Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 33’

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

Image may contain: 3 people

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.

Image may contain: one or more people

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


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


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


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


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


SO, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2017

Second Sunday of Lent
Lectionary: 25

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

Reading 1 GN 12:1-4A

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

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

Abram went as the LORD directed him.

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

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

Reading 2 2 TM 1:8B-10

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

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

Verse Before The Gospel CF. MT 17:5

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

Gospel MT 17:1-9

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All we have to do is cooperate.”

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

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

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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

Related:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lord, it is good that we are here”

Mt 17:4

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

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

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

Transfiguration shows goal of our existence.

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

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

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

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

http://faithleap.org/Transfiguration_of_the_Lord.htm

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Homily from the Abbot *(Homily from 2013)

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 16, 2017

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 339

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

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

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

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Reading 1 GN 11:1-9

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

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

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

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

Alleluia JN 15:15B

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

Gospel MK 8:34—9:1

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

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

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

FINDING FOCUS AND INTEGRATION IN LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark 8:34-9:1 – Take Up the Cross

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

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

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

The Cross as Political Penalty

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

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

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

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

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

To “Save Life”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 20, 2016

Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent
Lectionary: 197

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Reading 1 SG 2:8-14

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

Or ZEP 3:14-18A

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

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

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

Alleluia

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

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The Visitation By Philippe de Champaigne.

Gospel LK 1:39-45

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

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From Living Space from The Carmelites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Consider

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

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

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

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

 

Examine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Edward Leen totally believes in the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in every human being. His book “Holy Spirit” works for everbody.

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

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

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

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

October 19, 2016

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

Reading 1 EPH 3:14-21

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

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

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

Gospel PHIL 3:8-9

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

Gospel LK 12:49-53

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

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

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

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

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 (Chaldean, Assyrian, Armenian and Syriac communities)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2016

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

Art: Rejoice from the Rooftops

Reading 1 EPH 1:11-14

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

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

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

AlleluiaPS 33:22

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

Gospel LK 12:1-7

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

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

Art: Fear the one that can cast you into Gehenna

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Commentary on Eph 1:11-14 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Commentary on Luke 12:1-7 From Living Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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