Posts Tagged ‘sackcloth and ashes’

Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 18, 2017 — God saves us so that we can save others.

July 17, 2017

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 390

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

Pharaoh’s daughter finds a basket by the river

Reading 1 EX 2:1-15A

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

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

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

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

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

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

AlleluiaPS 95:8

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

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Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt

Gospel MT 11:20-24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, March 3, 2017 — “Seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways.” — Make today acceptable to the Lord

March 2, 2017

Friday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 221

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“Your light shall break forth like the dawn.”

Reading 1 IS 58:1-9A

Thus says the Lord GOD:
Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Tell my people their wickedness,
and the house of Jacob their sins.
They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the law of their God;
They ask me to declare what is due them,
pleased to gain access to God.
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”

Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting,
striking with wicked claw.
Would that today you might fast
so as to make your voice heard on high!
Is this the manner of fasting I wish,
of keeping a day of penance:
That a man bow his head like a reed
and lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Do you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19

R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

AlleluiaSEE AM 5:14

Seek good and not evil so that you may live,
and the Lord will be with you.

Gospel MT 9:14-15

The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”

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Lectio Divina From The Carmelites

Today’s Gospel is a brief version of the Gospel on which we already meditated in January, when the same theme of fasting was proposed to us (Mk 2, 18-22), but there is a small difference. Today, the Liturgy omits the whole discourse of the new piece of cloth on an old cloak and the new wine in an old skin (Mt 9, 16-17), and concentrates its attention on fasting.

• Jesus does not insist on the practice of fasting. Fasting is a very ancient use, practiced in almost all religions. Jesus himself practiced it during forty days (Mt 4, 2). But he did not insist with the disciples to do the same. He leaves them free. For this reason, the disciples of John the Baptist and of the Pharisees, who were obliged to fast, want to know why Jesus does not insist on fasting.

• While the bridegroom is with them, therefore, they do not need to fast. Jesus responds with a comparison. When the bridegroom is with the friends of the spouse, that is, during the wedding feast, it is not necessary for them to fast. Jesus considers himself the spouse. The disciples are the friends of the spouse. During the time in which Jesus was with the disciples, is the wedding feast. One day will come in which the spouse will no longer be there. Then, they can fast if they so desire. In this phrase Jesus refers to his death. He knows and he becomes aware that if he continues along this path of freedom, of liberty, the religious authority will want to kill him.

• Fasting and abstinence from meat are universal practices which are actual. The Muslims have the fasting of the Ramadan, during which they neither eat, nor should they eat until the rising of the sun. Always more and for diverse reasons, persons impose upon themselves some form of fasting. Fasting is an important means to control oneself, and to dominate oneself, and this exists in almost all religions. It is also appreciated by sportsmen.

The Bible has many reference to fasting. It was a way of making penance and of attaining conversion. Through the practice of fasting, Christians imitated Jesus who fasted during forty days. Fasting tends to attain the freedom of mind, self-control, a critical vision of reality. It is an instrument to maintain our mind free and not allow oneself to be transported by any breeze. Thanks to fasting, it increases the clearness of mind. It is a means that helps to take a better care of health. Fasting can be a form of identification with the poor who are obliged to fast the whole year and eat meat very rarely. There are also those who fast in order to protest.

• Even if fasting and abstinence are no longer observed today, the basic objective of this practice continues to remain unchanged and is a force which should animate our life: to participate in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Surrender one’s own life in order to be able to possess it in God. Become aware or conscious of the fact that the commitment with the Gospel is a one way journey, without returning, which demands losing one’s life in order to be able to possess and to find all things in full liberty.

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-matthew-914-15

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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03 MARCH, 2017, Friday after Ash Wednesday
THE JOY OF A CHRISTIAN

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ISAIAH 58:1-9; PS 50:3-6,18-19; MATTHEW 9:14-15]

Clearly, today’s scripture readings is on the theme of fasting.  Friday, as we know, is always associated with the passion and death of our Lord.  That is why Fridays remain a day of abstinence and penance in the Catholic Church.  For Jesus did command us in today’s gospel, “the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them and then they will fast.”  Unfortunately, like the Israelites and the Jews of Jesus’ time, we fast for the wrong reasons. Our fasting is only an external action detached from the real spirit of fasting.

It is not surprising therefore that most Catholics do not welcome the season of Lent because of the penitentiary spirit. The emphasis on penance, mortification and fasting goes against our grain.  The body longs for comfort and enjoyment.  It is certainly not easy to restrain our appetite and the desire for comfort and pleasure. We are sensual beings. As a result, Lent becomes a somber period.  It dampens all festivity mood.  We wish it will end quickly so that we can get back our life.

In other words, Catholics and many people often think that religion takes away life, joy and happiness.  For many, religion is reduced to dos and don’ts.  It is concerned with the observance of laws and regulations.  Worse still, disobedience to the laws is followed by threats of punishment and destruction.  Many are obeying the laws not because they see the value of the laws but simply out of fear.  So much so that deep in our hearts, we think that this God whom we worship is so unreasonable.  He takes pleasure in making our lives miserable.  He does not feel with us.  He takes away our joy and freedom of life.  And so, if you see a sad Christian, most likely he or she is Catholic because he or she is preoccupied with observance of the laws and earning merits to get into heaven.  He thinks that to get to heaven, we must be in the good books of our Lord and that our chance of getting to heaven is to accumulate merits through good works.  Seeing how sad and restricted Christians are, in the name of freedom and happiness, many choose to become freethinkers.

But this is not the religion that Jesus came to preach.  He came to give us life abundantly.  He was not obsessed with the observance of the laws although He did not discard them completely.  He was more concerned with love and right relationship with God and our fellowmen.  For Jesus, religion must bring joy, love and peace.   It must add value to our life and not make us live less, rather to live more.  Against such narrow and rigid application of the laws, Jesus made it clear that the laws are meant for man and not man for the laws.  So in response to the disciples of John, “why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?” Jesus replied, “Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them?”

Indeed, true religion is about the joy of relationship with God. This relationship is always spoken in the scriptures in terms of romance and marriage.  God is our bridegroom, not our judge or slave master.  We are called to intimacy with Him.  In coming to know Jesus, we will be filled with a joy that the world cannot give.  Thus, the centrality of the Christian message is the joy of love and intimacy.  It is not about suffering, carrying of the cross or doing penance.   Indeed, which married couple fasts on their married day? Neither do the guests fast during the wedding celebration.  It is a time of merry-making and festivity because for the married couple, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience of being honored and treated like royalty.   As for the relatives and guests, they want to participate in the joy and love of the wedding couple.  Christianity too is one of joy when we are deeply in love with the Lord and with the Christian community.

The joy of faith in Christ also leads us to share this joy with our fellowmen.  In the process, this joy in us is increased and doubled.  By living a life of love, sharing and rendering assistance to our brothers and sisters, we come to identify ourselves with them.  Through service to our fellowmen, we become more in touch with our humanity.  Quite often, in our secular and worldly pursuits, we become ambitious and so focused on our projects and business that people become simply digits and tools for us to accomplish our tasks.  We numb our feelings, always acting logically, no longer able to feel with the pains and struggles of our fellowmen.  In giving ourselves to others we find life, for that is what the Lord said to us, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.”  (Mt 10:39)  This is what the prophet assures us if we love our brothers and sisters by acting justly with them.  “Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you. Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and he will say, ‘I am here.’”

But Christian joy is not all joy without pain or sorrows.  The Lord was very realistic when in the same breath He said, “But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them and then they will fast.”  One thing is clear, earthly joys and human ties and friendships, inclusive of spousal relationships, cannot last forever on this earth.  All human joys are limited joy.  They do not last.  Fasting is to remind us of the transient joys of this world so that we do not cling to them.  We cannot cling to our beauty, our office, our position, our wealth and our friends because they too will have to go.  Whatever we have, we enjoy them for as long as they last.  But we should not cling to them.

Because such things do not last, we must cling to God who is the ultimate Bridegroom.  Only relationship with God can last forever.  Fasting and penance are meant to help us go beyond this world to the ultimate of life.  They are meant to help us yearn for God and for the eternal values of life.   Only in God can we find ultimate joy and peace.  So even in Christian sorrow that the world is passing, there is a deep joy and peace because we know they point to what cannot pass away and eternal, that is God alone.

Christian joy also includes the cross.  When Jesus made the remark about the right time to mourn, He was making a veiled reference to His passion and death ahead of Him.  Jesus was truthful and cognizant of the fact that fidelity to the truth and love of God would often require suffering.  Witnessing to God’s love and mercy would often attract opposition from those who are against God.  Even then, because Christian joy includes the cross, it is a paradoxical joy because when we suffer for love and in love, it brings us a joy beyond comparison.  All parents and spouses suffer for the love of their spouse and children.  But they suffer with joy because they suffer in love.  When we seek to witness for Christ and the gospel, we will be persecuted.  “Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.”  (Mt 10:17f)

Christian joy also includes the absence of the bridegroom in our lives.  When we live a life of sin, we feel emptiness and a vacuum in our lives.  Knowing that we are away from God makes us feel sad.  Although we can try to suppress our conscience and our desire for peace and joy, we know we are cheating ourselves.  Even for those of us who are deep in sin and have left God for a long time, we know that deep in our hearts we want to come back to Him and be reconciled.  But this emptiness is God’s way to lure us back to Him.  Through the prophet Hosea, the Lord said, “I am going to lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart.  There she will respond to me as she did when she was young, as she did when she came out of the land of Egypt. I will betroth you to myself forever, betroth you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love; I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness, and you will come to know the Lord.”  (Hos 2:16-17, 21-22)

Within this context, we can appreciate the relevance of fasting, not as an end itself but a means to rediscover what really matters in life.  Through fasting, we come to realize the importance of God and our loved ones in our life.  Joy is about right and loving relationships.  The others are secondary, especially material things and popularity.   Fasting helps us to discipline ourselves so that we can dispose ourselves to the love of God in prayer, and identification with the sufferings of our fellowmen.  Mortification, penance and fasting are simply ways by which to help us appreciate what we have, how much others are suffering, so that we can share with them our blessings and resources.  The Lord said, “Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me – it is the Lord who speaks – to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke, to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the man you see to be naked and not turn from your own kin?”  Through disciplining the body, we hope that we can exercise control over our spirit, our mind and heart in choosing and doing the right thing.  If we do not exercise control over our body, it would be impossible to control our mind.  May this Lenten season be used wisely as an occasion for us to renew our love for God and for our fellowmen in truth and in love.

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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, July 12, 2016 — Will you be exalted to heaven? Or will you go down to the nether world? Bishop Goh of Singapore Urges Us, “Do not fear! Keep your serenity.”

July 11, 2016

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 390

Reading 1 IS 7:1-9

In the days of Ahaz, king of Judah, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah,
Rezin, king of Aram,
and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah,
went up to attack Jerusalem,
but they were not able to conquer it.
When word came to the house of David that Aram
was encamped in Ephraim,
the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled,
as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.Then the LORD said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz,
you and your son Shear-jashub,
at the end of the conduit of the upper pool,
on the highway of the fuller’s field, and say to him:
Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear;
let not your courage fail
before these two stumps of smoldering brands
the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans,
and of the son Remaliah,
because of the mischief that
Aram, Ephraim and the son of Remaliah,
plots against you, saying,
“Let us go up and tear Judah asunder, make it our own by force,
and appoint the son of Tabeel king there.”Thus says the LORD:
This shall not stand, it shall not be!
Damascus is the capital of Aram,
and Rezin is the head of Damascus;
Samaria is the capital of Ephraim,
and Remaliah’s son the head of Samaria.But within sixty years and five,
Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation.
Unless your faith is firm
you shall not be firm!

Responsorial Psalm PS 48:2-3A, 3B-4, 5-6, 7-8

R. (see 9d) God upholds his city for ever.
Great is the LORD and wholly to be praised
in the city of our God.
His holy mountain, fairest of heights,
is the joy of all the earth.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Mount Zion, “the recesses of the North,”
is the city of the great King.
God is with her castles;
renowned is he as a stronghold.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
For lo! the kings assemble,
they come on together;
They also see, and at once are stunned,
terrified, routed.
R. God upholds his city for ever.
Quaking seizes them there;
anguish, like a woman’s in labor,
As though a wind from the east
were shattering ships of Tarshish.
R. God upholds his city for ever.

AlleluiaPS 95:8

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

Gospel MT 11:20-24

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

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

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

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Isaiah receives his vision of the Lord’s house. A stained glass window at St. Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina
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Who Was Isaiah?
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He is considered one of the greatest men of God in the ancient world, a counselor to kings and a writer whose Holy Spirit-inspired Old Testament book is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other, except Psalms.
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When our Lord Jesus preached His very first sermon, He chose for His text a passage from Isaiah’s writings, which have been compared to the book of Romans for theological depth and a sweeping vision of God.
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Isaiah is numbered among those rarified, God-enthralled men called prophets, who were enabled to see what God was going to do in the future as though it had already happened. Isaiah’s oracles juxtapose the immediate and the future, with words that have a bearing in the moment, but carry us to the far away and powerful, the miraculous and wonderful that is yet to come.

In Isaiah 7, Isaiah answers the call of God. Immediately, Isaiah is thrust into the volatile political nightmare that existed for the kingdom of Judah, which was the southern split off from what was once a united nation of Israel.

Verse 1-2 give us the situation: “This took place during the reign of Ahaz, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah king of Judah: Rezin king of Aram, along with Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, waged war against Jerusalem, but he could not succeed. When it became known to the house of David that Aram had occupied Ephraim (Israel), the heart of Ahaz and the hearts of his people trembled like trees of a forest shaking in a wind.”

All of us will face desperate times. All kinds of circumstances can combine to bring us to the brink, where our options are few and time is running out. In our passage, three factors put Ahaz on the brink.

When trouble came knocking, Ahaz had no spiritual resources upon which to stand. He had not spent time during easier days cultivating a trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He had not developed his faith for the test, so he failed and his failure impacted his entire nation. The summary statement of his life and reign says it all: he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God (2 Kings 16:2)

“Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out with your son….”

Say to him: “Calm down and be quiet. Don’t be afraid or fainthearted!”

Read more on Isaiah:

http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-christmas-sign-savior-isaiah-7

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Proverbs 3 Verse 5 Painting - Religious Scripture Art Print Proverbs 3 Verse 5 by Michel Keck

Religious Scripture Art Print Proverbs 3 Verse 5 is a painting by Michel Keck which was uploaded on October 28th, 2015.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, October 4, 2013: Total surrender to God and loving service to our fellowmen — St. Francis of Assisi

October 3, 2013

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi Lectionary: 459

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi

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Meditation of St. Francis of Assisi By Francisco de Zurbaran

Reading 1 Bar 1:15-22

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During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed: “Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our ancestors, have sinned in the Lord’s sight and disobeyed him. We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us. From the time the Lord led our ancestors out of the land of Egypt until the present day, we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice. And the evils and the curse that the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant, at the time he led our ancestors forth from the land of Egypt to give us the land flowing with milk and honey, cling to us even today. For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God, in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us, but each one of us went off after the devices of his own wicked heart, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”
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Responsorial Psalm PS 79:1b-2, 3-5, 8, 9

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R. (9) For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us. O God, the nations have come into your inheritance; they have defiled your holy temple, they have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have given the corpses of your servants as food to the birds of heaven, the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth. R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us. They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem, and there is no one to bury them. We have become the reproach of our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us. O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever? Will your jealousy burn like fire? R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us. Remember not against us the iniquities of the past; may your compassion quickly come to us, for we are brought very low. R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us. Help us, O God our savior, because of the glory of your name; Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake. R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
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Gospel Lk 10:13-16

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Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’ Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
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Reflection By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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How are you feeling about your life? Are you happy and at peace with yourself and in all that you do?  The irony is that  we might appear happy and successful, yet deep within we remain unhappy and we know that our life somehow is in a mess even though many do not know how much we are struggling.  Why is there a struggle within our hearts if not for the fact that we are not living a life of integrity?  It is similar to the experience that St Paul went through when he wrote in his letter to the Romans, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.(Rom 7:18-19)  In other words, we are not true to ourselves.  We lack consistency in our lives.  Indeed, this was the same acknowledgement of the people of Israel.  The prophet Baruch wrote, “Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors.”

What are those sins that are so insidious and destructive to the peace and joy in our lives? The most fundamental of all sins is that of idolatry.   The sin of Adam and Eve, of wanting to be like God without God, is basically the sin of idolatry.  It is connected with the sin of pride of wanting to take charge of our own lives instead of submitting to the will of God.  Idolatry leads to the worship of self, our ego and focusing on our individual needs.  Pride of course leads to disobedience.

This was the same sin of the Jews during the time of Jesus.  Hence, Jesus cried out, “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida!”  Why were these two towns particularly singled out?  They were proud and arrogant because of their status.  What is even worse for us is that besides being blind, we are too proud to see our failures and weaknesses.  Like those in Capernaum, we hold our heads high and are too self-righteous to see the need for conversion.  The truth is that we all need conversion.  The danger is that just like the Jews, we do not feel any real need for repentance.  Lukewarm and nominal Catholics feel quite happy with their response to the Lord.  Hence, the urgency of conversion does not seem that real to us.  We do not feel the necessity of growing in virtues and grace.  Since we are not truly sorry for our sins, we do not feel the need for conversion. 

As a consequence we reap the effects of our sins.  Many of our unhappiness and misery in life come from bad decisions that we, or those in charge of us, have made.  At least the Israelites recognized that the sufferings they were going through were the consequence of their folly. The Israelites in exile confessed their sins when they reaped the consequences of their failure to change.  Indeed, they admitted that the disasters they experienced were because they “have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God.”

For many of us, instead of admitting our responsibility we blame others, and even God, for the suffering that has come upon us.  Some even become resentful of God, as if God was responsible for the abuse of their freedom.   By not admitting our sins and taking responsibility for our disobedience because of our pride, we only prolong our misery instead of coming to realization and start living the life we are called to live; one that is consistent with who we are, the people of God, a life lived in total surrender to God and in loving service to our fellowmen. So with the psalmist, with a sincere and contrite heart, we must make the same plea, “O Lord, deliver us … and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.”  The question is, are we serious about changing our lifestyle and being delivered from our sins, especially the false gods we serve in ourselves?  Because we find it so difficult to do the right thing, quite often, God in His mercy allows us to suffer the consequences of our sins so that giving up sins will not be that difficult.

Today, we are invited to take the cue from the first reading.   Like the Israelites, we must realize that sufferings are meant to awaken us from our sleep and folly.  Instead of taking kindly the signals from the Lord that He is patient with us, we commit more sins and destroy ourselves ultimately.  When we are proud and arrogant like the Jews during Jesus’ time, then Jesus warns us: “For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, it would not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon, at the judgment as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high as heaven? You shall be thrown down to hell.”

Truly, we must in all humility accept the punishment from God.  The letter to the Hebrews says, “God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”(Heb 12:11-12)

Like the people in Chorazin and Bethsaida, we too are called to recognize the visitation of God, whether in suffering or in times of happiness.  We must learn to be grateful for all the opportunities given to us to grow in faith.  In fact, many of us fail to appreciate the many blessings God has given to us. We do not know how fortunate we are in Singapore until when we travel to other countries. If we are not choosy, we can certainly find a job here.  Public amenities and facilities are all within our reach.  On the spiritual level, we have easy access to religious education and formation, and the celebration of the Liturgy if we are truly interested.  We have also seen the mighty works of God in our own lives.  Some of us who are involved in the Renewal have seen the power of God at work in the miracles of healing and deliverance.  Yet, having encountered the awesomeness of God, many have abandoned the Lord once again.   Unfortunately, like the Jews, we have taken all these for granted.   We fail to see them as the means by which God visits us.  Very often, it is complacency that leads us to sin.  After all, the idle mind is the devil’s workshop.  When we are not occupied by meaningful activities, then our minds and hearts begin to wonder after things that can harm our soul and body.

If we want to put our house in order, we must turn to the Lord, asking for forgiveness for our sins, confident, like the psalmist, that God will forgive us our sins so long as we are contrite.  Unlike us, God remains faithful to us even when we are unfaithful to Him.  He does it because God is faithful to Himself.  God saves us not only because He is merciful but because His very nature is Mercy and Compassion.  So being faithful to His essence, God’s saving grace is certain if only we turn to Him and ask for forgiveness.

This turning to the Lord for forgiveness must at once be complemented by the desire to walk in the truth, which is found in scripture and taught by the Magisterium, the Bishops who are the authorized teachers of the Church.   Jesus told His disciples that “anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.”  We must seek the truth by submitting ourselves in humility to the appointed teachers of Christ. Obedience to the Word of God and faith in the authority of the Church to teach the Word of God authentically presupposes we have faith in Christ, since He is the One who assures us that the Church is indefectible in doctrines and morals.

Today, let us pray for a true contrite heart so that we can change our ways and heed the appeal for conversion, which is an ongoing process.   In this way, we avoid falling into greater sins and the consequences of our wrong actions.  God does not wish us to destroy ourselves but that we turn over a new leaf and be faithful to His voice.  Let us once again listen to the voice of the prophets that God sends into our lives.  The truth is spoken to us in so many ways each day.  The psalmist says “Today, if only you would hear his voice, ‘Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation’; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Ps 95:7-11)  

http://www.csctr.net/reflections/

When you surrender yourself to God’s control, you relinquish or give up any power and yield yourself totally to the Almighty God. You also allow your desires and attitudes to be challenged, and over-ruled by God. Total surrendering is saying, “Yes Lord” to whatever He asks you to do. Surrendered people obey God, even when it does not make sense to them and other people around them. You will get fantastic results when you decide to surrender totally to God, for His glory. When you let go and let God, you know you are totally yielded to God.

http://delsondaniel.blogspot.com/

Related:

There are many wonderful stories about Francis of Assisi. If we can all strive to be like him just a little bit; and a little bit more each day; we can change the world…..

St. Francis of Assisi carried a human skull from time to time — to remind himself and others of the important (and brief) nature of our work here on earth.

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File:Cigoli, san francesco.jpg

Francis considered his stigmata part of the imitation of Christ.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_of_Assisi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Imitation_of_Christ

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1653

The Imitation of Christ is one of the most widely read books in the world, after the Bible. It was written by a 15th century monk named Thomas A. Kempis. Anyone looking to increase their spirituality and to get closer to Jesus would be well advised to study and read this great book, which is available for free on line. It is a great idea to purchase a copy of this book also, to take with you to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Spiritual reading is one thing that is recommended by a lot of saints to overcome the unholy trinity of the flesh, the devil, and the world. It is broken down in to 4 sub books, with many great chapters in each one. And the really good news is that it is very easy to read, and it will change your life in ways unimaginable.

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, July 16, 2013: Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live

July 16, 2013

Tuesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 390

Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Optional Memorial)

Art: Our Lady of Carmel by Pietro Novelli, 1641

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Mount_Carmel

Reading 1 Ex 2:1-15a

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

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

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

Gospel Mt 11:20-24

Jesus began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum:
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Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.
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For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
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Christ’s inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon’s envy had taken away.

—  St. Leo the Great, Sermo 73

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If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.

Today July 16th is the optional Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. May there thrive a contemplation of her, the Blessed Virgin and Mother, who from the beginning knew how to open herself to obeying God’s Word and to obeying his will.  The most genuine devotion to the Blessed Mother is expressed by the humble sign of the scapular.

In 1254, St. Simon Stock was elected Superior-General of the Carmelite Order in London. As a young man he took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he joined the hermits on Mount Carmel. He then returned to Europe and founded Carmelite communities in University towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna. St. Simon helped to change the Carmelites from a hermit order to one of mendicant friars.

Like the other mendicant orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans, the Carmelites were under attack as being too radical. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon on July 16, 1251. As he gave him a brown scapular she said “Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection.”

A scapular consists of two pieces of cloth, one worn on the chest, and the other on the back, which were connected by straps or strings passing over the shoulders. Over the years the Church has encouraged all Catholics to wear a scapular that is usually worn under one’s clothing. Pope John Paul II revealed that he wore one. There is an investiture ceremony that should be done by a priest.

One of the conditions of Our Lady for the fulfillment of the promises associated the scapular (the Sabbatine privilege) is to observe chastity according to one’s state of life. That will be different for a married person than someone who is single.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is an antidote for the culture of death today. On Mount Carmel Elijah called the people of Israel to abandon the worship of false gods and the associated sexual immorality and human sacrifice associated with it. 

In many ways the United States and Europe are like Israel in the times of Elijah. Compared to former times we live in an age of peace and prosperity, but many abandoned the worship of the true God and follow false gods of materialism, pleasure, absolute personal autonomy.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel calls us to stop straddling the issue of who is the real God. We cannot have one foot in the culture of death that tolerates the killing of unborn children by abortion and other attacks on life, chastity and the family and be a true Christian.

Please join me in praying the following to Our Lady of Mount Carmel for an end to the culture of death in the United States and throughout the world:

O most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. Oh, Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein that you are my Mother. O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in this necessity; there are none that can withstand your power. O show me herein that you are my Mother. Our Lady, Queen and beauty of Carmel, pray for me and obtain my requests. Sweet Mother, I place this cause into your hands.

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http://poppade.blogspot.com/2013/07/july-15-2013-
homily-july-16-2013.html

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Cardinal Seán O'Malley of Boston (Photo: CNS)

Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston (Photo: CNS)

Related:

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and President Barack Obama shook hands at the end of Thursday’s interfaith service.

April 18, 2013: Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley and President Barack Obama at the end of Thursday’s interfaith service honoring the dead and wounded of the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013. Photo: CJ GUNTHER/EPA. Cardinal O’Malley spoke about the culture of life.

Related:

Ash Wednesday and The Start of Lent: Set Our House in Order

February 13, 2013

Sermon By Anthony Smith

http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/s
et-your-house-in-order-anthony-smith
-sermon-on-growth-in-christ-63049.asp

Set your House in Order,for thou shall shurley die. A look into the Heart of man and God. The Bible tells us that mans wisdom is foolishness to God. That there is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to destruction. This warning came to King Hezekiah, in Isaiah 38:1, what is God telling us today, that our houses arnt in order?

There is much in scripture concerning the House of God and of man.But before we concider this, lets look at the three parts of man himself. 1.The soul, the soul is the part of the man that thinks and reasons and plans. Its the mind that Satan wants to controll and once he controlls your mind then he has it all. Our mind controlls the speech and recoginition of good and evil. 2. The Flesh, the flesh is the physical part of man, which wants only that which is good for itself, lust and pleasure and anything that feels good.

 

The flesh and mind work well together, what the mind says the flesh followes after. 3.The Spirit, the spirit is what makes us who we are, it seperates us from all other beings and animals. The scripture tells us that there is one thing that man and animal have in common, that is a spirit. It goes on to say that when a man and animal die that the spirit of the animal goes back into the ground from which it came and the spirit of man goes up to judgement. There are many different interpretations of scripture, lets look at one. 1st Timothy 3:5, for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the Church of God? We can look at this the way many look at it, the home that a man lives in or we can look at this spiritually in this manner.

 

If we as christians cant rule our spiritual house. We saw a minute ago that there are three parts to man, the flesh, soul and spirit, which do you suppose is suposed to rule the other two? The spirit, the spirit must take dominion over the other two. This is what makes us christians and seperates us from the world. We hafe to look at the ordances of God and determin the right path to take. The Bible states that, Judgement begins at the House of God.

The Church. Our house is supposed to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, but how many people are being decieved in changeing their pattern of life because of false doctrine? The house that we are inside must be clean and acceptible to God as a Holy sacrifice. We are told that we must offer up our bodys as a liveing sacrifice to God which is our reasonable service to God. Why? Because we are the house of God. A stone ,a pillar, a piece of the temple. We are lively stones which should be fit for the masters use. Not corrupt or vile or tainted. Why do you suppose that the scriptures state that, not everyone that sayeth, Lord,Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heavan, only those who do the will of the Father.? W

hat then, is the will of God here in this verse? The will of God, to keep it simple, is to believe in the Son.

Jesus.

There are to many ministers  trying to make the gospel so difficult to understand, its a wonder that anyone is saved.

Jesus, was direct and understandible, He keep it simple. Such as, A house divided among itself shall not stand, not the physical but the spiritual. Our House, our spirit, our life, you are the house, and if you are devided between Jesus and the world, you will not stand the test, that everyone will hafe to face at the Judgement time. So get your house in order.But we as the house, also, according to Jesus, must count the cost. And what is the cost? As weve said before, salvation is free, but decipleship, will cost you everything.Warning after warning in scripture, telling us ,today, that the time is short, decern the signs of the times. Ephesians 5:16, Redeaming the time, because the days are evil. The congregation of the church have responsibility and so do the pastors.

We being not many masters, knowing that we recieve the greater condimnation.We have a responsibility to the church to make sure that the wolf doesnt make it into the sheep fold, we are to give our life for the sheep. We are the house that must stand, the preachers, teachers, ministers, laymember and door keeper, helpers, all together. We have built on a firm foundation, a rock ,which cannot be moved.Im telling you right now, if we cant go to heavan, hand in hand, we are not going to make it.So remember what Isaiah said to King Hezekiah, all of us, Set your House in order, Set it in order, church, and pray that you are found worthy to escape the tribulation that is comming upon the whole world. Today, Set your House in Order.

Sermon By Anthony Smith

http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/s
et-your-house-in-order-anthony-smith
-sermon-on-growth-in-christ-63049.asp