Posts Tagged ‘Rembrandt’

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 27, 2018 — “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”

December 27, 2018

A great prophet is risen up among us; and, God has visited his people. Luke 7:16

Do we run with passion toward the Lord?

Eugène Burnand: Peter and John Running to the Tomb

Simon Peter and John running to the tomb by Eugène Burnand

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist
Lectionary: 697

Reading 1 1 JN 1:1-4

Beloved:
What was from the beginning,
what we have heard,
what we have seen with our eyes,
what we looked upon
and touched with our hands
concerns the Word of life —
for the life was made visible;
we have seen it and testify to it
and proclaim to you the eternal life
that was with the Father and was made visible to us—
what we have seen and heard
we proclaim now to you,
so that you too may have fellowship with us;
for our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 97:1-2, 5-6, 11-12

R. (12) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Clouds and darkness are around him,
justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Alleluia See Te Deum

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
We praise you, O God,
we acclaim you as Lord;
the glorious company of Apostles praise you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 20:1A AND 2-8

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we do not know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
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Image result for Magdalene Mary recognises Jesus outside the tomb – by William Hole
Magdalene Mary recognises Jesus outside the tomb – by William Hole
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Noli me tangere by Rembrandt

Art: Christ (as gardener) and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb, by Rembrandt.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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27 DECEMBER, 2018, Thursday, St John, Apostle and Evangelist

RESURRECTION FAITH PRECEDES FAITH IN THE INCARNATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1 John 1:1-4Ps 97:1-2,5-6,11-12John 20:2-8  ]

We have just celebrated Christmas, the birth of our Lord.  The Second Person of the Holy Trinity took flesh when He was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin at the Annunciation.  Christmas celebrates the reality of this incarnation in the birth of our Lord.   How does one come to believe in the Incarnation, that is, God assuming our humanity?  St John in the beginning of his letter wrote, “Something which has existed since the beginning, that we have heard, and we have seen with our own eyes; that we have watched and touched with our hands: the Word, who is life – this is our subject.”   This claim that God who is the Ultimate Ground of life and existence has taken flesh is an incredible claim.

In the order of knowledge, we proceed historically via the life and history of our Lord.  He was born of Mary, raised up by Mary and Joseph as a carpenter.  His childhood years were practically unknown and we have scanty information about Him.  At the age of 30, He was baptized at the river Jordan by John the Baptist, which marks the beginning of His public ministry.  For the next three years, we see the man Jesus preach the Word of God with authority, reveal the love, mercy and compassion of God in His words and in His deeds.  He reached out to the marginalized, sinners, prostitutes and tax-collectors.  His gospel was directed at the poor and the sick.  He gave hope to them so much so “there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, A great prophet is risen up among us; and, God has visited his people.”  (KJB Lk 7:16)

Jesus in His preaching and teaching alluded to His divine identity when He told Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  (Jn 14:6f)  To Philip, He said, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”  (Jn 14:10f)  He added, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (Jn 14:13)

However, even with all His miracles and teachings, we cannot presume Jesus’ divinity because He was a man like us in every way.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.”  (Heb 4:15)  That was why He was even rejected by His townsfolk.  They said, “‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.”  (Mk 6:2f)

Image result for will do whatever you ask in my name, pictures

At most, we can say is that Jesus was a good man.  The people whom He ministered to loved Him.  He cared for the sick, the marginalized and the vulnerable.  He showed them the mercy and face of God.  He was a holy man and a man of God.  But to arrive at the conclusion of St John who said, “That life was made visible: we saw it and we are giving our testimony, telling you of the eternal life which was with the Father and has been made visible to us”, presupposes faith in the resurrection.  Without faith in Christ’s resurrection, we cannot arrive at the Incarnation because the latter presupposes the full flowering of faith in Jesus’ divinity at the resurrection.  Only because the resurrection reveals the divinity of Jesus, can we then retroject and make the astounding claim that Jesus was God right at the beginning of His life.

How can we arrive at a resurrection faith?  We need to encounter the Lord in person.  There are two ways to make this happen.  The first is through the normal way of getting to know the Jesus of Nazareth.  This was the way of the disciples of Jesus.  They walked with Him.  They saw Him.  They heard Him preach.  They lived with Him.  They knew Jesus in person.  They shared in His wisdom, love and compassion.  The three apostles who belonged to the inner circle had the privilege of previewing His glory at the Transfiguration.  Most of all, they fell in love with Him.  Jesus was their savior, mentor and teacher.  Their previous knowledge of Jesus prepared them for the Easter Faith.  After the initial shock at the scandal of His death, when Jesus appeared to them, they could “see” Him because their faith in Him was based on their historical encounters with the Lord.  However, they all took some time to believe that the Lord was risen.

There is another way to encounter the Risen Lord over and above our historical encounter with the Lord.  It is the way of love.  This was the case of St John.  The gospel addressed him as “the beloved disciple.”  We read that whilst Peter was quiet and stunned by the discovery of the linen cloths left behind by the Lord, he was confused and did not know what to make out of it.  But we read “the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.”  John believed because he loved the Lord.

Love is the eyes of faith.  When we love, we see more and can intuit an event.  That is why mothers are sensitive to their children’s happiness and wives to their spouses.  When we are in love, we are connected with our loved ones.  Only those who love can truly communicate.  Love is based on trust and openness.  When we love, we accept whatever our beloved says without questioning their sincerity.  We might help them to process but the question of personal integrity is never in doubt.  Only when we do not love, do we question everything the person says because we begin with an attitude of suspicion.

So for us to arrive at the same conviction of St John, we too must come to know the Lord through a study of the historical Jesus in the scriptures.   Unlike the first disciples of Jesus, we do not have the advantage of meeting the Lord in person.  Nevertheless, we can still meet Him in person through bible study and most of all in contemplative prayer on the humanity of our Lord.   It is through knowledge of scripture and intimacy with the Lord in prayer, that the humanity of the Lord becomes real to us.  This explains why spiritual writers and mystics like St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross and St Ignatius, including our Holy Fathers, Pope John Paul and Benedict insist that the way to encounter the Lord is through the humanity of our Lord.  We cannot bypass this process and jump straight into a mystical encounter because faith presupposes we already know the historical Jesus to some extent.

However, prayer and bible study is not enough; we need to hear the testimony of Christians who have encountered the Risen Lord in their lives.  Listening to testimonies will help us to be open to the various and varied ways that the Risen Lord shows Himself to us.  When we hear of how lives have been changed because such people encountered the Risen Lord through their illnesses and struggles, we too will know that the Lord is alive.  Many have testified to the power of God at work in their lives, taking away even terminal illnesses, helping them financially, growing their businesses and helping them to evangelize and bring people back to God.  This was how St John gave witness in the first reading when he wrote about what he saw, heard and touched.

Finally, the way to stay in contact with the Lord is to be in fellowship with His body, the Church. Again this is what St John wrote, “What we have seen and heard we are telling you so that you too may be in union with us, as we are in union with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing this to you to make our own joy complete.”  The reason for the loss of faith is when we live our faith in an individualistic manner.  We have weak contact with the Church, the Body of Christ and so lack the love and support of the community.   Our faith cannot grow without being connected to Christ’s body, the Church.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 20, 2018 — “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall name him Emmanuel.”

December 20, 2018

“For you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and shall name him Jesus.”

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Art by Rembrandt, “The Dream of Joseph”

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Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
Lectionary: 196

Reading 1 IS 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary men,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 24:1-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

R. (see 7c and 10b) Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Image result for gabriel visits mary, pictures

Gospel  LK 1:26-38

In the sixth month,
the angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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20 DECEMBER, 2018, Thursday, 3rd Week, Advent

DISCERNING THE WILL OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ISAIAH 7:10-14LUKE 1:26-38]

In the gospel, we read of the call of Mary to be the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.  Many of us read this text of the gospel as if everything happened within a few minutes for the Incarnation to take place.  Was the process as simple as presented in the gospel?  The angel out of nowhere appeared before Mary, congratulated her and then announced to her that God had chosen her to bear Jesus, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God.  The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!”  With some clarification, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said.”

In truth, we do not know exactly what transpired between Mary and the angel.  The infancy narrative of the gospel in scripture comes under the category of midrash.  These are stories to convey the truth of the biblical message.  Whilst the truth remains that Mary was called by God through the annunciation of an angel, the process would most probably have been summarized in the gospel to just a few lines.  It would have been irresponsible and indeed presumptuous for Mary to make a definite decision in saying “yes” to the angel in a few minutes.  She could have been hallucinating, or a devil might have come under the guise of an angel.  Indeed, if someone were to do what Mary did, we would have questioned the maturity of the decision.

So I would like to think that the process for Mary to make a decision to accept the invitation of God to be the mother of the Son of God took more than just a few minutes, not even a day, maybe weeks and months discerning what the Lord was saying to her.  In fact, the gospel text presented Mary in a contemplative and discerning disposition.  Mary was certainly disposed to prayer and contemplation.  It could be at prayer that she felt strongly the blessings of God, which was articulated by the angel, “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!”

However, she was wondering why she felt so blessed by God.  “Mary was deeply troubled by the angel’s message, and she wondered what his words meant.  The angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you.  You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God.  The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be king of the descendants of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end!’”  It was certainly a great honour to be considered by God for such a task.  Through the process of discernment, Mary came to realize that she was blessed, not just for the sake of herself but also for the salvation of the People of God.  As Mary would later sing in the Magnificat, “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.”  (Lk 1:48-50)

However, she did not allow herself to be so overwhelmed by such a great grace from God to be His Son’s mother that she threw caution to the wind.  She felt the need to discern further whether this was a real invitation of our Lord or whether she was imagining.  She raised doubts about how this conception could be possible.  Mary said to the angel, “I am a virgin.  How, then, can this be?”   Indeed, I would imagine that beyond this question of conceiving Jesus outside of marriage and what Joseph and her parents and relatives might think crossed her mind.  She would have spent much time wondering how such a miraculous conception was possible and it if did, how would she be able to explain herself.  What would be the outcome of her decision?  What were the implications of being the mother of the Son of God?  Would she be able to fulfill that role well and worthily?  Would she be able to face the questions and interrogation from the religious authority on her pregnancy?

Certainly, this part of her discernment process would have taken some time.  We can presume that she would have brought it to prayer.  At some point in her discernment process, she would have heard from the Lord or through the angel the words of assurance and clarification, besides being given an external sign.  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you.  For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God.  Remember your relative Elizabeth.  It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old.  For there is nothing that God cannot do.”

So through a long process of discernment, in prayer and contemplation, through divine revelation and through an external sign in the conception of John the Baptist by her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, she felt confident of the call, with regard to both its authenticity and its implications.  Realizing that it was indeed the will of God, impossible it might be, and ridiculous to the mind of man, yet she knew that the call was real.  So she said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said.”  Consequently, I think the call of Mary and her response was not such a simple and easy process as presented briefly in the gospel.  There was much thinking, reflection and discerning done by Mary.

In contrast, we have King Ahaz in the first reading who listened to no one but himself.  He was the most wicked king in Judah.  As a consequence, the Lord permitted many nations to attack and harass Judah because of Ahaz’ arrogance and infidelity to God.  When he was faced with the possibility of being attacked by the King of Aram who was in league with the King of Israel, he cried out to the King of Assyria for help.  Instead of listening to the prophet Isaiah who told him not to sell himself and the kingdom to the power of Assyria, he refused to listen.  This was in spite of the assurance of the prophet that Israel would not be able to overcome him and seize the kingdom.

King Ahaz did not do any discernment of the will of God for him.  His mind was already made up.  He listened to his fears and anxieties instead of trusting in God.  He trusted more in himself than anyone else.  When Isaiah told him that if he did not believe in his words, he should ask for a sign.  But under the pretext of not wanting to test God, he refused to ask for a sign because this would have forced him to submit to Isaiah’s counsel even more.  He had no intention of changing his mind.  Isaiah said, “Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men without trying the patience of my God, too? The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means “God-is-with-us”.

What about us?  Do we go through the same process like Mary in clarifying the will of God, especially when we have to make important decisions and options in life?  We cannot expect an angel to appear to us but in reality, the Lord sends many angels to speak to us about His calling and His will.  Often, this comes through our loved ones, friends, parishioners, our bosses and colleagues, and sometimes, God gives us some signs as well.

However, we need to bring the diverse opinions of what we have heard to prayer.  By so doing, we bring the process of discernment into a deeper level of internal forum.  We speak to God in prayer and we speak to our spiritual director.  It is through prayer that we will arrive at a conviction as Mary did, so that we can respond with humility and conviction, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.”  However, this discernment process can happen when we live a righteous life in God’s eyes, otherwise we allow our fears, anxieties and self-will to colour our judgement, as with Ahaz.  Hence, the psalmist says, “Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things. He shall receive blessings from the Lord and reward from the God who saves him. Such are the men who seek him, seek the face of the God of Jacob.”

In the final analysis, after all that is said and done, we need to surrender in faith.  This was what Mary did, which Ahaz did not.  The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you.  For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God.  Remember your relative Elizabeth.  It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old.  For there is nothing that God cannot do.”   Having given her the sign of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary could surrender in faith, knowing that with God nothing is impossible.  We too, having made a proper discernment in total openness and receptivity to His divine will, must go ahead and do His will even if it seems difficult and impossible because it will be God who makes things happen through and in us, not ourselves.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Morning Prayer for Tuesday, December 18, 2018 — That I may not worry over the limitations of my humanness

December 18, 2018

This vast universe around us, including this wonderful earth on which we live, was once perhaps only a thought in the mind of God. The nearer the astronomers and the physicists get to the ultimate composition of all things, the nearer the universe approaches a mathematical formula, which is thought. The universe may be the thought of the Great Thinker. We must try to think God’s thoughts after Him. We must try to get guidance from the Divine Mind as to what His intention is for the world and what part we can have in carrying out that intention.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may not worry over the limitations of my human mind. I pray that I may live as though my mind were a reflection of the Divine Mind.

From Twenty Four Hours a Day

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The Return of the Prodigal Son ( By Rembrandt) (God is all forgiving)

Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous)

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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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Nada Te Turbe (Let nothing disturb you)
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Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.— St. Teresa of Avila
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Peace Prayers

https://wsfpeacecoalition.wordpress.com/resources/peace-prayers/

Morning Prayer for Thursday, December 6, 2018 — Lead us not into temptation

December 6, 2018

“God will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but with the temptation He will also find a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

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(Temptations may vary)

Nobody entirely escapes temptation. You must expect it and be ready for it when it comes. None of us is entirely safe. You must try to keep your defenses up by daily thought and prayer. That is why we have these daily meditations. You must be able to recognize temptation when it comes. The first step toward conquering temptation always is to see it clearly as temptation and not to harbor it in your mind. Dissociate yourself from it, put it out of your mind as soon as it appears. Do not think of excuses for yielding to it. Turn at once to the Higher Power for help.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may be prepared for whatever temptation may come to me. I pray that I may see it clearly and avoid it with the help of God.

From “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

Related:

First Thoughts for Your Peace and Freedom
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I have a friend who suffers from great pain. Yesterday he said, “I am afraid of dying.”
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It had never occurred to him that “The Antidote to Fear is Faith.” We don’t have to accept our fears. In fact, this is one that we must all immediately reject.
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If we fear death, why is that? We have confession available. God is all forgiving. He takes away our sins. He forgives. He Consoles. Run to Him. He is like the Father in the Prodigal Son parable — all forgiving and all loving.
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So if we are afraid of death, maybe we need to put our mind and our soul in order…
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Advent is the season to return to the Father; in anticipation of the arrival of the son.
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The Return of the Prodigal Son (Rembrandt)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_(Rembrandt)

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

April 2, 2018

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

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Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

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

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

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:

R. Alleluia.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia PS 118:24

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

Gospel JN 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.'”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
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Christ and St Mary Magdalene at the Tomb, by Rembrandt. St Mary’s right she has her breakfast — a jug of water and some eggs in a basket. Jesus is seen wearing a hat because “She thought it was the gardener.”
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Why Did Mary Turn Around? Reflection by Albert Holtz, OSB of “Downtown Monks”
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St. John Chrysostom suggests that the two angels suddenly caught sight of the Risen Lord standing behind Mary and she read their faces and so turned to see what they were looking at.
She may have turned only partly around, because v.16 tells us that when Jesus called her by name, “She turned and said to him, ‘Rabouni.’”
But the phrase that really caught my interest came when she first turned and saw this figure standing there “but she did not know that it was Jesus.”
Maybe her eyes were filled with tears, or maybe she was so overwhelmed with grief that she wasn’t really thinking sraight. And she certainly had no concept of a “risen Jesus” – Judaism had no such concept nor any vocabulary to express it, so she was not prepared to see a “risen Lord.”
In addition, there are other places in the Easter narratives where other people don’t recognize Jesus either ( e.g. the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples out fishing when Jesus calls to them from the shore), which indicates that there was now something different about his appearance. So we can’t blame poor Magdalene for mistaking Jesus for the gardener. “She did not know it was Jesus.


SO, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

But what about you and me? We have the gospel accounts along with the hindsight and the insights of two millennia of Christian tradition, all preparing us to recognize Christ in every person we meet. But the same thing happens to you and me as happened to Magadelene: we don’t know that it is Jesus standing before us when he comes.
I’ve learned that He often comes in the guise of the person who puts their umbrella into the spokes of my life’s bicycle: he phones at an inconvenient hour looking for someone to talk to, he needs help pouring cereal into his bowl because his Alzheimer’s is bad this morning, he is a homeless woman asking for a handout on the sidewalk down the hill from the monastery. I need to be on the watch all the time for these “appearances” of the Risen Lord so that I don’t make the same mistake that Magdalene made when “she did not know that it was Jesus.”
We’re about to start classes on Monday after a two-week Easter break. There are lots of terrific kids who I’ll be delighted to see after a two-week vacation; I’ll see Jesus in them right way and enjoy His presence. But will I be willing and able to recognize the same Jesus when he starts acting out his adolescent anger in class because he doesn’t know what else to do with it, or when he starts chatting with his classmate while he’s supposed to be taking notes in class? That will be the test for me.
Let’s pray to the Risen Jesus that He’ll give each of us the eyes of Easter Faith, that he’ll open our eyes to see His presence in every person and every circumstance.
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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites
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Reflection
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• Today’s Gospel describes the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene. The death if her great friend urges Mary to lose the sense of life. But she does not give up her search. She goes to the tomb in order to meet again the one whom death has taken away. There are moments in our life in which everything crumbles. It seems that everything is finished. Death, disasters, pain and suffering, disillusions, betrayals! So many things which may cause us to feel in the air, without standing on firm ground and which can lead us to fall into a deep crisis. But other things also happen. For example, that suddenly we meet a friend again and that can give us hope anew and can make us discover that love is stronger than death and defeat.
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• Chapter 20 in John’s Gospel, besides the apparitions of Jesus to Magdalene, it also speaks about diverse episodes which reveal the richness, indicate the richness of the experience of the Resurrection: (a) to the beloved disciple and to Peter (Jn 20, 1-10); (b) to Mary Magdalene (Jn 20, 11-18); (c) to the community of disciples (Jn 20, 19-23) and (d) to the Apostle Thomas (Jn 20, 24-29). The purpose of the writing of the Gospel is that of leading persons to believe in Jesus, and believing in him, to have life (Jn 20, 30-3).
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• In the way of describing the apparition of Jesus to Mary Magdalene one perceives, one is aware of the different stages of the road that she had to follow, of the sorrowful search up to the time of the encounter at Easter. These are also the stages through which we all have to pass, throughout our life, seeking God and living the Gospel.
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• John 20, 11-13: Mary Magdalene weeps, but she seeks. There was a very strong love between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She was one of the few persons who had the courage to remain with Jesus up to the moment of his death on the Cross. After the obligatory rest on Saturday, she goes back to the tomb to be in the place where she had met her Beloved for the last time. But, surprisingly, the tomb is empty! The angels ask her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” and her response is: “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have put him!” Mary Magdalene looked for Jesus, that Jesus whom she had known during three years.
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• John 20, 14-15: Mary Magdalene speaks with Jesus without knowing him. The Disciples of Emmaus saw Jesus but they did not recognize him. She thinks that he is the gardener. And just as the angels had done, Jesus also asks: “Why are you weeping?” and he adds: “Who are you looking for?” The response: “If you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him”. She was still looking for the Jesus of the past, the same one of three days before. And it is precisely the image of the Jesus of the past which prevents her to recognize the living Jesus, who is present before her.
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• John 20, 16: Mary Magdalene recognizes Jesus. Jesus pronounces the name: “Mary!” This was the sign to recognize him: the same voice, the same way of pronouncing the name. She answers: “Master!” Jesus had returned the same, as the one who had died on the cross. The first impression was that death was only a painful incident on the journey, but now everything has again become as before. Mary embraces Jesus strongly. He was the same Jesus whom she had known and loved. And thus, is fulfilled what the Parable of the Good Shepherd said: “He calls them by name and they recognize his voice”. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (Jn 10, 3.4.14).
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• John 20, 17-18: Mary Magdalene receives the mission to announce the resurrection to the Apostles. In fact, it is the same Jesus, but the way of being together with her is not the same as before. Jesus tells her: “Do not cling to me, because I have not as yet ascended to the Father!” He goes toward the Father. Mary Magdalene has to let Jesus go and assume her mission: to announce to the brothers that he, Jesus, has ascended to the Father. Jesus has opened up the way for us and thus, once more, God is close to us.
Personal questions
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• Have you ever had an experience which has given you the impression of loss and of death? How was it? What is it that gave you new life and gave you the hope and the joy of living?
• Which is the change that took place in Mary Magdalene throughout the dialogue? Mary Magdalene was looking for Jesus in a certain way and found him in a different way. How does this take place in our life?
Concluding Prayer
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We are waiting for Yahweh;
he is our help and our shield,
for in him our heart rejoices,
in his holy name we trust.
Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,
as our hope has rested in you. (Ps 33,20-22)
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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03 APRIL, 2018, Easter Tuesday
WHAT MUST WE DO?

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

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

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

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

Having come to faith in Christ as Lord, the next step is to make an act of commitment.  So when they heard the discourse of St Peter, “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’ ‘You must repent.’ Peter answered ‘and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  So, the action of accepting Jesus as Lord is repentance and be baptized.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 22, 2017 — “The love of Christ impels us.” — “He indeed died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves.”

July 21, 2017

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

Image result for Mary Magdalene, , art, photos

Reading 1  SGS 3:1-4B

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

OR  2 COR 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

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Christ and Mary Magdalene by Albert Edelfelt

Responsorial Psalm  PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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“She thought it was the gardener.”

Mary Magdalen at the Tomb. By Rembrandt

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

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

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

22 JULY, 2017, Saturday, St Mary Magdalene

MOVEMENT FROM SACRAMENTAL TO MYSTICAL LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SONG 3:1-4, or 2 COR 5:14-17PS 63: 2.3-4.5-6.8-9JN 20: 1-211-18]

Why is there a lack of fervor in the faith today?  Sad to say, many have left the Church but those who stay are lukewarm and tepid in their faith.  Many lack evangelical zeal and the desire and enthusiasm to spread the Good News about Jesus.  The practice of faith is reduced to the practice of religion.  It has become a routine in life.  It has even become an iron rice bowl for those in priestly and religious life. No wonder, so many have left the Church or some have joined other religions or Protestant churches where faith seems to be more alive and vibrant.

The cause of the indifference towards the faith is due to a lack of the consciousness of the love of God in our lives.   Rationalism is the first cause for distancing from God. With the emphasis on science and reasoning, there is a tendency towards rationalism.  Our faith in God is very much on the level of intellectual knowledge rather an affective experience of His love.  Theologians can be very knowledgeable in theology but yet lack a real faith in Christ because of the lack of a conscious experience of His personal love.   The danger for those who are engaged in theological study is that they think they know about God’s love and yet in truth they do not know it in their personal life.  It is a deceptive way of pretending to know lots about God.

The second reason is activism.  Many are very active in the apostolate and in the ministry.  Today, the emphasis is on work and activities.  People are afraid to stay still and do nothing.  We must always be doing something and multi-tasking as well.  We are afraid of silence and contemplation.  So we are busy with our projects and activities, doing things for people and for the Church.  It is all about output without any input.  As a consequence, we become edgy and irritable when overworked.  We begin to focus on results and efficiency and no longer on the needs of the people.   It is not surprising that many who are involved in Church ministry or those in priestly life become jaded, lose interest and enthusiasm after a while and instead get themselves engaged in squabbling over rules and control.

The third reason is the loss of the Sacred.  They lack devotion and the presence of the sacred.  Religious things are reduced to the level of the profane.  Many no longer respect the sacredness of the Church, the Eucharist, or the sacramentals.  Holy things are treated with irreverence.  When the line between the sacred and profane is blurred, there is no sense of God’s presence.  This is not to say that they are so clearly distinguished, for we know that God could also be found in ordinary things and the ordinary events of life as well.  But to arrive at this realization, we must begin with the experience of God in the sacred.  Without a real encounter of the Sacred, we can no longer feel the presence of God in our lives.

When we read the bible or study the history of the Church, the growth of the Church was always the result of people and charismatic leaders who were deeply in love with Christ and for His people.  In the Old Testament, it was the great love for God in leaders like Moses, King David and the prophets that the faith was kept.  The prophets, Elijah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Isaiah, were all consumed by their love for God.  During the time of Christ, it was His deep love and intimacy with His Father that was the motivating factor in His mission.  It was for the love of His Father that Christ emptied Himself in the incarnation.  During the time of the apostles, it was their love for the Lord that made them give up their life to follow Jesus in the mission.  They were willing to abandon their family and trade to follow after Jesus.

In the gospel today, we read of Mary Magdalene’s deep devotion to the Lord.  Love enabled her to do all things.   When we are in love with someone, there is nothing that can prevent us from giving ourselves to that person.  When we love, we are consumed by love.   Mary Magdalene was so in love with the Lord she could not wait for the sun to rise to visit Him in the grave.  When she arrived in the dark, the stone was already moved away.  Without checking what was inside the tomb, her fear was that His body was taken away.  And later when the angels asked her why she was weeping, she was so absorbed in her attachment to Jesus’ body that she only could say that the body was taken away.  And when Jesus spoke to her, thinking that He was the gardener said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”   She never thought for a while how she could ever remove a dead body which is too heavy for one person to lift, much less by a woman!  The point is that when we are deeply in love, using all our energy and might, we are able to do things beyond human imagination.

Isn’t this true for all the saints and the missionaries of the early Church and those before the 18th century?  Many of them, for the love of Jesus and their fellowmen, would leave their homeland to far distant countries to spread the gospel.  Many were persecuted and killed or died because of hunger, poverty, poor hygiene and illnesses.   Many died as martyrs for their faith, after being cruelly tortured for their belief.  Saints like St Francis of Assisi left everything and sold all he had for the poor and lived in simplicity because of his love for the Lord.   St Francis Xavier travelled to the Far East to spread the gospel.  Indeed, the Church in the East, Africa and in South America was the result of the sacrifices of the missionaries. This was why St Theresa of the Child Jesus remarked, “I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was aflame with Love. I understood that Love alone stirred the members of the Church to act… I understood that Love encompassed all vocations, that Love was everything”.

However, their love for Christ and His Church came from a prior experience of His love for them.  It is not that we love Him but that He loved us first.  This is what St Paul wrote about his passion for Christ and the gospel.  In the letter to the Corinthians, he said, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14f) St John also reiterated the primacy of God’s love for us.  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”  (1 Jn 4:10)

For this reason, if we want to renew the fervor of the faith of our Catholics, we must lead them to a personal experience of Christ’s love for them.  We need to renew our thirst for the Lord’s love as the Bride did in the Book of Song of Songs.  She cried out, “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him.”   The responsorial psalm also speaks of this thirst for God in his life.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”

But it must proceed from the way of human love before we can arrive at mystical love.  There is a danger of Catholics who lack the experience of God’s love but seek a mystical encounter with Him, bypassing the humanity of Christ through some kind of centering prayer.  It has always been the teaching of the Church and of the mystics that the only way to encounter the mystical Lord is through the humanity of Christ.  Hence, it is important to recount how Mary Magdalene made the progress from loving the Jesus of Nazareth before reaching the maturity of loving the Christ of Faith.  The reason why Mary Magdalene could not find the Lord was because she was still attached to the earthly Jesus of Nazareth.

So Jesus invited her to transcend the level of sensual love to a spiritual love for Him.  He said to her, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   St Paul in the same vein urged the Christians to do likewise.  “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”

In other words, whilst spiritual life begins with an encounter with the Lord through the human way, that is, by tangible and sacramental means, yet we must not just cling to such devotions.  There are many of these devotions, charismatic worship, healing services, Divine Mercy, Novenas and devotions to the saints in the Church.  They are not to be despised or thought to be for the uneducated.  Such devotions help us to cultivate a human love for God and the saints.  It helps us to experience their love affectively.  But if our love for the Lord is just focused on devotions and the sacramentals, we can become overly superstitious.   Nevertheless, they are important means to lead us to into a deeper encounter with the Lord in contemplative prayer, in silence and in charity.  In the final analysis, the height of love for God is both a contemplative and mystical experience of His love leading us to share His love with others.

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

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Reflection from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
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Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the
Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
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It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little”
(Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Meditation: Do you recognize the presence and reality of the Lord Jesus in your life? How easy it is to miss the Lord when our focus is on ourselves! Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize the Lord Jesus after he had risen from the grave because her focus was on the empty tomb and on her own grief. It took only one word from the Master, when he called her by name, for Mary to recognize him.

Recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that every Christian know something about the Lord, but that each one of us know him personally and intimately. It is not enough to argue about him, but that we meet him. Through the power of his resurrection we can encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares his glory with us.

The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope – the hope that we will see God face to face and share in his everlasting glory and joy.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, in his word, in the “breaking of the bread”, and in his church, the body of Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence in your saving word.”

Daily Quote from the early church fathersMary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, by Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

“Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner in the city (rf. Luke 7:37), loved the Truth and so washed away with her tears the stains of wickedness (rf Luke 7:47). Her sins had kept her cold, but afterward she burned with an irresistible love.… We must consider this woman’s state of mind whose great force of love inflamed her. When even the disciples departed from the sepulcher, she did not depart. She looked for him whom she had not found.… But it is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search. She looked for him a first time and found nothing. She persevered in seeking, and that is why she found him. As her unfulfilled desires increased, they took possession of what they found (rf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4)… Holy desires, as I have told you before, increase by delay in their fulfillment. If delay causes them to fail, they were not desires.… This was Mary’s kind of love as she turned a second time to the sepulcher she had already looked into. Let us see the result of her search, which had been redoubled by the power of love. (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 25)

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, By Rembrandt

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Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888) — He said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

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She mistook him for the gardener — And he said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JULY 2016, Friday, St. Mary Magdalene
PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SG 3:1-4 or 2 COR 5:14-17; PS 62(63):2-6.8-9; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18  ]

How can we know God?  Most people want to know God through reason.  In the bible, it is clear that the way to know God is through faith rather than through reason.  It is the way of the heart, not the head.  The difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of God through the head is because our minds keep changing.  Reasoning has no end because our minds are always curious and searching for the fullness of truth which can only be arrived at when we find God.  The way to God is always through the heart.  But how can we have faith?  Faith comes through love.  We can place our faith in God only because of love.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Dt 6:4f)

Indeed, this has always been the case of all those who have found God.  Very few have come to know God through an intellectual process.  The way of St Paul was that of love.  In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14)  All the disciples, including Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today, followed the Lord because they were moved by His love for them.  This is true for all the saints and mystics.  Even St Thomas Aquinas abandoned his great project, the Summa Theologica, upon encountering God whilst celebrating Mass.  He refused to complete his works saying, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.  I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”  His vision of heaven or of God cannot be compared to anything else, so that all things on earth appeared to be worthless to him.

Indeed, when we have fallen in love with God, everything changes.  This is what St Paul says again, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  (2 Cor 5:16-17)  When we love, we see things and people differently.  We no longer see them as they are but we see them with the eyes of love.  Both the lover and the beloved are transformed by love.  All religions are based on faith, a personal encounter with the Lord or a mystical experience.  This explains why different people have different faiths, and why some do not have faith in any religion at all.   This is true in all human relationships.  When we fall in love with someone, we perceive the person with the eyes of love and that colours our judgment of the person.  We see beyond what the person is externally.

Mary Magdalene is the exemplar of a disciple who was deeply in love with the Lord. She had been delivered from the seven demons by Jesus.  Apparently, she was a wealthy lady.  From then on, she, with the other women, travelled with Jesus in his itinerant ministry.  They were ministering and taking care of Jesus and the disciples in the background.  Her love for Jesus could be seen in the way, she went to look for Jesus at the tomb early in the morning before all others.  She was with Jesus at the foot of the cross at His death.  All she wanted was to be with the Lord.  And so, upon discovering that the tomb was empty, she went to inform the disciples.  What was significant was that only John who went to the tomb, upon seeing the linen cloths that were left behind, believed that the Lord was risen.  Peter saw but could not make sense of it.  And so he went back still mystified.  However, the faithful Mary Magdalene stayed outside near the tomb weeping and waiting for Jesus.  She did not give up hope.

Mary Magdalene is for us an example of one who waits actively for her beloved to appear.  As the Song of Songs says of the bride who not only waits for her bridegroom but with expectant faith and hope, goes in search for him. “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares. I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. The watchmen came upon me on their rounds in the City: ‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them than I found him whom my heart loves.”

For those of us who have no experience of God’s love or find it difficult to allow God to love us, then we are called to follow the path of Mary Magdalene.  We must abandon the way of reason and take the path of love.  How can we empty our minds when we are so used to reasoning and proofs? 

We must be like Magdalene, be ready to keep on waiting patiently for the Lord.  But we do not simply just wait for Christ to appear. We need to search for Him. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Mt 7:7f)  Waiting for the Lord is necessary, just like Mary Magdalene who remained outside the tomb when the other disciples left after finding no one there.

Secondly, if we want to encounter Him, then we are called to be like Mary Magdalene whose desire for the Lord is beautifully expressed in the responsorial psalm.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”  By longing for the Lord, we increase our capacity to love Him even more so that when He appears, we can enjoy a deeper experience of His love.  The deeper the desire, the bigger the capacity to receive His love.  This explains why when the Lord appeared to Magdalene He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She replied, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”   This act of asking Magdalene is to strengthen and deepen her desire for Christ.

Thirdly, we need to wait till we hear Him calling us by name.  This was what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene.  “‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  Until we hear the Lord calling us by name, we will never know His love.  Before that when Jesus addressed her as woman, she was not able to recognize Jesus:  “’Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’” To hear the call of Jesus and to recognize Him requires that we are called by name, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.”  (Isa 49:15f)  Those of us who have heard Him calling our names are set free and feel loved again. Only then are we convinced that He really loves us.

Finally, we must also avoid falling into the same mistake as Magdalene when she allowed her grief to blind her to the presence of Jesus.  Quite often our pains, hurts and resentments prevent us from looking for the Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, we want to cling on to the past instead of allowing the new creation to work in us.  Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene could not see the Risen Lord because she was looking for the Historical Jesus.  But Christ is a New Creation. We must look beyond ourselves to the Lord, to focus on Him rather than on ourselves.  In this way, we can then recognize the Lord coming into our lives in so many ways.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, March 17, 2017 — “The stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone” — Saint Patrick — “Everyone who believes in him might have eternal life”

March 16, 2017

Friday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 234

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Reading 1 GN 37:3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons,
for he was the child of his old age;
and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons,
they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.

One day, when his brothers had gone
to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem,
Israel said to Joseph,
“Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem.
Get ready; I will send you to them.”

So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan.
They noticed him from a distance,
and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him.
They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer!
Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here;
we could say that a wild beast devoured him.
We shall then see what comes of his dreams.”

When Reuben heard this,
he tried to save him from their hands, saying,
“We must not take his life.
Instead of shedding blood,” he continued,
“just throw him into that cistern there in the desert;
but do not kill him outright.”
His purpose was to rescue him from their hands
and return him to his father.
So when Joseph came up to them,
they stripped him of the long tunic he had on;
then they took him and threw him into the cistern,
which was empty and dry.

They then sat down to their meal.
Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead,
their camels laden with gum, balm and resin
to be taken down to Egypt.
Judah said to his brothers:
“What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood?
Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites,
instead of doing away with him ourselves.
After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.”
His brothers agreed.
They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.

Responsorial Psalm PS 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21

R. (5a) Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
When the LORD called down a famine on the land
and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
They had weighed him down with fetters,
and he was bound with chains,
Till his prediction came to pass
and the word of the LORD proved him true.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
The king sent and released him,
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.

Verse Before The GospelJN 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son;
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.

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Gospel MT 21:33-43, 45-46

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.

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Commentary on Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 from Living Space

We have here a parable spoken to the unbelieving chief priests and elders of the people.

It is the history of the Israelite people told in parable form. In fact, it is more of an allegory than a parable as each of the persons and incidents described point to real people and real events. Some scholars feel that what we have here is really an early Church document rather than something directly from Jesus. What seems more likely is that a parable spoken by Jesus has been modified in the light of later events.

The owner of the vineyard is clearly God. The vineyard is the house of Israel, where God’s people are to be found. The tenants of the vineyard are the people of God. The servants sent to collect the harvest are abused in various ways – beaten, killed, stoned.

The servants represent the prophets and other spokespersons sent by God to his people, many of whom were rejected, not listened to and even abused. Finally, the owner decides to send his son. “They will respect my son.” On the contrary, they saw that, if they got rid of the son, they could take over the whole vineyard for themselves. They could carry on without the owner.

So they seized the son, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. A clear reference to Jesus being crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem.

And what will the king do then? Jesus asks. The leaders condemn themselves by answering the question: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end” as happened when the city of Jerusalem was totally destroyed in 70 AD.

Instead, the vineyard is let out to new tenants – those Jews and Gentiles, the new people of God, who believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The stone rejected by the builders becomes the cornerstone. “The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” (This is one of only two instances where Matthew uses the term ‘Kingdom of God’ rather than ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.) The Gentiles had for long been rejected as unbelievers and outsiders. Now, it is on them, together with those Jews who accepted Jesus, that the Kingdom will be built.

The Gospel ends by commenting that Jesus’ hearers understood his message perfectly but, because of Jesus’ popularity with the people, they could do nothing in retaliation for the moment.

Again and again it has happened in world history that fighters for truth and justice have been rejected, jailed, tortured and eventually found themselves the saviours of their people. Pavel in Czechoslovakia, Mandela in South Africa, Martin Luther King in the US, Gandhi in India.

Let us make sure that we are listening to the right people, the people who have the message of truth, love and justice and that we follow them. Jesus our Saviour still speaks through his followers.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1026g/

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St. Patrick’s Day — Trinity College Dublin. Photograph by Brenda Fitzsimons, Irish Times (File Photo)

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St. Patrick’s Day 2013 in Rio

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Related:

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 Art: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Hermitage Museum,Saint Petersburg
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The story of the Prodigal Son (Totally Forgiving Father) has become one of my favorites.
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Spiritual writer Fr. Henri Nouwen traveled to St. Petersburg to sit before this painting for days: meditating and praying. In fact, he wrote an entire book on the meaning of this story and this painting. We highly recommend all of Henri Nouwen’s books, and maybe our favorite is:
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Nouwen teaches us to always remember that we are human beings with many flaws. Our lives do not always progress like the perfect symphony in our imagination. We need to learn from our mistakes but allow them to go away. We need to escape self punishment which can be the ruin of us!
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Our lives have many facets. Some days we are the corner stone! Some days we aren’t!
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SEIZING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GN 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28; MT 21:33-43 ]

Lent is an invitation to enter the kingdom of God.  It is an invitation to live a life of love, joy, peace and freedom.  It is a great opportunity for anyone to receive the grace to embrace the life of the kingdom.  During this season of Lent, the Church presents us many possibilities to journey together as one family of God to enter the Promised Land of the life of the Risen Lord.  What we make of it depends on whether we seize this opportunity of grace or whether we let this prospect pass us by.

Indeed, in life, we are given many opportunities to be happy, successful and to live life to the fullest.  Every day that we are alive is itself an opportunity.   Every day that we are able to walk, eat, talk and think means that we have the opportunity to grow and make a success of our life.  To have good health is the greatest blessing, for with health, everything is possible and within our reach.  It is a question of whether we are open, receptive and courageous to seize the opportunities when they come, and whether we are alert, proactive and positive in making use of the occasions presented to us.  And such opportunities abound.

Unfortunately, instead of seizing the opportunity of the day, many of us live in the past, lamenting what it could have been, bemoaning our misfortunes, blaming people for our failures and falling into depression.  The sad reality is that whilst they are grumbling about their problems, the opportunities fly past without their notice. So downcast they are and stuck in the mud, they cannot see the graces that God sends through their friends, colleagues and family members.   Jobs are offered to them but they make excuses that these are not suitable for them, because the place of work is more than three bus-stops away!  Friends invite them out for a meal but they give excuses that they do not have nice clothes to wear, or that it is too hot or crowded. Such people are impossible to help or please.  And there are many of them.  In fact, many times we try to help such supposedly “poor” people but they are not interested to be helped.  All they want is regular hand-outs; not work, not a solution.

In the scripture readings, we are told that our God is a God of opportunities.  He never gets tired of helping us.  He is a God of many chances.  He does not give us one chance but repeated chances.  He is always patient, forgiving and long-suffering.  He never gives up hope on us. The parable of the vineyard speaks of this God who perseveres in saving us.  Since the beginning of salvation history, God has been sending the Israelites one prophet after another to call them to conversion.  The vineyard refers to the people of Israel because God called Israel His vineyard. Yet, instead of taking care of the vineyard, they abused their authority and sought to be masters and lords of the vineyard, instead of tilling it to serve God who was the master.  They did not listen to the prophets sent by God to ask the kings and the peoples to repent.  Instead, not only did they persecute the prophets of God, they even had them killed.

This history of infidelity and the rejection of God’s grace continued into the time of Jesus, when the chief priests and the elders of the people rejected Jesus, who is the son of the owner, the only begotten Son.  They killed the Son of God and put Him out of the vineyard.  This is the sad reality even today, because often the call to conversion and repentance is rejected not by the common people but the leaders of religion and society.

The tragedy of the world today is that instead of seizing the opportunities for conversion and new life, we seize the opportunities for evil.  This was what happened to Joseph’s brothers and the religious leaders during the time of Jesus.  In the first reading, we read of how the brothers of Joseph were jealous of him.  They were envious that their father loved him more than the others.  “He was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him.”   Naturally they felt angry and resentful of Joseph and “came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.”  And so, when the opportunity came, they plotted to have him killed so that they could get rid of their competitor once and for all.  They said, “Here comes the man of dreams. Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him, then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.”   It was an opportunity indeed, but it was an opportunity for evil.

In the gospel too, we are told that the leaders of Israel, both in the Old Testament and during the time of Jesus, had the opportunity to put their lives in order.  Alas, instead of seizing these opportunities, they looked for the opportunity to put away the prophets, Jesus and His apostles.  Indeed, all through the history of Israel, the primitive Church and even today, leaders are using every opportunity to silence the truth of the gospel. Instead of being receptive to the grace of God that comes through His prophets, we seek to silence them instead.  The Church of old and the Church today continues to suffer under the persecution of secularism, relativism and pragmatism.

The critical question is not just whether we seize the opportunity at hand but whether we are using the grace of God rightly.  We can use the grace of God given to us for the wrong things.  There are many who are intelligent but use their intelligence to enrich themselves and to cheat.  Even Joseph was equally at fault because although God gave him the gift of leadership and intelligence, he became boastful and caused his brothers to feel insecure. Some are talented and eloquent but use their gift to gain popularity and even to manipulate people.  Whatever we have in life is given to us so that we can use them for good.  But often, because of jealousy, pride or greed, we misuse the gifts for evil intentions.

Regardless, God is gracious.  The sins of man cannot disrupt His plan for the salvation of humanity.  He would not let us down if we repent.  Even in the case of Joseph, God inspired his brother Rueben to save him from being killed.  And then in accordance with His divine plan, God had Joseph sold as a slave but later made him a great adviser to Pharaoh.  Joseph must have learnt his lesson and thus when he cooperated with God’s grace, God made him a great ruler in Egypt and the savior of his people.  This time, he seized the opportunity correctly.

We too must learn how to seize the opportunity for growth and conversion when God sends His prophets to us.   Through them, we can grow in our faith and relationship.  We must see them as instruments of God to purify us in our growth in authentic love.  At the same time, we are called to transcend our enemies by conquering them with love.  This was the case of Joseph and Jesus.  They did not succumb to the reign of revenge and bitterness in their lives against those who did them harm.  Instead, they returned love for hatred.  That is the way we too are called to act in dealing with our enemies.  This is using the opportunity of grace positively.

When we adopt such attitudes to the prophets of grace in our lives, we will find that we can grow and be purified in love and holiness in every way.  It will always be a win-win situation.  With our enemies, we grow by transcending them; with our true prophets, we can learn from their advice and challenges.   Whether true or false prophets, they are our spiritual benefactors, helping us to grow in grace and love. Consequently, those whom we find a nuisance in our lives, especially the difficult ones, are probably people who can really help us to purify our motives of loving in life.  That is why they are often called our spiritual benefactors.  In fact, the more a person is a thorn in our lives, the more he or she is our spiritual benefactor. Thus, what we perceive to be unwanted stones or pains in our lives, are often the very instruments through which we grow in virtue and faith.   Let us pray that we will be able to always respond positively to the prophets in our lives and all the opportunities of grace so that we might not miss the opportunities for conversion in our lives.

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

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Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, dog, tree and outdoor
South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Chicago

Trying not to go haywire… “For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”

September 9, 2016

Trying not to go haywire…

“I do not understand my own actions because I do not do what I want to. But I do the very thing that I hate. … I can will what is right but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now, if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who does it but the sin that dwells within me. … Wretched person that I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death, from this life of sin? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And we love Romans 7 because this chapter is so accurate in its description of our human nature.

— Romans 7:15

I am happily married, for forty years now, and my wife is here today, and so it is uncomfortable for me to say that I look lustfully at certain women. Jimmie Carter, when he was President of the United States and also the most famous Bible teacher in the Baptist church, made the front page of TIME magazine by confessing he still had feelings of lust, even though happily married. He didn’t want to have such feelings. Neither do I. Neither do you. But in reality, we have them.

So I come to the conclusion: what kind of a Christian am I anyhow? I must not be a very good Christian. I must be a weak Christian. I must be a compromising Christian. I must be a sinful, imperfect Christian. What is wrong with me? Why are there so many contradictions living inside of me. What kind of a man is this that lives inside of me?

We all have these kinds of inner struggles within ourselves. You have yours; I have mine.

Now, who is it that wrote these words? “That which I want to do, I do not do. And that which I hate to do is exactly what I do.”  Who is it that wrote these words? Was it some seventeen year old kid who was off parked with his girlfriend one night and he discovered his hormones were stronger than the Holy Spirit?  Was it some newly “born again” Christian who was a recent Christian convert? Was this written by some TV evangelist who pompously parades around on some platform,  preaching and pretending, that all of these temptations have left him?

We all know that the man who wrote these words was the Apostle Paul. Here he was at the very high point of his life. Fifty-five to sixty-five years old; a mature Christian; he had been a Christian for some twenty to twenty-five years. Here was the Apostle Paul who prayed fervently, who worked mighty miracles, who wrote numerous letters to the churches. Here was Paul who spoke courageously before governments, kings, and rulers. Here was Paul who was tossed into prison, beaten and stoned. Here was Paul, the most mature person of the Christ-centered life, at the high point of his Christian, at the top of his game, at the top of his A game (to use an analogy from golf) saying, “I don’t get it. I do not get it. I do the things that I hate. And the very things that I want to do, I don’t do. That which I don’t want to do, I do. What is wrong with me? What a wretched person?”

And then it begins to dawn on us that one of the marks of a mature Christian is the awareness of this struggle with evil in your life. One of the marks of a mature Christian is this honest awareness about who are, honest about this civil war within us. It is to struggle with evil until your dying day. We all struggle. We all say to ourselves, “O wretched person that I am.”

Or perhaps have you outgrown this? Have you become so mature, so holy? Is your life so together, so you have finally arrived at the point where you say, “I am just fine. I am not life the Apostle Paul. You say inside, “Wretched are those other people. I have won the battle with my sin; I have conquered my sinful self and my civil war.”

According to the Apostle Paul, a mark of a mature Christian is that a person continues to struggle with sin until your dying day. This is not a sign of Christian immaturity,  not a sign of Christian weakness, not a sign of Christian double mindedness and doubt. This is a mark of a real Christian who lives in a real world and has real feelings inside and real awareness of himself or herself. Yes, we know that we struggle with it.

So here we are. The Apostle Paul, at the very top of his life, at the top of his game, at the very apex of his Christian life, when he was writing the finest letter that he had ever written, he says, “What is wrong with me? How come? The very good that I want to do, I do not do. That which I don’t want to do, is precisely what I do.” The Apostle Paul, who was the most mature Christian in his era, was writing these words.

But … is that all there is? That we struggle with sin? No, not at all. That is Romans, chapter seven. Chapter seven sets the table for chapter eight. Chapter seven is a prelude for chapter eight. At the end of chapter seven, he adds the transitional verse: “Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord.” If you move into Romans, chapter eight, you will discover Paul talking about the power of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit that comes into your life and gives you strength. He talks about the Holy Spirit who helps you get over your alcoholism, your drug addictions. He talks about the Holy Spirit who helps you get control of those destructive behaviors that are hurting your family, your marriage, yourself and hurting you in so many different ways. Paul talks about the Holy Spirit coming into you and strengthening you and helping you to do what is right. He talks about the Holy Spirit, forgiving you through the death of Christ on the cross.

Romans 8 is one of the fines chapters in the Bible. In this summer sermon series, I have preached one sermon on chapter three, one on chapter four, one on chapter five, one on chapter six, one on chapter seven; but when we get to chapter eight next week, there will be five sermons on one chapter. Romans 8 is one of the grandest chapters of the Bible.

But meanwhile, back at the ranch, based on chapter seven, we remain sinners. At the same time, we remain with our self-contradictions.  Even after you have memorized all the verses of chapter eight; even after you have assimilated chapter eight; even after you have put chapter eight into practice in your life, chapter seven still stands.  You still live with the truth from chapter seven. You never can escape the civil war inside of you.

Martin Luther understood this well, when he used this Latin phrase that sounds like this: “simil Justus epecator.” It was a very famous phrase during the Reformation. Simil Justus Epecator.” Simultaneously, saint and sinner. Simultaneously, when you are a saint, you are also a sinner. This phrase is true. You, as a Christian, are going to struggle with the sin inside of you until your dying day. That is just the way it is.

I have it figured out. The foolish religious-type said: “Tomorrow, I am going to start again. There will be a new leaf tomorrow. Turning over a new chapter in my life I am going to get up and roll out of bed and before my feet hit the floor, I’m going to pull out the Bible and read and pray for an hour. And then tomorrow morning, I am going to have a vegetarian breakfast, then a vegetarian lunch and then a vegetarian dinner. Tomorrow night, late, about midnight, when everybody is asleep, when the wife is asleep and the children are not watching and the dog is asleep by the fireplace, I am going to sneak into the refrigerator and just … pig out on a bowl … full of vegetables. Amen.

http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/romans_idontdowhatiwant.htm

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Why do we pray, meditate and do all the things that Christians are taught to do?

Because we are trying to get God’s help in our lives. Because we are trying, striving, and never quite able to live up to His expectations for us.

Because we are human but we know we have a spiritual core.

We want the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We want that little tiny spark within is, that small pilot light of God, to become a reliable compass that draws us closer to Him and further from our humanness. Our sinfulness.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Hermitage Museum,Saint Petersburg
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_(Rembrandt)
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The story of the Prodigal Son (Totally Forgiving Father) has become one of my favorites.
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Spiritual writer Fr. Henri Nouwen traveled to St. Petersburg to sit before this painting for days: meditating and praying. In fact, he wrote an entire book on the meaning of this story and this painting. We highly recommend all of Henri Nouwen’s books, and maybe our favorite is The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.
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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 22, 2016 — “Woman, why are you weeping?” — She thought she was talking to the gardener — Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

July 21, 2016

Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
Lectionary: 603

Reading 1 SGS 3:1-4B

The Bride says:
On my bed at night I sought him
whom my heart loves–
I sought him but I did not find him.
I will rise then and go about the city;
in the streets and crossings I will seek
Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
when I found him whom my heart loves.

OR 2 COR 5:14-17

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.

Responsorial Psalm PS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the way?
I saw the glory of the risen Christ, I saw his empty tomb.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 20:1-2, 11-18

On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

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

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Reflection from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
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Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the
Father”. A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death. At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
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It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little”
(Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

Source: http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

Mary Magdalene Thought She Was talking To The Gardener by Rembrandt

Meditation: Do you recognize the presence and reality of the Lord Jesus in your life? How easy it is to miss the Lord when our focus is on ourselves! Mary Magdalene did not at first recognize the Lord Jesus after he had risen from the grave because her focus was on the empty tomb and on her own grief. It took only one word from the Master, when he called her by name, for Mary to recognize him.

Recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives
Mary’s message to the disciples, I have seen the Lord, is the very essence of Christianity. It is not enough that every Christian know something about the Lord, but that each one of us know him personally and intimately. It is not enough to argue about him, but that we meet him. Through the power of his resurrection we can encounter the living Lord who loves us personally and shares his glory with us.

The Lord Jesus gives us “eyes of faith” to see the truth of his resurrection and his victory over sin and death (Ephesians 1:18). The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our hope – the hope that we will see God face to face and share in his everlasting glory and joy.

Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Do you recognize the Lord’s presence with you, in his word, in the “breaking of the bread”, and in his church, the body of Christ?

“Lord Jesus, may I never fail to recognize your voice nor lose sight of your presence in your saving word.”

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus, by Gregory the Great (540-604 AD)

“Mary Magdalene, who had been a sinner in the city (rf. Luke 7:37), loved the Truth and so washed away with her tears the stains of wickedness (rf Luke 7:47). Her sins had kept her cold, but afterward she burned with an irresistible love.… We must consider this woman’s state of mind whose great force of love inflamed her. When even the disciples departed from the sepulcher, she did not depart. She looked for him whom she had not found.… But it is not enough for a lover to have looked once, because the force of love intensifies the effort of the search. She looked for him a first time and found nothing. She persevered in seeking, and that is why she found him. As her unfulfilled desires increased, they took possession of what they found (rf. Song of Solomon 3:1-4)… Holy desires, as I have told you before, increase by delay in their fulfillment. If delay causes them to fail, they were not desires.… This was Mary’s kind of love as she turned a second time to the sepulcher she had already looked into. Let us see the result of her search, which had been redoubled by the power of love. (excerpt from FORTY GOSPEL HOMILIES 25)

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Do Not Be Afraid
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Art: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, By Rembrandt

Jesus walks on water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888) — He said to them, “Do not be afraid.”

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She mistook him for the gardener — And he said to her, “Do not be afraid.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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22 JULY 2016, Friday, St. Mary Magdalene
PERSEVERING LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ SG 3:1-4 or 2 COR 5:14-17; PS 62(63):2-6.8-9; JN 20: 1-2, 11-18  ]

How can we know God?  Most people want to know God through reason.  In the bible, it is clear that the way to know God is through faith rather than through reason.  It is the way of the heart, not the head.  The difficulty of arriving at the knowledge of God through the head is because our minds keep changing.  Reasoning has no end because our minds are always curious and searching for the fullness of truth which can only be arrived at when we find God.  The way to God is always through the heart.  But how can we have faith?  Faith comes through love.  We can place our faith in God only because of love.  Moses instructed the people, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”  (Dt 6:4f)

Indeed, this has always been the case of all those who have found God.  Very few have come to know God through an intellectual process.  The way of St Paul was that of love.  In his letter to the Corinthians, he wrote, “The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.”  (2 Cor 5:14)  All the disciples, including Mary Magdalene whose feast we celebrate today, followed the Lord because they were moved by His love for them.  This is true for all the saints and mystics.  Even St Thomas Aquinas abandoned his great project, the Summa Theologica, upon encountering God whilst celebrating Mass.  He refused to complete his works saying, “The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.  I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.”  His vision of heaven or of God cannot be compared to anything else, so that all things on earth appeared to be worthless to him.

Indeed, when we have fallen in love with God, everything changes.  This is what St Paul says again, “From now onwards, therefore, we do not judge anyone by the standards of the flesh. Even if we did once know Christ in the flesh, that is not how we know him now. And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here.”  (2 Cor 5:16-17)  When we love, we see things and people differently.  We no longer see them as they are but we see them with the eyes of love.  Both the lover and the beloved are transformed by love.  All religions are based on faith, a personal encounter with the Lord or a mystical experience.  This explains why different people have different faiths, and why some do not have faith in any religion at all.   This is true in all human relationships.  When we fall in love with someone, we perceive the person with the eyes of love and that colours our judgment of the person.  We see beyond what the person is externally.

Mary Magdalene is the exemplar of a disciple who was deeply in love with the Lord. She had been delivered from the seven demons by Jesus.  Apparently, she was a wealthy lady.  From then on, she, with the other women, travelled with Jesus in his itinerant ministry.  They were ministering and taking care of Jesus and the disciples in the background.  Her love for Jesus could be seen in the way, she went to look for Jesus at the tomb early in the morning before all others.  She was with Jesus at the foot of the cross at His death.  All she wanted was to be with the Lord.  And so, upon discovering that the tomb was empty, she went to inform the disciples.  What was significant was that only John who went to the tomb, upon seeing the linen cloths that were left behind, believed that the Lord was risen.  Peter saw but could not make sense of it.  And so he went back still mystified.  However, the faithful Mary Magdalene stayed outside near the tomb weeping and waiting for Jesus.  She did not give up hope.

Mary Magdalene is for us an example of one who waits actively for her beloved to appear.  As the Song of Songs says of the bride who not only waits for her bridegroom but with expectant faith and hope, goes in search for him. “On my bed, at night, I sought him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. So I will rise and go through the City; in the streets and the squares. I will seek him whom my heart loves. I sought but did not find him. The watchmen came upon me on their rounds in the City: ‘Have you seen him whom my heart loves?’ Scarcely had I passed them than I found him whom my heart loves.”

For those of us who have no experience of God’s love or find it difficult to allow God to love us, then we are called to follow the path of Mary Magdalene.  We must abandon the way of reason and take the path of love.  How can we empty our minds when we are so used to reasoning and proofs? 

We must be like Magdalene, be ready to keep on waiting patiently for the Lord.  But we do not simply just wait for Christ to appear. We need to search for Him. “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Mt 7:7f)  Waiting for the Lord is necessary, just like Mary Magdalene who remained outside the tomb when the other disciples left after finding no one there.

Secondly, if we want to encounter Him, then we are called to be like Mary Magdalene whose desire for the Lord is beautifully expressed in the responsorial psalm.  “O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory. For your love is better than life, my lips will speak your praise.”  By longing for the Lord, we increase our capacity to love Him even more so that when He appears, we can enjoy a deeper experience of His love.  The deeper the desire, the bigger the capacity to receive His love.  This explains why when the Lord appeared to Magdalene He asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She replied, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”   This act of asking Magdalene is to strengthen and deepen her desire for Christ.

Thirdly, we need to wait till we hear Him calling us by name.  This was what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene.  “‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”  Until we hear the Lord calling us by name, we will never know His love.  Before that when Jesus addressed her as woman, she was not able to recognize Jesus:  “’Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’” To hear the call of Jesus and to recognize Him requires that we are called by name, as the prophet Isaiah says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even if these may forget, I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before Me.”  (Isa 49:15f)  Those of us who have heard Him calling our names are set free and feel loved again. Only then are we convinced that He really loves us.

Finally, we must also avoid falling into the same mistake as Magdalene when she allowed her grief to blind her to the presence of Jesus.  Quite often our pains, hurts and resentments prevent us from looking for the Lord.  Like Mary Magdalene, we want to cling on to the past instead of allowing the new creation to work in us.  Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  Mary Magdalene could not see the Risen Lord because she was looking for the Historical Jesus.  But Christ is a New Creation. We must look beyond ourselves to the Lord, to focus on Him rather than on ourselves.  In this way, we can then recognize the Lord coming into our lives in so many ways.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, March 29, 2016 — God has made him both Lord and Christ

March 28, 2016

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter
Lectionary: 262

Reading 1 ACTS 2:36-41

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

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

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

AlleluiaPS 118:24

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

Gospel JN 20:11-18

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,”
which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me,
for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he had told her.
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Art: Christ and St. Mary Magdalene at the Tomb by Rembrandt c.1638 — “She thought it was the gardener.”
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Commentary on John 20:11-18 from Living Space

After going off to tell Peter and the other disciples about the empty tomb, it seems that Mary of Magdala went back there to grieve over her lost friend and master. She sees two angels sitting inside the tomb and asks where her Lord has been taken. When asked why she is weeping, she replies that her Lord has been “taken away” and she does not know where he has been put.

Then, as she turns round, there is Jesus before her but she does not recognise him. This is a common experience with those who meet Jesus after the resurrection. He is the same and he is not the same. In this transitional period they have to learn to recognise Jesus in unexpected forms and places and situations. He asks the same question as the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” A question we need to ask ourselves constantly. Like Mary, we may say we are looking for Jesus – but which Jesus?
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She thinks the person in front of her is the gardener. How often we jump to conclusions about people, about their character and personality and true identity! Maybe this man has taken Jesus away and knows where he is. It is also another lovely example of Johannine irony. First, that the one she took to be the gardener should know where Jesus was to be found. Second, it is John who tells us that the tomb of Jesus was in a garden (19:41). All the world’s pain and sorrow began with the sin of the Man and the Woman in a garden (Eden) and now new life also finds its beginnings in a garden. Mary was unwittingly right – Jesus is a Gardener, the one who produces life from the earth, and is the Word of his Father, the Gardener of Eden.
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Then Jesus speaks: “Mary!” Immediately she recognises his voice, the voice of her Master. It reminds us of the passage about Jesus the Shepherd. “The sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name… the sheep follow him because they recognise his voice… I know my sheep and they know me” (John 10:3-4,15).
Immediately she turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni”. This is a more formal address than just “Rabbi” and was often used when speaking to God. In which case, Mary’s exclamation is not unlike that of Thomas in the upper room – “My Lord and my God!” We should also note that earlier she had already turned to face Jesus so this turning is different. It is an interior turning from strangeness to recognition, from sadness to joy, from a sense of loss to a close bonding, from doubt to faith.
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With a mixture of joy and affection and partly out of fear of losing him again, she clings on to him tightly. But Jesus tells her to let him go, because “I have not ascended to the Father.” A sentence which may be better read as a rhetorical question: “Have I not ascended to my Father?” In John, the glorification of Jesus takes place on the cross at the moment of death.
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At that moment of triumph, Jesus is raised straight to the glory of the Father. In that sense, it is the glorified Jesus who now speaks with Mary not the Jesus she knew earlier. This Jesus cannot be clung to. In fact, there is no need. From now on “I am with you always.”
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The phrase “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” echoes a sentence in the Book of Ruth (1:16): “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” The Father of Jesus now becomes the Father of his disciples as they are filled with the Spirit that is both in the Father and the Son. Thus they will be re-born (John 3:5) as God’s children and can be called “brothers” by Jesus.
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Mary – and all the others – have to learn that the Risen Jesus is different from the Jesus before the crucifixion. They have to let go of the earlier Jesus and learn to relate to the “new” Jesus in a very different way.
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So she is told to do what every Christian is supposed to do: go and tell the other disciples that she has seen the Lord and she shares with them what he has said to her. “I have seen the Lord.” She is not just passing on a doctrine but sharing an experience. That is what we are all called to do.
It is significant that it is a woman who is the first person in John’s gospel to see and to be spoken to by the Risen Jesus. Not only that, if she is the same person mentioned by Luke as one of Jesus’ women followers (Luke 8:2), she was formerly a deeply sinful woman from whom seven demons had been driven out. Often no one is closer to God than someone who has been converted from a sinful past. We think of people like St Augustine or St Ignatius Loyola. We remember the example of the sinful woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:35-50). Of her Jesus said: “Seeing that she loved much, her many sins are forgiven. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little” (Luke 7:47).

So Mary, who (who with Mary, Jesus’ Mother, stood by the cross of Jesus to the very end – unlike the men disciples), is now rewarded by being the first to meet him risen and glorified. She is truly a beloved disciple.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/e1013g/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore 
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29 MARCH 2016, Tuesday Within Easter Octave
COMING OUT OF OUR TOMB

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 2:36-41; JN 20:11-18 ]

Today is the second day of the Octave of Easter.   Are you resurrected yet?  Or are you still in the tomb?  If so, why is it that you are still hiding in the tomb when we are told that the Lord has removed the stone blocking you from coming out of the tomb?  Moreover, the morning star has set and the light of Christ is shining so brightly outside the tomb!

If we are still in the tomb, it could be because we are like Mary, who was not able to let go of the past.  She could not let go of the beautiful memories she had of Jesus who saved her from sin and from living a meaningless life.   She was still thinking of the Jesus of Nazareth whom she loved with all her heart.  She was clinging to the things of this world, to what is earthly.  At the same time, she could not forget the horrible sight and memories of Jesus who was scourged, mocked, ridiculed and crucified on the cross.  She must have been so heartbroken, not just at the death of Jesus but the tragic way He died; an ignominious and innocent death.

It is the same for us too.  We are like Mary who continued to cling to our past, the good old days when our children were with us at our side but now no more as they are now living their independent lives. Some of us are in bereavement over the loss of our loved ones; some are widowed and some of us are sickly.  Again, when we think of the good old days, we cannot but regret that the good times have passed, and now we are living lives of loneliness and pain.  Indeed, it is the tendency of those of us are who suffering to bemoan the nostalgic times and wish that we could relive them.

When we are not ready to move on to a new situation, we become misfits in society and in life.  Sadly, those who have suffered failures in relationship, who have been jilted or betrayed in marriage and friendship, are not willing to move on and would rather give up on relationships all together.  The failure to adapt and change is the cause of our misery.  When we continue to look to the good old days, reinforcing our pains and misery and wallowing in them, we cannot see the Risen Lord or even the angels that the Lord sends to us.  This was certainly what happened to Mary Magdalene.  We read that “still weeping, she stooped to look inside, and saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head, the other at the feet. They said, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she replied, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’”  She did not even see the angels or know that they were angels from God who had been sent to help her and console her with the Good News.   We, too, when we are absorbed in our pains and hurts, we cannot see the light in front of us and the angels God sends to us through our friends, colleagues, loved ones, the priests and especially the Word of God and the Eucharist.

For others, it is their sins that prevent them from seeing the new life.  They have not completely given up their sins.  St Paul reminds us of the need to get rid of the old yeast of sin so that we can be fresh dough.  (cf 1 Cor 5:7-8)  If we are not ready to give up our sins, such as anger, revenge, lust, envy, sloth, greed and gluttony, we cannot find life.  Without giving up the sins that we cling to, we remain slaves to all that is negative and destructive of our happiness and freedom.  No one who is under the bondage of the Evil One is free to be happy.  No one can sin and be truly happy because deep in his heart, he knows that he is not just cheating others but himself.  He would have no confidence to stand before God with a clear conscience.  (cf1 Jn 3:21)  So we must resolve to throw out all that remains of our pride and selfishness so that we can renew ourselves in the power of the Risen Lord.

St Peter made it clear to the Jews that they must repent and be baptized if they want to enter the Promised Land.  Peter answered, “You must repent and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is for you and your children, and for all those who are far away, for all those whom the Lord our God will call to himself.”  We must make a decision to turn away from our sins and what that binds us to the past.  That was what happened to Mary as well.  When her eyes were turned away from Jesus, she could not recognize Him, thinking that He was the gardener.  She said, “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.”  To be baptized means that we enter into the tomb of Jesus and rise up again, washed clean of our sins and our past; and put on the new garment, the new creation that we are called to be.  (cf Eph 2:10)

But we might say to ourselves, “we have no strength” to do it.  We want to come out of our tomb but we find ourselves powerless.  We want to forgive but we cannot.  We want to make ourselves useful but we are lazy and selfish.  We want to be generous but we are afraid to letting go of our wealth and possessions.  We want to serve but we are not willing to share our time and leisure with others.  We want to live a simpler life but the enticement of money, glory and power overwhelms us.  So we are trapped by our sins and the lack of the capacity to break free from our clutches, like the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.

That is why we must turn to Jesus. He has already removed that stone.  But now we need to get out of that tomb.  This also needs His help because we are still too crippled to come out by ourselves.  We can now see the light outside the cave shining into our tombs, but we are not able to climb out.  This was what Mary did when the Lord drew her towards Him.  “Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She knew him then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ – which means Master.”   We need to hear the Lord speaking to us intimately and personally if we are to break free from our chains.  St Paul said it for himself when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

Only when we can come to the conviction that Christ loves us, we cannot be set free from our past and bondages.  That was what Jesus said to Mary after calling her name.  He said, “Do not cling to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and find the brothers, and tell them: I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”   We cannot let go of our straws unless we have found the cross of life.  We cannot let go of worldly enjoyments unless we have tasted the joy of love, the peace of a clear conscience, the freedom of surrendering our lives to God as we give ourselves in love and service, not thinking about ourselves and our security but that of others.

So if we want the Lord to enter into our lives and lead us out of the tomb which is now opened, we need to be like Mary Magdalene, pondering the love of Jesus for us.  Only when we contemplate what the Lord has done for us, how much He has suffered innocently and died for our sins, will our hearts then be converted like that of the Jews.  It was only when they heard Peter’s discourse of how they killed and crucified the Lord and Messiah that “they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, ‘What must we do, brothers?’”  So we must open our hearts, our ears and our eyes in prayer and intimacy with the Lord.  When we realize how our sins continue to crucify the Lord even today and how we are hurting Him, because we are hurting ourselves and those whom He loves equally, then our hearts too will be cut to the quick and repent.  If we turn to the Lord and seek forgiveness, then St Peter says that we will receive the Holy Spirit who will then give us the resurrected life of Christ. With the Holy Spirit in us, the Father and the Son living in us, we are in Him as He is in us.

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