Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 69’

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 29, 2017 — “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” — “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

July 28, 2017

Memorial of Saint Martha
Lectionary: 400/607

Image result for Moses, art

Moses by Joseph Dawley

Reading 1 EX 24:3-8

When Moses came to the people
and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD,
they all answered with one voice,
“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”
Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and,
rising early the next day,
he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar
and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then, having sent certain young men of the children of Israel
to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
“This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 50:1B-2, 5-6, 14-15

R. (14a) Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his justice;
for God himself is the judge.
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Alleluia JN 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for Jesus and Martha, art

Jesus with Martha and Mary

Gospel  JN 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Or LK 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

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Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

For Saturday, July 29, 2017

St Martha

THE SPRING AND THE STREAM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JN 4:7-16LK 10:38-42]

The story of Mary and Martha has often been portrayed as a choice between contemplation and action. Mary seems to have chosen the way of contemplation whereas Martha chose the way of action.  But in truth, we know that contemplation and action are not mutually exclusive.  On the contrary, they are in fact complementary.  Indeed, for most of us today, we are called to be contemplatives in action.

That is to say, we are called to be first and foremost contemplatives so that we might be authentic activists for the Lord.  The truth is that the needs of the world cannot be addressed by us unless we are transformed by the Lord first.  For this reason, Mary spent time with the Lord at His feet, listening to Him.  It was not that Mary was unconcerned with the need to practise hospitality.  On the contrary, Mary gave Jesus the highest degree of hospitality by giving Him her whole attention.  After all, what is the meaning of hospitality if not to make a person feel at home and welcomed.  And this, Mary gave to Jesus just by listening to Him.  Indeed, to spend time with another person is to accord that person the highest level of hospitality that can be given.

This was not the case for Martha.  She did not know Jesus as well as Mary did.  She thought that the best way to attend to Jesus was to attend to His needs rather than to attend to Him.  And because she did not have an intimate relationship with Jesus, she became anxious, upset and competitive.  Her complaints to Jesus about Mary were signs of insecurity in her.  She was actually jealous of Mary that she seemed to enjoy a closer relationship with Jesus than her.  Hence, she wanted Jesus to know that she was more caring than Mary.  Not only that, she condemned Mary for not giving hospitality the way she did.  Inevitably, a person who lacks a relationship with another will try to substitute it with things and actions.  Martha as an activist, was insecure and restless because her works were not founded in a deep relationship with Jesus.  Instead of spending time with the Lord, she wanted to impress Jesus by doing things for Him rather than allowing Jesus to impress her.

Yes, between action and contemplation, the latter must come first.  Thomas Merton in his book “contemplatives in action” illustrates this beautifully when he wrote of the “spring and the stream.”  According to him, unless the waters of the spring are living and flow outwards, it remains but a stagnant pool.  If the stream is disconnected with the spring which is its source, then the stream would dry up.

Contemplation then, is the spring of living water, and the stream that flows out to others is the action that we perform. If action does not flow from an interior source in prayer, it becomes barren, competitive, selfish and anxious.  However if prayer does not flow into action, it is cut off from life.  That is why in the case of Mary, she was unmoved by what Martha said.  She did not retaliate or react.  She knew what was really important then, and she continued to be at the Lord’s feet.

Let us learn from Mary to be more courageous in spending time with the Lord.  It may seem to be a real waste of precious time which can be used for doing more things for the Lord.  Yet, what truly pleases God is not what we do but who we are.  And who we are as God meant us to be, can happen only when we open our hearts fully to Him so that He can transform us from within through the power of His love.  And when transformed, then the love of Jesus will flow out from us to others, doing what our Lord did for others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Commentary on Luke 10:38-42 From Living Space

Today we find Jesus in the home of the sisters, Mary and Martha. We know that they have a brother named Lazarus. We meet the sisters again, showing the same characteristics as in this story, in John’s account of the raising from death of their brother (John 11:1-44). They lived in Bethany, a village about 3-4 km from Jerusalem and it seems that Jesus was a familiar visitor to the house for at the time of Lazarus’ illness Jesus is told: “Your friendLazarus is sick.”

The story of Martha and Mary is, in a way, a contrast to the previous story about the Good Samaritan. It restores a balance in our following of Christ. The story about being a neighbour could lead us to think that only if we aredoing things are we loving God.

Martha was a doer to the point of being a fusspot. Martha, we are told, was “burdened with much serving”. Serving is something that Jesus himself did constantly and he urged his followers to do the same. But it should not be a burden. And, after Martha had complained about her sister, Jesus told her that she was “anxious and worried about many things”. A true servant does not experience anxiety and worry. It signifies a lack of peace.

Because Mary seemed to be doing nothing, Martha saw her as idling and even selfish. Martha must have been somewhat surprised when Jesus said that Mary had “chosen the better part” which would “not be taken from her”.

What was that better part? Was Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing nothing? No. We are told that she was “listening to him speak”. Listening to his message is something Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd they need to be doing all the time. And we have mentioned before that listening involves understanding, accepting and assimilating that message so that it becomes part of our very selves

If we do not spend time listening to him, how can we know that our activity is properly directed? It is easy for us Christians to be very busy but are we busy about the right things?

To answer that question we have to stop to listen, to discern and to pray. And, ultimately, the highest form of activity in our lives is contemplation, being in conscious contact with God and his Word. If I find myself saying that I do not have time to give some time to prayer or contemplation each day, then there is a serious imbalance in my priorities and in my understanding of what it means to love and serve my God.

This story blends nicely with the parable of the Good Samaritan which went before it. Taken together they express what should be the essence of Christian living – action for others that is guided by what we learn in contemplation. This was the pattern of Jesus’ own life – he spent long hours bringing healing to people’s lives (being a neighbour) but also retired to quiet places to be alone in communion with his Father. The same pattern must be ours too. We call it being “contemplatives in action”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2273g/

 

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JULY 2016, Friday, St Martha
PRAYER AND INTIMACY WITH THE LORD GIVES JOY TO MINISTRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1JN4, 7-16; LK 10:38-42 (Alt JN 11:19-27)  ]We tend to pit Mary against Martha as if one is better than the other.  This is because of what Jesus said about Mary, that she “has chosen the better part” and “it is not to be taken from her.”  In truth, we have to take the whole episode in perspective.  The gospel text is not teaching us that it is a greater thing to be a contemplative than an activist.  There can be no real opposition between these two.  Both are necessary in Christian life and are meant for the service of the Church and the mission of Christ.  Rather, the issue lies in the question of priority.

The mistake of Martha is not because she was active in serving Jesus.  Practising hospitality is a manifestation of love and concern.  Indeed, in the Church, we need people who are committed to service.  Giving ourselves to the service of the Church and the Christian community is an expression of our love for God.  However, this is not always the case.  Even though one might apparently be very much engaged in the service of God, we cannot always be sure or claim that it is a manifestation of our love for God.

So what is the sign that although we are doing the work of God, we are no longer working for God but for other less noble reasons?  When we become restless and agitated!  Restlessness and anxiety are signs that we are more concerned with our ego, our desire to please and earn the recognition and appreciation of our fellowmen than the desire to serve God.  In other words, we are seeking attention and self-esteem.  This was the case of Martha.  Jesus gently chided her not because it was wrong that she was busy preparing and making Him comfortable.  Nay, it was because she “was distracted with all the serving.”  She no longer experienced the joy of service.  That she subtly began to seek for Jesus’ attention and appreciation was demonstrated in her cry to the Lord saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.”

Indeed, when we begin to fret and worry, we are no longer serving the Lord but we have become more anxious about our achievements.  Our focus is no longer on the Lord nor even the people we serve but on ourselves, our performance and the impression we make on others.  As a result, we become irritable, insecure, jealous and restless.  For Martha, her fear of rejection even led her to complain about Mary in order to boost her status before the Lord.  In complaining about Mary, Martha was implying to Jesus that she was a better person than Mary.  When a person becomes fearful and insecure, he or she would even belittle others in order to boost his or her ego.  Such service that results from self love of course could not bring Martha joy.  She became a slave to her pride and fears.

We, too, often fall into such situations as well.  As priests, we are often worried about what others think of us when we preach or when we assume an office.  We are worried about the projects that we have started.  We become ambitious and tend to compare ourselves with others.  When we feel that others are doing better than us, we then become jealous and envious.  This is true for people involved in so-called works of humanitarianism.  Apparently, they are serving the world by their voluntary service.  Yet, quite often, such involvement in community service is rendered in a condescending manner.   It is given in such a way that the giver seems to be greater than the recipient.  We serve or give out of pity rather than empathy and compassion.

What is the root of the problem?  It is because our ministry is not grounded in love.  We are not capable of love.  This is a reality we must first come to realize.  We are not able to love as we should.  Our love is conditional and not selfless even if we want to love selflessly.  Within this context, 1Jn4:7 provides the key to authentic service.  St John wrote, “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”

Consequently, the only way to heal us of our brokenness and insecurity and negative image of self is by giving ourselves to Jesus who alone can heal us with his unconditional love. Indeed, John said, “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him: this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”

Truly, unless we have been loved by God, we cannot love unconditionally.  If not, we become irritable.  Only when we experience His love, can we share in His Spirit of love as well.  God’s love is prior to our love for others.  This is what St John is reminding us.  “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  He added, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

But how can we experience God’s love if not in prayer?  Hence, primacy must be given to prayer and a deep relationship with Jesus, which brings love.  Indeed, the gospel tells us that Jesus comes to serve and not to be served.  Before we can serve others, we must allow Jesus to serve us first.  That is what Jesus says in the parable about the faithful servant, for when the master returns, he will put on the apron to serve them.  This explains why “It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to the teaching of Jesus.  Being loved by Jesus is primary.  Service and ministry flows from the love of God in us.  Sharing in His Spirit, we are empowered to love in return. Work and ministry is only the expression of love.

What should give us joy is not so much our ministry.  Rather it is our union with God and because of our union with Him, we want to express this union by loving our fellowmen.  So it is immaterial how we serve so long as whatever we do is the sharing of God’s love.

Indeed St Augustine asks what will happen when we reach the end of our pilgrimage when there is no longer any work.  As we grow older, whether we are priests or grandparents, a time will come when we can no longer work.  Does it mean that our lives will be spent in misery because we cannot serve anymore?  Surely not!  When the time comes we will simply spend the rest of our lives in solitude contemplating on the wonders of God’s love for us and His presence.  Knowing that God is with us and that He is our all will give us more joy than all worldly enjoyments.  So, like those who retire gracefully and are no longer mobile, our joy then would be to busk in the presence of God and His love.

Today, we take courage and inspiration from St John’s gospel that God is patient with us.  He allows us to grow in faith as He did for Martha.  From an impatient person, she became a woman of faith.  Although it is true that when we meet her later in St John’s gospel, she is still the active person, for she was the one who ran out to meet Jesus, but instead of complaining that Jesus was late, she placed her faith in Jesus saying, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.”  Not only did she confess her faith in the resurrection but she also confessed her faith in Christ, saying, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into this world.”  Indeed, she learnt to surrender herself to Jesus.  Instead of wanting things her way, she surrendered to the Lord.  By professing her faith in the resurrection in Christ, she is saying in love, life does not come to an end.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Bishop Goh’s reflection reminded me of this little gem of a book:
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“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by J.P. Caussade
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 18, 2017 — God saves us so that we can save others.

July 17, 2017

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 390

Image result for Pharaoh's daughter finds a basket by the river, art, photos

Pharaoh’s daughter finds a basket by the river

Reading 1 EX 2:1-15A

A certain man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman,
who conceived and bore a son.
Seeing that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months.
When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket,
daubed it with bitumen and pitch,
and putting the child in it,
placed it among the reeds on the river bank.
His sister stationed herself at a distance
to find out what would happen to him.

Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe,
while her maids walked along the river bank.
Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it.
On opening it, she looked, and lo, there was a baby boy, crying!
She was moved with pity for him and said,
“It is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter,
“Shall I go and call one of the Hebrew women
to nurse the child for you?”
“Yes, do so,” she answered.
So the maiden went and called the child’s own mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,
“Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will repay you.”
The woman therefore took the child and nursed it.
When the child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter,
who adopted him as her son and called him Moses;
for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

On one occasion, after Moses had grown up,
when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor,
he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen.
Looking about and seeing no one,
he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting!
So he asked the culprit,
“Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?”
But the culprit replied,
“Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Then Moses became afraid and thought,
“The affair must certainly be known.”

Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put Moses to death.
But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34

R. (see 33) Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
I am sunk in the abysmal swamp
where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths;
the flood overwhelms me.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me;
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

AlleluiaPS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt

Gospel MT 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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18 JULY, 2017, Tuesday, 15th Week, Ordinary Time
THE TRAGEDY OF INDIFFERENCE AND INGRATITUDE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Ex 2:1-15Ps 68:3,14,30-31,33-34Mt 11:20-24   ]

God is our deliverer and He is our savior.  Indeed, it is God’s desire to save us.  He has always wanted to save His people.  It is significant that God saves us so that we can save others.  God saved Moses so that he could save His people.   The name given to Moses means “I draw you out of the waters.”  In the responsorial psalm, the psalmist also prayed, “I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold.  I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me. This is my prayer to you, my prayer for your favour.  In your great love, answer me, O God, with your help that never fails.”   We too were in our sins and sunk deep in the mess of life.  But Christ saved us through the waters of baptism when we died to our sins.  Through the passion and death of Christ, we are raised with Him in the resurrected life.

But we are not saved for our sake.  We are always saved for others.  When God delivers us, He has in mind for us to deliver others as well.  That was the case of Moses when he was saved from the waters so that he could lead the people across the waters from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land.  This was true of Peter and Paul as well.  They were saved by the Lord, forgiven and set free.  In turn they became great evangelizers.  This is something we must never forget.  God does not bless us just for our sake but for the sake of others.  Moses likewise responded by protecting his countryman from being bullied by an Egyptian.  He saw one of them being ill-treated and his natural instinct was to fight for his rights. Having been rescued himself, he did the same for others.

Only those who have suffered much can empathize much.   We tend to champion the underdogs only because we were once underdogs ourselves.  Those who have gone through difficult times can better identify with those who are suffering.  That was why Jesus became man.  He assumed our humanity, born into the poverty of His people and shared in the humanity of His people.  For this reason, Jesus was a compassionate high priest.  He understands our pains and our struggles.  He feels with us in our sickness, alienation and rejection.  We too, especially when we become better off and or have recovered from our struggles or illnesses, should learn to be more compassionate with those who are suffering.  The call to mission always springs from a desire to save and heal those who have suffered much like us.

But seeking to save others does not mean that we should right a wrong with another wrong.  Quite often in the world, we see much violence in the name of justice.  So called ‘religious people’ kill in the name of God.  Those who champion justice would kill others to fight for their rights.   We must be careful that we do not fall into extremes in the desire to help those who are in the same situation as were in.  That would be only a reaction, not an action on our part, in the face of suffering.  In the case of Moses, instead of helping the situation, he made it worse by killing the Egyptian.  In his disgust, he allowed his anger against injustice done to his countryman to be expressed in violence.  He took things into his own hands.  He did not follow the right way in his desire for justice.  To take a life was not in accordance with the plan of God. This was not the way to right a wrong.  We cannot overcome evil with evil.  “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.”  (Rom 12:17) St Paul made it clear.  “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  (Rom 12:19-21)

As a result he had to flee “from Pharaoh and made for the land of Midian.”  Perhaps, God needed to teach Moses the right way to deliver others from their misery.  He had to understand the ways of God.  He had to be healed of his old wounds first before he could heal others.  Otherwise, when we act out of our raw wounds, we tend to be excessive and reactive towards the oppressors or in undertaking certain actions. St Paul preached at Damascus soon after his conversion and almost got himself murdered as well.  (cf Acts 9:23-25) He too went away to Arabia to reflect on his conversion experience and grow in his relationship with the Lord. “Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.”  (Gal 1:17)  It is always dangerous when one acts from one’s wounds as many do in their attempts to fight for the marginalized.  It is said that oppressors were once a victim.  So much so that in helping those who are suffering, we act from the raw wounds that are still hurting us.

On the other hand, there are those who, although have been helped and delivered, remain inward-looking.  They take their privileges for granted, like the townsfolks from Chorazin and Bethsaida.  “Jesus began to reproach the towns in which most of his miracles had been worked, because they refused to repent. For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgement day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.” In spite of the miracles that Jesus performed for them, they were not responsive to the Good News.  Their lives were not changed or transformed.  Perhaps Jesus’ remark in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine’s, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you” (Mt 7:6), came from such encounters.

There are many who have taken for granted the blessings they received in life.  Instead of being grateful and thankful to God and to those who have blessed them, they remained indifferent.  This is the tragedy of life.  There are some people who are so grateful for the little things we have done for them.  They remember our kindness for life and in turn want to bless others with whatever blessings they have received.  Indeed, we hear stories of those who have been helped by the Church when they were poor.  Now that they have become rich, they recount their stories of their gratitude to the Church for standing by them in those difficult times.  They remain eternally grateful to God and the Church and seek to help those who are less fortunate.

Then there are others we have helped much, financially and in so many other ways.  They take us for granted, remain unappreciative and demanding.  What is most hurting is that those people whom we have sacrificed our lives for, given all we could and supported them in every way, would later turn against us.   For such people, we do not condemn them.  They deserve our pity rather than judgment.  This was the way Jesus felt for those people in Chorazin and Bethsaida.  He spoke out of sorrow for them rather than anger at their ignorance and indifference. At the end of the day, they were the ones who deprived themselves of the fullness of the grace of God’s blessings.

Today, we are called to be like the psalmist who is ever so grateful to God for delivering him from the troubles of life.   “I have sunk into the mud of the deep and there is no foothold.  I have entered the waters of the deep and the waves overwhelm me.  In your great love, answer me, O God, with your help that never fails.  As for me in my poverty and pain let your help, O God, lift me up.  I will praise God’s name with a song; I will glorify him with thanksgiving.  The poor when they see it will be glad and God-seeking hearts will revive; for the Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains.”  The Lord listened to the prayers of the needy and those in the depths of their pains.  Filled with gratitude and joy, they glorify God in their lives.  Let us not receive the grace of God in vain, like the people in the towns that Jesus preached.


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved

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

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Exodus 2:1-10 . BIRTH AND PRESERVATION OF MOSES.

1. there went a man of the house of Levi, &c. Amram was the husband and Jochebed the wife (compare Exodus 6:2 , Numbers 26:59 ). The marriage took place, and two children, Miriam and Aaron, were born some years before the infanticidal edict.

2. the woman . . . bare a son, &c. Some extraordinary appearance of remarkable comeliness led his parents to augur his future greatness. Beauty was regarded by the ancients as a mark of the divine favor.
hid him three months–The parents were a pious couple, and the measures they took were prompted not only by parental attachment, but by a strong faith in the blessing of God prospering their endeavors to save the infant.

3. she took for him an ark of bulrushes–papyrus, a thick, strong, and tough reed.
slime–the mud of the Nile, which, when hardened, is very tenacious.
pitch–mineral tar. Boats of this description are seen daily floating on the surface of the river, with no other caulking than Nile mud (compare Isaiah 18:2 ), and they are perfectly watertight, unless the coating is forced off by stormy weather.
flags–a general term for sea or river weed. The chest was not, as is often represented, committed to the bosom of the water but laid on the bank, where it would naturally appear to have been drifted by the current and arrested by the reedy thicket. The spot is traditionally said to be the Isle of Rodah, near Old Cairo.

4. his sister–Miriam would probably be a girl of ten or twelve years of age at the time.

5. the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river–The occasion is thought to have been a religious solemnity which the royal family opened by bathing in the sacred stream. Peculiar sacredness was attached to those portions of the Nile which flowed near the temples. The water was there fenced off as a protection from the crocodiles; and doubtless the princess had an enclosure reserved for her own use, the road to which seems to have been well known to Jochebed.
walked along–in procession or in file.
she sent her maid–her immediate attendant. The term is different from that rendered “maidens.”

6-9. when she had opened it, she saw the child–The narrative is picturesque. No tale of romance ever described a plot more skilfully laid or more full of interest in the development. The expedient of the ark, the slime and pitch, the choice of the time and place, the appeal to the sensibilities of the female breast, the stationing of the sister as a watch of the proceedings, her timely suggestion of a nurse, and the engagement of the mother herself–all bespeak a more than ordinary measure of ingenuity as well as intense solicitude on the part of the parents. But the origin of the scheme was most probably owing to a divine suggestion, as its success was due to an overruling Providence, who not only preserved the child’s life, but provided for his being trained in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Hence it is said to have been done by faith ( Hebrews 11:23 ), either in the general promise of deliverance, or some special revelation made to Amram and Jochebed–and in this view, the pious couple gave a beautiful example of a firm reliance on the word of God, united with an active use of the most suitable means.

10. she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter–Though it must have been nearly as severe a trial for Jochebed to part with him the second time as the first, she was doubtless reconciled to it by her belief in his high destination as the future deliverer of Israel. His age when removed to the palace is not stated; but he was old enough to be well instructed in the principles of the true religion; and those early impressions, deepened by the power of divine grace, were never forgotten or effaced.

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he became her son–by adoption, and his high rank afforded him advantages in education, which in the Providence of God were made subservient to far different purposes from what his royal patroness intended.

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she called his name Moses–His parents might, as usual, at the time of his circumcision, have given him a name, which is traditionally said to have been Joachim. But the name chosen by the princess, whether of Egyptian or Hebrew origin, is the only one by which he has ever been known to the church; and it is a permanent memorial of the painful incidents of his birth and infancy.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/exodus/exodus-2.html

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Commentary on Matthew 11:20-24 From Living Space
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After the apostolic discourse of chap 10, Matthew goes back to narrative.  In two passages preceding today’s Jesus reassures the disciples of John the Baptist that he is indeed the “one who is to come”, that is, the Messiah and Saviour-King.
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This is followed by a passage where Jesus complains of those who close their minds to God’s word.  John the Baptist led the life of an ascetic in the wilderness and they did not listen to him.  Jesus socialised freely with all kinds of people and they accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.
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So today Jesus warns three towns where he spent much of his time: Chorazin, Bethsaida and especially Capernaum.  If Jesus had done in the pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon what he had down in these predominantly Israelite towns, they would have converted long ago. Even Sodom, the biblical image of the very worst in immorality, would have done better.
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It is important for us to realise that, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is primarily speaking to us today.  If many non-Christians had been given the opportunities that we have received through our membership of the Christian community, they could very well be living much more generously than we do.  To what extent are we listening to God’s word?  How much of it do we try to understand?  And how much of it is reflected in our lifestyle?  Are we clearly and obviously followers of Christ and his Way?
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Discourse of the Mission occupies charter 10.  Chapters 11 and 12 describe the Mission which Jesus carried out and how he did it. The two chapters mention how the people adhered to him, doubted the evangelizing action of Jesus, or rejected it.
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John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, does not succeed in understanding him (Mt 11, 1-15). The people, who looked at Jesus out of interest, were not capable to understand him (Mt 11, 16-19). The great cities around the lake, which listened to the preaching of Jesus and saw his miracles, did not want to open themselves up to his message (this is the text of today’s Gospel) (Mt 11, 20-24). The wise and the doctors, who appreciated everything according to their own science, were not capable to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11, 25). The Pharisees, who trusted only in the observance of the law, criticized Jesus (Mt 12, 1-8) and decided to kill him (Mt 12, 9-14).
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They said that Jesus acted in the name of Beelzebul (Mt 12, 22-37). They wanted a proof in order to be able to believe in him (Mt 12, 38-45). Not even his relatives supported him (Mt 12, 46-50). Only the little ones and the simple people understood and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).  They followed him (Mt 12, 15-16) and saw in him the Servant announced by Isaiah (Mt 12, 17-21).
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• This way of describing the missionary activity of Jesus was a clear warning for the disciples who together with Jesus walked through Galilee. They could not expect a reward or praise for the fact of being missionaries of Jesus. This warning is also valid for us who today read and meditate on this discourse of the Mission, because the Gospels were written for all times.  They invite us to confront the attitude that we have with Jesus with the attitude of the persons who appear in the Gospel and to ask ourselves if we are like John the Baptist (Mt 11, 1-15), like the people who were interested (Mt 11, 16-19), like the unbelieving cities (Mt 11, 20-24), like the doctors who thought they knew everything and understood nothing (Mt 11, 25), like the Pharisees who only knew how to criticize (Mt 12, 1-45) or like the simple people who went seeking for Jesus (Mt 12. 15) and that, with their wisdom, knew how to understand and accept the message of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).
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• Matthew 11, 20: The word against the cities which did not receive him. The space in which Jesus moves during those three years of his missionary life was small; only a few square kilometres along the Sea of Galilee around the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin. Only that!  So it was in this very reduced space where Jesus made the majority of his discourses and worked his miracles.  He came to save the whole of humanity, and almost did not get out of the limited space of his land.  Tragically, Jesus has to become aware that the people of those cities did not want to accept the message of the Kingdom and were not converted.
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The cities become more rigid in their beliefs, traditions and customs and do not accept the invitation of Jesus to change life.
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• Matthew 11, 21-24: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are worse than Tyre and Sidon. In the past, Tyre and Sidon, inflexible enemies of Israel, ill treated the People of God. Because of this they were cursed by the prophets. (Is 23, 1; Jr 25, 22; 47, 4; Ex 26, 3; 27, 2; 28, 2; Jl 4, 4; Am 1, 10). And now Jesus says that these cities, symbols of all evil, would have already been converted if in them had been worked all the miracles which were worked in Chorazin and Bethsaida.
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The city of Sodom, the symbol of the worse perversion, was destroyed by the anger of God (Gn 18, 16 to 19, 29). And now Jesus says that Sodom would exist up until now, because it would have been converted if it had seen the miracles that Jesus worked in Capernaum. Today we still live this same paradox.  Many of us, who are Catholics since we were children, have many solid and firm convictions, so much so that nobody is capable of converting us. And in some places, Christianity, instead of being a source of change and of conversion, becomes the refuge of the most reactionary forces of the politics of the country.
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Personal questions
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• How do I place myself before the Good News of Jesus: like John the Baptist, like the interested people, like the doctors, like the Pharisees or like the simple and poor people?
• Do my city, my country deserve the warning of Jesus against Capernaum, Chorazion and Bethsaida?
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Concluding Prayer
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Great is Yahweh and most worthy of praise
in the city of our God, the holy mountain,
towering in beauty,
the joy of the whole world. (Ps 48,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore (July 14, 2015)
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St John captured it so poignantly when he wrote “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  (Jn 1;11)  Jesus who loved His people so much and who came for them even instructed His disciples “not to go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.  Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt 10:5f)

 

The failure to respond to grace is the gist of today’s gospel.  The scripture readings invite us to consider the graces that we have received from God.  Like the Chosen People of God, we fail to take cognizance of the many wonderful graces we have received from Him with respect to our faith, life, health, material sufficiency, loved ones and friends.  Miracles are happening all around us every day and yet we are so blind to the wondrous works that God is doing for us and with us.  We fail to see these as signs from God, tokens of His love and mercy for us.

Instead, most of us take God and His graces for granted.  In Singapore, we are so fortunate in that there are ample avenues for those of us who are serious about deepening our faith.  We have the daily Eucharist celebrated at our parishes, and as if these are not near enough, we even have the Eucharist brought to the vicinity of our work place.  We have plenty of Adoration chapels open for us to pray in comfort.  There is even one, the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at CSC, which is open 24 hours throughout the year.  For those of us who are internet savvy, there are plenty of websites that offer scripture reflections for the day.  In terms of faith formation, we have talks, seminars and retreats in the parishes and our retreat houses.  And if we need community, there are neighbourhood groups and numerous movements and organizations to join, according to the charisms God has bestowed us with.  But how many of us avail of these resources?  More importantly, how many of us are making full use of the graces given to us so that we can deepen our faith and grow in charity for ourselves and for each other?

Not only do we take God and our faith for granted, we take our loved ones for granted as well.  It is ironical that we are more grateful to strangers and acquaintances who help us with small favours now and then, rather than to our friends and loved ones who spend much time and resources on us.  The love and kindness shown to us by our spouse and intimate friends seem to be something owed to us and not perceived as graces given to us.  When we take people for granted, especially those who are close to us, we do not grow in our love for them.  We are not appreciative because what is supposedly a gift from their goodness is seen as a right due to us.

Finally, most of us have received the blessings of God in vain.  God has blessed us with talents, wealth, health, career and success, yet we do not use our resources to help others, to contribute to the Church and society.  Instead of using what the Lord has blessed us with for the good of humanity, we use them only for ourselves.  Worse still are those who use their talents and resources for evil purposes, to manipulate others, to acquire more power and wealth for themselves.

If we have received the grace of God in vain, there will be serious repercussions. Jesus has this to say to us, “And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard as the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.” In warning them about the imminent judgment, He was not saying that God is a vindictive and merciless God.  On the contrary, Jesus was trying to express the lamentation of God who could not bear to see the self-destruction of His people.  The truth is that what we sow will be what we reap.  The disastrous consequences will be brought upon by ourselves.  For failing to use the graces of God responsibly and gratefully, we will cause ourselves and even our innocent loved ones to be destroyed by our sins.

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You can read all of Bishop Goh’s sermon from last year in our archives:
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O God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small…

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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 25, 2017 — “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.” — “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

June 24, 2017

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 94

Image result for art, jesus walking on water

While walking on the water, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

Reading 1 JER 20:10-13

Jeremiah said:
“I hear the whisperings of many:
‘Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!’
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.’
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
for he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my children,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness;
in your great mercy turn toward me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.
Let the heavens and the earth praise him,
the seas and whatever moves in them!”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Reading 2 ROM 5:12-15

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—
for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world,
though sin is not accounted when there is no law.
But death reigned from Adam to Moses,
even over those who did not sin
after the pattern of the trespass of Adam,
who is the type of the one who was to come.

But the gift is not like the transgression.
For if by the transgression of the one the many died,
how much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many.

AlleluiaJN 15:26B, 27A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord;
and you also will testify.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 10:26-33

Jesus said to the Twelve:
“Fear no one.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

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From The Abbot in the Desert

Image may contain: sky, cloud, outdoor and nature

Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

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My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

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“Fear no one.”  —  The words of Jesus from today’s Gospel according to Saint Matthew are so strong!  “Fear no one.”  We can only be free from fear and from fears if we truly believe in the Lord and live for everlasting life.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Jeremiah.  He had lots of people trying to end his life and to make his life difficult if he lived.  He tells us that even his friends had been working against him.  Yet he knows that God is with him and that he need not fear.  Of course, sometimes his enemies made his life difficult.  So to have God with us is not magic and we can still encounter very difficult situations.  But if our trust is in the Lord, we know that in the end, all shall be well.  That end may be after our death!  But the challenge is simply to cling to the Lord!

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans.  This reading tells us that sin has entered the world through one man, Adam, but that through another man, Jesus the Christ, the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.  The message is the same:  sin and evil and bad things will no triumph in the long run.  Rather, God will triumph and will vanquish all sin and evil.  To cling to this promise of the Lord is the challenge of our spiritual life!

Today’s Gospel is from the Gospel of Matthew.  We return to the words of Jesus:  “Fear no one.”  In today’s world, we Christians are more and more likely to encounter problems.  The values of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and of the Church, are now being spurned in our world and called into question.  If we cling to these teachings and words, we are accused of being people of hate and of promoting “hate speech.”  This condition in our world will most likely only increase.  Christians are already the most persecuted group in the world.

We should not want to abandon our faith in order to avoid being reject, mocked, scorned and judged by others.  Most of us want a simple and quiet life to live in peace.  That simplicity and quietness may well be taken away from us today.  The challenge for us is to hold fast to the words of Jesus:  “Fear no one.”  That also means that we must cling to the teachings of the Lord Jesus without any fear or even without concern for what may happen to our lives.

Let us be ready to walk with the Lord to suffering and death, rejoicing that we are found worthy to suffer for clinging to the words and the teachings of the Lord Jesus.

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Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 JUNE, 2017, Sunday, 12th Week, Ordinary Time
THE LOSS OF FEAR OF GOD AS THE CAUSE OF AMORALITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JER 20:10-13; ROM 5:12-15; MT 10:26-33  ]

The fundamental message of Christianity is that Jesus is the Saviour of the World.  This is the Good News that we are called to proclaim.  Indeed, this is the gist of the message of St Paul when he wrote, “If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift.”  For St Paul, the thought that Adam could have caused so many of us to sin, the death of Jesus will surely bring about greater grace for all.

However, in order that we grasp the centrality of the Christian message of salvation, we must be aware of our sinfulness.  Yet the real challenge in this century is that we are numb towards sin.  The world today suffers from a narcosis of sin.  Today, the world has lost all consciousness of sin.

Truly, we do not feel that we are sinners.  Most of us are quite contented with ourselves.  At most we might admit that we have some imperfections, after all, we are human.  But we have no sin.  That is to say, we never do anything that is wrong consciously.  Imperfection is a weakness. We are therefore exonerated.  Otherwise, most of us would blame society for the sins of the world.  We think that our sins are due to the environment or the structure of society.  This is not to deny that the environment does indeed lead us to sin.  In a secularized world, it is certainly more difficult to remain chaste in relationships and focus on God.  Sometimes people lament about the state of society today as if they are not part of society.  It would be a deception to exonerate ourselves completely for the reality of sin in our own lives and that of society since we are part of society.

Furthermore, today modern psychology seems to be suggesting that guilt is wrong and unhealthy for the person because it leads us to depression.  Of course we are not speaking of an over scrupulous kind of guilt that springs from some kind of neurosis.  We are talking about guilt that comes from the conscience which instinctively informs the person that what he is thinking or doing is wrong.  This conscience is erroneously identified with bad guilt when in fact, guilt is something given by God as an intuitive and instinctive indicator even before we can rationally understand our actions as being not in order.

Indeed, today, there is the emphasis on the “feel good” and “feel great” mentality.  The stress is on putting up a good image, dressing well, going for make-over.   It is very difficult to tell someone that he is wrong or that what he is doing is not the best.  No one wants to be told that he is wrong or that he is not good.  People only want to be affirmed.

This explains why Jeremiah was hated by his contemporaries.  He was inspired by God to warn the leaders that terrible disasters would befall them in the future if they continued to profane the temple and worship false gods. Their enemies would conquer them and they would be sent into captivity and exile in a foreign land.  Of course, the temple priests the nobles and the leaders were not pleased with such perceived curses from Jeremiah.

So instead of getting rid of their sin, they got rid of the irritant that became on obstacle to their remaining in their sins.  They persecuted Jeremiah and waited for an occasion to put him in prison.  Instead of watching their own actions and seeing whether Jeremiah was speaking the truth, they silenced the truth by silencing their hearts and watched for an occasion to cause Jeremiah to fall.   Isn’t this what we do as well?  Instead of praying for humility and trying to assess objectively what others say about us, we react by finding ways and means to destroy our perceived opponents.

What is the cause of all this?  It is the loss of the fear of God!  Of course, we are not speaking of a kind of servile fear of God where God is seen as a policeman waiting to catch us in our sins and mistakes.  We are speaking of a reverential fear of God who is the creator of all and has power over life and death; who is the Absolute Truth and does not tolerate falsehood; who is holiness and not compatible with sin; who is our deliverer and protector from all harm.  Godly fear is therefore not so much a kind of slavish fear but a reverential fear or awesomeness in the face of God’s holiness, mercy and love.  It is to give respect to his name, as the opening prayer suggests.

The paradox is that when God is no longer feared, then man begins to fear his fellowmen, nature and the world.  Why?  Without God, he feels that he is now fully in charge of the world and his own life. He has to protect his self-interests.  Thus, he manipulates his fellowmen and nature for his self survival. He sees others either as his enemies or competitors.  When we do not fear God, we do all kinds of things that destroy our fellowmen and they in turn take revenge on us.

When God is not respected as the principle of life and the source of Truth, man is confused and lost over what is right and wrong.  Indeed, what are the right values for society?  It appears that the answer to what is right or wrong is no longer dependent on some objective truth and values but what we perceive to be right or wrong.  So long as we agree that something is right, then we are right.  Thus, the truth is based on consensus and popular opinion.  Is there no objectivity in truth?  Does it mean that if we agree that cannibalism or euthanasia is permissible, then it is the right thing to do?  Man has made himself the sole judge as to what is right and wrong.

Indeed, the loss of the sense of sin is due to the fact that modern man has total disregard for God.  Since there is no sense of morality, of what is right or wrong, there is no need to seek forgiveness.  As a consequence, many of us do not feel the need for salvation either.  They think they are OK.  Nothing is wrong with them.  If there is anything wrong, it is the world or someone else.  As a consequence, he has no respect for the dignity of human life.  As St Paul pointedly said, “there was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.”

To overcome the dullness of the conscience today, we need to preach Godly fear.    What is Godly fear?  Firstly, Godly fear is to see God as absolute truth, as Jesus said, “For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear.” Truly, God will vindicate us in the end.  The truth will always be victorious at the end of the day.  No one can suppress the truth for long.  Time will reveal the truth to us.  God, who is on the side of truth and justice, will win the battle for us, if not soon or in this life, we can be sure that truth will prevail at the end of the day.

Secondly, Godly fear means our lives are in the hands of God so that we need “not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”  We must remember that happiness in life is more than just keeping our body intact.  Happiness is found in the soul, a good conscience.  If our conscience is not at peace, we will eventually fall sick as well because the body is the window of the Spirit.  The unhappiness and guilt in our soul will manifest itself in our sicknesses.  Indeed, many of our sicknesses are due to spiritual causes rather than physical.  If we compromise the truth, our conscience will haunt us not only in this life but in the next.

Thirdly, Godly fear means that God is on the side of truth as Jesus assures us, “So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  Yes, if we are truthful before God and truthful before man, if our conscience is clear, we never need to fear anyone because we have nothing to hide.  Fear of God and fear of man is always the consequence of shame and embarrassment. That is why we want to hide our sins and wrong doings.

Indeed, Godly fear will spur us to faith and action.  A healthy fear of God will lead us to value what is truly good and right.  It will give us wisdom and right judgment since we see everything from the perspective of God, of truth and of the ultimate end.  Such fear keeps us humble and obedient to His Word, relying on His power and grace.  Godly fear makes us have great respect for God’s commandment of love for everyone.  When we fear God, then we no longer fear the world, especially falsehood.

So let us be like Jeremiah and Jesus who entrusted their cause to God. So too, we can entrust our life to Christ.  Let us pray with confidence like the psalmist, knowing that God in His great love will answer our prayers for justice.  If the heavenly Father takes care of the insignificant sparrows, surely He will look after us.  Indeed, “the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Psalm 25

To you, Lord, I lift my mind!

My God, in you I trust;

do not disappoint me,

lest my enemies gloat over me.

Let not those who look to you be put on shame,

but shame the lawless in their scheming.

Make me know your ways, Lord,

and teach me your paths.

Guide me along the path of your truth,

and teach me well,

for you are God who will save me;

it is you I look to at all times.

Be mindful of your eternal compassion, Lord,

and your faithfulness;

they are as old as time itself

do not remember the sins of my youth;

but me, in your love remember me,

in keeping with your goodness, Lord.

the Lord is upright and good;

he points out the way to those who stray.

He guides the humble along the path of justice;

He teaches his way to the lowly.

All the ways of the Lord are love and truth

for those who keep their word

and abide by his precepts.

For your name’s sake, Lord,

wash away my sin,

great as it is.

If a man revere the Lord,

he will show him the path to take.

His soul will enjoy prosperity

and his children will inherit the land.

The friendship of the Lord is for those who revere him;

to them he reveals his covenant.

My eyes are forever fixed on the Lord;

it is he who frees my feet from the snare.

Turn to me and pity me,

lonely wretch that I am!

Relieve the anguish of my heart

and do away with all my pain.

Look upon my misery and anguish

and forgive me all my sins.

See how many are my foes,

my treacherous enemies who hate me.

Preserve my life and rescue me;

since I trust in you,

let me not be shamed.

Let integrity and righteousness watch over me,

for I wait on you.

Rescue Israel, O God,

from all its troubles.

 

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, April 12, 2017 — “Spy Wednesday” — Do our lives contradict our dignity as the disciples of Jesus?

April 11, 2017

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Wednesday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 259

Reading 1 IS 50:4-9A

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 AND 33-34

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak,
I looked for sympathy, but there was none;
for consolers, not one could I find.
Rather they put gall in my food,
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving:
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Verse Before The Gospel

Hail to your, our King;
you alone are compassionate with our errors.

OR

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel MT 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.

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On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.'”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.

When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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12 APRIL, 2017, Wednesday of Holy Week
LOSING FOCUS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 50:4-9; MATTHEW 26:14 – 25 ]“The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’”  It is easy to lose focus in life, especially in times of success or failure or challenges.  This was the case of Judas.  He was a member of the Twelve.  What was the real reason for Judas’ betrayal of Jesus?  Scholars are not in agreement.  John’s gospel suggests that he was greedy.  “He was a thief; he was in charge of the common fund and used to help himself to the contributions.”  (Jn 12:6)  But some scholars suggest that Judas was disillusioned with Jesus for not starting a revolution to claim back the independence of Israel from their Roman enemies.

This indeed is the tragedy for many of us.  Even priests and religious are not exempted.  We enter into a priestly or religious vocation but along the way we are tainted by the lure of the world; pleasure, power and money; so much so we forget our original intention of responding to a religious vocation. Or it could be because of sufferings in the ministry; being misunderstood and unappreciated, we give up.  Most of all, many suffer from disillusionment when we see others not doing what they should be doing and the authorities seem to be supporting the rich, the powerful and the influential.  What I say to priests apply to all in Church ministries and full time workers in the Church.  Many respond to the call of service and the spread of the gospel with good intentions, but end up fighting for position, power and honour, and squabbling for recognition.  In some cases, the politics, injustice and discrimination is so rife, one cannot but give up hope and faith in the institution, if not Christ as well.   Otherwise, the lack of support and appreciation from the community will lead one to discouragement and despondence.

Even in the area of personal life, we too can lose focus.  Those who are married start with the great hope of building a loving relationship with their spouse and raising up a loving, caring and supportive family.  Along the way, many lose their focus.  They do not spend time with their spouse, share their life, their joys and sorrows, their successes and trials, aspirations and fears. Couples take each other for granted and hardly spend time with each other.  As a result they grow more and more distant until they no longer feel with and for each other.  With the lack of intimacy and personal sharing, they lose touch of each other.  When love wanes, the vacuum in their lives is either filled by ambition, responsibilities, career or another person.  This is how affairs always begin.   What has happened to their dream of having each support, love, care, encourage and inspire the other, staying by each other’s side, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, in riches and poverty till death to them part?  Infidelity to one’s partner is so common today that trust in the institution of marriage has eroded.  This explains why partners who are equally accomplished in their careers prefer to cohabitate than marry today than risk the messy process of getting a divorce.

Even for those of us who are career minded.  The intention of earning more money and to be successful in career and business is to provide a good life for our spouse, children and loved ones.  Money is a means to an end; not the end itself.  Then again, we forget our original purpose.  We get so caught up with our career, fame, money and power that we neglect our family.  We become strangers to our children and spouse.  We end up as financial providers, bursary dispensers and discipline masters.  At the end of the day, with all our success and money, do we really bring happiness, love and unity to the family? True happiness in life is when we are with our loved ones, sharing, caring, laughing, joking and doing things together as a family.

Today, Jesus teaches us how to remain focused on our vision and mission in life.  Although troubles were ahead of Him, even death, Jesus was unshaken.  Doggedly and with singularity of purpose, He proceeded towards Jerusalem, the place of His passion and glory.  He did not shrink from fear.  Deliberately, He told His disciples that they would meet for the Passover Meal. The way Matthew described it seems as if it was all pre-planned by the Lord.  He instructed the disciples, “Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him, ‘The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.’”  Earlier on in His ministry, when the disciples were searching for Jesus, He said, “’Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.”  (Mk 1:38f)

What is the secret to remaining focused?  Firstly, we must again and again remind ourselves of our vision, mission and purpose of what we are doing.  It is not enough to just keep on doing and repeating what we are doing each day without a deliberate intention and focus.  We must not allow routine to set in and make us act like robots.  Rather, we must be intentional in what we do each day, like the Suffering Servant in the first reading.  “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue, so that I may know how to reply to the wearied.  He provides me with speech.”  His calling was to give hope and encouragement to the weak and those who are tired.  This too was the mission of Jesus when He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Mt 11:28)

Secondly, we must pray and listen.  The suffering servant said, “Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.”  We are told that similarly, the Lord also woke up early in the morning to pray and listen to His Father.  “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.”  (Mk 1:35)  This is the secret of our Lord.  Intimacy with the Father, basking in His love and dialogue with Him is the key, the strength and passion for His ministry.  Many of us do not pray to God. Neither do we have intimacy with our loved ones.  This is why we lose our passion, zeal and capacity to love.

Thirdly, we must trust in the power of God to save us.  Jesus did not take things into His own hands, unlike Judas who tried to force the hand of God to act.  Like the Suffering Servant, Jesus relied on the defence that came from God.  “The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.  So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed.”   We too must remember that success is not all hard work and strategy, but everything is in the hands of God.  So we must entrust our work to God’s hand and not think that we can do it our way always.  This was what the Suffering Servant and the Lord did. “In your great love, O Lord, answer my prayers for your favour.  Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength.”

Fourthly, we must never retaliate. “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.”  Jesus taught us this in the sermon on the mount.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”  (Mt 5:38-41)  We must act, not react.  To act means to think through carefully without vested interest how we should best respond to a situation, for the good of the enemy and for the greater good of the community.

Finally, we must at all times keep a clear conscience.  This was what the Suffering Servant said, “My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me? Then let us go to court together.  Who thinks he has a case against me? Let him approach me.  The Lord is coming to my help, who will dare to condemn me? They shall all go to pieces like a garment devoured by moths.”  If we are true to our conscience, no one can condemn us. Even if they do, the Lord will liberate us, as He did even upon death, as was the case of our Lord.  If we have done all we could for the good of others and for the glory of God without any self-interest or personal gain, we should not be too concerned about failure or success.

In the light of this reflection, would you also say with Judas to the Lord, “Not I, Lord, surely?”  Are we so sure we have not betrayed the Lord?  Before we cast a stone at Judas and those whom we condemn, we need to have a good look at ourselves.  The tragedy,, as Jesus remarked, is that the one “who has dipped his hand into the dish with me, will betray me.”   We are the ones because we have dipped ourselves into the waters at baptism and received the Eucharist, sometimes even daily.  Yet our lives contradict our dignity as the disciples of Jesus.  Perhaps, the same could be applied to us, “Better if we had not been baptized!”  Let us regain our focus in life and as a Christian as we reflect on the passion of our Lord.   If we have betrayed Him, let us redirect our lives once again and focus on Him and His mission for us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
 
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Commentary on Matthew 26:14-25 from Living Space

The stage is being set for the final drama of Jesus’ mission. Judas has gone to the chief priests to make a deal for handing Jesus over to them. This term ‘handing over’ is like a refrain all through the Gospel and reaches a climax here. John the Baptist was handed over. Now we see Jesus being handed over – the term occurs three times in today’s passage. Later, the followers of Jesus will also be handed over into the hands of those who want to put an end to their mission.

Judas sells his master, hands him over, for 30 pieces of silver. Only Matthew mentions the actual sum given to Judas. The sum derives from a passage in Zechariah (11:11-13), where it is the wages paid to the shepherd (Zechariah himself) rejected by the people. He is then told by God to throw the money into the Temple treasury as a sign of God’s rejecting those who reject him. (Judas, too, will throw back the money to the priests after realising what he has done.)

What people will do for money! Judas is not alone. What he did is happening every day. Perhaps I, too, have betrayed and handed over Jesus more than once.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus’ disciples ask him where he wants to celebrate the Passover. Little do they know the significance of this Passover for Jesus – and for them.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover are closely linked but there is a distinction between them. The Passover was the commemoration of the Israelites being liberated from slavery in Egypt, their escape through the Red Sea (the Sea of Reeds?) and the beginning of their long trek to the Promised Land. The feast began at sunset after the Passover lamb had been sacrificed in the temple on the afternoon of the 14th day of the month Nisan. Associated with this on the same evening was the eating of unleavened bread – the bread that Jesus would use when he said over it “This is my Body”. The eating of this bread continued for a whole week (to Nisan 21) as a reminder of the sufferings the Israelites underwent and the hastiness of their departure. It was a celebration of thanks to God for the past and of hope for the future.

Jesus tells the disciples they are to contact a man who will provide all that they need for a Passover meal.

During the meal Jesus drops the bombshell: “One of you is about to betray me (in the Greek, ‘hand me over’). It is revealing that none of them points a finger at someone else. “Is it I, Lord?” Each one realises that he is a potential betrayer of Jesus. And, in fact, in the midst of the crisis they will all abandon him.

Nor is it one of his many enemies who will hand Jesus over. No, it is one of the Twelve, it is someone who has dipped his hand into the same dish with Jesus, a sign of friendship and solidarity.

All of this has been foretold in the Scriptures but how sad it is for the person who has to take this role, even though it is a role he has deliberately chosen. There is a certain cynicism when Judas asks with an air of injured innocence, “Not I, Rabbi, surely?” “They are your words,” is Jesus’ brief reply.

The whole approaching drama is now set in motion.

Let us watch it carefully during the coming three days not just as spectators but as participants. We too have so often betrayed Jesus, we too have so often broken bread with Jesus and perhaps have sold him for money, out of ambition, out of greed, out of anger, hatred, revenge or even violence for our own personal gain.

We can, like Judas, either abandon him in despair or, like Peter, come back to him with tears of repentance.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1064g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites

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 Reflection

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• Yesterday the Gospel spoke of the betrayal of Judas and of the denial of Peter. Today, it speaks once again of the betrayal of Judas. In the description of the Passion of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the failure of the disciples is strongly stressed. In spite of having lived three years together with Jesus, not one of them defends Jesus. Judas betrays him, Peter denies him, and the others flee.
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Matthew narrates everything, not to criticize or to condemn, neither to discourage the readers, but in order to underline that acceptance and the love of Jesus exceed the defeat and the failure of the disciples! This way of describing the attitude of Jesus was a help for the Communities at the time of Matthew. Because of the frequent persecutions, many were discouraged and had abandoned the community and asked themselves:
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“Will it be possible to return? Will God accept and forgive us?” Matthew responds by suggesting that we can break the relationship with Jesus, but Jesus never breaks it with us. His love is greater than our infidelity.
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This is a very important message which we get from the Gospel during Holy Week.
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• Matthew 26, 14-16: The Decision of Judas to betray Jesus. Judas took the decision after Jesus did not accept the criticism of the disciples concerning the woman who wastes a very expensive perfume only to anoint Jesus (Mt 26, 6-13).
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He went to the chief priest and asked: “What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?” They agreed on the sum of thirty silver pieces.
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Matthew recalls the words of the Prophet Zechariah to describe the price agreed upon (Zc 11, 12). At the same time, the betrayal of Jesus for thirty silver coins recalls the sale of Joseph by his brothers, decided by the buyers for twenty coins (Gn 37, 28). It also reminds the price of thirty coins to be paid for the wounding of a slave (Ex 21, 32).
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• Matthew 26, 17-19: The preparation for the Passover. Jesus was coming from Galilee. He did not have a house in Jerusalem. He spent the night in the Garden of Olives (cf. Jn 8, 1). In the days of the feast of the Passover the people of Jerusalem increased three times in number because of the enormous number of pilgrims who went there from all parts.
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For Jesus it was not easy to find a big room where to celebrate the Passover together with the pilgrims coming from Galilee, as himself. He ordered his disciples to find a person in whose house he had decided to celebrate the Passover. The Gospel does not offer any other information and allows the imagination to complete what is missing in the information. Was this a person known by Jesus? A relative? A disciple? Throughout the centuries the imagination of the Apocrypha has known how to complete this information, but with little credibility.
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• Matthew 26, 20-25: The announcement of the betrayal of Judas. Jesus knew that he will be betrayed. In spite of the fact that Judas did things secretly. Jesus knew. But in spite of that, he wants to act fraternally with the group of friends to which Judas belongs. When all were together for the last time, Jesus announces who is the traitor “Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me”.
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This way of announcing the betrayal renders even clearer the contrast. For the Jews, the communion around the table, to dip the hand together in the same dish, was the maximum expression of intimacy and trust. In this way, Matthew suggests that in spite of the betrayal made by someone who was a friend, the love of Jesus is greater than the betrayal!
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• What strikes in the way in which Matthew describes these facts? Between the denial and the betrayal there is the institution of the Eucharist (Mt 26, 26-29): the betrayal of Judas first (Mt 26, 20-25); the denial of Peter and the flight of the disciples, afterwards (Mt 25, 30-35). Thus, he stressed for us the incredible gratuitousness of the love of Jesus, which exceeds the betrayal, the denial and the flight of the friends. His love does not depend on what others do for him.
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Personal questions
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• Am I capable of being like Judas and to deny and betray God, Jesus, the friends?
• In Holy Week it is important to reserve some moments to become aware of the unbelievable gratuity of God’s love for me.
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Concluding Prayer
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Sing to God, play music to his name,
build a road for the Rider of the Clouds,
rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.
Father of orphans, defender of widows,
such is God in his holy dwelling. (Ps 68,4-5)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
Wednesday in Holy Week, 2015
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When Jesus prophesied that “The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!” was He also saying that Judas would go to hell, as some have suggested?  Well, one thing is certain, and that is that although the Church has canonized many saints, she has never declared that anyone is in hell, even though the doctrine of hell is an article of faith.  This is because we never know the depth of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  The final judgment is left to God alone.  So we must not pass sentence on Judas as if we know the mind of God.  That would be too presumptuous of us!
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The remark of Jesus that it would better for Judas not to have been born must be seen in perspective.  Jesus said it because of the consequences that Judas’ pride, impatience and perhaps greed would lead him to.  We are not certain why Judas betrayed Jesus.  Greed, perhaps, could have been a motive, since he was paid for the information he gave to the Jewish religious leaders. The evangelists all recorded in different ways that Judas did ask for a price of thirty silver pieces to betray his master.  But some theologians also hypothesized that it could be because of Judas’ ambition for a political revolution against the Roman conquerors and his impatience with Jesus for not taking more radical steps to overthrow the Romans.
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But I think the biggest cause of Judas’ downfall was his pride.  He wanted to have things done his way.  He could not wait for Jesus to establish the kingdom of God but wanted to agitate Him to take action.   He was too proud even to acknowledge his evil intention when confronted with Jesus’ last appeal to repent of his evil plan.  Instead, without batting an eyelid, he joined the rest in responding to Jesus’ statement that “one of you is about to betray me” with “Not I, Rabbi, surely?”
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The counter-response of Jesus “They are your own words” was not one of judgment but a call to sincere examination of his words.  So proud was Judas that even after betraying Jesus and stricken by his conscience for what he did, he was not humble enough to even ask for forgiveness.  Instead, so ashamed was he that he sold out his master that he took his own life.  Judas indeed died a tragic death, not just physically but most of all in his soul.  Jesus’ remark that it would be better that Judas not be born was thus perhaps uttered in realization of the tragedy that would eventually befall the latter.What about us, how do we react to those who betray us?  Of course we cannot but feel hurt, especially when those who betrayed us are closest to us, such as our spouse, family members, friends and associates in the workplace or partners in business. The thought of the pain and suffering they caused us make it so difficult to forgive them and to forget.  Such betrayals are many.  Most of the time traitors are tempted by influence, power and money.  Instead of reacting with anger, vindictiveness or curses, we should come to realize that the betrayers who cheat us will, in the final analysis, cheat themselves most.

Those who do evil will eventually be like Judas, destroyed by their treachery.  So they are more to be pitied than to be condemned.  By sinning against us, they will only cause greater harm to themselves, especially when we have loved them and sacrificed so much for them.  Their greed and pride will overwhelm them and their conscience will condemn them for their deceitful ways.  They will have no peace, joy or true freedom of heart.  This is true for all those who betray their spouse or their friends.  Truer still for those who do not live a life of integrity because their conscience is being hurt and it will take its revenge subtly by manifesting itself in anger, agitation, restlessness, fear and anxiety.  Their conscience will condemn them and the consequences of their guilt will bear themselves out in daily life events and a repetition of history.

Indeed, because their sins will punish them already, we are called to show compassion as Jesus did to Judas and His enemies.  Rather than taking things into our own hands, we are invited to be like the Suffering Servant in the first reading.  We read how the Suffering Servant dealt with his adversaries.  He said, “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.”  By not retaliating, he showed himself to be stronger than his opponents.  But how can anyone of us take injustices done to us lying down?

Well, in the first place, we must recognize that we too have, many times in our lives, betrayed the people we love, our friends, colleagues and our superiors and most of all, God Himself.   How many times have we cheated on our friends?  How many times have we broken our promises?  How many times have we betrayed the trust given to us, whether it is with regard to confidential matters or responsibilities? Even if one thinks that he or she has been faithful, surely, we cannot say that it is true when it comes to fidelity to Christ and to our faith!  By the evil and sinful actions and words in our lives, we have betrayed Jesus again and again, more than what Peter and Judas did.  By failing to live up to the faith we profess, we are counter witnesses to Christ and therefore in a real sense, we too have betrayed the Lord, for because of us, He is not believed and loved less.  So let us not pretend to be innocent of betrayal!  In fact, we have hurt Jesus so deeply a thousand times more than anyone else who has betrayed us.  We deserve a more severe punishment than anyone else, but the Lord did not retaliate.  Instead, He accepts our “insult and spittle.”

Secondly, if people have betrayed us, let us commend them and our sufferings to the Lord, as the Suffering Servant did and as Jesus did on the cross.  The former said, “The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.  So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed. My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me? Then let us go to court together.  Who thinks he has a case against me? Let him approach me.  The Lord is coming to my help, who will dare to condemn me? They shall all go to pieces like a garment devoured by moths.” So long as we are faithful to God and to our conscience, the Lord will avenge us.  We need not take such matters into our own hands.  Let the Lord vindicate us and He will do so in His own time. Our enemies, detractors and traitors will have to answer for their sins.  So there is no need to take revenge.  At any rate, the punishments that come from their sins are already too heavy for them.

Thirdly, when we suffer, let us remember that we do not suffer for ourselves alone.  That would be self-defeating.  If the sufferings can purify us, make us stronger and more compassionate, then that suffering is not carried in vain.  But beyond suffering for our own sanctification, let us suffer for the sinners and those who hurt us, so that through our redemptive suffering they might be converted.  For this reason, we are called to suffer for Jesus and with Jesus for the salvation of the world.  Like the psalmist, we share in His spirit saying, “It is for you that I suffer taunts, that shame covers my face, that I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons.  I burn with zeal for your house and taunts against you fall on me.” (Ps 69: 7-9)

Yes, those who trust in the Lord more than themselves will always find help and strength from the Lord.  Like the psalmist, we can then pray, I will praise the name of God in song, and I will glorify him with thanksgiving: “See, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek God, may your hearts revive! For the Lord hears the poor, and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”  God will be on our side.  The death and resurrection of Christ shows us that truth and justice have the last word, not falsehood and evil.  In the final analysis, good will triumph over evil, life over death.  Prayer and faith in God is the way to transcend those who hurt us.

Finally, let us also pray that in such difficult and painful moments in our lives, we will respond correctly and not cause the situation to become worse, especially by falling prey to their traps.  When we are angry, resentful and revengeful, we are simply perpetuating, or rather, accentuating, the wrongs others have already done to us.  Let the past be past.  Instead, let us live in the present and make the most of the situation as a learning curve and means for our purification in life. For that to happen, we must always bring our problems to the Lord like the way the Suffering Servant did.  “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue, so that I may know how to reply to the wearied.  He provides me with speech.  Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.”  Truly, listen to the voice of the Lord and obey Him and we will find peace in our soul.

http://www.catholic.org.sg/scripture-reflection/forgiving-our-betrayers/

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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 30, 2016 — “I am in your hands; do with me what you think good and right.” — We’re on the clock — Jesus is the Antitheses

July 29, 2016

Saturday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 406

Time moves on, but human behavior remains the same, doesn’t it?  We want to do what we want to do.  But there is more to life than just satisfying our worldly desires.

Reading 1 JER 26:11-16, 24

The priests and prophets said to the princes and to all the people,
“This man deserves death;
he has prophesied against this city,
as you have heard with your own ears.”
Jeremiah gave this answer to the princes and all the people:
“It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this house and city
all that you have heard.
Now, therefore, reform your ways and your deeds;
listen to the voice of the LORD your God,
so that the LORD will repent of the evil with which he threatens you.
As for me, I am in your hands;
do with me what you think good and right.
But mark well: if you put me to death,
it is innocent blood you bring on yourselves,
on this city and its citizens.
For in truth it was the LORD who sent me to you,
to speak all these things for you to hear.”Thereupon the princes and all the people
said to the priests and the prophets,
“This man does not deserve death;
it is in the name of the LORD, our God, that he speaks to us.”So Ahikam, son of Shaphan, protected Jeremiah,
so that he was not handed over to the people to be put to death.

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:15-16, 30-31, 33-34

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Rescue me out of the mire; may I not sink!
may I be rescued from my foes,
and from the watery depths.
Let not the flood-waters overwhelm me,
nor the abyss swallow me up,
nor the pit close its mouth over me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

AlleluiaMT 5:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 14:1-12

Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus
and said to his servants, “This man is John the Baptist.
He has been raised from the dead;
that is why mighty powers are at work in him.”

Now Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison
on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
for John had said to him,
“It is not lawful for you to have her.”
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
But at a birthday celebration for Herod,
the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
The king was distressed,
but because of his oaths and the guests who were present,
he ordered that it be given, and he had John beheaded in the prison.
His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl,
who took it to her mother.
His disciples came and took away the corpse
and buried him; and they went and told Jesus.

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Commentary on Matthew 14:1-12 From Living Space

Our reading is about the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod. When Herod the Great died his kingdom was divided among four of his sons. One of them, the Herod of today’s Gospel and also known as Herod Antipas is called a “tetrarch”, meaning that he was the ruler of a fourth part or a quarter of a territory.

Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD, that is, all during the life of Jesus and beyond. He is the one who wanted to see Jesus and whom Jesus called “that fox”. He is the one to whom Pilate sent Jesus during his trial. His rather painful and loathsome death is described in the Acts. Although only a tetrarch, Matthew calls him ‘king’ because that was his popular title among the Galileans and also in Rome.

It seems that, by all accounts, Herod was a nasty man and, as revealed by today’s story, a weak and highly superstitious one. It is striking how many powerful people are made insecure by superstition e.g. businessmen worried by the feng shui (lucky orientation) of their company buildings, anxious to have ‘lucky’ numbers on their cars, and the like.

Herod was hearing extraordinary things about Jesus and he came to the conclusion that Jesus was a re-incarnation of John the Baptist whom he had executed for reasons he knew very well to be totally wrong. Now here was John’s spirit come back to taunt him for he had killed God’s servant.

This leads to a re-telling by Matthew of the events which led to John’s death.

John, who was no respecter of persons, had openly criticised Herod for taking his half-brother Philip’s wife, Herodias, as his own partner. This was in clear contravention of the Mosaic Law. Herod’s fault was not so much in marrying a close relative but for taking her as his wife when Philip was still living and, at the same time, putting away the wife he already had.

It was already an extraordinarily incestuous family. Herodias was a granddaughter of Herod the Great and therefore a niece of Herod Antipas. First, she married another uncle, Herod Philip, who lived in Rome. He was a half-brother, from a different mother, of Herod Antipas. It was on a visit to Rome that Herod Antipas persuaded Herodias to leave her husband for him. This, of course, was strictly forbidden by the Mosaic law: “You shall not have intercourse with your brother’s wife, for that would be a disgrace to your brother” (Leviticus 18:16).

Herod, doubtless under pressure from Herodias, had wanted to rid himself of the embarrassment John was causing him but was afraid to do anything because, in the eyes of the people, John was a prophet and spoke in the name of God.

Herodias got her chance on the occasion of Herod’s birthday. Knowing her new husband’s weakness, she got her daughter to dance in his presence. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the daughter was known as Salome. She later married her granduncle, another Philip and a son of Herod the Great who ruled over the northern territories. He is mentioned by Luke.

Whether the dance was as lascivious as Cecil B. de Mille and others like to suggest, we do not know but Herod was greatly taken by the performance. In the presence of his courtiers and very likely having drunk a little too much he promised the girl he would give her anything she wanted, even half his kingdom. Under the prompting of her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist delivered on a dish. Herod was clearly appalled and also afraid but he had made his oath in the presence of a large number of people. He could not go back. John was decapitated and the head delivered as requested. His disciples came and buried the body and then went to tell Jesus.

There are echoes in this story of Jesus’ own death. He also died because of the moral weakness of Pilate who gave in to the threats of the Jewish leaders for the sake of his own career. Jesus’ death too was the result of blind hatred. And when he died his disciples arranged to have him buried.

Undoubtedly John was a martyr. He died as a witness to truth and justice in the service of God.

Herod, on the other hand, put expediency and his own convenience before truth and justice. He was in an immoral relationship with another woman and he gave in to what he felt would be the criticism and perhaps the derision of others. He had indeed made an oath but it was one that, in the circumstances, he was obliged not to observe.

With whom do I identify with more? John the Baptist, the fearless champion of truth and justice? Or Herod, the vacillator, the one who compromised truth and justice because of pressure of opinion and his own personal interests? I am sure all of us can think of times when we compromised with what we knew was the good thing, the right thing to do and took the line of less resistance.

John is an example to us of integrity. And, like him, we have each one of us been called in our own way to be prophets, to be spokespersons for God’s way. It may not always be easy.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2177g/

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From the film “King of Kings” Brigid Bazlen portrays Salome, seen here performing a dance of the seven veils in order to incite King Herod with lust into giving her “anything [she] wants” — the head of John the Baptist.
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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This is one of our favorite gospels. Given the choice between sparing a wrongly accused human’s life; a self-important leader chooses to watch a sexy dancer.
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Instead of choosing God’s will or truth or justice, in this reading we see what happens to one who chooses all the sins of the flesh for himself: mounds of food, gallons of wine and provocative sexual behavior.
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Many people today still live by the evil principles of life we see in this Gospel. We here at Peace and Freedom got into an “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” attitude ourselves.
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Humans are constantly seeking. We want what makes us happy and we want lots of it. I’ve lusted after money, sex, power, esteem and awards. I’ve even lusted after pizza and chocolate cake but those drugs can
Salomé – 1953 – Rita Hayworth
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We love this Gospel. We should never forget that our time here on earth is short — we’re on the clock. Our lives, some say, have little real value unless they are dedicated to bringing the lives of our family, our friends, and ourselves toward the one truly eternal goal — salvation and resurrection after death — to reap an eternal reward.
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Time moves on, but human behavior remains the same, doesn’t it?  We want to do what we want to do.  But there is more to life than just satisfying our worldly desires.
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Stay true to doing right and living in the truth of the Lord.  It probably won’t make us very popular in today’s culture, but a reward in Heaven is greater than any fleeting popularity that the world can give.
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What an interesting and timely gospel we read today.  These days our church has been working hard to preserve the true meaning of marriage.  In today’s gospel passage from Matthew, John the Baptist is imprisoned and ultimately murdered for criticizing Herod’s illegitimate marriage to the wife of his brother Philip.

Source: http://deacongarydumer.com/2015/08/01/the-head-of-the-baptist-2/

Head of Saint John the Baptist by an anonymous Spanish painter c. 1600-1650, Cleveland Museum of Art

The lesson to men: “Don’t lose your head to a girl.”

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See also:
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For myself, wounded wretch that I am,
by your saving power raise me up!
I will praise God’s name in song,
I will extol him by thanksgiving. (Ps 69, 29-30)
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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Today’s Gospel describes the way in which John the Baptist was the victim of corruption and of the arrogance of the government of Herod. He was killed without a process, during a banquet of the king with the great of the kingdom. The text gives us much information on the time in which Jesus lived and on the manner in which power was used by the powerful of that time.
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• Matthew 14,1-2. Who is Jesus for Herod. The text begins by informing about the opinion which Herod had of Jesus: “This is John the Baptist himself, he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him”. Herod tries to understand Jesus starting from the fear which assailed him after murdering John. Herod was very superstitious and hid his fear behind the ostentation of his riches and of his power.
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• Matthew 14, 3-5: The hidden cause of the murdering of John. Galilee, the land of Jesus, was governed by Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod, the Great, from the year 4 BC until the year 38 AD, after Christ. Forty-three years in all! During the time of the life of Jesus, there were no changes of government in Galilee! Herod was the absolute Lord of everything, he did not render an account to anyone, he did whatever passed through his mind. Arrogance, lack of ethics, absolute power, without control from the people! But the one, who commanded in Palestine since the year 63 before Christ, was the Roman Empire. Herod, in Galilee, so as not to be dismissed, tried to please Rome in everything. Above all, he insisted on an efficient administration which would bring riches to the Empire. His concern was his own promotion and his security. For this reason, he refrained from any type of subversion. Matthew says that the reason for murdering John was because he had denounced Herod, because he had married Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Flavio Joseph, a Jewish writer of that time, says that the true reason for the imprisonment of John the Baptist was the fear of Herod that there would be a popular revolt. Herod like to be called the benefactor of the people, but in reality he was a tyrant (Lk 22, 25). The denunciation of John against Herod was the drop that caused the glass to overflow: “It is against the Law for you to have her”. And John was put in prison.
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• Matthew 14, 6-12: The plot of the murderer. An anniversary and a festive banquet, with dances and orgy! Mark says that in the feast were “the great of the court, the officials and the important people of Galilee” (Mk 6, 21). This is the environment in which the murdering of John the Baptist is planned. John, the prophet, was a living denunciation of that corrupt system. This is why, he was eliminated with the pretext of a problem of personal revenge. All this reveals the moral weakness of Herod.
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So much power accumulated in the hands of one man incapable to control himself! In the enthusiasm of the feast and of the wine, Herod makes a promise by oath to Salome, the young dancer, daughter of Herodias. Superstitious as he was, he thought that he had to maintain this oath, and respond to the caprice of the girl; and because of this he ordered the soldier to bring the head of John on a tray and give it to the dancer, who then gave it to her mother. For Herod, the life of his subjects was worthless. He disposes of them as he disposes of the staircases in his house!
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The three characteristics of the government of Herod: the new Capital, large estates, and the class of functionaries:
a) The New Capital. Tiberiade was inaugurated when Jesus was only 20 years old. It was called like that in order to please Tiberius, the emperor of Rome. It was inhabited by the lords of the earth, the soldiers, the policemen, the unscrupulous judges (Lk 18, 1-4). The taxes and the products of the people were channelled toward it. It was there that Herod made his orgy of death (Mk 6, 21-29). Tiberiades was the city of the palaces of the King, where those who wore soft, delicate dresses lived (cf. Mt 11, 8). It is not known by the Gospels that Jesus entered this city.
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b) The large estates. Scholars say that during the long government of Herod, the large estates grew causing harm to community property. The Book of Henoch denounces the lords of the land and expresses the hope of the little ones: “And then the powerful and the great will no longer be the lords of the land”. (Hen 38,4). The ideal of ancient times was the following: “Each one will peacefully sit under his vine and nobody will frighten them” (1 Mac 14,12; Mi 4,4; Zc 3,10). But the politics of the government of Herod made this ideal impossible.
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c) The class of functionaries. Herod created a whole class of functionaries faithful to the project of the King: the Scribes, the merchants, the lords of the land, the officers of the market, the tax collectors, the militia, the policemen, the judges, the local heads,. In every village there was a group of persons which supported the government. In the Gospels, some Pharisees appear together with the Herodians (Mk 3, 6; 8, 15; 12, 13), and that shows the alliance between the religious power and the civil power. The life of the people in the villages was very controlled, both by the government and by the religion. Much courage was necessary to begin anything new, as John and Jesus did! It was the same thing as attracting to self the anger of the privileged ones, both from the religious and the civil powers.
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Personal questions
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• Do you know any persons who died victims of corruption and domination of the powerful? And here among us, in our community and in the Church, are there victims of authoritarianism and of the abuse of power?
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• Herod, the powerful, who thought he was the lord of life and death of people, was a coward before the great and a corrupt flatterer before the girl who danced. Cowardice and corruption marked the exercise of the power of Herod. Compare all this with the exercise of religious power and civil orgy, in the different levels of society and of the Church.
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Concluding Prayer
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The humble have seen and are glad.
Let your courage revive, you who seek God.
For God listens to the poor,
he has never scorned his captive people. (Ps 69,32-33)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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30 JULY 2016, Saturday, 17th Week in Ordinary Time
THE TEMPTATION TO BE FALSE PROPHETS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  JER 26:11-16, 24; MT 14:1-12  ]

As Christians, we are called to protect the truth and to proclaim the message of God.  The irony of the situation is that quite often we fail in our duties.  The liturgy today invites us to reflect on why we are not true prophets in our lives.  What are the reasons for not being faithful to our prophetic role in proclaiming the Word of God?  Why is it that instead of following Jeremiah and John the Baptist who were fearless and candid in proclaiming the Word of God, we prefer to speak human words and offer human wisdom to the world?

Firstly, it is because of our pride.  We are just like the priests and prophets during the time of Jeremiah, unable to accept advice from someone else, especially if we do not perceive them as having the qualifications or ‘authority’ to teach us.  We always think that we know best. We do not and cannot listen.

So instead of listening to what the Spirit is speaking through others, like the religious leaders of Israel, we try to silence them.  Sometimes such pride can also make us use our authority to do what is even wrong.  In the case of Herod, he agreed to the request of Herodias’ daughter to behead John the Baptist because he had made an oath to give her anything she asked for.  We all know very well that such an oath cannot be valid when it is a request to do something evil.  Yet, King Herod who was so fearful that his authority and standing might be undermined, carried out the order to behead John the Baptist, not because he was being a man of his word but because of his ego.

Secondly, many of us feel threatened when our selfish interests are being challenged.  We want to preserve our status quo.  We feel threatened whenever we have to change.  Prophets are seldom welcome because listening to them means that we have to change.  The religious leaders of Judah were quite satisfied with the status quo, even though they, with the people, had turned their hearts to false gods.  So were King Herod and Herodias.  They were engaging in an inappropriate relationship and had no desire to live a righteous life.  Under threat, we respond by silencing our critics.  Indeed, who wants to change in life?

Thirdly, many of us, especially if we are in a position of authority, feel insecure because there is this need to be loved and be popular.  All leaders want their subjects and subordinates to love them.  So we do everything to please them.  This was what happened to the religious leaders of Judah.  King Herod did not kill John the Baptist only because he “was afraid of the people who regarded John as a prophet.”  He had no principles and operated out of fear and insecurity.  This is also so true for us.  Quite often we succumb under pressure to give in to the popular demands of our people.  We are fearful to do what is right and good.

In contrast, today we have the people of God being faithful to the Word of God.  We are told in the first reading that the political leaders of Israel supported Jeremiah against the religious institution of the day only because the people backed them.  Similarly, King Herod did not kill John the Baptist earlier because he was afraid of the people.  Indeed, even whilst there were some misguided and selfish people among the people of God, there were others who wanted to hear the truth. Upon hearing the prophecy of Jeremiah they wanted to change and reform.  They refused to condemn Jeremiah because they knew that what he said was true, even if it did not please them.  They were willing to face the painful truth, unlike the religious leaders of the day.

Today, we are invited to be true leaders and prophets of God, always speaking the Word of God courageously without mincing His Word or shortchanging our people.  Jeremiah and John the Baptist are exemplars of what it means to be true to our calling.  How, then, can we find the strength to remain true to our calling?  We must learn from Jeremiah.   He was a man who heard the Word of God speaking to his heart.  He could proclaim the Word only because he had heard the Word.  We cannot proclaim the Word unless we have heard the Word clearly ourselves.  If Jeremiah could not do otherwise after hearing the Word, it was because the Word of God was so impressed upon his heart that he could not resist.  He said, “his word in my heart is like a fire imprisoned in my bones.  I force myself to hold it in, but that is impossible.”  (Jer 20:9)

Truly, unless we have a deep love for the Word of God, we will not find that same motivation, conviction and courage to proclaim the truth in our lives. Not only will we come to know the truth by having an intimacy with the Word, but we will also experience consolation and strength as well.  That is what the responsorial psalm says, “in your great love, answer me, O God.”  Yes, unless we hear the Word of God and meditate upon it, we cannot hear God assuring us of His love and His help.  So if we want to find courage and support, especially when we have to speak and live the truth, we must find the strength from the very same Word of God which we proclaim.  For the Word of God is not only to guide us in the Truth but it will also uplift us and give us the direction and inspiration we need in order to be faithful to Him.

By our failing to proclaim the Word, we would have been unfaithful to ourselves.  Such was the case of King Herod.  It was for this reason that he was distressed.  He knew that he was doing something seriously wrong and against his conscience.  In contrast, Jeremiah, although confronted with the prospect of death, was truly liberated because his conscience was clear.  He could warn his accusers in no uncertain terms, “Do whatever you please or think right with me.  But be sure of this, that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood on yourselves, on this city and on its citizens, since the Lord has truly sent me to you to say all these words in your hearing.”

We must be watchful that we proclaim the Word of God in all its power and fullness in and out of season, and not our own ideas.  We must be clear that whatever we say is not for our selfish interest but truly for the good of others, even if what we say is unpleasant to their ears.  We must love them enough to do what is truly good for them and not shortchange them with easy solutions and false hopes. In this way, we save ourselves and we save them from self-destruction.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Bishop Goh’s reflection reminded me of this little gem of a book:
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“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by J.P. Caussade
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The Six Antitheses: Attaining the Purpose of the Law through the Teachings of Jesus
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By Eric D. Huntsman

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Eric D. Huntsman, “‘The Six Antitheses: Attaining the Purpose of the Law through the Teachings of Jesus,” in The Sermon on the Mount in Latter-day Scripture, ed. Gaye Strathearn, Thomas A. Wayment, and Daniel L. Belnap (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 93–109.

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The Six Antitheses: Attaining the Purpose of the Law through the Teachings of Jesus

Eric D. Huntsman

 

Eric D. Huntsman was an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this article was published.

 

With six powerful examples in Matthew 5:21–47, Jesus compared the demands of the law of the gospel with the requirements of the Mosaic law. In each, the Master cited an earlier proposition of the law, a thesis, and made an authoritative counterproposition, or antithesis, that called disciples to a higher standard of belief, motivation, and observance. In some cases, Mosaic prohibitions, each from the Ten Commandments, were strengthened—showing that keeping the spirit of the law frequently required more than keeping the letter of the law. In other instances, Mosaic dispensations or permissions that allowed certain behaviors in specific situations were effectively suspended, teaching that those living a higher law would not regularly find themselves in circumstances that required such practices.

These six antitheses do not appear in isolation; rather, they are integral parts of the other arguments of the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, now found in Matthew chapter 5. Accordingly, they first stand as vivid illustrations of what it meant for Jesus to fulfill the law (5:17–20), with the antitheses neither nullifying nor replacing the law, but rather intensifying it and helping the believer better fulfill its intent. They are thus connected with both the Beatitudes (5:3–12) and a section that can be called Marks of a Disciple (5:13–16), all of which lead to a disciple’s being “perfect” (5:48). By studying the antitheses and associated material, believers today can better fulfill the law of the gospel—transforming their hearts and becoming more like Jesus not only in action but also in thought and motivation.

Fulfilling the Law

The passage immediately preceding the antitheses begins, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (5:17, emphasis added). Because the antitheses that follow are meant as illustrations of how Jesus fulfilled the law of his day, understanding what he meant by fulfillment is crucial to living the higher law that Christ taught. Because “fulfill” can mean several different things, and because Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses in different ways at different times, a careful, sometimes technical discussion of how he—and by extension all believers—fulfill whatever law we are given is necessary before proceeding to an examination of the antitheses themselves.

Because the outward, ceremonial aspects of the law of Moses were fulfilled with the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, Christians—and especially Latter-day Saints—are sometimes predisposed to seeing the term “fulfill” here as meaning “bring to an end.” While pivotal passages in the Book of Mormon indicate that “old things were done away” in Christ (see 3 Nephi 9:19, 12:46, 15:4), the context of Jesus’ appearance in the New World and his delivery of the Sermon at the Temple there after his death and Resurrection is significantly different than that of the Sermon on the Mount early in his mortal ministry before his completion of the Atonement. [1]

The fact that “fulfill” here means something other than “bring to an end, finish, or complete” is further indicated by the use of the Greek termplērōsai, the primary meaning of which means “to fill or make full.” [2] As such, it is in direct contrast with the idea of “destroy,” the Greek for which,katalysai, means something like “annul” in a legal context. [3] Therefore, while it is true that the ceremonial aspects of the law would soon be finished or brought to an end, and likewise that the symbolic types and shadows of Christ and his sacrifice would be realized, [4] in the original context of the Sermon on the Mount it is most likely that “fulfill” means to make complete, fill the requirements of, comply with the conditions of, or even “bring out its true meaning” or “bring to full expression.” [5]

As a result, in the sermon Jesus fulfills the law primarily with his teachings. Indeed, the purpose of these particular teachings “is to enable God’s people to live out the Law more effectively.” [6] Whereas the symbolic and ceremonial aspects of the law were brought to an end by his sacrificial death, the ethical precepts of that same law—which principles existed before the law and would continue even after it—were reaffirmed, and even strengthened, by the Lord during his mortal ministry. The principles he taught thus fulfilled the intent of the law by establishing a higher standard, which deepened but did not abrogate the original law. [7] As noted by Sim, “This messianic exegesis goes beyond the letter of the law to reveal an even deeper meaning, and in doing so reveals God’s true intentions in giving the Torah.” [8]

Indeed, Jesus’ authority to do so is made even more clear in the Book of Mormon, where the resurrected Lord taught that the Jehovah who gave the law in the first instance was the same as the man who taught its deeper meaning in Galilee: “Behold, I say unto you that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses. Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel” (3 Nephi 15:4–5). This authority is stressed in the text of Matthew by the formulaic phrase amēn gar legō hymin, rendered traditionally as “Verily I say unto you.” Beginning withamēn (KJV “verily”) marks Jesus’ authoritative teachings elsewhere in the Gospels. [9] A liturgical particle transliterated from the Hebrew term ‘āmēn, it is derived from the stem ‘mn, meaning “reliable, confirmed, or faithful” and hence connoting something that was true. [10] Most often ‘āmēn is translated in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) with genoito, meaning “may it be so!” Usually occurring at the end of a prayer or liturgical formula, Jesus’ use of the term at the beginning of a statement seems to have been unique, [11] the implication being that everything he said following it was true. The rest of the formula, “I say unto you,” also seems to have been unusual for the period, because Jesus does not cite other authority but simply taught “as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (7:29).

Finally, that Jesus’ authoritative strengthening of the ethical precepts of the law was meant to endure can be seen in the eschatological tone of the rest of verse 18: his interpretation of the law was to last until the end of the earth’s temporal existence. [12] Referring to the smallest Hebrew or Greek letters (yod or iota) and the decorative seraphs on such letters (thekeraia), [13] Jesus taught, “Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (although here Matthew uses genētai, “come about” or “happen,” not a form of plēroō, “to fulfill”) (5:18; emphasis added). Believers were not to break the commandments but to “do and teach them” (5:19). And whereby the scribes and Pharisees had sought to protect the Mosaic code by hedging it about with additional rules and practices, Jesus, through the antitheses, taught another, better way to accomplish the intent of the law.

The Nature and Structure of the Antitheses

In Classical dialectic, or philosophical reasoning, absolute truth was established in a transitory, uncertain world through stepwise approximation. A thesis, or proposition, was met with an antithesis, or counterproposition. Through reasoned discussion, the goal was to arrive at a synthesis, or compromise, that ideally was closer to the actual truth. While neither Jesus in delivering the sermon nor Matthew in his writing of it had necessarily been exposed to such dialectic, the traditional use of the first two of these terms, thesis and antithesis, by biblical scholarship in relation to the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5:21–47 is appropriate because of what it indicates about the authority of Jesus itself. While the Mosaic precepts are stated as initial theses, the antitheses presented by Jesus are absolute. His pronouncements are truth, and no synthesis is needed.

Of course God himself—or Jesus, as the premortal Jehovah present at Mount Sinai—also established the original propositions, a fact suggested by a nuance of the Greek grammar of a phrase beginning each antithesis. Each starts with a variation of the formula “Ye have heard that it was said (errethē) by them of old time (tois archaiois).” As it stands in English, the impression may be that “they of old time” were the ones speaking, but tois archaiois more properly means “It was said to them of old times.” [14] In this case, the subject of the passive verb errethē is probably what is called the “Divine passive.” [15] As a result, God said to them of old time x, andJesus is now saying that x really means x + y.

As a result, each antithesis begins with a form of the “It has been said” formula (5:21, 27, 31, 33, 34, 38, 43), followed by a legal point found in the Mosaic code. Jesus then continues with “But I say unto you,” which introduces his clarification and intensification of the principle that lay behind the legal proposition. The fact that his antitheses picks the “I say unto you” formula of 5:18 and verse 20 strengthens the connection between each of these passages and the idea that Jesus was fulfilling—that is, accomplishing the intent and deepening the meaning—of the original commandments with his teaching.

How Jesus “fulfilled” these antitheses seems to have differed according to the nature of the theses they address. First of all, the prohibitions in the Ten Commandments all represent ethical precepts that existed before the Mosaic code and continue in full force today, even since the law was fulfilled. Second, Jesus’ expansion of the prohibitions from the Decalogue deepened and expanded them by calling upon the believer to control the feelings and motivations that could lead to breaking the commandments. On the other hand, in regard to other regulations from the Mosaic code, Jesus called on the believer to set aside practices that the law permitted. While some feel that Jesus abrogated aspects of the law even before the full higher law was in place, one can argue that he did not actually annul them during his ministry. Rather, he called upon believers to change their hearts so they could act with greater restraint, removing the conditions that made such permissions as divorce and retaliation necessary.

Scholars debate the structure of the six antitheses, but most divide them into two groups of three. In favor of this ordering is the fact that in the first three antitheses Jesus’ response after his authoritative “But I say unto you” begins with the construction “each one who” (Greek, pas + a participle; KJV, “whosoever”). In the last three, “But I say unto you” is followed by a simple imperative expression, such as “swear not.” [16] Furthermore, the fourth begins with “again (palin),” emphatic in Greek, seeming to mark a new beginning. [17] This ordering divides the antitheses into almost equal divisions in the Greek text of 258 and 244 words, and, more equivalently, of 1,131 and 1,130 letters respectively, [18] suggesting care was taken, either by Matthew or Jesus himself, to balance the two sections.

In the oldest, most reliable Greek texts, the first and fourth antitheses—the first in the two set—are the only ones with the full formula “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time.” While the full form appears at the start of the second antithesis in verse 27 as well, only later Byzantine manuscripts contain the phrase “by them of old time.” [19] The others begin with a reduced formula, either “Ye have heard that it had been said” or simply “It hath been said.” The fact that later manuscripts, such as the ones used by the King James translators, added “by them of old time” to verse 27 in the second antithesis suggests that another pattern was seen by later copyists: the first, second, and fourth antitheses treat principles enshrined in the Ten Commandments. Because “those of old time” appeared in the first and fourth antitheses and appears to refer to those of the Exodus generation who received the Decalogue, [20] it seemed that it seems to apply to the second as well. [21]

The Content of the Antitheses

The reason for this division of the antitheses into two equal parts is not immediately clear, but the two sections reveal a certain balance and symmetry. The first division includes two Mosaic prohibitions—on murder and adultery—that are extended by Jesus and one permission—of divorce—that believers are to accept. The second section, on the other hand, contains one prohibition—on forswearing—that is extended and two permissions—legal compensation misunderstood as retaliation and not loving one’s enemies—that are denied. Likewise, the first half consists of two theses taken from the Decalogue and one from elsewhere in the Mosaic code, while the second half includes only one reference that directly arises from the Ten Commandments and two from other parts of the law. But perhaps more significant than this balance is the symmetry found in the first and last antitheses. Dealing with the most fundamental of human emotions—anger and hate on one hand and love on the other—they illustrate the central focus of Jesus’ message of love.

Murder and anger (5:21–26). In verse 21 Jesus begins by addressing the most serious crime one can commit against another person. The thesis that one should not commit murder comes from Exodus 20:13 and 20:21 and again in Deuteronomy 5:17. The antithesis that follows then shifts the discussion from the action to the emotion or motivation leading to the action. However, this focus on the damaging effects of anger was not, in fact, novel in Jewish ethics of the Second Temple Period. Texts from the Qumran community set punishments for displays of wrath; the wisdom literature of the period address the dangers of anger; and Jesus’ near contemporary Hillel, an important Pharisaic rabbi at the end of the Second Temple Period, was a gentle, patient, and even-tempered sage. [22]

Instead, the significance of the antithesis lies in the comprehensiveness of Jesus’ admonition that one not be angry to any degree with another person. The phrase “without a cause,” translated from the Greek adverbeikē, does not appear in any of the oldest and most trustworthy manuscripts. Instead, later copyists seem to have inserted it in later manuscripts to soften the injunction to justify anger in some occasions. [23] Significantly, both JST Matthew 5:22 and 3 Nephi 12:22 omit the qualification “without a cause,” making clear that uncontrolled anger for any cause can lead to sin and subsequent judgment. [24]

The three examples that follow represent situations involving varying degrees of anger, some of them involving very little intensity. First, the Lord warned against merely insulting one’s brother, presumably out of anger or frustration. For instance, disparaging someone with the epithet “Raca,” coming from the Aramaic rêqā meaning “empty,” actually did not seem to constitute a particularly disparaging insult. In fact, it was a rather mild, if condescending, expression used with servants or members of one’s household. [25] Likewise, the word translated “fool,” mōros, was disrespectful but not particularly intense. [26] Second, the example of someone remembering that a brother had anything at all (Greek echei ti; KJV “hath ought”) against him at the moment he was about to sacrifice illustrates that any problem in a relationship was damaging enough that it could impede worship of God. Significantly, the problem is no longer one’s own anger but the anger of another. Only in the third example of two men so at odds that they are taking each other to court has the anger progressed beyond the degree that one could conceivably feel toward anyone on any day.

Obviously, Jesus’ antithesis fulfills the intent of the commandment against murder, for controlling anger so completely would not allow one to get to the point of intentional murder. But the comprehensiveness of his prohibition raises the standard beyond what most disciples could easily attain. In this, as in so much of the sermon, Jesus’ teachings require a change of heart beyond one’s own ability to effect.

Adultery and lust (5:27–30). The commandment addressed here completely forbade sexual relations with someone married to another person (see Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18). Jesus’ counterproposition, however, is that a man should not even lust (epithymēsai) in his heart for another woman, married or not. [27] While Jesus’ antithesis addressed the root cause of adultery, the word epithymesai distinguishes between an initial, perhaps involuntary, sexual feeling and the subsequent sinful response to it. First, rather than being a specific term for sexual desire, epithymeō is specifically an eager longing for anything. [28] Hence it can also be translated as “covet” and is thus connected with the prohibition of the Ten Commandments against coveting either a neighbor’s possessions or his wife (see Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21, both of which useepithymēseis). [29] Second, the Greek construction indicates that lust for (or, better, desire to have) another person is, at its root, the purpose of the looking rather than simply the result; the former suggests deliberate imagination or sexual fantasy. [30] In other words, Jesus’ antithesis that one should not lust—here including the idea of coveting as well—does not necessarily refer to a passing attraction but rather the sin of continuing to look in order to arouse further lust.

The antithesis itself is followed by a discussion in verses 29–30 of the radical steps that should be taken to avoid thoughts or actions that would lead to adultery through the use of the hyperbolic image of cutting off or plucking out a member that leads one to stumble (Greek skandalizei; KJV “offend”). The standard form of the hyperbole, or literary exaggeration to prove a point, placed the offending hand first and the eye second (see Mark 9:43–47; Matthew 18:8–9). But here, Jesus mentions the eye first to connect it with the lustful look spoken of in 5:28. [31] Despite the apparent harshness of the hyperbole, it is important to note that it assumes repentance and forgiveness of the original sin. The serious symbolic steps to avoid further sin help interpret the initial antithesis: what is stressed is the failure to take the sin seriously and to avoid it that can lead one to condemnation. [32] In this regard, Elder Dallin H. Oaks wrote regarding sexual impulses of various kinds, “All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior.” [33] The Book of Mormon version of this directive directly connects lusting with the heart: “Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart” (3 Nephi 12:29). Because actions come out of the heart (see Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21), wrong sexual behavior is a result of not allowing one’s heart to be bridled and transformed by Christ (see Alma 38:12).

Divorce and marriage (5:31–32). The third antithesis, regarding marriage, is the first to address a proposition not found first in the Ten Commandments. Nonetheless, Jesus’ association of remarriage after divorce with adultery connects it both to the Decalogue’s prohibition on adultery and the discussion in the preceding antithesis. The shortest of the antitheses, it is nonetheless demanding. Whereas the first two antitheses broadened the Mosaic injunctions to address the causes of murder and adultery, this counterproposition calls on Christians to disregard a right that the law allowed for a man to divorce his wife if she fell out of favor, particularly for “some indecency,” presumably some sexual deviance (Hebrew ‘rwt dbr; KJV “some uncleanness”). [34] As a result, in Matthew 5:32, logou porneias (KJV “for the cause of fornication”) is probably not limited to adultery but includes a wider range of improper sexual relations.

Exactly what reason could justify divorce at the time of Jesus was the subject of debate within two different schools of the Pharisaic movement: the broadly interpretive House of Hillel and the more legalistic house of Shammai. [35] Thus the misconception that Judaism somehow allowed spurious divorce does not seem to be accurate, and the radical thrust of Jesus’ antithesis might lie elsewhere. First, the permission to divorce in the Mosaic code culminated in an injunction against a former husband remarrying his divorced wife (see Deuteronomy 24:4), whereas Jesus’ antithesis made marrying any man an act of adultery for the divorced wife. The strong teachings of Jesus elsewhere regarding divorce equate divorce and remarriage with adultery (Matthew 19:1–12; Luke 16:18), but here—in the context of the sermon, where intent matters as much as actions—Jesus places unnecessary divorce on a level equal with adultery in seriousness. In the other treatments of divorce in the Gospels, the Mosaic permission in a specific situation was explained in terms of “hardness of hearts” (Matthew 19:8). The implication in this antithesis is that divorce for any reason, other than sexual irregularity, is likewise a result of a hard heart, one that the teachings of Jesus were meant to help the believer overcome. [36]

Forswearing and truthfulness (5:33–37). Although the fourth antithesis does not always receive as much attention as some of the others, its placement at the beginning of the second set of antitheses—marked by the resumptive “again” and the full formula “ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time”—emphasizes it. [37] Forswearing means to either renounce something upon an oath or to swear falsely. Because such oaths were taken in the name of the Lord, it is connected to the prohibition not to take the name of the Lord in vain (see Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 19:12) and to the later directive to perform everything that one vows (see Deuteronomy 23:21–22). The first of these precepts, not taking the Lord’s name in vain—meaning not just irreverently but in an unproductive, empty, or frivolous way—helps explain the prominence that this antithesis holds among the six. It, more than the other five antitheses, centers on our interaction with God rather than those with other people.

Indeed, the extended teaching of Jesus is essentially that God and everything connected with him (his creation, his city, even his ability to make hair “white or black”) are so holy that one should hesitate to ever use them in a way that will not be reverential, honest, or productive. [38] This respect for and deference to God anticipates Jesus’ interpretation of the Mosaic directive to love God with all of one’s heart (see Deuteronomy 6:5) as being the great and first commandment (see Matthew 22:36–38; Mark 12:28–30; Luke 10:27) upon which so much of the law depended.

It is the practice of swearing to establish truth that leads the antithesis in verse 37, which directs believers to keep language short, simple, and, above all, true. In that sense, the antithesis is also connected with the Decalogue’s commandment against false witness (see Exodus 20:16). Anciently, a witness would often be sworn in the name of the Lord, so swearing falsely broke both commandments. Jesus’ response was that truthfulness should so characterize the believer that his simple affirmation or denial should suffice without needing to swear at all. [39] Like the other antitheses, this one requires a transformation of the heart and will of each follower of Jesus.

Retaliation and submissiveness (5:38–42). With the fifth antithesis, Jesus returns to commandments that deal with man’s relationships and interactions with other people. The thesis that Jesus expands here is the law of retribution (lex talionis): if someone damages one body part, retribution can be taken against him to the same degree (see Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). While a modern quip suggests that if followed this would make “the whole world blind and toothless,” the limitations that Mosaic code imposed on retribution were often progressive for the time. Like those found in the Code of Hammurabi and a few other ancient law codes, they were meant to limit excessive retribution for damage. [40]

Nevertheless, such retribution could easily be seen not as legal compensation but as retaliation, satisfying one’s anger at being hurt or offended. Perhaps with this attitude in view, Jesus’ antithesis counters the impulse for retaliation by requiring submissiveness of the believer, teaching him or her to endure unfair treatment with four different examples of conduct. Followers of Christ should not resist evil in the form of physical abuse but rather “turn the other cheek.” Legal action to take one’s property, in the example represented by one’s tunic (an inner garment but translated by the KJV as “coat”), should be met with a willingness to give up even more, in this case the more expensive cloak. [41] Less costly but inconvenient was the example of forced service in verse 41, which reflected not so much unique Roman practice but rather the ability of any superior to coerce or demand favors. [42] Rather than resist such impositions, the believer should be willing to do more than asked.

These first three examples are presented in order of decreasing severity: one is physically abused in the first, loses property in the second, and loses only time in the third. But the attitude of submissiveness and the habit of selflessness comes to fruition in the final example, in which one is willing to lend, presumably with the expectation of receiving the item back, whenever asked. By the end of this string of examples, Jesus’ antithesis of not resisting evil results in a changed, generous heart.

Hate and love (5:43–47). The sixth antithesis begins with the Mosaic injunction to love one’s neighbor (see Leviticus 19:18). The contrasting assumption was that people were permitted to hate one’s enemies. No actual passage in the law directed Israelites to hate their enemies, although some passages, such as Deuteronomy 23:3–6, were far from generous in how enemies should be treated. [43] Clearly, it was possible to interpret the directive to love one’s neighbor narrowly to one’s own group, thus excluding Israel’s enemies and associating them with the “enemies of God,” thereby justifying hatred. [44]

Nevertheless, Jesus’ counterproposition, beginning for the last time with the authoritative “I say unto you,” is to love all enemies. [45] This all-encompassing application of Jesus’ love anticipated his teaching that we are to love all men (see Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27), a point vividly illustrated by the parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:29–37). The examples of how believers must love their enemies that follow are striking: they must “bless them that curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” As is so often the case, Jesus’ teachings here, as elsewhere in the sermon, call for a standard of behavior difficult even for experienced Christians. Jesus’ explanation that God cares for all his children, causing the sun and rain to benefit the good and bad alike, provides the key. Loving and doing good to enemies may be difficult, even impossible on one’s own. But if one’s heart can be changed to become like Christ, the impossible becomes possible.

Read more:

https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/sermon-mount-latter-day-scripture/6-six-antitheses-attaining-purpose-law-through-teaching-0

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 29, 2016 — ” I know that whatever you ask of God; God will give you.” — “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

July 28, 2016

Memorial of Saint Martha
Lectionary: 405/607

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654.

Reading 1 JER 26:1-9

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim,
son of Josiah, king of Judah,
this message came from the LORD:
Thus says the LORD:
Stand in the court of the house of the LORD
and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah
who come to worship in the house of the LORD;
whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing.
Perhaps they will listen and turn back,
each from his evil way,
so that I may repent of the evil I have planned to inflict upon them
for their evil deeds.
Say to them: Thus says the LORD:
If you disobey me,
not living according to the law I placed before you
and not listening to the words of my servants the prophets,
whom I send you constantly though you do not obey them,
I will treat this house like Shiloh,
and make this the city to which all the nations of the earth
shall refer when cursing another.Now the priests, the prophets, and all the people
heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD.
When Jeremiah finished speaking
all that the LORD bade him speak to all the people,
the priests and prophets laid hold of him, crying,
“You must be put to death!
Why do you prophesy in the name of the LORD:
‘This house shall be like Shiloh,’ and
‘This city shall be desolate and deserted’?”
And all the people gathered about Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:5, 8-10, 14

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Those outnumber the hairs of my head
who hate me without cause.
Too many for my strength
are they who wrongfully are my enemies.
Must I restore what I did not steal?
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Since for your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Alleluia JN 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

OR LK 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

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Reflection by Abbot Philip, Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.  —  often these words are used to justify the contemplative life, but actually they are not about that at all or at least not directly.  Instead, Jesus is inviting all of us to choose the better part:  Listen to Him and don’t get so caught up in doing everything else!

The Gospel of Luke today brings us back to the account of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary.  Martha is frustrated because Mary sits and listens to Jesus while she, Martha, has to do all the work.  We can wonder what would have happened had Martha simply stopped doing her work, sat down by Mary, and had listened to the Lord?  That is the invitation to each of us:  stop your business and be still and listen!

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Commentary on Luke 10:38-42 From Living Space

Today we find Jesus in the home of the sisters, Mary and Martha. We know that they have a brother named Lazarus. We meet the sisters again, showing the same characteristics as in this story, in John’s account of the raising from death of their brother (John 11:1-44). They lived in Bethany, a village about 3-4 km from Jerusalem and it seems that Jesus was a familiar visitor to the house for at the time of Lazarus’ illness Jesus is told: “Your friendLazarus is sick.”

The story of Martha and Mary is, in a way, a contrast to the previous story about the Good Samaritan. It restores a balance in our following of Christ. The story about being a neighbour could lead us to think that only if we aredoing things are we loving God.

Martha was a doer to the point of being a fusspot. Martha, we are told, was “burdened with much serving”. Serving is something that Jesus himself did constantly and he urged his followers to do the same. But it should not be a burden. And, after Martha had complained about her sister, Jesus told her that she was “anxious and worried about many things”. A true servant does not experience anxiety and worry. It signifies a lack of peace.

Because Mary seemed to be doing nothing, Martha saw her as idling and even selfish. Martha must have been somewhat surprised when Jesus said that Mary had “chosen the better part” which would “not be taken from her”.

What was that better part? Was Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing nothing? No. We are told that she was “listening to him speak”. Listening to his message is something Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd they need to be doing all the time. And we have mentioned before that listening involves understanding, accepting and assimilating that message so that it becomes part of our very selves

If we do not spend time listening to him, how can we know that our activity is properly directed? It is easy for us Christians to be very busy but are we busy about the right things?

To answer that question we have to stop to listen, to discern and to pray. And, ultimately, the highest form of activity in our lives is contemplation, being in conscious contact with God and his Word. If I find myself saying that I do not have time to give some time to prayer or contemplation each day, then there is a serious imbalance in my priorities and in my understanding of what it means to love and serve my God.

This story blends nicely with the parable of the Good Samaritan which went before it. Taken together they express what should be the essence of Christian living – action for others that is guided by what we learn in contemplation. This was the pattern of Jesus’ own life – he spent long hours bringing healing to people’s lives (being a neighbour) but also retired to quiet places to be alone in communion with his Father. The same pattern must be ours too. We call it being “contemplatives in action”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2273g/

 

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JULY 2016, Friday, St Martha
PRAYER AND INTIMACY WITH THE LORD GIVES JOY TO MINISTRY
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1JN4, 7-16; LK 10:38-42 (Alt JN 11:19-27)  ]

We tend to pit Mary against Martha as if one is better than the other.  This is because of what Jesus said about Mary, that she “has chosen the better part” and “it is not to be taken from her.”  In truth, we have to take the whole episode in perspective.  The gospel text is not teaching us that it is a greater thing to be a contemplative than an activist.  There can be no real opposition between these two.  Both are necessary in Christian life and are meant for the service of the Church and the mission of Christ.  Rather, the issue lies in the question of priority.

The mistake of Martha is not because she was active in serving Jesus.  Practising hospitality is a manifestation of love and concern.  Indeed, in the Church, we need people who are committed to service.  Giving ourselves to the service of the Church and the Christian community is an expression of our love for God.  However, this is not always the case.  Even though one might apparently be very much engaged in the service of God, we cannot always be sure or claim that it is a manifestation of our love for God.

So what is the sign that although we are doing the work of God, we are no longer working for God but for other less noble reasons?  When we become restless and agitated!  Restlessness and anxiety are signs that we are more concerned with our ego, our desire to please and earn the recognition and appreciation of our fellowmen than the desire to serve God.  In other words, we are seeking attention and self-esteem.  This was the case of Martha.  Jesus gently chided her not because it was wrong that she was busy preparing and making Him comfortable.  Nay, it was because she “was distracted with all the serving.”  She no longer experienced the joy of service.  That she subtly began to seek for Jesus’ attention and appreciation was demonstrated in her cry to the Lord saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.”

Indeed, when we begin to fret and worry, we are no longer serving the Lord but we have become more anxious about our achievements.  Our focus is no longer on the Lord nor even the people we serve but on ourselves, our performance and the impression we make on others.  As a result, we become irritable, insecure, jealous and restless.  For Martha, her fear of rejection even led her to complain about Mary in order to boost her status before the Lord.  In complaining about Mary, Martha was implying to Jesus that she was a better person than Mary.  When a person becomes fearful and insecure, he or she would even belittle others in order to boost his or her ego.  Such service that results from self love of course could not bring Martha joy.  She became a slave to her pride and fears.

We, too, often fall into such situations as well.  As priests, we are often worried about what others think of us when we preach or when we assume an office.  We are worried about the projects that we have started.  We become ambitious and tend to compare ourselves with others.  When we feel that others are doing better than us, we then become jealous and envious.  This is true for people involved in so-called works of humanitarianism.  Apparently, they are serving the world by their voluntary service.  Yet, quite often, such involvement in community service is rendered in a condescending manner.   It is given in such a way that the giver seems to be greater than the recipient.  We serve or give out of pity rather than empathy and compassion.

What is the root of the problem?  It is because our ministry is not grounded in love.  We are not capable of love.  This is a reality we must first come to realize.  We are not able to love as we should.  Our love is conditional and not selfless even if we want to love selflessly.  Within this context, 1Jn4:7 provides the key to authentic service.  St John wrote, “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”

Consequently, the only way to heal us of our brokenness and insecurity and negative image of self is by giving ourselves to Jesus who alone can heal us with his unconditional love. Indeed, John said, “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him: this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”

Truly, unless we have been loved by God, we cannot love unconditionally.  If not, we become irritable.  Only when we experience His love, can we share in His Spirit of love as well.  God’s love is prior to our love for others.  This is what St John is reminding us.  “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  He added, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

But how can we experience God’s love if not in prayer?  Hence, primacy must be given to prayer and a deep relationship with Jesus, which brings love.  Indeed, the gospel tells us that Jesus comes to serve and not to be served.  Before we can serve others, we must allow Jesus to serve us first.  That is what Jesus says in the parable about the faithful servant, for when the master returns, he will put on the apron to serve them.  This explains why “It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to the teaching of Jesus.  Being loved by Jesus is primary.  Service and ministry flows from the love of God in us.  Sharing in His Spirit, we are empowered to love in return. Work and ministry is only the expression of love.

What should give us joy is not so much our ministry.  Rather it is our union with God and because of our union with Him, we want to express this union by loving our fellowmen.  So it is immaterial how we serve so long as whatever we do is the sharing of God’s love.

Indeed St Augustine asks what will happen when we reach the end of our pilgrimage when there is no longer any work.  As we grow older, whether we are priests or grandparents, a time will come when we can no longer work.  Does it mean that our lives will be spent in misery because we cannot serve anymore?  Surely not!  When the time comes we will simply spend the rest of our lives in solitude contemplating on the wonders of God’s love for us and His presence.  Knowing that God is with us and that He is our all will give us more joy than all worldly enjoyments.  So, like those who retire gracefully and are no longer mobile, our joy then would be to busk in the presence of God and His love.

Today, we take courage and inspiration from St John’s gospel that God is patient with us.  He allows us to grow in faith as He did for Martha.  From an impatient person, she became a woman of faith.  Although it is true that when we meet her later in St John’s gospel, she is still the active person, for she was the one who ran out to meet Jesus, but instead of complaining that Jesus was late, she placed her faith in Jesus saying, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.”  Not only did she confess her faith in the resurrection but she also confessed her faith in Christ, saying, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into this world.”  Indeed, she learnt to surrender herself to Jesus.  Instead of wanting things her way, she surrendered to the Lord.  By professing her faith in the resurrection in Christ, she is saying in love, life does not come to an end.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Bishop Goh’s reflection reminded me of this little gem of a book:
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“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by J.P. Caussade
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 10, 2016 — “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

July 9, 2016

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 105

Art: The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.

Reading 1 DT 30:10-14

Moses said to the people:
“If only you would heed the voice of the LORD, your God,
and keep his commandments and statutes
that are written in this book of the law,
when you return to the LORD, your God,
with all your heart and all your soul.”For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
‘Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?’
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:14, 17, 30-31, 33-34, 36, 37

R. (cf. 33) Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness:
in your great mercy turn toward me.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
The descendants of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall inhabit it.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

Or PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R.(9a) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Reading 2 COL 1:15-20

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Alleluia CF. JN 6:63C, 68C

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

Gospel LK 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”

He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied,
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
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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 Christ

Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?  This is the theme for our readings today.  All of us want to know what we must do for eternal life.  The way in which we ask the question is probably more important than the answer.  If I am looking only for the things that I must do, my question will take me to a dead end.  If I am asking how to follow the Teacher, the Lord Jesus, then all shall be well.  We should all be attentive to the difference in the way we ask questions!  The first way of asking this question could result in a handbook of the various things that I must do.  The second way of asking the question has only a vague answer that must be lived concretely each day:  Love God and love your neighbor!

The first reading today is from the Book of Deuteronomy and is very similar to today’s Gospel:  heed the voice of the Lord and keep His commandments and statutes.  Sure, there is something a bit more concrete in this advice than that of the Gospel, but it implies an ongoing listening to the voice of the Lord—and that is the same as loving God and neighbor.  God’s message to us, His people, has been consistent throughout all ages:  listen to His voice, love Him and others, follow Him in every moment of life.

The second reading, from the Letter of the Colossians, again contains this same type of teaching, but is now specific that God is in Jesus and it is Jesus, our Teacher, that we must follow, and He is the head of the Church and so we must belong in the Church.  Jesus is God and Jesus is encountered now in His Church.  So many today would like to say:  I love Jesus but I don’t like the Church.  This kind of thinking has no place in us who follow the Teacher, the Lord Jesus.  Jesus is the head of the Church and the Spirit guides the Church.  Jesus and the Spirit show us the Father in His Church.

The whole focus of Luke’s Gospel today is on the story of the Good Samaritan.  Clearly we are called to love our neighbor.  This is the direct teaching of Jesus.  And who is my neighbor:  everyone who comes into my life in any way.  My neighbor is every person I treat with mercy for love of the Lord Jesus, my Teacher.  My neighbor is each person who needs my help or asks my help or who enters my life in any way.  We can see quickly that this answer makes us leave aside any book of good deeds that I must do and instead I must serve each person according to that person’s needs.  An incredible commandment!  It demands everything of us, just as it demanded everything of Jesus, even unto death.

My sisters and brothers, we are invited to walk the way of the Teacher, the Lord Jesus, and serve all others and to give our lives up completely in the love of others.  Let us walk in the way of the Lord!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

Abiquiu, New Mexico

https://christdesert.org/2016/07/15th-sunday-of-ordinary-time-cycle-c-2016/

 

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Related:
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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10 JULY 2016, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
FINDING LIFE BY ENCOUNTERING GOD IN NEIGHBOR AND SELF

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DT 30:10-14; COL 1:15-20; LK 10:25-37  ]Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  In seeking for eternal life, he is seeking for the life of God, a share in God’s life.   So, what must we do in order to have a share in the life of God?

The first thing we need to do, the first reading exhorts us, is that we must return to the Lord our God with all our heart and soul.  Why is this so?  Because only God who is eternal life can give us this kind of life!   If there is no life in us, it is because we are far from Him.  Indeed, the stark reality today is that many people are finding God very far from them and are losing faith in Him.  This is more so especially when they meet crises in life.  When we are beset with misfortunes, how can there be God when He does not seem to care?  We are just like the wounded man on the roadside, abandoned, robbed of life.  So a person who has no life cannot see God.  As it is often said, we cannot preach God to a hungry man.  Indeed, atheism is the result of helplessness in the face of innocent and apparently meaningless sufferings.  It is not a theoretical problem but an existential and personal problem.  In the face of suffering, we fall into despair, and give up on life and therefore on God as well.

However, it is equally true to say that the real reason why we give up on life in the face of sufferings is because we have given up on God.  It is because we are just the like Israelites who often wandered far away from God and did not listen to His voice nor obey His commandments and as a result brought disasters upon themselves.  Jesus reiterates this in the gospel when He said, we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength.  Without God, we will not only be unable to live our lives meaningfully but we will not live with wisdom and love.   Not the world’s riches and glory can make us happy.

Consequently, we are in a conundrum.  In the first place, we said that we have no life because we cannot find God.  But in denying God, then there is no way for us to find life either.  Is there a way out?  Whatever it is, the fundamental point remains that eternal life is synonymous with God.  To find true life is to find God.  Conversely in finding God, we always find life.  We can begin from one or the other, but both will meet since to meet God is to meet man and if we truly meet man, we will meet God too.  But we must begin somewhere and not sit around doing nothing, languishing in our predicament.  Where then do we begin?

For most of us, we should begin by finding God in life or else God seems too ethereal and abstract to us.   Why is this so?  Because God is found in creation and most of all in our fellow human beings!  But how can this be so?  Moses said to the people, “the Word is very near to you.”  The question is how near?  So near, Moses said, “it is in your mouth and in your heart!”   What Moses prophesied is fulfilled in Jesus who is truly the Word made flesh.  He is the New Law and the New Covenant.  Jesus is the compassion of God in person.  He is love and compassion incarnated.  In Jesus, the Law of the Old Testament written in words and with ink is now written in the flesh and in the Spirit.   Thus, St Paul tells us that “Christ Jesus, is the image of the invisible God and the first born of all creation; for in him were created, all things in heaven and on earth.”  In other words, by His incarnation Jesus enjoins humanity to Himself; and especially at the resurrection, we become members of His body since He has identified Himself with us by being the first-born from the dead.

The implication therefore is that we are all by virtue of our humanity inserted in creation, and we are all the image and presence of God to each other.  Every one of us has the capacity and potential to mediate the presence, the life and love of God.  Yes, we are called to make God present to each other so that we can encounter God and in encountering Him, we experience life.  In this way, we will share the mission of Jesus who came to reconcile everything on heaven and on earth, man with man; and man with God.

The corollary to this is that if we were to find God today, we must therefore find him in a special way in our neighbors.  But who are our neighbors?  This precisely is the question that the lawyer asked.  Of course, to begin with, it is relatively easy to find God in those who love us.  But we would be certainly short-changing ourselves if we only find God in those who love us.  This is because the focus is not on others but on oneself.  This is not truly sharing the heart of God.  So if we are concerned solely with receiving love from others, it can lead us to become more egoistic and self-centered.

So according to Jesus, if we want to find the life of God, then we must seek it in our neighbors who are in need.  This is what the parable of the Samaritan is teaching us.  It teaches us to be concerned for others, even strangers and people who are hostile to us.  This was the case of the Samaritan.  He helped the injured Jew even though the latter regarded him as an enemy.  But that did not prevent him from reaching out to someone who was in need.  We can be certain that there was nothing for the Samaritan traveler to gain from this act.  He helped simply because he was moved with compassion.  By responding to the needs of this man, he therefore shared in the compassionate heart of God.

But there was something else in the way he helped.  He did not simply help from a distance.  Quite often when it comes to helping people, we are willing to help but only on certain conditions.  We are willing to help but we are not willing to get ourselves too involved in their lives.  So long as we are not personally involved in the lives of others, especially the poor, we will miss out the joy of service and compassion.  We will also not be able to truly empathize with them and share in their lives.  As a result, our compassion remains incomplete and perhaps cerebral.

However, those who are truly involved in the lives of the poor and the oppressed are also changed by them.  When we identify themselves with the poor and their sufferings in a very concrete way, we are charged with even more compassion and love.  Compassion implies having a common passion with the ones we love.  This explains why those who are involved in social work and works of compassion for the poor and needy are willing to exhaust not only their money and resources to help them, but their time and energy as well.  We must have a first-hand encounter with the sick and the poor in order to feel with them.

As we reach out to the poor, paradoxically we become more conscious of ourselves and learn to love ourselves.  Hence, to love God, we must love our neighbors as ourselves. In loving our neighbors, we actually truly love ourselves.  Through our involvement in the lives of the poor, we begin to be more appreciative of what we already have and how blessed we are.  If we think that our lives are miserable, we only need to reach out to those who are sick and poor, then we will come to realize how much more they are deprived than us; and yet many of them can be quite cheerful and contented with the little they have.  We will learn the art of contentment; the art of counting our blessings instead of our woes; appreciating what we already have and not what we have not.  Once we do this, we begin to love ourselves authentically and we become less envious, resentful and angry with others.

In loving ourselves, we discover the living God in us as well, since we too are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  So by loving our neighbors, we find God within us.  This explains why the commandment to love our neighbors is put on the same level as loving ourselves.  When we love ourselves, then we find God is alive in us.  If God is absent from our lives, if we do not have a share in the life of God, it is because many of us do not love ourselves truly.

It is not surprising therefore that when we reach out to others; many of them in their need are able to see the presence of God in us.  The fact that they can see us as instruments of God and the messengers of God means that it is only through our participation in the compassionate love of God that we can truly claim to have a share in the life of God.  So many non-Catholics who stay in Catholic Aged Homes are eventually converted, not because of any compulsion or aggressive evangelization but simply because they can see the presence of God in those who serve them in the homes.   So too, many of us who studied in Catholic schools and got converted in the later years of our lives, did so because we were inspired by the religious brothers and sisters whom we came into contact with.   And this is because we saw the love of God in them through their selfless and humble service.

But how can we find the courage to reach out beyond ourselves?  In other words, where can we find the capacity to love others selflessly so that we can share in the life of God?  How can we be God’s presence to others?  To be truly the presence of God to others, it presupposes that we be filled with God’s presence which enables us to recognize God in others too.   Receiving our Lord in the Eucharist and contemplating on His Word is the way to be filled with His Spirit of love and compassion.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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What Does Jesus Tell Us To Do?
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Feed my sheep — 
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Follow me —
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Put yourself into my hands–
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Do not be afraid —
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Love Your Neighbor as Your Self —
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Be of service to others —
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Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you —
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This is one of our all time “most readers” Internet postings:
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Why do we need to pray?
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By Kevin Cotter

Book Synopsis So, what’s this Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic all about? Well, its author, Matthew Kelly, is taking up quite the task—how do we renew Catholic parishes across the country? Matthew Kelly spent a significant amount of time and money focusing on what makes Catholics highly engaged at their parishes. His logic: if we figure out the difference between highly engaged Catholics and un-engaged Catholics, we can figure out not only how to make more engaged Catholics, but we can also track their effectiveness in the parish. The book sold over 100,000 copies in the first month of publication and has started a conversation about how to renew the parish.

Ultimately, Kelly will say that only 7% of all Catholics are engaged Catholics or what he calls “Dynamic Catholics.” What makes someone a Dynamic Catholic? Here are the four signs Kelly sees:

  • Prayer Description: Specifically, Kelly notes that this consists of a daily routine of prayer. “Am I saying the other 93 percent of Catholics don’t pray? No. Their prayer tends to be spontaneous but inconsistent. The 7% have a daily commitment to prayer, a routine” (p. 8).
  • Study Description: “[Dynamic Catholics] see themselves as students of Jesus and his Church, and proactively make an effort to allow his teaching to form them” (p. 14). Kelly also notes that on average they spend 14 minutes each day learning about the faith.
  • Generosity Description: Generosity covers not only time and money, but also generosity in all things. This generosity is a way of life.
  • Evangelization Description: While many Dynamic Catholics don’t consider themselves to be evangelists, they “regularly do and say things to share a Catholic perspective with the people who cross their paths.”

Actually, this book could be named “The Four Signs of Any God Loving Human Being”  or the “Four Signs of a Person Dedicated to Sobriety” or “The Four Signs of a Recovering Addict in a 12 Step Program.”

Twelve step recovery programs like AA teach us to pray, study, give ourselves away in loving service to others and evangelize.

But in AA we don’t say evangelize, we says “Do 12 Step Work.”

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“Do you love me?”
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Sometimes I simplify this for myself: “What have you done today as proof of your love (for God, your spouse, your children, your community).
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If I can say, “I washed the dishes and took out the trash and tried to be of services to the other in this house” that’s proof.  I didn’t cause trouble and I did a little “good.”
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When I explain this to some people they come up empty handed. “Geez, I didn’t do a thing to prove my love today but I did say ‘I love you.’”
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That’s not good enough.
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Related:
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Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 23, 2016 — He knows they will all abandon him — How can we endure what should never be endured?

March 22, 2016

Wednesday of Holy Week
Lectionary: 259

Art: In Remembrance of Me, by Walter Rane

Reading 1 IS 50:4-9A

The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
And I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
My face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let him confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:8-10, 21-22, 31 AND 33-34

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak,
I looked for sympathy, but there was none;
for consolers, not one could I find.
Rather they put gall in my food,
and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving:
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Verse Before The Gospel

Hail to you, our King;
You alone are compassionate with our errors.

Or

Hail to you, our King, obedient to the Father;
you were led to your crucifixion like a gentle lamb to the slaughter.

Gospel  MT 26:14-25

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread,
the disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Where do you want us to prepare
for you to eat the Passover?”
He said,
“Go into the city to a certain man and tell him,
‘The teacher says, “My appointed time draws near;
in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.”’”
The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered,
and prepared the Passover.When it was evening,
he reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, he said,
“Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
Deeply distressed at this,
they began to say to him one after another,
“Surely it is not I, Lord?”
He said in reply,
“He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me
is the one who will betray me.
The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,
“Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”
He answered, “You have said so.”
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Commentary on Matthew 26:14-25 From Living Space

The stage is being set for the final drama of Jesus’ mission. Judas has gone to the chief priests to make a deal for handing Jesus over to them. This term ‘handing over’ is like a refrain all through the Gospel and reaches a climax here. John the Baptist was handed over. Now we see Jesus being handed over – the term occurs three times in today’s passage. Later, the followers of Jesus will also be handed over into the hands of those who want to put an end to their mission.

Judas sells his master, hands him over, for 30 pieces of silver. Only Matthew mentions the actual sum given to Judas. The sum derives from a passage in Zechariah (11:11-13), where it is the wages paid to the shepherd (Zechariah himself) rejected by the people. He is then told by God to throw the money into the Temple treasury as a sign of God’s rejecting those who reject him. (Judas, too, will throw back the money to the priests after realising what he has done.)

What people will do for money! Judas is not alone. What he did is happening every day. Perhaps I, too, have betrayed and handed over Jesus more than once.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus’ disciples ask him where he wants to celebrate the Passover. Little do they know the significance of this Passover for Jesus – and for them.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover are closely linked but there is a distinction between them. The Passover was the commemoration of the Israelites being liberated from slavery in Egypt, their escape through the Red Sea (the Sea of Reeds?) and the beginning of their long trek to the Promised Land. The feast began at sunset after the Passover lamb had been sacrificed in the temple on the afternoon of the 14th day of the month Nisan. Associated with this on the same evening was the eating of unleavened bread – the bread that Jesus would use when he said over it “This is my Body”. The eating of this bread continued for a whole week (to Nisan 21) as a reminder of the sufferings the Israelites underwent and the hastiness of their departure. It was a celebration of thanks to God for the past and of hope for the future.

Jesus tells the disciples they are to contact a man who will provide all that they need for a Passover meal.

During the meal Jesus drops the bombshell: “One of you is about to betray me (in the Greek, ‘hand me over’). It is revealing that none of them points a finger at someone else. “Is it I, Lord?” Each one realises that he is a potential betrayer of Jesus. And, in fact, in the midst of the crisis they will all abandon him.

Nor is it one of his many enemies who will hand Jesus over. No, it is one of the Twelve, it is someone who has dipped his hand into the same dish with Jesus, a sign of friendship and solidarity.

All of this has been foretold in the Scriptures but how sad it is for the person who has to take this role, even though it is a role he has deliberately chosen. There is a certain cynicism when Judas asks with an air of injured innocence, “Not I, Rabbi, surely?” “They are your words,” is Jesus’ brief reply.

The whole approaching drama is now set in motion.

Let us watch it carefully during the coming three days not just as spectators but as participants. We too have so often betrayed Jesus, we too have so often broken bread with Jesus and perhaps have sold him for money, out of ambition, out of greed, out of anger, hatred, revenge or even violence for our own personal gain.

We can, like Judas, either abandon him in despair or, like Peter, come back to him with tears of repentance.

Sources http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1064g/

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Commentary on Isaiah 50:4-9 From Living Space

The Third Song of the Servant of Yahweh.

(The Fourth and last Song will be read during the liturgy of Good Friday.)

Another ‘Servant’ passage from Isaiah which speaks very graphically of what Jesus will go through in his passion. God provides his Servant with the words he needs to speak, especially for those who need encouragement. And Jesus will speak words of encouragement to his disciples before his Passion. He will speak to the women who sympathise with him on the way to Calvary.

“The Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple’s tongue… to give a word of comfort to the weary.” Jesus is the Word of God, communicating God’s love and encouragement. Later, Jesus will say: “Come to me, all of you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your spirit” (Matt11:28-29).

“He makes my ear alert, to listen like a disciple… has opened my ear and I have not resisted.” A way of describing the total submission of Jesus to his Father. “Even though he was God’s Son, he learnt through his sufferings to be obedient” (Heb 5:8). “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…” (Phil 2:7). In this he is in contrast to a rebellious Israel. In the Gospel, Jesus tells frequently tells his disciples to listen; in other words, to submit totally to the Way of life to which he is calling them.

“I have not resisted, I have not turned away…” This will be described in greater detail in the Fourth Song. The Servant willingly submits to insults and beatings and will not return in kind. To do so would be to bring himself down to the level of his attackers. Plucking the beard was a great insult. He offers his back for a beating, something given only to criminals and fools. This, of course, will happen during the scourging. Similarly for the mocking and spitting. It requires great inner strength not to respond in kind to such provocation. But when it is undergone with dignity, it is the attacker who seems small.

The Servant makes no resistance to his attackers. He will not meet violence with violence. He will not resist when he is beaten, when his beard is plucked, when he is struck and spat upon. However, it must be made very clear that this is not weakness but a sign of great inner strength and peace.

“Lord Yahweh comes to my help, this is why insult has not touched me, this is why I have set my face like flint and know that I will not be put to shame.” God comes to his help so that he is “untouched by the insults”. This is the sign of the inner security and strength. Insults and violence cannot change the inner reality of the person. And ultimately the Lord is on his side. Insults are either true or false. If they are true, they are not really insults but simply a statement of fact. If they are false, they can be ignored. In either case, to respond with violence is to show weakness and insecurity.

 

He meets insults and physical attacks with firmness. He will not be turned away from the way that the Father is asking him to go. Knowing that the ultimate outcome will not be shame but vindication and glory. “The Lord God is my help.” Towards the end of his public life, we are told that Jesus “resolutely set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51)

“Who has a case against me? Let us appear in court together!… Look, Lord Yahweh is coming to my help!” Jesus is perfectly innocent of all the charges thrown against him. He has no fear of court proceedings, even when they are corrupt. Final vindication will be his.

We could reflect today on how we respond to criticisms, statements about us we regard as unfair or untrue. Are we prone to violence – physical or verbal? And, even if we do not respond externally, do we allow statements and events to turn us into cauldrons of anger, hatred, anxiety and tension?

The way of Jesus is the way to peace.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1064r/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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23 MARCH 2016, Wednesday of Holy Week
THE ONE WHO BETRAYS, BETRAYS HIMSELF

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 50:4-9; MATTHEW 26:14-25 ]

“When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed.”  These poignant words of Jesus expressed His disappointment and great sorrow for them. Yet, it was not Jesus who was in distress. He was very calm. Rather, the disciples were in distress. This is ironical. 

Betrayal is one of the most painful realities of life.  It must be said that everyone has experienced betrayal and betrayed someone.  There are many kinds of betrayal. We have the betrayal of confidentiality when private information is shared with others and worse still, with our enemies and competitors.  There is of course betrayal in terms of responsibilities, when as superiors or parents we fail to be responsible to our subordinates and children.  Irresponsibility in our duties and work is another form of betrayal because people trust us and depend on us to do our part.  Then there is betrayal in terms of finance and misappropriation of funds.

But the greatest betrayal is that of friendship between two persons, the worst of which is in marriage.  This is aptly expressed by the psalmist.  “If this had been done by an enemy   I could bear his taunts. If a rival had risen against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, my own companion, my intimate friend! How close was the friendship between us!   We walked together in harmony in the house of God.”  (Ps 55)   Indeed, how painful to be betrayed by those you love most.  For this reason, infidelity in marriage is intolerable.   “The traitor has turned against his friends; he has broken his word. His speech is softer than butter, but war is in his heart. His words are smoother than oil, but they are naked swords.”

How do we deal with betrayal?  Understandably, our immediate reaction is disbelief and dismay. Very soon, it turns to anger, resentment and hatred.  Sometimes, we can become vindictive too.  However, such reaction will only hurt us even more.   So we must try to understand the cause of betrayal and how to handle them proactively.  What is the cause of betrayal?  Often, betrayal is due to weakness, selfishness, fear, and the sins of man.  But at the end of the day, all forms of betrayal are fundamentally a betrayal of self.  By betraying others, we betray ourselves most of all.  The one who betrays, betrays himself.  He shows that he is not faithful to his identity and principles in life.   By so doing, it leads to disgust and self-hatred.  Many of us cannot forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have done.  It can even lead to suicide as in the case of Judas.

Hence, today, the Lord shows us that the way to deal with betrayal is not with hatred but love, compassion and forgiveness.  He tried to win over Judas by appealing to the power of love.  But Judas unfortunately was blinded by pride, money and success.  We read that Judas went to the chief priests and said, “what are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.”  But Jesus’ response was one of patience and sorrow for him.  Indeed, the only way to overcome our enemies is by love.  When we retaliate, we only reinforce their hatred and dislike for us.  But when we overcome them by love, their hearts will melt and even if they are not changed today, patient love will bring them to realization that we are not against them but for them.  If they see us as their enemies, they will only seek to destroy us and there is no contrition of heart.

So how do we forgive those who betray us?  Firstly, let us remember that we have also betrayed others by what we do and say.  We are not exempted.  We must not behave like the apostles who said, “Surely not I, Lord!”   In different ways and circumstances, we too have betrayed the trust of our superiors, bosses, parents and friends.  We have not always lived up to their confidence and trust in us.  But it is difficult to admit humbly that we too are traitors like Judas.  This explains why they were in distress when Jesus made the remark.  “They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’”

Secondly, to forgive those who betray us, we need to seek forgiveness for our own sins of betrayal first, so that from the mercy we receive, we can extend to others.  We can be like Peter who received Christ’s forgiveness and was healed.  Instead of condemning himself, St Peter was receptive to the forgiveness of Christ.  We too who acknowledge our own acts of betrayal must also extend the same forgiveness we have received to others.

Where do we draw strength to forgive if not from Christ Himself?   The Lord drew strength from the Suffering Servant of Isaiah by not taking revenge.  “For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.”  We too must not react with anger or revenge.   The message of non-violence, forgiveness and humble suffering is the way of the gospel.  “It is for you that I suffer taunts, that shame covers my face, that I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons.  I burn with zeal for your house and taunts against you fall on me.  Taunts have broken my heart; I have reached the end of my strength. I looked in vain for compassion, for consolers; not one could I find. For food they gave me poison; in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”

By suffering for them and with Christ, we will win them over by our love and compassion.  Indeed, Jesus looked sorrowfully at the eyes of Peter when the cock crew.  It was at this point, that his conscience was pricked.  Earlier on, he had betrayed Jesus by denying Him three times before people of no standing.   But because of the forgiveness of Jesus, he was converted and touched and repented.   

We need to pray daily to ask God to give us the grace of forgiveness to those who betray us.  If we were to find strength and wisdom to deal with traitors, we must seek the word of God to inspire and guide us.  As the suffering servant said, “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue, so that I may know how to reply to the wearied.  He provides me with speech.  Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.”  With the psalmist, we pray, “Entrust your cares to the Lord and he will support you. He will never allow the just man to stumble. But you, O God, will bring them down to the pit of death.”  The response says, “In your great love, O Lord, answer my prayers for your favour.”

In the final analysis, let us have confidence that God will vindicate us at the end of the day.  It is not for us to take judgment into our own hands.  As St Paul says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:17-21) 

If we call Jesus “Lord” then let us trust that He will justify us and deliver us.  “The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults.  So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed. My vindicator is here at hand. Does anyone start proceedings against me? Then let us go to court together.  Who thinks he has a case against me? Let him approach me.  The Lord is coming to my help, who will dare to condemn me? They shall all go to pieces like a garment devoured by moths.”  Judas cut himself from Christ by addressing Him “rabbi” instead of “Lord” unlike the rest of the apostles.  “Judas, who was to betray him; asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ ‘They are your own words’ answered Jesus.” He did not believe He was the Lord of life.  Hence, he was impatient with Jesus’ non-violent and passive response to the Romans.  So he decided to take things into his own hands by provoking Jesus to act rather than to trust in Him.

So with Jesus and the prophets of God, let us pray instead, “I will praise God’s name with a song; I will glorify him with thanksgiving. The poor when they see it will be glad and God-seeking hearts will revive; for the Lord listens to the needy and does not spurn his servants in their chains.”   Indeed, “As for me, I will cry to God and the Lord will save me. Evening, morning and at noon I will cry and lament. He will deliver my soul in peace in the attack against me; for those who fight me are many, but he hears my voice. God will hear and will humble them,   the eternal judge: for they will not amend their ways.   They have no fear of God.” (Ps 55)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 14, 2015 — Miracles come from unexpected places — “Let your saving help, O God, protect me”

July 13, 2015

Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, Virgin
Lectionary: 390

 

Reading 1 EX 2:1-15A

A certain man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman,
who conceived and bore a son.
Seeing that he was a goodly child, she hid him for three months.
When she could hide him no longer, she took a papyrus basket,
daubed it with bitumen and pitch,
and putting the child in it,
placed it among the reeds on the river bank.
His sister stationed herself at a distance
to find out what would happen to him.Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the river to bathe,
while her maids walked along the river bank.
Noticing the basket among the reeds, she sent her handmaid to fetch it.
On opening it, she looked, and lo, there was a baby boy, crying!
She was moved with pity for him and said,
“It is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter,
“Shall I go and call one of the Hebrew women
to nurse the child for you?”
“Yes, do so,” she answered.
So the maiden went and called the child’s own mother.
Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,
“Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will repay you.”
The woman therefore took the child and nursed it.
When the child grew, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter,
who adopted him as her son and called him Moses;
for she said, “I drew him out of the water.”On one occasion, after Moses had grown up,
when he visited his kinsmen and witnessed their forced labor,
he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew, one of his own kinsmen.
Looking about and seeing no one,
he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.
The next day he went out again, and now two Hebrews were fighting!
So he asked the culprit,
“Why are you striking your fellow Hebrew?”
But the culprit replied,
“Who has appointed you ruler and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”
Then Moses became afraid and thought,
“The affair must certainly be known.”Pharaoh, too, heard of the affair and sought to put Moses to death.
But Moses fled from him and stayed in the land of Midian.

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34

R. (see 33) Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
I am sunk in the abysmal swamp
where there is no foothold;
I have reached the watery depths;
the flood overwhelms me.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me;
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live.

Alleluia PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
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Commentary on Matthew 11:20-24 From Living Space
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After the apostolic discourse of chap 10, Matthew goes back to narrative.  In two passages preceding today’s Jesus reassures the disciples of John the Baptist that he is indeed the “one who is to come”, that is, the Messiah and Saviour-King.
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This is followed by a passage where Jesus complains of those who close their minds to God’s word.  John the Baptist led the life of an ascetic in the wilderness and they did not listen to him.  Jesus socialised freely with all kinds of people and they accused him of being a glutton and a drunkard.
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So today Jesus warns three towns where he spent much of his time: Chorazin, Bethsaida and especially Capernaum.  If Jesus had done in the pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon what he had down in these predominantly Israelite towns, they would have converted long ago. Even Sodom, the biblical image of the very worst in immorality, would have done better.
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It is important for us to realise that, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is primarily speaking to us today.  If many non-Christians had been given the opportunities that we have received through our membership of the Christian community, they could very well be living much more generously than we do.  To what extent are we listening to God’s word?  How much of it do we try to understand?  And how much of it is reflected in our lifestyle?  Are we clearly and obviously followers of Christ and his Way?
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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Reflection
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• The Discourse of the Mission occupies charter 10.  Chapters 11 and 12 describe the Mission which Jesus carried out and how he did it. The two chapters mention how the people adhered to him, doubted the evangelizing action of Jesus, or rejected it.
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John the Baptist, who looked at Jesus with the eyes of the past, does not succeed in understanding him (Mt 11, 1-15). The people, who looked at Jesus out of interest, were not capable to understand him (Mt 11, 16-19). The great cities around the lake, which listened to the preaching of Jesus and saw his miracles, did not want to open themselves up to his message (this is the text of today’s Gospel) (Mt 11, 20-24). The wise and the doctors, who appreciated everything according to their own science, were not capable to understand the preaching of Jesus (Mt 11, 25). The Pharisees, who trusted only in the observance of the law, criticized Jesus (Mt 12, 1-8) and decided to kill him (Mt 12, 9-14).
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They said that Jesus acted in the name of Beelzebul (Mt 12, 22-37). They wanted a proof in order to be able to believe in him (Mt 12, 38-45). Not even his relatives supported him (Mt 12, 46-50). Only the little ones and the simple people understood and accepted the Good News of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).  They followed him (Mt 12, 15-16) and saw in him the Servant announced by Isaiah (Mt 12, 17-21).
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• This way of describing the missionary activity of Jesus was a clear warning for the disciples who together with Jesus walked through Galilee. They could not expect a reward or praise for the fact of being missionaries of Jesus. This warning is also valid for us who today read and meditate on this discourse of the Mission, because the Gospels were written for all times.  They invite us to confront the attitude that we have with Jesus with the attitude of the persons who appear in the Gospel and to ask ourselves if we are like John the Baptist (Mt 11, 1-15), like the people who were interested (Mt 11, 16-19), like the unbelieving cities (Mt 11, 20-24), like the doctors who thought they knew everything and understood nothing (Mt 11, 25), like the Pharisees who only knew how to criticize (Mt 12, 1-45) or like the simple people who went seeking for Jesus (Mt 12. 15) and that, with their wisdom, knew how to understand and accept the message of the Kingdom (Mt 11, 25-30).
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• Matthew 11, 20: The word against the cities which did not receive him. The space in which Jesus moves during those three years of his missionary life was small; only a few square kilometres along the Sea of Galilee around the cities of Capernaum, Bethsaida and Chorazin. Only that!  So it was in this very reduced space where Jesus made the majority of his discourses and worked his miracles.  He came to save the whole of humanity, and almost did not get out of the limited space of his land.  Tragically, Jesus has to become aware that the people of those cities did not want to accept the message of the Kingdom and were not converted.
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The cities become more rigid in their beliefs, traditions and customs and do not accept the invitation of Jesus to change life.
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• Matthew 11, 21-24: Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are worse than Tyre and Sidon. In the past, Tyre and Sidon, inflexible enemies of Israel, ill treated the People of God. Because of this they were cursed by the prophets. (Is 23, 1; Jr 25, 22; 47, 4; Ex 26, 3; 27, 2; 28, 2; Jl 4, 4; Am 1, 10). And now Jesus says that these cities, symbols of all evil, would have already been converted if in them had been worked all the miracles which were worked in Chorazin and Bethsaida.
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The city of Sodom, the symbol of the worse perversion, was destroyed by the anger of God (Gn 18, 16 to 19, 29). And now Jesus says that Sodom would exist up until now, because it would have been converted if it had seen the miracles that Jesus worked in Capernaum. Today we still live this same paradox.  Many of us, who are Catholics since we were children, have many solid and firm convictions, so much so that nobody is capable of converting us. And in some places, Christianity, instead of being a source of change and of conversion, becomes the refuge of the most reactionary forces of the politics of the country.
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Personal questions
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• How do I place myself before the Good News of Jesus: like John the Baptist, like the interested people, like the doctors, like the Pharisees or like the simple and poor people?
• Do my city, my country deserve the warning of Jesus against Capernaum, Chorazion and Bethsaida?
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Concluding Prayer
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Great is Yahweh and most worthy of praise
in the city of our God, the holy mountain,
towering in beauty,
the joy of the whole world. (Ps 48,1-2)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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RECEIVING THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  EX 2:1-15; MT 11:20-24

“Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”  These words of Jesus must have been uttered from a wounded and sorrowful heart.  We can imagine how Jesus must have felt in His ministry.  St John captured it so poignantly when he wrote “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”  (Jn 1;11)  Jesus who loved His people so much and who came for them even instructed His disciples “not to go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans.  Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt 10:5f)

This ingratitude was similarly reflected in the case of the Hebrew who was bullying his fellowman.  When Moses tried to reconcile the rift between his two countrymen, instead of being seen as a peacemaker, the man who was in the wrong accused Moses of trying to control him.  In his vindictiveness, he exposed Moses for killing the Egyptian. This caused Moses to suffer the wrath of Pharaoh and as a result he had to flee from Egypt to take refuge in the land of Midian.  Again we have a case of returning evil for a good deed done.  Moses meant well for his countrymen but instead of being grateful to Moses, his countryman’s selfishness took the better part of him.

I am sure many of us can feel with Jesus and Moses, for we too are often rejected by the very people whom we love.  We make sacrifices for them.  We try to provide them with whatever they need.  We go out of our way to help them in every way we can.  We give in to their demands, sometimes even when such requests are unreasonable.  And yet, in spite of all we do, what we receive in return is not just ingratitude but fault-finding as well, even when we are not obliged to do what we did for them.  What is even more discouraging is that for all the good we do, instead of becoming better persons, they become lazier, irresponsible, ungrateful and demanding.

The failure to respond to grace is the gist of today’s gospel.  The scripture readings invite us to consider the graces that we have received from God.  Like the Chosen People of God, we fail to take cognizance of the many wonderful graces we have received from Him with respect to our faith, life, health, material sufficiency, loved ones and friends.  Miracles are happening all around us every day and yet we are so blind to the wondrous works that God is doing for us and with us.  We fail to see these as signs from God, tokens of His love and mercy for us.

Instead, most of us take God and His graces for granted.  In Singapore, we are so fortunate in that there are ample avenues for those of us who are serious about deepening our faith.  We have the daily Eucharist celebrated at our parishes, and as if these are not near enough, we even have the Eucharist brought to the vicinity of our work place.  We have plenty of Adoration chapels open for us to pray in comfort.  There is even one, the Perpetual Adoration Chapel at CSC, which is open 24 hours throughout the year.  For those of us who are internet savvy, there are plenty of websites that offer scripture reflections for the day.  In terms of faith formation, we have talks, seminars and retreats in the parishes and our retreat houses.  And if we need community, there are neighbourhood groups and numerous movements and organizations to join, according to the charisms God has bestowed us with.  But how many of us avail of these resources?  More importantly, how many of us are making full use of the graces given to us so that we can deepen our faith and grow in charity for ourselves and for each other?

Not only do we take God and our faith for granted, we take our loved ones for granted as well.  It is ironical that we are more grateful to strangers and acquaintances who help us with small favours now and then, rather than to our friends and loved ones who spend much time and resources on us.  The love and kindness shown to us by our spouse and intimate friends seem to be something owed to us and not perceived as graces given to us.  When we take people for granted, especially those who are close to us, we do not grow in our love for them.  We are not appreciative because what is supposedly a gift from their goodness is seen as a right due to us.

Finally, most of us have received the blessings of God in vain.  God has blessed us with talents, wealth, health, career and success, yet we do not use our resources to help others, to contribute to the Church and society.  Instead of using what the Lord has blessed us with for the good of humanity, we use them only for ourselves.  Worse still are those who use their talents and resources for evil purposes, to manipulate others, to acquire more power and wealth for themselves.

If we have received the grace of God in vain, there will be serious repercussions. Jesus has this to say to us, “And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard on Judgment day with Tyre and Sidon as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted as high as heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have been standing yet.  And still, I tell you that it will not go as hard as the land of Sodom on Judgement day as with you.” In warning them about the imminent judgment, He was not saying that God is a vindictive and merciless God.  On the contrary, Jesus was trying to express the lamentation of God who could not bear to see the self-destruction of His people.  The truth is that what we sow will be what we reap.  The disastrous consequences will be brought upon by ourselves.  For failing to use the graces of God responsibly and gratefully, we will cause ourselves and even our innocent loved ones to be destroyed by our sins.

Today, we are called to be responsible like Moses in the first reading.  It was by grace that Moses’ life was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter.  It was by grace that he was given all the privileges of being brought up in the palace, given a good education and upbringing.  We can be certain that Moses did not take all his blessings for granted.  He knew that it was his God who endowed him with all that he had and all that he was.  He also knew that what he had received was not meant for himself but for his people.  So when his fellow Hebrew was ill treated, he stood up for him, even to the extent of taking an Egyptian’s life while defending the rights of a slave!

So if we feel that we have not been gracious and responsible for the graces we have received, let us repent from such an attitude.  As Jesus rightly said, if only others had received what we have received, they would have changed so much for the better than us.  Aren’t we better than Jesus’ contemporaries?  Like the Chosen People of God, we were slaves like them in Egypt.  They were nobody.  Yet God had chosen them, a motley crowd of slaves, to be His own people.  He chose them not because they were wise and powerful but because they were sinners and slaves.  God too has blessed us, for without His blessings, we would not be where we are today.  Let us repent of our selfish and heartless attitudes towards His love for us and the love mediated to us by the people in our lives.  Otherwise, we will only live to regret when these blessings are taken away from us.

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St. Kateri Found Faith Here

Visits to Sites Special to the New Saint

Kateri Tekakwitha — to be canonized on Oct. 21 — called the area of Auriesville, N.Y., home for most of her life.

For the last 127 years, so does the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs (National Shrine of North American Martyrs, MartyrShrine.org).

It was on the grounds of this shrine that three Jesuit missionaries from France — Father Isaac Jogues and his companions, René Goupil and John Lalande — became the first North American martyrs to shed their blood for the faith. (Their feast day is Oct. 19.)

They came to bring Christ to the Indian tribes in Auriesville, then known as the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, and were martyred in 1646.

Ten years later, Kateri Tekakwitha was born on these grounds to an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief.

Visitors come to find spiritual peace at this shrine in upstate New York, 40 miles west of Albany. The beautiful Mohawk River Valley curves gently along the gateway to the Adirondack Mountains.

From the shrine’s heights over the valley, the sweeping panorama is magnificent. It must look much the same as it did to the first organized pilgrimage in 1885. That year, the first Mass was celebrated here on Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption and the anniversary of Father Jogues being brought to this location as a captive.

So many pilgrims came to visit that when the three martyrs were canonized in 1930, the current church — the third one here — had to be built. It was finished in 1931 and called the “Coliseum.” The name purposely recalls the early Christian martyrs.

One of the first circular churches in this country, the Coliseum seats 6,500. With standing room, it holds 10,000. Spacious as it is, it has rustic warmth.

It should be filled on Oct. 21 as the shrine celebrates the canonization in Rome of Kateri with a 2pm Mass.

The Coliseum abounds in symbolism: 12 aisles and 12 seating sections represent the apostles; 72 doors represent the 72 disciples Jesus sent out to share the Gospel; and three tiers in the ceiling and roof recall the Holy Trinity.

To evoke the area’s heritage, the stockade walls are the reredos for the altars and represent the palisades of Ossernenon. One altar is dedicated to Kateri.

The Coliseum is quite a contrast to the original 1885 chapel, which remains on the grounds and is so tiny that pilgrims had to stand outside during Masses. The second chapel, from 1894, was renovated a century later and now includes the Chapel of Kateri Tekakwitha, where weekday Masses are offered.

Outdoors, devotional sites are plentiful. A statue of St. Joseph the Worker stands in a lovely garden right outside of the Coliseum.

Farther along, a statue grouping memorializes St. Isaac Jogues carving the name of Jesus on trees as two Mohawk children bow their heads at the Holy Name. And a large statue of the Sacred Heart overlooks the Mohawk River, beckoning travelers and pilgrims to come to the shrine.

Our Lady of Fatima also watches over the river and sweeping panorama. The statue by American sculptor Frederick Shrady is from the same mold as the original that’s located in the Vatican Gardens.

Another testament to early Indian converts is “Theresa’s Rosary,” named after a 13-year-old Huron girl who was captured with Father Jogues. She was forbidden to pray but did so under her captors’ noses by forming a rosary on the ground with stones.

Several other statuary shrines are short strolls from each other on the lovely 400-acre park-like grounds, which are covered with seasonal flowers and a profusion of trees. A prominent one is the lovely marble statue of Kateri, the “Lily of the Mohawks.”

Pilgrims are always reminded this is holy ground. The moving Calvary scene marks the place where Isaac Jogues and René Goupil preached about God and prayed rosaries. Near it is the newer René Goupil Memorial Chapel.

In the holy, historic “Ravine” is the oldest statue on the grounds, which presents Our Lady of Martyrs.

A wide path curves downward into this expansive clearing encircled by forested walls. Somewhere within the Ravine is the unmarked grave where, in 1642, Father Jogues buried René Goupil. Because the saint lies somewhere here, this place is a natural reliquary. A statue depicts René making the sign of the cross over the head of a Native American boy kneeling at his feet.

The hallowed beauty of the place beckons prayer, where the faithful also can pause to reflect at other shrines. At one, the figure of Jesus reposes in the sepulcher. The stone grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes is another of a number of places throughout the shrine’s grounds where our Blessed Mother is honored and venerated in special ways and titles.

Fittingly, too, near the Coliseum, the faithful can meditate on the Seven Sorrows of Mary in another outdoor setting with new circular mosaics from Vatican City.

The shrine grounds offer much more, including a candle shrine, visitor’s center, cafeteria and two museums.

Surely the new saint will be drawing many pilgrims who have never been to the shrine before. Among them will be Kateri Lang, named after the holy Indian maiden.

“I’m confident and hopeful that soon I can go and make a small pilgrimage there,” says the recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

A fitting Oct. 21 visit would be to walk where Kateri walked and recall her final words: “Jesus — Mary — I love you.” These words resound everywhere and in every place at this beautiful shrine.

St. Kateri — and the North American martyrs — pray for us!

Joseph Pronechen is the

Register’s staff writer.

The Life and Faith of the ‘Lily of the Mohawks’

St. Kateri’s mother, father and baby brother died of smallpox, an illness brought by the European settlers.

At the age of 4, Kateri also came down with smallpox, but survived. However, her face was left with pockmarks, and her vision was affected. She was adopted by her father’s family.

When Kateri walked, she held out both of her arms in front of her to compensate for her poor eyesight. As a result, her adoptive father gave her the name “Tekakwitha,” which means “she pushes with her hands.”

At the age of 20, Kateri was baptized after receiving instructions in the Catholic faith from a Jesuit missionary. She was given the baptized name of “Kateri,” which is “Catherine” in the Mohawk language.

She was one of the first Mohawk Indians to respond to the Gospel message brought by the Jesuit missionaries.

But her life wasn’t all happy post-conversion: She was harassed by her own people for her beliefs. When Kateri refused to work on Sundays, her family refused to give her food.

In order to practice her faith openly, in July 1677, she escaped with the assistance of two friends. They fled 200 miles to the Catholic mission of St. Francis Xavier in the village of Kahnawake, on the northern shores of the St. Lawrence River, near present-day Montreal. The Christian community was known as “The Praying Indians.”

On one occasion, Kateri traveled to Ville-Marie, which is now Montreal. While there, Kateri and her widowed friend Therese met European Catholic religious sisters who ran a hospital. Inspired by the sisters’ example, Kateri, Therese and another devout friend asked their Jesuit spiritual directors for permission to found a religious community for Native American women on a nearby island. The Jesuits believed that it would be dangerous for the women to live alone and considered them too immature in the faith to form a religious community.

However, Kateri was allowed to take a private vow of perpetual virginity on March 25, 1679, the feast of the Annunciation. From that point on, Kateri strove to live like a nun within her own home. She lived a life of austerity and practiced many penances. For example, during the winter months, she would walk barefoot on the ice while praying the Rosary.

Kateri died at the age of 24. She was buried on Holy Thursday, April 18, 1680. French tradesmen, impressed with her radiant beauty, made a coffin for her. Her body has since been exhumed and placed within a sealed marble tomb at St. Francis Xavier Mission.

Pope John Paul II beatified Kateri in 1980.

Because Blessed Kateri was baptized at the Mohawk Indian village on the north shore of the Mohawk River, it was decided that should be the site of her national shrine, where she lived for 10 years, between the ages of 10 and 20. Coming to the Fonda, N.Y., National Kateri Shrine (KateriShrine.com) and reflecting on her life where she lived so long ago is a special experience, too — the faith of the “Lily of the Mohawks” is still very much alive here.

— Joseph Albino
Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/americas-new-saints-kateri-and-marianne/#ixzz29ukM0Wpp

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