Posts Tagged ‘sorrow’

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, September 15, 2017 — Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows — “I am grateful to him who has strengthened me.” — “Because I live, you also will live.”

September 14, 2017

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Lectionary: 441/639

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Our Lady of Sorrows by Sassoferrato

Reading 1 1 TM 1:1-2, 12-14

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our savior
and of Christ Jesus our hope,
to Timothy, my true child in faith:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord,
because he considered me trustworthy
in appointing me to the ministry.
I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man,
but I have been mercifully treated
because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.
Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant,
along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Responsorial Psalm PS 16:1B-2A AND 5, 7-8, 11

R. (see 5) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.”
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.


Sequence (Optional) — Stabat Mater

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword had passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep,
‘Whelmed in miseries so deep,
Christ’s dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that mother’s pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of his own nation
Saw him hang in desolation
Till his spirit forth he sent.

O sweet Mother! font of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with yours accord.

Make me feel as you have felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with you his pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with you,
Mourning him who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the cross with you to stay,
There with you to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of you to give.

Virgin of all virgins blest!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share your grief divine.

Let me to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of yours.

Wounded with his every wound,
Steep my soul till it has swooned
In his very Blood away.

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In his awful judgment day.

Christ, when you shall call me hence,
Be your Mother my defense,
Be your cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul your goodness praise,
Safe in heaven eternally.
Amen. (Alleluia)


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, O Virgin Mary;
without dying you won the martyr’s crown
beneath the Cross of the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 19:25-27

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother
and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas,
and Mary Magdalene.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved
he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”
Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother.”
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

Image result for Our Lady of Sorrows, art, pictures

Our Lady of Sorrows by Tianna Mallett

Or LK 2:33-35

Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
and you yourself a sword will pierce
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”



Our Lady of Sorrows – Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-9; Ps 30; Luke 2:33-35 or John 19:25-27 From Living Space

There are two choices for the Gospel reading. The first is from Luke’s account of the Presentation in the Temple. While they were in the Temple, Mary and Joseph met the holy man Simeon, who had been promised that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah.


When he meets Mary and Joseph, he recognises the Messiah in the Baby she is holding. He then proceeds to make some prophecies about Jesus and, addressing Mary herself, tells her that a “sword of sorrow” will pierce her heart. He does not specify what that “sword” might be but now we can see that it particularly alludes to the suffering and death of Jesus which she witnessed. However, the “sword” can also be applied to the other painful experiences we remember in the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

The alternative Gospel reading is from John’s account of the Crucifixion where he mentions that the “mother of Jesus” was standing by the foot of the Cross as her Son died. With her were two other women, her sister called Mary (wife of Clopas), Mary of Magdala and the “beloved disciple”.

Seeing them there, Jesus entrusts the Beloved Disciple to the care of his Mother, while telling the Beloved Disciple that Jesus’ Mother is his also. Some would see in this scene the Mother of Jesus as symbolising the Christian community. There is to be a relationship of mutual support between the community and its dedicated members. The community exists for the well-being of the individual members and each member is committed in turn to the well-being of the community.

The First Reading is from the Letter to the Hebrews and speaks of Jesus’ passionate prayer to his Father that he not have to go through the terrible death of the Cross. And his prayer was heard, because of his total submission to his Father. It was precisely through the acceptance of his suffering that he learnt to be totally at one with the will of his Father. And, being made perfect through his obedience, he became a source of salvation for all others who unite themselves to him.

And who was more united to Jesus than his Mother? It is because of her acceptance of and identification with the sufferings of her Son that we celebrate her memory today.



Our Lady of Sorrows — The Madonna in Sorrow, by Sassoferrato, 17th century
Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(From September 15, 2014)

There are many ways to look at sufferings in life.   Those who are negative will look at sufferings as a curse from God.  Such an attitude can turn them bitter against God and the world.  When we try to run away from our sufferings or deny them, we will end up being miserable.

Fortunately, most of us assume a positive approach to suffering; seeing it as a pedagogy of life.  In other words, it teaches us about life and most of all, it purifies our attitude towards people.  It helps to sanctify us.  Indeed, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, Jesus Himself learned obedience through suffering.  In other words, we can embrace suffering as part of the mystery of life or fight it.  If we fight against suffering, then we open ourselves to greater pain, like when we harden our muscles when receiving an injection.  The way to overcome suffering is to let go and embrace it as God’s will for our growth, purification and strengthening of character.

However, it is not sufficient to see suffering in this manner as it is still very much focused on the self.  Rather, suffering should teach us to reach out, for it is only in reaching out that we are able to forget our own sufferings.  The clue to reaching out is found in the gospel of St John, when we are told that “the disciple made a place for her in his home.”  In other words, like John, we are called to feel with Mary, just as Mary felt with Jesus and identified herself with Him.

When St Paul tells us that if we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory, and that if we share in His death, we also share in His resurrection, he is not simply suggesting that if we suffer just like Jesus, we too will be glorified and raised like Jesus.  Of course, this is true, but there is a deeper significance to this exhortation of Paul.

St Paul is telling us that in sharing the sufferings of Christ, we will understand not only what Christ has gone through, but what He has suffered for us, for our sake and for our salvation.  In other words, by sharing in His sufferings, we can now identify with Him, not just in His sufferings, but also feel the depth of His love for us.  Only when we come to know how much He has loved us, can we come to love Him even more.  If we are called to know how much He suffered, it is so that we can appreciate the extent of His selfless love for us.  It is important that we understand the purpose of His sufferings.

Suffering in itself is not redeeming unless it is experienced for love of others.  So in sharing Christ’s sufferings and understanding His love for us, we are now ready to suffer for Him in return as our grateful response to His love.  Indeed, this was the way Christ suffered.  If He could suffer so much for us, it was because He had experienced the Father’s self-emptying love for Him.

Even in human relationships, we are inclined to be more sympathetic to people whom we encounter, and those who share their sufferings and pain with us.  Without understanding their struggles, the natural reaction would be for us to apply the laws to them objectively, without taking into consideration their existential context.  But justice, especially the justice of God, requires that we apply laws within the context and circumstances of each individual, as opposed to a legalistic manner.  Indeed, when we lack contact with a person and lack understanding of his or her personal struggles, we cannot empathize very much with the person.

That is why dialogue and communion enables us to feel with and for each other.  It is not in our nature to act objectively; only robots do that.  But neither do we act subjectively, for if we do, then we are not living out the truth.  Rather, we act objectively in a subjective manner, taking into consideration both the person and his circumstances.  Compassion and justice meet in God and in the Christian.  Once we recognize the person as a person and not a thing, then we too, can help the person to transcend his struggles.

Truly, if we feel with each other, then like Jesus, we will look upon others with compassion and sympathy rather than judgmentally.  In silent tears, we pray for those who are suffering and in pain, especially for our enemies, because like Jesus, we can understand why they are acting the way they do.  Like Jesus, we are called to forget our own sufferings but instead, to look towards the sufferings of others, so that no longer will we judge them with condemnation but with mercy.  For like Christ, we are called to share not just in His sufferings but we must also share in the sufferings of our enemies.

Today, Mary is our model.  If she is so associated with the redemptive suffering of Christ, it is because as a mother she must have felt with Jesus in His mission of love.  Most of all, if she could forgive the enemies of her Son, it was also because she could feel the way He felt for His enemies.  So, if we too, can feel with Jesus in His sufferings through our sufferings, we will repent of our own sins, return to Him in love and gratitude and undertake upon ourselves the same mission of love and mercy that we have received from Jesus.

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
September 15, 2015
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Hebrews 5:7-9Luke 2:33-35

How often do we feel helpless in helping people, especially when they are suffering?  Not only are we unable to help them financially or physically, but even emotionally.  Indeed, we are often lost for words to encourage them.  We do not know what to say to comfort them.  We look at them and we feel so helpless and useless.  There is nothing we can do to relieve the suffering.  We use means in our power to help but to no avail.  We can only watch them suffer in pain and in depression.  We feel frustrated and even angry with God, besides being angry with ourselves.  In such a situation, what do we do?

Like Mary, we are called to simply stand by the cross of Jesus.  In celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, we feel with Mary who stood by Jesus not just when He was rejected in His ministry and even thought to be mad by His relatives.  She had always stood by Him in good and in bad times.   Although alone and widowed, she did not prevent Jesus from leaving home for the work of His Father.  Mary was supportive of Jesus’ mission from beginning to the end.

But we have no sufferings that can be compared with Mary’s sufferings.  No one can and will ever be able to suffer the way Mary suffered with Jesus.  She was His mother.  He was her only son, her flesh and blood.  She was one in mind and heart with her Son.  At the wedding in Cana, she was one with the will of God and invited us to do the same, “Do whatever He tells you.”   When presented with a problem she did not once exert the obligations of filial piety on Jesus to solve it. She just informed the Son that “they had no wine” without instructing Him what to do.  She knew her Son better and trusted in His wisdom and judgement.  (cf Jn 2)

Hence, when we reflect on the death of Jesus on the Cross, it must be said, that although Mary did not suffer in body like Jesus, she suffered in spirit.  She was a martyr in spirit. St Bernard wrote, “Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.” She suffered not so much in her body but she suffered as much as what Jesus suffered on the cross morally.  Jesus suffered because of our sins, which He carried in His body. Not only did He carry our sins but He was also condemned for our sins. Like the Suffering Servant, He was crushed for our sins.

What went through the heart of Mary when she saw her Son carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem on His way to Mount Calvary?  We cannot imagine how much she would have suffered, seeing her Son bathed in blood, scourged beyond recognition, losing so much blood and with raw and open wounds, carrying the cross and being paraded as a criminal.  Yet, Mary stood bravely with Jesus and moved with the crowd as she watched helplessly her Son struggling all alone with the weight of the cross and enduring the ignominy of being ridiculed and shamed by the people and mocked by the soldiers.  Yet, Mary did not utter a word against God or against His enemies.  In sorrow and in pain she shared with Jesus His sufferings in her heart.  She must have been such a strong woman to carry such pain in her heart.  Her grief cannot be compared to ours even when we lose our own loved ones.

Most of all, when she was at the foot of the cross, she had to endure the last filial act of our Lord on the Cross when He gave His disciple to Mary, “Behold your son!”  And to the beloved disciple, “Behold your mother!”  (Cf Jn 19:26f)  On the surface, Jesus was doing a filial act by entrusting the care of His mother to one of His disciples, since Jesus was her only son.  But how can the Son of God be replaced by the son of man; or a master by a disciple?  There is no substitute for Jesus.  This is true for us when we love someone dearly and deeply.  Can anyone replace our spouse, our boyfriend or girlfriend or even our dog?

Mary fulfilled the prophecy of Simeon who said that a sword will pierce her heart. “As the father and mother of Jesus stood wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’”  (Lk 2:33-35)  So deep is the wound and so sharp is the sword that no one can ever feel the way she felt.  After the death of Jesus, He no longer felt the pain in His body or in His soul, but her soul suffered the violence of sorrow.  For this reason, the Church gave her the title, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.  Beyond the prophecy of Simeon, she suffered when she had to flee for their lives to Egypt.  She suffered the loss of the child Jesus in the Temple.  She was filled with sorrow when she met Jesus on the way to Calvary.  Certainly, she must have been so overwhelmed at the way Jesus died on the cross.  As if it was not enough to see Him crucified, Mary had to see her Son pierced on the side by a soldier’s lance.  This last action would have pierced her heart even more.  Finally, all that was left for Mary was to receive the lifeless bloody body of Jesus in her arms and leave Him in the tomb.  Such were the seven sorrows of Mary.

Yet in all these events, she was not angry with God or vindictive of the enemies of her Son.  She stood by the cross in silence and joined her sufferings with that of her Son, forgiving those who killed Him.  There was no anger but only grief for her enemies because of their ignorance.  She was so full of love that she could love beyond herself and her own pain of seeing her Son suffering.   Like her Son on the cross, she would have uttered the same words of Jesus in her heart, “Father, forgive them for they knew not what they were doing.”  Like Jesus, Mary not only forgave her enemies but she prayed for them and made excuses for their actions, reducing them to ignorance.  Such was the magnanimity of Mary.  How many of us pray for our enemies with love and compassion, much less to make excuses for them for hurting us and making us suffer?

In the light of this feast of our Lady of Sorrows, we too are called to suffer in spirit with those who are suffering, especially when they suffer innocently and unjustly.  Our blessed Mother is asking us to suffer in silence and in love for them, whether they are our friends or our enemies.  If we feel helpless like her for her Son, let us offer that inadequacy in helping our loved ones with Mary to Jesus. With those who are the cause of our suffering, we must remember what St Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called – that you might inherit a blessing.”  (1 Pt 3:9)  And again, he wrote, “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”  (1 Pt 3:17f)

Indeed, following the example of Jesus in our weakness, we need to surrender everything to the Lord in faith and trust and in obedience.  If we surrender ourselves to Him in total obedience to His divine will and wisdom, the Lord will hear us and He will transform us.  This is all that is needed of us.  We cannot take things into our own hands.  We need to allow God to be God.  Just as He did the impossible by raising Jesus from the dead, He will do the same for us.   We only need to pray in faith.  We are called to stand by the cross like Mary.  We feel with them and for them.  Remaining helpless, we need to believe in the power and wisdom of God that He will act in His own time.

So let us obey Jesus and give a place to Mary in our home, in our spiritual life.  Like the beloved disciple, let us bring Mary to our home.  This means that we are called to accept Mary as our spiritual mother.  She is the mother of the Church represented by the unnamed disciple of the Lord.  We are called to learn from her to share the sufferings in spirit of those whom we cannot help in body.   We may not be able to take away the sufferings of the other person but we can always pray for them and offer them the hope of Christ.  Let us in faith take the assurance of Jesus to heart, “Because I live, you also will live.” (Jn 14:19)


Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, December 25, 2014 — Nativity of the Lord — Christmas Mass at Dawn

December 24, 2014

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Mass at Dawn
Lectionary: 15

The Holy Family by Raphael

Reading 1 is 62:11-12

See, the LORD proclaims
to the ends of the earth:
say to daughter Zion,
your savior comes!
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
They shall be called the holy people,
the redeemed of the LORD,
and you shall be called “Frequented,”
a city that is not forsaken.

Responsorial Psalm ps 97:1, 6, 11-12

R/ A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R/ A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R/ A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.

Reading 2 ti 3:4-7

When the kindness and generous love
of God our savior appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
He saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our savior,
so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Alleluia Lk 2:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to those
on whom his favor rests.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel lk 2:15-20

When the angels went away from them to heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
“Let us go, then, to Bethlehem
to see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us.”
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the infant lying in the manger.
When they saw this,
they made known the message
that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed
by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things,
reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen,
just as it had been told to them.
John 1:1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it..A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him..He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’”


From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.



Joseph and Jesus by Caravaggio


Christmas Reflection from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Last night, for the Midnight Mass, we reflected on the birth of this Divine Child. The Day Mass changes our perspective to begin to reflect already on the salvation brought to us by this Divine Child.

The Prophet Isaiah again helps us understand this mystery. God has created all that is. Yet creation is in need of salvation. This God who loves us so very much is always reaching deep into the human experience and sending us salvation. The Prophet is able to recognize that it is God reaching out to us and into our human history–always out of love and always out of a desire to save us and to love us. We want to come to know personally that God reaches out to us and wants to give us a share in His love.

The Letter to to Hebrews takes us this theme of salvation and helps us understand more profoundly by reflecting on the mystery of God taking on our humanity. Even in the early Christians, it was an enormous leap of faith to believe that Jesus was truly God. Those who knew Him, knew His humanity and His goodness. They also knew that His words constantly kept saying that He was God. But to believe that was almost impossible. Even today, we sometimes find it easier to forget that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.

The Gospel of John takes us to an even deeper theological level, meditating on the relationship of the Word of God with all of creation and all that exists. We could meditate on this one verse forever: From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

We have received fullness! Grace on grace on grace! On this Christmas Day we can reflect on the joy that comes to us, even in the midst of sorrow and suffering, when we place all our hope in the Lord. We can look at our lives and see blessing. Jesus has shown us the face of God and it is love and mercy.


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore


SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 9:1-7; PSALM 95:1-3,11-13; TITUS 2:11-14; LUKE 2:1-14 

What is the reason for the great rejoicing, merry making and celebration in the world?  Often, we receive so-called Christmas cards that say, “Season’s greetings.”  What does it really mean?  Are we celebrating because of the winter season?  If that were the case, we might have to send out cards for spring, summer and autumn seasons too.  Why should this time of the year be one of celebration?   Indeed, what is the cause of our celebration?  This is the crux of today’s theme for the Mass.

What are the reasons for non-Christians celebrating this season?  Many in the world are celebrating simply because everyone else is celebrating.  Many are just joining the crowd and the fun.   So it is a good occasion to have fun, make merry, dine and do catching up.  It is more a social affair.  For others, it is a time of giving of gifts to show our love for our loved ones.  Many would go out of the way to help the poor as well.  Maybe it is a time to celebrate because we have received our bonus. For all, it is a time of peace and love.  But, why this time of the year and not at other times?

Of course, such motives for celebrating are not bad.  But the cause of the celebration is not well founded.  The peace and joy and love that we seek will not last for more than a day.  Dinners and parties will end with hangovers.   Gifts will be thrown away after some time.  The fact remains: pleasures, things and human love do not give us lasting peace, joy and love.  They are certainly welcome and they are important to give us a reprieve, but it is only a reprieve.  Then, like the Israelites, we will still be carrying the yoke of slavery, shame and wars.

Hence, it is important that we go back to the heart of the celebration.  What is the reason for our celebration?  What is the cause of rejoicing?  What is the cause of giving and loving?  What is the cause of our joy and peace?  Repeatedly, the scripture readings tell us this, “Today a saviour has been born to us: he is Christ the Lord.”  Indeed, this is the only reason for our celebration.  Everything else flows from this all important Christ.  The material and social festivities and gifts flow from this truth.   It is because Christ has saved us that we are rejoicing and celebrating.  And this joy in our hearts is then expressed concretely in our love for others, especially those who are without joy.

This divine joy and peace we are experiencing can only come from without; not from within us.  This is the meaning of our Christmas celebration.  We did not come from ourselves, hence we cannot save ourselves.  In such a gloomy world the Good news is that light has shone. St Paul wrote to Titus. “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race.” Indeed, as Isaiah said, “The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. You have made their gladness greater, you have made their joy increase.”

But the world is trying to make us forget the cause of our celebration.  As I have said earlier, when we meet during this period, the world is saying we cannot wish each other “Merry and holy Christmas” but “compliments of the season!”  When the Hindus celebrate Deepavali, do we wish them, “compliments of the season” or “Happy Deepavali”?  Same for the Muslims when they celebrate Hari Raya, do we wish them, “compliments of the seasons” or “Selamat Hari Raya”?  The world wants to remove Christ from the celebration of Christmas.  In some places, to wish someone “Merry Christmas” is to impose our faith on others.

So the critical question is “do you need a saviour?”  The world says, “No!”  We can save ourselves.  We do not need God.  Science and technology can save us.  Is this true?  Can science and technology save the world?  Yes, they can invent new things and make life more comfortable, but can they satisfy the human heart, spirit and soul?  Is happiness merely economic success?  Can money make us happy and secure?  If so, then all the richest people should be happy and secure!  Can they give us meaning in life? Can they change the human heart?  Can they remove sins from our nature?  Can they make us loving, honest and caring people?  Can they give us inner peace and joy?  If so, why is it that in spite of advancements in science and technology, there are more wars and divisions in the world and even in the family?  Can science and technology resurrect our bodies when we die?  Can they assure us of everlasting love and life?  Only, everlasting peace, joy and love can give us lasting happiness in life.

The truth is that the scripture readings say we are all under the yoke of sin.  St Paul reminds the Christians that the cause of division and unhappiness is wicked ambition and selfishness. It is living an indulgent and unrestrained life, without discipline and direction.

So who can release us from the yoke of sin?  Isaiah says, “For the yoke that was weighing on him, the barb across his shoulders, the rod of his oppressor, these you break as on the day of Midian. For all the footgear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood, is burnt, and consumed by fire.”   Only the messiah who is our Prince of Peace will give us peace.  This is what Isaiah says, “For there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.”

This promise of the messiah is fulfilled in Christ.  He is as the angels said, “Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Jesus, the messianic king coming from the House of David as the gospel says, He is our messianic King.  He will restore peace in our lands.  “Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end, for the throne of David and for his royal power, which he establishes and makes secure in justice and integrity. From this time onwards and for ever, the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.”

But how will He save us?  Not by might or power!  Not through military might and arms.  Not by force or compulsion!  Not by threat or manipulation! These are the ways of the world.  He comes as a humble King.  He is one with us.  The angel said, And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” He lives in poverty and shares our humanity.  St Paul wrote, “He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.” He “taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions.” He reveals to us the secret of the joy of giving.  He teaches us to forgive by forgiving us in His Father’s name and His own enemies on the Cross.  He reveals to us the love and Mercy of God by His deeds and words and miracles.  In Him we see His Father’s face. He shows us how to love unto death.  He conquered death by dying and gives us Hope for eternal life.  Most of all, He gives us His Holy Spirit as a foretaste of eternal life and to empower us to do what He did.   Because of Jesus, we are reconciled with the Father and with each other.  We see each other as sons and daughters of God.  He has given us back our dignity as freed men and women.  

For this reason, we love everyone.  We share our gifts with others.  Hence, like the psalmist we rejoice,  “O sing a new song to the Lord, sing to the Lord all the earth. O sing to the Lord, bless his name. Proclaim his help day by day, tell among the nations his glory and his wonders among all the peoples. Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad, let the sea and all within it thunder praise, let the land and all it bears rejoice, all the trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord for he comes, he comes to rule the earth. With justice he will rule the world, he will judge the peoples with his truth.”   Indeed, we rejoice because He has delivered us from our sins, and given us, hope, meaning, direction, joy and peace and love and unity.  This is the cause for our celebration tonight.  Let us never forget this, otherwise our celebration will not last and the joy and peace will not last.

Finally, we must now live as He lived, if we were to rejoice not just tonight but always.   But let us not only do it at Christmas but every day in our lives. We celebrate with food, with gifts and reaching out to the poor, the lonely, the abandoned, those in bereavement, those are who sick, so that this joy will increase as we share like Jesus.  We do them not merely out of humanitarian reason but because of God’s love in our hearts and because that is the way to share in God’s love in Christ by doing what He did.  As we have received the love of God in Christ, the greatest gift of Himself in Jesus, let us in turn be gifts to others through the gifts we bring, but most of all, by our presence, love and encouragement.  Let us give joy to those who are sad, hope to those who are hopeless and meaning to those who are in despair, love to those who are unloved.  In this way, Christ is born not only at Christmas but in our hearts because He lives in us.  Whenever there is joy, peace and love in our hearts, then every day is Christmas.  We become Christ and are identified as one of His own.   

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Full text of Pope Francis’s homily at Christmas Mass at St Peter’s

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.

Walking: this verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country toward the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way toward the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.

In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11).

On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’s birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks.

Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.
On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness.

To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen.

Pope Francis kisses a statue of baby Jesus as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

On Earth Day, or Any Day — We Need To Take Another Look at Francis of Assisi

April 20, 2014


“It’s all connected – human life, animal life, plants, water, air, even death and sorrow.”

Franciscan Brother Keith Warner said St. Francis’ ideal is not environmentalism but changing hearts through encounter with God’s creation.

April 16th, 2014
By Christina Gray

Statues of St. Francis surrounded by birds and other creatures represent only one dimension of Franciscan spirituality, Franciscan Brother Keith Warner said during a weekend workshop called “Care for Creation” at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville Apr. 12.
Brother Warner, co-author of a book of the same name, has nothing against the saint’s popularized image as part of a birdbath in the garden or anywhere else. But he said they “fail to grasp the full spirit of St. Francis.”

“Humility is a central virtue of Franciscan spirituality,” he said. Francis did not see himself as better than or above other people, other creatures or even the elements; he saw himself as one with them. “His affinity for the natural world comes from this humble understanding.”

Francis spent a third to half of each year praying in nature and the wilderness, living in hermitages or on mountainsides, said Brother Warner, and he interspersed this with preaching. “The experience of being intimately related to creation helped him grow more fully into the mystery of God,” Brother Warner said. “And that’s what we are desperately in need of today.”


St. Francis of Assisi statue at the San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA

The notion of “brotherhood” with all of God’s creation was expressed by Francis in multiple ways, said Brother Warner, who led the retreat group in a reading of a song the saint wrote in 1224, two years before he died at the age of 44.

The “Canticle of the Creatures,” alternately called the “Canticle of the Sun,” or simply “Canticle of St. Francis,” was the first literary work produced in the Italian language. It playfully praises God for the blessings of, for example, “Sister Moon” and “Brother Wind.”


St. Francis of Assisi

The first time it was sung in its entirety was by Francis and two of his original companions, on Francis’ deathbed, the final verse praising “Sister Death.”

“He’s not using fancy, theological terms, he’s singing a song,” Brother Warner said, adding that the song is a summation of an inclusive worldview that defines Franciscan spirituality.

“In the Franciscan tradition, you can’t get left out,” he said. “It’s all connected – human life, animal life, plants, water, air, even death and sorrow.”

Brother Warner is a resident of San Damiano, a hilltop sanctuary run by the Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Barbara. He is a Santa Clara University professor who teaches coursework designed to link the Catholic imagination with care for the environment.

“I talk to people in the church who ask, ‘Religion and the environment? That is when I sigh,” said Brother Warner, who wrote “Care for Creation” with two other Franciscan scholars, in part, to help Catholic readers see all of creation through pro-life eyes.

“The spiritual disconnect is our failure to recognize that we are co-creatures with all of God’s creation, as Francis did, not just some parts of it,” said Brother Warner.

“Hypocrisy is saying God’s creation is good, but then treating some of it poorly,” Brother Warner said.

Franciscan spirituality causes no tension between loving God and loving all things made by God, according to Brother Warner. who said the idea that God and nature are separated is “a modern, and largely American, idea.”

He said that when Pope John Paul II asked Catholics to “discover their ecological vocations” in his message for World Peace Day in 1990, he was trying to show that there are aspects of the Catholic faith that have a practical application in a modern world.

“Environmentalism” is not what John Paul II, Benedict XVI after him and now, Pope Francis are after, said Brother Warner, as much as a change of heart through encounter.

“Encounter opens the eyes and the heart, he said. “We allow ourselves to be changed.”

Brother Warner told the story about Francis, who “really did love birds,” leaving his companions to run over to a flock and preach at them.

What’s important is not what Francis said to the birds, he said, but that an occasion of conversion happened for him. Something in the birds touched him to realize the connection to God.

“Our fundamental task is not to fix something out there, but to become aware of God’s creations through encounter,” Brother Warner said.

From April 18, 2014 issue of Catholic San Francisco.

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Pope: You cannot proclaim the Gospel if you are a ‘slave to sorrow’

June 2, 2013

The Pope prays after a Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (CNS)

The Pope prays after a Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae (CNS)

It is impossible to proclaim Jesus if you are a “slave” to your sorrows, Pope Francis said at Mass this morning.

According to Vatican Radio, he said: “It’s the Spirit that guides us: He is the author of joy, the Creator of joy. And this joy in the Holy Spirit gives us true Christian freedom. Without joy, we Christians cannot become free, we become slaves to our sorrows. The great Paul VI said that you cannot advance the Gospel with sad, hopeless, discouraged Christians. You cannot. A certain mournful behaviour, no?


Catholic Herald (UK)

Catholic Herald

“Often Christians behave as if they were going to a funeral procession rather than to praise God, no? And this joy comes from praise, Mary’s praise, this praise that Zephaniah speaks of, Simeon and Anna’s praise: this praise of God!”

Addressing the congregation at the Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, he said: “You here at Mass, do you give praise to God or do you only petition God and thank God? Do you praise God? This is something new, new in our new spiritual life. Giving praise to God, coming out of ourselves to give praise; spending a little bit of time giving praise.

“But ‘this Mass is so long!’ If you do not praise God, you will never know the gratuity of spending time praising God, the Mass is long. But if you go with this attitude of joy, of praise to God, that is beautiful! This is what eternity will be: giving praise to God! And that will not be boring: it will be beautiful! This joy makes us free. ”

The Pope concluded by saying that Mary brings the greatest joy, which is Jesus.

He said: “We need to pray to Our Lady, so that bringing Jesus gives us the grace of joy, the joy of freedom. He concluded by what the Church says: ‘Lady, thou who art so great, visit us and give us joy.’”