Posts Tagged ‘sanctity of human life’

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, January 2, 2019 — “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert…” — “Lord, to whom can we go?”

January 2, 2019

“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’

Image result for Saint John The Baptist sculpture – chainsaw woodcarving (Sveti Jovan Krstitel – skulptura)

Saint John The Baptist sculpture – chainsaw woodcarving (Sveti Jovan Krstitel – skulptura)

Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church
Lectionary: 205

Reading 1 1 JN 2:22-28

Who is the liar?
Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.
Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist.
Anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father,
but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.
If what you heard from the beginning remains in you,
then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.
And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life.
I write you these things about those who would deceive you.
As for you,
the anointing that you received from him remains in you,
so that you do not need anyone to teach you.
But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false;
just as it taught you, remain in him.And now, children, remain in him,
so that when he appears we may have confidence
and not be put to shame by him at his coming.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4

R. (3cd)  All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R.  All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Alleluia  HEB 1:1-2

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In times, past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets:
in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
File:El Greco - St. John the Baptist - WGA10548.jpg
El Greco, St John the Baptist, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Gospel  JN 1:19-28

This is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,
“I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.

For the readings of the Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, please go here.

Related (Includes bio summaries of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen):


Commentary on John 1:19-28

From Living Space

From today until January 5 inclusive we will be reading from the beginning of John’s gospel after the Prologue and up to the story of the wedding at Cana – corresponding to Chapter 1 and the beginning of Chapter 2.  It begins with John the Baptist’s testimony about himself and then Jesus revealing himself to his first disciples.  It finishes with the wedding feast at Cana, described as the first of the ‘signs’ performed by Jesus.  There are seven such ‘signs’ altogether in his gospel.  The whole section covers just one week which reflects the first week of creation in the book of Genesis.  Here there is a new creation under way.

The section is divided as follows:

1, John the Baptist’s negative testimony about himself.

2, His positive testimony about Jesus.

3, The revelation of Jesus to Andrew and Peter (in that order)

4, The revelation of Jesus to Philip and Nathanael (also in that order).

5, The wedding feast at Cana.

Related image

St John the Baptist by the artist DONATELLO

John the Baptist’s negative testimony about himself

Today we look at the first section.  It is clear that John the Baptist was causing something of a stir with his preaching.  So, officials were sent out from the Temple in Jerusalem to make some enquiries.  Because he said he was not the long-awaited Messiah, they wanted to know who he was.  He said he was not Elijah (whose re-appearance was expected to signal the imminent arrival of the Messiah) come again nor was he a Prophet like Moses.  His questioners persisted.  They had to bring back some information to the authorities in Jerusalem.  John answered them with a modified version of words from Isaiah (40:3):

I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,

‘Make straight the way of the Lord’.

This still does not satisfy and now some Pharisees – distinct from the priests who were all Sadducees – want to know why John is baptising when he is neither the Messiah, nor Elijah nor the Prophet.

John says that he is just baptising with water.  “But there is one among you whom you do not recognise, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie”.  By these words he implies that someone who is really a Prophet is on the way bringing with him a much greater baptism.  John is simply preparing the way by a baptism whose emphasis is on purification and repentance.  The new baptism will bring the power of God’s Spirit.

Obviously, there is much in John the Baptist’s role with which we can identify.  John preceded Jesus in time and prepared people for his coming.  We rather are called to precede Jesus in other ways by making it possible for people to come to know him and to follow him.  We are not the Light but we are called to give constant witness to the Light.  Jesus said that he was the Light of the World (John 8:12) but he also said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14).  Do I see myself as reflecting the light of Jesus to others?



Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

02 JANUARY, 2019, Wednesday, Weekday of Christmas Time


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JOHN 2:22-28JOHN 1:19-28 ]

Who is Jesus? This is the question that Christmastide seeks to clarify.  What is so significant in the birth of Jesus?  Was He just an ordinary baby or was He more than just a human being?  The question of the identity of Jesus differentiates Christianity from all other faiths.  This question intrigued the people during the time of Jesus and still is a controversial question today in our times.  In the gospel, during the time of John the Baptist, the people thought that he was the Christ.  “The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ’. ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said.  ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you?”

Today, these similar questions regarding the identity of Jesus persist.  During the time of John, the Christians themselves were divided on the identity of Jesus.   Some claimed that Jesus was just a man.  But they also claimed that they believed in the same God.  Isn’t this what many people including Christians are saying – we all believe in the same God, regardless of which religion you belong to.  Christ is only one of the manifestations of God? And that is what other religions want us to confess, namely, that all religions are the same.  For the sake of peace and harmony with other religions, many Catholics are maintaining this compromised truth with regard to Jesus’ identity.

However, the Church right from the beginning of her foundation has maintained without compromise that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Mother of God.  This feast celebrates the mystery of Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of Man in one person.   It is important for us Christians to confess that Jesus is neither just God nor just man, but He is truly God and truly man.  Today, the scripture readings want to underscore that Jesus is the Christ.  Confession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God is the heart of Christian belief.  Christianity stands or falls with this confession.  Indeed, St John concludes his gospel saying, “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  (Jn 20:30f)

Why did St John write so strongly against those half-baked Christians that they were the anti-Christ if they fell short of this confession?  “The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ – he is the liar; he is Antichrist; and he is denying the Father as well as the Son, because no one who has the Father can deny the Son, and to acknowledge the Son is to have the Father as well.”  The truth is if we deny Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, we cannot know God as Father as non-Christians claim.

In saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, it is but the declaration of the Church in what Jesus said of Himself with regard to His relationship with His Father. Indeed, Jesus stated clearly, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  (Mt 11:27)  When Philip asked the Lord, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied” (Jn 14:8) Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I 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 14:9-11)

Image result for Jesus and Philip, art

“Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

Hence, to deny Jesus as the Christ is to deny the Father at the same time since Jesus is the way to the Father.  Jesus said to 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)  We cannot know the Father apart from Christ who is the revealer of the Father since He came from the Father.  This led John to say, “No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.”  (Jn 1:18)  When Nicodemus could not understand about the Spirit giving rebirth to us, the Lord said to Him, “If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”  (Jn 3:12f)

Our faith in Christ as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the Son of the Living God will determine whether we can surrender our lives to Him.  Indeed, this was the case of the apostles when they were confronted by the hard teachings of Christ on the Eucharist.  “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’”  (Jn 6:52f)  Then we read, “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’” (Jn 6:60)  Consequently, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.  So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’”  (Jn 6:66-69)

Indeed, today, many people including Catholics cannot accept the teaching of the scripture and Church tradition.  They reject the scripture because the values and teachings of Christ do not fit our times.  They try to justify their perspective of life, whether it is with regard to sexuality, marriage, divorce and the dignity of life.  What they seek to do is to make the gospel of Christ fit their preferred lifestyle.  They twist and turn the gospel to suit their selfish desires.   This is the warning of St Paul to the Galatians.  “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”  (Gal 1:6f)  St John also warns us the same, “This is all that I am writing to you about the people who are trying to lead you astray.”

In the final analysis, we can rationally and logically argue till the end of the world whether same-sex union, abortion, euthanasia, etc are right or wrong. We will have no conclusive answer, not even the question about the existence of God and much less whether Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  This requires ultimate faith in the tradition passed down to us by the Church and faith in Him through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  This is what St John says.  “Keep alive in yourselves what you were taught in the beginning: as long as what you were taught in the beginning is alive in you, you will live in the Son and in the Father; and what is promised to you by his own promise is eternal life.”  Secondly, we need to rely on the internal forum through the anointing of the Holy Spirit we received at baptism.  “But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you, and you do not need anyone to teach you; the anointing he gave teaches you everything; you are anointed with truth, not with a lie, and as it has taught you, so you must stay in him.”

Only through acceptance of the scripture as the Word of God and the tradition passed on to us, can our faith in Christ be firm and true.  St Paul urged the Christians, “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.” (1 Th 2:13) Again, he reminds us, “So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.”  (2 Th 2:15)  Our faith is founded on scripture and tradition.

Once we have this faith, we can then “take back an answer” to those who ask us about Christ.  Like John the Baptist, we also say, “I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness:  Make a straight way for the Lord.”  We are to reveal to others the identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.   Only through this revelation, can we be strong in our faith and in our lives as Jesus said to Peter after his confession of faith in Jesus as the “Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”   Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah!  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  (Mt 16:17-19)  In a similar vein, St John rightly says, “Live in Christ, then, my children, so that if he appears, we may have full confidence, and not turn from him in shame at his coming.”  Knowing Christ, who He is, will give us the confidence to persevere right to the end, knowing that Christ will welcome us to heaven when we finish our pilgrimage on this earth.


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


Prayer and Meditation for Monday, December 31, 2018 — You have the anointing that comes from the Holy One

December 31, 2018

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

What came to be through him was life and this life was the light of the human race…

The light shines in the darkness…

Image result for The light shines in the darkness, pictures

The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas
Lectionary: 204

Reading 1 1 JN 2:18-21

Children, it is the last hour;
and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming,
so now many antichrists have appeared.
Thus we know this is the last hour.
They went out from us, but they were not really of our number;
if they had been, they would have remained with us.
Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number.
But you have the anointing that comes from the Holy One,
and you all have knowledge.
I write to you not because you do not know the truth
but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth

Responsorial Psalm  PS 96:1-2, 11-12, 13

R. (11a) Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name;
announce his salvation, day after day.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult before the LORD.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!
The LORD comes,
he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!

AlleluiaJN 1:14A, 12A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.
To those who accepted him
he gave power to become the children of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  JN 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.


Commentary on John 1:1-18 From Living Space

There are three occasions when we read the Prologue of John’s gospel during the Christmas season. The first is at the Daytime Mass on Christmas Day, the second on the 2nd Sunday after Christmas and today, New Year’s Eve.

This magnificent passage provides a powerful opening to this gospel. It lays out the main themes of John’s gospel – Life, Light, Truth, the World, Testimony and the Pre-existence of Jesus Christ. He is the Incarnate Logos or Word, who reveals God the Father to us. It was originally probably an early Christian hymn and parallels closely two other great hymns quoted in the Pauline letters – one in the Letter to the Colossians and the other in the Letter to the Philippians. All speak of Jesus’ special relationship to God as his Father.

Its opening words are the same as the very first words in the Old Testament, “In the beginning…” But, whereas Genesis is really speaking of the beginning of our created universe, John goes back much further to the infinite beginnings of God himself. And in those beginnings we find the Word already existing. The Word was in a close relationship with God and the Word was of the very same nature as God.

The term ‘Word’ has a number of inter-related meanings. For us a word can indicate a person (man, woman…) or a thing (house, table…). But here Word indicates an active and creative word (somewhat akin to the power a great work of art can express). The Word as distinct from the Father is also seen as the instrument through which God creates (“All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be”). And Word also points to God as the ultimate source of all meaning and reality. Jesus then is the Word of God, God’s self-communication – through him the world came into being and through him we are led to God as the source of all meaning for our lives. That meaning is totally beyond the power of our human minds but Jesus opens the door a little for us to see more than we could manage on our own.

The two great gifts that come to us through the Word are Life and Light. Later Jesus will say, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” and “I AM the Bread of Life” and he will also say, “I AM the Light of the world.”

The Light that is Christ shines in the darkness of our world. It is a light that cannot be overcome because it represents the ultimate values of Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Justice and Love, Compassion and Fellowship, Freedom and Peace.

The coming of the Light was prepared for by John the Baptist. He had been sent by God, just as Jesus himself is sent by his Father. John himself was not the Light but gave witness to the Light. In addition to John, there are many testimonies to Jesus: the Samaritan woman, the Scriptures, Jesus’ works, the crowds, the Spirit and his own disciples. And, finally, we might add – each one of us.

Jesus was fully inserted in the world, the world which owes its very existence to him and yet it did not know him. ‘Know’ in the sense of not recognising him or acknowledging him to be what he really is. The Gospel also records, surely with sadness, that the Word came to “what was his own”, namely, Israel but his own people did not accept him. That, of course, is a generalised statement because there were many, including all the first followers of Jesus, who were Israelites. But the leadership by and large (again with exceptions like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea) did not accept him and even was instrumental in his death.

Those, however, who did accept the Word were given the power to become children of God. As such they are brothers and sisters of Jesus the Word. And this does not happen simply by natural birth or because they were born into a particular community but by the choice of God. A Jew was someone born of Jewish parents and circumcised and who chose to observe the Law.

Then comes the dramatic statement: “the Word became flesh”. The Word took on our human nature in all its fullness. He did not have, as some people believed, just the external appearance of a human but was through and through a man “like us in all things”. And he lived right among us. The Greek term literally means he “pitched his tent or tabernacle”. In the Old Testament God was believed to be present to his people in the Tent of Meeting. The Word in his humanity is the new presence of God among us. And we might add here that in our times the Christian community, as the Body of the Risen Christ, is now the tabernacle of Jesus’ presence in the world.

And then  “we saw his glory”, namely, the glory of God’s visible manifestation of his power, which formerly filled the tabernacle and the Temple, is now found in the Incarnate Word, Jesus, God’s only Son. It is a presence “full of grace and truth”. ‘Grace’ is the love of God as experienced in our lives and ‘Truth’ is that wholeness and integrity which reflects the deepest values we associate with God.

And now, “from his fullness we have all received”. That is the fullness of Grace and Truth, of which we are given a share, a share which we hope will grow with time. It is “grace in place of grace”. The grace of the Old Covenant is now replaced with the richer grace of the New. Or it is “grace upon grace” as the grace of the Old Covenant is enriched by the grace of the New.

Obviously, the text is very rich and dense and needs a lot of reflection, more than can be shared in a brief homily. And, as I have said, the same message is really given by Luke in his more down-to-earth story of the conception and the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. In truth, the two passages complement and enrich each other.


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

31 DECEMBER, 2018, Monday, 7th Day Within Octave of Christmas



One of the ironies of the Catholic Church is that we boast of 1.3 billion Catholics in the world. In Singapore, on statistics, we have 383,000 Catholics.  But how many are really Catholic?  How many practise the faith fervently?  How many attend church services regularly and receive the sacraments?  How many are active in Church?  How many subscribe to the teachings of the gospel and the Church?  Therefore, there are Catholics and there are Catholics.  Not all Catholics are truly Catholic.  This was so at the onset of the Church.

In the first reading from St John’s letter, he warned of the days of the Antichrist.  “Several antichrists have already appeared; we know from this that these are the last days. Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged; if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us; but they left us, to prove that not one of them ever belonged to us.”  The greatest threat to the Church is not from without but from within.  The strategy of Satan is to divide the household.  This was what Jesus said during His ministry.  “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”  (Mk 3:24f)  This was why in His last testament, He prayed for unity in the Church. “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”  (Jn 17:20f)

There are three kinds of pseudo-Catholics.  Firstly, there are those who call themselves Catholic but never practise the faith.  They hardly pray and attend church services.  They live a life contrary to the gospel and the teachings of the Church. Those who belong to this group start by simply being indifferent or complacent to the faith.  However, this negligence soon leads to hostility because they cannot accept the teachings of the Church that do not agree with their lifestyle.  From being indifferent, they graduate to attacking the Church’s teachings, often publicly, whilst calling themselves Catholic.

Secondly, there are those who are selective of the biblical and Church teachings.  They pick and choose what they like and ignore what they do not like.  They make the bible accommodate their preferences.  St Augustine warns such people, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”  Indeed, either the entire bible is the Word of God and therefore infallible or it is not the Word of God because we do not know which word is true.

Thirdly, there are those who twist and turn the teachings of the bible and the Church to fit their lifestyle.  They use scripture texts selectively and interpret them in their favour or thinking.   Because of greed, they preach the prosperity gospel based on certain texts of the bible.  Because they favour divorce or same-sex union, they will select those texts that they could interpret to show that homosexuality or divorce is the accepted truth.  When we adapt the bible and reduce it to our standards of judgment, the bible is no longer the objective norm of truth but we have become the judge.   If we want to know the truth, we need to examine a truth not based on selected scripture verses but what the entire bible says and what the Church has taught for centuries.

However, why is there deviation in the way we interpret the scriptures, even among Christians?  John says, “they had never really belonged; if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us; but they left us, to prove that not one of them ever belonged to us.”   Indeed, even though they might be Catholic, many of them are just nominal Catholics.  They do not share our faith in Christ and our faith in the teachings of Christ and His Church.  They are only Catholic in name but not in fact.  This is understandable because they do not know Jesus.  “He was in the world that had its being through him, and the world did not know him.”  There are of course those who know Jesus but because of self-interests, they are not ready to accept Jesus as His teachings contradict their lifestyle.  They reject Jesus for the world.  St John wrote, “He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him.”

If we want to be true Catholic Christians, we must first and foremost accept Jesus as the Word of God in person.  “In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him. All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower.”   Only when we believe that Jesus is the Word of God from the beginning, that is, with the Father, that we will be able to accept the truth of what Jesus has taught us.

Only because Jesus is from the beginning with God, could He reveal to us the truth about God, about who we are, our origin, purpose and destiny in life.   John wrote, “Grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” Indeed, because Christ is the Son of God, could we accept all that Jesus said even when we do not understand or agree with Him.  As the Word of God, He is “the true light that enlightens all men; and he was coming into the world.”  The question is, ‘Do we have faith in Jesus as the Son of God’?

If we accept Jesus as the Son of God, then we will accept all that the bible says and what the Church teaches because He has handed over the Word to the apostles and to the Church.   Whatever the Church teaches is authorized by Him because He promised to be with the Church until the end of time. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Mt 28:19f)  To Peter He said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  (Mt 16:18f)  This is because the Holy Spirit has been given to the Church through baptism, confirmation and the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  St John says, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and have all received the knowledge. It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you but rather because you know it already and know that no lie can come from the truth.”

In the final analysis, our faith is dependent on the witness of our fellow Christians, especially the early Christians who encountered the Lord personally.  Our faith is founded on those apostles and disciples who had seen the Lord.  As the gospel says, we need to listen to John the Baptist. “He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him. He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.  This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me ranks before me because he existed before me.”   We need to rely on the apostles who saw the glory of the Lord.  “The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

If we do, then we will enter into the fullness of life in Christ because we share in His adopted sonship in the Holy Spirit at baptism.  “But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.”  To be baptized is to be one with the Lord and accept His word and Spirit so that we can live out our sonship and daughtership in Him.  By so doing, we enjoy the dignity and life as God’s children.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Meditation on the Birth of Christ

December 24, 2018

Leo the Great of Rome, Homily 21, On the Nativity, 1

Written by Leo the Great of Rome.

I. All share in the joy of Christmas

Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness.

There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life.

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For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with His savage foe not in His own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin.

Truly foreign to this nativity is that which we read of all others, no one is clean from stain, not even the infant who has lived but one day upon earth” ({bible}Job 19.4{/bible}). Nothing therefore of the lust of the flesh has passed into that peerless nativity, nothing of the law of sin has entered. A royal Virgin of the stem of David is chosen, to be impregnated with the sacred seed and to conceive the Divinely-human offspring in mind first and then in body.

And lest in ignorance of the heavenly counsel she should tremble at so strange a result , she learns from converse with the angel that what is to be wrought in her is of the Holy Ghost. Nor does she believe it loss of honour that she is soon to be the Mother of God. 

For why should she be in despair over the novelty of such conception, to whom the power of the most High has promised to effect it. Her implicit faith is confirmed also by the attestation of a precursory miracle, and Elizabeth receives unexpected fertility: in order that there might be no doubt that He who had given conception to the barren, would give it even to a virgin.

II. The mystery of the Incarnation is a fitting theme for joy both to angels and to men

Therefore the Word of God, Himself God, the Son of God who in the beginning was with God, through whom all things were made and without whom was nothing made” ({bible}John 1.1-3{/bible}), with the purpose of delivering man from eternal death, became man: so bending Himself to take on Him our humility without decrease in His own majesty, that remaining what He was and assuming what He was not, He might unite the true form of a slave to that form in which He is equal to God the Father, and join both natures together by such a compact that the lower should not be swallowed up in its exaltation nor the higher impaired by its new associate. 

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Without detriment therefore to the properties of either substance which then came together in one person, majesty took on humility, strength weakness, eternity mortality: and for the paying off of the debt, belonging to our condition, inviolable nature was united with possible nature, and true God and true man were combined to form one Lord, so that, as suited the needs of our case, one and the same Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, could both die with the one and rise again with the other.

Rightly therefore did the birth of our Salvation impart no corruption to the Virgin’s purity, because the bearing of the Truth was the keeping of honour. Such then beloved was the nativity which became the Power of God and the Wisdom of God even Christ, whereby He might be one with us in manhood and surpass us in Godhead. For unless He were true God, He would not bring us a remedy, unless He were true Man, He would not give us an example.

Therefore the exulting angel’s song when the Lord was born is this, Glory to God in the Highest, and their message, peace on earth to men of good will .

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For they see that the heavenly Jerusalem is being built up out of all the nations of the world: and over that indescribable work of the Divine love how ought the humbleness of men to rejoice, when the joy of the lofty angels is so great?

III. Christians then must live worthily of Christ their Head

Let us then, dearly beloved, give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Spirit , Who for His great mercy, wherewith He has loved us, has had pity on us: and when we were dead in sins, has quickened us together in Christ (Ephesians 2:5) that we might be in Him a new creation and a new production. Let us put off then the old man with his deeds: and having obtained a share in the birth of Christ let us renounce the works of the flesh.

Christian, acknowledge your dignity, and becoming a partner in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct.

Remember the Head and the Body of which you are a member.

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Recollect that you were rescued from the power of darkness and brought out into God’s light and kingdom. By the mystery of Baptism you were made the temple of the Holy Ghost: do not put such a denizen to flight from you by base acts, and subject yourself once more to the devil’s thraldom: because your purchase money is the blood of Christ, because He shall judge you in truth Who ransomed you in mercy, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

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Book: The Imitation of Christ

Valuing human beings leads to human rights

December 14, 2018

There are rights only because there is value. Where we place no value, we do not even begin to think ascribing any right. Now is the perfect time to discuss the issue of human rights. Not that this is a good time to focus on a political controversy but because the Christmas season is upon us. Christmas is the perfect season to discuss difficult issues; its kind and generous spirit softens even the acrimonious.

Human rights are naturally controversial in societies that are grappling to recognize, much less respect, the universality of human value. It is easy to accept that we as humans have value but difficult to extend the same human value to others beyond ourselves and those we care for. We probably never can regard others as ourselves (and our extensions) but a great effort must be exerted nonetheless. Only by achieving a reasonable level of valuing human beings, whether we know them or not, whether we liked them or not, can we begin to relate them to rights that they deserve.

Philippine Inquirer

12:43 AM December 14, 2018

The higher we value human life, the greater the rights we will extend to them. Accordingly, the lesser the importance we have for others, the lesser rights we will accommodate for them. This is why we must struggle to raise the level of how we regard humanity as a race. Otherwise, the value of human life is not only selective but may be extremely so. As the saying goes, some are more equal than others. Applying that disparity into a society of laws destroys all sense of justice.

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The body of a man whom police said was killed during a drug bust operation in the Philippines. Have we forgotten the importance and value of human life?

When societies were ruled by monarchies in various permutations, the inequality of human value was most obvious. The rights of kings contrasted extremely with the rights of peasants. We can even say that the right to life was not only divinely ordained but shared with human rulers. At the dictates of emperors and kings, millions of human lives would be sacrificed in the altars of wars. People were simply like numbers or statistics. History had honored great personalities and reported all others as mere casualties. Before human rights is that which is more fundamental – human value itself.

Low human value, low human rights.

Does the Philippines have a human rights problem? I am sure it has. I am just as sure that it has been a perennial problem, at least from the days of foreign invasions and occupations. There were masters and slaves. Surely, they were not equal, not in value, not in rights. The few had everything, including hereditary blessings, while the vast majority had their inheritance as well – a life of poverty.

With our background of extended massive poverty, all human rights declarations are theoretical; beyond that, they are hypocritical. Yes, human life is valuable, except that the lives of the poor count for so much less. The ascendancy of human rights violations, or at least accusations of the same, have come in substantive chunks during martial law and now again in the last two and a half years of the Duterte administration. These are the periods when human rights abuses were alleged, especially when media is suppressed, and especially when the state is suspected of carrying out summary executions. Not seen or heard, because few would give them any attentional at all, has been the continuous thread of fear and misery that are attendant to poverty.

We are in a spike today because of the drug war. Numbers of deaths that range from 5,000 to 25,000, all these related to the war on drugs according to anti-Duterte forces, are no joke. Whatever caused these violent deaths is really not an excuse for the deaths to have happened at all. In a free and democratic society, in a nation of laws, thousands of violent deaths are an aberration. We must not take them lightly, and we must find ways to dismantle that pattern of violence.

If the cause is the war on drugs, then that war must be fought differently, more effectively. It is understandable that a country where drug syndicates have operated with great success, claiming even the cooperation of many public officials (and that includes the police, of course), mere intramurals between syndicates wanting more, territory, more business, and more control translate to serious violence. The examples and lessons of Colombia and Mexico tell us that our casualty numbers are still low and that the situation can be much more horrible.

Ironically, there is an acceptance by the majority of Filipinos that the drug menace will have collateral damage, such as the reported deaths, official and otherwise. Killing is not part of the Filipino culture but Filipinos have not expressed outrage, not in the numbers that clearly reflect how anti-culture killing is. Either Filipinos understand that drugs are a real scourge that they have had to live with for years without much government intervention, or it is a lingering resignation of poor people who know they have very much less value than the rich. Maybe, they are convinced that their fate is simply a matter of which side of the fence one is born into.

We are moving towards the center of the Christmas season towards the heart of Christian teachings about God’s love for the poor. It may be that a human rights controversy is part and parcel of a bigger malady – the low regard for human lives when these belong to the poor. The horrible inequality in how we value human lives according to their economic and social categories will be a millstone around the neck of human rights advocacies. I believe that if we campaign to elevate the value of the lives of the poor, that there is approximate equality in worth and dignity, there will be a clear line drawn against human rights abuses.

All human beings have a right to life. Life is the first value from where all human rights emanate. Yes, we must protect life, and we must protect as well its right to a life of dignity and decency.

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Philippines’ Shame and The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

December 12, 2018

Seventy years ago last Monday, on Dec. 10, 1948, the Philippines was one of the first 48 nations to sign what would become the world’s most translated document: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

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It contains “perhaps the most resonant and beautiful words of any international agreement, that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,’” said former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

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These economic, social, political, cultural and civic rights “are inalienable entitlements of all people, at all times, and in all places,” he added.

Those were the heady days. The human rights situation in the world today, alas, runs in the opposite direction, with the very notion itself under attack, and democracy in retreat in many parts of the globe.


Who knew the Philippines, once a beacon of the freedom struggle in Asia and a charter supporter of the UDHR, would end up where it is now — with a President who looks at the idea of human rights with outright hostility, and has responded to any criticism of his worldview and governance with threats of violence and repression?

As late as October this year, President Duterte was still at it, spewing venom against human rights defenders both here and abroad.

If his foreign critics were in the country, he said, he would have them “salvaged” — the Marcos-era term for summary killings.

How the President said it in the vernacular was even more unsettling: “Pakabugok nitong mga put*ng in*ng ’to oy. Patawarin sana sila ng… Kaya kung dito ’yan sa Pilipinas, sinalvage ko na ’yan. Anak ng p*ta.”

The fact that the country’s Commission on Human Rights is an office established by the 1987 Constitution, reflecting the sovereign importance the Constitution places on the protection and preservation of the rights and freedoms of citizens, appears to be of no consequence to Mr. Duterte.

In November last year, perorating again about his war on drugs, the President said: “Wala tayong patawad diyan. Wala ’yang human rights, wala ’yan. Si Gascon, ah wala ’yan, sipain ko pa ’yan (We’d be unforgiving. Human rights — that’s nothing. Gascon, I’ll even kick him).”

Chito Gascon is the chair of the Commission on Human Rights.

The President also threatened to slap UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard when she raised grave concerns over the conduct of the drug war.

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Al-Hussein and the European Union have been the subject of invective, while peace advocates have been labeled “terrorists.”

Various individuals, institutions and media who have dared criticize the Duterte administration’s policies have been threatened and vilified, if not by Malacañang, then by the President’s army of social media partisans, who express scorn for human rights but unhesitatingly claim due process for themselves when accountability is asked of them and their patrons.

“Being a human rights defender in a country such as the Philippines… means putting oneself in the line of fire,” said Cristina Palabay of the human rights alliance Karapatan.

Indeed, the country has earned for itself a discreditable place as the second deadliest country in the world, and the most dangerous in Asia, for human rights workers, especially land and environmental defenders, according to Global Witness, an international nongovernment organization focusing on human rights abuses and corruption.

Per Global Witness’ tally, nine land and environmental defenders were killed in the Philippines in the first half of 2018 alone.

Last year, 48 environmentalists were killed in the country, an almost twofold increase from the 28 killings recorded in 2016.

The reasons behind the surge in the killings, said the watchdog, include “… a president who is brazenly antihuman rights, the militarization of communities, multiple armed groups and the failure of government bodies to provide protection for at-risk activists.”

Elsewhere in the world, a survey by the London-based Business and Human Rights Resource Center recorded a 34-percent global rise in attacks against human rights activists in 2017, including 120 alleged murders and hundreds of cases involving threats, assaults and intimidation.

Victims included unionists, protesters, whistleblowers, indigenous communities, lawyers and NGOs fighting for human rights and the accountability of corporate interests.

The Philippines needn’t have joined that ignoble bandwagon; the country was one of the original world champions of human rights, and has a resounding Bill of Rights in its Constitution.

Now it’s become a leading light of another alliance altogether — the world’s antihuman rights club. For shame.


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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 13, 2018 — “Knowledge inflates with pride.” — “Stop judging and you will not be judged.”

September 12, 2018

Advice for the age of Twitter and other social media: Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you

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Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 440

Reading 11 COR 8:1B-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters:
Knowledge inflates with pride, but love builds up.
If anyone supposes he knows something,
he does not yet know as he ought to know.
But if one loves God, one is known by him.

So about the eating of meat sacrificed to idols:
we know that there is no idol in the world,
and that there is no God but one.
Indeed, even though there are so-called gods in heaven and on earth
(there are, to be sure, many “gods” and many “lords”),
yet for us there is

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one God, the Father,
from whom all things are and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things are and through whom we exist.

But not all have this knowledge.
There are some who have been so used to idolatry up until now
that, when they eat meat sacrificed to idols,
their conscience, which is weak, is defiled.

Thus, through your knowledge, the weak person is brought to destruction,
the brother for whom Christ died.
When you sin in this way against your brothers
and wound their consciences, weak as they are,
you are sinning against Christ.
Therefore, if food causes my brother to sin,
I will never eat meat again,
so that I may not cause my brother to sin.

Responsorial Psalm PS 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 23-24

R. (24b) Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.
Probe me, O God, and know my heart;
try me, and know my thoughts;
See if my way is crooked,
and lead me in the way of old.
R. Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way.

Alleluia1 JN 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If we love one another,
God remains in us,
and his love is brought to perfection in us.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Sermon On The Mount art by Carl Bloch

Gospel  LK 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“To you who hear I say, love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

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“The one filled with the spirit of Christ has nothing to lose.”
Modern Idolatry Diminishes Sacredness of Every Human Being

The word idolatry is one of those old sounding words often relegated to the archives of history. Many of us don’t associate idolatry with contemporary culture, thinking of it as something of the past, kind of “Old Testament stuff.”

I think it is alive and well in our world today.

Idolatry is the worship of a created object or being, as if it were a god.

Idols in today’s world are ubiquitous. How often have you spoken to individuals who stand in awe and reverence to the gods of money, land, house, health, or occupation?

Perhaps the most insidious form I have encountered is the tendency to make God into our image. In effect, we make ourselves idols.

We all have been taught, and hopefully believe, that we are made in God’s image and likeness. We share in divine life. We resemble God in our ability to think and will the good for ourselves and others. We share in God’s creative power by bringing new life into the world. We have the ability to reach out and form intimate relationships and thus share in the Trinitarian life. We share in God’s authority over other created beings and things. It is God’s image that is reflected in us. 

How often have you heard others try to give God human attributes (characteristics)? When we do that, we divide God, we limit God, we define God, and we place God in opposition to others and to God’s nature. God is One, and is infinitely great. God has perfect nature, without division or disunity. We cannot anthropomorphize divine nature. God is so infinitely different from us, i.e., transcendent, that we cannot comprehend it.

As one of my earliest theology professors said, “We know more about what God isn’t than what He is.”

If we fall into the trap of making God into our image and likeness, we fall into idolatry. We cannot create God. We can only experience and receive God in the divine self-revelation in salvation history, in Scripture, and in the living Tradition of the Church.

Yes, God is revealed in the daily events of our lives; we can come to recognize God in creation; we can come to know God in the lives of those around us, but that is because these events, these lives bear some faint resemblance of God’s image and likeness.

It is true that God assumed human nature in the Incarnation and Ascension into heaven of Jesus, God’s Son, but this is all God’s doing. God divinizes us in doing so, i.e., making us holy as God is holy. Jesus is God and (a) Man. With the Incarnation, God came to live within us intimately, closer to us than we are to ourselves. This is a reflection of the divine image in us.


Commentary on Luke 6:27-38 From Living Space

For many people, even those who identify themselves as Christians, this may be one of the most difficult passages in the Gospel. It seems to express an idealism that is totally unrealistic and unattainable.

We live today in a world of great violence, of terrorism, of increasing litigation – suing and counter-suing, violence and murder, of vicious vendettas often stirred up in the tabloid press and other media, the horror of terrorist attacks on the innocent. Are these things not to be avenged?

Where do Jesus’ words fit in? It may be worth noting that the passage (in the original – not in today’s reading) begins: “I say this to you who are listening.” In order to understand what Jesus is really saying to us, we have to put aside our prejudices and assumptions and really listen to what he is saying. This passage, in particular, is one where we are likely to react emotionally.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.” We may feel that to follow this teaching is to try something which is totally beyond our capacity, that it would require a tremendous amount of will-power and that it would only encourage those people to behave even worse. In the Old Testament hatred of evildoers is presumed to be the right attitude to have. But Jesus is extending love to the enemy and the persecutor.

This is the core of Jesus’ teaching, which he himself practised. The Golden Rule which is often expressed as “Do not do to others what you would not want them do to you” is expressed here in positive terms.

The first big hurdle is the word “love”. For us it is a very emotional word, implying both affection and intimacy. For us to “love” is often to “be in love with”, to “be attracted to”. But Jesus is not telling us to be in love with our enemies. He is not even telling us to like them. The Greek verb which the gospel uses is agapao (‘agapaw) from which the noun agape (‘agaph) comes. Agape [pronounced ‘ah-gah-pay’] is a special kind of love. It is not the physically-expressed love of lovers nor is it the love of close friends. It is rather an attitude of positive regard towards other people by which I wish for their well-being.

This, in fact, is the love that God has for us. It is a one-sided love in the sense that a return is not expected. God reaches out in infinite love to every single person without exception. God wishes every person to experience that love; God wishes the fullest well-being of every single person. That love of his is often not returned; it is often rejected or ignored.

But it continues unabated, like the father in the story of the prodigal son waiting for his boy to come back. The father continued to love his son even in his lowest moments of debauchery and degradation. It was the same with the people who were nailing Jesus to the cross. He prayed for them, for their being forgiven and that they might come to a realisation of just what they were doing.

In this sense, loving our enemies seems altogether reasonable. And not only not impossible but really the only thing to do.

Who are our “enemies”? First of all, they are not our enemies in the sense that we hate them or want to harm them. In that sense, Christians should have no enemies. Rather, they are people who are hostile to us. They want to harm us, take revenge on us, even destroy us, or whatever.

There are two ways we can deal with such people. We can set out to do more harm to them, to take revenge on them, or try to wipe them out completely. Or we can try and work to turn them round.

Our problem is that we tend to focus too much on ourselves and our own immediate needs and overlook the needs of others. To love as God loves is to focus more on others. We can only do this if we have a strong inner sense of security and self-acceptance. Then we are not too worried about what people say about us or do to us.

And then, too, we can turn our attention much more to the one who is hating or harming. We will begin to ask why do they have to act in this way. What is hurting inside them that drives them to such behaviour? Already we are just by thinking in this way beginning to care for our enemy and beginning to love him or her.

And is not this a much better solution to the problem? To bring peace back into that person’s life and initiate a healing process in them and between them and me.

Jesus is not at all asking us to do something “unnatural”. We do not naturally want to hate or be hated. We want to love and to be loved. We see many parts of the world where – for years – there has been a process of hatred and retaliation in a never-ending spiral of vengeance and loss of life.

The only way to break this cycle is to follow Jesus’ advice. It is not a lose-lose or lose-win situation; it is a win-win situation where everyone benefits.

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Perhaps words of the late Mother Teresa are appropriate here:

“Love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”

To put Jesus’ teaching into effect is not a matter of strengthening our will to do something very difficult but to change our conventional thinking at the deepest level, to see things his way. Once we do that, it becomes much easier.

Jesus’ application of this teaching also has been the subject of much mockery. “To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too.” In a world where macho reigns, this is just too much. Only wimps would follow Jesus’ advice because they are afraid to do anything else.

Schwarzenegger and Stallone know what to do in such cases: mow them down with an automatic machine gun.

Again, it is a question of seeing things from Jesus’, that is, God’s viewpoint. Turning the other cheek, as it is presented here, is not at all an act of weakness. It requires great courage and great inner strength and an awareness that the one who strikes is the one who is really weak. It is easy to lash out at another person by word or act. It is easy to hit back; it is almost an instinctive reaction but it is not the truly human response.

To hit back is to reduce oneself to the same level as one’s attacker and it solves nothing in the long run. Deliberately and calmly not to hit back is to refuse, in Eric Berne’s words, “to play the other person’s game”. It is to break the cycle and change the level of the playing field and move it to a higher level – the level of mutual respect and human dignity.

Jesus set the example when he was struck on the face during his trial. During the whole degradation of the Passion his dignity shines out in contrast to the pathetic posturings of his judges and tormentors. This was the spirit that guided Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and which is behind all movements devoted to active non-violence.

Jesus sets the principle: “Treat others as you would like them to treat you.” You do not want to be hated or struck so you refuse, no matter what happens, to hate or strike another person. “If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?” No, we will not react simply in the way others deal with us.

As followers of Christ, we see things in a completely different way and we want to behave differently. We believe that not only do we personally benefit from following Jesus’ way but that others too will benefit and may even come to our point of view.

Finally, Jesus calls us to follow the model of God himself: “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” In Matthew’s gospel it is, “Be perfect as…” The meaning is the same: our perfection consists in our empathetic reaching out in compassionate agape to every single person.

And, through us, the compassion of God can then be experienced by people.

We are not to judge or condemn persons (although we may be asked and required to give an objective and discerned evaluation of a person’s behaviour or fitness for some task or position). And we are to forgive. Then we will not be condemned and will in turn receive forgiveness.

The emphasis is on reaching out to others rather than gathering for ourselves, being turned in on our little, insecure selves. “Give, and there will be gifts for you.” Jesus put this graphically when he told us to give not only our cloak to someone asking for it but our tunic as well. Given that the poor in those days only had two garments, that would leave the donor totally naked!

But that is the point: the one filled with the spirit of Christ has nothing to lose, nothing to be ashamed of. Life consists in what we are able to give and not what we can get. “The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.”

And that, above all, applies to agape. Everyone can give an endless supply of that.

Catholic Church: Hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints

September 5, 2018

“The church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners.”

I’ve been using that line for years in our RCIA. I probably stole it from somebody. Now Pope Francis is saying something very much like it, so I feel confident in that assertion.

“I see clearly,” said Pope Francis in his interview with the Jesuit magazine La Civita Cattolica, “that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.”

Alleluia! A hospital for sinners, not a museum of saints.

By Fr. Peter Daly

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Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

We should print that on yard signs and put them on our front lawns. We should paint it on banners and hang the banners from our steeples.

“We are a hospital for sinners. Wounds healed inside.”

A broken world needs a place to bring its spiritual injuries. We need an emergency room more than a courtroom. We want healing more than judgment.

“The confessional,” Pope Francis says, “is not a torture chamber, but the place in which the Lord’s mercy motivates us to do better.”

Another alleluia! This is a guy who understands reconciliation. I’ve always said confession is not so much an encounter with our guilt as it is with God’s mercy.

This is a man who also understands people’s fear of confession. He knows we have too often rendered judgment, not mercy.

The pope talked of the church he wants: “I dream of a church that is a mother and a shepherdess. The church’s ministers must be merciful.”


All my life, I have heard the church referred to as “Holy Mother the Church.” But in truth, that is not how most people outside experience us. The world sees us not so much as “mother” but as the world’s “scold.”

Instead of a motherly embrace and healing, we come at people with a scowl and a wagging finger. The first words out of our mouths are often not the words of Jesus: “Peace be with you.” Instead, we lead with a correction: “Let me tell you what is wrong with you.”

Is it any wonder people are just walking away from us? Who wants to be scolded even before they are known?

A good pastor will eventually get around to moral issues, but our first words should be good news, not rules. As Pope Francis puts it, “The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”

Pope Francis says that in his early years as provincial of the Jesuits in Argentina, at the young age of 36, he was too authoritarian. He was too quick to judge. Over time, he grew and learned to take time to discern.

I think most priests evolve. When I was first ordained at the age of 36, I thought it was my job to enforce the rules. “No Communion for you.” But gradually, I came to see that the sacraments are not a reward for good behavior but the medicine of sinners.

The Christian life is not so much about rules as it is about relationships. It’s about a relationship with Christ and with each other. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, they won’t care if you quote the rule book to them. If you do have a relationship with someone, you probably won’t need to quote the rules. That’s what St. Paul means by the law of love.

Pope Francis thinks mercy comes before catechesis.

“A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon, must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation. There is nothing more solid, deep and sure than this proclamation. Then you have to do catechesis” (emphasis added).

Some people think religion is only from the neck up. But I’ve come to see that it is more about the heart than the head. Too often, we answer questions people have not even asked, but we fail to answer the basic question of life everyone is asking: “Am I loved?”

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A good pastor knows you answer that question first. You don’t just answer it once, either. It takes time and repetition for the answer to sink in.

Pope Francis recognizes the complexity of life. People must be seen in the context of their lives. I tell the catechumens that God sees our lives as a movie, not a snapshot. It’s God’s view of the life that the church should be trying to take.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio recalled how someone once asked him provocatively if he approved of homosexuality. He answered, “Tell me; when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. … It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”

In his interview, Pope Francis says, “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in context.”

He gives the example of a woman who had a failed marriage and an abortion. Her life continues. She remarries and has five children. She is much more than her sin. “That abortion in her past weights heavily on her conscience and she sincerely regrets it. She would like to move forward in her Christian life. What is the confessor to do?”

His answer is: Focus on the essentials first. Tell her the good news.

“The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials … this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.”

I’ve seen that in my own life. As a pastor in the same parish for 19 years, I’ve seen people fall away and come back. I’ve seen them be on fire with faith, grow cold, then catch fire again. I’ve known them as rebellious teens and questioning adults. I’ve seen their lives collapse from sin but recover by God’s grace. Any “snapshot” of their lives is a distortion. We have to wait for the movie. We are all in process, including the church.

To me the most disarming thing about the pope’s interview was his answer to the first question, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” He said simply, “I am a sinner.”

Some people dismissed that answer as a cliché, but I don’t think so. To illustrate his answer, he said that sometimes, when visiting Rome, he used to go to the Church of St. Louis of France, near Piazza Navona, where he would sit in front of Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew.

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When I was a seminarian in Rome, I used to do the same thing, putting my coins in the meter to illuminate the painting. I wonder if we ever sat there together.

“That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew,” Pope Francis says, “that’s me. I feel like him, like Matthew. … He holds onto his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. … I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I admired John Paul II. I respected Benedict. But I think I could love Francis.

[Fr. Peter Daly is a priest in the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and has been pastor of St. John Vianney parish in Prince Frederick, Md., since 1994.]

Editor’s note: We can send you an email alert every time Fr. Peter Daly’s column, “Parish Diary,” is posted to


  (We Have to Practice Forgiveness to Get Good At It…)

  (Saint Peter denied Christ three times — Didn’t think he was a “rock”)
(Priests are human, and sinners, just like us — But we need them and they need us)

The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, August 26, 2018 — Encountering The Holy One of God — “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.”

August 25, 2018

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD, decide today whom you will serve…”

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Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 122

Reading 1  JOS 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B

Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem,
summoning their elders, their leaders,
their judges, and their officers.
When they stood in ranks before God,
Joshua addressed all the people:
“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”But the people answered,
“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 34:2-3, 16-17, 18-19, 20-21

R. (9a) Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
The LORD has eyes for the just,
and ears for their cry.
The LORD confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them from the earth.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
When the just cry out, the LORD hears them,
and from all their distress he rescues them.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
Many are the troubles of the just one,
but out of them all the LORD delivers him;
he watches over all his bones;
not one of them shall be broken.
R. Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Reading 2 EPH 5:21-32 OR 5:2A, 25-32

Brothers and sisters:
Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.orBrothers and sisters:
Live in love, as Christ loved us.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church
and handed himself over for her to sanctify her,
cleansing her by the bath of water with the word,
that he might present to himself the church in splendor,
without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,
that she might be holy and without blemish.
So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself.
For no one hates his own flesh
but rather nourishes and cherishes it,
even as Christ does the church,
because we are members of his body.
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh.

This is a great mystery,
but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.

Alleluia JN 6:63C, 68C

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

Gospel  JN 6:60-69

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said,
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?
What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending
to where he was before?
It is the spirit that gives life,
while the flesh is of no avail.
The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe
and the one who would betray him.
And he said,
“For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me
unless it is granted him by my Father.”
As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
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First Though From Peace and Freedom
Father Benedict Groeschel once said to me, “God wants us to serve Him. But many of use loudly proclaim, “I will not serve!”
Much as we may want to turn our backs on God, He never turns his back on us!
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Besides, we may think we can just “not serve’ and sit this whole thing out. But life is not that way. If we are not serving God, we can easily be serving self full time! Or we might be serving Satan.
We can return to the fork in the road and make our decision any time we want. But once we choose to serve God we need to get going and make up for lost time.
Yogi Berra, the great New York Yankees catcher said, “When you get to the fork in the road, TAKE IT.”
Unfortunately, God, and each individual human being, knows what he or she chose to do do….. One way or another, we own the road we are upon.
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Reflect from the Abbot, Monastery of Christ in the Desert

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

What is your decision?  God asks us today to decide about Him, to decide about Jesus Christ.  Jesus wants us to stay with Him but also to believe in Him.  What is your decision?

The first reading today is from the Book of Joshua and speaks about the decision of our ancestors in the faith.  They also had to decide to serve the one God or to continue with other gods.  This decision always sounds simple but is very complex, just as it is for us.  So often we say that we will serve the Lord and yet we go on as if we are serving other Gods.  Our values remain foreign from this God who reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures.  Today it is so very common for people to say that they are “Catholic” and yet reject most of the teachings of the Church.  It is easy to say “I am a Catholic,” and it is truly difficult to be Catholic.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians and is another difficult reading because the teaching is barely acceptable to many people today.  “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands.”  That is a strong teaching and yet in the context makes perfect sense.  So many people get upset with this teaching and yet in the same teaching, we are told that we should be subordinate to one another.  This is not a one way street!  The teaching also tells us that “husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”  Always we must listen to the whole context of a teaching.  In this context, the author is speaking about a mutual care for one another.  His way of expressing that care for one another comes from another time and another culture so we must listen attentively not to read in our own meanings or to take out the author’s meaning.  It is as we hear so often in the books of Wisdom:  Be attentive.

The Gospel of John today brings us back to the place of decision.  Many of the followers of Jesus left Jesus because of his teaching about the Bread of Life, that He Himself is the Bread and that we must eat His body and drink His blood.  If that teaching were only symbolic, it would not have offended those followers.  So many today, even among Catholics, no longer believe in the Real Presence.  Jesus Christ is truly present in the bread and wine, which become His body and His blood.  Only when the strength of that teaching is present can we understand why followers left Him in His own time and why people today still find it difficult to accept the Divine Presence, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist.

When we come to communion in our Catholic Church, we affirm that Christ is truly present, not just as symbol and not just as remembrance—but truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  This is why the early Christian believers could rejoice and could be strong when they were persecuted.  They knew that Jesus is with us, now and always, and in this Sacrament.

What is your decision?

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

From the Abbot in 2015:

You and I are all challenged to keep struggling with the Scriptures so that we can encounter the living God present there.  We must also struggle with our Catholic Church because it is the living presence of Christ present in our world today.  In order to struggle, we must be humble and accept that I personally do not have all the answers and that even my way of thinking may need conversion.


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The Good Samaritan By Walter Rane


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

Morning Prayer for Monday, August 20, 2018 — Conscious Contact with God

August 20, 2018
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Thought for the Day

“When many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith. When we see others solve their problems by simple reliance upon some Spirit of the universe, we have to stop doubting the power of God. Our ideas did not work, but the God-idea does. Deep down in every man, woman, and child is the fundamental idea of God. Faith in a Power greater than ourselves and miraculous demonstrations of that power in our lives are facts as old as the human race.” Am I willing to rely on the Spirit of the universe?

Meditation for the Day

You should not dwell too much on the mistakes, faults, and failures of the past. Be done with shame and remorse and contempt for yourself. With God’s help, develop a new self-respect. Unless you respect yourself, others will not respect you. You ran a race, you stumbled and fell, you have risen again, and now you press on toward the goal of a better life. Do not stay to examine the spot where you fell, only feel sorry for the delay, the shortsightedness that prevented you from seeing the real goal sooner.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may not look back. I pray that I may keep picking myself up and making a fresh start each day.

Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

20 AUGUST, 2018, Monday, 20th Week, Ordinary Time



Like the rich man who came to Jesus seeking eternal life, many of us too are unsatisfied with our lives.   Our lives might even be good in the eyes of the world, a good career, status, and a beautiful family.   But something seems to be missing.  So too we ask, “Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life.”

What was the response of Jesus?  “There is one alone who is good. However, if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.  You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbor as yourself.”  These commandments that Jesus referred to all concern our relationship with our neigbours.  The young man said, “I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?”  It is significant that he had done what the commandments required and still he was not complete.  Thus, he felt that perhaps he was not doing enough and needed to do more.

What was he lacking?  He lacked the right motivation for doing what he did.  This is true for us all.  Many of us might observe the commandments to love our neighbours.  We obey slavishly what the law requires of us.  We become self-righteous.  We feel good and great about ourselves that we have fulfilled the laws.  However, that only draws us further from our fellowmen who are struggling to obey the laws.  We lack compassion, understanding and forgiveness for their failures.  In fact, some of us might even despise them for not living up to the standards of the gospel.

Then there are those who observe the commandment to love their neighbours more out of guilt than charity.  They are doing well in life.  They have plenty and are successful.  They know that they are among the 1% who owns half of the world’s wealth, or the top 10% that holds 85% of the world’s wealth, or at least the top 30% that holds 97% of the total wealth of the world.  So they feel guilty that they are enjoying so much of the world’s resources and out of guilt give a small token of what they have to the poor and society.  Such giving is not motivated by charity but guilt when they see others who are so much poorer than them.

Others care for their neighbours because they feel good about being involved in all these activities.  They are activists.  They like to feel needed and be recognized or loved.  So they are busy with all kinds of activities.  The activities sustain them.  Beneath the flurry of activities, there is a fear to confront one’s inner self and motives.  Deep within, they are afraid to be lonely, to be without friends or they seek recognition.  So they serve the poor, or rather, they make use of the poor or their services for their sense of self-worth.

And there are others who truly love their neighbours because of humanitarian reasons.  They feel sorry for those who are poor, or a sense of responsibility towards their countrymen and society.  They offer their services and their resources to help them.  They spend their time serving the community and those who are in need.  Still, after all that they have done, there seems to be something lacking in their lives.  There is a gnawing feeling that there is something more.

What is lacking?  It is God.  This is why the Lord told the rich man, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”   To be perfect is to find completion in God alone.   If you desire to make your life complete, then what is necessary is not so much that we give our money to the poor, rather it is in order that we can follow Jesus.  Eternal life is to share in the life of Jesus.   God comes to share with us His life in Christ.  He wants us to enjoy the same intimacy that Jesus has with His Father.  It is only when God is with us and in us, that we can find fulfillment in life.  Without God, no matter what we do, life will not be complete.  Salvation precisely is not by good works but faith in Christ as the revealer of the Father.

Putting God as the ultimate in our lives is the key to perfection of life.  Our hearts are restless until we rest in God.  However, we read that “when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.”  He was not willing to put God as the center of his life.  His wealth was his god.  Although he did a lot of good works and was faithful to the commandments, he was still serving mammon and not God.  His priority in life was not God but himself, his security and his wealth.  This was the case of the Israelites in today’s first reading.  They worshipped money, power and idols rather than God.  Indeed, as the psalmist says, “You forget the Rock who begot you, unmindful now of the God who fathered you.”

To put God as the focus of our lives does not mean always that we are to give away everything to the poor.  God might not want us to give away everything to the poor and follow Him as priests, religious and missionaries do.  Different people are chosen for different vocations, marriage, family and service to the country.  However, the motive in all that we do must be correct.  It must be done with the love of God in mind.  In the final analysis, we must love God and put Him first above all things.  This is what the Lord taught, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Mt 23:37-39)  The problem with the rich man and many of us is that we love our wealth and for some, our neighbours first.

So when we love God above all things, then we will know how and what we should do with ourselves, our resources and our time.  Everything we have is meant for His service and for the love of neighbour.  What we do should spring from our love for God and then expressed concretely in our daily life where we are called to help and serve.  That is why when we put God as the centre of our lives, then we will be able to see in perspective the things of this world.  We will realise that these are passing things and that they are not the ends themselves but the means through which we share in the life and love of God through service of our fellowmen.  Loving God entails loving our neighbours because the life of God is love and emptying.  But we do not love our neighbours or make use of them for our insecurity and fulfilment.  Rather, it is because we are fulfilled and loved in Christ that we want to pour out our love for others.

This absolute commitment to the Lord is seen in today’s exemplary life of Ezekiel.  God wanted to use him as a sign for the people of Israel who were unfaithful to Him.  So He told Ezekiel that He was going to take away his wife from him.  When that day comes, he was “not to lament, not to weep, not to let your tears run down.  Groan in silence, do not go into mourning for the dead.”  It must have been extremely difficult enough for him to lose his dear wife.  However, not to be allowed to mourn for her was a double blow.  Yet the prophet accepted the will of God in his life.  He did not fight against God’s will because he knew that the death of his wife and being forbidden to mourn for her was to enable him to serve the greater good of his people.  He was a prophetic sign to them to repent of their sins and to prepare them for the day when they had to be exiled to Babylon.  We too must learn from the prophet to trust in God and to put our lives in complete surrender to His will and service.  We must love Him above all things.  By so doing, we will find the grace to be detached from the world and be available for the service of God.   In this way, we share in the eternal life of God, a life of love and joy.

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

Parents selectively aborting children based on their gender — ‘We need to know the sex. If it’s a girl we are going to terminate it’

August 19, 2018


Sonographs often used to determine sex of baby — so the girls can be killed

It is a moment burned into the memory of a veteran sonographer.

A number of years ago, the sonographer was asked by a couple at their scan around 12 weeks to tell them the gender of their developing baby.

“They said something along the lines of ‘We need to know the sex, because if it’s a girl we are going to terminate it’,” they said.

“You have to deal with things like terminal cancer and miscarriages when you’re working as a sonographer. But this occasion, it still sickens me to this day.”

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Parents selectively aborting children based on their gender

New Australian research, revealed this month, has indicted that a group of parents could be aborting female babies because of a preference for sons. It’s led to questions over whether it is necessary to provide parents with early information about the sex of their fetuses.

Already, many obstetricians and sonographers don’t routinely provide gender information at the 12-week scan when people can still readily access abortion, largely because it’s not always accurate and there is rarely any medical purpose. Yet there is an unwillingness to follow in the path of China and India, where abortion of female foetuses is a well-identified problem, and there are bans on early gender reveals.

Advances in science and technology mean Australians are now able to find out the sex of their baby from as early as 10 weeks, via a blood test that also screens for chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome. Others may find out their baby’s sex during an ultrasound around the 12-week mark.

While ultrasound providers have different protocols on whether they reveal the gender of the baby at the first scan, it’s the stance of the Australasian Sonographers Association that they should play no part in the debate around gender selection.

The association’s chief executive, Jodie Long, said if the sonographer was confident in being able to identify the gender, then they would provide that information if asked.

“What the parents do with information is not for the sonographer to determine,” she said

“The majority of the examination is to determine if there is an abnormality. If it is communicated to the parent that there is an abnormality, then the parents will decide what to do with that information. And that’s not up to the sonographers to determine either.”

The study from La Trobe University found that while the ratio of boys and girls born in Victoria was close to natural rates of 105 boys to every 100 girls, there are higher rates of boys born to mothers who have migrated from China and India.

For example, between 1999 and 2015, 8654 mothers born in China had boys at a rate of almost 111 males to every 100 baby girls for their second child, then at a rate of 114 to 100 to for their third or subsequent child.

“We believe that some women may be terminating pregnancies after discovering they are expecting a girl and in other cases are travelling overseas to access non-medical sex selection services through assisted reproduction,” said lead researcher Dr Kristina Edvardsson.

One experienced sonographer, who did not want to be identified, said they believed that medical professions should consider the ethics and accuracy of revealing the sex of a baby at the first-trimester scan, when an “elective termination” could still be performed.

In the past, one couple told them they would abort their child if it was a girl. As was the policy of their employer, the sonographer did not tell them the sex at the first scan, although they were so shocked by the incident, they can’t remember if they noticed if it was a boy or a girl.

“I did wonder for some time what became of that baby.”

Melbourne obstetrician Lisa Hui said she had only heard about one possible case of gender selection during her career, but most patients would be aware that it was not an approved practice, and not tell doctors about it.

“It’s very hard for us to know as professionals whether the practice is widespread. I guess that is concerning and raises it as a possibility, but we don’t have data on how fetal sex information is being used,” she said.

Nevertheless, Associate Professor Hui said she felt it was reasonable not to disclose fetal sex information at the first 12-week scan, because there was rarely a medical reason to give that information, and it was not always possible to tell the sex.

There appears to be little appetite for a formal change in that protocol that would advise doctors or ultrasound technicians against offering their best guess at the sex of a baby during the first scan or blood test.

Australia’s chief medical officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, said “it would also be unreasonable to deny access to gender information on ultrasounds for the vast majority of people who want a child of any gender”.

It’s a view shared by the man who helped draft Australia’s guidelines banning gender selection through IVF , Professor Ian Olver.

“It’s just like you can’t stop everyone from being a criminal,” he said. “You can’t stop people who are desperate to do things getting round the system. I don’t think it’s the fault of the system, and I think the society and the law is clearly anti any sort of sex discrimination.”