Posts Tagged ‘self-abandonment’

Morning Prayer for Sunday, November 11, 2018 — I am not so important after all

November 11, 2018

When I think of all who have gone before me, I realize that I am only one, not very important, person. What happens to me is not so very important after all. I have learned to be more outgoing, to seek friendship by going at lest halfway, to have a sincere desire to help. I have more self-respect now that I have less sensitiveness. I have found that the only way to live comfortably with myself is to take a real interest in others. Do I realize that I am not so important after all?

Meditation for the Day

As you look back over your life, it is not too difficult to believe that what you went through was for a purpose, to prepare you for some valuable work in life. Everything in your life may well have been planned by God to make you of some use in the world. Each person’s life is like the pattern of a mosaic. Each thing that happened to you is like one tiny stone in the mosaic, and each tiny stone fits into the perfected pattern of the mosaic of your life, which has been designed by God.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may not need to see the whole design of my life. I pray that I may trust the Designer.

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Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous)

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Lord, I ask your pardon, I have sinned again

Lord, I ask your pardon, I have sinned again. This, alas, is what I am capable of doing on my own! But I abandon myself with confidence to your mercy and your pardon, I thank you for not allowing me to sin even more grievously. I abandon myself to You with confidence because I know that one day you will heal me completely and, in the meantime, I ask you that the experience of my misery would cause me to be more humble, more considerate of others, more conscious that I can do nothing by myself, but that I must rely solely on your love and your mercy. Amen.

By Jacques Philippe

Book: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence

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“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by de Caussade — the goal is total dependence upon God. To get a new self; most human beings need to get rid of the old self.

Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:

“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, October 4, 2018 — Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi

October 4, 2018

I am sending you like lambs among wolves

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few

A detached man will see the uselessness and vanity of earthly pursuits for power, recognition, popularity.  He sees the stupidity of clinging to things and people and places.

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Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.

Related:

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Meditation of St. Francis of Assisi 

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lectionary: 458

Reading 1 JB 19:21-27

Job said:

Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,
for the hand of God has struck me!
Why do you hound me as though you were divine,
and insatiably prey upon me?

Oh, would that my words were written down!
Would that they were inscribed in a record:
That with an iron chisel and with lead
they were cut in the rock forever!
But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives,
and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust;

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St Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, c.1598
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Whom I myself shall see:
my own eyes, not another’s, shall behold him,
And from my flesh I shall see God;
my inmost being is consumed with longing.
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Responsorial Psalm PS 27:7-8A, 8B-9ABC, 13-14

R. (13) I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living.

Alleluia MK 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Pope Francis holds his General Weekly Audience in St. Peter’s Square on August 29, 2018, in Vatican City. Giulio Origlia/Getty Images
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Gospel LK 10:1-12

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day
than for that town.”
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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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04 OCTOBER, 2018, Thursday, 26th Week, Ordinary Time

THE NEARNESS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ JOB 19:21-27LK 10:1-12  ]

Very often, we hear people in their struggles to grow in their spiritual life remark that growing in spiritual life is very difficult, implying that it is impossible to experience the life of the kingdom of God on this earth.  If that were so, then today’s gospel message will make no sense at all.  For twice in today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is very near.

The question we need to ask is, how near is ‘very near’?  I believe that very near means that the Kingdom is already here.  That is to say, it is within our reach. The fact is that these words were spoken to the disciples two thousand years ago, and we are still saying that it is ‘very near’ today.  Surely two thousand years cannot be said to be very near!  Thus, to say that the kingdom of God is ‘very near’, it must mean that it is already here, at hand, within our reach.   It therefore does not simply mean it is imminent, but that it is already here.  Indeed, the kingdom of God is already so near to us that we can easily overlook it, just like the way our eyes often overlook our nose.

The next question we need to ask then is, how do we know that the kingdom of God is here already?  The gospel gives us the answer.  The Kingdom is already here for those who live a life of detachment.  For this reason, Jesus sent His disciples out to preach the Good News, adopting a life-style of detachment.  He told them, “Do not carry a walking staff or travelling bad, wear no sandals”, etc.  In a nutshell, the disciples of Jesus had to learn to be detached from things, people and places.  Only a detached man can live in true freedom; and only real freedom can lead one to experience the kingdom of God.  Truly, the Kingdom man is one who understands the futility of the strivings and pursuits of life.  A detached man will see the uselessness and vanity of earthly pursuits for power, recognition, popularity.  He sees the stupidity of clinging to things and people and places.

The kingdom of God is also here for those who live a spirit of contentment.  In telling His disciples to be grateful and appreciative of whatever was offered to them when they entered a house, Jesus was telling them to be contented.  Man is miserable because he lives a life of discontent.  He is unhappy with himself.  He wants to be somebody else.  He is unhappy with his situation; he wants to be in another place.  He is discontented with his lot; he wants to have something else, etc.

Truly, a discontented man is an unhappy man.  The point is that if we are not happy where we are now, we can hardly be happy anywhere else.  If we are not happy with who we are, we cannot be happy with anybody nor with anyone else.  One cannot expect to experience the presence of the kingdom when one is choosy and always comparing.  Contentment is the key to interior peace within ourselves.  A contented person is non-egoistic nor grasping.  He is already happy within himself.  Therefore, he does not choose nor discriminate.  He takes whatever is given to him.  He is totally open to God and His providence.

To live a detached and contented life is simply to live in the present.  It is within this context that we can understand why Jesus insisted that His disciples must not hoard and be prepared for any contingency.  This is because Jesus wanted His disciples to live entirely for the moment and for the present.  But one can live entirely for the present only when one has nothing to hang on to in life except life itself.  So long as one lives in anxiety about the future, one cannot experience the kingdom of God.  When the mind hankers for the future, one cannot but miss the presence of the kingdom of God.

When a person is detached and contented, he becomes very free. Contentment brings real freedom to oneself.  Only when a person is truly contented with himself, can he stop hankering for popularity, acceptance and recognition.   A contented person is one who is simply himself.  He goes about doing his work, helping others without any expectations.  By living this kind of life, he sets others free as well.  Indeed, such a person does not impose even his goodness and his good news on others. He is so free that he allows others to be free as well.

Yes, the kingdom of God can only be for those who experience true freedom in his own life.  Once he experiences that freedom, he will no longer judge and discriminate.  How can a man be truly happy when he continues to judge others?  A mind that is always judging cannot be at rest and therefore be at peace.  Thus, Jesus in the gospel told His disciples that when they go out to preach the Good News, and if the message is rejected, they should simply leave the place.  There is no need to compel people to accept and believe what we say.  A man who cannot allow others freedom suggests that he is simply an insecure man.  Such a man finds no peace, and therefore lives outside the kingdom.

However, in order to live such a detached and contented life without discriminationwe must adopt a foundational attitude of trust and confidence in God’s providence.  We must learn to trust in God and surrender our lives to Him as Job did in the first reading, even in our darkest moments.  Like Job, we need to trust that God will stand by us and that all things will work out for our own good. It is this trust in God, in His love for us, that can deliver us from our insecurities, from living in the future, and from the compulsion of wanting to be accepted and loved and recognized by others.

A great man came to see a Zen master for enlightenment.  And the master told him these simple things.  And the man replied, “But all that you said, even a five-year old child knows about it.”  The master replied, “It is true that even a five-year old child knows about it; but not even an eighty-old man has done it.”  In other words, to know the way to the Kingdom does not equate with being in the Kingdom.  We must begin to live it.

That is why I say that the Kingdom is very near in the sense that it takes a moment of decision to allow the Kingdom into our lives.  The moment we decide to live a life of detachment, contentment, freedom and trust in God, the Kingdom is immediately available to us.  Hence, Jesus told His disciples that whichever house they entered, to say, “Peace upon this house”.  If this peace is accepted, then that household would find peace.  If not, the person would not find peace at all.   Consequently, entry to God’s kingdom is as near as a moment of decision.  That is why it is at hand, within our reach.  It is so near – any moment when we decide to live the way of the Kingdom, the Kingdom becomes ours.

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

Source http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Paperback Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence : Abandonment to Divine Providence Book

Book: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence By J.P. de Caussade

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Morning Prayer for Tuesday, October 2, 2018 — Am I Going God’s Way Or My Own Way?

October 2, 2018

“Thy will be done” must be your oft-repeated prayer. And in
the willing of God’s will there should be gladness. You should
delight to do that will because when you do, all your life goes
right and everything tends to work out for you in the long run.
When you are honestly trying to do God’s will and humbly
accepting the results, nothing can seriously hurt you. He who
accepts the will of God in his life may not inherit the earth,
but he will inherit real peace of mind.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may have a yielded will.
I pray that my will be attuned to the will of God.

Above from the book, “Twenty Four Hours a Day”

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Third Step Prayer (Alcoholics Anonymous)

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

02 OCTOBER, 2018, Tuesday, The Holy Guardian Angels

ANGELS ARE OUR COMPANIONS ALONG THE WAY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EXODUS 23:20-23MATTHEW 18:1-5,10  ]

Today, we celebrate the feast of guardian angels.  On 29th September, we celebrate the feast of the Archangels, St Michael, St Raphael and St Gabriel.  They are called archangels because they played a more critical role in the plan of God’s salvation for humanity.  Like all angels, they are messengers at the service of God to reveal His plan to humanity, to protect and to guide.  It is within this perspective that we also celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels.  As this feast suggests, the angels are assigned to us to protect us from harm and from all dangers.  This is what the Lord said, “See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.”

Traditionally, the Church invites us to pray to the angels for protection and guidance.  The prayer that was taught to us when we were children is still useful for us as adults to pray in faith. “Angel of God, my guardian dear.  To whom God’s love commits me here.  Ever this day be at my side, To light and guard, to rule and guide.”  In this prayer, we are given a theological interpretation of the work of guardian angels as guiding us and guarding us in our every day life.  This is what the first reading from the book of Exodus suggests to us.  God told the Israelites that He would send “an angel to guide them and guard them.   “I myself will send an angel before you to guard you as you go and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. My angel will go before you and lead you to where the Amorites are and the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, the Jebusites; I shall exterminate these.”

Indeed, the psalmist assures us that those who trust and rely on God will be protected by His holy angels.  “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High and abides in the shade of the Almighty says to the Lord: ‘My refuge, my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!’  It is he who will free you from the snare of the fowler who seeks to destroy you; he will conceal you with his pinions and under his wings you will find refuge.  You will not fear the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the plaque that prowls in the darkness nor the scourge that lays waste at noon.  Upon you no evil shall fall no plaque approach where you dwell. For you has he commanded his angels, to keep you in all your ways.”  With the angels protecting us, we can live our lives without fear because he will be at our side.

Besides praying to the angels, we are called to listen to them because they are the voice of God prompting us to do good and to avoid evil.  Again, the Lord said to the Israelites, “Give him reverence and listen to all that he says. Offer him no defiance; he would not pardon such a fault, for my name is in him. If you listen carefully to his voice and do all that I say, I shall be enemy to your enemies, foe to your foes.”  We must be alert to his voice in our lives, often coming in ways that we least expect, sometimes through a voice inside or outside of us, sometimes through strange events that are mysterious to us; and sometimes the angels work through us as well, prompting us to reach out and to do good.  This is why we must listen to the angels and obey their voices.  To listen to the angels is to listen to the voice of God because God chooses to use His intermediaries to communicate with us as He did with Abraham when three angels appeared before him (cf Gn 18); and to Gideon as well, ordering him to go and save his people.  (cf Jdg 6:11-23) The angel also forbade the ass of Balaam to move ahead to collude with the pagan king to curse Israel.   He was then asked to bless Israel instead.  (cf Num 22)    Like St Peter, we are called to listen and obey the angel when he told them to leave the prison and proclaim Christ crucified to the people.   (Acts 12:1-11)   Obedience to the angels is the way we serve God in truth and in love.

For this reason, we should become more aware of the angels in our lives.  We must thank God for our Guardian angels.  The problem with the world today is the emphasis on sensuality, which has made it difficult for us to be in contact with the spiritual world.  Because of science and human pride, we tend to dismiss the angels that we cannot see.  This is dangerous because it will lead us to distrust and disbelief in the spiritual world.  When we are no longer aware of the spiritual beings, good or bad in our lives, we become indifferent to them.  To be ignorant of the presence of the angels is at the same time to be unaware of how the evil spirits work in our world and in our lives.  The Church is clear that just as there is an order in the material world, there is also an order in the spiritual world.  St Paul speaks of the different hierarchy of spiritual beings.  (cf Eph 6:10-12) The spirits are therefore real.  We are called to be alert and fight against Satan and his angels who are prowling round to devour us.  (cf 1 Pt 5:8) For this reason, we need to intercede with our Guardian Angels to pray for divine assistance in our lives.  The letter of Hebrews tells us that angels are ministering spirits to help us.  (cf Heb 1:14)

So instead of behaving in an arrogant manner, dismissing the reality of the spiritual world, we must, as the Lord advised us, be humble as a child learning to accept things beyond his understanding.  “‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’  So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”   With the psalmist we pray, “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.”  (Ps 131:1f)

At the same time, we are called to imitate the Holy Angels in praising and thanking God in our lives.  Angels, although pure spirits, are creatures of God.  Their whole life is to give praise and thanksgiving to God. We are told in the book of Revelation that the angels unceasingly praise God in worship, singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord!”  But they not only praise God in prayer, they praise God in their lives by offering themselves to do good for others, reaching out to those in need and leading them to God.  We too must follow the angels in rendering praise and thanksgiving to God in unceasing prayer, and most of all in our lives.  For this is what St Paul urges us, to pray unceasingly throughout our life.   We are called to be angels to each other and to give support to each other in this journey of life.

Most of all, we are called to be angels to the little ones, children and those who are most vulnerable in life.  In no uncertain terms, the Lord said, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.”  We must be the ones to protect the little ones under our care.  The Lord warns us “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!”  So let us protect the faith of our little ones whom we have a custodian role, whether we are referring to little ones or those new in their faith.  We must seek to protect and guide them, leading them to Christ.

Indeed, let us not walk alone in faith.  We have the Guardian Angels to accompany us in this difficult journey to God.  We only need to turn to them for guidance and for divine protection.  He is ever ready to come to our assistance.  Indeed, we read that Jesus in His Temptations in the desert, and especially in His last moments in the agony in the Garden, was consoled by the angels.  (cf Mt 4:11Lk 22:43) Truly, if the Lord needed the assistance of angels in His journey of life, so we too must turn to the angels who can give us the courage to obey His will.  Let us pray to our Guardian angels and ask them to intercede for us.

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

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http://www.catholic.org.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 25, 2018 — “I saw the glory of the God.” — “Whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

August 24, 2018

Image result for scribes and the Pharisees, photos

Who is the greatest among us? Who gets special honors and attention? We see this problem among out politicians, business leaders, our media personalities… Big shots, Movie Stars, Rock Stars are all around us but are they better than anyone else? “Who then is the greatest?”

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Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 424

Reading 1 EZ 43:1-7AB

The angel led me to the gate which faces the east,
and there I saw the glory of the God of Israel
coming from the east.
I heard a sound like the roaring of many waters,
and the earth shone with his glory.
The vision was like that which I had seen
when he came to destroy the city,
and like that which I had seen by the river Chebar.
I fell prone as the glory of the LORD entered the temple
by way of the gate which faces the east,
but spirit lifted me up and brought me to the inner court.
And I saw that the temple was filled with the glory of the LORD.
Then I heard someone speaking to me from the temple,
while the man stood beside me.
The voice said to me:
Son of man, this is where my throne shall be,
this is where I will set the soles of my feet;
here I will dwell among the children of Israel forever.

Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14

R. (see 10b) The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. The glory of the Lord will dwell in our land.

Alleluia MT 23:9B, 10B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You have but one Father in heaven;
you have but one master, the Christ.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
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Image result for scribes and the Pharisees, photos
The scribes and the Pharisees

Gospel MT 23:1-12

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying,
“The scribes and the Pharisees
have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.
Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you,
but do not follow their example.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them.
All their works are performed to be seen.
They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.
They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,
greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’
As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’
You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.
Call no one on earth your father;
you have but one Father in heaven.
Do not be called ‘Master’;
you have but one master, the Christ.
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
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Commentary on Matthew 23:1-12 From Living Space

We begin today chapter 23 of Matthew which consists of a severe indictment of the Pharisees and Scribes by Jesus. This is not to be taken as a blanket condemnation of every individual Pharisee and Scribe, because we know that many of them were good people. One outstanding example is Gamaliel who appears in the Acts of the Apostles as a man of justice and integrity. Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night and was involved in Jesus’ burial, was also a Pharisee.

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The passage certainly reflects some of the conflicts which arose between the early Christians (especially those who were Jews themselves) and those Jews who were opposed to the Christian Way, who saw it as a heresy and who often subjected the Christians to verbal and even physical attacks and harassment.

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What Jesus is attacking is not so much a particular people as certain attitudes of mind. And these attitudes can be found just as easily within the Christian community of that time and every period since then. We should listen to Jesus’ words, then, directed not so much to abstract “Pharisees and Scribes” but to ourselves. It is for our benefit and reflection that they have been included in the Gospel. The Gospel is written for us and to us; it is not a historical diatribe against certain people in the past.

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Jesus first of all emphasises that as people in authority and experts on the subject, the Scribes and Pharisees should be listened to with respect and they should be obeyed when they teach. But Jesus says that in their behaviour their example should not be followed. “Their words are bold but their deeds are few.”

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They have no hesitation in drawing up rules which are difficult for people to carry out but they do absolutely nothing to help in their implementation. The Church has not always been without guilt in this kind of thing, even in our own day. Nor have civil legislators or other people in authority, including parents of families or teachers in schools, been without fault.

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This is the double standard, where people set the rules which they themselves do not keep: “Do as I say, not as I do” or “You will do it because I tell you to do it.”

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Secondly, the Pharisees are attacked because everything they do is to attract attention to themselves. But it is all on the outside. What we call today ‘image’. Their phylacteries were bigger than others’ and their tassels huge. The phylactery was a small box containing some of the central words of the Law. It was worn on the arm or the forehead, a literal interpretation of the exhortation in Exodus (13:9), “[the Law] shall be as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead”. There were four tassels, sewn at each corner of one’s cloak.

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The message is clear: “We are better, we are holier.” But it is a sham because it is all on the outside. But when it comes to ‘image’ our contemporary world has nothing to learn from the past.

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They also expect special attention to be given to them: the first row in the synagogue, places of honour at banquets, special honorific titles. Sad to say, we have seen this not infrequently among church clerics in our own lifetime. We see it daily among our politicians, business leaders, our media personalities. They are not only given these things; they soon expect them as a right. It is the VIP syndrome and often it is pathetic: the private jet, the executive lounge in the airport, the special table in the restaurant, the limousine from the hotel…

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Even ordinary people become slaves of the image: the brand label on the clothes they wear, the places where they live, the cars they drive, and all the other consumer baubles with which they surround themselves. None of these things, says Jesus, makes a person great.

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The greatest is the one who serves, that is, the person who uses his or her gifts for the benefit of others, whose whole life is dedicated to making this world a better place for others to live in. A person to whom such trappings are totally irrelevant.

https://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2207g/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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25 AUGUST, 2018, Saturday, 20th Week, Ordinary Time

SPIRITUAL WORLDLINESS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ EZEKIEL 43:1-7;  MATTHEW 23:1-12  ]

In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel was writing to the Israelites in exile to give them hope that they would be restored to their homeland and their former glory.  In their exile, they felt the abandonment of God.  But God was with them, preparing them to return to Jerusalem.  This was the vision of Ezekiel.  “I saw the glory of the God of Israel approaching from the east.  A sound came with it, like the sound of the ocean, and the earth shone with his glory. The glory of the Lord arrived at the Temple by the east gate.  The spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; I saw the glory of God fill the Temple.”  This was his vision of the glory of God returning to Israel.   He continued, “And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the man stood beside me.  The voice said, ‘Son of man, this is the dais of my throne, the step on which I rest my feet.  I shall live here among the sons of Israel forever.’”  The Temple remained the dwelling place of God where He lived in their midst.

However, for God to return, the people had to first repent of their sins of idolatry and show the will to restore the Temple to its former glory.  “Now let them put away their idolatry and the corpses of their kings far from me, and I will reside among them forever. As for you, mortal, describe the temple to the house of Israel, and let them measure the pattern; and let them be ashamed of their iniquities.”  (Ezk 43:9f) The period of exile was meant to be a time for them to reflect on their sins and purify themselves so that they would live a life of holiness.  Only such a life can reflect the glory of God.  So too for us.  If we feel the absence of God in our lives, it is because of our sins.  By not living a life of holiness, we deprive the glory of God from shining through us. St Paul wrote, “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  (Rom 3:23)

Yet, the return of the Jews from exile led to another form of worldliness.  It was the temptation to spiritual worldliness, which Pope Francis wrote in his encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium.” [Spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the Church, consists in seeking not the Lord’s glo­ry but human glory and personal well-being. It is what the Lord reprimanded the Pharisees for: “How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (Jn 5:44). It is a sub­tle way of seeking one’s “own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Phil 2:21). It takes on many forms, depending on the kinds of persons and groups into which it seeps. Since it is based on carefully cultivated appearances, it is not always linked to outward sin; from without, everything appears as it should be. But if it were to seep into the Church, “it would be infinitely more dis­astrous than any other worldliness which is sim­ply moral”.]  (EG 93)

This was what the Lord is warning us in today’s gospel.  There is a temptation for us to use religiosity and piety to hide the real intention of our hearts, which is to glorify ourselves and for our personal interests.  When we are not sincere in serving the Lord and living a life of holiness, we use religious practices to cover up the wickedness and selfishness in our heart.  This is seen when we seek our glory instead of the glory of God.  The religious leaders of the day were more concerned about seeking their glory than the glory of God. Jesus remarked, “Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.”  Indeed, all of us, priests, religious and lay leaders included, often seek positions of glory and honour.  We put on a good show that we are holy, but are not living a life of holiness.  We participate in religious activities and rituals but our lives are far from what we claim to believe and worship.

Pope Francis gave us concrete examples of how spiritual worldliness is manifested in the Church today.[“This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretence of “taking over the space of the Church”. In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the con­crete needs of the present time. In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few. In others, this spiritual worldliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gain, or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs, or an obsession with programmes of self-help and self-realization. It can also translate into a concern to be seen, into a social life full of ap­pearances, meetings, dinners and receptions. It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evalua­tions whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution. The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. Evangelical fervour is re­placed by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence.] (EG 95)

The Lord reminds us that in whatever we do, we are to refer people to God, not to us.  We must not be the center of focus, taking away the glory of God.  Unless, our lives lead people to see God and not us, we would have failed in our responsibilities.  Those in positions of authority and influence must not allow their ego to consume them and think that they are the focus for others.  This explains why the Lord said, “You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one Master, and you are all brothers.  You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ.”  Our task is to help people to be the glory of God by living a life of holiness.   When titles are given to us, we must never forget that we are acting on behalf of God for He is the only Master, Father and Teacher.  We all derive our authority from Him for the service of His people.  We are only ambassadors and servants of the Father.

The Lord said, “The greatest among you must be your servant.  Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.”  At the end of the day, it is not about us but about God and His people.  A leader does not focus on himself, his interests and his glory but that of God and the people that he serves.  Therefore, as servants of God, we must be careful that we are not serving our interests.  This can happen when theologians and priests redefine faith and morals according to the standards of the world in order to gain popularity and acceptance. Catholics who would only accept those Catholic teachings they like and reject those that they do not are also self-serving.  Catholics who are afraid to live out their faith because of fear of rejection from society fall into the same category of spiritual worldliness and hypocrisy.  Most of all, we too suffer from spiritual worldliness when we use devotions and church involvement to cover up our need for power and recognition.

Yet, the fact remains that we are weak and sinful.  In truth, we all lack the courage to stand up for what we believe.  In different ways, we live hypocritical lives even when we appear to be good Catholics.  Even religious leaders fail us, not just those in authority.  The Lord has this to advise us when we face hypocritical leaders or those who fail to live up to what they preach.  “The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses.  You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practice what they preach.”  So it remains our constant challenge as leaders to seek authenticity and integrity lest we be accused of being those who “tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them?”  Instead of condemning others for seeking spiritual worldliness, we must look into ourselves and honestly examine those areas in our life where we have failed to live sincerely, with the right motives for what we believe and what we teach.  Let the glory of God shine through us by our lives of humble service.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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The Reverend Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675–1751) encouraged others to “live in the moment,” accepting everyday obstacles with humility and love. He counseled against worry about our lives before today and worry about our future lives. The important thing for de Caussade is that we get today right.
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Although Fr. de Caussade was a learned follower of the teachings of St. Francis de Sales, he himself was a Jesuit, so readers of his works sometimes see both the Ignatian and Salesian forms of Catholic Spirituality.
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Here’s a taste of de Cuassade writing about humility:
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Humility should be sweet and tranquil, without self-contempt, or   annoyance with ourselves or others, without despondency or voluntary   vexation….
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Far from losing, we gain all in abandoning ourselves entirely to God by love and confidence. The sight of yourself: that confused heap of weaknesses, miseries, corruption, should never distress you. It is on this account that I say boldly, all is well, for I have never known anyone   endowed with this keen insight, so humiliating, to whom it was not a most special grace of God; nor who has not found in it, combined with a true   self-knowledge, that solid humility which is the foundation of all perfection. I   have known, and do know many saintly people who, for their sole possession have that profound conviction of their weakness, and are never so happy as when they   feel themselves, as it were, engulfed in it. They then dwell in truth, and consequently in God who is the sovereign truth. If you but knew how to walk  before Him, your head bowed in this spirit of self-effacement, you would find in   it all that makes the spiritual life. It only remains to know how to preserve this spirit of peace and abandonment.
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 8, 2018 — “For when I am weak then I am strong.”

July 7, 2018

Can I abandon myself? Can I pour myself out for others? — “As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me.”

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 101

Reading 1  EZ 2:2-5

As the LORD spoke to me, the spirit entered into me
and set me on my feet,
and I heard the one who was speaking say to me:
Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites,
rebels who have rebelled against me;
they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day.
Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I am sending you.
But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—
they shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Responsorial Psalm PS 123:1-2, 2, 3-4

R. (2cd) Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven —
As the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
Have pity on us, O LORD, have pity on us,
for we are more than sated with contempt;
our souls are more than sated
with the mockery of the arrogant,
with the contempt of the proud.
R. Our eyes are fixed on the Lord, pleading for his mercy.
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Image result for an angel of Satan, pictures

Reading 2 2 COR 12:7-10

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak then I am strong.

Alleluia CF. LK 4:18

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 6:1-6

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.
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Reflection By The Abbot in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Are we able to see the presence of God in others?  Are we able to recognize that God speaks through others?  Do we see and acknowledge the prophets of our own time?  Today’s readings call us to open our hearts, our minds and our whole being to the presence of God in others.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel.  God sends prophets to His people.  We don’t always like to hear the words that a prophet speaks.  On the other hand, not everyone who speaks is a prophet.  The Old Testament and the New both understand clearly that a true prophet must speak according to the Word of God, and not according to the words of men.

Today many claim to be prophetic, but most lack any claims to speaking the Word of God.  A true prophet in our Christian tradition must reflect both the Holy Scriptures and the Church.  The Prophet Ezekiel clearly speaks the same message as the other prophets and that message is always the same:  faithfulness to God’s word revealed in Holy Scripture, love for God, love for others, care for the needy and the oppressed.

This message of the Scriptures remains the same from the beginning to the end of the Scriptures.  The message always demands that we give up our own concerns and be concerned only for God and God’s message for us.  The moment we begin to seek our own good, our own enrichment, our own way of thinking—then we become unfaithful to the word of God.

The second reading today is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  Here we also listen to God’s word:  “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  We are invited to embrace the word of Jesus Christ with all our strength and all our being.  When we do embrace this word of God, we shall surely suffer and know our own weaknesses.  This also is a form of prophecy because the more we embrace Christ and follow His way, the more our lives speak about God and His incredible love for us.  We prophesy simply by living.

The Gospel today is from Saint Mark and takes us back to the challenge of rejection.  We should remember that Ezekiel told us that it does not matter if a prophet is recognized or not.  What matters is that the prophet speaks the word of God.  Today’s Gospel points out that we can reject a true prophet simply because we don’t believe that God acts in the ordinary events of our lives and in seemingly ordinary people.

God is always speaking to us:  in others, in the events of our lives, in the Church, in our world.  In order to understand God we must be attentive first of all to His revealed word.  When that revealed Word is our whole way of living, then we begin to recognize His word in all the other realities of our lives.  Today God invites us:  listen to the prophets!  Open your hearts and minds and beings!  God loves you and wishes to speak with you.  Harden not your hearts today!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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I am but an empty cup….fill me Lord, with your unlimited love…..

We who profess to be Christians, have been infused with the Christ Spirit whose life is intricately intertwined in the tattered threads of our humanity, and He is the One who works in and through us to bring about His plans and purposes for our lives, not we ourselves.

backlit cemetery christianity clouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have discovered this faith life, is not so much about doing anything, it is all about being God’s Heart of love in the flux of life coming at me.

The Art of Surrendering

This life becomes a daily act of surrendering on my part and a daily action on God’s part to lead, direct, and guide in the continual high call upon my life in intricately allowing His Spirit life to manifest His love wherever I walk and with whomever I meet.

Letting go becomes a necessary process in moving forward in my journey as a woman of Faith in this world. God’s ways are not my ways.  Letting go so God’s love can saturate those places I am giving up in a consecrated devotion in desiring Him above anything else in this world.

God’s Redemptive Love

Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus that they (along with all of us) would “be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height” and “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”(Ephesians 3:18-19).

I am not sure about you, but have you ever stopped to think about the multiple dimensions of God’s love—the breadth, length, depth, and height— that Paul mentions?

I can barely imagine such extraordinary, magnificent, gracious, glorious, expounding, expansive dimensions of this love, where I have only tasted a bit, barely scratching the surface of a love that is untainted by any human concept of love.

God’s love never gives up on me and He pursues me dearly all the days of my life.  His love is faithful, loyal, and remains steadfast.  His love requests no return.  His love is freely gifted to me. His love cannot be forced onto anyone.

Those who come to Him do so in response to His love. Love shows kindness to all. Love  went about doing good to everyone without partiality. Love did not covet what others had, living a humble life without complaining. Love did not brag about who He was in the flesh, although He could have overpowered anyone He ever came in contact with.

Love does not demand obedience. God did not demand obedience from His Son, but rather, Jesus willingly obeyed His Father in heaven. “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (John 14:31). Love was/is always looking out for the interests of others.

This love has a name, Jesus Christ, Father God, Holy Spirit, who dwell in a perfect union known in the fellowship of their love and when I abide, dwelling in this secret place, I  become their expression of love upon this earth..

When I am deeply touched in their love, I desire to fellowship in this Triune Godhead, receiving love into my heart each day.  It is in this known intimacy in having this near relationship with a living God where I become His love.

My God hears, always responding lovingly, desiring communion with us, calling us to Himself each moment.  God, whose timing is perfect and whose actions always stem from a purely motivatedfoundation of His true love for all mankind.

God’s Love dwells in me

Wherever I travel today, His love dwells in the core of my inner being.

God gave His love to me and offers His love to anyone who will receive it. In the gospel of it is writing;  “For God so loved the world.” John 3:16.  In John 16:27 we read, “For the Father Himself loves you.” The apostle John, again, speaks of God’s love in 1 John 3:1 when he says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us.”

These verses are simply a sampling of the many times this truth is expressed in the Scriptures. God is love, and He expresses His love in many ways.

green trees surrounding lake

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.comWe All Struggle At Times

In those times of uncertainty, unknowing, wondering, it is His love I return in finding Him again, seeking His grace to help in sustaining me through any difficulties.  I myself have weather sudden and unexpected chronic health issues, unrelenting emotional/physical pain, lost job, death of loved one, estranged family members, etc.

Perhaps you too are struggling with some sort of unrelenting issues in your life.  We all do at times and we all need someone to help us to get through these times. We were never meant to be on our own in this faith life. God has gifted us with a community of saints all over the world.

It was in my search for His guidance to lighten my burdens in the dark times I found myself wondering, around, in and through, I discovered His love was the only way to be in this world, regardless of any life altering events that came my way.

It was in those times of not having answers, I realized, I have no power of my own to carry the divine nature of the Christ in me, and I needed to surrendered on a deeper level, allowing His Spirit room to move in the edges and in the corners of all the hidden regions of my heart.

In this process of letting go, in giving up of my ways, it was God’s love who continued to wash me, refreshing me by His Spirit of regeneration, and it was His love who continually changing my inner thoughts, attitudes to be more loving in my response with myself and with others.

Through all of the situations and circumstances in my life, it has been God who drew me nearer to His bosom of love, so that I could become God’s Heart, manifesting His genuine, sincere,authentic love towards others.

Manna From God

Each falling in my own strength, ushered me into the new land graced with honey combs, where I become strengthened in the daily manna from God’s hand, and all I had to do was to come to Him, again and again and again, as an open receptacles thirsting and hungering to receive His presence of love.

“Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” Proverbs 26:24

Yes, pleasant words, God’s words, scriptures are as honey – health for body and good for my soul. It’s especially healthy for my bones, the strength of body and combined with Holy Spirit living, He holds me together within His frame of Holinessknitting my flesh, bones and blood in the shed blood of the crossinterconnecting me in the sufferings of Christ.

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Book: Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Holy Spirit Power

In those times of my human failings, He stepped in, lifting me by His resurrection power of His Holy Spirit, where I became His adopted daughter, desiring only Him, longing to be with Him each day, pining to be filled with His sweet love and goodness towards me.

In this way I become the fragrance of His character walking this earthly pilgrimage one step at a time, in and by His abundant mercy and grace.

When I am in the dark, spiritually blind to the secret things of God, it is He who unveils His ways, His love, revealing spiritual insights that are birthed from those dark times when I became blind to His activity in my life, either through wrong decisions, or from life events.

I find myself bowing before Him in humility asking for His forgiveness in my errors in not being His love.

Stepping out in faith often requires me to fall flat on my face in the realization, on my own, I am unable, but in Him, I am more than able to fulfil the purposes and intentions He has on my life, and the greatest ones are in being His breath of love in the hearts of the men, woman and children I meet in my journey.

I do this one step at a time, one moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, one month at a time, one year at a time….

A New Day is Here

Today is a new day, to begin again. To begin again on the road that revives life in my soul and brings life to all those I touch, as I come into His presence with humbleness, asking forgiveness when I react from my flesh rather than responding through His love.

I am ever thankful for His tender gentle care towards me, as I ask again, for my God to pour into my dry days, His rain of lovefilling my empty cup by His streams of living waters, giving me His compassion for this day.

As I walk this road with others, one step at a time, in and by His ability, I am mindful, He has gifted me with sisters who join with me in this journey, to encourage, to support, to edify, to prayerful lift one another up, for in God we are never alone, and in the fellowship of one anthers’ company, we will never be alone!

The New Way is Love

In scriptures, the book of James tells us to not be surprised when troubles come our way, for we will have many in this world, but Jesus Christ and His love is the way in and through the hard times and Jesus Christ and His love is the way in and through all the good times.

It is in the dark times He draws me ever nearer to Him, as I draw ever nearer to His love, and I am are drawn ever nearer to the community of the saints.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to me.”  James 4:8

I have learned this faith life is all of us gathering together, walking hand in hand, helping, assisting, being His love Heart, lighting the way for one other, where our love becomes the healing balm, uniting in the fellowship of the Triune Godhead and in the intimacy found in becoming vulnerable with one another in our relationships, where truth, honor and integrity become moral codes.

God as my Source

When I learn the art of dwelling in Him, coming to Him in each moment, drinking from the living waters in the well of life that will never go dry, I am learning the art of abiding, of resting, of being in His Spirit, who becomes the very breath in my lungs, granting me His new life each day generously filling me in His rich unlimited love.

His love becomes my source for enduring in the difficulties found in being human, in being born in the flesh having an earthly vessel, where I become weary at times, where I feel alone at times, where I see the tragedies all around me, and where I come face to face with the overwhelming suffering of people, often beyond what any human being seems capable of bearing.

Then I discover again, His supernatural ability enters into my humanness helping me to persevere in adversity, in the many life challenges, in the often unexpected arrival of life altering events, and in having weathered these times of intense unrelenting suffering.

God’s Agents offering Compassionate Caring

In and through my own pained sorrows, I have learned to carry the compassionate caring of my Lord, with all those I come face to face with who are daily suffering, and I become His active agent in pouring into their souls, an offering of His mercy and grace.

In becoming His holy breath of love in those who have lost hope, in those who are downtrodden, in those who are poor, in those who are ill, in those who know not my God, I can help to inspire a renewed hope simply through those acts of kindness in being sensitive in meeting others right where they are at, not forcing them to be where I am.

When we realize, we can be powerful influencers in our own sphere of the world, helping to ignite passions in others in desiring to seek out this God who is love, in developing spiritual patterns in a new way of being, and showing there is a way we can bridge all that comes to separate us in this world, in learning to relate with others, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

In this way we are instilling value and worth into the lives of those we touch, becoming God’s human agents, infusing His love into the souls of those we encounter and our lives become a balm of healing in the midst of the struggles of those we come face-to-face with in this world.

I am but an empty cup….fill me Lord, with your unlimited love…..

Living Intentionally

 

I have a few questions I would like us to reflect on.  If you wish to share your answers with us in the ‘Penny for your thoughts’ section at the end of this post, please do so, as we can all learn from one another.

  1. Where is my motivations when with others?
  2. What is my life purpose on this earth?
  3. What gives me meaning and value in my life?
  4. Where am I failing in sincerely loving others?
  5. How can I become more balanced as a person in offering compassion?
  6. How can I find God as my source to help me in my life’s struggles?

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If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

— Isaiah 58:10

See also 1 Samuel 1: 15

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

 

http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, February 15, 2018 — “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow me.”

February 14, 2018

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Jesus Carries His Cross — Jerónimo Vich y Valterra (1459-1535).

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 220

Reading 1  DT 30:15-20

Moses said to the people:
“Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. (40:5a) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

Verse Before The Gospel MT 4:17

Repent, says the Lord;
the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Gospel  LK 9:22-25

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”.
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

15 FEBRUARY, 2018, Thursday After Ash Wednesday

LIFE AND PROSPERITY OR DEATH AND DISASTER

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 30:15-20Ps 1:1-4,6Lk 9:22-25 ]

The Church’s liturgical year follows the natural cycle of human life and nature since the liturgy is a celebration of life.  Accordingly, in the Church, we pass through different seasons to help us celebrate the different aspects of birth, growth, death and new life.  Among the seasons, which is the one that many Catholics find burdensome?  It is the season of Lent.  Unlike Advent, which has the theme of hope, and Easter, new life, Lent is focused on repentance.

The message of repentance itself does not seem so appealing or attractive.  The problem with the world today is that it does not want to hear anything that is negative.  People do not like to hear the truth.  They do not like to know the facts.  We are not supposed to let people hear the truth in case they get discouraged or demoralized.  So, we must only speak about the good things that people do and the success stories.  But we should not talk about the weaknesses and shortcomings of the individual, the organization or even the Church.  This is a generation that wants to feel good, be affirmed and be positive.  That is why topics on sin, morality, sexual ethics, Christian conduct, proper attire, etc are not welcome.

Furthermore, with relativism and individualism, no one wants to be told that he or she is not doing the right thing.  It is a matter of opinion and preference.  We cannot agree on what is right, or good in all matters.  That is why the world is so fragmented because everyone holds his or her view to be the correct one.  Even among Church members, we cannot agree on policies or decisions of the Church.  In every issue, there are as many proponents as there are opponents.  Each one has his or her own point of view and argument.  The saddest part is, no one is willing to give in.

Besides the unattractive message of repentance, the means are even more unpleasant. Firstly, both the first reading and the gospel invites us to fast.  “Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove. Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament.”

How do we speak of fasting and penance to a world that demands instant gratification? Our whole lifestyle is one of speed and immediate response.  If I want something, I must have it now.  Information is now available at the push of a button.  With modern technology, going anywhere is made easy, whether in getting a taxi or a car or a bicycle.   Transport will come in a matter of minutes.  And because life is short, everyone is desperate to enjoy as much as they can now, without sparing a thought for the future.  That is why we are living in a consumerist society.  Penance and fasting appear to be joy killers.

Many of us fast, but for the wrong motive.  We fast not for spiritual growth but so that we can look attractive, earn the praises and attention of others.  Such fasting makes us even more self-centered, proud, arrogant and insecure. This is what the Lord said, “When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward.”

Secondly, we are called to good through almsgiving and works of charity.  Again, in a world that is self-centered, when the philosophy is about me and what I can get out of it, why should we do good?  Charity would demand our time, money and resources.  It calls for self-sacrifice.   Today, we are all busy, either climbing the social ladder, building our business enterprise, furthering our career or enjoying ourselves because we feel we have worked hard and so we deserve to have the leisure and luxuries of life.   Making time to do social work means taking time away from our business, career and rest.  Many of us are not ready to sacrifice our precious time to take care of the poor and those in need.  We are not generous with our money and resources because we want to accumulate more and more wealth.

There are some people who engage in social work and in charity, but for not so noble motives.  They give in order to attract attention and earn praises from men.  They want the world to know how generous they are and how much money they give to this organization and to that charity or church.   Some give for the sake of publicity, so that the world will know how civic minded their organization is so that they get to enjoy their patronage.  So it is a win-win strategy.  Jesus said to His disciples:  “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.”

Thirdly, the invitation to prayer perhaps could be the only attractive thing in the season of Lent. Even then, most of us are too busy and occupied to really make time for prayer and to meditate on the scriptures daily.  We are busy with activities even if they are good activities.  Some would try to increase the time for prayer simply because the Church says so.  They try to attend one of the weekday masses, pray a rosary or attend the Stations of the Cross.   But the heart is not there.  It is just another activity because the heart is restless.  There is no real communication or relationship with God or growing in self-awareness of our faults and wrong motives.   This explains why some people are scandalized that those who go to Church so often and even attend daily mass can, in their actions, be worse than those who do not practise all the spiritual exercises that they do.   It can often be just another attempt to let people know how holy and prayerful we are. That is why Jesus warned us about the hypocrisy in prayer.  “And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward.”

Indeed, it is about our attitude and approach to the season of Lent that really matters.   Fasting and prayer are meant to transform us so that we have the love of God in our hearts and this love is expressed in good works.   Otherwise, if we have the worldly approach to the spiritual exercises, we are no better than the scribes and the Pharisees.  Our lives will not be transformed and there will be no renewal.  The way of the world is about self, not about God and others.  This is what the Lord is warning us as we begin the season of Lent.  We must start well and in the right spirit.   As the psalmist says, “A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit.”

What is the right attitude to the season of Lent?   It is a celebration of spring, the beginning of new life.  We must approach this season with a desire to let the old self die so that the new being can rise up.  The season of Lent is about renewal of our spiritual life.  It is about giving up our sins “so that in him we might become the goodness of God.”  It is to recognize that our sins have brought us shame and misery.  The prophet said, “Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations, ‘Where is their God?’ Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.”   Therefore, it is a time of grace as St Paul says, “As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.”   So let us hear the Word of God, “Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.”  Isaiah added, “Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.”

It is a time to be reconciled with God, with our neigbours and with ourselves.  St Paul said, “We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God.”  Without reconciliation, there can be no peace, joy and unity.   Reconciliation entails dialogue, mutual understanding and mutual forgiveness.   Through forgiveness, we are set free from our past and our mistakes. With the psalmist, we say, “Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervour sustain me, O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.”

So let us adopt the right spirit in living out this season of Lent, seeing it as something positive and life-giving.  It is a time to consider what are the essentials of life.  That is what fasting and penance will help us to do.  We have too many things cluttering our lives.  We must give up those things we do that destroy our peace and love in our family.  Life is more than making money and having pleasures.  It is about love, caring, affirming and encouraging each other.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving must be seen as means to attain the Spirit of Christ through a life of detachment and discipline, a life of intense communion with the Lord and a life of mercy and compassion towards our fellowmen.  When “your your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”  Indeed, when we do for the right motive, great is our joy and reward because we become less focused on ourselves but on loving God and others.

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

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Self Abandonment

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Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade.

In Lent we are called toward self denial and self abandonment. That means allowing God to form us in his image for his use. We are called to humility not ego. We are called to do His Will not our own will….

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First Thought from Peace and Freedom
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When hearing the first reading (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) one can almost hear, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)
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But we must also remember what Jesus promises in John 14:
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16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
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The “Spirit of Truth.” When is the last time you believed you were encountering TRUTH in our society?
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Today’s Gospel, Luke 9:22-25, on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, reminds us that we might have to suffer some:
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“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
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There is suffering and The Cross ahead for anyone who seeks salvation!
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Related:
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Reflection on Deuteronomy 30:15-20: “Write the commands of God on the doorposts of your house.”
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By John C. Holbert
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Those who claim to be the arbiters of the law, the gatekeepers of true morality, and thus the determiners of “who is in and who is out,” are finally mountebanks who too often stand in the way of the truth rather than help others to find the truth. “Certainly this commandment that I am commanding you is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in the sky that you must say, ‘Who will go up to the sky and get it for us so that we may hear it and follow it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear and follow it?’ No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to follow.” Following the “word” or the “command” of YHWH is not hard to figure out, nor does one need a great biblical interpreter to explain what it is you are to do. No! It is close, its hearing clear, its observation and its following, simple.

Moses here surely refers to the bulk of the book of Deuteronomy in these words, but as the long history of Judaism demonstrates, the focus of this call to follow God’s word and command falls on Deuteronomy 5-7. Here one finds the central claims of Judaism in a convenient nutshell. Little wonder that on the door posts of many Jewish homes one finds a mezuzah (doorpost) inside of which one finds a tiny scroll of some portion of Deuteronomy 5-7 on it. (I have one on the doorpost of my own house that I have owned for nearly thirty years.) Perhaps Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is the favorite set of verses, since it includes the command to “write them (the commands of God) on the doorposts of your house.”

John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.

http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian/Choose-Life-John-Holbert-02-10-2014

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What Should Be Written On Our Hearts? Whitten on our minds?

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart,” he said.  “Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).

“Fix them as an emblem on your forehead” — This is where the idea of a Phylactery comes from…..

The True Origins of the Jewish Tefillin and Greek Phylactery

http://gnosticwarrior.com/phylactery.html

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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02 MARCH, 2017, Ash Thursday
WHAT IS LIFE AND PROSPERITY?

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 30:15-20Ps 1:1-4,6Lk 9:22-25]

Moses said to the people, “See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster.” What will you choose?  Obviously, no one chooses death and disaster or poverty unless he or she is suicidal!  The real problem perhaps lies in the understanding of what is life and prosperity.  How to make a choice unless we know what we are choosing?  Once we are clear of what we are choosing, we can then think of the strategy and approaches.

So what is life? For many people, life is identified with pleasure, wealth, status and power. But look at what King Solomon found out at the end of his life. He said, “I thought to myself, ‘Very well, I will try pleasure and see what enjoyment has to offer.’ And there it was: vanity again! This laughter, I reflected, is a madness, this pleasure no use at all. I resolved to have my body cheered with wine, my heart still devoted to wisdom; I resolved to embrace folly to see what made mankind happy, and what men do under heaven in the few days they have to live.” (Eccl 2:1-3) Indeed, those who spend their whole life like King Solomon will come to the point at the height of their success when they realize that even the pleasures of life cannot satisfy them. On the contrary, for indulging in the pleasures of life and immoral activities, we destroy our body and mind.  Greed and lust destroy loving relationships.  Drugs and gambling destroy our minds and take away the peace from our hearts by making us anxious and addictive.  Alcohol and over eating harm our bodies.  Indeed, to such people, Moses said, “you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.”  With all our success, our life and happiness will be shortened.

Is life just work and achievements, money and worldly success?  Some work so hard and became so successful only to realize that they have been left out in life.  While all their friends are having happy families and found their partners, they are all alone.  Some, because of ambition and prolonged hours working day and night, from Monday to Sunday, suffer deterioration in their health.  Life becomes empty even with all the money and success they have made for themselves.  Again, Qoheleh says, “For so it is that a man who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This, too, is vanity and great injustice; for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights? This, too, is vanity.” (Eccl 2:21-23)

These are the false gods that we are warned about in today’s scripture readings. “But if your heart strays, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.” To work for nothing means to waste our efforts, time and energy on the false gods in our lives. That is why Jesus cautioned us, What gain, then, is it for a man to have the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?”   

Life is more than worldly satisfactions. It has to do with love and relationships. We are not mere bodies but we have a spirit.  We are called to a transcendent life.   This means that life requires meaning if we are to live joyfully and purposefully.  Moses says, life is to “live in the love of the Lord your God, obeying his voice, clinging to him; for in this your life consists, and on this depends your long stay in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers.”

Living in the love of the Lord is what gives us life.  There is nothing that can satisfy the human soul except God alone. Even human friendship which is part of this life cannot sustain us because our friends will leave us, no matter how close we are.  Only the love of God remains forever and goes beyond this life.  Only when we love God, would we choose Him above everything else.  To choose other things before God would be to choose the inferior things of life since all other things are created by Him.  All other works of creation would be less than the author of creation.

How, then, can we live in the love of the Lord? Moses said, “If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin on you today, if you love the Lord your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws, his customs, you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own.”   When we love God, we will obey His voice and His commandments.  In the gospel, Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (Jn 14:21) He also said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” (Jn 15:10)  We cannot claim we love God if we do not keep His commands.

In loving God, we love our neighbours as well because that is also the command of the Lord.  “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:31)  In the ministry and teaching of Jesus, He gave great emphasis to loving our neighbours, including even our enemies. A man can be said to love God truly when he also loves his neighbours absolutely, without discrimination, simply because they are God’s beloved as well.  Thus, we cannot keep our wealth and resources to ourselves.  Like God, we give generously to each man according to his needs, not his greed.  In imitating the goodness and generosity of God, a man demonstrates that he loves God and lives in His love. This is because he shares in the mind and heart of God, in His attitude towards the world, humanity and created things.

Secondly, to live in the love of the Lord is to live an enlightened life. The psalmist says, “Happy indeed is the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked; nor lingers in the way of sinners nor sits in the company of scorners, but whose delight is the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night.”   The fool walks in darkness but the wise man walks in the light.  Pondering over the Word of God keeps us focused, for the Word of God is a light for our path. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 118:105)  When we build our lives on the Word of God, we can be sure of how we can live our lives.

Thirdly, to live in the love of the Lord is to cling to Him for our security and not the passing world. The psalmist says, Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper.”  We need to draw strength from the Lord like the Samaritan woman at the well.  Only the Lord can give us the living water that springs up like a fountain in us.  Those who cling to the Lord will bear much fruit as our Lord promised us. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5)

What is prosperity? Being prosperous is not to be rich in this world’s goods but to be rich in love and service.  Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.” True prosperity is when we prosper with good works because of the wealth of love and compassion in our hearts.  This was how Jesus lived His life.  He came not just to serve us but to die for us.  Jesus said, “The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.”

Secondly, to be rich is to be free for love and in love.  It is a freedom from self and the attachments to the world.  Jesus taught us, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.” When we are able to deny ourselves for the love of Christ and of our brothers and sisters, we will find life.  This is the joy of a Christian who is rich in unconditional love and service.  He enjoys good relationships with all those people of good will.  In this way, through his selfless service, he wins people over and becomes their friend.  The wealth of the generous man is in his relationships, love and fellowship.  This is what the Lord promised the Israelites, “you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to make your own.”  This is what the Lord promised to Abraham and His disciples as well.  “Truly, I say to you, there is no man who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”  (Mt 18:29f)

The choice is therefore ours. What will we choose?  There is no choice really.  Not to choose God is to choose death.  But that is our choice as well.  If want life and happiness, then choose God!  Let us take heed of the Word of God. “Not so are the wicked, not so! For they like winnowed chaff shall be driven away by the wind for the Lord guards the way of the just but the way of the wicked leads to doom.”

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Prayer and Meditation for Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018 — We are ambassadors for Christ — May the invitation to conversion , to “return to God with all our heart”, resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new again

February 13, 2018

Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 219

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If the blessing and distribution of ashes take place outside Mass, it is appropriate that

the Liturgy of the Word precede it, using texts assigned to the Mass of Ash Wednesday.

Reading 1 JL 2:12-18

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 12-13, 14 AND 17

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Reading 2 2 COR 5:20—6:2

Brothers and sisters:
We are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel  SEE PS 95:8

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

Gospel  MT 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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14 FEBRUARY, 2018, Ash Wednesday

RIGHT APPROACH TO THE SEASON OF LENT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Joel 2:12-18Ps 51:3-612-14172 Cor 5:20 – 6:2Mt 6:1-616-18  ]

The Church’s liturgical year follows the natural cycle of human life and nature since the liturgy is a celebration of life.  Accordingly, in the Church, we pass through different seasons to help us celebrate the different aspects of birth, growth, death and new life.  Among the seasons, which is the one that many Catholics find burdensome?  It is the season of Lent.  Unlike Advent, which has the theme of hope, and Easter, new life, Lent is focused on repentance.

The message of repentance itself does not seem so appealing or attractive.  The problem with the world today is that it does not want to hear anything that is negative.  People do not like to hear the truth.  They do not like to know the facts.  We are not supposed to let people hear the truth in case they get discouraged or demoralized.  So, we must only speak about the good things that people do and the success stories.  But we should not talk about the weaknesses and shortcomings of the individual, the organization or even the Church.  This is a generation that wants to feel good, be affirmed and be positive.  That is why topics on sin, morality, sexual ethics, Christian conduct, proper attire, etc are not welcome.

Furthermore, with relativism and individualism, no one wants to be told that he or she is not doing the right thing.  It is a matter of opinion and preference.  We cannot agree on what is right, or good in all matters.  That is why the world is so fragmented because everyone holds his or her view to be the correct one.  Even among Church members, we cannot agree on policies or decisions of the Church.  In every issue, there are as many proponents as there are opponents.  Each one has his or her own point of view and argument.  The saddest part is, no one is willing to give in.

Besides the unattractive message of repentance, the means are even more unpleasant. Firstly, both the first reading and the gospel invites us to fast.  “Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove. Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament.”

How do we speak of fasting and penance to a world that demands instant gratification? Our whole lifestyle is one of speed and immediate response.  If I want something, I must have it now.  Information is now available at the push of a button.  With modern technology, going anywhere is made easy, whether in getting a taxi or a car or a bicycle.   Transport will come in a matter of minutes.  And because life is short, everyone is desperate to enjoy as much as they can now, without sparing a thought for the future.  That is why we are living in a consumerist society.  Penance and fasting appear to be joy killers.

Many of us fast, but for the wrong motive.  We fast not for spiritual growth but so that we can look attractive, earn the praises and attention of others.  Such fasting makes us even more self-centered, proud, arrogant and insecure. This is what the Lord said, “When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward.”

Secondly, we are called to good through almsgiving and works of charity.  Again, in a world that is self-centered, when the philosophy is about me and what I can get out of it, why should we do good?  Charity would demand our time, money and resources.  It calls for self-sacrifice.   Today, we are all busy, either climbing the social ladder, building our business enterprise, furthering our career or enjoying ourselves because we feel we have worked hard and so we deserve to have the leisure and luxuries of life.   Making time to do social work means taking time away from our business, career and rest.  Many of us are not ready to sacrifice our precious time to take care of the poor and those in need.  We are not generous with our money and resources because we want to accumulate more and more wealth.

There are some people who engage in social work and in charity, but for not so noble motives.  They give in order to attract attention and earn praises from men.  They want the world to know how generous they are and how much money they give to this organization and to that charity or church.   Some give for the sake of publicity, so that the world will know how civic minded their organization is so that they get to enjoy their patronage.  So it is a win-win strategy.  Jesus said to His disciples:  “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.”

Thirdly, the invitation to prayer perhaps could be the only attractive thing in the season of Lent. Even then, most of us are too busy and occupied to really make time for prayer and to meditate on the scriptures daily.  We are busy with activities even if they are good activities.  Some would try to increase the time for prayer simply because the Church says so.  They try to attend one of the weekday masses, pray a rosary or attend the Stations of the Cross.   But the heart is not there.  It is just another activity because the heart is restless.  There is no real communication or relationship with God or growing in self-awareness of our faults and wrong motives.   This explains why some people are scandalized that those who go to Church so often and even attend daily mass can, in their actions, be worse than those who do not practise all the spiritual exercises that they do.   It can often be just another attempt to let people know how holy and prayerful we are. That is why Jesus warned us about the hypocrisy in prayer.  “And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward.”

Indeed, it is about our attitude and approach to the season of Lent that really matters.   Fasting and prayer are meant to transform us so that we have the love of God in our hearts and this love is expressed in good works.   Otherwise, if we have the worldly approach to the spiritual exercises, we are no better than the scribes and the Pharisees.  Our lives will not be transformed and there will be no renewal.  The way of the world is about self, not about God and others.  This is what the Lord is warning us as we begin the season of Lent.  We must start well and in the right spirit.   As the psalmist says, “A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit.”

What is the right attitude to the season of Lent?   It is a celebration of spring, the beginning of new life.  We must approach this season with a desire to let the old self die so that the new being can rise up.  The season of Lent is about renewal of our spiritual life.  It is about giving up our sins “so that in him we might become the goodness of God.”  It is to recognize that our sins have brought us shame and misery.  The prophet said, “Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations, ‘Where is their God?’ Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.”   Therefore, it is a time of grace as St Paul says, “As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.”   So let us hear the Word of God, “Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.”  Isaiah added, “Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.”

It is a time to be reconciled with God, with our neigbours and with ourselves.  St Paul said, “We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God.”  Without reconciliation, there can be no peace, joy and unity.   Reconciliation entails dialogue, mutual understanding and mutual forgiveness.   Through forgiveness, we are set free from our past and our mistakes. With the psalmist, we say, “Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervour sustain me, O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.”

So let us adopt the right spirit in living out this season of Lent, seeing it as something positive and life-giving.  It is a time to consider what are the essentials of life.  That is what fasting and penance will help us to do.  We have too many things cluttering our lives.  We must give up those things we do that destroy our peace and love in our family.  Life is more than making money and having pleasures.  It is about love, caring, affirming and encouraging each other.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving must be seen as means to attain the Spirit of Christ through a life of detachment and discipline, a life of intense communion with the Lord and a life of mercy and compassion towards our fellowmen.  When “your your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”  Indeed, when we do for the right motive, great is our joy and reward because we become less focused on ourselves but on loving God and others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
 
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Image may contain: one or more people
Pope Benedict XVI receives ashes from Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Vatican. (CNS-Paul Haring).j (From 2013)
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Jesus “denounces religious hypocrisy, behavior that wants to show off, attitudes that seek applause and approval,” the pope said in his homily during Mass on Wednesday in St. Peter’s Basilica. “The true disciple does not serve himself or the ‘public,’ but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity.”

Coming two days after Pope Benedict announced that he would be the first pope in 600 years to resign, the Mass inevitably took on a valedictory tone.

“For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer,” the pope told the congregation, including dozens of cardinals and bishops, filling the vast basilica.

The Ash Wednesday liturgy, traditionally held in two churches on Rome’s Aventine Hill, was moved to St. Peter’s to accommodate the greatest possible number of faithful.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/vatican/ash-wednesday-pope-preaches-humility-christian-unity

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Pope Benedict’s Sermon Feburay 13, 2013 (Ash Wednesday)

The service was the last large liturgical event of Pope Benedict’s papacy.

 Venerable Brothers,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to . Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.

The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2.12). Please note the phrase “with all your heart,” which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a ‘grace’, because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that “rends the heart”. Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (v. 13). Today, in fact, many are ready to “rend their garments” over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others – but few seem willing to act according to their own “heart”, their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.

This “return to me with all your heart,” then, is a reminder that not only involves the individual but the entire community. Again we heard in the first reading: “Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly! Gather the people, sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elderly; gather the children, even infants nursing at the breast; Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her bridal tent (vv.15-16). The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came “to gather the children of God who are scattered into one” (Jn 11:52). The “we” of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf. Jn 12:32), faith is necessarily ecclesial. And it is important to remember and to live this during Lent: each person must be aware that the penitential journey cannot be faced alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.

Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: ” Between the porch and the altar let the priests weep, let the ministers of the LORD weep and say: “Spare your people, Lord! Do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”(V.17). This prayer leads us to reflect on the importance of witnessing to faith and Christian life, for each of us and our community, so that we can reveal the face of the Church and how this face is, at times, disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent.

“Well, now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth resonate for us with an urgency that does not permit absences or inertia. The term “now” is repeated and can not be missed, it is offered to us as a unique opportunity. And the Apostle’s gaze focuses on sharing with which Christ chose to characterize his life, taking on everything human to the point of taking on all of man’s sins. The words of St. Paul are very strong: “God made him sin for our sake.” Jesus, the innocent, the Holy One, “He who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), bears the burden of sin sharing the outcome of death, and death of the Cross with humanity. The reconciliation we are offered came at a very high price, that of the Cross raised on Golgotha, on which the Son of God made man was hung. In this, in God’s immersion in human suffering and the abyss of evil, is the root of our justification. The “return to God with all your heart” in our Lenten journey passes through the Cross, in following Christ on the road to Calvary, to the total gift of self. It is a journey on which each and every day we learn to leave behind our selfishness and our being closed in on ourselves, to make room for God who opens and transforms our hearts. And as St. Paul reminds us, the proclamation of the Cross resonates within us thanks to the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador. It is a call to us so that this Lenten journey be characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.

In the Gospel passage according of Matthew, to whom belongs to the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by the Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are also traditional indications on the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to «return to God with all your heart.” But he points out that both the quality and the truth of our relationship with God is what qualifies the authenticity of every religious act. For this reason he denounces religious hypocrisy, a behaviour that seeks applause and approval. The true disciple does not serve himself or the “public”, but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity: “And your Father who sees everything in secret will reward you” (Mt 6,4.6.18). Our witness will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory and the more we are aware that the reward of the righteous is God Himself, to be united to Him, here, on a journey of faith, and at the end of life, in the peace light of coming face to face with Him forever (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).

Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey with trust and joy. May the invitation to conversion , to “return to God with all our heart”, resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus. May none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, also addressed in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will shortly carry out. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord accompany us in this time. Amen!

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/02/14/full-text-of-the-popes-ash-wednesday-homily/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 MARCH, 2017, Ash Wednesday
SEASON OF GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Joel 2:12-18Ps 50:3-6,12-14,172 Cor 5:20 – 6:2Mt 6:1-616-18 ]

Are you feeling empty?  Is there something missing in your life even when you are successful and doing well?  Do you feel that there is a vacuum in your life that you cannot explain?  Are you feeling disoriented and edgy?  Why do you get so irritated and angry with small matters?  Is the source of annoyance coming from within or without?  Perhaps, you have no focus in life.  You are just drifting along, not knowing where you should expend your energy and time.  You are doing many things but nothing seems fulfilling.  The real reason is perhaps because you are not happy with yourself.  You are living a double life.  You are living a sinful life, a life of infidelity, cheating, fighting and negative towards people.  You are addicted to anger, envy, sloth and greed, besides lust. You want to break free from the sins that hold on to you but you do not have the strength to come clean and start all over again.

Indeed, deep in our hearts, many of us want to return to the Lord.  We want to recover our sense of direction in life.  We want to take control of our lives.  We are sick of living a life of slavery to sin and our bad habits which are destroying not just our health but taking away our peace, joy and freedom.  If you are feeling this way, then the Church is providing you a time of grace for you to return to the Lord and to find your peace again.  St Paul wrote, “Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.”   Indeed, this is the best time to return to God and find joy again.

How can we find our peace if not to be reconciled first with God?There can be no peace in our hearts or with our fellowmen unless we are first at peace with God. Reconciliation with God is the first step towards being reconciled with our fellowmen and within ourself.  St Paul urges us, “We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God.”

Why should we be reconciled with God? St Paul says, “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.” It is God’s desire for us to become like Him in grace and love.  All of us as His children are called to be the goodness of God.  That is why God emptied Himself in Christ Jesus to lead us in the way.  By assuming our humanity, He comes to assure us that He understands our struggles, our pains, our frustrations, our anxieties and fears.   By overcoming all the temptations of life, Jesus is telling us that with God’s grace, we can live the life of God and defeat Satan and his snares.

God desires us to know that we are forgiven. He knows that unless we believe that we are forgiven, we will not have the capacity to forgive others, much less ourselves. We will be living in guilt and fear.  There is no peace in us.   If we cannot forgive and accept our own limitations and weaknesses, what makes us so sure that we can accept and tolerate the mistakes of others?   For Christians, the beginning of peace must come from God.   So, the invitation is to turn to God for forgiveness.  “Turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.”  Indeed, we can be sure of God’s forgiveness.  He will not abandon us or take into account our past.  He readily forgives us because He knows who we are, weak and frail sinners.

Receiving full forgiveness presupposes that we confess our sins explicitly and acknowledge that we are sinners.  This is the first step to finding peace.  We must admit that we are at fault and not blame others for our failures.  We are equally guilty as sinners.  Together with the Israelites, we must confess our sins.  With the psalmist, we say, “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me.  Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done.”   There should be no rationalization of whatever sort. There should be no justification.  Humbly admit our ignorance and selfishness when we confess our sins.

The consequence of contrition of heart and repentance is the reward of joy and peace. Whenever we confess our sins, we find great liberation. This is the experience of every penitent.  That is provided we confess our sins sincerely and with contrition.  The prophet said, “Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again.”  The greater the contrition and the greater the sincerity in confessing our sins as they are, without justifying, rationalizing or mitigating them, the greater is the healing effect and lasting the conversion.  The joy and freedom from fear and guilt in those who confess their sins is manifested in their recovery of prayer life and the joy of worshipping God.  Before confession, they cannot praise God.  But after confession, their lips open and they begin to praise God easily.  This was the experience of the psalmist.  He said, “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise.”

The great thing about the season of Lent is that we do not walk alone.  The whole community of Christians walk with us in the journey back to God.  Walking alone is frightening and often when we walk alone, the devil will tempt us back to sin because we are weak.  This is what happened to those who are newly baptized or just returned to the Church.  Without a community to support them, they fall back easily to their old way of life.  They forget that baptism is not just being baptized in Christ but to be baptized into the body of Christ, the Church.  Baptism is to belong to the community of faith.  We need our brothers and sisters to accompany us in our journey of faith.  Alone, we will eventually drop out because we are not living within the ambience of grace.  But with our fellow brothers and sisters encouraging us along the way, we will be able to overcome all trials and temptations.

For this reason, the call to repentance is not just addressed to individuals but to the whole community.  “Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast.”   The whole Church is on retreat and on this faith journey.  Every one of us, from the Pope to the ordinary Catholic, is called to conversion of heart.  We are called to make this pilgrimage together as the People of God, from the land of slavery to the Promised Land.

How can we make our journey if not to use the channels of grace made available to us?  In the gospel, Jesus provides us the ways to come back to Him.  The three pillars of the Lenten program consist of prayer, almsgiving and penance.

If we want to regain our relationship with the Lord, we need to make time for prayer, especially our personal time with the Lord in quiet reflection and contemplation.   “But when you pray go to your private room and, when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place.”   There can be no conversion or renewal of relationship with the Lord if we do not make time for prayer.  Meditation on the Word of God and on the Passion of Christ as in the devotion of the Stations of the Cross will help the person to encounter God’s love and mercy for Him. This will help us find the grace and courage to repent and come back to God.

Secondly, there is a need for penance and mortification.   This is to help us exercise discipline over our body since we lose control of ourselves.  Sin is often our master.  We must exercise self–control, beginning with the sensual needs before we can master our mind and spirit. Fasting is always part of this program.  We are invited to do penance so that we can feel with Christ and our fellowmen in their sufferings.   In this way, we learn to curb our tongue and our senses.  Jesus said, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father.”

Thirdly, we are called to the practice of almsgiving. “But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret.” Through almsgiving, we learn to open our hearts to the sufferings of others and in the process, encounter the joy of mercy that God wants to give us.  The poor often reveal to us the face of God and give us the joy that money cannot buy.   Charity is the fruit of peace in our hearts and the love of God in our lives.

Indeed, the season of Lent is a season of grace. Let us not waste the grace of God given to us at this time.  St Paul urges us, “We beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received.”  Let us not delay and postpone further. Let us not lose this opportunity of grace that the Church has given to us but make full use of it.  Let us also encourage each other to live a virtuous life and not tempt each other to sin. Let us walk this journey of 40 days together to the Promised Land.

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

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, January 6, 2018 — The Spirit is the one who testifies and the Spirit is truth — The “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” in each of us

January 5, 2018

Christmas Weekday
Lectionary: 209

Image result for holy spirit, photos, stained glass window

Photo: Christ the King Catholic Church (Ann Arbor, Michigan) – interior, Holy Spirit window

Reading 1  1 JN 5:5-13

Beloved:
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?This is the one who came through water and Blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and Blood.
The Spirit is the one who testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.
So there are three that testify,
the Spirit, the water, and the Blood,
and the three are of one accord.
If we accept human testimony,
the testimony of God is surely greater.
Now the testimony of God is this,
that he has testified on behalf of his Son.
Whoever believes in the Son of God
has this testimony within himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar
by not believing the testimony God has given about his Son.
And this is the testimony:
God gave us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son.
Whoever possesses the Son has life;
whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.I write these things to you so that you may know
that you have eternal life,
you who believe in the name of the Son of God.

Responsorial Psalm  PS147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. (12a) Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia SEE MK 9:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The heavens were opened and the voice of the Father thundered:
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 1:7-11

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee
and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open
and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.
And a voice came from the heavens,
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”or

LK 3:23-38 OR 3:23, 31-34, 36, 38

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias,
the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,
the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel,
the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, the son of Melchi,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam,
the son of Er, the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,
the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, the son of Melea,
the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, the son of Jesse, the son of Obed,
the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon,
the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,
the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, the son of Serug,
the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad,
the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared,
the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

or

When Jesus began his ministry he was about thirty years of age.
He was the son, as was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,
the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha,
the son of Nathan, the son of David, the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala,
the son of Nahshon, the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin,
the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, the son of Enos,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

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Genealogy of Jesus

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genealogy_of_Jesus

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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06 JANUARY, 2018, Saturday, Weekday of Christmas Time
OUR CAPACITY TO LOVE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JOHN 5:5-13PS 147:12-13,14-15,19-20MK 1:6-11  ]

The theme of the First Letter of John is the love of God and the implications of His love for us.  As the children of God, we too are called to love one another.  In yesterday’s reading, St John wrote, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”  (1 Jn 3:16-18)  The question that is raised today is, how then can we find the capacity to love as He loved?

This capacity to love as He loved us depends on whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  St John said, “I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal life.”   Faith in Jesus as the Son of God means to believe that He is truly human and divine.  St John in his time was battling with a heresy called Gnosticism where the true humanity and divinity of Jesus was not fully accepted.  Some thought that Jesus was only divine when he was baptized and “the Christ” left his body just before He died.  This heretical theological position was expounded to protect the divinity of Christ, since God cannot die.   If that were the case, then there is no real salvation for humanity because only God can take away our sins.

The faith of the Church in Jesus is clear.  Jesus is truly the Son of God and the Son of man in one person since the moment of His incarnation.  Only this faith in His divine sonship can help us to overcome all trials in life and give us the capacity to love as He loved.  “Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Only Jesus who was truly man, doing the will of God even though He was divine, can give us hope that we too can do the will of God with a human will.  Indeed, He “emptied himself,  taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”  (Phil 2:7)

What, then, is the basis for us to believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God and not just a man?  St John gives us three criteria.  “Jesus Christ who came by water and blood, not with water only, but with water and blood; with the Spirit as another witness – since the Spirit is the truth – so that there are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood, and all three of them agree.”  In the bible, when there are three witnesses, the testimony is considered valid.  Furthermore, St John said, “We accept the testimony of human witnesses, but God’s testimony is much greater, and this is God’s testimony, given as evidence for his Son.”

In the first place, the water refers to the baptism of our Lord.  We are aware that Jesus was baptized even though as the Son of God, He was sinless and hence did not require baptism.  When John the Baptist deterred Him from getting baptized, Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15)  Jesus received baptism as a man from John the Baptist in order to be identified with sinners like us so that He could assume in His body our sins.  St Paul remarked, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  (2 Cor 5:21)

Baptism too was the beginning of His mission.  He was confirmed as the Son of God so that He could live out His sonship for others to follow the same.  “A voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’”  Confirmed by His Father, this gave Him the impetus to bring all others into sonship in Him by inviting us to follow Him, living His way of life. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God;  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  (Jn 1:12f)  As a consequence, by virtue of our baptism, we are to live His life.

Secondly, Jesus came “not with water only, but with water and blood.”  In other words, Jesus not only came as a man even though He was God but as St Paul said, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.”  (Phil 2:8) The death of Jesus on the cross reveals to us the ultimate meaning of sonship in Christ.  It means that we are called to empty our lives totally for the love of God and our fellowmen, even unto death.  The command to love has no limits.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (Jn 15:12-14)  Truly, in the death of Christ, we see the unconditional and total love of God, not just of Christ but of His Father as well.  “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”  (Rom 8:32)

Thirdly, it was not just that Jesus was baptized and that He died, more importantly, the Holy Spirit was with Jesus throughout His life.  He is the witness to Christ as the Son of God.  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”  (Jn 15:26)  The Spirit came upon Jesus when He was baptized.  “No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him.” Throughout His ministry, Jesus was working in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The apostles testified “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  (Acts 10:38)

Most of all, Jesus did not end His life just in death, He was also raised in the power of the Holy Spirit.  “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”  (Rom 8:11)  “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  (Phil 2:9-11)  If this is God’s testimony for His Son, it means therefore “Everybody who believes in the Son of God has this testimony inside him; and anyone who will not believe God is making God out to be a liar, because he has not trusted the testimony God has given about his Son.”

Consequently, only with faith in Christ’s divine sonship can we be given new life in the Spirit.  John the Baptist said, “Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.”  After His resurrection and ascension, He sent the Holy Spirit upon them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”  (Jn 20:22f)  This same Holy Spirit is given to us at our baptism and renewed at confirmation when we are sent out on mission.  We are made sons and daughters in Christ.  Sharing in His life, we are called also to share in His suffering and glory.  “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!”  it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Rom 8:15-17)

This same Holy Spirit not only empowers us to be His disciples by giving us the Spirit of Christ but also gives us the power to do what He did.  Jesus assured His disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.  I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  (Jn 14:12-14)  True enough, we read in Mark’s gospel, “And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it”  (Mk 16:20) by using His name to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, lay their hands on the sick.  (cf Mk 16:17f)

Consequently, we can understand why the Christian experience of God’s love follows that of Christ’s;sharing in His baptism as we die to our sins and so begin the path of sonship; following Him to the extent of dying with Him on the cross, so that we can share in His resurrection.  This is all made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism and confirmation and reinforced by the Eucharist.  This explains why the Christian experience of God is called the Rite of Christian Initiation.  Unless, we share a common experience of sonship in Christ, we cannot do what He did.

Today, as we celebrate the Eucharist, we are called to renew the Holy Spirit given to us at baptism and confirmation, for it is the same Holy Spirit that transforms the bread and wine into His Body and Blood.  Only by receiving the Eucharist frequently, do we receive the Holy Spirit anew as well.  By inserting ourselves into Christ and His Church, the mystical body of Christ, we can grow in faith, in love and in our sonship so that we can live the life of the Spirit, the life of Christ.  Unless we renew the Holy Spirit in us daily through the Eucharist, the Sacraments and prayers, we will lose the power to be witnesses of His love.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Fr. Edward Leen’s book “Holy Spirit” is a great read for any Christian. Leen believes that the Holy Spirit lives inside each of us in a phenomena known as the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” Believers say this indwelling of the Holy Spirit makes for the “Sanctity of Human Life” in each of us. And how do we make the most of this most precious gift? We live within God’s Law (The Commandments), and we seek to do the Will of God.

Matthew Kelly tells us in “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” to pray and meditate, to study and stay true to the scriptures, to pour ourselves out in loving service to others and to evangelize to have a spectacular God-centered life!

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“Twelve-step programs teachs, of course, twelve steps. Matthew Kelly suggests we can boil those down to just Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian/Catholic.”

Related:

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 (By Bishop Robert Barron)

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 30, 2017 — Do You Listen With Your Heart? — Do You Have a Desire to Please God? — Therein lies the secret to success in life.

July 29, 2017

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 109

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The Dream of Solomon. circa, 1693 by Luca Giordano (1632 – 1705)

Reading 1  1 KGS 3:5, 7-12

The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
Solomon answered:
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”

The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130

R. (97a) Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part
is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Let your kindness comfort me
according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
For I love your command
more than gold, however fine.
For in all your precepts I go forward;
every false way I hate.
R. Lord, I love your commands.
Wonderful are your decrees;
therefore I observe them.
The revelation of your words sheds light,
giving understanding to the simple.
R. Lord, I love your commands.

Reading 2  ROM 8:28-30

Brothers and sisters:
We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers and sisters.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Alleluia  CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
for you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:44-52

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away.
Thus it will be at the end of the age.
The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous
and throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

“Do you understand all these things?”
They answered, “Yes.”
And he replied,
“Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven
is like the head of a household
who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Or  MT 13:44-46

Jesus said to his disciples:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Kingdom of Heaven!  Today the Gospel of Matthew gives us a small understanding about the Kingdom of Heaven.  Most of us today don’t think in terms of kingdoms, but we could rephrase the Kingdom of Heaven as all who belong the Lord.  It is we who form one people, one grouping, one body in Christ.  Individualism has dominated so much of our thinking, yet our Scriptures are clear:  we go to the Father as a people, as a community of people, not just as individuals.

Our first reading today is from the First Book of Kings.  In this passage, King Solomon asks for wisdom in order to be able to guide the people of his kingdom.  The surprise is that King Solomon does not ask for strength, nor for riches, nor for a good life for himself, nor for triumph over his enemies.  Instead, King Solomon seeks wisdom to serve the people.

What do we seek in life?  What do I seek in life personally?  These are natural questions after hearing about King Solomon.  What do I want in life:  Money?  Power?  Control over others?  Relationships?  Triumph over my enemies?

Instead, the Kingdom of God is like a wonderful gift of love for all others and should overcome in us all the desire to have things just for myself or for my loved ones.  Rather, the Kingdom of Heaven pushes me to want to good of the other person and the good of all.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans.  In this letter, we discover that “all things work for good for those who love God.”  When we begin to live in God, our way of seeing the world and what happens to us and to others in a new way.  Always we trust that what happens is in the hands of God.  We don’t understand His ways but we understand that He loves us.  God wants to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  God will conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is God’s work.  Our work is simply to accept God’s work within us and to allow God to work within us.

This brings us back to the Gospel today, from Saint Matthew.  God brings about His Kingdom and God will take out of His Kingdom all that does not belong to His Kingdom.  You and I must be purified of all that is in us and which is against the Kingdom.  We should not fear this purification.  Rather we should recognize that purification is necessary so that we can be with God completely and always.  Let us pray for the purification!  Once we see the immense value and joy of the Kingdom, it is all we shall want.

Your brother in the Lord,

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection on Solomon’s Dream By Charles E. McCracken

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Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? I KINGS 3:9

Shortly after David’s death, the Bible records the new king traveled to sacrifice at the Tabernacle site. Solomon’s journey to Gibeon some seven miles northwest of Jerusalem was not a private event. A parallel passage records, Then Solomon, and all the assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon (1 Chr. 1:3). (1) The event apparently lasted several days with 1,000 sacrifices provided by Solomon for the offerings during the gathering.

Although not specifically stated, Solomon’s purpose behind the pilgrimage to Gibeon was to seek God’s blessing on his reign. In what seems to be God’s response to the multitude of sacrifices, the Lord said to Solomon in a dream, Ask! What shall I give you? (1 Ki. 3:5) Solomon’s answer to the Lord within the context of the dream is not only enlightening, but also crucial to our understanding of the event.

Solomon began by recounting elements of the Davidic Covenant—it was God who promised David a perpetual dynasty, an everlasting kingdom and an eternal throne. God chose Solomon as David’s successor—the next in the familial line of Messiah. Solomon’s restatement of God’s promises demonstrated profound gratitude for all God had done in fulfilling the covenant made with his father.

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God already pledged to establish his kingdom; and, in genuine humility Solomon confided to the Lord, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in (1 Ki. 3:7). The phrase “to go out or come in” is taken from God’s appointment of Joshua to lead the people (Nu. 27:15). It refers to administration, decorum and leadership in shepherding the nation of Israel. Solomon was simply acknowledging his inexperience (1 Chr. 22:5; 29:1).

Basing his request on what God had already promised, Solomon asked God for, an understanding heart to judge Your people (2 Sam 7:13-16; 1 Ki. 3:9). The phrase “understanding heart” is literally “hearing heart,” a heart attune to God’s word. Interestingly, the words “hear” and “obey” have the same Hebrew root (shema). An obedient heart is a hearing heart; a hearing heart is an obedient heart. Solomon acknowledged that successful leadership of Israel required wisdom only God could give.

God was pleased. Solomon’s request demonstrated humility rather than self-aggrandizement—a willingness to submit to God’s authority rather than selfish ambition.

God granted his request. Solomon would indeed be wise, not just wiser than his predecessors, but the wisest king on the earth (v. 12; 4:29-31).

In addition, Solomon would be granted riches and honor to the extent, that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days (v. 13). In all that God promised, there was only one condition, if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days (v. 14). If Solomon faithfully adhered to the will of God and obeyed the Law of Moses, God would extend his life.

Thankful for God’s promises, Solomon and his court returned with joy to Jerusalem where he offered more sacrifices before the Ark of the Covenant and prepared a feast for his servants (v. 15).

Like Saul and David, his father, Solomon was exalted in the eyes of the people at the beginning of his reign. Saul and David were given military victories that bolstered their reputation among the people. God gave Solomon a judicial challenge to demonstrate his wisdom.

Two mothers came to him with two babies—one alive—the other one dead. They both claimed the dead child belonged to the other having been switched during the night. In a classic demonstration of justice, Solomon called for a sword threatening to give each mother half of the living child. He wisely identified the woman pleading for the child’s life as the real mother. His first act of jurisprudence was only the beginning of Solomon’s multi-faceted career as king.

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In an era, when aggressive self-promotion bordering on narcissism is encouraged as a virtue in nearly all sectors of our society, the way to please God remains unchanged. We, like Solomon, must come in humility seeking God’s wisdom and blessing.

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Solomon demonstrated godly character, genuine humility and a desire to please God. And, therein lies the secret to success in life. God rewarded him with the judicial wisdom he solicited, but also included unprecedented wealth and fame—two things most men crave, but rarely attain.

ENDNOTE:
1) Since the Ark of the Covenant had not been housed within the Tabernacle for more than 100 years, God permitted other localized worship centers throughout Israel. The Tabernacle containing the original objects of worship including the altar created by Bezalel remained the primary location (“high place”) for sacrifice (Ex. 31:2; 1 Samuel 7:11; 1 Chr. 1:5-6).

https://charles-e-mccracken-ministries.org/2016/02/09/solomons-wisdom/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

30 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 17th Week, Ordinary Time

A DISCERNING HEART


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 KGS 3:5,7-12ROM 8:28-30MT 13:44-52 or MT 13:44-46 ]

Everyone seeks happiness in life.  No one wants to suffer.  We seek the things that can make us happy; pleasure, comfort, love, unity and peace.  But what brings us misery is the means by which we use to achieve our desires.  Many of us mistake the means for the ends.  As a result, some of us are consumed by the means and forget the real objectives we seek in life.

Indeed, many of us think that money is everything when money is only a means to provide comfort and security.  But money cannot buy love or peace.  In fact, too much money causes us as much worry as one who lacks money.   The desire for wealth is the cause of much division, corruption, cheating, dishonesty and even killing.  It is the same for the desire for power.  We all desire security and we think that power can give us security when in truth the more powerful we are, the more insecure we become.  Rich and powerful people are the most insecure people in the world and that is why they need lots of security around them.

What we need is a discerning heart to know what is truly good for us, to distinguish the means from the ends.  What is the use of having the means when the end is not attained?  What is the use of having lots of money when the family is alienated and we are distant from each other because we have no time for one another? What is the use of power and fame at the expense of our freedom to be who we are and what we are, to go where we like?  Indeed, it is the lack of discernment that causes us to suffer much in life.  We make the wrong decisions.  We choose the wrong things in life.  Most of us tend to choose what is obvious or pleasing to the eye and heart without considering the long term implications.  This is the foolishness of the world today; the world of consumerism, the world of immediate gratification.  People today cannot wait.  They must get what they want in an instant.  So many of the policies that are put in place today are to satisfy the wants of the people but we do not think of the long term implications for our children, the future generation and the future of humanity.  Whether it is the question of euthanasia, divorce, same-sex union, promiscuity, and all the other bio ethical issues, and the effects of globalization and migration, ecology, we never really give serious thought to the implications of such trends.

The art of discernment is the theme of all the scripture readings today.  King Solomon, when invited to ask a gift from the Lord asked for a discerning heart.  “Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?”  So too in the gospel, Jesus spoke of the parable of the dragnet.  “When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use.”  Judgment is inevitable.

When we know how to make proper discernment, we will find ultimate happiness.  The Lord was pleased with Solomon.  “’Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you.’”  Truly, when we make right choices, the rest would also be given to us.  We protect the other things of life as well, such as wealth, status and power.  When we use them wisely for the good and service of all, we preserve what we have and even increase them all the more.  Wise judgement will spare us the time to repair damages caused by imprudent decisions.

How, then, do we make proper discernment? Judgement on objective matters is much easier than matters of the heart.  King Solomon did very well as a king.  He was able to govern the people with wisdom, impartiality and justice.  Indeed, he was a very capable king and was able to unite the kingdom.  It was during his reign that the kingdom became prosperous, strong, united and famous, so much so that the Queen of Sheba came to visit him.  (cf 1 Kgs 10:1-13)

However, when it came to personal matters, Solomon made a mess of his life.  He did not know how to handle his personal affairs.  He had everything cut out for him.  He received a sound religious education from his father, King David.  He was a promising youth and intellectually brilliant.  He completed building the temple of Jerusalem for his father.  But what caused his downfall was his self-indulgence, his sin of the flesh.  Morally, he was weak and fell into the sin of lust.  He failed to listen to the prophet on avoiding bad companions.  He took in foreign wives that did not share his faith.  He turned to other gods as well, influenced by his pagan wives.  His wealth also became a source of temptation for him.  He was too extravagant and that led to increased taxation and suffering for the people.

How true for us too!  We can be successful in our career and in our work but when it comes to running the family, including our marriage, we are a failure.  We cannot live in peace and love with our spouse.  We are always fighting with each other, arguing and cannot agree on anything.  Instead of being a support and helpmate to each other, we become a checkmate and a judge.  We are not on good terms with our children and in-laws as well.  We do not have enough time to spend with them.  The relationship becomes distant and so we are strangers to each other.  We no longer enjoy each other’s company and we avoid each other more and more.  Very soon, from strangers, we become enemies of each other.   So what is the use of our success?  Successful in work and business but failure in famly life! This is the greatest form of failure and the cause of misery and loneliness!

How then do we discern?  We must put God first in our lives.  This is what the two parables of the pearl and treasure seek to teach us.  The first man discovers the treasure that is hidden in a field and he goes off to sell everything to buy it. He would pay anything to buy that treasure. This treasure meant everything to him.  The other merchant found a pearl of great value.  He too went and sold everything to buy it.  Such was the price they were willing to pay to obtain what they discerned to be the ultimate happiness in their lives.  Is God our treasure of all treasures?  Is Christ the Word of God and the Wisdom of God in person for us?  If so, then Jesus says, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  (Mt 6:33)

To seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is to live like sons and daughters of God.  As St Paul reminds us, “They are the ones he chose specially long ago and intended to become true images of his Son, so that his Son might be the eldest of many brothers. He called those he intended for this; those he called he justified, and with those he justified he shared his glory.”   We are called to live the life of Christ which is a life of love, service and compassion, for the glory of God and for the good of our fellowmen.

Consequently, as children of God, we live by the will of God.  When we put God as the ultimate treasure in our lives, all that we do will be subordinated to the rule of God in our lives.  Our measure of judgement will be the measure God judges us with.  The psalmist says, “you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.”  (Ps 51:4)  The responsorial psalm urges us to take the laws of God as our guiding principles in life. “Lord, how I love your law!  My part, I have resolved, O Lord, is to obey your word.  The law from your mouth means more to me than silver and gold. That is why I love your commands more than finest gold, why I rule my life by your precepts, and hate false ways.”

Indeed, if we cooperate with the will of God, then He will ensure that everything will turn out for our good.  This is what St Paul says.  “We know that by turning everything to their good, God co-operates with all those who love him, with all those that he has called according to his purpose.”   He will give us the necessary means, as He gave to Solomon the wisdom that he needed to guide his peoples, but He asks for our co-operation.  It is not enough to pray for the gifts of God, if we do not use them accordingly in our daily life.  Unless we use it well, we will only destroy ourselves and those under our care.  But if we do, then we will find ultimate happiness and joy in life.

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

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

Careful readers of the works of the young Saint Augustine will recall that he bargained with God.

“Please help me God. I know I am not living the life you want me to lead and I must reform. BUT NOT YET!”

We all hold back. Even Saint Augustine held back. But not forever. Our task is to develop a trusting relationship with God. He is obviously worthy of our trust: but are we worthy of His?

Some of the greatest spiritual writers encourage us to give ourselves unreservedly to God. St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, and many other tell us to abandon ourselves to God.

God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

The first time I became completely confused by my Vietnamese family, the only helper I could think of that might have a solution was the Vietnamese priest.

When I explained at length my dilemma, he gave me the best four word advice I’ve ever heard:

“Listen with your heart,”  he said.

I had no idea my heart had ears. In fact, I’d pretty much forgotten about my heart entirely (a common American illness).

So now, I give that advice out to others, like me, who sometimes forget why they are hear on this earth. We’re here to serve others.

And to get them what they need, we need to listen with our heart.

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My Creator, I am now willing that You should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that You now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do Your bidding. Amen

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Jean Pierre de Caussade (7 March 1675 – 8 December 1751), advice on people having great troubles, anxiety, depression:

“They have only to fulfill the simple duties of the Christian Faith and of their state of life, to accept with submission the crosses that go with those duties, and to submit with faith and love to the designs of Providence in everything that is constantly being presented to them to do and to endure, without searching for anything themselves.”

From: “Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence,” (also sometimes called “The Value of the Present Moment”), TAN Books edition, 1987.

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Related:

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The Road to Hope by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.

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Book: Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatness – Prayer of Faith: 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power As a Father by Devin Schadt
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For MEN: Be still and pull the mule —
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Image may contain: 1 person, text

As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should turn to a competent guide to reach that most important goal. An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is addressed as a personal letter to Philothea, the “lover of God.” This book instructs us in our approach to God in prayer and the Sacraments, the practice of 16 important virtues, remedies against ordinary temptations, and becoming confirmed in our practice of devotion. TAN-CLASSICS Edition; paperback.

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, March 13, 2017 — We know there is compassion and forgiveness! — All We Have To Do Is Cooperate

March 12, 2017

Monday of the Second Week in Lent
Lectionary: 230

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Reading 1 DN 9:4B-10

“Lord, great and awesome God,
you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you
and observe your commandments!
We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;
we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.
We have not obeyed your servants the prophets,
who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes,
our fathers, and all the people of the land.
Justice, O Lord, is on your side;
we are shamefaced even to this day:
we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem,
and all Israel, near and far,
in all the countries to which you have scattered them
because of their treachery toward you.
O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
for having sinned against you.
But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!
Yet we rebelled against you
and paid no heed to your command, O LORD, our God,
to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 79:8, 9, 11 AND 13

R. (see 103:10a) Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
through all generations we will declare your praise.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.

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Verse Before The Gospel SEE JN 6:63C, 68C

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

Gospel LK 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as 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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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom: Do Unto Others

Today’s Gospel sounds much like the message recorded by Matthew for us last Thursday.

MT 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.”

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Commentary on Luke 6:36-38 from Living Space

“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” This is the last sentence in Luke’s version of Jesus’ teaching on the need to love our enemies. We saw the Matthaean version last Saturday. There the passage ends with “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.” It is clear that it is in showing compassion for all, even those who wish us evil, that we are to aim at imitating our heavenly Father.

God’s compassion is all-embracing. His love reaches out to all without any discrimination between saint and sinner. Like the rain and sun which fall equally on all, so God’s compassion and mercy are extended to all. We, too, are being called to follow the example of our God and of Jesus his Son. We remember the words of Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Here is the compassion of God being expressed in an extreme situation. The words will be repeated by Stephen when he is being stoned to death.

In today’s Gospel, we are told to follow that compassion by not sitting in judgement on others. That in no way means that we are to be blind to the genuine faults of others. But we are not in a position to take the higher moral ground so that we can sit in judgement on the supposed wrongdoer.

If we are honest we know we judge others a lot, often with very little evidence and even less compassion. Our media, too, are full of judgment. Our conversations, our gossip is full of judgment. We lack compassion for the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters.

At the same time, we do very little to help them correct their ways; in fact, they seldom hear the criticisms we make. It is most often done behind their backs. If they unexpectedly appear, we quickly change the subject. We just take pleasure in the backbiting. We might even be disappointed if they reformed!

“Do not condemn and you will not be condemned; pardon and you will be pardoned.” Later on in this Eucharist we will pray, “Forgive us our sins in so far as we forgive the sins of others”. A dangerous prayer to make, yet it trips so easily off our tongues, the same tongues that can be so critical and judgemental.

The gospel calls for great generosity in our relationship with others. Not just material generosity but generosity in love, in understanding, in tolerance and acceptance, in compassion and forgiveness. The more generous we are with others the more we will receive in return.

Lord,
teach me to be generous,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and to seek no reward
save that of knowing that I do your holy will.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/l1022g/

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Monday in the Second Week of Lent 

Daniel 9:4ff. The exiles’ prayer of repentance. Humbled by the experience of being conquered and taken away as captive slaves, they turn back to God their Saviour.

Luke 6:36ff. Jesus calls us to be perfect in the virtue of mercy, in imitation of God himself.

Beautiful Compassion

Where Matthew’s gospel has Jesus say, on the mountain: “You must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), Luke, in the sermon on the plain, reads: “Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.” Luke’s expectations are more specific and more attainable. All sinners ought to be capable of compassion, as they continually seek this very response of mercy from God. Yet, Jesus does not allow half-measures; it must be all, it seems, or nothing! Pardon must be bestowed so generously upon anyone who has hurt us, that it runs over and pours into the folds of one’s own garments. We are expected to bestow twice as much love as the other person showed us hate, twice as much trust as the other party manifested suspicion.

This divine compassion can be partly learned, as we meditate upon the example of Jesus who died for us when as yet we were God’s enemies by our sins (Rom 5:8). Yet, this attitude of overwhelming goodness and understanding can never be fully and adequately learned by study nor be acquired by human effort, no matter how diligent and persevering we may be. We cannot transform ourselves into God, as the human race should have learned at the beginning (Gen 3:5).

 

No Half Measures

The only way to surrender ourselves to God is unconditionally and without reservation. Without anticipating all that will happen to us and be asked of us, we give ourselves totally into God’s hands. We repeat Jesus’ beautiful, heroic prayer: “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). God will then act through us, reaching others with infinite compassion, infinite tenderness, infinite trust! Without counting the cost or the outcome, such divine life will overflow into the folds of our garments!

Lenten fasting may weaken our physical strength and reduce the aggressiveness of our human response. If it is accompanied, however, by a surrender of our spirit to God, then divine strength and infinite responsiveness will flow through us. Our fasting reminds us and symbolizes to others that God alone is the source of our decisions and actions.

Possessed by this divine spirit of compassion and pardon, we can spontaneously pray for mercy as Daniel did in today’s first reading. We have only to place before God our sins, our wickedness and our evil. We have only to admit to God that “we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and laws.” We realize that in confessing our sins, we are already within the intimate bond of God’s love and transformation. Confession is the final act of rejecting whatever is the residue of sin within us. Once upon our lips, the sins are gone forever, driven out by God’s holy spirit already within us.

Daniel admits several times to be “shamefaced.” Shame can be very destructive or it can be purifying and transforming. Sometimes when shame comes over people, they lose all inhibitions and abandon themselves to all kinds of shameless deeds! Another kind of shame casts off pride and make-belief. It begets a wholesome humility and honesty. It freely admits whatever was wrong, this time from the attitude of a delicate conscience. It helps the adult to be again as a child in spirit, in trust, in a wholesome purity. Such an adult trusts, loves and forgives as easily as God himself. “Of such is the kingdom of God.”

First Reading: Daniel 9:4-10

I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “Ah, Lord, great and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love with those who love you and keep your commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Righteousness is on your side, O Lord, but open shame, as at this day, falls on us, the people of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you.

Open shame, O Lord, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Gospel: Luke 6:36-38

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged;do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

From the Association for Catholic Priests

http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2011/03/monday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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EFFECTIVENESS OF THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ DAN 9:4-10; PS 78:8-9,11,13; LUKE 6:36-38 ]

There are many who go for confession but do not feel forgiven or healed of their guilt and pain.  As a consequence, they conclude that the Sacrament of reconciliation is ineffective and irrelevant. They do not experience the healing mercy of God.  What are the real reasons for not being able to receive the healing grace of God?  There is nothing wrong with the Sacrament of Reconciliation per se, but with the way we prepare ourselves for it and the way the Sacrament is administered to us.  In other words, it depends on the disposition of both the penitent and the confessor. When the right dispositions are not there, the mercy of God is compromised and the rite loses its effectiveness.

On the part of the penitent, there must be genuine acknowledgement of his sins.  This was what the Israelites did in the first reading.  They confessed their sins without compromise, without excuse and without blaming anyone else.  They put the blame solely on themselves and not on some scapegoats.  They said, “We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly, we have betrayed your commandments and your ordinances and turned away from them.  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.”  On the contrary, often the confessor is put in a dilemma at the confessional.  The penitent may have confessed his sins, but he put the blame on everyone else for what he did. He came to confession not to ask for forgiveness and find justification in Christ’s mercy but to justify himself before God.  Like the Pharisee in the gospel, he leaves the confession room unjustified.  Jesus remarked, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  (Lk 18:14)

Secondly, the sinner must be ready to accept the consequences of his sins.  “Integrity, Lord, is yours; ours the look of shame we wear today, we, the people of Judah, the citizens of Jerusalem, the whole of Israel, near and far away, in every country to which you have dispersed us because of the treason we have committed against you.  To us, Lord, the look of shame belongs, to our kings, our princes, our ancestors, because we have sinned against you.”  They were not resentful of God for being punished by their sinful behavior.  They did not blame God for their having been exiled in Babylon.  On the contrary, they humbly accepted their retribution.  Again, many are not healed simply because they blame God and curse Him for the sufferings brought about by their foolish and selfish acts.  When we are not ready or humble enough to accept the consequences of our actions, it means that we have not really recognized that we were wrong.  If that were the case, we are self-righteous and therefore angry with God who is not on our side.   This also explains why the confessor is required to give “penance” to the penitent before absolving him of his sins.  This is not so much a “punishment” but an expression of the humility of the penitent that he is wrong, and ready to accept the “correction” through the application of the penance given to him in humility and obedience.

Thirdly, the sinner must trust in the mercy and love of God. The people prayed, “Lord, our God great and to be feared, you keep the covenant and have kindness for those who love you and keep your commandments.”  Again, they prayed, “To the Lord our God mercy and pardon belong.”  It is important to claim the mercy of God and His kindness.  In the gospel, Jesus affirmed God’s mercy when He said, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.”  Once we are confident of God’s mercy and compassion, we should not doubt whether our sins are forgiven when we have confessed our sins with all humility, sincerity and honesty.  To doubt His mercy impedes reception of His forgiveness.

Insofar as the sinner is repentant and contrite, he can be assured that his sins are surely forgiven, and he will certainly be able to receive God’s healing grace and mercy.  When we are contrite and repentant, God will give us peace, joy and hope.  With our sins forgiven, our anger and resentment taken away, we will be able to see ourselves in a new way.  We will also be able to let go of those who have hurt us, or at least perceived them as having wronged us.  Recognizing our own contiribution to the sin or misunderstanding, instead of apportioning blame to others, we take the first step in correcting ourselves, our own weaknesses and our part in the sinful situation.  When that is done, we will find liberation from our enemies and our hurts.  In fact, we will thank God instead for allowing the sin to happen because what was a disgrace has been used by Him to be a channel for grace.

However, on the part of the confessor, it is important that he manifests the compassion of the Father.  Jesus said, “Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.” The role of a judge is not very helpful in the confessional.   When confessors appear and conduct themselves like judges, waiting to scold, reprimand, examine and interrogate, it robs the Sacrament of reconciliation of the mercy of God and reduces the penitent to a condemned criminal.  He will leave the confessional box hurt, humiliated, angry and probably vowing that that would be the last time he would ever go for confession.  It shows a total lack of sensitivity and compassion on the part of the confessor.  Of course, it is right for a priest to counsel the penitent and give spiritual direction, but we never heard Jesus scolding repentant sinners.  He only reprimanded those who were hardened in their sins, like the Pharisees.

Understandably those who have been hurt and humiliated in the confessional box stop going for confession because of the trauma they underwent.  For such Catholics, even though they do not go for confession again, we entrust them to the mercy of God and pray that one day they will return to confession for full healing.  Deep in their hearts, they realize the need to confess their deepest sins, but they lack courage and humility to face the priest again.  By not going for confession, they miss out on the powerful healing grace of God through this sacrament.

Whether it is for the confessor or penitent, the advice of Jesus about receiving what we give is an important reminder. “Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.”  When we are generous with forgiveness or with mercy, we ourselves will receive the same mercy.  St James reminds us, “For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (Jms 2:13)  For this reason, Jesus urges us, “Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.”

Those who condemn others are unaware of their own sinfulness. Those who lack compassion towards others, have no compassion towards themselves.  Of course, there are some who apparently are compassionate towards themselves when they fail.  They would make excuses for their mistakes but they would apply a different measure towards others who fail. How do we explain such inconsistency of judgment?  Why the double standards?  It shows that they are not fully aware of their wrongs and crimes.  But for those of us who are conscious of our own struggles, sinfulness, imperfections, inadequacies and failures, would we dare to condemn others?  St Paul wrote, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.” (Rom 2:1)  So let us pray for a greater self-awareness of our sinfulness so that we can be compassionate like the Father towards those who sin against us or against others.  When we perfect our compassion, then we truly become sons and daughters of God.  We find joy and mercy ourselves.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh
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Related:

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The Road to Hope by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan

Many of  Nguyễn Văn Thuận letters, prayers and sermons have been preserved and published — most are available at fine bookstores and from Amazon.

No automatic alt text available.

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Image may contain: text
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Book: Joseph’s Way: The Call to Fatherly Greatness – Prayer of Faith: 80 Days to Unlocking Your Power As a Father by Devin Schadt
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Image may contain: one or more people, text and outdoor

As no sensible person would make a long road trip without first consulting a map, so the person intent upon gaining Heaven should turn to a competent guide to reach that most important goal. An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is addressed as a personal letter to Philothea, the “lover of God.” This book instructs us in our approach to God in prayer and the Sacraments, the practice of 16 important virtues, remedies against ordinary temptations, and becoming confirmed in our practice of devotion. TAN-CLASSICS Edition; paperback.

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