Posts Tagged ‘St. Augustine’

Morning Prayer for Sunday, December 9, 2018 —

December 9, 2018

A hermit’s life is not a normal or natural one. We all need to be by ourselves at times, but we cannot really live without the companionship and fellowship of others. Our natures demand it. Our lives depend largely upon it. Do I fully appreciate the fellowship — and what it means to me?

Image result for my soul is restless until it rests in you

Meditation for the Day

We are all seeking something, but many do not know what they want in life. They are seeking something because they are restless and dissatisfied, without realizing that faith in God can give an objective and a purpose to their lives. Many of us are at least subconsciously seeking for a Power greater than ourselves because that would give a meaning to our existence. If you have found that Higher Power, you can be the means of leading others aright, by showing them that their search for a meaning to life will end when they find faith and trust in God as the answer.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that my soul will lose its restlessness by finding rest in God. I pray that I may find peace of mind in the thought of God and His purpose for my life.

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“Our Heart is Restless Until It Rests in You.”

St. Augustine is speaking of three types of restlessness: “the restlessness of spiritual seeking, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.” This restlessness, whether we recognize it or not, is a desire to know God and to have a deeper relationship with Him. None of this is easy, but God is always there for us. He is waiting with open arms, just as he waited for Augustine in his conversion to Christianity, so that we might rest in Him.

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See also:

https://www.catholicapostolatecenter.org/blog/lessons-from-st-augustine

and

Restless, Irritable and Discontent

https://www.emergingfrombroken.com/restless-irritable-and-discontent/

and

Dealing With General Discontent

https://www.mentalhelp.net/advice/dealing-with-general-discontent/

Related:

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This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
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Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Nada Te Turbe (Let nothing disturb you)
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Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.— St. Teresa of Avila
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Peace Prayers

https://wsfpeacecoalition.wordpress.com/resources/peace-prayers/

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Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, November 1, 2018 — Solemnity of All Saints — The Children of God — The Beatitudes

November 1, 2018

Image result for Mother teresa, photos

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness

Solemnity of All Saints
Lectionary: 667

Reading 1 RV 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm  PS 24:1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Reading 2 1 JN 3:1-3

Beloved:
See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.
Yet so we are.
The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know him.
Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is.
Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure,
as he is pure.

AlleluiaMT 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:1-12A

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain,
and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.
He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”

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From Abbot Philip
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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The Gospel from Saint Matthew today gives us what we call the Beatitudes.  The sayings of Jesus reflect what it is to follow the Lord:  poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ.  This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God.  We must follow Jesus with all of our strength.  When we fail, we must get up and start again.  Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.

Monastery of Christ in the Desert

https://christdesert.org/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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1 NOVEMBER, 2018
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ REV 7:2-49-141 JN 3:1-3MT 5:1-12 ]

The feast of All Saints certainly is one of the happiest feasts we celebrate in the Church’s liturgy.  For this feast celebrates not only the victory of our loved ones who have gone before us but our hope and final destiny as well.  To know that our loved ones are already there and have won the victory over sin should inspire us as well in our sojourn on this earth.  This joy is ours even as St John wrote, “what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.”

But is this feast ours as well?  Is it true to say that the feast of All Saints is a celebration of every one of us and not just the saints in heaven?  In a way it is true that this is our feast, but we have not yet arrived, although we all have what it takes to become a saint.  Hence, the second reading begins with an attitude of thanksgiving for having the honour to be able to call ourselves sons of God.  To become a Saint is simply to become completely what we already are – a child of God, loved by the Father.  This presupposes that we are transformed in the image of His Son, and so share in God’s own life and happiness.  So although we are God’s children, we do not enjoy the full sonship until we become like God.  How then can we arrive with the saints in heaven and share in the joys of the saints?

Firstly, saints are those who have lived out their identity as the children of God.  Indeed, by virtue of our baptism, we are all made children of God.  As St John says, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.  Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us. My dear people, we are already the children of God.”   The question is, do we believe that we are children of God?  The truth is that the early Christians did, and that is why St Paul addressed the early Christians as saints.  In the first reading the angels were instructed thus, “Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

Unfortunately, although we are truly children of God by baptism through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit,we often forget our identity.  Yes, by our baptism, we are saying that we want to be saints.  Many people are shy, or deny that they want to be saints.  They keep saying that they are not worthy to be saints.  Not worthy or capable is one thing, but not wanting to be saints is another matter altogether.

It is as good as refusing to acknowledge this reality with the rest of humanity in the world.  When we deny our identity as the children of God and therefore saints in principle, we would then not bother to live as such.  So it is important right from the start to always to remember who we are:  children of God and His saints.

Secondly, saints are those who have been purified in faith and love.  Of course, to assert that we are children of God is not the same as claiming that we have arrived.  Rather, we know who we are and seek and strive to be faithful to our calling and sonship in Christ.  Rightly so, St John says, “surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”  So whilst we are technically saints, we are still growing to become one.

Isn’t this is what baptism is all about?  Who is a saint?  Isn’t he one who has put on Christ?  Indeed, we read that the saints “were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands.” Baptism is therefore called a Christening service because we put on Christ.  In the same vein, when we choose a baptismal name, we express our desire to imitate that particular saint in his or her virtues.  Hence, he or she is called our patron saint.  A patron is one who supports us.  So not only do we seek to imitate the saints’ virtues but that they will support us in our journey to saintliness and holiness through their examples and intercession.

Thirdly, saints are those who witness to Christ even under persecution and opposition.  As the book of Revelation says, “These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.”  Only those who have suffered with and for Christ, even unto death, can truly share in the resurrected life of Christ.  This is affirmed by Jesus in the gospel when He said, “Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”  Isn’t this what baptismal life requires?  After all, to be baptized is to share in the death and resurrection of Christ. Those who were dressed in white robes symbolize the purity of the Father and demonstrate that they have won a great victory.

What, then, is the secret to live out this kind of life?  It is none other than to live out the beatitudes proposed to us by Christ.  Living out the beatitudes is already to live a blessed life and therefore a foretaste of life to come.   These beatitudes were lived out by Jesus before they were taught to us.  It can be said that these beatitudes guided Jesus in His life on earth.

Yes, we must cultivate the virtue of poverty of spirit by being dependent on God totally and obedient to His commands.  Only in this way can we become selfless, merciful, compassionate, pure and forgiving.  We are called to live a life of holiness in contradiction to the values of the world.  Only a man who lives such a life of holiness, even in the face of opposition, can be said to be truly free.

However, it must be said that saints are those who have won the victory through the blood of the lamb.  They won the victory not by their own strength but by the grace given to them through the death of Jesus.  By contemplating on the death of Jesus on the cross, they too could survive crises by keeping their sights on the living God and uniting themselves with the sacrifice of Christ.  So let it be said, the call to sainthood is a privilege as much as our cooperation with His grace at work in us.  So we do not become saints by mere efforts alone but by allowing the grace of God to operate in our lives.

Finally, we can have confidence in God’s overwhelming love, as the vision presents us with much hope and confidence, since John said, “I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language.”  It is our hope that we will eventually arrive, albeit some of us might need further purification upon death in purgatory.  That is why we turn to the saints as our models to inspire us to live a holy life and also to persevere till the end.

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

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

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Homily for the November 1st – Solemnity of All Saints

by Fr. Tommy Lane

It is quite amazing that we who have faith and believe we will live forever can sometimes allow ourselves to be influenced or contaminated by the unspiritual viewpoint of western culture. We could have heaven on earth, but sometimes we create hell on earth. In my last parish in Ireland I said a number of times in homilies that the programs on TV do not reflect who we are. Who are we? St. John answers that beautifully in our second reading:

we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

We are not usually portrayed as spiritual beings in this fashion on TV. There is always somebody in some trouble. The TV does not reflect our deepest reality described by St. John in our second reading.

See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. (1 John 3:1)

If we know who we are, we will know how to act. If we know who we are, we will know how to act.

The Solemnity of All Saints today reminds us of who we are and what a bright future can be ours. As we celebrate today all the saints, both those canonized and those who are unknown, we are joyful that they have reached the goal of life, heaven. They remind us to keep our sights fixed high, to remember who we are and the glorious possibility that God offers us.

The saints encourage us in our own struggles because like us they also endured struggles, they grew from strength to strength, they matured in the Lord as they grew in years. We also see this journey of growth in the great people of the Bible. We could think of Abraham whom Genesis tells us pretended his wife was his sister because he was afraid but Abraham grew to become our father in faith. Moses had a speech impediment and had murdered and protested against being called by God but he led his people to the Promised Land. In the Gospels Peter is impulsive and doesn’t want the Lord to suffer but in Acts he is totally transformed and considers it an honor to suffer for the Lord. Interestingly in Acts even Peter’s shadow is a source of healing, something which is not said of Jesus in the Gospels. Obviously Peter’s Formation Adviser was out of this world!

The journey of growth in the great people of the Bible is also seen in the canonized saints. The Curé of Ars struggled with learning while in seminary but so many pilgrims went to Ars to confess to him that by 1855 there was a daily service of two horse buses between Lyons and Ars, and two other buses met the Paris train at Villefranche. The railway station in Lyons even had a special ticket office for people going to Ars, so many were the pilgrims.

St. Thérèse wrote in her autobiography that after the death of her mother, “I, once so full of life, became timid and retiring, sensitive to an excessive degree. One look was enough to reduce me to tears.” (Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, Third Edition pp34-35) She went on to become the Little Flower of Jesus whose relics even stopped the traffic on Fifth Avenue New York because so many people came to venerate her, and three million people venerated her relics during their visit to Ireland in 2001, the same number of people who attended Papal Masses in Ireland in 1979.

St. Augustine struggled with impurity in his youth. As a teenager he was influenced by the loose living of his companions. When he was studying in Carthage he decided to take a mistress. He was such a scoundrel that he even once said to his mother St. Monica that there would be no problems between them if she gave up her faith! He underwent a conversion in Milan and went on to become a priest at the age of 36 and a bishop at the age of 41, and was Bishop of Hippo in North Africa for 35 years. One example of the influence Augustine has on the Church is that in the Catechism of the Catholic Church there are more quotations from St. Augustine than from any other writer.

St. Ignatius of Loyola had a colorful past before his conversion. In 1515 Ignatius and his brother Pedro Lopez were arrested and prosecuted for nocturnal misdemeanors that were outrageous. Ignatius says up to his twenty-sixth year he was given to worldly vanities. He was proud, sensuous, and driven by violent and powerful impulses, he demanded adventure and glory. But after his conversion he noticed that day dreaming about the saints brought him joy but not worldly matters. And thus gradually he developed the rules for discernment of spirits and established the Society of Jesus. He established a college in Rome for young men entering the Society of Jesus and also set up colleges in Jerusalem, Cyprus and Constantinople. At his death in 1556 the Society of Jesus had 1000 members with 100 houses throughout the world. We see this same journey of growth in the lives of all the saints.

(In another homily I discuss the growth of St Francis from his colorful past.)

The saints remind us of who we really are, the reality described by John in our second reading:

we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:2)

Not only the saints’ lives but also their writings are precious gifts of grace to us to remind us of who we are and the glory that God is offering to us. We could think of St. Thérèse’s Story of a Soul with this beautiful excerpt:

“Charity is the most excellent way that leads to God. I finally had rest…I understood that the Church had a Heart and that this Heart was burning with love. I understood that love comprised all vocations, that love was everything, that it embraced all times and places, in a word, that it was eternal! Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: O Jesus, my love, my vocation, at last I have found it, my vocation is love!” (Chapter 9, Clarke 194)

We treasure the Confession of St. Augustine with its words,

“You have made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

We treasure the writings of St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the writings of all the saints. Although the saints had much room for growth early in their lives by the end of their lives we see that they were living the beatitudes of our Gospel today (Matt 5:1-12). Therefore they give encouragement to us as we are aware of our need for further growth. The saints were happy because they were poor in spirit, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful and clean of heart. Among the saints we venerate in a special way the martyrs. As our first reading from Revelation states:

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev 7:14)

They remind us to keep our sights fixed high, to remember who we are and the glorious possibility that God offers us. We know that they are praying for us.

We hope and pray that all those near and dear to us who have departed are already or will be numbered among the saints and so we pray for them especially during this month. I conclude with our second reading:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3)

http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/years_abc/all_saints4.htm

Prayer and Meditation for Saturday, October 27, 2018 — What is the purpose of life? — Parable of the Fig Tree

October 27, 2018

This whole life is a journey to reform our minds and hearts to be like Him instead of allowing our sinful nature to overcome us.

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Parable of the Fig Tree

Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 478

Reading 1 EPH 4:7-16

Brothers and sisters:
Grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore, it says:He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;
he gave gifts to men.
What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood
to the extent of the full stature of Christ,
so that we may no longer be infants,
tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching
arising from human trickery,
from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming.
Rather, living the truth in love,
we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ,
from whom the whole Body,
joined and held together by every supporting ligament,
with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the Body’s growth and builds itself up in love.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 122:1-2, 3-4AB, 4CD-5

R. (1) Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Alleluia EZ 33:11

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion that he may live.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 13:1-9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them–
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 OCTOBER, 2018, Saturday, 29th Week, Ordinary Time

SANCTIFICATION IS THE GOAL OF LIFE ON EARTH

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [EPHESIANS 4:7-16LUKE 13:1-9 ]

What is the purpose of life?  What is the goal of life?  St Paul gives us the goal of life, which is this, “to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.” Our calling in life is to become Christ.  This whole life is a journey to reform our minds and hearts to be like Him instead of allowing our sinful nature to overcome us.  This is what St John Paul II wrote, “In fact, to place pastoral planning under the heading of holiness is a choice filled with consequences. It implies the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: ‘Do you wish to receive Baptism?’ means at the same time to ask them: ‘Do you wish to become holy?’ It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).’   (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 31) We are to become Christ so that we attain holiness and integrity of life.  To be fully mature with the fullness of Christ Himself is to be glorified in Him, and to become like Him.

How can we grow in holiness and so one day also be able to sing with the psalmist, “I rejoiced when I heard them say: ‘Let us go to God’s house.’ And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is built as a city strongly compact. It is there that the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord.  For Israel’s law it is, there to praise the Lord’s name. There were set the thrones of judgement of the house of David.”?  Holiness is to be in heaven, to live in the House of God.  It means allowing God to rule our lives, our minds and hearts.  However, as St John Paul II reminds us, “this ideal of perfection must not be misunderstood as if it involved some kind of extraordinary existence, possible only for a few ‘uncommon heroes’ of holiness. The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual.”  (Ibid)

Firstly, we are called to repent of our ignorant way of living. This is what Jesus is exhorting us in the gospel.  “Unless you repent you will perish as they did.”   Turning from our old way of life is the first step.  Otherwise, we destroy ourselves by our foolish way of life.  That is why sin is deceitful.  It looks tempting and attractive, like the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate.  But once we take the bait, it comes back to bite us and destroy our peace, our love and our joy.  Indeed, many of us, instead of listening to the gospel listen more to the world.  This is what St Paul urges us, “Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit.”

Secondly, we are to employ the gifts the Lord has given to each one of us to develop ourselves.   St Paul wrote, “Each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.  It was said that he would: When he ascended to the height, he captured prisoners, he gave gifts to men.  And to some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; and to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers.”  Regardless of what we do, the gifts given to us are meant for us to realize our full potential so that we grow in character and maturity.  We are all gifted in some ways.  To find happiness is to discover our vocation in life.  If we apply ourselves to what the Lord has given to us, instead of being envious of others’ gifts, we will be much happier, more integrated and fulfilled in life.  We must not desire what we cannot have or don’t have because it leads to envy.  Rather, what we need have already been given to us.  What is left for us to do is to make good use of what is given, nurture our talents, grow our knowledge and develop our potential to the fullest.  When we maximise our strength and talents, we become better and better.  We become more secure of ourselves, gaining greater self-confidence, and better appreciated by others because of our uniqueness.

Thirdly, these gifts are meant for the service of others.  They are not given to us for ourselves alone but for humble service.  St Paul wrote, “so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ.”   Holiness and maturity in Christ is to become like Him, a man for others and at the service of the community.  Christ used all His gifts for the service of His fellowmen.   He never used His powers for His self-interests.  That was what the devil sought to tempt Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.  He wanted Jesus to abuse God’s gifts to Him, which were meant for the service of humanity, for His own pleasure and ego.  That was why the devil tempted Jesus to change stones to bread to satisfy His hunger, to jump from the top of the pinnacle of the Temple to sensationalize the spectators into easy submission  and to worship Satan so that He could get all the glory, riches and powers of the world.   (cf Mt 4:1-11)

Fourthly, each individual has a role to build up the body of Christ by living a life of truth and love.  St Paul says, “If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding to its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function.  So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love.”  True holiness is seen in our unity with the Church, the Body of Christ.  Separated from Christ and His Church, we will be lost.  This is what is happening to many of our Catholics.  They have hardly any Catholic friends.  They go to mass as an obligation and not to worship with the heart.  They are loners and their friends are those without faith in God.  We can imagine how weak their faith must be, and how confused they must be when it comes to the Church’s teachings.  To grow in holiness, we must be in communion with Christ and His Church.  This is what it means to receive Holy Communion.

Consequently, we must take these necessary steps to grow in holiness and authenticity each day.  Of course we will fail, but God is patient with us, as the parable in the gospel suggests. “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none.  Cut it down:  why should it be taking up the ground?” God will forgive us.  He knows we need time to grow and be purified.  Holiness is not something we attain overnight.  We need to cooperate with the grace of God.  We will fall but that is not the point.  We must never forget that it is Christ that justifies us, not the laws.  “For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”  (Rom 3:23-25)

This is what the law of gradualness is all about.  Christ has come gradually to reveal to us the truth about love and life in the history of salvation.  But now having found the truth, we must strive towards living the truth.   God is patient with us.  He gives us the time to repent and come to awakening.  The man replied “Leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it:  it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”‘ Indeed, God accepts our weakness so long as we strive towards living and being purified each day to attain our freedom as God’s children in Christ by living His sonship.  However, the law of gradualness is not to be mistaken as the gradualness of the law, that is to say that we can continue to live in sin not knowing what the truth holds for us because truth is always changing.

Christ is appealing for us and to us as well.  He is merciful but still we cannot defer judgment indefinitely.  There is a definite time.   Like the man in charge of the vineyard said, “Sir, leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it:  it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”  By failing to respond to His love and patience, we will bear the consequences and have our own tower, that is, our mistakes and foolishness to cause us to perish.   So whilst we have the time, we must repent.   In this way, we hope that one day all of us will arrive in God’s house where we can rejoice and celebrate our love and unity together as one family of God, founded in love and truth.  Indeed, the House of God is where wisdom, which is truth and love, is found.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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Holimy By J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P.

If we do not repent, all of us will perish. In fuller terms the point is that since all of us are sinners, and the end of life can be so unexpected, then there can be no reason to postpone repentance. Nothing is to be gained by procrastination. If we knew that our lives were going to come to an end on such and such a day in the future—say, ten years from now—then we could delay repentance until a safe interval before that date. But we don’t know this. Death will be as unexpected for us as for those who perished in these catastrophes.Our Lord underscores precisely this point by means of the parable of the fig tree. Though the fig tree has been barren for three years, the owner of the orchard agrees to give it a reprieve: one more year. Likewise, God is patient with our procrastination, with our failure to bear the fruit of true repentance, but not indefinitely so. “With fear and trembling,” says St. Gregory the Great, “should we hear the words.…, ‘cut it down’…. He who will not by correction grow rich unto fruitfulness, falls to that place from whence he is no longer able to rise by repentance.”(Homily 31 on the Gospel of Luke).

But there is a bright side to today’s sobering —as it happens something wonderfully apt on this occasion of the Institution of Acolytes. It is to be found in the humble figure of the gardener in the parable of the fig tree. For it is at his suggestion—we might well say his intercession—that the owner of the orchard gives the barren fig tree yet another year. “Let us not then strike suddenly,” says St. Gregory Nazianzen, “but overcome by gentleness, lest we cut down the fig tree still able to bear fruit, which the care perhaps of a skilful dresser will restore” (Oration 32).  Not only does the gardener put in a good word for the fig tree, but he has a plan for improving its chances of bearing fruit in the coming year: to dig around the tree and fertilize it, to give it special care.

The figure of the gardener is easy to miss, but in the rich tradition of patristic commentary on this parable he gets a lot of attention. A particularly significant reading of the parable sees him as representing Christ who implores the Father to allow him to water the tree with his teaching and his sufferings so that it will yield the fruit of repentance and good works.

This reading counterbalances the sharp warning contained in the whole passage. The prolongation and exquisite tenderness of divine patience with us is assured by the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of Christ who stays the pending divine judgment and provides the grace we need to repent of our sins. We are prompted not only to fear and trembling, as St. Gregory rightly says, but also to hope and renewed resolve to open our hearts to Christ and his healing grace. He works at the roots of our fig tree, watering it with his own blood, as it were, to nourish, correct, and guide us to the repentance and love that makes possible our communion with him, with his heavenly Father, and his Holy Spirit. “Christ was born for this,” we sang just a few weeks ago at Christmastide, “Christ was born for this.”

But there are greater depths to be plumbed here. Listen again to St. Gregory the Great: “By the dresser of the vineyard is represented the order of Bishops, who, by ruling over the Church, take care of the Lord’s vineyard” (Homily 31). Thus the divine husbandman conjoins to himself laborers in the vineyard to take care of us—and not just as collaborators, but as true instruments of his saving grace, internally united with him to act in persona Christi capitis, according to the ancient formula.

Christ established a sacramental economy which may be regarded as an extension of the mystery of the Incarnation itself. The only begotten Son of God, who came to us in human flesh as our Savior did not leave us. After he had ascended to the right hand of the Father, he willed to remain with us always, chiefly by his presence in the Holy Eucharist, where he shares with us his body and blood.

What is more, Christ ensured this presence by giving to his disciples, and through them, to their successors, the power of the priesthood to celebrate, in his Person, this very sacrifice of his love and his friendship. Bishops and priests are the instruments of this Eucharistic mystery. Through them God wills to pour out his grace—his friendship and love—on us in the Church through the preaching of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments.

In this way, the divine husbandman continues to be in our midst but in a manner precisely adapted to our human nature, ensuring that the Apostles and their successors chosen from our midst would care for his precious vineyard. The hand of another human being blesses us, pours the water of Baptism on our heads, offers the body and blood of Christ to us in the Eucharist, and is raised in absolution unto the forgiveness of sins.  Through these sacramental actions, we see the divine husbandman at work as God bestows his saving grace on us, drawing us into a participation in the communion of love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

To be sure, as St. Augustine reminds us, “the husbandman who intercedes is every holy man who within the Church prays for them that are without the Church, saying, O Lord, O Lord, let it alone this year, that is for that time vouchsafed under grace, until I dig about it”( cited in St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Luke, 482). Nonetheless, the parable of the fig tree provides a key for understanding a special type of participation in Christ’s work as the divine husbandman and thus an insight into what will happen here, dear sons in Christ, as you are instituted in the ministry of acolytes in a few moments.

For you will have a special role in the Church’s ministry, in the care and nurturing of the vineyard of Christ. The summit and source of the Church’s life is the Eucharist. It is your responsibility to assist priests and deacons in carrying out their ministry, and as special ministers to give Holy Communion to the faithful at Mass and to the sick. Because you are specially called to this ministry, you should strive to live more fully by the Lord’s sacrifice and to be conformed ever more perfectly to Christ himself. Strive to understand the deep spiritual meaning of what you do, so that you may offer yourselves daily to God as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Jesus Christ. In performing your ministry bear in mind that, as you share the one bread with your brothers and sisters, you form one Body with them. Show a sincere love for Christ’s Mystical Body, and especially for the weak and the sick. Be obedient to the commandment which the Lord gave to his Apostles at the Last Supper: “Love one another as I also have loved you.”

In this way, you will begin to share in the unique role of Christ himself who came to save sinners and bring them back to God, and to incorporate the Holy Priesthood and its special assistants—its acolytes—into this work of salvation. Be confident of the divine mercy that has been poured into your own hearts for the sake of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. May God make you fit instruments of this mercy in all your dealings with those whom you serve, in imitation of the divine husbandman, never losing hope in his power to make the barren tree bring forth the fruit of faith, repentance and love. Amen.

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:

 

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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