Posts Tagged ‘St. Augustine’

Afternoon Prayer for Tuesday, September 25, 2018 — St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

September 25, 2018

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.

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Art: St. Augustine and His Mother St. Monica

Augustine’s prayer is particularly powerful when we know his story. Truly, Augustine is the first writer to show a change from a liberal view of sex to an extremely conservative view of sex and show the benefits that it did for him. Even though his book is clearly Catholic propaganda, he shows himself as lost sheep found, a reformed sinner; and that is a powerful message for many people.

Augustine wrote, at the age of 16 that “the frenzy gripped me and I surrendered myself entirely to lust.”

He admits he was “floundering in the broiling sea of … fornication.”

Today, he might be called a sex addict.

The fact that he became celibate and ultimately a Catholic Saint is a truly remarkable accomplishment — and a tribute to the power of his prayers.

See:

The Sex Animal Names Augustine

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/lithum/gallo/jeff2.html

and:

Augustine’s Sex-Life Change: From Profligate to Celibate

https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-15/augustines-sex-life-change-from-profligate-to-celibate.html

Related:

 

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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 28, 2018 — Saint Augustine — Beware of blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel

August 27, 2018

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Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 426

Reading 1  2 THES 2:1-3A, 14-17

We ask you, brothers and sisters,
with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our assembling with him,
not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly,
or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us
to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.
Let no one deceive you in any way.To this end he has also called you through our Gospel
to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm
and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught,
either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement
and good hope through his grace,
encourage your hearts and strengthen them
in every good deed and word.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 96:10, 11-12, 13

R. (13b) The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then shall all the trees of the forest exult.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.
Before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord comes to judge the earth.

AlleluiaHEB 4:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of God is living and effective,
able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 23:23-26

Jesus said:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin,
and have neglected the weightier things of the law:
judgment and mercy and fidelity.
But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.
Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You cleanse the outside of cup and dish,
but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.
Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup,
so that the outside also may be clean.”

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St. Augustine, also called Saint Augustine of Hippo, original Latin name Aurelius Augustinus, (born November 13, 354, Tagaste, Numidia [now Souk Ahras, Algeria]—died August 28, 430, Hippo Regius [now Annaba, Algeria]; feast day August 28), bishop of Hippo from 396 to 430, one of the Latin Fathers of the Church and perhaps the most significant Christian thinker after St. Paul. Augustine’s adaptation of classical thought to Christian teaching created a theological system of great power and lasting influence. His numerous written works, the most important of which are Confessions (c. 400) and The City of God (c. 413–426), shaped the practice of biblical exegesis and helped lay the foundation for much of medieval and modern Christian thought. In Roman Catholicism he is formally recognized as a doctor of the church.
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Augustine is remarkable for what he did and extraordinary for what he wrote. If none of his written works had survived, he would still have been a figure to be reckoned with, but his stature would have been more nearly that of some of his contemporaries. However, more than five million words of his writings survive, virtually all displaying the strength and sharpness of his mind (and some limitations of range and learning) and some possessing the rare power to attract and hold the attention of readers in both his day and ours. His distinctive theological style shaped Latin Christianity in a way surpassed only by Scripture itself. His work continues to hold contemporary relevance, in part because of his membership in a religious group that was dominant in the West in his time and remains so today.

Intellectually, Augustine represents the most influential adaptation of the ancient Platonic tradition with Christian ideas that ever occurred in the Latin Christian world. Augustine received the Platonicpast in a far more limited and diluted way than did many of his Greek-speaking contemporaries, but his writings were so widely read and imitated throughout Latin Christendom that his particular synthesis of Christian, Roman, and Platonic traditions defined the terms for much later tradition and debate. Both modern Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity owe much to Augustine, though in some ways each community has at times been embarrassed to own up to that allegiance in the face of irreconcilable elements in his thought. For example, Augustine has been cited as both a champion of human freedom and an articulate defender of divine predestination, and his views on sexuality were humane in intent but have often been received as oppressive in effect.

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Augustine had always been a dabbler in one form or another of the Christian religion, and the collapse of his career at Milan was associated with an intensification of religiosity. All his writings from that time onward were driven by his allegiance to a particular form of Christianity both orthodox and intellectual. His coreligionists in North Africaaccepted his distinctive stance and style with some difficulty, and Augustine chose to associate himself with the “official” branch of Christianity, approved by emperors and reviled by the most enthusiastic and numerous branches of the African church. Augustine’s literary and intellectual abilities, however, gave him the power to articulate his vision of Christianity in a way that set him apart from his African contemporaries. His unique gift was the ability to write at a high theoretical level for the most-discerning readers and still be able to deliver sermons with fire and fierceness in an idiom that a less-cultured audience could admire.

Made a “presbyter” (roughly, a priest, but with less authority than modern clergy of that title) at Hippoin 391, Augustine became bishop there in 395 or 396 and spent the rest of his life in that office. Hippo was a trading city, without the wealth and culture of Carthage or Rome, and Augustine was never entirely at home there. He would travel to Carthage for several months of the year to pursue ecclesiastical business in an environment more welcoming to his talents than that of his adopted home city.

Augustine’s educational background and cultural milieu trained him for the art of rhetoric: declaring the power of the self through speech that differentiated the speaker from his fellows and swayed the crowd to follow his views. That Augustine’s training and natural talent coincided is best seen in an episode when he was in his early 60s and found himself quelling by force of personality and words an incipient riot while visiting the town of Caesarea Mauretanensis. The style of the rhetorician carried over in his ecclesiastical persona throughout his career. He was never without controversies to fight, usually with others of his own religion. In his years of rustication and early in his time at Hippo, he wrote book after book attacking Manichaeism, a Christian sect he had joined in his late teens and left 10 years later when it became impolitic to remain with them.

For the next 20 years, from the 390s to the 410s, he was preoccupied with the struggle to make his own brand of Christianity prevail over all others in Africa. The native African Christian tradition had fallen afoul of the Christian emperors who succeeded Constantine (reigned 305–337) and was reviled as schismatic; it was branded with the name of Donatism after Donatus, one of its early leaders. Augustine and his chief colleague in the official church, Bishop Aurelius of Carthage, fought a canny and relentless campaign against it with their books, with their recruitment of support among church leaders, and with careful appeal to Roman officialdom. In 411 the reigning emperor sent an official representative to Carthage to settle the quarrel. A public debate held in three sessions during June 1–8 and attended by hundreds of bishops on each side ended with a ruling in favour of the official church. The ensuing legal restrictions on Donatism decided the struggle in favour of Augustine’s party.

Even then, approaching his 60th year, Augustine found—or manufactured—a last great challenge for himself. Taking offense at the implications of the teachings of a traveling society preacher named Pelagius, Augustine gradually worked himself up to a polemical fever over ideas that Pelagius may or may not have espoused. Other churchmen of the time were perplexed and reacted with some caution to Augustine, but he persisted, even reviving the battle against austere monks and dignified bishops through the 420s. At the time of his death, he was at work on a vast and shapeless attack on the last and most urbane of his opponents, the Italian bishop Julian of Eclanum.

Through these years, Augustine had carefully built for himself a reputation as a writer throughout Africa and beyond. His careful cultivation of selected correspondents had made his name known in GaulSpainItaly, and the Middle East, and his books were widely circulated throughout the Mediterranean world. In his last years he compiled a careful catalog of his books, annotating them with bristling defensiveness to deter charges of inconsistency. He had opponents, many of them heated in their attacks on him, but he usually retained their respect by the power and effectiveness of his writing.

His fame notwithstanding, Augustine died a failure. When he was a young man, it was inconceivable that the Pax Romana could fall, but in his last year he found himself and his fellow citizens of Hippo prisoners to a siege laid by a motley army of invaders who had swept into Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. Called the Vandals by contemporaries, the attacking forces comprised a mixed group of “barbarians” and adventurers searching for a home. Hippo fell shortly after Augustine’s death and Carthage not long after. The Vandals, holders to a more fiercely particularist version of the Christian creed than any of those Augustine had lived with in Africa, would rule in Africa for a century, until Roman forces sent from Constantinople invaded again and overthrew their regime. But Augustine’s legacy in his homeland was effectively terminated with his lifetime. A revival of orthodox Christianity in the 6th century under the patronage of Constantinople was brought to an end in the 7th century with the Islamic invasions that permanently removed North Africa from the sphere of Christian influence until the thin Christianization of French colonialism in the 19th century.

Augustine survived in his books. His habit of cataloging them served his surviving collaborators well. Somehow, essentially the whole of Augustine’s literary oeuvre survived and escaped Africa intact. The story was told that his mortal remains went to Sardinia and thence to Pavia (Italy), where a shrine concentrates reverence on what is said to be those remains. Whatever the truth of the story, some organized withdrawal to Sardinia on the part of Augustine’s followers, bearing his body and his books, is not impossible and remains the best surmise.

Read more:

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 27, 2018 — Saint Monica, Love and Protect My Children

August 26, 2018

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Augustine is one of those Olympian Sinners of faith history. His short story goes something like this: He’s living with his slave/pregnant girlfriend while still living under the roof of  his Mom’s house.  He is what today we would consider a lawyer or an advocate. He actually wins the case of a man accused of planning a murder. After the trial his client is set free and completes the murder he had been planning. Augustine shows no remorse but instead he is filled with pride because he won such a difficult trial! In his part time after the day’s drinking and frolicking, he is writing attacks of the followers of  Jesus Christ.

But St. Augustine’s Mom (who we now know at Saint Monica) is instructing him on Jesus and constantly prays that Augustine will “get it.”

So Augustine starts to pray “Oh God, I know I have to clean up my life and follow your way — BUT NOT YET!”

I call “The Not Yet Prayer.”  I prayed it often myself!

JFC

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Saint Monica, also known as Monica of Hippo, is St. Augustine of Hippo’s mother. She was born in 331 A.D. in Tagaste, which is present-day Algeria.

When she was very young, she was married off to the Roman pagan Patricius, who shared his mother’s violent temper. Patricius’ mother lived with the couple and the duo’s temper flares proved to be a constant challenge to young Monica.

While Monica’s prayers and Christian deeds bothered Patricius, he is said to have respected her beliefs.

Three children were born to Monica and Patricius: Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Unfortunately, Monica was unable to baptize her children and when Augustine fell ill, Monica pleaded with Patricius to allow their son to be baptized.

Patricius allowed it, but when Augustine was healthy again, he withrew his permission.

For years Monica prayed for her husband and mother-in-law, until finally, one year before Patricius’ death, she successfully converted them.

As time passed, Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious life, but unfortunately Augustine became lazy and uncouth. This greatly worried Monica, so when Patricius died, she sent the 17-year-old Augustine to Carthage for schooling.

While in Carthage, Augustine became a Manichaean, which was a major religion that saw the world as light and darkness, and when one died, they were removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, which is where life comes from.

After Augustine got his education and returned home, he shared his views with Monica, who drove him from her table. Though it is not recorded how much time passed, Monica had a vision that convinced her to reconcile with her wayward son.

Monica went to a bishop, who told her, “the child of those tears shall never perish.”

Inspired, Monica followed Augustine to Rome, where she learned he had left for Milan. She continued her persual and eventually came upon St. Ambrose, who helped her convert Augustine to Christianity following his seventeen-year resistance.

Augustine later wrote a book called Confessions, in which he wrote of Monica’s habit of bringing “to certain oratories, erected in the memory of the saints, offerings of porridge, bread, water and wine.”

When Monica moved to Milan, a bishop named Ambrose told her wine “might be an occasion of gluttony for those who were already given to drink,” so she stopped preparing wine as offerings for the saints.

Augustine wrote: “In place of a basket filled with fruits of the earth, she had learned to bring to the oratories of the martyrs a heart full of purer petitions, and to give all that she could to the poor – so that the communion of the Lord’s body might be rightly celebrated in those places where, after the example of his passion, the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned.”

After a period of six months, Augustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. The pair were led to believe they should spread the Word of God to Africa, but it the Roman city of Civitavecchia, Monica passed away.

Augustine recorded the words she imparted upon him when she realized death was near. “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.”

She was buried at Ostia, and her body was removed during the 6th century to a hidden crypt in the church of Santa Aurea in Osta, near the tomb of St. Aurea of Ostia.

In 1430, Pope Martin V ordered her relics to be brought to Rome and many miracles were reported to have occurred along the way. Later, Cardinal d’Estouteville built a church to honor St. Augustine called the Basilica di Sant’Agostino, where her relics were placed in a chapel to the left of the high altar.

Her funeral epitaph survived in ancient manuscripts and the stone it was originally written on was discovered in the church of Santa Aurea in 1945.

Douglas Boin translated the tablet’s Latin to read:

“Here the most virtuous mother of a young man set her ashes, a second light to your merits, Augustine.

As a priest, serving the heavenly laws of peace, you taught [or you teach] the people entrusted to you with your character. A glory greater than the praise of your accomplishments crowns you both – Mother of the Virtues, more fortunate because of her offspring.”

Fun Fact
The city of Santa Monica, California is named after Monica, as were the “weeping” springs outside the city.

St. Monica Prayer

St. Monica,
I need your prayers.
You know exactly how I’m feeling because you once felt it yourself.
I’m hurting, hopeless, and in despair.
I desperately want my child to return to Christ in his Church but I can’t do it alone.
I need God’s help.
Please join me in begging the Lord’s powerful grace to flow into my child’s life.
Ask the Lord Jesus to soften his heart, prepare a path for his conversion, and activate the Holy Spirit in his life.
Amen.

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1

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St. Monica at prayer

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Memorial of Saint Monica
Lectionary: 425

Reading 1  2 THES1:1-5, 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters,
as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more,
and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.
Accordingly, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God
regarding your endurance and faith in all your persecutions
and the afflictions you endure.This is evidence of the just judgment of God,
so that you may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God
for which you are suffering.We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 4-5

R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,
but the LORD made the heavens.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Alleluia  JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 23:13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.”Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”
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Reflection By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds
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Jesus gives great importance to the virtue of sincerity.  To be sincere is to live in the truth, and the source of all truth is God.  To be sincere involves living as God would have us do, so that our desires, words, and actions are authentic and all spring from the same source. The visible forms of the faith serve to cultivate and reinforce an interior disposition of belief, conversion, and worship.
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 As Jesus’ passion and death draw near, his teaching becomes more intense.  According to the chronology of St. Matthew, the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a prelude to the dramatic cleaning of the Temple.  There follows a series of parables that emphasize the theme of judgment and repentance.  In the Gospel of today’s Mass (Matthew 23:13-22), Jesus rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy.

As we have seen, Jesus gives great importance to the virtue of sincerity.  To be sincere is to live in the truth, and the source of all truth is God.  To be sincere involves living as God would have us do, so that our desires, words, and actions are authentic and all spring from the same source.

The hypocrisy of some of the scribes and Pharisees stands in stark contrast to this ideal.  Jesus doesn’t criticize these religious leaders simply for being sinners; no one can escape that condition.  Nor does he rebuke them for being unrepentant; he must still have hope for them in that regard.  They are criticized, however, for manipulating the precepts of their religion, and for failing to share the riches of their faith with others.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.  You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter” (Matthew 23:13).

This is the first in a series of seven “woes” in the Gospel of St. Matthew.  In a way, they are the “reverse side of the coin” to the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).  Whereas the Beatitudes proclaim the pattern of blessedness for the Christian, these “woes” reveal the barrenness that is the rotten fruit produced by the rejection of Christ and his Gospel.

Blessedness versus barrenness.  This is the contrast presented by Christ.  If we want to find blessing, grace and peace in our lives, we will strive, with God’s help, to live the virtues described in the beatitudes.  On the other hand, the interior blindness that fuels the “woes” will only lead to corruption, cynicism, and unhappiness.

Particularly offensive to the Lord is the twisting of religious practice into something that resembles superstition.

“You say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (Matthew 23:18-19).

Where did the Pharisees get all of this?  Their approach to religious duties seems to be little more than a series of well-choreographed rituals, far removed from the intentions of the heart.  It is almost as if religion has been reduced to a game of chance.  “To attribute the efficacy of prayers. to their mere external performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is to fall into superstition” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2111).

We recognize, of course, that Jesus directs this warning not only to the Pharisees, but to us as well.  We never want to regard the outward practice of the faith as a kind of “good luck charm” with the power to manipulate circumstances to our benefit.  Rather, the visible forms of the faith serve to cultivate and reinforce an interior disposition of belief, conversion, and worship.

Indeed, in the sacramental life of the Church, outward ritual is transformed by the power of Christ into a living and dynamic communion with God.  The sacraments possess a power all their own, because it is Christ himself who is at work.  When our faith is firmly rooted in the sacraments, it will not only be preserved, but it will grow in vigor and intensity.

Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: http://www.SugarLandCatholic.com.

https://www.catholic.org/homily/yearoffaith/story.php?id=52134

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 AUGUST, 2018, Monday, 21st Week, Ordinary Time

LEGALISM THE CAUSE FOR THE LOSS OF FAITH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 THESSALONIANS 1:1-511-12MATTHEW 23:13-22  ]

In the first reading, we read of St Paul’s warm and encouraging letter to the early Christians in Thessalonica.  St Paul began the letter by affirming them in the progress they had made in Christian life.  “We feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers; quite rightly, because your faith is growing so wonderfully and the love that you have for one another never stops increasing; and among the churches of god we can take special pride in you for your constancy and faith under all the persecutions and troubles you have to bear.”  St Paul first praised them for their growing faith.

Their maturity in faith was seen firstly in the love that they had for each other.  Indeed, the sign of faith is always the expression of love.   St John wrote, “let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  (1 Jn 4:7f)  Jesus in the gospel said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:34f)  He reiterated this when He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last -and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”  (Jn 15:16f)  St Paul, writing to the Galatians, made it clear, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”  (Gal 5:6)

Secondly, their strong faith was manifested in the capacity to remain firm in their allegiance to Christ in spite of the persecutions and oppositions they faced.  Being able to endure and suffer for our faith and beliefs is the hallmark of a tested faith.  It is easy to love Christ in good times.  True love is always seen in the trials of life.  This is particularly true in relationships, especially in marriage.  When things are good, it does not take much sacrifice to love.  It is only when things are trying, then love requires us to die to ourselves and to suffer for the love of other.  St Peter wrote to the Christians, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  (1 Pt 1:6-9)

Unfortunately, many Catholics have gone back to the laws like the early Christians.  This is disastrous for the Catholic Faith.  Truly, many Catholics in their mind think that salvation is by good works and not by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.   They think that salvation is simply doing good, living righteously, earning merits to get to heaven.  That is why many Catholics live in fear of the final judgement, about being punished and sent to hell.  They are over scrupulous of their sins and actions. St Paul reprimanded the Christians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Gal 1:6f)  He made it clear, “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.”  (Gal 2:15f)

Legalism is the strength and also the weakness of the Catholic Church.  Laws are certainly needed in any institution to safeguard justice and charity because not all members are strong enough to love like Christ.  They need structures and guidelines to help them to live out the gospel life.   But an over emphasis on obedience and observance of the laws reduce faith into a moral system, the efficacy of some rituals and an impersonal and cold institution without a soul.  This is how many Catholics feel about the Church.  The institutions of the Church lead to legalism in the way we practice our faith. It is a list of dos and don’ts.  The individual is not taken seriously but all are seen collectively.  We do not treat our people as persons who have their feelings and unique struggles.  All are judged by the laws without exception.  Punishment is meted without taking into consideration the specific circumstances.  The letter of the law is followed but not the spirit.  There is no compassion exercised, sensitivity and sympathy to their pain.

This is precisely the condemnation of Jesus in the gospel with regard the way the Pharisees and the scribes lived out their faith.  He called them “hypocrites!”  Why? Firstly, the meticulous observance of the laws is almost impossible for anyone to truly observe them in fact and in spirit.  Tradition has it that the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 commandments, of which 365 are negative commands and 248 are positive laws.   But if you think this is already too many, the Catholics have 1752 Canon laws for us to observe and obey.  These laws do not include the liturgical laws and laws dealing with governance in specific areas.   In truth, how could anyone truly claim that he or she has observed all the laws or even know what they are!  Hence, the Lord said, “You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”

Secondly, when we fall into legalism, we become self-righteous.  There are many Catholics who are lacking compassion for fellow Catholics who are weak, struggling in their sins and trying to walk the gospel way of life.  The so-called upright Catholics are judgemental of others’ behavior and conduct.  They make themselves the judges of others, how they live their lives and practice their faith.  Often they make presumptuous judgement, slandering people, gossiping and spreading fake news.  Such self-righteous Catholics often break up families, communities and discourage sincere Catholics from coming to Church because of their sins.  Instead of welcoming them, understanding them, affirming and journeying with them, we ostracize them, especially those who have same-sex orientation, are divorced and remarried, past criminals, etc.  Hence, Jesus warns us, “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.”

Thirdly, when we are legalistic, we are manipulative of the laws.  Instead of seeking to be true to the spirit of the laws, we are simply concerned about the external performance.  We find ways to circumvent the laws by giving all kinds of excuses.  This was what the Lord said to the religious leaders regarding the validity of an oath taken by the gold of the Temple or the Temple itself.  He said to them, “You blind men!  For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred?  Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it.  And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.”  We lack sincerity!

Indeed, at the end of the day, it is not the legalistic and ritualistic observance of the laws that will save us.  Rather, it is our faith in God’s love and that we are justified in Christ. In uncertain terms, St Paul declared, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”  (Gal 2:20f)  St Paul also wrote, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”  (Rom 13:8)

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Morning Prayer for Monday, July 30, 2018 — The reward of faith is to see what you believe

July 30, 2018

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“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is not seeing, but believing. Down through the ages, there have always been those who obeyed the heavenly vision, not seeing but believing in God. And their faith was rewarded. So shall it be to you. Good things will happen to you. You cannot see God, but you can see the results of faith in human lives, changing them from defeat to victory. God’s grace is available to all who have faith – not seeing, but believing. With faith, life can be victorious and happy.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may have faith enough to believe without seeing. I pray that I may be content with the results of my faith.

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Morning Prayer for Friday, June 15, 2018 — “I pray that I may develop the feeling of being led by God.”

June 15, 2018

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Meditation For The Day

There is beauty in a God-guided life. There is wonder in the
feeling of being led by God. Try to realize God’s bounty and
goodness more and more. God is planning for you. Wonderful are
His ways – they are beyond your knowledge. But God’s leading
will enter your consciousness more and more and bring you ever
more peace and joy. Your life is being planned and blessed by
God. You may count all material things as losses if they
prevent your winning your way to the consciousness of God’s
guidance.

Prayer For The Day

I pray that I may earn the rewards of God’s power and peace.
I pray that I may develop the feeling of being led by God.

http://www.recoveryreadings.com/dailyrecoveryreadingsJune15.html

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How do people keep their faith in prison?

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SINGULAR-MINDEDNESS IN SEEKING FULLNESS OF LIFE IN RIGHT RELATIONSHIPS

From Bishop William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1KGS 19:911-16MT 5:27-32  ]

The gospel text today might sound rather harsh and exacting. What does Jesus really mean when He said, “If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” and “if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away”?  Does He really expect us to do such a thing as to maim ourselves?

On the contrary, Jesus wants us to have the fullness of life.  What does this fullness of life entail?  Life consists of relationships.  We will find meaning in life only when there is relationship, a relationship that is right and proper both with God and with our neighbours.  Indeed, this is the only goal in life that is worth our sacrifice.  Wealth and status cannot give us life. Only love and authentic relationship can give us life.

It is within this context that we can understand why Jesus spoke against adultery.  He went even further to say that “everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”   In the understanding of Jesus, adultery, which is infidelity in relationship, is the worst sin because it hurts not only the sinner but others as well.  We all know so well that because of adultery, many sins arise.  We have lies, anger, hatred and even violence. We have so many broken families and dysfunctional children today because of infidelity.  Appropriately, adultery is often used in scriptures to portray man’s relationship with God as well.  The truth is that infidelity in human relationship also affects our relationship with God.  After all, love of God is intrinsically tied down to the love of man.

Consequently, since relationship is critical for happiness in life, the demand of Jesus is that we cut away anything that will hinder us from living the full gospel life.   We must do everything within our power to avoid the occasion of sin.  Just as we need to amputate a certain part of the body in order to save a person, all the more, we must be ready to part with anything that can cause us to break our relationship with God, the author of life and love, because we fail to love our fellowmen correctly.  What is the use of having something at the expense of a greater thing?

And the truth is that everything begins from the heart, including evil desires.  The heart is the place not only of the emotions, but the mind, will, thought, and intentions as well.  The heart sums up the being of the human person. But in truth too, the heart desires evil things only because of what the heart sees, both physically and intellectually.  The heart, which is the will, desires an object.

That is why the sin of adultery must first be dealt with in the heart.   But quite often it all begins with the eyes, for the eyes cause us to desire a certain good and the hands cause us to act.  The eyes will send the message to the intellect and the head will tell the heart to desire it.  The heart in turn commands the intellect to tell the body to act.  This is true for lust.  Consequently, even if we do not act, the thought is sufficient to indicate the intention of the heart.  Given the opportunity to act, the action will follow.  This explains why even if one lusts after a woman in the heart, one has already committed adultery in principle.

Yes, we are all called to the apostolate of love.  In demanding that we cut off anything that prevents us from love and life, Jesus is also telling us that life cannot wait.  It requires a radical decision and commitment.  Life cannot be lived half-heartedly.  We cannot postpone living or postpone loving.  It is either a decision to live now or never.  We must make a radical commitment to life.   To delay is to say to ourselves that we do not want to live.  But that would be a contradiction.

Perhaps, love is too difficult for us.  Relationship is always difficult.  Love has to be purified.  Quite often in relationships, we feel like giving up.  At times, we fail.  This was the case of Elijah in the first reading.  He apparently was zealous for the House of Israel, but he was fleeing because the Queen wanted to take his life for slaying her 400 prophets.  On the surface, it seemed that this was the reason why he ran away.  God asked him three times “’What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I am filled with jealous zeal for the Lord of hosts, because the sons of Israel have deserted you, broken down your altars and put your prophets to the sword. I am the only one left and they want to kill me.’”

But the real reason was that he was angry with God for not working wonders as He did earlier to protect him from his enemies.  He had a secret and hidden resentment against God, because he was disappointed with the way God acted. He wanted God to make Himself present in theophany to prove His might and power.  But the Lord refused to make Himself present in the wind, earthquake or fire.  Instead, He came in a gentle breeze. It would appear that Elijah was fleeing because his enemies wanted to kill him, when In truth his real enemy was himself.

We, too, must never be discouraged in our struggles in relationship.  We must not be too harsh towards ourselves, especially in overcoming the sin of lust or in purifying our relationship with our spouse or our friends.   When Jesus asked us to check the motives, He was not simply concerned about the act itself but what goes on in our hearts.  What is even more important is to search our hearts.  Through mistakes that we make, we will learn and find the strength and wisdom to overcome our lack of love for our spouse and partners.  Just as God told Elijah who ran away from his enemies, the Lord is also saying to us, “Go, go back the same way to the wilderness of Damascus.”  In other words, let us never give up fighting the battle to purify our love for our spouse and friends.

Indeed, the high ideals of married life are difficult for the modern generation.  But to those who understand the truth and necessity of the unity and indissolubility of marriage, Jesus will give us the grace and power to follow His way of holiness in their state of life. He does not abandon us even when we forsake him. The Holy Spirit will help us to overcome all things.   What we need to do is to follow Elijah, to spend time in contemplation of His love and His word, so that in the silence of our hearts, God will give us His assurance of love and grace.

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

https://www.catholic.sg/15-june-2018-friday-10th-week-ordinary-time/

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The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder

St. Augustine in the 4th Century basically lamented in his “Confessions” that everything he did was infected by self-advancement.  He would, he confessed, express his selfless love for God or those close to him, but secretly, in his deeper self-examination, he saw his desire for selfish gain.  Every act of giving was suspect.  Perhaps it was his pride or his desire for recognition as a holy man, or the idea that he could impress God with his purity of purpose.  He was, he confessed, trapped within his own ego.  So am I.  So are you.

To be “insane” is to be seriously out of touch with reality.  The insane person has fixed upon a state of private reality so intransigent that change is impossible. After all, why would one fight against reality? To an insane person, it is you, not he or she who fails to understand the world as it is.

Augustine was not insane however for the very reason that he was aware of his spiritual illness and need for healing grace.  He could self-observe, and in a sense, conduct a form of ancient rational cognitive therapy.  He looked at the evidence with objectivity to challenge his subjective convictions.  He then shifted to a mental framework that more closely aligned with the evidence.

That evidence was that he had no sufficient power of himself to be restored to right thinking.  By grace, he began to question his private assessments of the state of his soul in the light of Scripture. What did God say about Augustine, and how attentively was Augustine listening?

Augustine, by God’s grace, was able to look into the twisted state of his own soul.  He wrote of the problem:    “The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.” And he wrote of the solution:  “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Just when I think I am being especially holy, a tinge of my pride or a sweet sense of superiority almost instantly infiltrates my awareness.  Most of the time, I’m oblivious to this ego-contamination, but sometimes,  I privately savor the feeling of my achieved holiness but do not challenge it as evil.  Much more rarely, as just this morning, I am fully conscious that my “holy” thoughts are sick with this incurable ego virus.  My reaction is one of frustration, hopelessness, and sadness that I am in this savage spiritual state.  Is there any way out?

The way out is the Way of God.   The way of holiness is to move past the fascination with the creation [ourselves included] into the splendor of the Creator.  The way out is to seek fervently not only the beauty of truth but the Source of All Truth.  The way out is to be attentive to the presence of God in all His manifestations.  The wonderful nature of God is that He loves us, and draws us to Himself.  This drawing near process is a conversion from illusion towards awareness and healing.  Time is short and precious.   We need to take God’s invitation to sanity seriously and act upon it now.

Holiness and conversion are not instantaneous.  We live in a process of being converted and being made holy.  Each day is a step to be taken towards the outstretched arms of Christ.  But what is critical is to be in a daily relationship.  To be connected is to take life from the Source of Life.  To be disconnected is to die a spiritual death.  “I am the vine; you are the branches.” To connect with the invisible God who speaks without words is such a challenge, but the experience of intimacy is real, convincing, and transforming.  This way of Jesus to “turn things upside down” whether tables in the temple or theological concepts is why he has my attention.  Like the people of his physical time on earth, I’m led to say:  “He’s different. He teaches with authority, not like our religious leaders.”  He is continuously moving us out of the false safety of our rules and into the adventure of real connection with Abba-God. “They were amazed at His teaching.”

This connection is called prayer, and it takes several forms, depending on the mental and emotional posture assumed, whether one primarily of praise and worship, or supplication, or quiet receptivity.  In one sense, it is not a conversation at all, though it may often be.  One important aspect of prayer is being present mindfully with God in everything.  It is at some level of consciousness to be aware that God is to be encountered in every person, place, and event, even those most trivial and ordinary.  It is to be aware that the presence of God renders all things sacred, and that whenever evil enters a relationship or event, the sacred has been defiled by the sacrilegious.  It is to take pleasure in God and sorrow in sin.

Pope John Paul II said this of prayer in his book “The Way to Christ:”

“We have to learn to pray: as it were learning this art ever anew from the lips of the Divine Master himself, like the first disciples: ‘Lord, teach us to pray!’ (Lk 11:1).”[25]

This model is the “Lord’s Prayer,” from the Gospel of Matthew, 6:5-15:

5“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9“This, then, is how you should pray:

“ ‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

10your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

11Give us today our daily bread.

12And forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13And lead us not into temptation,a

but deliver us from the evil one.b ’

14For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

This is not a mechanical prayer to be repeated mindlessly word for word. It is offered as a guideline for how our prayers are to conform to the principles that rule heaven and earth.  The model reminds us that we must humble ourselves before our Creator, and unburden ourselves of the grudges and ill-will that stand between us and God or between us and other imperfect humans.   With this mindset, we are more likely to find intimacy with God, which is the whole purpose of prayer.

Prayer too is like the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Those steps could as rightly be called the 12 steps of Sinners Anonymous, for we addictively ingest sin like addicts ingest drugs. We are no different in our spirits or in our need for a “Higher Power.”  Those steps, reduced to a few words, might be:

I’m helpless to find peace and or a way out of this human misery.  I need you, and I surrender to you, not even knowing who you are or why you care, but I’m desperate, and you’re my last hope.  I can’t do this on my own.  Restore me to sanity and life, and maybe, by your grace, I can be a messenger of hope one day for others.

In closing, we return to the words of Augustine as he came to his senses, and over the course of his life, saw the grace of God leading him to recovery:

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder,” and “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Source:https://the-daily-peanut.com/2018/04/15/ego-contamination/

Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 28, 2017 — “How St. Augustine Found Me”

August 27, 2017

Memorial of Saint Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 425

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Saint Augustine by Antonio Rodríguez

Reading 1  1 THES 1:1-5, 8B-10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers,
unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love
and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ,
before our God and Father,
knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen.
For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
In every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead, Jesus,
who delivers us from the coming wrath.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 149:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6A AND 9B

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to the LORD a new song
of praise in the assembly of the faithful.
Let Israel be glad in their maker,
let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let them praise his name in the festive dance,
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
For the LORD loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the faithful exult in glory;
let them sing for joy upon their couches;
Let the high praises of God be in their throats.
This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia!
R. The Lord takes delight in his people.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 23:13-22

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.
You do not enter yourselves,
nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
You traverse sea and land to make one convert,
and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna
twice as much as yourselves.

“Woe to you, blind guides, who say,
‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’
Blind fools, which is greater, the gold,
or the temple that made the gold sacred?
And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing,
but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’
You blind ones, which is greater, the gift,
or the altar that makes the gift sacred?
One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;
one who swears by the temple swears by it
and by him who dwells in it;
one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God
and by him who is seated on it.”

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Homily By The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
(First published on Monday August 26 2013)
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Where do you stand in your faith?  Is your faith more like that of the scribes and Pharisees or that of the early Christians in Thessalonica?   The answer to this question determines our happiness in this life and hereafter for the warning of Jesus is this, “Alas for you … you hypocrites!  You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”

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What then is wrong with the so called faith of the scribes and Pharisees?  Their faith was merely an intellectual and legalistic faith.   Perhaps, it would not even be right to call it faith!  More correctly, their faith was a religion in so far as one uses religion to fulfill one’s selfish interests.  In the first place, their faith in God was based on merit.  They did not believe in grace.  They believed one can earn his place in the eyes of God.  The corollary of this is that even when they obeyed the laws of God or when they performed good works, it was done more out of selfish interests than out of pure love for God and for others, since such works were done simply to accumulate merits.   For those who were less authentic, good works were not motivated by love but by egoism or at most, by fear of rejection.

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This explains why they sought ways to circumvent the laws by rationalizing them or finding loopholes in the laws so that they could break them without being faulted.  Religion then became like a game of rules.  Observe the rules and you will be saved.  The spirit of the laws is forgotten.

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Conversely, one can observe the laws so strictly without taking into the peculiar circumstances that it becomes ludicrous and even unjust.  This is how civil lawyers try to get their clients out of trouble.  So long as they can circumvent the letter of the law, they are not guilty.  That is why, at times, one wonders how just the laws are as it depends on whether one engages a good legal counsel to fight the case. A good lawyer can often go round the law to get us out of trouble.  So it is not just a matter of whether one is guilty or innocent, but about having someone present our case convincingly before the judge who is obliged to judge based on the facts presented within the limits of the laws.

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Jesus exposed their insincerity in the way they fulfilled the Laws. He cited the ludicrous attempts of the Jews to avoid any obligation to their promises made to God by splitting hairs over when a promise would be considered valid.  When Moses gave them the Laws, it was meant to help them to live a life of love and harmony. If observing the law makes us less loving, then the purpose of the law is defeated.  Laws are not observed for laws’ sake but for the service of love.   Otherwise, such observance of the law is mere hypocrisy.

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If Jesus’ words appeared to be harsh, it was not spoken in anger but in compassion for them, for as religious leaders, not only were they misleading their flock, but they would also miss out on the life of the kingdom.  We must not be misled into thinking that Jesus’ reprimand of the scribes and Pharisees lacked love.  On the contrary, at the end of the same chapter of the gospel we read Jesus lamenting, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Mt 23:37-39)

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For Jesus, everything is done in the name of love and for love.

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Similarly, we have the exemplary and lively faith of the Thessalonians.  These Christians knew little about their faith, for we will read later how they misunderstood the second coming of Christ.  However, they were people docile to the Spirit, open to the Word of God and sincere in living out the gospel life.  St Paul was full of admiration for them when he wrote how he constantly thanked God for how they “have shown (their) faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The faith of the Thessalonians was not simply an intellectual faith, but a faith that acts.  In the first place, St Paul commended them, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.” In other words, they surrendered in obedience to the preaching of the apostles and accepted their words as from God in faith.  This was demonstrated in the way they broke with idolatry, the worship of false gods.  They might not be schooled in theology and scriptures, but in their simplicity, they accepted the teaching of the apostles as the Word of God.

Secondly, this faith in God was demonstrated in right living, as St Paul praised them saying, “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction” and how “When you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   In other words, they became servants of God and of each other in animated charity.   Theirs was not simply faith in God but for this faith to be real and true it must issue in love.  This was what they did.  They put their faith into action by works of charity.

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Thirdly, this faith was a faith that lived in hope, for they were waiting in hope for the coming of Jesus to save them from retribution.  The early Christians were so full of faith that in their simplicity, they thought that the Second Coming was near.  They were willing to abandon everything for the hope that was before them.  Faith, therefore, is the basis of hope.  Without faith, hope would be weak and be reduced to mere wishful thinking.  A firm hope must be rooted in faith and our faith is not in oneself but in God who alone can restore the world and redeem us.  Because of the surety of the hope before them, they could continue to love and give themselves to others even when they had to suffer for Christ.

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What about us?  Is our faith animated by charity and strengthened by hope?  Or do we give up easily and become disillusioned in times of difficulties and trials?  We must evaluate our faith seriously today.  Has my faith in God grown each day?  Do I trust in God more and more in living out my vocation in life?  Is this faith expressed in a growing charity manifested in generosity, kindness and compassion both for the poor, the marginalized and for members of the community?  Is our faith lived beyond this world and do we have a persevering hope in Jesus, especially in those moments when we face crises in our faith or in our struggles to be faithful in carrying our daily cross after Jesus?  Most of all, have we become more sensitive to sin in our lives so that we can grow in holiness and charity?

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As St Paul said, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen.”  Indeed, the key to a real living faith is to know that we are loved by the Lord and chosen by Him.  Only when we have experienced His love can we then in turn be empowered to love and continue to hope in Him, especially when trials come into our lives.   Yes, only this kind of faith can save us.  We can love God more and more when we know that He loves us because faith is the foundation of love and also the basis for the augmentation of love.  When we open ourselves to someone in faith, love will soon develop.  As we love, we learn to trust a person even more.  So faith and love accompanies each other and strengthens each other.  A legalistic faith will only make us self-righteous and unable to love freely from our hearts.  Let us pray that the faith of the Thessalonians will also be ours as we open our lives to Him in faith.

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Written by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom

In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter, but will not be strong enough.” (Luke 13:24)

Part of this process is understanding who we are as human beings — all the good we can do and all the mistakes we can make!

But we don’t stop there. Throughout our lives, Jesus expects us to get better and better. Our journey may be a tough one — but He promises all the support and help he can give, plus the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit” inside of us as we encounter tougher and tougher challenges.

Related:

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From Bishop Robert Barron — “Strive to enter through the narrow gate”

To gain eternal life is to participate to the fullest degree possible in the very life of God. It is to walk the path of love, surrendering to grace and allowing this grace to flow through you to the wider world. Is this an easy task? No. The Gospel of Luke tells reminds us that the gate is narrow precisely because it is in the very shape of Jesus Himself, and entrance through the gate involves conformity to his state of being. The path of love is traveled by taking up one’s cross every day.

http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/the-narrow-gate/5249/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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28 AUGUST, 2017, Monday
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A LIVING COMMUNITY OF FAITH IN THE SPIRIT

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [1 TH 1:1-58-10PS 149:1-69MT 23:13-22 ]

The first reading presents to us a primitive Church that was very much alive in the faith, life-giving and fulfilling.  In contrast, the gospel presents to us a religion that is sterile and not life-giving.   These two illustrations show us what living faith entails and what causes a religion to lose favor with the people. Consequently, we must reflect on the struggles between those who have been institutionalized over a period of time and those who are still in their infancy.   

Firstly, St Paul praised his fellow Christians for breaking away from idolatry “when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God.”   They became aware that there was only one God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   He is whom we are called to place our absolute trust.  Only this God is to be worshipped and served.  In Jesus, they came to know who God is.   In contrast, while the religious leaders during the time of Jesus claimed to love and serve God, they were worshipping themselves.  The real focus was not the worship of God but it was about their glory, status and appearing good before others.   Religion was made use for their own benefits.

Secondly, Paul commended the Thessalonians for observing “the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction.”  They were living out the Christian life of which Paul was a shining example of what it meant to worship the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul was conscious that he was setting himself to be a model of how Christian life should be lived.    They in turn were serious in living the life of the gospel and the life of Christ.  It was not just a nominal faith, like that which many of us subscribe to. This precisely was the case of the religious leaders.  They were finding fault with others who could not observe the laws.  Although they observed the laws meticulously, it was done more out of guilt and pride than out of love.  They knew that the poor could never observe the laws adequately.  Theirs was a religion for the rich and the elite.

Thirdly, their faith was not an abstract faith but with consequences in terms of relationship with others.  Paul said that we “constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Their faith was translated into works of love and charity.  They cared for and loved each other and reached out to those who were in need.  Faith was not a private affair or simply an escape into mystification but manifesting God through their lives of love and service.   But for the religious leaders, faith was simply about observance of the ritual laws.  It was not about their brothers and sisters.  There was no love for those who were sinners.  They were ever ready to condemn those who failed in their weaknesses to observe the laws.   In truth, the religious leaders were selective in choosing those laws that made them superior to the rest.  But they were not primarily concerned with whether what they were doing were really done out of love and compassion for their fellowmen.  

What is our analysis of the faith of the early Christians and that of the Jewish people? In the same way, we can also compare the vibrant and evangelistic fervor of the early Christians with that of our institutionalized churches today.  It is true that even today, new-found Christian evangelical communities tend to be more alive, adaptive and creative.  But those that have been established over the years, particularly, the traditional Churches like the Catholic and the reformed Churches, tend to be much more protective of their traditions. Indeed, this seems to be the sociological development of any community or organization.  The founders and the pioneers of the movements tend to be prophetic, zealous and filled with the spirit.  But over the years, the members of that movement or organization that carries the spirit of the founder would tend to become ritualistic, routine and mechanical.

What is the cause?  It is the absence of the Spirit at work in our lives.   St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, saying, “We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it came to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.”   Indeed, the early Christians felt strongly the presence of God in their lives.  They encountered the love of God in Jesus Christ.  They were deeply grateful for encountering the Good News and to be chosen as Jesus’ adopted brothers and sisters.   And because they believed wholeheartedly the Good News, they in turn became people who acted under the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the early Church, we read of the use of their charisms and the working of miracles that testify to the power of the Spirit of the Risen Lord at work in their lives.

Unfortunately for us today, many of us are born into the faith.  We were brought up in a Catholic ambiance.   We breathe the faith the moment we were born because of our parents’ faith and religious upbringing.   Many of us through habit and custom, inherited the faith and practise them without questioning.   At times we can experience, like our parents, the love and mercy of God.   But if our parents are not faith-filled, then our experience of God is going to be rather shallow and weak.  We will only end up doing all the Catholic practices such as attending mass and abstinence, but there is no real personal relationship with the Lord as there are no family prayers, no sharing of the Word of God, no personal testimony of how God is at work in our lives.   It is reduced to mere observance of the commandments of the Church, going for boring masses and listening to uninspiring homilies that do not speak to our needs.  In such a situation, we lose the zeal and the fire of our forefathers’ faith in Christ.

This is what the Lord is warning those of us who are supposedly to be leaders in faith, whether we are religious or lay.  “You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.”   If we ourselves have not encountered God like the Jewish leaders, how can we ever help people to experience the love and mercy of God?  Instead of leading people closer to God, we lead them further away from Him.  If we have not learnt the meaning of prayer and who God is, how can we ever instruct others to pray rightly.   If we do not have faith in God and the Bible as the Word of God, how can we teach?  The truth is that the blind is leading the blind.

We will be like the religious leaders, using our knowledge of the doctrines and the laws to find loopholes so that we can circumvent from having to observe the laws.  They were not interested in observing the laws but finding ways and means to bypass the laws and feel justified before God and men.  Such people twist and turn the gospel, as many do today, to justify their rationale for subscribing to teachings that are contrary to the bible.  Of course we can always rationalize for all that we want to do.  We can make the bible fit our ways rather than fit our ways to the Word of God.   Unlike the early Christians, we do not take the Word of God as God’s words.  “We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.”  (1 Th 2:13)

Indeed, as Jesus sighed, “You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.”   Instead of helping people to become more Christ-like by converting them to Catholicism, we form them to become bigoted, legalistic, judgmental.  Then there is also the irony of bringing new converts to the faith every year when there are many more who have left the Church without us batting our eyelids, because their faith is weak and they are ill-formed in the faith?

So let us renew our love for the Lord.  This is what the psalmist is inviting us, Sing a new song to the Lord, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let the praise of God be on their lips: this honour is for all his faithful.”   Only in praising God and worshipping Him in faith and love, can we find the strength to live out our faith in hope and confidence.

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

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How St. Augustine came into My Own Life

Troubled in the middle of the night, I went to an  Adoration Chapel to pray. After an our or so, I paced around and noticed a bookshelf. I pulled out “Confessions” by St. Augustine and opened it at random to this page and read:

But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. Which that I might pour forth wholly, in its natural expressions, I rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the business of weeping; so I retired so far that even his presence could not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived something of it; for something I suppose I had spoken, wherein the tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen up. He then remained where we were sitting, most extremely astonished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt Thou be angry for ever? Remember not our former iniquities, for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, “to-morrow, and tomorrow?” Why not now? why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness?

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read.” Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, I shut the volume, and with a calmed countenance made it known to Alypius. And what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus showed me. He asked to see what I had read: I showed him; and he looked even further than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This followed, him that is weak in the faith, receive; which he applied to himself, and disclosed to me. And by this admonition was he strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, and most corresponding to his character, wherein he did always very far differ from me, for the better, without any turbulent delay he joined me. Thence we go in to my mother; we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate in order how it took place; she leaps for joy, and triumpheth, and blesseth Thee, Who are able to do above that which we ask or think; for she perceived that Thou hadst given her more for me, than she was wont to beg by her pitiful and most sorrowful groanings. For thou convertedst me unto Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, nor any hope of this world, standing in that rule of faith, where Thou hadst showed me unto her in a vision, so many years before. And Thou didst convert her mourning into joy, much more plentiful than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer way than she erst required, by having grandchildren of my body.

 

St. Augustine found me and encouraged me to read. Since that encounter I have read and studied many of the great “Christian Classics.”

John Francis Carey

Related:

The Ladder of St. Augustine
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!

All common things, each day’s events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.

The low desire, the base design,
That makes another’s virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;

The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;

All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will;

All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.

We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.

The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.

The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.

Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern — unseen before —
A path to higher destinies,

Nor deem the irrevocable Past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.

Related:
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, July 29, 2017 — “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” — “Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

July 28, 2017

Memorial of Saint Martha
Lectionary: 400/607

Image result for Moses, art

Moses by Joseph Dawley

Reading 1 EX 24:3-8

When Moses came to the people
and related all the words and ordinances of the LORD,
they all answered with one voice,
“We will do everything that the LORD has told us.”
Moses then wrote down all the words of the LORD and,
rising early the next day,
he erected at the foot of the mountain an altar
and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
Then, having sent certain young men of the children of Israel
to offer burnt offerings and sacrifice young bulls
as peace offerings to the LORD,
Moses took half of the blood and put it in large bowls;
the other half he splashed on the altar.
Taking the book of the covenant, he read it aloud to the people,
who answered, “All that the LORD has said, we will heed and do.”
Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying,
“This is the blood of the covenant
that the LORD has made with you
in accordance with all these words of his.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 50:1B-2, 5-6, 14-15

R. (14a) Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,
from the rising of the sun to its setting.
From Zion, perfect in beauty,
God shines forth.
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Gather my faithful ones before me,
those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
And the heavens proclaim his justice;
for God himself is the judge.
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.
“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice
and fulfill your vows to the Most High;
Then call upon me in time of distress;
I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.”
R. Offer to God a sacrifice of praise.

Alleluia JN 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image result for Jesus and Martha, art

Jesus with Martha and Mary

Gospel  JN 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Or LK 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

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Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

For Saturday, July 29, 2017

St Martha

THE SPRING AND THE STREAM

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 1 JN 4:7-16LK 10:38-42]

The story of Mary and Martha has often been portrayed as a choice between contemplation and action. Mary seems to have chosen the way of contemplation whereas Martha chose the way of action.  But in truth, we know that contemplation and action are not mutually exclusive.  On the contrary, they are in fact complementary.  Indeed, for most of us today, we are called to be contemplatives in action.

That is to say, we are called to be first and foremost contemplatives so that we might be authentic activists for the Lord.  The truth is that the needs of the world cannot be addressed by us unless we are transformed by the Lord first.  For this reason, Mary spent time with the Lord at His feet, listening to Him.  It was not that Mary was unconcerned with the need to practise hospitality.  On the contrary, Mary gave Jesus the highest degree of hospitality by giving Him her whole attention.  After all, what is the meaning of hospitality if not to make a person feel at home and welcomed.  And this, Mary gave to Jesus just by listening to Him.  Indeed, to spend time with another person is to accord that person the highest level of hospitality that can be given.

This was not the case for Martha.  She did not know Jesus as well as Mary did.  She thought that the best way to attend to Jesus was to attend to His needs rather than to attend to Him.  And because she did not have an intimate relationship with Jesus, she became anxious, upset and competitive.  Her complaints to Jesus about Mary were signs of insecurity in her.  She was actually jealous of Mary that she seemed to enjoy a closer relationship with Jesus than her.  Hence, she wanted Jesus to know that she was more caring than Mary.  Not only that, she condemned Mary for not giving hospitality the way she did.  Inevitably, a person who lacks a relationship with another will try to substitute it with things and actions.  Martha as an activist, was insecure and restless because her works were not founded in a deep relationship with Jesus.  Instead of spending time with the Lord, she wanted to impress Jesus by doing things for Him rather than allowing Jesus to impress her.

Yes, between action and contemplation, the latter must come first.  Thomas Merton in his book “contemplatives in action” illustrates this beautifully when he wrote of the “spring and the stream.”  According to him, unless the waters of the spring are living and flow outwards, it remains but a stagnant pool.  If the stream is disconnected with the spring which is its source, then the stream would dry up.

Contemplation then, is the spring of living water, and the stream that flows out to others is the action that we perform. If action does not flow from an interior source in prayer, it becomes barren, competitive, selfish and anxious.  However if prayer does not flow into action, it is cut off from life.  That is why in the case of Mary, she was unmoved by what Martha said.  She did not retaliate or react.  She knew what was really important then, and she continued to be at the Lord’s feet.

Let us learn from Mary to be more courageous in spending time with the Lord.  It may seem to be a real waste of precious time which can be used for doing more things for the Lord.  Yet, what truly pleases God is not what we do but who we are.  And who we are as God meant us to be, can happen only when we open our hearts fully to Him so that He can transform us from within through the power of His love.  And when transformed, then the love of Jesus will flow out from us to others, doing what our Lord did for others.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/

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Commentary on Luke 10:38-42 From Living Space

Today we find Jesus in the home of the sisters, Mary and Martha. We know that they have a brother named Lazarus. We meet the sisters again, showing the same characteristics as in this story, in John’s account of the raising from death of their brother (John 11:1-44). They lived in Bethany, a village about 3-4 km from Jerusalem and it seems that Jesus was a familiar visitor to the house for at the time of Lazarus’ illness Jesus is told: “Your friendLazarus is sick.”

The story of Martha and Mary is, in a way, a contrast to the previous story about the Good Samaritan. It restores a balance in our following of Christ. The story about being a neighbour could lead us to think that only if we aredoing things are we loving God.

Martha was a doer to the point of being a fusspot. Martha, we are told, was “burdened with much serving”. Serving is something that Jesus himself did constantly and he urged his followers to do the same. But it should not be a burden. And, after Martha had complained about her sister, Jesus told her that she was “anxious and worried about many things”. A true servant does not experience anxiety and worry. It signifies a lack of peace.

Because Mary seemed to be doing nothing, Martha saw her as idling and even selfish. Martha must have been somewhat surprised when Jesus said that Mary had “chosen the better part” which would “not be taken from her”.

What was that better part? Was Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing nothing? No. We are told that she was “listening to him speak”. Listening to his message is something Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd they need to be doing all the time. And we have mentioned before that listening involves understanding, accepting and assimilating that message so that it becomes part of our very selves

If we do not spend time listening to him, how can we know that our activity is properly directed? It is easy for us Christians to be very busy but are we busy about the right things?

To answer that question we have to stop to listen, to discern and to pray. And, ultimately, the highest form of activity in our lives is contemplation, being in conscious contact with God and his Word. If I find myself saying that I do not have time to give some time to prayer or contemplation each day, then there is a serious imbalance in my priorities and in my understanding of what it means to love and serve my God.

This story blends nicely with the parable of the Good Samaritan which went before it. Taken together they express what should be the essence of Christian living – action for others that is guided by what we learn in contemplation. This was the pattern of Jesus’ own life – he spent long hours bringing healing to people’s lives (being a neighbour) but also retired to quiet places to be alone in communion with his Father. The same pattern must be ours too. We call it being “contemplatives in action”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2273g/

 

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JULY 2016, Friday, St Martha
PRAYER AND INTIMACY WITH THE LORD GIVES JOY TO MINISTRY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1JN4, 7-16; LK 10:38-42 (Alt JN 11:19-27)  ]We tend to pit Mary against Martha as if one is better than the other.  This is because of what Jesus said about Mary, that she “has chosen the better part” and “it is not to be taken from her.”  In truth, we have to take the whole episode in perspective.  The gospel text is not teaching us that it is a greater thing to be a contemplative than an activist.  There can be no real opposition between these two.  Both are necessary in Christian life and are meant for the service of the Church and the mission of Christ.  Rather, the issue lies in the question of priority.

The mistake of Martha is not because she was active in serving Jesus.  Practising hospitality is a manifestation of love and concern.  Indeed, in the Church, we need people who are committed to service.  Giving ourselves to the service of the Church and the Christian community is an expression of our love for God.  However, this is not always the case.  Even though one might apparently be very much engaged in the service of God, we cannot always be sure or claim that it is a manifestation of our love for God.

So what is the sign that although we are doing the work of God, we are no longer working for God but for other less noble reasons?  When we become restless and agitated!  Restlessness and anxiety are signs that we are more concerned with our ego, our desire to please and earn the recognition and appreciation of our fellowmen than the desire to serve God.  In other words, we are seeking attention and self-esteem.  This was the case of Martha.  Jesus gently chided her not because it was wrong that she was busy preparing and making Him comfortable.  Nay, it was because she “was distracted with all the serving.”  She no longer experienced the joy of service.  That she subtly began to seek for Jesus’ attention and appreciation was demonstrated in her cry to the Lord saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.”

Indeed, when we begin to fret and worry, we are no longer serving the Lord but we have become more anxious about our achievements.  Our focus is no longer on the Lord nor even the people we serve but on ourselves, our performance and the impression we make on others.  As a result, we become irritable, insecure, jealous and restless.  For Martha, her fear of rejection even led her to complain about Mary in order to boost her status before the Lord.  In complaining about Mary, Martha was implying to Jesus that she was a better person than Mary.  When a person becomes fearful and insecure, he or she would even belittle others in order to boost his or her ego.  Such service that results from self love of course could not bring Martha joy.  She became a slave to her pride and fears.

We, too, often fall into such situations as well.  As priests, we are often worried about what others think of us when we preach or when we assume an office.  We are worried about the projects that we have started.  We become ambitious and tend to compare ourselves with others.  When we feel that others are doing better than us, we then become jealous and envious.  This is true for people involved in so-called works of humanitarianism.  Apparently, they are serving the world by their voluntary service.  Yet, quite often, such involvement in community service is rendered in a condescending manner.   It is given in such a way that the giver seems to be greater than the recipient.  We serve or give out of pity rather than empathy and compassion.

What is the root of the problem?  It is because our ministry is not grounded in love.  We are not capable of love.  This is a reality we must first come to realize.  We are not able to love as we should.  Our love is conditional and not selfless even if we want to love selflessly.  Within this context, 1Jn4:7 provides the key to authentic service.  St John wrote, “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”

Consequently, the only way to heal us of our brokenness and insecurity and negative image of self is by giving ourselves to Jesus who alone can heal us with his unconditional love. Indeed, John said, “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him: this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”

Truly, unless we have been loved by God, we cannot love unconditionally.  If not, we become irritable.  Only when we experience His love, can we share in His Spirit of love as well.  God’s love is prior to our love for others.  This is what St John is reminding us.  “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  He added, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

But how can we experience God’s love if not in prayer?  Hence, primacy must be given to prayer and a deep relationship with Jesus, which brings love.  Indeed, the gospel tells us that Jesus comes to serve and not to be served.  Before we can serve others, we must allow Jesus to serve us first.  That is what Jesus says in the parable about the faithful servant, for when the master returns, he will put on the apron to serve them.  This explains why “It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to the teaching of Jesus.  Being loved by Jesus is primary.  Service and ministry flows from the love of God in us.  Sharing in His Spirit, we are empowered to love in return. Work and ministry is only the expression of love.

What should give us joy is not so much our ministry.  Rather it is our union with God and because of our union with Him, we want to express this union by loving our fellowmen.  So it is immaterial how we serve so long as whatever we do is the sharing of God’s love.

Indeed St Augustine asks what will happen when we reach the end of our pilgrimage when there is no longer any work.  As we grow older, whether we are priests or grandparents, a time will come when we can no longer work.  Does it mean that our lives will be spent in misery because we cannot serve anymore?  Surely not!  When the time comes we will simply spend the rest of our lives in solitude contemplating on the wonders of God’s love for us and His presence.  Knowing that God is with us and that He is our all will give us more joy than all worldly enjoyments.  So, like those who retire gracefully and are no longer mobile, our joy then would be to busk in the presence of God and His love.

Today, we take courage and inspiration from St John’s gospel that God is patient with us.  He allows us to grow in faith as He did for Martha.  From an impatient person, she became a woman of faith.  Although it is true that when we meet her later in St John’s gospel, she is still the active person, for she was the one who ran out to meet Jesus, but instead of complaining that Jesus was late, she placed her faith in Jesus saying, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.”  Not only did she confess her faith in the resurrection but she also confessed her faith in Christ, saying, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into this world.”  Indeed, she learnt to surrender herself to Jesus.  Instead of wanting things her way, she surrendered to the Lord.  By professing her faith in the resurrection in Christ, she is saying in love, life does not come to an end.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Bishop Goh’s reflection reminded me of this little gem of a book:
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Image may contain: one or more people and text
“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by J.P. Caussade
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Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, August 27, 2016 — “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise” — The Patron Saint of Alcoholics and Married Women — Humility may be the most important virtue

August 26, 2016

Memorial of Saint Monica
Lectionary: 430

Saint Monica, By Artist Karen DAnselmi.

Saint Monica, Mother of St. Augustine, Patron Saint of married women, alcoholics, difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse

Reading 1 1 COR 1:26-31

Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters.
Not many of you were wise by human standards,
not many were powerful,
not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise,
and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
and God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God.
It is due to him that you are in Christ Jesus,
who became for us wisdom from God,
as well as righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,
so that, as it is written,
Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Gospel  JN 13:34

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 25:14-30

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“A man going on a journey
called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.
To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one–
to each according to his ability.
Then he went away.
Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them,
and made another five.
Likewise, the one who received two made another two.
But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground
and buried his master’s money.
After a long time
the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them.
The one who had received five talents
came forward bringing the additional five.
He said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents.
See, I have made five more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received two talents also came forward and said,
‘Master, you gave me two talents.
See, I have made two more.’
His master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.
Since you were faithful in small matters,
I will give you great responsibilities.
Come, share your master’s joy.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said,
‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person,
harvesting where you did not plant
and gathering where you did not scatter;
so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground.
Here it is back.’
His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!
So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant
and gather where I did not scatter?
Should you not then have put my money in the bank
so that I could have got it back with interest on my return?
Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

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Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 AUGUST 2016, Saturday, 21st Week of Ordinary Time
REMEMBERING OUR HUMBLE BACKGROUND AS THE ANTIDOTE TO ARROGANCE AND INGRATITUDE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1COR 1:26-31; MT 25:14-30]

How often have we come across people who are successful, accomplished, rich, powerful, influential and famous, but have also become proud, arrogant, pretentious, snobbish, condescending, demanding and intolerant?  What is worse is that many of them actually came from humble beginnings, financially and socially.  We often wonder how these people, who have gone through a life of poverty and little social standing, could now act without compassion, understanding and respect for those who are marginalized in society, or who do not enjoy the same status in life as them.  Given what they had gone through, one would expect that they would be better placed to feel with and for such people.

What is the reason for their behaviour? They have forgotten their humble background.  Even for those who enjoyed an elite upbringing, they have failed to realize that what they now have came from their forefathers who worked hard to accumulate wealth and built up their family wealth. They, too, were once jobless and lived in poverty, despised by the rich and the powerful.  Indeed, it is when we forget our humble beginnings, whether it be in terms of our family background, education or career, that we become haughty and self-conceited.

Today, St Paul reminded his fellow Christians and all of us as well, the importance of remembering our nothingness and how, through the grace of God, we have become what we are today.  He wrote to the wealthy and intellectually snobbish and morally corrupt Corinthians, “Take yourselves, brothers, at the time when you were called: how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families? No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame the strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.”  Indeed, if they had come to find the true wisdom and riches in Christ who made everything else pale and insignificant to Him, it is by God’s graciousness and mercy.

St Paul could vouch for this himself, for although he came from a noble and influential family, well-educated as a rabbi and a strict orthodox Jew, he realized that all he possessed was “rubbish” compared to his encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ.  It was out of this humble experience of encountering Jesus along the road to Damascus that changed his whole outlook in life and what true religion is all about.   Having experienced the unconditional love of Christ and enlightened on the depth of God’s love and His unfathomable divine plan for humanity, he knew that this revelation was given to him not only for himself, but in order that he might reveal the mystery of Christ to all of humanity.

In the gospel, this theme of gratitude and the corollary response of commitment prevail.  The lazy servant in the gospel kept the talent that his master entrusted to him, not so much out of fear as out of sheer ingratitude.  After all, his words belied his line of defense when he said, “Sir, I have heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.”   If he was aware of how much confidence and love the master had for him in entrusting him with the talent, which is worth about one million US dollars in today’s terms, then surely he would have been so grateful and sought to increase that amount through investment, even if it was done conservatively. But he allowed it to stay idle, as if he had not even received it, and almost forgot all about it.

In contrast, the other servants, including the master himself, were aware of the blessings they received from God.  The master himself reiterated this fact when he said, “I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered.”  It is true that he worked hard to grow his wealth, but in the first place, it had been given freely by God.  So in gratitude for God’s blessings, he worked hard to make it grow.  He was cooperative with the grace of God.  He did not take what was given to him for granted, but developed further what he had been bestowed with.  This was true for the rest of the servants who had invested the money as well.

What about us?  Are we grateful for the talents we have received?  Have we made use of them for the service of God and humanity?   Or have we forgotten what we have received freely from God through our parents, relatives, and friends and from the Christian community?  Is it not true that some of us have learnt certain skills, like music or computer, or some trades but fail to use them for the good of humanity and the Christian community?  But even if we have, does rendering our services make us proud, arrogant, demanding, dictatorial and boastful of what we have been given in the first place?  Has our success in business, in education or in our professions made us consider ourselves better than others?

If we do, St Paul reminds us thus, “The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom. As scripture says: if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.”  Indeed, let us learn from the psalmist and be grateful to God for all that we are today.   Like the psalmist, let us sing out our praises, “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. Blessed the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he has chosen for his own inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down he sees all mankind. But see, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.”

Truly, let us keep ourselves humble before the Lord and His people.  The truly great person is one who is so successful, popular and accomplished in the eyes of the world and yet stays humble, unpretentious, without any airs in his dealings and relationship with others, rich or poor, influential or ordinary, small or great.   He is truly the great man because of his ordinariness and modesty.

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

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

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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Homily From The Abbot in The Desert
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It is clear that a husband and wife can be great and wonderful gifts to one another.

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But it is not automatic! What a gift the worthy wife!

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What a gift the man who entrusts his heart to his wife! We all know that it does not always work that way. When it does, we can see the Sacrament of Matrimony at work in a way that is convincing. The second reading, from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, is also clear that the end of the world, or our personal death as well, will come when we are not expecting it. We need to be prepared at all times to meet the Lord.

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We may think that we have years left, but God can come at any time, either to end the whole world or to take us to His Kingdom.

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This is a message reflected throughout all of Scripture: Be ready now! Be alert! Be prepared!

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The Gospel, from Saint Matthew, repeats both of these themes as it speaks about how to use the talents given to us. We can think of human talents, but the Gospel is really about how to use the gifts of faith given to us.

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Whatever we are given in this life, we need to use for God’s glory and for others. Perhaps at times we want to shrug off responsibility and let others take care of things.

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The Gospel keeps telling us: we are ourselves Christ present in the world. We are the hands and the love of God.

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We must live our faith or it is no faith. If we look at today’s world, we can well believe that the end is here. Yet this is so in every age. There is never a time when the world is completely obedient to the Lord and to the love the Father has for us in the Holy Spirit. There is never a time when everyone is seeking the face of the Lord.

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This cannot surprise us.

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On the other hand, in every age, God’s love and God’s word are present. We are being called to respond to that love and that word. Especially those of us who have professed faith in Jesus Christ must be willing to take up the Cross each day and to follow Him, even when it may mean suffering. Perhaps we do not do world-shaking actions!

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That should not surprise us. Yet a small act of love to another person changes the world. The smallest act of faith transforms the whole universe. We don’t have to think huge.

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We are invited to take even the smallest steps in the direction of this God who loves us. He Himself can transform that littleness. All glory to Him forever.

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First published here on Peace and Freedom on November 16, 21014
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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom:
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Maybe we all know a saint like Saint Monica!

She prayed and prayed for both her husband and her son. Both might have driven a lesser woman crazy — but Monica. She turned to God and saved them both!

St. Augustine “started wrong but finished strong” like Mary Magdalene and others. He’s one of our favorite saints because he invented “The Not Yet Prayer.”

Augustine is one of those Olympian Sinners of faith history. After all, he was a lawyer.

His short story goes something like this: He’s living with his slave/pregnant girlfriend while still living under the roof of  his Mom’s house.  He is what today we would consider a lawyer or an advocate. He actually wins the case of a man accused of planning a murder. After the trial his client is set free and completes the murder he had been planning. Augustine shows no remorse but instead he is filled with pride because he won such a difficult trial! In his part time after the day’s drinking and frolicking, he is writing attacks of the followers of  Jesus Christ.

But St. Augustine’s Mom (Saint Monica) is instructing him on Jesus and constantly prays that Augustine will “get it.”

So Augustine starts to pray “Oh God, I know I have to clean up my life and follow your way — BUT NOT YET!”

I call “The Not Yet Prayer.”  I prayed it often myself!

Saul of Tarsus (later Paul) also “started wrong but finished strong.”  When he was knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus, he saw a bright light and was never the same.

There a few others examples of lives with hardship that became a transformational event, or period, in life.
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Bill Wilson, a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, had a transformational experience much like that of Paul on the road to Damascus. Like Paul before him, Wilson told others that the room filled with light and “the scales fell from my eyes.” Those are the same words Paul chose to describe his experience!
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I’ll be you know dozens if not hundreds of people who can say their hardships caused them a new awareness of God, a kind of re-awakening or conversion….
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What doesn’t kill us truly does make us stronger!
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Related:
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On Our Use of Our Talents
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Once during my writing career I became so depressed that I told my editor I was quitting.  After a brief pause, she looked over her glasses at me and said, “Let’s think about this. This could be a God given talent you have….”
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Leave it to the learned editor not to allow the writer to take any credit.
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But the message was clear and correct: many of our abilities are God given gifts and talents that we have a responsibility to develop and refine and mature.
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A recovering drug addict told me one time he’d never stop thanking God for his sobriety — and he would continue until the end of his life to use that gift to “God’s good purposes.”
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How we view our talents says a lot about who we are. It’s in the Good Book!
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JFC
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Caravaggio’s Conversion on the Way to Damascus — Saul says The Scales fell from my eyes — 1600
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St. Monica
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From Catholic Online
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St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in North Africa, who was much older than she, and although generous, was also violent tempered. His mother Lived with them and was equally difficult, which proved a constant challenge to St. Monica. She had three children; Augustine, Navigius, and Perpetua. Through her patience and prayers, she was able to convert her husband and his mother to the Catholic faith in 370. He died a year later. Perpetua and Navigius entered the religious Life.St. Augustine was much more difficult, as she had to pray for him for 17 years, begging the prayers of priests who, for a while, tried to avoid her because of her persistence at this seemingly hopeless endeavor. One priest did console her by saying, “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” This thought, coupled with a vision that she had received strengthened her. St. Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose in 387. St. Monica died later that same year, on the way back toAfrica from Rome in the Italian town of Ostia.
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The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home.
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Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.
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Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted.
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When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric.
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Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below).
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Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been inTagaste.She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.”
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She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his Confessions.

Source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1120.

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 1, 2016 — “Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee.” — “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be given as well.”

July 31, 2016

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 407

Reading 1 JER 28:1-17

In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah,
in the fifth month of the fourth year,
the prophet Hananiah, son of Azzur, from Gibeon,
said to me in the house of the LORD
in the presence of the priests and all the people:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.
Within two years I will restore to this place
all the vessels of the temple of the LORD which Nebuchadnezzar,
king of Babylon, took away from this place to Babylon.
And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah,
son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah,
and all the exiles of Judah who went to Babylon,’ says the LORD,
‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’”The prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah
in the presence of the priests and all the people assembled
in the house of the LORD, and said:
Amen! thus may the LORD do!
May he fulfill the things you have prophesied
by bringing the vessels of the house of the LORD
and all the exiles back from Babylon to this place!
But now, listen to what I am about to state in your hearing
and the hearing of all the people.
From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied
war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms.
But the prophet who prophesies peace
is recognized as truly sent by the LORD
only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled.Thereupon the prophet Hananiah took the yoke
from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it,
and said in the presence of all the people:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Even so, within two years
I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
from off the neck of all the nations.’”
At that, the prophet Jeremiah went away.Some time after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke
from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah,
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:
Go tell Hananiah this:
Thus says the LORD:
By breaking a wooden yoke, you forge an iron yoke!
For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
A yoke of iron I will place on the necks
of all these nations serving Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
and they shall serve him; even the beasts of the field I give him.To the prophet Hananiah the prophet Jeremiah said:
Hear this, Hananiah!
The LORD has not sent you,
and you have raised false confidence in this people.
For this, says the LORD, I will dispatch you from the face of the earth;
this very year you shall die,
because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.
That same year, in the seventh month, Hananiah the prophet died.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102

R. (68b) Lord, teach me your statutes.
Remove from me the way of falsehood,
and favor me with your law.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Take not the word of truth from my mouth,
for in your ordinances is my hope.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let those turn to me who fear you
and acknowledge your decrees.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Let my heart be perfect in your statutes,
that I be not put to shame.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
Sinners wait to destroy me,
but I pay heed to your decrees.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.
From your ordinances I turn not away,
for you have instructed me.
R. Lord, teach me your statutes.

Alleluia MT 4:4

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.

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Homily on Jeremiah 28: 1-17 From Family Times
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Hananiah was one of the false prophets who confronted Jeremiah (vv. 1-4). Hananiah’s home, Gibeon, was in Benjamin, about 6 miles northwest of Jerusalem. The Gibeonites deceived Joshua into making  a treaty with them (Josh. 9:1-15). It was at Gibeon that Joab killed Amasa (2 Sam. 20:8-10). Hananiah promised that the rebellion would be followed by restoration (vv. 5-11). Hananiah became the recipient of God’s judgment. He even resorted to violence and destroyed the wooden yoke which Jeremiah was wearing by divine directive (v. 10). He continued his deception of claiming to be God’s prophet (v. 11). Jeremiah spoke the truth but it was unpopular. Hananiah spoke lies, but his deceitful words bought false hope and comfort to the people.

God’s message used Hananiah’s actions to show the harshness of the coming judgment. Hananiah had broken a wooden yoke, but God would replace it with a yoke of iron that could not be broken (vv. 12-14). After answering Hananiah’s predictions Jeremiah attacked Hananiah’s credentials as a prophet (vv. 15-17). God had not sent Hananiah as His spokesman, but through his eloquent speech he had persuaded the nation of Judah to trust in lies. Rebellion against God’s servant and messenger is also rebellion against God, and is a capital offense (vv. 16, 17). Even greater is the punishment for one who, in addition to rebelling personally, teaches rebellion to others (v. 16).

http://www.family-times.net/commentary/speak-the-truth-even-when-it-is-unpopular/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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ONLY THE BREAD OF LIFE CAN SATISFY US
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Part of The Sermon on August 3, 2015

We can see that people who have no spiritual life and who have no desire for the deeper things of life will always live on the peripheral level, pursuing mundane things which do not give them real and lasting satisfaction.  Inevitably, they will always remain dissatisfied.  But when a person has been touched by the love of God; or when he comes to understand the deeper realities of life as he comes to know God, then he would realize that all that he has in life are insignificant, compared to the greater joy he has found in being with God and his fellow human beings.  Why is that so?  As scripture says “Man does not live by bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” Because man is a spiritual being, he constantly searches to be united with His Creator. St Augustine understood this when he exclaimed in revelation “Our hearts are restless till they rest in thee.” When we have found true joy and love in the Lord, there is very little else that we need.

Consequently, if we want lasting fulfillment, we should “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be given as well.” How then, do we seek God and His Kingdom? It is by getting to know Jesus, the Bread of Life come down from Heaven. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; No one can come to the Father except through me.” We have thus to be nourished by the Lord in prayer, the Word and the Eucharist. We are told that when the people heard that Jesus had left with his disciples in the boat, “leaving the towns, they went after him on foot.” Are we hungry for God? Do we make time in the hustle and bustle of our lives to be nourished by the Lord? Are spiritual retreats or holidays more a priority for us? More often than not, it is only when we are in crisis that we turn to the Lord, even blaming Him as the Israelites did.

Hence, unless we have received Jesus as the Bread of Life, the manna from Heaven, the Word of God, we can never be contented in life and our cravings will never cease.  But once we have the Life of God in us, everything else will be accepted gratefully; and even if we do not have them, we will not really miss them nor desire them. So today, let us not be afraid to bring our meager desire and efforts at spiritual growth to the Lord. “Bring them here to me” He said. “Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, raised His eyes to heaven and said the blessing. They all ate as much as they wanted.” Let us therefore take the first step to the Lord, and surely in His infinite mercy and love, He will not only satisfy our needs but will multiply the blessings abundantly, so that they will be shared joyfully with others.

Commentary on Matthew 14:13-21 From Living Space

The announcement of John the Baptist’s death is followed immediately in Matthew by the feeding of the 5,000 in the desert.

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Matthew says that Jesus, on hearing of his cousin’s tragic death, withdrew by boat to a desert place by himself. He clearly wanted time to reflect. He knew that, if things continued as they were, he too could be facing trouble.

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However, the crowds knew where he had gone and followed along the shore on foot. “When he disembarked and saw the vast throng, his heart was moved with compassion, and he cured their sick.” His own troubles were set aside as he saw the greater need of the people. We have here, of course, an image of our God, filled with compassion for all of us and anxious to bring us healing and wholeness.

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As evening comes down, the disciples suggest that the people be sent to neighbouring villages for food. It is the first mention of the disciples’ presence. In Mark’s version of this story, the disciples had accompanied Jesus in the boat at his invitation, so that they could all have a period of quiet away from the crowds. Jesus’ response is simple and to the point: “You give them food to eat.” They reply: “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish. What good is that?”

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This, of course, is a sign of the future. It will be the responsibility of Jesus’ followers to give the people the nourishment they need for their lives. At times, their resources will seem very inadequate but time will show that wonders can be done with very little. Just look at what Mother Teresa achieved with nothing of her own.

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The people are then ordered to sit down on the grass. Jesus takes the loaves and fish, looks up to heaven in the direction of his Father, blesses the food, breaks it, gives it to the disciples who in turn distribute it among the people. The whole action clearly prefigures the Eucharist and leads up to it.

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It is not explained how it all happened but five thousand men not counting women and children had their fill. Matthew alone notes the presence of women and children. As Jews did not permit women and children to eat together with men in public, they would have been in a place by themselves.

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And what was left over filled 12 baskets – a perfect number symbolising abundance and also the number of the apostles.

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There are two clear lessons. God takes care of his people. We can read the feeding in two ways. On the one hand, we can simply take it as a miraculous event, pointing to the divine origins of Jesus. On the other hand, there is another possibility with its own meaning. Once the disciples began to share the little food they had with those around, it triggered a similar movement among the crowd, many of whom had actually brought some food with them. When everyone shared, everyone had enough. A picture of the kind of society the Church should stand for.

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Some people might say that this is explaining away the miracle but it also makes an important point. The second lesson is that it was the disciples and not Jesus who distributed the bread and fish. And so it must be in our own time. If the followers of Jesus do not share with others what they have received from him, the work of Jesus and the spreading of the Gospel will not happen.

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Lastly, there are clear Eucharistic elements in the story. Especially the ritualistic way in which Jesus prayed, blessed, broke and distributed the bread. The breaking of the bread (a name for the Mass) is very important because it indicates sharing and not just eating. The Eucharist is the celebration of a sharing community. If sharing of what we have in real life is not taking place, then the Eucharist becomes a ritualistic sham, a whited sepulchre full of dead people’s bones.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1182g/

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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Look at the words: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given.
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This is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus did with the loaves and the fish — and this is what Jesus does again at The Last Supper.
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Jesus does this over and over again in the Mass — and with us in our lives.
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Whenever we are broken we can return to Him. We can be taken, blessed, broken and given back to Him.
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Archbishop Goh has said, “Without hope, everything will end in nihilism.”
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Nihilism says that life is without objective meaning. Nothing could be further from the truth if we follow Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
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Related:
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Our thanks and prayers go out to Fr. Henri Nouwen who has been my excellent teacher.
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Fr. Henri Nouwen

In Henri Nouwen’s book “Life of the Beloved” he outlines four words that he believes are central to the spiritual lives of Christians,

“To identify the movements of the Spirit in our lives, I have found it helpful to use for words: taken, blessed, broken and given. These words summarize my life as a priest because each day, when I come together around the table with members of my community, I take bread, bless it, break it and give it. These words also summarize my life as a Christian, because, as a Christian, I am called to become bread for the world: break that is taken, blessed, broken and given. Most importantly, however, they summarize my life as a human being because in every moment of my life somewhere, somehow the taking, the blessings, the breaking and the giving are happening.” (Life of the Beloved, 41-42)

The radical difference between the way God works and the way the world works is that the world only uses 2 of the four. The world takes and breaks with no idea of how to bless and give. Praise God that we have a Father who knows us and loves us enough to give us exactly what we need and then turn right around and use us to be a blessing to others through the experiences we have walking with God…being taken by him, blessed by him, experiencing brokenness through him and with him and then being given for others.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had blessed it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” – Matthew 26:26

Nouwen says, we are now that bread….

http://mattdabbs.com/2014/07/28/taken-blessed-broken-given-we-are-the-bread/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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01 AUGUST 2016, Monday, 18th Week of Ordinary Time
FINDING STRENGTH FROM THE EUCHARIST TO KEEP US AS TRUE PROPHETS

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  JER 28:1-17; MT 14:13 -21  ]We do not mind being prophets of good news.  We are all so desperate for peace at all costs.  We want to be accepted by people and be loved by all.  We want to be known as nice people, amiable and agreeable.  As a result, very few of us dare to speak the truth even when we know that the truth must be spoken.  At most we will try to give some hints, hoping that those concerned might come to realize what we really want to tell them.   We are afraid that if we say things that are disagreeable to the ears of our listeners, they would no longer like us or see us as their friends and they might even marginalize us. This was precisely the way the false prophets in the Old Testament acted. Hananiah prophesied victory and peace for the kingdom.  He said all that the people and the King were so desperate to hear.  Instead of telling them what God wanted them to hear, he told them of things that were to their liking.  

In contrast, we have the prophet Jeremiah who was alone in proclaiming the Word of God as it should be spoken.  He spoke against all the false prophets, the King and the people’s expectations.   Jeremiah was brutally honest in his message.   Whilst he wished that the words of the Prophet Hananiah were true, he knew that this was not the message from God.  So he told them the plain truth, which of course did not sit well with his people.  Instead of welcoming the truth of his message, he was condemned, persecuted and castigated as a traitor and a wet blanket.

Indeed, how many of us can be as courageous as the prophet Jeremiah to speak the truth with such boldness even when all others are against us?  Most of us would succumb under pressure and at the first sign of hostility we would cave in and submit to the popular wishes of the group even if we know from the depths of our heart that this is not the truth or what the Lord is asking of us. Such tendency to gain cheap popularity and acceptance is very common, whether in politics, in the office or even in Church.  Whether we are dealing with individuals or at meetings, we dare not speak the truth frankly for fear of losing favour with our friends.

It is important that we make a distinction between being negative and speaking the truth.   Being positive does not mean that we compromise the truth. To be positive on the contrary, is to look at the whole situation in perspective and highlighting the good aspects of a particular situation whilst not denying the negative aspects as well.  Being true does not require us to be negative in outlook.  In fact, to be true is a positive thing, for by speaking the truth, we can also help a person or the group to face the problem squarely and find positive means to deal with the situation rather than to suppress it and pretend that it does not exist.

How, then, can we find the fortitude to be faithful to the truth that the Lord has planted in our minds and hearts?  Jesus shows us the way in today’s gospel.  We read that “when Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.”  The death of His cousin, John the Baptist, surely must have affected Jesus greatly.   Not only was He sad and distressed at the loss of John the Baptist whom He commended as a great prophet, but He knew that that would likely be his fate as well, since all prophets in the Old Testament were killed and martyred.  It was in such a bewildered mood that He became pensive and needed some time to calm His thoughts and heart. Hence, the need to withdraw to a lonely place so that He could pray to His Father and find enlightenment, encouragement and strength.

Yes, if we are confused, insecure and fearful of our future even though we know we are doing the right thing, like Jesus, we need to withdraw to a lonely place to pray.  In our solitude, the Lord will speak to our hearts and give us the conviction and the grace to be true to our beliefs and to His Word.  Hence, if there are moments when we are tempted to seek false compromises and make uneasy alliances with evil, let us quieten ourselves before the Lord and listen to the prompting of His Holy Spirit.  Only in the desert, can we hear the voice of God clearly.  Without withdrawing we can only hear the voice of our fear and that of the world speaking to us loudly.

To listen to the Lord requires that we follow the psalmist in deepening our love for the Word of God. Truly, if we are troubled and lack courage in speaking the truth, we must, with the psalmist, ask the Lord to teach us His statutes and to remove us “from the way of falsehood” and instead pay heed to His decrees and ordinances.  So being grounded in the Word of God, listening attentively to His Word, is the first step in finding courage to remain true to what we believe.  St Paul reminded Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)

But for us Catholics, we are truly privileged, for besides the Word of God, we have the Eucharist to give us the personal presence of Jesus.  The multiplication of loaves in today’s gospel miracle is an anticipation of the Eucharist that the Lord would give to the Church at the Last Supper.  Jesus, who is the Word of God, is also the Bread of Life. Just as He multiplied the five loaves and two fish to feed the five thousand, so too through the Eucharist, He now makes Himself present to us all in the form of bread and wine.  By adoring and receiving the Eucharist, we remember His passion, death and resurrection.  Contemplating on His love for us on the cross and the power of His resurrection, we no longer need to fear the possible rejection by our fellowmen. With the assurance of Christ’s love for us and confident that we too will share in His victory over sin and death, we can with faith surrender ourselves and our lives to Jesus.

Today, we also take consolation that Jesus will be with us in our trials and difficulties.  He will respond to our prayers for help when we are disheartened and downhearted.  For even in His sadness, He put aside His pain and attended to the sick and the people who were hungry for the Word of God and His love.  We can also be confident that Jesus will stand by us whenever we need Him.  Learning from Jesus, we must also selflessly put aside our need for comfort and acceptance by people.  Instead, like Jesus, let us serve the people of God with selflessness.

Most of all, we can rest assure that with Jesus, there is nothing we cannot do.  He will accomplish His work in us.  Just as He made use of the meager food that was given to Him to feed the multitude, so too, by offering Him all that we have, He will use us mightily to proclaim the Good News which is the Word of God in its entirety, the Word that sets people free from falsehood, sin and evil so that they can share in the freedom and truth of God’s kingdom.

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The Miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes by Vasili Nesterenko

Thank you God for finding me!
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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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File:Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn - Return of the Prodigal Son - Google Art Project.jpg
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Rembrandt van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Hermitage Museum,Saint Petersburg
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Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.

In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.

At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups.

He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over.

Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions.

He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese.

His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united.

At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent.

Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His Glories of Mary is one of the great works on that subject, and his book Visits to the Blessed Sacrament went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.

Comment:

St. Alphonsus was known above all as a practical man who dealt in the concrete rather than the abstract. His life is indeed a “practical” model for the everyday Christian who has difficulty recognizing the dignity of Christian life amid the swirl of problems, pain, misunderstanding and failure. Alphonsus suffered all these things. He is a saint because he was able to maintain an intimate sense of the presence of the suffering Christ through it all.

Quote:

Someone once remarked, after a sermon by Alphonsus, “It is a pleasure to listen to your sermons; you forget yourself and preach Jesus Christ.”

Patron Saint of:

Theologians
Vocations

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Saint Alphonsus LiguoriFeast Day: August 1
Canonized: May 26, 1839
Beatified: September 15, 1816Alphonsus was what we call a “gifted” student today. He was a lawyer by the time he was 16 years old! He came from a wealthy family in Naples, Italy, and had every advantage in life from the moment he was born in 1696. But his parents were spiritually devoted people, and Alphonsus was taught that the greatest blessing he had been given was his faith. He prayed often and attended Mass even on days when he was appearing in court.Alphonsus found that he was not happy with his life. He sought to understand God’s will for him and finally realized he was being called to the life of a priest. He studied theology and was ordained when he was 29.Alphonsus became famous for his preaching. He spoke so that everyone in church—even people who had never gone to school—could understand his message. He gave retreats for the poor and he encouraged people to pray more often. He founded an order of priests called the Redemptorists. These men were devoted to serving the average working family and peasants.

Even though he was such a busy priest, Alphonsus took time to write books and hymns. He also worked to correct a false teaching of his day known as Jansenism that said that people were too sinful to ever be worthy of receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Alphonsus taught that receiving Communion helped us to overcome our sins and to become more holy.

He suffered from physical afflictions that left him in great pain in his later life, and he died at the age of 91. Alphonsus was canonized a saint in 1839 and was named a Doctor of the Church in 1871 — a person who made an important contribution to the Church by helping us to understand what it means to be Catholic.

Source: http://saintsresource.com/alphonsus-liguori/

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 29, 2016 — ” I know that whatever you ask of God; God will give you.” — “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”

July 28, 2016

Memorial of Saint Martha
Lectionary: 405/607

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Jan Vermeer van Delft, 1654.

Reading 1 JER 26:1-9

In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim,
son of Josiah, king of Judah,
this message came from the LORD:
Thus says the LORD:
Stand in the court of the house of the LORD
and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah
who come to worship in the house of the LORD;
whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing.
Perhaps they will listen and turn back,
each from his evil way,
so that I may repent of the evil I have planned to inflict upon them
for their evil deeds.
Say to them: Thus says the LORD:
If you disobey me,
not living according to the law I placed before you
and not listening to the words of my servants the prophets,
whom I send you constantly though you do not obey them,
I will treat this house like Shiloh,
and make this the city to which all the nations of the earth
shall refer when cursing another.Now the priests, the prophets, and all the people
heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD.
When Jeremiah finished speaking
all that the LORD bade him speak to all the people,
the priests and prophets laid hold of him, crying,
“You must be put to death!
Why do you prophesy in the name of the LORD:
‘This house shall be like Shiloh,’ and
‘This city shall be desolate and deserted’?”
And all the people gathered about Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm PS 69:5, 8-10, 14

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Those outnumber the hairs of my head
who hate me without cause.
Too many for my strength
are they who wrongfully are my enemies.
Must I restore what I did not steal?
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
Since for your sake I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my mother’s sons,
Because zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who blaspheme you fall upon me.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
But I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Alleluia JN 8:12

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
whoever follows me will have the light of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

OR LK 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”

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Reflection by Abbot Philip, Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.  —  often these words are used to justify the contemplative life, but actually they are not about that at all or at least not directly.  Instead, Jesus is inviting all of us to choose the better part:  Listen to Him and don’t get so caught up in doing everything else!

The Gospel of Luke today brings us back to the account of Jesus visiting Martha and Mary.  Martha is frustrated because Mary sits and listens to Jesus while she, Martha, has to do all the work.  We can wonder what would have happened had Martha simply stopped doing her work, sat down by Mary, and had listened to the Lord?  That is the invitation to each of us:  stop your business and be still and listen!

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Commentary on Luke 10:38-42 From Living Space

Today we find Jesus in the home of the sisters, Mary and Martha. We know that they have a brother named Lazarus. We meet the sisters again, showing the same characteristics as in this story, in John’s account of the raising from death of their brother (John 11:1-44). They lived in Bethany, a village about 3-4 km from Jerusalem and it seems that Jesus was a familiar visitor to the house for at the time of Lazarus’ illness Jesus is told: “Your friendLazarus is sick.”

The story of Martha and Mary is, in a way, a contrast to the previous story about the Good Samaritan. It restores a balance in our following of Christ. The story about being a neighbour could lead us to think that only if we aredoing things are we loving God.

Martha was a doer to the point of being a fusspot. Martha, we are told, was “burdened with much serving”. Serving is something that Jesus himself did constantly and he urged his followers to do the same. But it should not be a burden. And, after Martha had complained about her sister, Jesus told her that she was “anxious and worried about many things”. A true servant does not experience anxiety and worry. It signifies a lack of peace.

Because Mary seemed to be doing nothing, Martha saw her as idling and even selfish. Martha must have been somewhat surprised when Jesus said that Mary had “chosen the better part” which would “not be taken from her”.

What was that better part? Was Mary just sitting at the feet of Jesus and doing nothing? No. We are told that she was “listening to him speak”. Listening to his message is something Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd they need to be doing all the time. And we have mentioned before that listening involves understanding, accepting and assimilating that message so that it becomes part of our very selves

If we do not spend time listening to him, how can we know that our activity is properly directed? It is easy for us Christians to be very busy but are we busy about the right things?

To answer that question we have to stop to listen, to discern and to pray. And, ultimately, the highest form of activity in our lives is contemplation, being in conscious contact with God and his Word. If I find myself saying that I do not have time to give some time to prayer or contemplation each day, then there is a serious imbalance in my priorities and in my understanding of what it means to love and serve my God.

This story blends nicely with the parable of the Good Samaritan which went before it. Taken together they express what should be the essence of Christian living – action for others that is guided by what we learn in contemplation. This was the pattern of Jesus’ own life – he spent long hours bringing healing to people’s lives (being a neighbour) but also retired to quiet places to be alone in communion with his Father. The same pattern must be ours too. We call it being “contemplatives in action”.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o2273g/

 

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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29 JULY 2016, Friday, St Martha
PRAYER AND INTIMACY WITH THE LORD GIVES JOY TO MINISTRY
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [  1JN4, 7-16; LK 10:38-42 (Alt JN 11:19-27)  ]

We tend to pit Mary against Martha as if one is better than the other.  This is because of what Jesus said about Mary, that she “has chosen the better part” and “it is not to be taken from her.”  In truth, we have to take the whole episode in perspective.  The gospel text is not teaching us that it is a greater thing to be a contemplative than an activist.  There can be no real opposition between these two.  Both are necessary in Christian life and are meant for the service of the Church and the mission of Christ.  Rather, the issue lies in the question of priority.

The mistake of Martha is not because she was active in serving Jesus.  Practising hospitality is a manifestation of love and concern.  Indeed, in the Church, we need people who are committed to service.  Giving ourselves to the service of the Church and the Christian community is an expression of our love for God.  However, this is not always the case.  Even though one might apparently be very much engaged in the service of God, we cannot always be sure or claim that it is a manifestation of our love for God.

So what is the sign that although we are doing the work of God, we are no longer working for God but for other less noble reasons?  When we become restless and agitated!  Restlessness and anxiety are signs that we are more concerned with our ego, our desire to please and earn the recognition and appreciation of our fellowmen than the desire to serve God.  In other words, we are seeking attention and self-esteem.  This was the case of Martha.  Jesus gently chided her not because it was wrong that she was busy preparing and making Him comfortable.  Nay, it was because she “was distracted with all the serving.”  She no longer experienced the joy of service.  That she subtly began to seek for Jesus’ attention and appreciation was demonstrated in her cry to the Lord saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.”

Indeed, when we begin to fret and worry, we are no longer serving the Lord but we have become more anxious about our achievements.  Our focus is no longer on the Lord nor even the people we serve but on ourselves, our performance and the impression we make on others.  As a result, we become irritable, insecure, jealous and restless.  For Martha, her fear of rejection even led her to complain about Mary in order to boost her status before the Lord.  In complaining about Mary, Martha was implying to Jesus that she was a better person than Mary.  When a person becomes fearful and insecure, he or she would even belittle others in order to boost his or her ego.  Such service that results from self love of course could not bring Martha joy.  She became a slave to her pride and fears.

We, too, often fall into such situations as well.  As priests, we are often worried about what others think of us when we preach or when we assume an office.  We are worried about the projects that we have started.  We become ambitious and tend to compare ourselves with others.  When we feel that others are doing better than us, we then become jealous and envious.  This is true for people involved in so-called works of humanitarianism.  Apparently, they are serving the world by their voluntary service.  Yet, quite often, such involvement in community service is rendered in a condescending manner.   It is given in such a way that the giver seems to be greater than the recipient.  We serve or give out of pity rather than empathy and compassion.

What is the root of the problem?  It is because our ministry is not grounded in love.  We are not capable of love.  This is a reality we must first come to realize.  We are not able to love as we should.  Our love is conditional and not selfless even if we want to love selflessly.  Within this context, 1Jn4:7 provides the key to authentic service.  St John wrote, “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”

Consequently, the only way to heal us of our brokenness and insecurity and negative image of self is by giving ourselves to Jesus who alone can heal us with his unconditional love. Indeed, John said, “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him: this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”

Truly, unless we have been loved by God, we cannot love unconditionally.  If not, we become irritable.  Only when we experience His love, can we share in His Spirit of love as well.  God’s love is prior to our love for others.  This is what St John is reminding us.  “My dear people, since God has loved us so much, we too should love one another. God will live in us and his love will be complete in us. We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”  He added, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”

But how can we experience God’s love if not in prayer?  Hence, primacy must be given to prayer and a deep relationship with Jesus, which brings love.  Indeed, the gospel tells us that Jesus comes to serve and not to be served.  Before we can serve others, we must allow Jesus to serve us first.  That is what Jesus says in the parable about the faithful servant, for when the master returns, he will put on the apron to serve them.  This explains why “It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.”  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to the teaching of Jesus.  Being loved by Jesus is primary.  Service and ministry flows from the love of God in us.  Sharing in His Spirit, we are empowered to love in return. Work and ministry is only the expression of love.

What should give us joy is not so much our ministry.  Rather it is our union with God and because of our union with Him, we want to express this union by loving our fellowmen.  So it is immaterial how we serve so long as whatever we do is the sharing of God’s love.

Indeed St Augustine asks what will happen when we reach the end of our pilgrimage when there is no longer any work.  As we grow older, whether we are priests or grandparents, a time will come when we can no longer work.  Does it mean that our lives will be spent in misery because we cannot serve anymore?  Surely not!  When the time comes we will simply spend the rest of our lives in solitude contemplating on the wonders of God’s love for us and His presence.  Knowing that God is with us and that He is our all will give us more joy than all worldly enjoyments.  So, like those who retire gracefully and are no longer mobile, our joy then would be to busk in the presence of God and His love.

Today, we take courage and inspiration from St John’s gospel that God is patient with us.  He allows us to grow in faith as He did for Martha.  From an impatient person, she became a woman of faith.  Although it is true that when we meet her later in St John’s gospel, she is still the active person, for she was the one who ran out to meet Jesus, but instead of complaining that Jesus was late, she placed her faith in Jesus saying, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.”  Not only did she confess her faith in the resurrection but she also confessed her faith in Christ, saying, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into this world.”  Indeed, she learnt to surrender herself to Jesus.  Instead of wanting things her way, she surrendered to the Lord.  By professing her faith in the resurrection in Christ, she is saying in love, life does not come to an end.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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http://www.catholic.sg/archbishop/scripture-reflection/
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Bishop Goh’s reflection reminded me of this little gem of a book:
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“Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence” by J.P. Caussade
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