Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 33’

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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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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Image result for and the song of the dove is heard in our land, bible, art, picture

“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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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, July 12, 2017 — The Apostles Were Just Like Us

July 11, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 385

Image result for matthew was a tax collector, art, photos

“Matthew the tax collector”

Art: “The Calling of Matthew” by  Caravaggio

Reading 1  GN 41:55-57; 42:5-7A, 17-24A

When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt
and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread,
Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph
and do whatever he told them.
When the famine had spread throughout the land,
Joseph opened all the cities that had grain
and rationed it to the Egyptians,
since the famine had gripped the land of Egypt.
In fact, all the world came to Joseph to obtain rations of grain,
for famine had gripped the whole world.

The sons of Israel were among those
who came to procure rations.

It was Joseph, as governor of the country,
who dispensed the rations to all the people.
When Joseph’s brothers came and knelt down before him
with their faces to the ground,
he recognized them as soon as he saw them.
But Joseph concealed his own identity from them
and spoke sternly to them.

With that, he locked them up in the guardhouse for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to his brothers:
“Do this, and you shall live; for I am a God-fearing man.
If you have been honest,
only one of your brothers need be confined in this prison,
while the rest of you may go
and take home provisions for your starving families.
But you must come back to me with your youngest brother.
Your words will thus be verified, and you will not die.”
To this they agreed.
To one another, however, they said:
“Alas, we are being punished because of our brother.
We saw the anguish of his heart when he pleaded with us,
yet we paid no heed;
that is why this anguish has now come upon us.”
Reuben broke in,
“Did I not tell you not to do wrong to the boy?
But you would not listen!
Now comes the reckoning for his blood.”
The brothers did not know, of course,
that Joseph understood what they said,
since he spoke with them through an interpreter.
But turning away from them, he wept.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 33:2-3, 10-11, 18-19

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Alleluia  MK 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand:
repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 10:1-7

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples
and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out
and to cure every disease and every illness.
The names of the Twelve Apostles are these:
first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew;
James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John;
Philip and Bartholomew,
Thomas and Matthew the tax collector;
James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus;
Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot
who betrayed Jesus.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus,
“Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

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Jesus Is The Leader That Empowers Others — We Can Become Empowered Also…
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From God’s Career Guide
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Matthew 9:35–10:1 is a story about Jesus sending out his disciples to evangelize the world. It begins with Jesus acting alone and ministering to the crowds and ends with him empowering his disciples to do the very same thing. What Jesus does in the middle verses of the passage serves as a model for empowering others to lead.

 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (emphasis added)

Woven into the story are the steps Jesus took in empowering his disciples.

“Jesus went…he saw…he had compassion.”

Jesus took the initiative and “went through all the towns and villages, teaching…preaching…healing.” He was an active, self-motivated, and life-changing leader. Jesus saw the crowds. He cared about them and was moved to take action. Jesus accepted responsibility for helping those who needed him.

Seek out the problems and opportunities in your sphere of influence. Be proactive. Go to where things are happening, and spend time with your coworkers and customers.

The first step toward empowering others to lead is to be an engaged and influential leader yourself.

“He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority.”

After going to his people, seeing their needs, and being moved to take action, Jesus turned to his disciples. He could have solved the people’s problems himself, but he chose to empower his disciples to help.

Jesus was a leader who raised up other leaders, and this is the key to the passage.

Jesus called his disciples to him. He would be their equipper, not someone else. He gave his disciples the authority to act in his behalf.

Jesus did not equip everyone. He only equipped the few who were ready. He called the few and then empowered them to follow his example.

The best leaders equip others by teaching the teachable and sending them out to become leaders themselves.

If God has blessed you with the ability to lead, use your gift to empower others. Remember Ephesians 4:12 which says God gives you his gifts “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (NKJV).

Be the leader who empowers others to lead.

Source http://godscareerguide.com/the-leader-who-empowers-others/

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Commentary on Matthew 10:1-7 From Living Space

We begin today the second of the five discourses of Jesus which are a unique feature of Matthew’s gospel. It consists of instructions to Jesus’ disciples on how they are to conduct their missionary work and the reactions they can expect in carrying it out.

It begins by the summoning of the inner circle of twelve disciples. Matthew presumes we already know about their formal selection, which he does not recount. (Mark and Luke clearly distinguish the selection from the later missioning.) These twelve disciples are now called apostles.

The two words are distinct in meaning and we should not confuse them. A disciple (Latin discipulus, from discere, to learn) is a follower, someone who learns from a teacher and assimilates that teaching into his own life. An apostle (Greek, apostolos, ‘apostolos from apostello, ‘apostellw) is someone who is sent out on a mission, someone who is deputed to disseminate the teaching of the master to others. In the New Testament a distinction is made between the two. All the gospels, for instance, speak of the Twelve Apostles and Luke mentions 72 Disciples.

However, that does not mean the two roles are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, all of us who are called to be disciples are also expected to be apostles, actively sharing our faith with others. It is very easy for us to see ourselves, ‘ordinary’ Catholics, as disciples and to regard priests and religious as doing the apostolic work of the Church. That would be very wrong. Every one of us called to be a disciple is eo ipso, in virtue of Baptism and Confirmation, also called to be an apostle.

Applied to the twelve men (yes, they were all men – and thereby hang many disputes!) the word ‘apostle’ does have a special sense. They would become, so to speak, the pillars or foundations on which the new Church would be built, with Peter as their leader. They would have the special role of handing on and interpreting the tradition they had received from Jesus, a role which in turn they handed on to what we now call the bishops, with the pope, as leader and spokesperson.

Later on, Paul would be added to their number and Matthias would be chosen to replace the renegade Judas. In fact, it is interesting to see the mixed bunch of people that Jesus chose. We know next to nothing about most of them but they were for the most part simple people, some of them definitely uneducated and perhaps even illiterate. Judas may well have been the most qualified among them. And yet we see the extraordinary results they produced and the unstoppable movement they set in motion. The only explanation is that it was ultimately the work of God through the Holy Spirit.

The first instructions they are given are to confine their activities to their own people. They are not to go to pagans at this stage or even to the Samaritans. As the heirs to the covenant and as God’s people, the Jews are to be the first to be invited to follow the Messiah and experience his saving power. And their proclamation is the same one that Jesus gave at the outset of his public preaching: “The Kingdom of Heaven [i.e. of God] is at hand.”

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2144g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection

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The second great Discourse: The Discourse of the Mission begins in charter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew.  Matthew organizes his Gospel as a new edition of the Law of God or like a new “Pentateuch” with its five books.  For this reason his Gospel presents five great discourses or teachings of Jesus followed by a narrative part, in which he describes the way in which Jesus puts into practice what he had taught in the discourses.  The following is the outline:
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Introduction: the birth and preparation of the Messiah (Mt 1 to 4)
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a) Sermon on the Mountain: the entrance door into the Kingdom (Mt 5 to 7)
Narrative Mt 8 and 9
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b) Discourse of the Mission: how to announce and diffuse the Kingdom (Mt 10)
Narrative Mt 11 and 12
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c) Discourse of the Parables: The mystery of the Kingdom present in life (Mt 13)
Narrative Mt 14 to 17
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d) Discourse of the Community: the new way of living together in the Kingdom (Mt    18)
Narrative 19 to 23
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e) Discourse of the future coming of the Kingdom: the utopia which sustains hope (Mt 24 and 25)
Conclusion: Passion, death and Resurrection (Mt 26 to 28)
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• Today’s Gospel presents to us the beginning of the Discourse of the Mission, in which the accent is placed on three aspects: (a) the call of the disciples (Mt 10, 1); (b) the list of the names of the twelve Apostles who will be the recipients of the Discourse on the Mission (Mt 10, 2-4); (c) the sending out of the twelve (Mt 10, 5-7).
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• Matthew 10, 1: The call of the twelve disciples. Matthew had already spoken about the call of the disciples (Mt 4, 18-22; 9, 9).  Here, at the beginning of the Discourse of the Mission, he presents a summary: “He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to drive them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and all kinds of illness”. The task or the mission of the disciple is to follow Jesus, the Master, forming community with him and carrying out the same mission of Jesus: to drive out the unclean spirits, to cure all sorts of diseases and all orts of illness.
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In Mark’s Gospel they receive the same two-fold mission, formulated with other words: Jesus constituted the group of Twelve, to remain with him and to send them out to preach and cast out devils” (Mc 3, 14-15). 1) To be with him, that is to form a community, in which Jesus is the center.  2) To preach and to be able to cast out the devils, that is, to announce the Good News and to conquer the force of evil which destroys the life of the people and alienates persons.  Luke says that Jesus prayed the whole night, and the following day he called the disciples.  He prayed to God so as to know whom to choose (Lk 6, 12-13).
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• Matthew 10, 2-4: The list of the names of the Twelve Apostles. A good number of these names come from the Old Testament.  For example, Simon is the name of one of the sons of the Patriarch Jacob (Gn 29, 33). James is the same as Giacomo (Gn 25, 26). Judas is the name of the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Matthew also had the name of Levi (Mk 2, 14), who was the other son of Jacob (Gn 35, 23). Of the Twelve Apostles seven have a name which comes from the time of the Patriarchs.  Two are called Simon; two are called James; two are called Judas, one Levi!
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Only one has a Greek name: Philip. This reveals the desire of people to start again the history from the beginning! Perhaps it is good to think in the names which are given today to the children when they are born.  Because each one of us is called by God by his/her name.
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• Matthew 10, 5-7: The sending out or the mission of the twelve apostles toward the lost sheep of Israel.  After having given the list of the names of the twelve, Jesus sends them out with the following recommendation: “Do not make your way to gentile territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town, go instead to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand”.
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In this one phrase there is a three-fold insistence in showing that the preference of the mission is for the House of Israel: (1) Do not go among the gentiles, (2) do not enter into the towns of the Samaritans, (3) rather go to the lost sheep of Israel. Here appears a response to the doubt of the first Christians concerning opening up to pagans. Paul, who strongly affirmed the openness to the gentiles, agrees in saying that the Good News of Jesus should first be announced to the Jews and, then to the gentiles (Rm 9, 1 a 11, 36; cf. At 1, 8; 11, 3; 13, 46; 15,1. 5.23-29). But then, in the same Gospel of Matthew, in the conversation of Jesus with the Canaanite woman, the openness to the gentiles will take place (Mt 15, 21-29).
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• The sending out of the Apostles toward all peoples. After the Resurrection of Jesus, there are several episodes on the sending out of the Apostles not only toward the Jews, but toward all peoples. In Matthew: Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything which I have commanded.  And I will be with you until the end of time” (Mt 28, 19-20). In Mark: “Go to the entire world, proclaim the Good News to all creatures. Those who will believe and will be baptized will be saved; those who will not believe will be condemned” (Mk 15-16). In Luke: “So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this (Lk 24, 46-48; Ac 1, 8) John summarizes all in one phrase: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you!”  (Jn 20, 21).
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Personal questions
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• Have you ever thought sometime about the meaning of your name? Have you asked your parents why they gave you the name that you have? Do you like your name?
• Jesus calls the disciples. His call has a two-fold purpose: to form a community and to go on mission.  How do I live in my life this two-fold purpose?
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Concluding Prayer
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Seek Yahweh and his strength,
tirelessly seek his presence!
Remember the marvels he has done, his wonders,
the judgements he has spoken. (Ps 105,4-5)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 JULY, 2017, Wednesday, 14th Week, Ordinary Time
SENT TO THE LOST SHEEP

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 41:55-5742:5-717-24Ps 32:2-3,10-11,18-19Mt 10:1-7  ]

In the gospel today, the Lord sent out the twelve with the following instruction, “Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”  This specific command from the Lord seems contrary to our understanding of the Church’s mission to evangelize the whole world.   Why did Jesus tell the apostles to confine themselves to the lost sheep of Israel rather than to go out of Palestine to proclaim the Good News to all?  Does not the Lord also care for the Gentiles?

Undoubtedly, the gospel is for all and not for the Jews.  God wants all peoples to be saved.  However, the gospel cannot be proclaimed to the whole world unless some are chosen for the task.  Israel, as the chosen race of God, had been given this task of spreading the Good News to all nations.  Israel had been blessed by God, not for her sake but for the sake of humanity.  For the same reason, in the first reading, we read of the divine providence and intervention of God to save Joseph from his enemies.  He became the economic leader of Egypt.  The Lord wanted to prepare Joseph for the birth of Israel when he would invite his family to make their home in Egypt for 400 years.  It was in Egypt that the people grew in strength and in number till it was time for them to move out of Egypt and found their own country and kingdom.

In the same way too, what the Church needs today in the work of evangelization is to look within and not just without.  The irony of the Church is that we are so keen in making new converts to the faith, baptizing and confirming candidates, forgetting the need for discipleship and mentoring for those who are already baptized.  We should not be surprised therefore if more souls are lost from within the Church than the number being brought into the Church.  Our nets are broken because the fishes are swimming out whilst we are too busy catching new fishes.  What is critical therefore is to look within and make use of what we already have for the work of evangelization, rather than focus on bringing in new admissions into the Church only.   If we cannot retain our members, it shows that we are weak.

Indeed, we have many lost sheep today.  Who are these that could be considered as lost?  They are those who have left the Church completely because they are disillusioned with the Church.  Some have lost faith completely in God because God was not felt or experienced. But the majority are nominal Catholics or seasonal Catholics who come to Church occasionally and in a perfunctory manner.  We have many of these.  Indeed, statistics in most churches show that only around 10% of our church members are active in their faith or in ministries.  And out of these, many are there out of goodwill, but they lack real formation and depth in their faith.

Hence, the work of evangelization cannot be fruitful if the majority of our members are indifferent and laid back Catholics.  Not only are they not witnesses of the gospel but in fact they are counter-witnesses.  There is no neutrality in the faith. By not being a witness, we are telling others implicitly that there is nothing great about Jesus and that He makes no difference in our lives.  The Church therefore cannot grow so long as we do not give more focus in forming and strengthening the faith of our existing Catholics, both intellectually and personally; and also to reach out to those who have left the faith for various reasons.  Many of them have left more out of emotional than doctrinal reasons.  This explains why Jesus told the disciples to go to the lost sheep of Israel first.   As Church, if we want to be evangelistic and missionary minded, then we must form our Catholics well and disciple them.

How can this be done?  Firstly, we need to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom anew.  Jesus said to the apostles, “and as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”   How can we proclaim that the Kingdom is near if not through miracles, healing, liberation and good deeds?   We cannot proclaim the Kingdom by words alone but by actions.  Accordingly, Jesus gave them the authority and power as well.  He did not appoint us as His apostles and ambassadors without also empowering us to do so.  “Jesus summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness.”  If our own Catholics do not experience the Good News in terms of the power and mercy of God in their own lives, there is no Good News to proclaim.

Secondly, we need authority.  This authority is more than just being given the power or the office. This is institutional authority.  Whilst important, institutional authority must be accompanied by personal authority.  If our witnessing is lacking power, it is because we do not speak with authority either by our words and less by our lives.  No one will listen to us if we are hardly convinced of what we say and, worse still, when we do not walk the talk.  What is needed to transform the world are not preachers or even teachers but witnesses, people who are so filled with God’s love and mercy by their words and works.

Thirdly, we need intense formation.  It is significant that the Lord only chose the Twelve to be with Him for three years.  He did not spend all His time with the crowd or seeking to make His name known in Palestine and beyond.  Although He did reach out to the crowd, He spent more time with His apostles than with others.  The Twelve were always gathered around Him, listening to Him and watching how He lived, prayed and related with His Father and with others.  There was mentorship and learning from the Lord.

This is the greatest negligence of the Catholic Church.  We do not underscore the importance of ongoing formation.  The only formation we give emphasis to is the Catechumenate.  The truth is that faith is an ongoing process.  Not everything can be learnt or grasped even if we have faithfully gone through the whole RCIA.  Formation of faith in one’s spiritual life, whether personal or intellectual, never stops because it is ongoing.  Even as bishop, I am still learning, reflecting, praying and studying about our faith.  Catholics must be reminded again and again that ongoing formation in faith, whether done formally in a classroom setting or informally through the sharing of the Word with fellow Catholics, is indispensable for a deepening of one’s faith in Christ.

More than just formation, we also need good mentors who teach through inspiration and guidance.  Do we have good mentors around to disciple the new comers in the faith or in our ministry or the young?  Again, this is another failure on our part.  Older priests are not mentoring younger priests, parents not mentoring children, etc.  We need to train and form mentors for those who are still weak in the faith.  We need to empower our mentors.  The lack of witnesses and teachers make the rest of the Church weak.

Today, we must realize that we are called in our own ways to be agents of transformation in society, beginning with our own family, society and office.  Like the apostles, we are all diverse and different.  But it is because of our differences that we are one in mission, collaborating with each other, according to our charisms and unique gifts for the service of Christ and His Church.   Let us go back to the lost sheep of Israel, the lost Catholics who have either left the Church or are ignorant about their faith.  These people are our first priority.  Unless we renew our own faith personally and those of our Catholics, we cannot be the salt and light of the world.  Following the exhortation of Pope Francis, we must begin on the path of interior conversion; and Pope Emeritus who, during the Year of Faith, invited us to rediscover, re-appropriate and renew our faith.  Like Joseph who sought to help his brothers to repent of their sins, we too must bring back the lost sheep of our Church.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, June 26, 2017 — Judge not lest you be judged — The Parable of the Mote and the Beam.

June 25, 2017

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 371

Reading 1 GN 12:1-9

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

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

Abram went as the LORD directed him, and Lot went with him.
Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.
Abram took his wife, Sarai, his brother’s son Lot,
all the possessions that they had accumulated,
and the persons they had acquired in Haran,
and they set out for the land of Canaan.
When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land
as far as the sacred place at Shechem,
by the terebinth of Moreh.
(The Canaanites were then in the land.)

The LORD appeared to Abram and said,
“To your descendants I will give this land.”
So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.
From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel,
pitching his tent with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east.
He built an altar there to the LORD and invoked the LORD by name.
Then Abram journeyed on by stages to the Negeb.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:12-13, 18-19, 20 AND 22

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.
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.

Alleluia  HEB 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for remove the wooden beam from your eye first, art, photos

A c. 1619 painting by Domenico Fetti entitled The Parable of the Mote and the Beam.

Gospel MT 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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26 JUNE, 2017, Monday, 12th Week, Ordinary Time
THE COMPLEXITY OF DISCERNMENT AND JUDGMENT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Gn 12:1-9; PS 32:12-13,18-20,22; Mt 7:1-5  ]

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not judge and you will not be judged.”  This exhortation of Jesus does not mean that we have to dispense judgement in all forms and at all times.  We need to discern and make judgement every day, from personal matters at home to work and society.  No one can live without making judgments.   In fact, not to discern and judge, especially when we are in position of authority, would be irresponsible.

However, we must be responsible in judgment.  This is what Jesus is warning us.  This is “because the judgments you will give are the judgments that you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.”  In other words, how we judge or fail to judge will determine how others will judge us.   In our judgments, we reveal to people who we really are, our thinking and our values and most of all our heart.   So the point is not that we should not judge but how we should judge.

Because judgment is rather complex, we must avoid the pitfalls of making rash and sweeping judgments on people and situations.  Indeed, the greatest pitfall in making judgment is prejudice and fear.  This prejudice comes from the conditioning of our past and the fear of the future.  This explains why Jesus warned us, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How dare you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye’, when all the time there is a plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

Truly, in our judgments most of us are coloured by our past experiences, bad or good.  Negative experiences make us negative towards new situations.  Positive experiences make us willing to trust and be more receptive.  Of course, more often than not it is our fear of the future that makes us judge in a certain way.  We all have our fears and we want to protect our turf.  Thus, we tend to judge a situation in favour of our interests.  Quite often, much as we try to remain objective, we are also motivated by our interests and hindered by our insecurity and anxiety.  We never see things as they are but as we are!  So we need to remove the plank of prejudice from our eyes first.

How, then, do we overcome our prejudices in rendering judgment?  Firstly, the only judgment we are permitted is objective judgement based on facts.  We can only read the facts and come to a conclusion.  But we cannot determine the real motive of a person.  His conscience is between him and God alone.  For this reason, St Paul also asked us to leave judgment to God.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  (Rom 12:9-20)   Judgement is therefore always objective and based on external forum.  We can only say that an action is wrong but we cannot come to a conclusion that the person is a sinner or meant evil.  Only God knows his heart and intentions.

Secondly, our judgment must not be one that destroys but builds.  That is to say, passing judgment is to help a person to become better and not to destroy him.  Often unconsciously, we say negative things about a person because we feel threatened.  We need to put the person down in order to make us feel better.  In our judgment of others, the motive must always be to help and to improve.  Judgment is never destructive but always constructive.  It is to make things better not make things worse.

So in making decisions we must ask whether that decision is truly for the good of others or for ourselves.  If a judgment is made to protect our interests, then such a judgment is skewed.  This is true especially when we are asked to take up an appointment or an office.  Do you agree because it benefits us or because it benefits the people under our care?  Our motives must be selfless and be other-centered.

Thirdly, in judgment, we must never make it alone without the help of others.  It is our duty to consult others as well; especially those who are able to help us to make proper judgment.  Consultation helps us to see the situation from different perspectives and angles. Otherwise, we might allow our past experiences to limit us in our judgment.  All of us are limited by our experiences and our fears.  So to ensure that our judgment takes into consideration all the perspectives, no one should judge without proper consultation. This is especially true for those in authority.

Fourthly, we must consult God in prayer.  In all judgment, we need to bring God into the picture.  All judgement must take place in prayer.  We need to bring our judgments to God in prayer, and ask for the grace to remove the blindness from our eyes, the fears from our heart so that we can look at every situation objectively without personal interest.  Using scriptures for discernment is ideal because “the word of God is something alive and active: it can judge secret emotions and thoughts.”  (Heb 4:12)  We need to put on the mind of Christ and with the heart of Jesus look at the situation and at people.  The only judgment that is permitted is a judgment from the perspective of Christ, which is one of compassion, understanding and forgiveness.  Jesus does not condemn people, not even sinners.  But He seeks to understand them and reach out to them.  Even if He were harsh with the religious leaders, it was because He loved them and wanted to shake them out of their blindness and hypocrisy.

However, if judgment were that simple, then life would be so easy.  The truth is that judgment is not always logical.  This was the case of Abraham.  We read that he was already old and a wealthy man too at the time when the Lord spoke to him. Logically, it would have been foolish for Abram to begin a new life when he should be retiring gracefully.  It was not that he was poor but he was living a comfortable life.  At that age, who would want to start life all over again, when one is not even sure how more years one has left.  Objectively, he was foolish to take the risk and uproot his family, venturing to a place they did not know.  But he did!

This brings us to another level of judgment from the perspective of faith.  Abram heard God saying to him, “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you: I will curse those who slight you. All the tribes of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”   On the basis of God’s promises, he obeyed the voice of God.  He trusted in God’s promises and he realized God’s promises by obedience in faith.

Most of us are insecure and want to protect our interests. We walk by sight rather than by faith, Abram teaches us that sometimes in life God wants us to give up our security and human reasoning and simply trust Him alone.  He wants to give us new opportunities and a greater life ahead of us.  But so long as we want to cling to what is familiar, then we will miss the great opportunities that God wishes to give to us.  Thus, we need to have faith, to respond to such a call from the Lord.  It takes courage.  It involves risks and trust.  But without faith, we will never be able to find true happiness in life.

The judgment on the level of faith must of course take place in prayer.  This aspect of judgment presumes a special revelation from the Lord which normally takes place in a religious encounter.  All great saints, founders of religious orders and great leaders are often inspired by God. In the final analysis, prayer is the most critical part of discernment and judgment.  For this reason, we read that wherever Abram went, he would erect an altar to the Lord.  The altar is not simply a place of communion with God but also a reminder of His love and fidelity to us.  This explains why most shrines are erected as a consequence of a religious experience that occurred, whether an apparition or some deep religious encounter.

Of course, even in prayer, we can also deceive ourselves.  Many tell us that the Lord is telling them to do this and that.  More often than not, they lack depth and maturity in prayer.  At times they are praying to themselves rather than listening to God. Personal discernment requires consultation with authorities and deeply spiritually matured Christians who can guide us to discern objectively and hear the voice of God.  In most instances, when a judgment is correct, it would resonate with most people and confirmed by the authorities.  When our judgment is not aligned to the established objective laws provided in the scriptures and the rightful appointed authority, in humility we must discern further.  We must not allow presumption and pride to blind us in our judgment as we will only hurt ourselves and others.  Even great saints and charismatic leaders in their inspiration to do something great would often turn to legitimate authority for endorsement as a sign of God’s confirmation.  When what we decide is against appointed authority, we must understand that obedience is what the Lord asks of us as in the case of Abram.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Matthew 7:1-5 From Living Space

We begin today the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged”, that is, by God. This is a good example of Matthew using an impersonal passive voice to avoid mentioning the name of God which is understood. Another example is where he has Jesus say, “Whose sins you shall forgive, they will be forgiven” [by God].

Jesus today touches on an issue in which very few of us can claim innocence – passing judgment on others. Sometimes we call it gossip which seems harmless enough and very often it is relatively harmless. And yet at times we can spend a long time tearing other people apart, revealing to others information about people which they do not need to know. What Jesus says is so true. We focus on a tiny speck in someone else’s eye while there is a large plank in our own.

In fact, that is probably why we are so fond of indulging in this exercise. Our purpose is not so much to bring another person down as to bring ourselves up. Often those we judge are higher placed than we are or more gifted or more educated. To some extent unconsciously, we feel inferior. One way to even things up is to bring them down, to reveal their feet of clay.

But, as Jesus says, this is a kind of hypocrisy. Given our own faults, what right have we to sit in judgement on another? So often our judgements are based on the purely external or on incomplete evidence. We condemn acts while being quite ignorant of the motives behind the acts. Only God is in a position to make an accurate judgement of a person’s strengths or weaknesses.

Linked with all this is the fact that, nine times out of ten, we would never make our criticisms face to face. This, on the one hand, is a form of cowardice and, on the other, proves our hypocrisy because we make no effort to help the person make the changes we would like to see. It might be a good resolution for us to promise only to criticise people to their face and then in a non-judgmental fashion. And to give them an opportunity to express their side. Sometimes we will find that our criticisms are without real foundation or we will find the person grateful for drawing attention to something they were unaware of.

And removing that plank from our eye is another way of saying that, before we make any evaluation of another, we need to be sure that our view is totally free from any prejudice or bias. We do have a serious responsibility to draw attention to things that people do wrong, especially if others or they themselves are hurt, but it is a responsibility we often shirk. Gossiping behind their backs is so much more fun. But, in the long run, it helps no one.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2122g/

Related:

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From 2015:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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CHRISTIAN JUDGMENT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: GENESIS 12:1-9; MATTHEW 7:1-5

We are created in the image of God.  This means that we are given intellect and free will.  We are constantly called to exercise our freedom. This implies that inevitably, we are called to make conscientious decisions through discernment and judgment.  Yet making the right judgment is not easy, be it in our personal life, or in relation to other people and situations.

Apparently, today’s gospel seems to justify those who wish to abdicate their responsibility of passing judgment, since Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.”  Jesus’ warning about the dangers of judgment must be understood in context.  After all, it is clear that in the first reading, Abram who was called from Ur migrated to Haran en route to the Promised Land, also had to discern what God wanted him to do.  Throughout the journey to Canaan, Abram had to make decisions in the face of difficulties and potential enemies.  Hence, in life, we cannot refrain from judgment, from making decisions and from the discernment process.  What we need to do however is to be aware of the complexity and difficulties involved in judgment.

Firstly, we must be clear that no judgment is purely objective as much as we want to it to be.  Our judgment is colored by our upbringing, by our culture and the value system that we have been brought up in.  In that sense, much of our judgment is determined by our background and circumstances.  Furthermore, not only is our judgment influenced by our social background, it is also impacted by our past experiences.  Past experiences shape us in the way we see and perceive life.  Hurtful experiences can make us approach life and people differently.  For this reason, Jesus asked, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? … Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”  This plank is our social background and personal life history.  Without being aware of such a plank in our judgment, we might deceive ourselves into thinking that we are able to see everything clearly and without prejudice.

Consequently, we must be ready to recognize that our judgment is limited and partial and never final.  Through dialogue and interaction, we would be required to modify our judgment.  We must never think that we have the final answer to a problem, or in our analysis of a situation.  Through dialogue, study, reflection and greater understanding, we will come to view the problem in a fuller light.  Whilst it does not mean that our judgment is false, we should realize that it is seldom complete. Truth can be deepened, and not necessarily possessed immediately, even if what we believe in is true.

Secondly, because our judgment is influenced by the way we have been conditioned or brought up, our judgments reflect more of who we are, than the object of our judgment.  This explains why Jesus said, “The judgments you give are the judgments you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.”  In other words, when we judge a situation or when we judge others, it reflects more about ourselves than what is being judged.  The measure we use to judge others manifest where we stand with respect to certain values.  In judging others, we are actually judging ourselves.  That is why Jesus warned us, “Do not judge and you will not be judged; because the judgments you will give are the judgments that you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.”  So it must be clear that every time we judge, we are really judging ourselves.

For example, in a particular situation, two persons will certainly judge a matter differently.  We are often prejudiced, and we brand people accordingly because of our collective past experiences and life journeys.  What is unjust is that we judge others on the basis of the accumulation of their past history of failures.  We do not recognize that people can change, and are changing all the time.  Thus, our judgment is often unreal, based on the past instead of on the present reality.  Thus, Jesus advises us to “Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”

Furthermore, we tend to be harsh in our judgments of others.  In judging others without mercy and compassion, not only do we do them injustice, but also, we ultimately hurt ourselves.  This is because the way we judge others would be the way we judge ourselves.  It is said therefore that on Judgment Day, it would not be God who judges us, but we will judge ourselves.  Hence, if we hate others and cannot forgive others for their mistakes, we will also not be able to forgive ourselves.  In condemning others, we naturally condemn ourselves as well.

However, when God judges, He only judges us in the here and now.  God is not a slave to history, or to the environment, since He is the ever-present; the “I Am.”  What is past is forgotten as long as we have forgiven ourselves.  When God judges us, He only considers our present.  As St Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians, “Love does not keep a record of wrongs.”  Since God is only concerned with the here and now, He can judge us with love and compassion.  This explains why God’s judgment of people differs so greatly from our judgments.

Today, the first reading speaks of Abraham’s discernment in the Lord, in faith, love and humility.  This is the key to an authentic judgment.  It is in faith and love that Abraham discerned the situations in his life.  We too, must judge with the mind of God.  We too, must reflect the mind of God.  We must be like God, who looks at people with love, hope and trust that they can change.  For in spite of the failures of the children of Abraham as we see in salvation history, God continued to love them all the same.  He never gave up hope in them.  We pray too, that we will have compassion for and faith in others.

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, May 14, 2017 — “You are called out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

May 13, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 52

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Reading 1 ACTS 6:1-7

As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

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

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2  1 PT 2:4-9

Beloved:
Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings
but chosen and precious in the sight of God,
and, like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house
to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
For it says in Scripture:
Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.

Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,
and
A stone that will make people stumble,
and a rock that will make them fall.

They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

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You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Alleluia  JN 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father, except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”

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From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  These two quotes from today’s Gospel from Saint John try to express God’s words to us about how to live with the Lord Jesus.  All of us, including these earlier followers of Jesus, can be with Jesus and still not know Him.  We relate to Him and we strive to follow Him and yet there are enormous areas of our lives in which we simply do not know Him.

The first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, begins to show us that even in the earliest Christian communities, there were problems and conflicts.  These early followers tried to solve problems by dialog and taking counsel—and most of the time it seems to have worked, but not always.  We humans find conflict almost more natural than living in harmony!

Every Christian community will have conflicts and differences and challenges.  There is no easy way to deal with them.  Yet we must deal with them or we break apart as a community.  One of the great gifts in our Catholic Church is that we believe that there is an authority structure in the Church and that individuals and individual congregations or individual Churches cannot solve problems alone.  We must work together.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint Peter.  Today’s passage reminds us that we shall inevitable stumble if we do not base our lives on the Word of God.  Today so many of us want to base our lives simply on our own personal insights and ways of thinking and our own personal experiences.  Surely our insights, ways of thinking and personal experiences are important—but they must always be judged by the Word of God and looked in in the light of that Word.  We humans are mysteries in progress, not simply realities that can no longer change.  Life is about living this mystery of God’s love for us and responding to His Word.  That Word will change us and transform us.  If we do not heed the Word, we stumble and fall.

This brings us back to the Gospel and to the knowledge that Jesus truly gives Himself to us and invites us to live in that personal self-giving.  Once we acknowledge Jesus as Lord, our lives begin to change.  We may fail over and over and over—but always we get up and keep on going because the Lord is with us and invites us to keep walking with Him.

My sisters and brothers, Christ is risen and is alive.  Christ is risen and invites us to walk as He walked and to live as He lived.  May this Easter Sunday help us give ourselves more completely to Him.

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Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

https://christdesert.org/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

14 MAY, 2017, Sunday, 5th Week of Easter

CRITERIA FOR APPOINTING CHRISTIAN LEADERS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 6:1-7; PS 32:1-2, 4-5, 18-19; 1 PETER 2:4-9; JN 14:1-12 ]

We are called to be the priestly and prophetic people of God.  St Peter wrote, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”  Indeed, by virtue of our baptism, we have been chosen by God to lead others to Him as well.  This is the way to give thanks to God for His great mercy and kindness.  The psalmist says, “Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just; for praise is fitting for loyal hearts.  Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp, with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs.”  Whilst all are called to be members of the royal priesthood of Christ, some of us are called into Christian leadership, whether as laity or as clergy.  At any rate, all of us are Christian leaders in different degrees and positions.

But what does it take to be a Christian leader?  The Scripture readings give us the guidelines as to how a Christian leader should be chosen.  From the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the apostles told the community to “Select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom.”

The first criterion is therefore a good reputation.  It is necessary that Christian leaders enjoy the confidence and trust of the community. Without a good reputation, whatever good work the leader does would be contradicted.  The credibility of a leader is everything.  Otherwise, he can no longer lead.  This explains why leaders must ensure that they do not do anything scandalous to tarnish their reputation.  St Paul himself wrote, “We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,  beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;  by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love,  truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left.”  (2 Cor 6:3-7)  In the gospel, Jesus warns us of the dangers of causing scandal when He said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones, those who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”  (Mt 18:6)  Leaders therefore must always be exemplary in their conduct, in their way of life, their speech and their actions.  Indeed, many Catholics have left the Church because of the arrogance and misconduct of priests, religious and lay leaders.  They were scandalized and give up faith in the Church.

Secondly, he must “be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be very much in touch with the Lord.  Only a person who has the mind of Christ, the heart of the Good Shepherd, the love and compassion of Christ can truly lead His people.  Jesus told the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too. You know the way to the place where I am going.”   Jesus comes to live in us forever in the Holy Spirit.  The place that Jesus is taking us is to His heart.  When His Spirit dwells in our hearts, that is where heaven is, where we find joy, peace and love.  Being receptive to the Holy Spirit is to be docile to the movements of the Spirit in one’s life and among one’s people.  In giving oneself to the power of the Holy Spirit, one is filled with the gifts of the Spirit as well, both of theological and functional gifts, for one’s personal sanctification and growth in grace and also for the work of building up the body of Christ to full maturity.   For this reason, a leader must always be in touch with the Holy Spirit, seeking His power and blessings.

Thirdly, a leader needs wisdom from God to lead his people.  Wisdom is not just knowledge, understanding and skills.  The wisdom of the Holy Spirit is to be able to see beyond what is earthly and worldly to the ultimate good and truth of life.  It is the grace to judge everything in this world in the light of the highest things of life, that is, union with God, union with our brothers and sisters, and peace of mind. It is the ability to know the right course of action and carry them out according to the spirit of the commandments.  So a leader who has wisdom must make all decisions in view of the ultimate good of all.  Jesus taught, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  (Mk 12:29-31)  A man who is sensual and worldly or self-centered cannot judge things and situations in the right perspective.

Fourthly, a Christian leader must always have Christ as His cornerstone.  Christ must be the center of our lives.  Cornerstone means the foundation.  “Jesus said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know my Father too.”  In other words, he must be deeply connected with the Lord. St Peter urges us, “The Lord is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house.”  Christ must be the reference point in all that he thinks or does.   He should always be asking, “Is that what and how Jesus would act in a particular situation?”  If he has the mind of Jesus and His Holy Spirit, he will be guided by the Lord to do the right thing and the wise thing even when the world thinks differently.  That is why some Christian leaders are more concerned about doing and functioning than really making time to pray and be connected with the Lord.  Even Jesus Himself took leave from His disciples to go to the hills or the desert to be alone in prayer.  A Christian leader who hardly meditates on the scripture, making time for intimacy with the Lord, and basking in His love and presence, is in great danger of losing focus and relying on his human wisdom and human strength rather than on the wisdom and power of God.

Finally, a Christian leader must have great faith in the Lord.  Otherwise, he will rely only on himself and when things happen or when he experiences success, it will get into his head, and he will start thinking highly of himself.  Pride is the downfall of many Christian leaders. When they become successful, they begin to attribute their success unconsciously to their talents and ingenuity although they might publicly claim that it is the work of God.  Jesus made it clear that He could do great things only because of His Father.  “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?  The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work. You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.”

Faith in Jesus is the basis for effectiveness in ministry.  Jesus assures us, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.”  In this way, we have no fear even when things do not happen the way we plan.  We must trust that if God wants it, He will make it happen.  Just like the apostles, we tend to worry too much.  But if it is a question of fulfilling our own plans and not the plan of God, then we should worry.  Otherwise, we must surrender everything into His hands and His wisdom for this is what the Lord said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.”

If we can find such people in our community, who are God-fearing, humble and faith-filled, they will indeed make great leaders like the deacons in the primitive Christian community.  We read that these were presented “to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.”  As a consequence, “The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.”  Indeed, more than just skills, talents and knowledge, we need leaders with wisdom and faith.  Together with a deep love for God and His people, they will help the community to grow in grace and in number.  The psalmist says, “For the word of the Lord is faithful and all his works to be trusted.  The Lord loves justice and right and fills the earth with his love.  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.”

 

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, April 29, 2017 — Would You Let Jesus Steer Your Boat?

April 28, 2017

Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 272

Image may contain: sky, swimming, outdoor and water

Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)

Reading 1 ACTS 6:1-7

As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the Apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Responsorial PsalmPS 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19

R. (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
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. Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Christ is risen, who made all things;
he has shown mercy on all people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 6:16-21

When it was evening, the disciples of Jesus went down to the sea,
embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum.
It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat,
and they began to be afraid.
But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”
They wanted to take him into the boat,
but the boat immediately arrived at the shore
to which they were heading.

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Image may contain: outdoor
Jesus walks on water by Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky
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Homily For John 6:16-21 By Scott Knowlton
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First let me tell you what this is not:

This is not the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat and there’s a storm, and the disciples are afraid and they wake Jesus up and he calms the storm.  Sometimes Jesus calms the storm, but this is not a story of Jesus calming the storm.

This is not the story of the disciples seeing something they can’t make out and Jesus says it’s me and Peter says if it’s you, then call me to come to you and He calls Peter out to walk on the water.  Sometimes Jesus calls us to step out of the boat, but this is not the story of Jesus calling us to step out of the boat.

This is not the story of the fishermen finishing cleaning their nets after they’ve been out fishing in the boat and Jesus calling them to leave their boats behind.  Sometimes Jesus calls us to leave everything behind, but this is not the story of Jesus calling us to leave our boat.

People who really study the Bible in depth are sometimes bothered trying to make everything fit together.  Here’s a story of Jesus walking on the water.  Is this the time Jesus commanded Peter to step out of the boat?  May be.  But sometimes the writers of the Gospel are wanting to stress a point.  So instead of trying to draw other boat stories into this one, I wanted to try to figure out what John is saying in this boat story or event.

Here’s what I came up with:  This is the story of Jesus coming at a rough time in a miraculous way and coming up along side them, joining them, and getting them through the rough time.  This is the story of Christ getting in our boat and giving us peace even in the midst of the storm. – Teaching us that when we have Christ with us, we have everything.  Here’s the thing about the disciples at this time:  They didn’t have Christ with them yet unless he was physically present with them.  It wasn’t until Jesus ascended to the father that He said he would send the Holy Spirit to live in us.

So that, NOW, no matter the circumstances, we who are his disciples now have Christ with us always and he will bring us through it – When we are His and He is ours, we have a song of victory.

Paul Acts 16:25 – But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns. – They’re in prison, yet they have Christ with them, and they’re singing and praying – when you have Christ with you, in you, you have a song in your heart, a song of victory, not a song of defeat, no matter the circumstances.  Do we still cry out to Him?  Yes.  And He lets us know he’s with us and He gets us through whatever it is.

There’s a story John Wesley tells from when he’s on a ship that’s crossing the ocean going from England to Georgia in the Colonies.  Wesley had never been on a ship before.  They’re 7 days from land and it’s the third and most violent storm.  They’re worried that the ship is going to be lost in a storm at sea.  “The sea spilled over the ship, split the mainsail, and poured between the decks as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.”  The English passengers screamed in fright; the German Moravians calmly continued singing the psalm without intermission.  Wesley was impressed with their faith in the face of death.  He saw the difference in the hour of trial, between those who truly knew Jesus Christ and those who didn’t.  Even though he’d been a preacher for some time now, he didn’t have that faith.

It’s almost as if The Moravians had Christ with them, in their boat, in themselves.  You could say, Wesley had seen Jesus walk on the water, but hadn’t let Christ in his boat.

The miracle then for the disciples was the fact that Jesus was there walking on the water.  The miracle for those alive today who believe that Jesus existed but don’t know him as Savior was that Jesus was walking on the water.

The miracle for me and you who know Him as Savior is that Jesus has joined us, He’s joined me and He’s joined you just as surely as he joined the disciples in that boat, yet even in a more miraculous way.  That’s the miracle I see coming out of this.

When he joins us, when we willingly receive Him, He enters into our very being.  He joins those who put their faith and trust in Him in such a way that no matter what we go through, we have a song in our heart because we have Him, Christ, in our heart, within us.  Like the Moravians who Wesley witnessed, that’s the miracle for all of us who call him Savior.  And Jesus knows what we need when we need it.

Who has a GPS?  Our GPS hasn’t been updated since we bought it.  When I cross the new bridge in Parkersburg (Rt. 50) the GPS shows I’m driving across the river.  I’m on a road, it’s just that the GPS doesn’t know it.  It looks like on the GPS that I’m driving on the water, but I’m not.

In this miracle, Jesus isn’t out there walking on a sand bar, it’s not an illusion.  He’s walking on the water. And He’s not out on the water going, “Where am I?”  He doesn’t need to recalculate.

Why do you think Jesus was out there walking on the water?  He knows what the disciples need.  He knows they need Him and He’s there for them, it Just happens to be they’re 3-4 miles from shore in the water.

How cool would it be today if this happened?  If the disciples were in say, the space shuttle and there’s space debris coming at them and there Jesus is, walking in space. And he hops on the space shuttle.  The fact that he’s out there without a space suit and without a space ship makes it pretty obvious he doesn’t need them!

On the water, Jesus doesn’t need to get into the boat.  Jesus is doing just fine without them or their boat- It’s that they need Jesus.

So many people know Jesus is there, just outside their boat, but they won’t let Him get in.  He wants to get in, and we’ve established that he doesn’t need to get in for His own sake, it’s for the sake of us on the boat!

Yet when we allow Him, He gets in our boat and allows us to do His work even though He can do it quite fine without us.

Jesus needs us?  ROFL.  He ALLOWS US the privilege of being used for His glory in His work.

But letting him get on the boat isn’t even enough.  For a Christian, it’s just a step.

It’s not enough to just let him on our boat, but we’ve got to let him steer, letting Him be the one who yells the commands, we no longer insist on being the captain, but we become the deck hand!

Giving up control is where it’s at.  He knows where we’re going.  We don’t know where we’re going.  We just know we’re supposed to be going, He knows WHERE.

When they willingly received them into the boat – BAM – they’re where they were going.  I’m thinking teleporting.  But that’s only where they were going right now.  The Christian life on this earth is not about a daily destination, it’s about the journey.  Tomorrow he’ll direct us somewhere else.

They hadn’t arrived at their final destination – Jesus still had places he wanted to take them.  When we have Christ guiding us, He’ll take us places we wouldn’t steer into ourselves.

Heard a sermon once where James McDonald said there are preachers that will tell you if you have faith, Jesus won’t steer you into the storms.  That’s not right.  Sometimes you’ll see the waterfall ahead, and you’ll think, “Jesus won’t let me go over the waterfall, but man he’s taking me awful close.”  And next thing you know, you’re going over the waterfall.  You’re looking straight down falling at the same speed as the water rushing toward to pool of water at the bottom and you’re thinking, “Jesus, what are you doing taking me over the waterfall?

Once when I was white water rafting – we stopped at this place and there was a big tall rock that you jumped off, when you jump you go pretty deep in the water, you have to hold your breath for a long time, but then after what seems like an eternity, you pop up from the water, gasping for breath, and you appreciate fresh air so much more than you ever have, and you realize you made it through.  THAT’S what it’s like sometimes when Jesus is steering our boat.  Even when He doesn’t calm the storm, he can maneuver WITHIN the storm so much better than we can.

Today – Some of you are sitting out there realizing “I need to give up control of my own boat.”  You’re already a Christian, you have Jesus in the boat, but you’re the captain and you consider Him your 1st Mate, Jesus is my co-pilot.  You like giving Jesus the orders.

Going back to white water rafting – When you’re rafting, You have a guide who steers the boat, what do you do?  PADDLE.  Our job isn’t to steer, it’s to paddle.  He might say right side forward, left side backward, he might say all forward.  He gives the directions and steers.  You paddle.  The guide knows the river.  You don’t know the river!  He knows where the rocks are below the surface.  He knows where the whirlpools are that will suck you under.

You need to start following orders and you need to do it by saying Yes to whatever he’s calling you to.  Aye, captain!  Yes, Jesus.

Some of you need to start by letting him on your boat.  He’s saying, “It is I; don’t be afraid.”  It might not immediately calm the storm.  Satan may stir up the waters even more so your ship tosses worse than it ever has.  Let Jesus on board and let Him take the wheel of the ship.  He can get you safely past the obstacles, safely through the seas.

https://scottknowlton.wordpress.com/sermons/jesus-walks-on-water-written-sermon-john-616-21/

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 APRIL, 2017, Saturday, 2nd Week of Easter
THE POOR NEED JESUS, THE BREAD OF LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 6:1-7; PS 32:1-2, 4-5,18-19; JOHN 6:16-21 ]

How many of us have been in the sea? We might have, and of course for many, only in cruise ships.  But how many have experienced being at sea in a boat during stormy weather?  Not many I believe, especially for Singaporeans.  So many of us cannot imagine what the disciples were going through in today’s gospel.  We read that “the wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough.”  If we were right in the middle of the sea or the lake, surely we would be very nervous and panicky because the waves and the wind could capsize the boat and we would all be drowned.  Fighting against the wind and stabilizing the boat is not easy.

In truth, many of us are in this situation.  We all face bad weather, or even storms in our lives.  We are in financial straits.  We are sick and not well.  We are worried about our medical expenses. We are also worried about the education of our children and their expenses.  We are all alone, and worried about getting old and becoming demented.  Who will look after us?  Indeed, we all have a thousand and one worries about our health, food, accommodation, medical help and care.   If we are in such a situation, then the gospel assures us that Jesus is with us.  To each one of us, He said, “It is I. Do not be afraid.”

But how is He with us today?  He comes to us through the Church, the Word of God and the Eucharist.  Hence, right from the start of the early Church, there is a close relationship between the preaching of the Word of God and charity to the poor; the Eucharist and almsgiving. Those who joined the primitive Christian community initially were mostly poor people, since Jesus came for the outcasts, the marginalized, the sick and the poor.   Those who were rich and respectable joined them only later when they heard the message of the Good News.  Furthermore, initially, they were mostly Jews but later on the Greek-speaking Jews were included.

In the first reading, we read of the dilemma of the apostles.  They were preaching the Word of God.  As the Word was preached, more and more members were added to the community.  But the apostles had no time to attend to the material and emotional needs of the poorer members of the community.  Should they preach the Word of God first, or should they feed the poor first?  The truth is that both are equally important in the proclamation of the Good News.  In the time of Jesus, He never proclaimed the gospel without the signs, seen in His miracles and exorcism; and in reaching out to the suffering and sinners.  St James also makes it clear that faith without good works is dead.  Until they experience the love of God in person, they will not be ready to hear the Word of God because they would just be nice words.

It was in this context that the deacons were appointed to help the apostles to attend to the poor. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, “You, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.”  It is important to note that the early Church gave priority to the proclamation of the Word of God before giving out food to the poor.  Clearly, there is a question of primacy; not so much of importance.  It would be wrong, they said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food.”

On the other hand, Jesus, in the gospel, fed the people first and then proclaimed the Word of God.  The episode of today’s gospel is sandwiched between the miracle of the feeding of the Five Thousand and the Discourse on the Eucharist.  Earlier we read of the compassion of Jesus when He saw the crowd coming to Him.   He said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”  (Jn 6:5)  This too must be our question as well.  How do we find resources to feed the many poor in this world who are deprived even of the basic needs of life?  Thus, Jesus showed Himself to be the Bread of Life by multiplying five barley loaves and two fish for the 5000 people.   By so doing, He manifested Himself as the Bread of life. It is for this reason that the celebration of the Eucharist today is closely connected with charity to the poor.  We cannot speak about celebrating the passion and self-giving of Jesus in the Eucharist without doing likewise after we receive Him.  So a true love for the Eucharist must necessarily lead to a real love and concern for the poor and the suffering.

However, this must be seen in perspective.  We come back to the same dilemma.  Should we feed the poor first or proclaim the Word of God?  In the case of Jesus, we read that when “they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”  (Jn 6:15)  They misunderstood Jesus as their political messiah.  They wanted Jesus only to satisfy their material and physical needs.  Later on, Jesus had to clarify and explain to them the real intent of the miracle of the loaves.  The Lord wanted them to go beyond the daily bread to the Heavenly Bread of life that can sustain them now and for eternity. Hence, it was followed by the discourse on Jesus as the Bread of Life, the manna from heaven.  The Eucharist would be the theme for the following week day masses.

Consequently, we must balance these two approaches and find the intrinsic link between them.  Whether we choose to use the first approach, namely, the proclamation of the Word of God before charity to the poor or vice versa, the end point remains the same.  We are called to bring them to Jesus, the Bread of life.  Only Jesus can fulfill all their desires and soothe all their fears and anxieties.  No matter how much we have in life, we will never have enough because that word does not exist in our vocabulary.  Man is always anxious of the future.  He wants to be in control.  He lacks faith and trust in God’s providence.

But if we give them Jesus, then they learn to trust in the Lord.  Indeed, we read that when Jesus was not with them, they were in trouble.  “It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them.”  Without Jesus, life is darkness.  There is no joy but only fear of the future.  With Jesus, they can overcome all storms and fears in their lives.  Indeed, the gospel noted, “They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.”  With Jesus, the journey would be smoother and made easier.  We will carry our trials and sufferings with cheerfulness and confidence in His divine assistance.

That is why, if we give the poor the gift of Jesus, they learn contentment and will be happy with whatever they have.  Happiness is not determined by how much we have, what food we eat and what we wear but it is in the mind.  Happiness has more to do with living a purposeful life, caring for others and reaching out to others, so long as we have the basic needs in life,.  When we keep thinking of ourselves, we can never be happy.  The best way to stop worrying is to think of others and not our own needs.

Besides the food we offer, to give them Jesus is to give them the Eucharist, the Bread of life, the Word of God to guide, inspire and enlighten them, so that they will live in hope and trust in His love.  When they walk a righteous and responsible life, they will eventually learn to help themselves and also be of service to others.  Sometimes, poverty is caused by irresponsibility and the failure to take charge of our lives and live responsibly according to the gifts the Lord has given to us.  Of course at times it is due to circumstances, such as illness and immobility.  For such people, we can be sure that the Lord will send kind people to look after them.  God will never abandon these people but will inspire people to respond to their needs.

Most of all, we are called to give them Jesus personally in the Eucharist.  In receiving the Lord, they will find strength to overcome their anxieties and fear.  With the Lord in their hearts, they will live not just for today but for eternity.  They can take their sufferings patiently and join them in union with the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross.  Through their sufferings, they too can grow in faith and in self-surrender like the early Christians, the apostles and the martyrs who suffered for Christ.  Whoever has Jesus in their life will always find fullness of life and love.

So, if we truly want to serve the poor or help the poor to look at life positively, we, as messengers of the Lord, must be like the deacons; be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom.  Even as we serve, we must never forget to devote ourselves to prayer and the Word of God.  Only those who cultivate a deep love for the Lord in the Eucharist will find the strength and capacity to see the face of Jesus in the poor.  That is why many religious congregations insist that their members spend an hour of adoration each day before the Lord before they go out for their apostolate. Only in this way will they see the face of Jesus’ compassion for them.  We can serve the poor but if we do not serve with joy, compassion and respect for them, we bring more harm than good.  Above all, give them Jesus, whether through your love for them, your good deeds, or if there is an opportunity, explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Sermon for John 6:16-21 By Curtis E. Nester
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TITLE Power and Peace in the Storm

TEXT: John 6:14-21

INTRO: Since he was a little boy, Bob had heard that his Father, Grandfather and Great-grandfather had all walked on water on their 21st birthdays. So, on his 21st birth-day, Bob his good friend Brian headed out to the lake. “If they did it, I can too!” he insisted. They got into a boat and paddled out to the middle of the lake. Bob stepped off of the side of the boat….and nearly drowned. Brian pulled him out of the water and they headed for home, embarrassed and soaking wet.

When Bob arrived back at the family farm, he asked his Grandmother, “Grandma, why can’t I walk on water on my 21st birthday, like my Father, and his Father, and his Father before him?” His Grandmother took him by the hands, looked into his eyes, and explained, “That’s because you were born in July, dear. Your Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather were all born in January.”

After the feeding of the 5,000, the crowd was so impressed by Jesus’ miracle that they were prepared to force Him to become their king, which was not in God’s timing. So, Jesus went up into a mountain to pray, while the disciples got into a boat to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

I. THE PERIL OF THE SEA (15-18)

A. The Disciples on the Sea

1. Jesus sent the disciples out on the sea of Galilee

(Mar 6:45) ”And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.”

2. A great storm arose

The sea is nearly 700 feet below sea level. Around the sea, the hills of Galilee reach nearly 1,400 feet above sea level. This makes it subject to sudden and violent storms as the wind comes over these mountains and drops suddenly onto the sea.

3. Their boat was in danger of sinking

B. We Also Face Storms

1. We have never been promised a life of ease

(Job 14:1) Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

2. Someone once said:

-You are either in the midst of a storm,

-You’ve just come out of a storm, or

-You’re headed into a storm!

3. Why the storms come:

-To strengthen our character,

-To teach a lesson about God’s will,

-To allow us to experience God in a fresh, new way

# (Robert Hamilton)

“I walked a mile with pleasure; she chatted all the way.

But left me none the wiser for all she had to say.

I walked a mile with sorrow; not a word said she.

But oh, the things I learned from sorrow,

when sorrow walked with me.”

II. THE POWER OF HIS PRESENCE (19-21)

A. Jesus Appeared Walking on the Water

1. The crowd went by boat or walked on land…

2. Jesus took a short cut & walked on the water

-Job said that: “(God) alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.” (Job 9:8)

B. The Disciples Were Afraid

1. They thought He was a ghost

2. Then He spoke to them

(v.20) But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.

C. Then They Took Him into the Boat

1. His presence makes all the difference…

2. The waves calmed and they were supernaturally

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

April 17, 2017

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

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

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

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

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

Alleluia PS 118:24

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

Gospel  JN 20:11-18

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

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


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


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


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


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


SO, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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