in our daily lives through faith.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Romans.  We must come to know within ourselves that our faith is a gift of the Spirit, that we can speak of Jesus as our Lord and Savior because of the Spirit within us, that we call God our Father because the Spirit is the pledge of our adoption as children of God, of the Father.  These words must become words that speak of the reality that we experience.  Today, as we honor Father, Son and Spirit, let us seek to live these mysteries more profoundly in our lives.

Today’s Gospel is from Saint Matthew and gives us the formula of Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Baptism is the wonderful gift of being incorporated into Jesus Christ and into all the mysteries of our faith.  Most importantly, it is a proclamation that God is Triune, Three-in-One, that God is in Jesus teaching us about the mysteries of God.

For many of us, we only know this great mystery because we have come to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord.  It is He who teaches us.  It is He who draws us into this great mystery of God.  To Him be glory and honor forever.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 MAY, 2018, Trinity Sunday
THE TRINITARIAN EXPERIENCE OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 4:32-3439-40Ps 33Rom 8:14-17Mt 28:16-20  ]

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, according to some theologians, could be the reason why Christianity has become less attractive, especially to people with a simple mind.  It is much easier just to confess faith in the One God than to try to figure out how God is One in being and three in persons.  The doctrine is mind boggling when we try to understand how the inner life of God works.  How could God be one being or one substance and yet there are three persons sharing the same being in thinking, in will, in majesty, in power, omnipotence and omniscience and yet are different?  In truth, even with all the intellectual attempts to make sense of the doctrine of the Trinity, we know that we cannot truly explain the inner life of God because it is a mystery of faith.  Indeed, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a mystery.

The path to understanding the Trinitarian God is not through reason.  If we try to explain why God is one being and three persons, it will create more confusion rather than enlightenment.  Speaking about the Holy Trinity via a doctrinal exposition is not the best way to introduce someone to the Holy Trinity.   The discourse is useful for clarification and to calm the intellect in searching for the truth, but this presupposes the person experiences God as such.  Thus the way to speak about the Holy Trinity is the way of experience, the way of prayer and the way of encountering God concretely.  Without this prior experience of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, such theological expositions remain abstract propositions.

The first step in coming to know the doctrine of the Trinity presumes faith in the One God. Our creed begins with the opening article of faith, “I believe in one God.”  This must be the starting point, for Christianity is a monotheistic religion.  However, faith in God again cannot be simply a conceptual or intellectual assent to a truth.  Many people do not have faith in God simply because they do not experience His presence in their lives, more so, when society is so secularistic and God is removed from public life.  When God is not felt or heard or seen, how could there be faith in God?

Indeed, in the first reading, Moses demanded obedience of the people to God only because this God was encountered by them intensely.  The Lord worked in their lives and history, delivering them from their enemies, especially from slavery.  Truly, they had heard the voice of God, they had seen Him in nature, thunder, lightning, a pillar of fire and clouds.  They witnessed God’s power over nature in the Ten Plagues and in their fight with the Egyptians and their enemies on their march to the Promised Land.

Unless we have experienced God concretely in our lives, it is difficult to profess our faith in Him.  Often, people give up faith in God because they feel that God was not with them in their pains and sufferings, in their illnesses, failures or when they lost their loved ones or their job.  Only if we have encountered God personally and concretely, can we profess with Moses, “The Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other.”  So the question of faith in God is whether one has encountered Him radically in their lives.  If in our helpless moments and desperation, a miracle happens, then faith becomes stronger and God becomes real in our lives.  This is why testimonies of God’s love for us in our daily life is the most convincing way to lead people to faith in Him; not through doctrines.

Nevertheless, Christian faith does not stop at believing that God is one.  God is Father but He also sent us His Son who revealed to us the full identity of God.  Jesus made it clear, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”  (Jn 14:10)  Christ revealed to us that He is one with the Father.  “The Father and I are one.” (Jn 10:30)

But how do we know that Jesus and the Father are one?  This is proven by His death and resurrection. In His resurrection from the dead, the Father endorsed everything that Jesus said and did.  All the claims of Jesus about His identity and the work He did for His Father make sense with His resurrection.  It shows that He is the Lord of life and Lord over death, which has no power over Him.  “The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.”  In this statement, we see how the disciples bowed down in worship; and if some hesitated, it was because the Risen Lord had been so transformed from the Jesus of Nazareth that only faith could perceive His Presence.   But once perceived, the conclusion is that Jesus is the Risen Lord and therefore in assuming the powers of God, He now has the authority of God.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

But for us who have not seen the Risen Lord, how can we know that His Risen presence is real?  How can we encounter Him today so that we know that God is our Father through Christ?  This is where Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit.  This is what St Paul wrote, “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God.”   The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  When we are baptized, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that in the Holy Spirit we come to encounter the Risen presence of the Lord.  This happens in our hearts at prayer, especially during worship, when the Word of God is read, preached and shared.

Beyond experiencing the Fatherliness of God in prayer, we also experience His strength and power working in us in our triumph and fortitude in the face of sufferings.  St Paul wrote, “And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.”  In our union with Christ’s suffering even unto death, we also share His resurrection and new life.  Finally, in our fellowship with the Body of Christ, in our service to the poor and the abandoned, we encounter the Lord Jesus present in them. Jesus is felt, heard, touched and seen in our brothers and sisters, especially when we belong to a Catholic community.

Only then, can we speak about the work of evangelization and the obligation of mission.  Without this interior and personal experience of God as the Holy Trinity, we cannot be His witnesses.  Only after the disciples had seen Him, did Jesus tell them, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations.”   Unless we know from our heart that God is real and He is experienced as Father, Son and Spirit, we cannot share the Good News. Indeed, the Lord commanded us to “baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Baptism is not in the names but name, singular, because there is one God.

Christian joy is to know the Father more and more through understanding the Son and acceptance of His teachings so that the Holy Spirit can live in our hearts.  Indeed, we are “to teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” Dying to Christ in baptism, rising to a new life in the Spirit, sharing our communion with the rest of the family of God, together, we help each other and support each other to become more and more like Jesus and living together as God’s family.  In conclusion, not only is our experience of God triune, but our life as Christians must be lived in imitation of the Trinitarian communion.  We who are individuals, too, must learn to live in unity.  We need to become more and more united in love and service, sharing our uniqueness and talents together for the service of God and humanity, so as to build a community of love.

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

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Commentaries on Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28:16-20 From Living Space

TODAY’S FEAST is one which many preachers would prefer not to have to talk about.  What can one say that is meaningful about such an abstract concept as the Holy Trinity?  In one sense, of course, they are right.  It was the great St Thomas Aquinas who said that it was much easier to say what God was not than what he is.  In other words, every positive statement made about God has to be immediately denied.  If we say God is “good”, it is obviously true but our concept of “goodness”, however exalted, is so limited that God’s “goodness” cannot remotely correspond to our limited concept of it.  And so of every other attribute applied to God.

When it comes, then, to speaking of the meaning and inner relationship of three “Persons” in one God we are floundering in territory where ordinary human language is totally inadequate to express the reality.  Our God can only be reached in the “cloud of unknowing”, as Julian of Norwich so beautifully expressed it.  God is not any of the things we say he is.  It is, as Fr Anthony de Mello used to put it, something like trying to explain the colour green to a person who has been totally blind since birth.

No getting off the hook

However, we should not try to get off the hook too easily and decide to speak or think about something altogether different on this Sunday.  Provided we are aware of God’s basic unknowability by our limited minds, there are still many helpful things we can consider about our God and the inner relationships which are part of his* being.

While it is of the utmost importance that we realise this, there are many statements we can make which will help in our relationships with God.

To go back to Thomas Aquinas again, one of his basic principles was that “Behaviour is determined by the nature of things” (Agere sequitur esse).  From the way things act we know something about what they are.  We can thus distinguish the different natures of minerals and other non-living substances, plant life, bacterial and viral life, animal life, human life from the different ways in which each is able to function and react.  We normally will not confuse a cow and a horse, a bird or a bat, a shark or a whale, a gorilla or a human being.  It is not simply their appearances that are different.  We realise that each has certain capabilities and that those capabilities arise from the way they are essentially constituted in their inner being.  We don’t expect animals to talk as humans do, except in TV cartoons.  We don’t expect snails to run in the Derby or the Grand National or horses to fly.

And, in our daily rubbing shoulders with other people, the only way we can know them is by what they reveal of themselves through their behaviour and interactions.  We say they ARE kind, because they consistently behave in a way that is kind.  Or they ARE cruel, again because of what is perceived as consistently cruel behaviour.  “By their fruits you will know them,” said Jesus.  “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a bad tree good fruit” – because agere sequitur esse.

A level of unknowability

At the same time, while we may feel we can know a lot about people from their behaviour (and do not hesitate to pass judgement!), we can by no means know everything.  Every human being, indeed as science constantly discovers, every created thing is a mystery whose innermost reality is really impossible for us to penetrate totally.  And that even applies to our own selves.  We do not know ourselves totally.  We are a mystery to ourselves – and, a fortiori, to others!

If this is true of created reality, we should not be surprised to face the same dilemma with the Creator.  God, in his deepest being, is a mystery we cannot ever fathom.  This is not just a “cop out”; it is a fact.  Nevertheless on the basis of what God DOES we do get some very clear indications of what he IS.  Agere sequitur esse applies to God also.

What the Scripture tells us

And it is in the Christian (New) Testament especially that it has been revealed to us that there are three Persons in our one God.  What it means to have three Persons in one Being is something we do not even try to understand.  But we can get some inkling if we confine ourselves to seeing what each of the persons DOES as a clue to what they ARE.

In Greek classical drama in the time of Jesus and earlier, the actors put on a mask to indicate the role they were playing (not unlike the elaborate painting of the face in Chinese opera).  The Greek word for this mask was prosopon (proswpon, literally, ‘in front of the face’) and the Latin translation was persona (that through which the sound of the speaker’s voice came).

So, speaking analogically, we can say that in our God there are three masks, three personae, three roles pointing to three separate sources of action.  This is not an explanation.  It is a groping effort to get some understanding.  Those three roles are that of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit acting from one single Source.

Father

We see God as Father, a loving and compassionate Father.  Not a daunting patriarchal figure but one that is easily approached and who can be addressed by the familiar and intimate term Abba(Abba, compare the English ‘Papa’ or ‘Ah Ba’ in Chinese and other languages).  He is the creator and giver of all life.  Everything good that can be discerned in the world around us comes from him and through him.  In him, through him and with him all things exist.

He is the one who cares, the one who waits for the Prodigal to return and forgives completely and immediately.  He is the Father of truth, the Father of love and compassion, the Father of justice.  The whole of this beautiful world in which we lives is a testimony and, at the same time, only a faint indication of what he really is.  If we really look at the world he has made (and not at the one we have unmade), our hearts can only be overcome with praise and thanks.

Son

We see God as Son, who in an extraordinary way came to live among us, and whom, in a paradox beyond all understanding, we humans killed.

In the Son as a human being, we can see, hear and touch God.  We see something of the nature of our God as Jesus heals the sick, identifies with the weak and socialises with the sinful.  We see him challenge the dehumanising values that form the fabric of most of our lives and, in the process, he is rejected by those he loves.  Though he is God, he empties himself of all human dignity that he might open for us the way to true and unending life.

Spirit

We see God as Spirit, becoming, as it were, the soul of his people.  All the good that we do, all our evangelising work, our hospitals, schools, works of social development and social welfare, our care of the sick, the weak, the oppressed and the outcast – all are the work of God’s Spirit working in and through us.  Wherever there is genuine loving there is the Spirit of God at work.

Growing into his likeness

And yet, being aware of all this, we still cannot say that we know our God.  But there is enough here – if we pray and reflect on it – that is already overpowering in its significance.

We need to remember that we have been called to be and to grow into the image of God himself.  In what has been revealed to us through Jesus and the Scriptures, we have more than enough to challenge us and to help us to approach closer to our God.  Our ultimate goal, and it is the only goal for all living, is to achieve perfect union with him.  We do that, above all, by loving as he loved, by loving unconditionally and continuing to love where no love, and even hate, is returned.

For this we need the creative power of the Father, the compassion of the Son, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  They are all available to anyone who opens their heart to receive.

*Although God has been referred to here in male terms, we need to remind ourselves that the three persons of the Trinity are sexually inclusive of both male and female.

We need also to remember that, although Jesus as the incarnate Son is male, our Creed professes that the Second Person of the Trinity became primarily a human being (et homo factus est).  The word ‘homo’, although grammatically masculine, refers to any human being: man, woman or child.

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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A key to guide the reading:The text reports the last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. This is like a testament, his last wish for the community, that which is uppermost in his mind. In our reading, let us try to pay attention to the following: What does Jesus insist on most in his final words?A division of chapter 14 to help with the reading:

Mt 28:16 – Geographical indication: return to Galilee.
Mt 28:17 – Jesus’ apparition and the reaction of the disciples.
Mt 28:18-20a – Jesus’ finalinstructionsMt 28:20b – The great promise, source of all hope..The text:

16: Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them..
17: When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated..
18-20a: Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you..
20b: And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’.

A moment of prayerful silence

so that the Word of God may enter into us and enlighten our life.

Some questions

to help us in our personal reflection.

a) What struck you and touched your heart most?
b) Identify the chronological and geographical information in this text.
c) How do the disciples react? What is the content of Jesus’ words to the disciples?
d) What is this “all power in heaven and on earth” given to Jesus?
e) What does it mean, “to become a disciple” of Jesus?
f) In this context, what does the baptism “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” mean?
g) What do the words “I am with you always, even to the end of time” remind us of in the OT?

A key to the reading

for those who wish to go deeper into the text.

The context of Matthew’s Gospel

* Matthew’s Gospel, written about the year 85, is addressed to a community of converted Jews who lived in Syria-Palestine. They were going through a deep identity crisis concerning their past. When they accepted Jesus as the awaited Messiah, they continued to go to the synagogue and to observe the law and the ancient traditions. Moreover, they had a certain affinity with the Pharisees, and after the revolution of the Jews in Palestine against the Romans (65 to 72), they and the Pharisees were the only two groups to have survived the Roman oppression.

* From the 80s, these Jewish brothers, Pharisees and Christians, only survivors, began to fight among themselves as to who had inherited the promises of the OT. Each claimed to be the inheritors. Gradually, tension grew between them and they began to excommunicate each other. The Christians could no longer attend the synagogue and were cut off from their past. Each group began to regroup: the Pharisees in the synagogue, the Christians in church. This added to the identity problem of the community of Jewish Christians because it raised serious questions in need of urgent solutions. “Who has inherited the promises of the OT, those of the synagogue or those of the church? On whose side is God? Who are really the people of God?

* Now, Matthew writes his Gospel to help these communities overcome their crisis and to find an answer to their problems. His Gospel is, first of all, a Gospel of revelation showing how Jesus is the true Messiah, the new Moses, the culmination of the whole of the history of the OT and its promises. It is also the Gospel of consolation for those who felt excluded and persecuted by their Jewish brothers. Matthew wants to console and help them to overcome the trauma of the split. It is the Gospel of the new practice because it shows the way to achieve a new justice, greater than that of the Pharisees. It is the Gospel of openness and shows that the Good News of God that Jesus brought cannot be hidden, but must be placed on a candlestick so that it may enlighten the life of all peoples.

Commentary on the text of Matthew 28: 16-20

* Matthew 28:16: Returning to Galilee: It was in Galilee that it all began (Mt 4:12). It was there that the disciples first heard the call (Mt 4:15) and it was there that Jesus promised to reunite them again after the resurrection (Mt 26:31). In Luke, Jesus forbids them to leave Jerusalem (Acts 1:4). In Matthew they are commanded to leave Jerusalem and go back to Galilee (Mt 28: 7.10). Each evangelist has his own way of presenting the person of Jesus and his plans. For Luke, after the resurrection of Jesus, the proclamation of the Good News has to begin in Jerusalem in order to reach to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). For Matthew, the proclamation begins in Galilee of the pagans (Mt 4:15) in order to prefigure the passage from the Jews to the pagans.

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The disciples had to go to the mountain that Jesus pointed out to them. The mountain reminds us of Mount Sinai, where the first Covenant took place and where Moses received the tablets of the Law of God (Ex 19 to 24; 34:1-35). It also reminds us of the mountain of God, where the prophet Elijah took refuge in order to find again the meaning of his mission (1Kings 19:1-18). It also reminds us of the mountain of the Transfiguration, where Moses and Elijah, that is, the Law and the Prophets, appear with Jesus, thus confirming that he is the promised Messiah (Mt 17:1-8).

* Matthew 28:17: Some doubted: The first Christians had great difficulty in believing in the resurrection. The evangelists insist in saying that they doubted a lot and did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus (Mk 16:11.13.14; Lk 24:11.21.25.36.41; Jn 20:25). Faith in the resurrection was a slow and difficult process, but ended by being the greatest certainty of Christians (1Cor 15:3-34).

* Matthew 28:18: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me: The passive form of the verb shows that Jesus received his authority from the Father. What is this authority? In the Apocalypse, the Lamb (the risen Jesus) received from the hand of God the book with seven seals (Ap 5:7) and became the Lord of history, he who must assume the responsibility for the execution of God’s project as described in the sealed book, and as such is adored by all creatures (Ap 12:11-14). By his authority and power he conquers the Dragon, the power of evil (Ap 12:1-9). And captures the Beast and the false prophet, symbols of the Roman Empire (Ap 19:20). In the Creed at Mass we say that Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father, thus becoming the judge of the living and the dead.

* Matthew 28:19-20a: Jesus’ last words: three commands to the disciples: Vested with supreme authority, Jesus passes on three orders to the disciples and to all of us: (i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; (ii) baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; (iii) teach them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.

i) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations: To be a disciple is not the same as being a student. A disciple is in relation to the master. A student is in relation to the teacher. The disciple lives with the master 24 hours a day; the student receives lessons from the teacher for a few hours then goes back home. The disciple presupposes a community. The student presupposes being present in a classroom for lessons. The state of discipleship in those days was marked by the expression to follow the master. In the Carmelite Rule we read: To live in obedience to Jesus Christ. For the first Christians, to follow Jesus meant three connected things:

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– To imitate the example of the Master: Jesus was the model to imitate and to be repeated in the life of the disciple (Jn 13:13-15). Living together every day meant a constant meeting. In this School of Jesus only one subject was taught: the Kingdom! This Kingdom could be seen in the life and practice of Jesus.

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– Sharing in the fate of the Master: Those who followed Jesus, had to commit themselves to “stay with him in temptations” (Lk 22:28), and in persecution (Jn 15:20; Mt 10:24-25) and had to be willing to take up the cross and die with him (Mk 8:34-35; Jn 11:36).

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– To possess in oneself the life of Jesus: After Easter, a third dimension was added: “I live now not I but Christ lives in me”. The first Christians sought to identify themselves with Jesus. This is the mystical dimension in the following of Jesus, fruit of the Spirit’s action.

ii) Baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: The Trinity is the source, the end and the way. Those baptised in the name of the Father, revealed in Jesus, commit themselves to live as brothers and sisters in fraternity. And if God is Father, we are all brothers and sisters.

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Those baptised in the name of the Son, Jesus, commit themselves to imitate Jesus and to follow him even unto the cross in order to rise with him. And the power that Jesus received from the Father is a creative power that conquers death. Those baptised in the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus on the day of Pentecost, commit themselves to interiorising fraternity and the following of Jesus, allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit alive in the community.

iii) Teaching them to observe all my commands: For us Christians, Jesus is the New Law of God, proclaimed from on high in the mountain. Jesus is the chosen of the Father as the new Moses, whose word is law for us. “Hear him” (Mt 17:15). The Spirit sent by him will remind us of all the things he taught us (Jn 14:26; 16:13). The observance of the new Law of love is balanced by the gratuitous presence of Jesus in our midst, till the end of time.

* Matthew 28:20b: I am with you always, even to the end of time: When Moses was sent to free the people from Egypt, he received a guarantee from God, the only guarantee that offers complete certainty: “Go, I shall be with you!” (Ex 3:12). It is the same certainty promised to the prophets and other persons sent by God to undertake an important mission in God’s plan (Jer 1:8; Jud 6:16).

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Mary received the same guarantee when the angel said to her, “The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The person of Jesus is the living expression of this guarantee, because his name is Emmanuel, God with us (Mt 1:23). He will be with his disciples, with all of us, even to the end of time. Here we see Jesus’ authority. He controls history and time. He is the first and the last (Ap 1:17). Before the first, nothing existed and after the last, nothing is. This guarantee sustains people, nourishes their faith, sustains hope and generates love and the gift of oneself.

Highlighting the words of Jesus: The universal mission of the community.

Abraham was called to be the source of blessings not only for his descendants, but for all families on earth (Gen 12:3). The slave people were called not only to restore the tribe of Jacob, but also to be light to the nations (Is 49:6; 42:6). The prophet Amos said that God not only freed Israel from Egypt, but also the Philistines from Kaftor and the Aramaians from Quir (Am 9:7). God, then, looks after and is concerned for the Israelites as well as for the Philistines and the Aramaians who were the greatest enemies of the people of Israel!

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The prophet Elijah thought he was the only defender of God (Kings 19:10.14), but he had to be told that apart from himself there were seven thousand others! (1Kings 18:18) The prophet Jonah wanted Yahweh to be only the God of Israel, but had to admit that he is the God of all nations, even the inhabitants of Niniveh, the bitterest enemies of Israel (Jo 4:1-11). In the New Testament, John, the disciple, wanted Jesus only for the little group, for the community, but Jesus corrected him and said, He who is not against me is for me! (Mk 9:348-40).

At the end of the first century after Christ, the difficulties and persecutions could have driven the Christian communities into losing the missionary impetus and to close in on themselves, as if they were the only ones defending the values of the Kingdom. But Matthew’s Gospel, faithful to this long tradition of openness to all nations, tells the communities that they cannot close in on themselves. They cannot claim for themselves a monopoly on the action of God in the world.

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God is not the community’s property; rather the community is Yahweh’s property (Ex 19:5). In the midst of humanity that struggles against and resists oppression, the communities must be salt and yeast (Mt 5:13; 13:33). They must proclaim aloud to the whole world, among all nations, the Good News that Jesus brought us. God is present in our midst, the same God who, in Exodus, commits himself to free those who call on his name! (Ex 3:7-12). This is our mission. If this salt loses its savour, what will it be good for? “It is of no use for the earth or for the fertiliser” (Lk 14:35)

Psalm 150

Universal praise

Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy sanctuary;
give praise in the mighty dome of heaven.
Give praise for his mighty deeds,
praise him for his great majesty.

Give praise with blasts upon the horn,
praise him with harp and lyre.
Give praise with tambourines and dance,
praise him with flutes and strings.

Give praise with crashing cymbals,
praise him with sounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath
give praise to the Lord!
Hallelujah!

Final Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-ascension-lord

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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31 MAY 2015, Trinity Sunday
CHOSEN FOR DISCIPLESHIP AND MISSION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Deut 4:32-34.39-40; Ps 32:4-6,9,18-20,22Rom 8:14-17Matt 28:16-20

In the first reading, we read how God chose the People of Israel to be His own.  Indeed the people were merely slaves in Egypt.  They were under the bondage of Pharaoh.  But God in His mercy set them free from the slavery of the Egyptians.

The new life of Christ has now been given to us as well.  We are called not simply to be God’s people but His very own, that is, to be His sons and daughters.  The fullness of our identity can be realized only in Christ.  By His death and resurrection, He not only revealed to us our identity as the adopted sons and daughters of His heavenly Father, but that we have a share in His divine life.  This is made possible when the Father poured out the Spirit of Jesus into our hearts in His name.  This is what St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans.  “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’”

Knowing that God is not just a transcendent God but our personal Father makes us feel that we are not merely His creatures but His children as well.  This experience of sonship and daughtership frees us from slavery and fear.  We can now live our lives in total freedom because we know that God our Heavenly Father will look after us as He looked after Jesus.  Even when we find the trials of life too overwhelming and difficult, we can surrender our lives to the Heavenly Father as Jesus did.  We can also commend our spirit to the Father whom we know will help us to overcome every trial and even death.  So with the rediscovery of our true identity as the adopted sons and daughters of God in Christ, our lives are now lived with a purpose and with dignity.  We no longer need to live as slaves to the world but in total freedom as God’s children.  Indeed, the partial revelation of the people of God as God’s own and the deliverance from physical slavery is not fully revealed with the declaration that we are the children of God and that we are interiorly free.

How can one mediate this Trinitarian experience of the One God whom we worship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit?   This experience is transmitted through baptism.   This is why the Lord commands us to baptize.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”   Baptism therefore is the matrix in which a person is initiated into the experience of a Trinitarian God.

However, it is not sufficient to know that we are God’s children.  All children must grow to adulthood and maturity.  What is the use of being born again when we die a premature death? The gift of baptism and rebirth requires that we bring the gift of eternal life given to us to fullness.  We are not only called to be baptized but Jesus specifically makes it clear that we are called to be disciples.  “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations.”   Indeed, we cannot be contented with making converts to the Faith.  More importantly, we must make them disciples.

This is the real weakness of the Catholic Church.  We are good at making converts. We even boast of the number of converts each year.  We are proud of the large number of Catholics in our country.  But what is the quality of their faith?  Are they mature in their faith?  Are they making others disciples of Christ?  Are they evangelizing?  Are they living as sons and daughters of God?  Do they know the Father more and more intimately?  Do they live the gospel of Christ?  How many of our young have left the Church after confirmation?  How many of them live the gospel and moral life as demanded of us?  Are they proud to be Catholics and to be identified as such in the world? How are they bringing the gospel into the lives of the people in their place of work, family and society?

Discipleship is an ongoing reality.  We never stop being disciples.  We need to underscore once again the importance of Christian discipleship.  We cannot be left on our own.  We need formation throughout our lives.  Our Catholic faith cannot be reduced to attending mass on Sundays and praying the occasional prayers.  Unless we seriously see the importance of our on-going formation in our faith, in doctrines and most of all our spiritual life, a deepening prayer life and love for the Word of God, we cannot expect to truly enjoy the fullness of life as the sons and daughters of God.  The truth is that many of us are Christian in name but not in fact.  This explains why many of us are nominal Catholics.  We do believe in God and in Christ but it is not a living and lively personal faith.  Our faith in God is merely notional and unconscious rather than a conscious personal relationship.  The only time when faith becomes more personal is when we are desperate to seek God’s help and divine intervention to solve our problems.

However, discipleship cannot take place without a community.  It is not enough to confess our faith in the Holy Trinity in name but not in fact.  To confess our faith in the Trinity and therefore the desire to live the Trinitarian life since we are baptized in the name of the Trinity, we must also imitate the life of God.  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, although distinct within the being of God, yet all three are in each other, for each other, by each other and from each other.  The unity of the three persons in the inner life of God is one of intense union, reciprocal love, of interpenetration of life.  This accounts for the dynamic and vibrant life of God.  God is a living God because He is a God of life and love, of mutual giving and receiving.

Accordingly, to be a disciple is to live the Trinitarian relationship among ourselves.  We, too, wherever we go, at home, in our place of work, in the community, in society and in the country, we must live a life of communion.  We are called to support each other in every way.  We are called to live a life of love and unity among ourselves.  We are distinct and different, yet the strength of the Catholic lies in living a life of unity not in spite but because of our diversity.  We are all one in the Lord, regardless of our race, language, culture or status in life.   As Catholics, we need a community in which our fellow brothers and sisters can journey with us in our faith, support us when we are going through the trials of life.  Formation happens formally or informally, always within the community of faith.  Faith is very much connected with the extent of our relationship with the community.  This also explains why those who do not take discipleship and formation seriously normally have not much link to the community.  They are alone and eventually drop out of the Church.

Finally, through the empowering of God’s love in the community, we are inspired and filled with joy and zeal to share our fellowship with God and with each other with the world.  Truly, this is what it means to fulfill the command of our Lord to go out to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel and baptize them in the name of the Trinity.

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

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Catholic Teaching on the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is encapsulated in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus instructs the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The parallelism of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is not unique to Matthew’s Gospel, but appears elsewhere in the New Testament (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:14, Heb. 9:14), as well as in the writings of the earliest Christians, who clearly understood them in the sense that we do today—that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are three divine persons who are one divine being (God).

The Didache

“After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. . . . If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Didache 7:1 [A.D. 70]).

Ignatius of Antioch

“[T]o the Church at Ephesus in Asia . . . chosen through true suffering by the will of the Father in Jesus Christ our God” (Letter to the Ephesians 1 [A.D. 110]).

“For our God, Jesus Christ, was conceived by Mary in accord with God’s plan: of the seed of David, it is true, but also of the Holy Spirit” (ibid., 18:2).

Justin Martyr

“We will prove that we worship him reasonably; for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God himself, that he holds a second place, and the Spirit of prophecy a third. For this they accuse us of madness, saying that we attribute to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all things; but they are ignorant of the mystery which lies therein” (First Apology 13:5–6 [A.D. 151]).

Theophilus of Antioch

“It is the attribute of God, of the most high and almighty and of the living God, not only to be everywhere, but also to see and hear all; for he can in no way be contained in a place. . . . The three days before the luminaries were created are types of the Trinity: God, his Word, and his Wisdom” (To Autolycus 2:15 [A.D. 181]).

Irenaeus

“For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, the Father Almighty . . . and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit” (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).

Tertullian

“We do indeed believe that there is only one God, but we believe that under this dispensation, or, as we say, oikonomia, there is also a Son of this one only God, his Word, who proceeded from him and through whom all things were made and without whom nothing was made. . . . We believe he was sent down by the Father, in accord with his own promise, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father and the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. . . . This rule of faith has been present since the beginning of the gospel, before even the earlier heretics” (Against Praxeas 2 [A.D. 216]).

“And at the same time the mystery of the oikonomia is safeguarded, for the unity is distributed in a Trinity. Placed in order, the three are the Father, Son, and Spirit. They are three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in being, but in form; not in power, but in kind; of one being, however, and one condition and one power, because he is one God of whom degrees and forms and kinds are taken into account in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (ibid.).

“Keep always in mind the rule of faith which I profess and by which I bear witness that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and then you will understand what is meant by it. Observe now that I say the Father is other [distinct], the Son is other, and the Spirit is other. This statement is wrongly understood by every uneducated or perversely disposed individual, as if it meant diversity and implied by that diversity a separation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (ibid., 9).

“Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent persons, who are yet distinct one from another. These three are, one essence, not one person, as it is said, ‘I and my Father are one’ [John 10:30], in respect of unity of being not singularity of number” (ibid., 25).

Origen

“For we do not hold that which the heretics imagine: that some part of the being of God was converted into the Son, or that the Son was procreated by the Father from non-existent substances, that is, from a being outside himself, so that there was a time when he [the Son] did not exist” (The Fundamental Doctrines 4:4:1 [A.D. 225]).

“No, rejecting every suggestion of corporeality, we hold that the Word and the Wisdom was begotten out of the invisible and incorporeal God, without anything corporal being acted upon . . . the expression which we employ, however that there was never a time when he did not exist is to be taken with a certain allowance. For these very words ‘when’ and ‘never’ are terms of temporal significance, while whatever is said of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is to be understood as transcending all time, all ages” (ibid.).

“For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds every sense in which not only temporal but even eternal may be understood. It is all other things, indeed, which are outside the Trinity, which are to be measured by time and ages” (ibid.).

Hippolytus

“The Word alone of this God is from God himself, wherefore also the Word is God, being the being of God. Now the world was made from nothing, wherefore it is not God” (Refutation of All Heresies 10:29 [A.D. 228]).

Novatian

“For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God himself as man. It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God. Because it does not set forth him to be the Son of God only, but also the son of man; nor does it only say, the son of man, but it has also been accustomed to speak of him as the Son of God. So that being of both, he is both, lest if he should be one only, he could not be the other. For as nature itself has prescribed that he must be believed to be a man who is of man, so the same nature prescribes also that he must be believed to be God who is of God. . . . Let them, therefore, who read that Jesus Christ the son of man is man, read also that this same Jesus is called also God and the Son of God” (Treatise on the Trinity11 [A.D. 235]).

Pope Dionysius

“Next, then, I may properly turn to those who divide and cut apart and destroy the most sacred proclamation of the Church of God, making of it [the Trinity], as it were, three powers, distinct substances, and three godheads. . . . [Some heretics] proclaim that there are in some way three gods, when they divide the sacred unity into three substances foreign to each other and completely separate” (Letter to Dionysius of Alexandria 1 [A.D. 262]).

“Therefore, the divine Trinity must be gathered up and brought together in one, a summit, as it were, I mean the omnipotent God of the universe. . . . It is blasphemy, then, and not a common one but the worst, to say that the Son is in any way a handiwork [creature]. . . . But if the Son came into being [was created], there was a time when these attributes did not exist; and, consequently, there was a time when God was without them, which is utterly absurd” (ibid., 1–2).

“Neither, then, may we divide into three godheads the wonderful and divine unity. . . . Rather, we must believe in God, the Father Almighty; and in Christ Jesus, his Son; and in the Holy Spirit; and that the Word is united to the God of the universe. ‘For,’ he says, ‘The Father and I are one,’ and ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in me’” (ibid., 3).

Gregory the Wonderworker

“There is one God. . . . There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever” (Declaration of Faith [A.D. 265]).

Sechnall of Ireland

“Hymns, with Revelation and the Psalms of God [Patrick] sings, and does expound the same for the edifying of God’s people. This law he holds in the Trinity of the sacred Name and teaches one being in three persons” (Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick 22 [A.D. 444]).

Patrick of Ireland

“I bind to myself today the strong power of an invocation of the Trinity—the faith of the Trinity in unity, the Creator of the universe” (The Breastplate of St. Patrick 1 [A.D. 447]).

“[T]here is no other God, nor has there been heretofore, nor will there be hereafter, except God the Father unbegotten, without beginning, from whom is all beginning, upholding all things, as we say, and his Son Jesus Christ, whom we likewise to confess to have always been with the Father—before the world’s beginning. . . . Jesus Christ is the Lord and God in whom we believe . . . and who has poured out on us abundantly the Holy Spirit . . . whom we confess and adore as one God in the Trinity of the sacred Name” (Confession of St. Patrick 4 [A.D. 452]).

Augustine

“All the Catholic interpreters of the divine books of the Old and New Testaments whom I have been able to read, who wrote before me about the Trinity, which is God, intended to teach in accord with the Scriptures that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are of one and the same substance constituting a divine unity with an inseparable equality; and therefore there are not three gods but one God, although the Father begot the Son, and therefore he who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son but only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, himself, too, coequal to the Father and to the Son and belonging to the unity of the Trinity” (The Trinity1:4:7 [A.D. 408]).

Art: Vision of St Augustine By Sandro Botticelli

Fulgence of Ruspe

“See, in short you have it that the Father is one, the Son another, and the Holy Spirit another; in Person, each is other, but in nature they are not other. In this regard he says: ‘The Father and I, we are one’ (John 10:30). He teaches us that one refers to their nature, and we are to their Persons. In like manner it is said: ‘There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Spirit; and these three are one’ (1 John 5:7). Let Sabellius hear we are, let him hear three; and let him believe that there are three Persons. Let him not b.aspheme in his sacrilegious heart by saying that the Father is the same in himself as the Son is the same in himself and as the Holy Sprit is the same in himself, as if in some way he could beget himself, or in some way proceed from himself. Even in created natures it is never able to be found that something is able to beget itself. Let also Arius hear one; and let him not say that the Son is of a different nature, if one cannot be said of that, the nature of which is different” (The Trinity 4:1–2 [c. A.D. 515]).

“But in the one true God and Trinity it is naturally true not only that God is one but also that he is a Trinity, for the reason that the true God himself is a Trinity of Persons and one in nature. Through this natural unity the whole Father is in the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and the whole Holy Spirit, too, is in the Father and in the Son. None of these is outside any of the others; because no one of them precedes any other of them in eternity or exceeds any other in greatness, or is superior to any other in power” (The Rule of Faith 4 [c. A.D. 523).

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-trinity
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, April 3, 2018 — Listen to the testimony of those who have encountered the Risen Lord

April 2, 2018

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

No automatic alt text available.

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. St 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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03 APRIL, 2018, Easter Tuesday
WHAT MUST WE DO?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ACTS 2:36-41PS 33:4-5,18-20,22JN 20:11-18 ]

If you were there among the crowd when St Peter gave his first discourse on the resurrection of Christ and what it meant with regard to the identity of Jesus, what would you have done?  How would you have responded to the declaration that “The whole House of Israel can be certain that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”?  The crowd did not see the Risen Lord, only the apostles and some disciples did.  Neither have we seen the Lord physically as they did.  However, look at their response. “That very day about three thousand were added to their number.”

To come to faith in the Risen Lord, we must first find grounds for belief.  For the seed of faith to take place, we must first listen to the testimony of those who have encountered the Risen Lord.  This was what the early converts did.  The crowd that gathered at Jerusalem heard the testimony of St Peter and the apostles.  “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know – this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.  But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”  (Acts 2:22-24)

Secondly, they heard the arguments to substantiate their claims so that what they saw could be verified from the scriptures.  “He spoke to them for a long time using many arguments.”  So for many of us, before we take the leap of faith, we need to be convinced before we can be convicted.  So St Peter cited from the psalm of David who prophesied that his descendant would not see death.   “I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.  For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”  Indeed, we read that “They were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised.”

Having come to faith in Christ as Lord, the next step is to make an act of commitment.  So when they heard the discourse of St Peter, “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.”  So, the action of accepting Jesus as Lord is repentance and be baptized.

What is repentance?  To repent is to turn away from sin.  This is what St Peter asked of them, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation.”   Giving up our sins is the way for us to encounter the Risen Lord.  So long as we live in our sins, we will not be able to encounter Him in the Spirit.  “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.  Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.”  (1 Cor 2:14f)

To repent means to give up our pride in wanting to comprehend God with our finite minds.  This was what Mary Magdalene and the rest of the apostles did.  They were still looking for the Jesus of Nazareth who was dead.  That was why the angel said to them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Lk 24:5)

So long as we keep looking for the Jesus of Nazareth, we will not be able to see the Risen Lord.  Many of us have preconceived ideas of how the Lord should manifest Himself to us.  We are looking for Him to come in a definite way when He would have come in other ways.  Indeed, we must allow the possibilities for God to show His face to us.  St Paul warns us, “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ –  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.”  (1 Cor 2:8-11)

To repent means to come out of our grief.  Mary could not see the Lord because she was too absorbed in her attachment to the Jesus of Nazareth.  She was licking the pain of grief in her life.   Twice, she was asked by the angels and the Lord, “Woman, why are you weeping”  And her response was that “They have taken my Lord away.”  She wanted to reclaim the body.  But the Lord is risen.  There is no earthly body to recover.  But because of her grief and sorrow that came from her attachment to the earthly Jesus, she was blinded from seeing the greater reality in front of her, the Risen Lord, thinking that He was a gardener.  If we want to see the Risen Lord, we must be ready to let go of the past and our attachments, whether to things, money, status,or people.   Then our eyes will be able to see the greater things the Lord has in store for us.

Repentance is looking inwards.  The next step is to look upward.  It is to believe in Him.  This is the necessary way of faith.  Repentance is turning away from something to someone, that is Christ.   Mary Magdalene was led by the Lord to turn away from herself and to turn to Him.  “As she said this she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not recognise him.  Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  We must turn to the Lord if we want to encounter Him.   To turn to the Lord means to hear the voice of our Master, to spend time with Him in intimacy as Mary did.  Without listening to His voice, we will not be able to hear Him or see Him.  With Mary, let us be attentive to the voice of our Lord calling us to Him.

To look upwards also means to grow from an affective relationship with the Lord to a contemplative relationship.  Mary Magdalene could see the Lord because of her passion for Him.  This is but the starting point of coming to know the Lord.  Many of us come to recognize Jesus as our Lord through some miracles, especially of healing, enlightenment or salvific and religious experience.   The Lord will reveal Himself to those who love Him.  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.”   However, we cannot be always clinging to the Lord on this level of relationship.  We need to mature in our relationship from a physical, tangible and affective level to a contemplative level.  Otherwise, we will still be stuck to the Jesus of Nazareth.   This was why the Lord told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”   Clinging to the Jesus of Nazareth will hinder us from receiving the Risen Lord in a new way when He comes again in the power of the Holy Spirit.  This was what St Peter told the crowd, “be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Finally, encountering the Risen Lord requires us to move out of our comfort zone to the world.  The Lord instructed Mary Magdalene, “’But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary of Magdala went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that he had said these things to her.”  In reaching out and proclaiming Christ the Risen Lord to the world, our faith will increase and be strengthened when we see how the Lord works in the lives of those who come to believe in Him as the apostles did.   We evangelize ourselves by evangelizing others.

Truly, as St Peter said,  “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.”  The Lord is inviting us to come to know Him and believe in Him so that believing in Him as St John wrote, “you may have life in his name.”  (Jn 20:31)  So for those who are still waiting to encounter the Risen Lord, take the courage to search, to study and to pray.   Most of all, wait for Him in love as Mary Magdalene did.  May the prayer of the psalmist be ours.  “Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Easter Vigil, March 31, 2018 — “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

March 30, 2018

Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord -At the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter
Lectionary: 41

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Reading 1 GN 1:1—2:2

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over the waters.Then God said,
“Let there be light,” and there was light.
God saw how good the light was.
God then separated the light from the darkness.
God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed—the first day.
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Image result for earth, sunrise, from space, photos

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Then God said,
“Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters,
to separate one body of water from the other.”
And so it happened:
God made the dome,
and it separated the water above the dome from the water below it.
God called the dome “the sky.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the second day.

Then God said,
“Let the water under the sky be gathered into a single basin,
so that the dry land may appear.”
And so it happened:
the water under the sky was gathered into its basin,
and the dry land appeared.
God called the dry land “the earth, ”
and the basin of the water he called “the sea.”
God saw how good it was.
Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth vegetation:
every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.”
And so it happened:
the earth brought forth every kind of plant that bears seed
and every kind of fruit tree on earth
that bears fruit with its seed in it.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the third day.

Then God said:
“Let there be lights in the dome of the sky,
to separate day from night.
Let them mark the fixed times, the days and the years,
and serve as luminaries in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth.”
And so it happened:
God made the two great lights,
the greater one to govern the day,
and the lesser one to govern the night;
and he made the stars.
God set them in the dome of the sky,
to shed light upon the earth,
to govern the day and the night,
and to separate the light from the darkness.
God saw how good it was.
Evening came, and morning followed—the fourth day.

Then God said,
“Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures,
and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky.”
And so it happened:
God created the great sea monsters
and all kinds of swimming creatures with which the water teems,
and all kinds of winged birds.
God saw how good it was, and God blessed them, saying,
“Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas;
and let the birds multiply on the earth.”
Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day.

Then God said,
“Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures:
cattle, creeping things, and wild animals of all kinds.”
And so it happened:
God made all kinds of wild animals, all kinds of cattle,
and all kinds of creeping things of the earth.
God saw how good it was.
Then God said:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.
Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed.
Since on the seventh day God was finished
with the work he had been doing,
he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.

Or  GN 1:1, 26-31A

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth,
God said: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
the birds of the air, and the cattle,
and over all the wild animals
and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.”
God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.
Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air,
and all the living things that move on the earth.”
God also said:
“See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth
and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food;
and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air,
and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground,
I give all the green plants for food.”
And so it happened.
God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.

Responsorial Psalm PS 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12, 13-14, 24, 35

R. (30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and glory,
robed in light as with a cloak.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You fixed the earth upon its foundation,
not to be moved forever;
with the ocean, as with a garment, you covered it;
above the mountains the waters stood.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You send forth springs into the watercourses
that wind among the mountains.
Beside them the birds of heaven dwell;
from among the branches they send forth their song.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
You water the mountains from your palace;
the earth is replete with the fruit of your works.
You raise grass for the cattle,
and vegetation for man’s use,
Producing bread from the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you have wrought them all—the earth is full of your creatures.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! Alleluia.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Or PS 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20 AND 22

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
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.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made;
by the breath of his mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea as in a flask;
in cellars he confines the deep.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
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. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
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.

Reading 2 GN 22:1-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”
Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey,
took with him his son Isaac and two of his servants as well,
and with the wood that he had cut for the holocaust,
set out for the place of which God had told him.On the third day Abraham got sight of the place from afar.
Then he said to his servants:
“Both of you stay here with the donkey,
while the boy and I go on over yonder.
We will worship and then come back to you.”
Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust
and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders,
while he himself carried the fire and the knife.
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:
“Father!” Isaac said.
“Yes, son, ” he replied.
Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood,
but where is the sheep for the holocaust?”
“Son,” Abraham answered,
“God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.”
Then the two continued going forward.When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Next he tied up his son Isaac,
and put him on top of the wood on the altar.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am!” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Abraham named the site Yahweh-yireh;
hence people now say, “On the mountain the LORD will see.”

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

Or  GN22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18

God put Abraham to the test.
He called to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he replied.
Then God said:
“Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah.
There you shall offer him up as a holocaust
on a height that I will point out to you.”

When they came to the place of which God had told him,
Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it.
Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.
But the LORD’s messenger called to him from heaven,
“Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am, ” he answered.
“Do not lay your hand on the boy, ” said the messenger.
“Do not do the least thing to him.
I know now how devoted you are to God,
since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.”
As Abraham looked about,
he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket.
So he went and took the ram
and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.

Again the LORD’s messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly
and make your descendants as countless
as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore;
your descendants shall take possession
of the gates of their enemies,
and in your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing—
all this because you obeyed my command.”

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

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

Reading 3  EX 14:15—15:1

The LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and, with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two,
that the Israelites may pass through it on dry land.
But I will make the Egyptians so obstinate
that they will go in after them.
Then I will receive glory through Pharaoh and all his army,
his chariots and charioteers.
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD,
when I receive glory through Pharaoh
and his chariots and charioteers.”

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Image result for The angel of God, exodus, bible, art, photos

The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp,
now moved and went around behind them.
The column of cloud also, leaving the front,
took up its place behind them,
so that it came between the camp of the Egyptians
and that of Israel.
But the cloud now became dark, and thus the night passed
without the rival camps coming any closer together
all night long.
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and the LORD swept the sea
with a strong east wind throughout the night
and so turned it into dry land.
When the water was thus divided,
the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.

The Egyptians followed in pursuit;
all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and charioteers went after them
right into the midst of the sea.
In the night watch just before dawn
the LORD cast through the column of the fiery cloud
upon the Egyptian force a glance that threw it into a panic;
and he so clogged their chariot wheels
that they could hardly drive.
With that the Egyptians sounded the retreat before Israel,
because the LORD was fighting for them against the Egyptians.

Then the LORD told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea,
that the water may flow back upon the Egyptians,
upon their chariots and their charioteers.”
So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea,
and at dawn the sea flowed back to its normal depth.
The Egyptians were fleeing head on toward the sea,
when the LORD hurled them into its midst.
As the water flowed back,
it covered the chariots and the charioteers of Pharaoh’s whole army
which had followed the Israelites into the sea.
Not a single one of them escaped.
But the Israelites had marched on dry land
through the midst of the sea,
with the water like a wall to their right and to their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel on that day
from the power of the Egyptians.
When Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the seashore
and beheld the great power that the LORD
had shown against the Egyptians,
they feared the LORD and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD:
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.

Responsorial Psalm  EX 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18

R. (1b) Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant;
horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
He is my God, I praise him;
the God of my father, I extol him.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The LORD is a warrior,
LORD is his name!
Pharaoh’s chariots and army he hurled into the sea;
the elite of his officers were submerged in the Red Sea.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
The flood waters covered them,
they sank into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, magnificent in power,
your right hand, O LORD, has shattered the enemy.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.
You brought in the people you redeemed
and planted them on the mountain of your inheritance—
the place where you made your seat, O LORD,
the sanctuary, LORD, which your hands established.
The LORD shall reign forever and ever.
R. Let us sing to the Lord; he has covered himself in glory.

Reading 4 IS 54:5-14

The One who has become your husband is your Maker;
his name is the LORD of hosts;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
The LORD calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
a wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
but with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.
This is for me like the days of Noah,
when I swore that the waters of Noah
should never again deluge the earth;
so I have sworn not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.
Though the mountains leave their place
and the hills be shaken,
my love shall never leave you
nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.
O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled,
I lay your pavements in carnelians,
and your foundations in sapphires;
I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of carbuncles,
and all your walls of precious stones.
All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
and great shall be the peace of your children.
In justice shall you be established,
far from the fear of oppression,
where destruction cannot come near you.

Responsorial PsalmPS 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

R. (2a) I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.

Reading 5  IS 55:1-11

Thus says the LORD:
All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread,
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
I will renew with you the everlasting covenant,
the benefits assured to David.
As I made him a witness to the peoples,
a leader and commander of nations,
so shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and nations that knew you not shall run to you,
because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

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

For just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
and do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
so shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
my word shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Responsorial Psalm IS 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

Reading 6  BAR 3:9-15, 32C4:4

Hear, O Israel, the commandments of life:
listen, and know prudence!
How is it, Israel,
that you are in the land of your foes,
grown old in a foreign land,
defiled with the dead,
accounted with those destined for the netherworld?
You have forsaken the fountain of wisdom!
Had you walked in the way of God,
you would have dwelt in enduring peace.
Learn where prudence is,
where strength, where understanding;
that you may know also
where are length of days, and life,
where light of the eyes, and peace.
Who has found the place of wisdom,
who has entered into her treasuries?

The One who knows all things knows her;
he has probed her by his knowledge—
The One who established the earth for all time,
and filled it with four-footed beasts;
he who dismisses the light, and it departs,
calls it, and it obeys him trembling;
before whom the stars at their posts
shine and rejoice;
when he calls them, they answer, “Here we are!”
shining with joy for their Maker.
Such is our God;
no other is to be compared to him:
He has traced out the whole way of understanding,
and has given her to Jacob, his servant,
to Israel, his beloved son.

Since then she has appeared on earth,
and moved among people.
She is the book of the precepts of God,
the law that endures forever;
all who cling to her will live,
but those will die who forsake her.
Turn, O Jacob, and receive her:
walk by her light toward splendor.
Give not your glory to another,
your privileges to an alien race.
Blessed are we, O Israel;
for what pleases God is known to us!

Responsorial Psalm PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (John 6:68c) Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.

Reading 7  EZ 36:16-17A, 18-28

The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their land,
they defiled it by their conduct and deeds.
Therefore I poured out my fury upon them
because of the blood that they poured out on the ground,
and because they defiled it with idols.
I scattered them among the nations,
dispersing them over foreign lands;
according to their conduct and deeds I judged them.
But when they came among the nations wherever they came,
they served to profane my holy name,
because it was said of them: “These are the people of the LORD,
yet they had to leave their land.”
So I have relented because of my holy name
which the house of Israel profaned
among the nations where they came.
Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord GOD:
Not for your sakes do I act, house of Israel,
but for the sake of my holy name,
which you profaned among the nations to which you came.
I will prove the holiness of my great name, profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your fathers;
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Responsorial Psalm – When Baptism Is Celebrated. PS 42:3, 5; 43:3, 4

R. (42:2) Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
I went with the throng
and led them in procession to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of joy and thanksgiving,
with the multitude keeping festival.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Send forth your light and your fidelity;
they shall lead me on
And bring me to your holy mountain,
to your dwelling-place.
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.
Then will I go in to the altar of God,
the God of my gladness and joy;
then will I give you thanks upon the harp,
O God, my God!
R. Like a deer that longs for running streams, my soul longs for you, my God.

When Baptism Is Not Celebrated.IS 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6

R. (3) You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.

When Baptism Is Not Celebrated  PS 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19

R. (12a) Create a clean heart in me, O God.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners shall return to you.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a holocaust, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

Epistle  ROM 6:3-11

Brothers and sisters:
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death?
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death,
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his,
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.
We know that our old self was crucified with him,
so that our sinful body might be done away with,
that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.
For a dead person has been absolved from sin.
If, then, we have died with Christ,
we believe that we shall also live with him.
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more;
death no longer has power over him.
As to his death, he died to sin once and for all;
as to his life, he lives for God.
Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin
and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23

R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The right hand of the LORD has struck with power;
the right hand of the LORD is exalted.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the LORD.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
R. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for on entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side clothed in a white robe, art, pictures
“On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side clothed in a white robe….”

Gospel  MK 16:1-7

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.
Behold the place where they laid him.
But go and tell his disciples and Peter,
‘He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him, as he told you.'”
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Homily by Bishop William Goh, Archbishop of Singapore
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Spiritual writers often warn against a certain “numbness” that can enter our lives and keep us from experiencing newness of life. Sometimes, we are numb to the evil in our midst and just accept “things as they are.” Sometimes we are numb to God’s miracles in our lives and fail to recognize all that is possible. Sometimes, we are numb to what is expected of us and just “keep going on” living our lives in the same old way. Sometimes, we are numb to the reality that this world will one day end and so we just put all our emphasis on the here and now. Tonight the Church in her infinite love and wisdom gives us the “wake up call” we may need to alleviate our numbness.

We began this liturgy in darkness, which is in our midst each day but sadly may no longer shock us. It includes: the lack of reverence for all human life and the dignity of each person; hatred and violence in our communities and the lack of care for the poor and needy. Only when we are mindful of the darkness do we recognize our dependency on the Light that dispels it. Having lit the Easter fire and Paschal Candle, may we be drawn away from a passive acceptance of the darkness and drawn ever close to the Light of Christ.

In doing so, may we be reawakened to the power of God to make all things new, as beautifully proclaimed in tonight’s Sacred Readings. The Old Testament revealed God transforming chaos to order and delivering his people from bondage to freedom. The New Testament proclaims Jesus as the One who was raised from the dead and proved victorious over sin, suffering and even death itself. Tonight, we are awakened to the new life God offers each one of us and His miraculous power within our lives.

The Church also awakens us tonight to our call to be instruments in bringing the Light of Christ to others. We are happy tonight for those who will be baptized and received into full communion with the Church. They inspire us. Thus, as we renew our baptismal call this evening, we pledge to bring Christ’s light to others as they see that we find our strength in His Word and the Sacraments; to consistently practice our faith; and to adhere to the call of the Gospel and generously serve one another. In doing so, we are faithful witnesses to the presence of Christ, who is alive and with us.

We can so easily become numb to the reality that our life here on earth is merely a journey to our final destination. Through His own suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus invites us to eternal life. Thus, we must not be consumed with worldly concerns. Instead, we keep our eyes on what is above so that on the day the Lord calls us to Himself we may fully celebrate the truth proclaimed on this holy night: that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father; we too might live in newness and fullness of life forever and ever. Amen.

http://dioceseofraleigh.org/content/easter-vigil-homily

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 21, 2017 — “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

December 20, 2017

Thursday of the Third Week of 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!
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“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.”

OrZEP 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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Mary and Elizabeth By Corby Eisbacher

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.

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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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Image result for The Visitation by Rembrandt

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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Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sky, outdoor and water

From Fear to Faith a painting by artist Howard Lyon — Need to be told by the coach “Do not be afraid.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 DECEMBER, 2017, Thursday, 3rd Week of Advent
BEING A JOYFUL MESSENGER OF LOVE

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

Many of us are living a joyless life.  We are grouchy, irritable, negative in thought and words, jealous and always putting others down.  Such people unconsciously drive people away from them.  Then they lament, “I have no friends.  No one loves me.  I feel lonely and rejected.”  But what is the cause?  It is because they do not reach out to others.  Instead of extending their hands in friendship, being warm, gracious, welcoming and affirming, we drive people away from us by our low self-esteem and insecurity.

So how do they overcome their insecurity and lack of capacity to love?  They drown themselves in work and in studies, hoping that they would be recognized for their work and academic achievements.  They seek glory and honour from the world.  Or else, they indulge in fine dining, expensive holidays and shopping.   But their hearts remain empty because they know that the praise of the world is shallow.  The moment we are no longer performing or at the top, the world will abandon us. Food and holidays without our loved ones are meaningless.

Indeed, for such people, the most important thing in life is missing.  They do not have a beloved.  In spite of our success, even when we have plenty of money and luxuries and are doing well in our career, achieving fame and recognition, without someone to share our joys and our fruits, life is incomplete.  It is empty.  This is because we are created for love.  We cannot just live for ourselves or seek to love ourselves directly.  We live and love ourselves only when we live for others and love others.

However, one cannot love unless one is loved.  This is the basic axiom of life.  We cannot give what we do not have.  We need to be loved.  This is why in the first reading, from the Book of Song of Songs, we have the beautiful description of a lover seeking for her beloved.   Only when we are loved, can we find the strength and the joy to share our love with others.  This was the case of Mary in the gospel.  When she was so loved by God to be chosen to be the mother of the Saviour, her immediate concern was not about herself but to share her love and joy with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant in her old age.   Her reaching out to Elizabeth was spontaneous and immediate.  The gospel says, “Mary set out at that time and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah.”

To find our beloved, we must wait patiently.  Some of us are still waiting for our beloved to come into our lives.  We must be patient.  We cannot rush into any relationship.  When our beloved comes, we will know.  The waiting and the yearning in our hearts must keep us attentive to the voice of our beloved.  Like the lover, she said, “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. See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the lattice.”

Sometimes, our beloved is not ready to be reconciled with us.  This was true in the case of today’s first reading.  The Book of Song of Songs should be read in the context of the book of lamentations.  Israel was the bride of God but they abandoned the Lord.  She was unfaithful and worshipped the idols.  So they were banished to Babylon to reflect on their actions and so come to repentance.  Very often it is in suffering and pain that we come to understand ourselves better.  This is true in a broken relationship.  Not all failed relationships are to be seen negatively.  They are stepping stones to build stronger relationships through our mistakes.  The next time, we learn how to be more mature and giving in love.

When the time of waiting is over, when “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.”   So we must be patient.   The joy of meeting her beloved helped her to forget all her past and all her sufferings.  When she heard the voice of her beloved, she was filled with joy.  The patient waiting for her beloved to come was worth the wait.  She was complete.

Yet, we cannot love generously and selflessly unless we are filled with God’s love.  This is why we need to seek our true beloved, which is our Lord who alone can give us the capacity to love.  If our love is dependent on human love, then we are drawing out the love from each other.  But that kind of love is so conditional.  I love you as much as you love me.  And if we lack the capacity to love, then it means that human love will remain unsatisfying since we cannot truly love each other fully.  For this reason, the capacity to love cannot come from human love alone but ultimately from the love of God.

Consequently, we are called to be loved by God.  “Come then, my love, my lovely one, come. 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.”  The Lord our beloved desires us.  He wants to love us.  The Lord is coming into our lives.  How is He coming into our lives?

Firstly, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  It is notable that Mary set out immediately to share her joy after she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.  She set out in haste to share the joy of her election as the mother of the savior but more importantly, the joy of her cousin in her old age conceiving a child.   We read that when Mary reached her house, the Holy Spirit also touched the heart of Elizabeth and she in turn, infused with the Holy Spirit, cried out in joy, exclaiming, “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy.”  It was the same Holy Spirit that inspired Elizabeth with the knowledge of Mary as the mother of the Saviour even before Mary could tell her what happened.  Through this confirmation of Elizabeth, Mary too was reassured that what the Lord said to her was true.

Secondly, that joy is always the manifestation of a loving encounter with God.  We read how John the Baptist was also filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Elizabeth, fulfilling the prophecy of the angel when he said to Zechariah, “even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  (Lk 1:15)  The joy of John the Baptist was visible when he encountered the Lord 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.”  So all of them were filled with the Spirit through the encounter between the two mothers and the two sons.  When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, joy is always the manifestation.

Thirdly, this joy is genuine joy because it is a joy to rejoice with others.  Mary did not visit Elizabeth to boast of her new position as the mother of the Saviour.  She went to celebrate with Elizabeth in her pregnancy and to render her assistance.   On the other hand, Elizabeth did not grudge that Mary has a greater honour than her for she was carrying the savior, whereas she was only carrying the forerunner of the Lord.  She did not envy Mary but was able to rejoice with her.  She acknowledged with great humility that she was graced with the honour of the Mother of her Lord visiting her and she acknowledged that it was Mary’s faith in the impossible that God graced her with this role of being the mother of the Saviour. “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”  Mary and Elizabeth were one with each other in joy.  We too will know we have the liberating joy of the Holy Spirit if we can rejoice with those who rejoice.  (Rom 12:15)

So today, if we want to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and be able to share that joy with others in unconditional love, we need to wait patiently for the Lord to enter into our lives.  We must begin by yearning for Him like a lover for her beloved.  Whilst we spend the time waiting, we do not wait passively, but take the trouble to look for the Lord so that when we find Him, we will be able to enter into His joy.  With the psalmist, we pray,  “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.”

Finally, we can help each other to encounter the Lord by being messengers of joy and love to each other, like Mary and Elizabeth, encouraging each other in our journey and rejoicing with each other in our discovery.  Indeed, we must never travel alone in our faith journey.  Mary and Elizabeth had each other.  So we have the church to journey with us.  She is there to encourage us and to assist us.   So let us, “Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; O sing him a song that is new. 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.” Through worshiping and sharing the Word of God, our living testimonies of God’s love in our lives, we too can help each other to encounter the Lord in our hearts.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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