Posts Tagged ‘St. Francis de Sales’

The World Needs a Franciscan Renewal (Each Christian Has To Do The Work)

October 5, 2018

Eight hundred years ago, a little man from Assisi, a man without tremendous wealth, power, stature, or societal influence, set a movement in motion that would leave the Church and world forever changed. That man was St. Francis of Assisi.

Within just a short decade, there were already more than 5,000 friars in countries all across Europe, the Poor Clares had spread to multiple monasteries and established itself as a new way of monastic living, and the penitent movements had received their rule and amassed a larger number even than the rest.

It’s difficult to underestimate the effect that the Franciscan movement had on history. With its great size and diversity came the ability to spread its culture and values, including a number of innovations, in a way that had never been seen before. Constantly on the move, they could respond to the signs of the times, enflaming a people with passion before moving on to the next place. The way they served the poorest of the poor, living humbly themselves, preaching in new and popular ways, and not asking for much in return challenged the secular priests of their day to serve in a different way. The nativity scene and stations of the cross, while not invented by the Franciscans, are popular devotions today because of their insistence on an incarnational way of prayer. And the breviary, the shortened and compacted way of praying the psalms found in every religious house in the world today, was first employed by these traveling preachers.

At every level of the Church, in every country in the world, the Franciscans have not only been present, but have left their mark in irreconcilable ways.

But why? Why didn’t the Dominicans, who were formed around the same time, not grow as quickly? Why did it take the Jesuits, who were founded to do similar forms of ministry, so long to get its first pope (who took the name Francis!) Why haven’t the Benedictines, who have existed for much longer, had such a lasting effect on the imagination of the Church? And why haven’t the countless other religious orders that were founded throughout the history of the Church been able to match what the Franciscans have done in 800 years?

I ask these questions not to put down other Orders or even to shamelessly promote the Franciscans (okay, a little bit of the latter), but simply to marvel at what seems inconceivable: a religious movement started by a simple man like Francis should have never worked at all, let alone have changed the Church and world as it did.

Why is that? And maybe more importantly, what might we learn from the success of this movement 800 years ago in what our Church and world are facing today? That is what I was employed to talk about last weekend at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Arizona. While I can’t repeat all 5 hours of talks, I wanted to share the central points here in this week’s vlog.

I hope it inspires you to join in the movement, in however you can in your situation, and happy Feast of St. Francis to you all!

Source:https://breakinginthehabit.org/2018/10/04/the-world-needs-a-franciscan-renewal/

Peace and Freedom Note — We believe the broader truth is this: In a very troubled world, each Christian needs to develop fully his or her own spirituality and demonstrate that daily!

A few resources:

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Listen carefully to Francis’ words: “Frequently give up some of your property…”

Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence: Abandonment to Divine Providence

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

Holy Spirit by Edward Leen

Peace of Soul-ExLibrary

Peace of Soul by Fulton Sheen

Render Unto Caesar

Render Unto Caesar By Charles J. Chaput

Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly (One of the Four Signs
is Evangelization — Something many Catholics cannot do because they haven’t
done their homework!)

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Plus any of the books By Father Benedict Groeschel, of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

This is just a few:

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Catholic Recovery: AA and The Sacraments (Addiction is no joke)

September 25, 2018

The Best Cure for a Sick Human Being May Be Prayer 

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By John Francis Carey

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The “Big Book”

Addicted people, alcoholics and drug addicts, generally know where to go to get sober: Alcoholics Anonymous (and Narcotics Anonymous). Oh you can go to Malibu if your health insurance is good enough or you are  rolling in dough, but only the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has a decades-long proven track record of getting drug addicts and alcoholics sober and keeping them that way.

So, having exhausted all prior options and afraid that sacrificing a live chicken in suburbia would upset the neighbors, I went to AA.

But since I am a Catholic, I have another place to go to help me to maintain a “fit spiritual condition.” We have the Church.

Suffering miserably, I trembled as I asked my spiritual advisor and AA sponsor the secret to good health and happiness.

“Go, listen to the Spoken Word, eat the Body of Christ in the form of the Eucharist at Mass, and confess your sins,” both of them replied.

I told them I thought I needed a better doctor and more health insurance.

“Nonsense,” one said.  “Physically you are fine. What you need is a spiritual awakening!”

There’s that thought again: spiritual awakening.

Isn’t “spiritual awakening” the entire point of Alcoholics Anonymous? Isn’t Step Twelve “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

So,  I stepped into a Catholic Church for the first time in years.  Before too long The Holy Spirit began to talk to me and recommended I go to confession and get a new start on life by wiping away all the built-up sin and grime and dirt.

After confession, my first in decades, I felt like I could fly. So, for once in my life I followed orders exactly: I went to Mass every day, I listened, paid attention, concentrated and consecrated my efforts in life.

I also received Holy Communion daily: The Bread of Life. I have been keeping this daily routine supplemented with lots of prayer and spiritual reading since 2007; and you know what? I have had a spiritual recovery.

My Old friend Peter calls it a “CONVERSION.”  Like Saul in the Scripture: “the scales fell from my eyes.”

And Bill Wilson, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, used those same words.

“The scales fell from our eyes.”

One of the landmark books that told me I was on the right track was “Holy Spirit” by Father Edward Leen.

Father Leen says if you do the daily diet of Mass and Communion and you keep your life in a helpful, grateful and useful frame of mind with lots of good works: you will be filled with an “indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

It happened to me exactly the way my spiritual advisor and Fr. Leen promised.  And I am reborn.

Many Catholics in AA find St. Francis de Sales a good one to read in order to straighten out a long lost catholic soul. “Introduction to the Devout Life” is the book that includes just about everything Francis de Sales teaches: but there are several shorter books of his teachings to get folks started.

And don’t let that word “devout” slow you down. Are you devoted to your sobriety or not? Are you grateful to God and devoted to Him?

I keep in mind that “what we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”

Like a Space Walker tethered to the mother ship by a three inch diameter chord — we have support from our AA fellowship and the Church and all its benefits. But, I know that a mortal sin just now will slam the hatch, sever my relationship with God, and I could float off into space before I come to my senses and return to the Spiritual Life again! IF I can return to the spiritual life again.

Ed White was the first American to perform a spacewalk. Image Creit: NASA

Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” So as I look at the Twelve Steps and the Ten Commandments, and see that our supplemental Catholic Church effort actually has fewer steps that AA! And since we are seeking that “daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition” — it might be a good idea for me not to continue to violate the Ten Commandments. I need all the Grace God can give me and I sure don’t want to slam the door in God’s face again.

It is only by the Grace of God that I am still alive.

So we use everything at our disposal to stay sober and stay on a spiritual path. We “go to any lengths to get it.” That means we pray, we go to AA meetings and we go to Church.

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob both once said, “I’ll never go to church again.” But both DID go back to church after they got sober using the steps.

Now a few thoughts on prayer:

“A soul should not resolve, on account of the dryness it experiences, to abandon prayer.” — St. Teresa of Avila

“No prayer, no spiritual life.” –St. John Paul II

“Nothing so much purifies our mind from its errors, or our will from its depraved  affections, as prayer.” — St. Francis de Sales

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” — St. Pio of  Pietrelcina (“Padre Pio”)

For thousands of years, human beings have been praying. We modern Americans may need to give it a try too. I know it’s not cool but being cool won’t keep me sober or get me to heaven!

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Related:

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We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

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Padre Pio

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 (“Stay in the present moment.”)
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Book: Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly.
  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others
  4. EVANGELIZE

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

August 24, 2018

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

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Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 424

Reading 1 EZ 43:1-7AB

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

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

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

Alleluia MT 23:9B, 10B

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

Gospel MT 23:1-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPIRITUAL WORLDLINESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
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First Thoughts From Peace and Freedom
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The Reverend Jean-Pierre de Caussade (1675–1751) encouraged others to “live in the moment,” accepting everyday obstacles with humility and love. He counseled against worry about our lives before today and worry about our future lives. The important thing for de Caussade is that we get today right.
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Although Fr. de Caussade was a learned follower of the teachings of St. Francis de Sales, he himself was a Jesuit, so readers of his works sometimes see both the Ignatian and Salesian forms of Catholic Spirituality.
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Here’s a taste of de Cuassade writing about humility:
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Humility should be sweet and tranquil, without self-contempt, or   annoyance with ourselves or others, without despondency or voluntary   vexation….
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Far from losing, we gain all in abandoning ourselves entirely to God by love and confidence. The sight of yourself: that confused heap of weaknesses, miseries, corruption, should never distress you. It is on this account that I say boldly, all is well, for I have never known anyone   endowed with this keen insight, so humiliating, to whom it was not a most special grace of God; nor who has not found in it, combined with a true   self-knowledge, that solid humility which is the foundation of all perfection. I   have known, and do know many saintly people who, for their sole possession have that profound conviction of their weakness, and are never so happy as when they   feel themselves, as it were, engulfed in it. They then dwell in truth, and consequently in God who is the sovereign truth. If you but knew how to walk  before Him, your head bowed in this spirit of self-effacement, you would find in   it all that makes the spiritual life. It only remains to know how to preserve this spirit of peace and abandonment.
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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 21, 2018 — “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”

August 19, 2018

“If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

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Memorial ofMemorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Lectionary: 419

Reading 1 EZ 24:15-23

The word of the LORD came to me:
Son of man, by a sudden blow
I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes,
but do not mourn or weep or shed any tears.
Groan in silence, make no lament for the dead,
bind on your turban, put your sandals on your feet,
do not cover your beard, and do not eat the customary bread.
That evening my wife died,
and the next morning I did as I had been commanded.
Then the people asked me, “Will you not tell us what all these things
that you are doing mean for us?”
I therefore spoke to the people that morning, saying to them:
Thus the word of the LORD came to me:
Say to the house of Israel:
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I will now desecrate my sanctuary, the stronghold of your pride,
the delight of your eyes, the desire of your soul.
The sons and daughters you left behind shall fall by the sword.
Ezekiel shall be a sign for you:
all that he did you shall do when it happens.
Thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
You shall do as I have done,
not covering your beards nor eating the customary bread.
Your turbans shall remain on your heads, your sandals on your feet.
You shall not mourn or weep,
but you shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another.

Responsorial Psalm DEUTERONOMY 32:18-19, 20, 21

R. (see 18a) You have forgotten God who gave you birth.
You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you.
You forgot the God who gave you birth.
When the LORD saw this, he was filled with loathing
and anger toward his sons and daughters.
R. You have forgotten God who gave you birth.
“I will hide my face from them,” he said,
“and see what will then become of them.
What a fickle race they are,
sons with no loyalty in them!”
R. You have forgotten God who gave you birth.
“Since they have provoked me with their ‘no-god’
and angered me with their vain idols,
I will provoke them with a ‘no-people’;
with a foolish nation I will anger them.”
R. You have forgotten God who gave you birth.

Alleluia MT 5:3

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 19:16-22

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;
and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.
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Reflection From Spirituality Matters — The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
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And the man went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Listen carefully to Jesus’ words. He doesn’t say, “Give it all to the poor”.

He does say, “Give to the poor.” This presumes that what – or how much – is given to the poor is left to the individual to decide.

In the case of the unnamed young man in today’s Gospel, perhaps his sadness was caused by the fact that he didn’t want to give anything – not one bit – to the poor. His unwillingness to share even the smallest amount of his good fortune with others makes his reluctance he even more saddening.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales counseled:

“We must practice real poverty in the midst of all the goods and riches that God has given us. Frequently give up some of your property by giving it with a generous heart to the poor. To give away what we have is to impoverish ourselves in proportion as we give, and the more we give the poorer we become. It is true that God will repay us not only in the next world but even in this world…Oh, how holy and how rich is the poverty brought on by giving alms!” (IDL, Part II, Chapter 15. p. 165)

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Listen carefully to Francis’ words: “Frequently give up some of your property…”

Count your blessings. Name your possessions. Be they material, like money, or non-material, like influence, time or talent, what transforms our riches into wealth is our willingness to share them with the poor, with the impoverished, with the less-fortunate and with those who have fallen on hard times.

Do you want to gain eternal life? How many – or much – of your possessions are you willing to share with anyone poor or needy?

Just today?

http://www.oblates.org/spirituality-matters-feed/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 AUGUST, 2017, Monday, 20th Week, Ordinary Time
HISTORY IS AN INTERPLAY OF SIN AND GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jdg 2:11-19Ps 106:34-37,39-40,43-44Mt 19:16-22 ]

In the first reading, we read about the existential struggle of every human person.   We see the history of man’s infidelity towards God and his fellowmen.  We are fundamentally sinners, ignorant and weak.  We are ungrateful and unrepentant, until we suffer the consequences of our sins, then we repent and behave ourselves.   But eventually, such things are forgotten and we once again repeat our sins.   This has been the state of humanity since the beginning of time.

Indeed, our attitudes are no different from that of the Israelites.   So before we condemn them, let us remember that we will also repeat their mistakes and history.  Like them, we are blind, ignorant or too weak to resist the temptation to serve false gods.  Instead of acknowledging that God is our only Lord we serve other gods in our lives. “The sons of Israel did what displeases the Lord and served the Baals.  They deserted the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from the gods of the peoples round them.  They bowed down to these; they provoked the Lord; they deserted the Lord to serve Baal and Astarte.”  The god of Baals were gods of fertility and that of the vegetation.  The sons of Israel were no longer nomads and so they sought the pagan gods to protect their crops.   Astarte was also the goddess of love, hatred, wars and fertility.  She was important for their protection from their enemies.   We too worship what we seek in life.  We seek power, glory and wealth hoping that these things could give us the security and satisfy our yearnings.

Then we are punished accordingly.  This is because what we sow is what we reap. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  (Gal 6:8f)

Truly, the Lord behaves like a father who disciplines His child.  “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  (Heb 12:7-11)

After the discipline, the Lord who loves us all the same would then send His messengers to offer us salvation and freedom.   This is the constant experience of humanity with regard to the love and mercy of God, provided we are receptive of His mercy and forgiveness.  This is what the psalmist expressed of our situation.  “Time after time he rescued them, but in their malice they dared to defy him.   In spite of this he paid heed to their distress, so often as he heard their cry.  When the Lord appointed judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and rescued them from the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived, for the Lord felt pity for them as they groaned under the iron grip of their oppressors.”   God is always forgiving and He is always there to assure us of His forgiveness.   He hears our cry for liberation from sin and from the clutches of the Evil One.  He is with us in our struggles and loneliness.

Then this history of infidelity repeats itself.  “But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors.  They followed other gods; they served them and bowed before them, and would not give up the practices and stubborn ways of their ancestors at all.”  This, then, is the ongoing cycle of sin and the prevalence of grace.  Regardless of what situation we are in, the Lord remains faithful to us.   He will not abandon us but He will allow the punishment to unfold itself because of the consequences of our actions.  “Then the Lord appointed judges for them, and rescued the men of Israel from the hands of their plunderers.  But they would not listen to their judges.  They prostituted themselves to other gods, and bowed down before these.  Very quickly they left the path their ancestors had trodden in obedience to the orders of the Lord; they did not follow their example.”

We learn the hard way.  This is the reality of life.  Experience is the best teacher but we have to pay an exorbitant price for the experience.  Somehow, we are slow learners and often forgetful of the mistakes we make.  What lessons can we learn from the Israelites?  

Firstly, serving false gods will lead us to other sins.  When we worship the illusions of our lives, we tend to forget the more essential dimensions of life, such as a clear conscience, love and right relationships.  When we begin to worship the means and forget the ends of all that we do, we are worshipping the false gods of our lives.   All other things can die or disintegrate but not God.   To worship false gods is to worship an illusion.  Only the love of God is true.

Secondly, there is a need to accommodate the beliefs of other religions, especially in this secular global village.   However, secularization can lead us to sin if we are not discerning as to what is good and what is bad. “They failed to destroy the peoples as the Lord had given command, but instead they mingled with the nations and learned to act as they did. They worshipped the idols of the nations and these became a snare to entrap them.  They even offered their own sons and their daughters in sacrifice to demons.  So, they defiled themselves by their deeds and broke their marriage bond with the Lord till his anger blazed against his people; he was filled with horror at his chosen ones.”  That was why the laws in those days were very strict with respect to mingling with people of other religions.

Today, because of better communication and dialogue with other religions, we are able to accommodate and learn from them as much as they from us.  “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”  (Nostra Aetate, 2)   We must seek out what is true and noble for the development of humanity.   That is why we must affirm our common goal of building a united family of peoples.  But we must be judicious.

But life is more than not just getting into trouble.   It is more than obeying the commandments to worship God alone.  This call to worship God alone is spelt out concretely also in the love of our fellowmen.  This is where Jesus brings us further in the application of the observance of God’s commandments.  When the rich man asked the Lord, “’Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’  Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good.  There is one alone who is good.  But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’”   What are these commandments?  Significantly, it concerns an authentic love of self and for others.   Jesus listed the commandments in terms of authentic justice towards our fellowmen.  “You must not kill.  You must not commit adultery.  You must not steal.  You must not bring false witness.  Honour your father and mother, and: You must love your neighbour as yourself.”   It is the love of our fellowmen, practicing mercy and compassion that puts us in the right religion.  Jesus sums up, “Do this and we will have life.”

However, if we want to find a perfect life, then Jesus tells us, “go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  This is a very tall order.   It is not everyone’s calling to do that.  Indeed, this was too much for the young man, for he was attached to his wealth.  He had not come to the state of totally falling in love with Jesus, or have the faith to entrust our his life totally to the providence of God. That is why some of us feel incomplete in life even though we have everything we want.  Many of us are attached to the luxurious lifestyle, food and creature comforts.  It is a lifelong process of submitting everything under the Lordship of Christ.  In this way, the worship of God is the ultimate commandment because it leads to living a life of authentic love and compassion for our brothers and sisters.

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

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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It is not the riches of this world that hold us back: it is our own selves failing to give them up.
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Isn’t everything we have, everything we seem to gain, a gift from God? Isn’t our work a result of the gifts God has given to us?
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My mind jumps ahead to the story of the Camel unable to get through the eye of the needle.
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Jesus then said to his disciples, “I assure
you: it will be very hard for rich people to
enter the Kingdom of heaven. I repeat:
it is much harder for a rich person to enter
the Kingdom of God than for a camel
to go through the eye of a needle”
(Matt. 19:23-23).
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Which way to the needle?

Image result for camel, eye of the needle, art

Have you ever thought of trying to get through the “eye of the needle”? Me neither! I have a bad enough time just trying to “thread” a needle. Either there is not enough light, or the thread is frayed, or my eyes just cannot seem to focus too well. I have many excuses including that … the eye of the needle is too small.

Of course, Jesus was not talking about me, but of a camel, getting through the eye of a needle. I always wondered about that phrase in the Gospels….

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Related:

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Morning Prayer for Tuesday, July 24, 2018 — Practice the Presence of God (Especially when you feel powerless)

July 24, 2018

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Keep as close as you can to the Higher Power. Try to think, act, and live as though you were always in God’s presence. Keeping close to a Power greater than yourself is the solution to most of the earth’s problems. Try to practice the presence of God in the things you think and do. That is the secret of personal power. It is the thing which influences the lives of others for good. Abide in the Lord and rejoice in His love. Keep close to the Divine Spirit in the universe. Keep God close behind your thoughts.

Prayer for the Day

I pray that I may keep close to the Mind of God. I pray that I may live with Him in my heart and mind.

Note from Peace and Freedom: The electric power went off where I live yesterday due to a terrific thunderstorm. I reached out for candles and two books to fill the darkness, as I often do when “powerless.”

The books are Practice the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence and This Tremendous Lover by M. Eugene Boylan.

The back of Boylan’s book has a note  that says the book is often called “the modern Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales.”

A few pages into This Tremendous Lover the reader is confronted with this:

The essence of human nature consists in two points, animality and rationality.
Man thus is in a unique position in the universe, for he shares in some
way the natures of all creatures. His body is material like the rest of the
universe; he feeds and grows as an individual, and multiplies as a race
like the plants; he perceives with his senses and experiences sense
desires like the brute animals; and he even has a share in the angels’
nature, for he is a rational being, endowed with intellect and will. In a
word, he can know and he can love; in this, he even resembles God.
But this very complexity of his nature can lead to difficulty, for the animal
nature in man has its own knowledge and desires, which may be opposed
to, and even anticipate, the decisions of the higher intellectual nature
which should rule his actions. And further, this complexity could mean
that man’s corporal life should come to an end; he is not by nature
immortal…

 

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, January 24, 2018 — Parable of the Sower — Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales

January 23, 2018

Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 319

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Reading 1  2 SM 7:4-17

That night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Should you build me a house to dwell in?
I have not dwelt in a house
from the day on which I led the children of Israel
out of Egypt to the present,
but I have been going about in a tent under cloth.
In all my wanderings everywhere among the children of Israel,
did I ever utter a word to any one of the judges
whom I charged to tend my people Israel, to ask:
Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'”Now then, speak thus to my servant David,
‘The LORD of hosts has this to say:
It was I who took you from the pasture
and from the care of the flock
to be commander of my people Israel.
I have been with you wherever you went,
and I have destroyed all your enemies before you.
And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth.
I will fix a place for my people Israel;
I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place
without further disturbance.
Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,
since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel.
I will give you rest from all your enemies.
The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you.
And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his Kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
And if he does wrong,
I will correct him with the rod of men
and with human chastisements;
but I will not withdraw my favor from him
as I withdrew it from your predecessor Saul,
whom I removed from my presence.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.'”Nathan reported all these words and this entire vision to David.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 89:4-5, 27-28, 29-30

R. (29a) For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
I will make your dynasty stand forever
and establish your throne through all ages.”
R. For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“He shall cry to me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock that brings me victory!’
I myself make him firstborn,
Most High over the kings of the earth.”
R. For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.
“Forever I will maintain my love for him;
my covenant with him stands firm.
I will establish his dynasty forever,
his throne as the days of the heavens.”
R. For ever I will maintain my love for my servant.

Alleluia

R.  Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower;
all who come to him will live forever.
R.  Alleluia, alleluia.
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Gospel  MK 4:1-20

On another occasion, Jesus began to teach by the sea.
A very large crowd gathered around him
so that he got into a boat on the sea and sat down.
And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land.
And he taught them at length in parables,
and in the course of his instruction he said to them,
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and the birds came and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.
And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it
and it produced no grain.
And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.
It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”

And when he was alone,
those present along with the Twelve
questioned him about the parables.
He answered them,
“The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that
they may look and see but not perceive,
and hear and listen but not understand,
in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

Jesus said to them, “Do you not understand this parable?
Then how will you understand any of the parables?
The sower sows the word.
These are the ones on the path where the word is sown.
As soon as they hear, Satan comes at once
and takes away the word sown in them.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground who,
when they hear the word, receive it at once with joy.
But they have no roots; they last only for a time.
Then when tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
they quickly fall away.
Those sown among thorns are another sort.
They are the people who hear the word,
but worldly anxiety, the lure of riches,
and the craving for other things intrude and choke the word,
and it bears no fruit.
But those sown on rich soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it
and bear fruit thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

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Many, even today, are touched by God by reading “Introduction to the Devout Life,” by Saint Francis de Sales. That is one of our favorite books of all time!

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St. Francis de Sales was born to a noble family at Chateau de Sales in the Kingdom of Savoy near Geneva, Switzerland on August 21, 1567. He was a Bishop and Doctor of the Church.

Francis was both intelligent and gentle. From a very early age, he desired to serve God. He knew for years he had a vocation to the priesthood, but kept it from his family. His father wanted him to enter a career in law and politics.

In 1580, Francis attended the University of Paris, and at 24-years-old, he received his doctorate in law at the University of Padua.

All the time, he never lost his passion for God. He studied theology and practiced mental prayers, but kept quiet about his devotion. To please his father, he also studied fencing and riding.

God made his will clear to Francis one day while he was riding. Francis fell from his horse three times that day. Every time he fell, the sword came out of the scabbard, and every time it came out, the sword and scabbard came to rest on the ground in the shape of the Christian cross.

After much discussion and disagreement from his father, Francis was ordained to the priesthood and elected provost of the Diocese of Geneva, in 1593, by the Bishop of Geneva.

Photo: St. Francis de Sales, in Stained Glass, at Église Saint-Léger d’Anneville-en-Saire, France.

During the time of the Protestant reformation, Francis lived close to Calvinist territory. He decided he should lead an expedition to bring the 60,000 Calvinists back to the Catholic Church.

For three years, he trudged through the countryside, had doors slammed in his face and rocks thrown at him. In the bitter winters, his feet froze so badly they bled as he tramped through the snow.

Francis’ unusual patience kept him working. No one would listen to him, no one would even open their door. So, Francis found a way to get under the door. He wrote out little pamphlets to explain true Catholic doctrine and slipped them under the doors. This is one of the first records we have of religious tracts being used to communicate the true Catholic faith to people who had fallen away from the Church.

The parents wouldn’t come to him, so Francis went to the children. When the parents saw how kind he was as he played with the children, they began to talk to him.

By the time Francis returned home, it is believed he brought 40,000 people to the Catholic Church.

He forged wonderful alliances with Pope Clement VIII and Henry IV of France, and in 1601 Francis joined Henry IV on a diplomatic mission. He was to give Lenten sermons at the Chapel Royal. Henry grew attached to Francis and saw him as a “rare bird” who was devout, knowledgeable and a gentleman.

In 1602, Bishop Granier died and Francis was consecrated Bishop of Geneva, although he continued to reside in Annecy. He only set foot in the city of Geneva twice — once when the Pope sent him to try to convert Calvin’s successor, Beza, and another when he traveled through it.

In 1604, Francis took one of the most important steps in his life — the step toward extraordinary holiness and mystical union with God.

In Dijon, Francis saw a widow listening closely to his sermon — a woman he had seen already in a dream. Jane de Chantal was a dedicated Catholic Christian on her own, as Francis was, but it was only when they became friends they began to become saints.

Jane wanted him to take over her spiritual direction, but, not surprisingly, Francis wanted to wait. “I had to know fully what God himself wanted. I had to be sure that everything in this should be done as though his hand had done it.” Jane was on a path to mystical union with God and, in directing her, Francis was compelled to follow her and become a mystic himself.

Years after working with Jane, he made up his mind to form a new religious community. In 1610, he founded The Order of Visitation.

Francis was overworked and often ill because of his constant load of preaching, visiting, and instruction — even catechizing a deaf man so he could take first Communion. He believed the first duty of a bishop was spiritual direction and wrote to Jane, “So many have come to me that I might serve them, leaving me no time to think of myself. However, I assure you that I do feel deep-down- within-me, God be praised. For the truth is that this kind of work is infinitely profitable to me.” For him active work did not weaken his spiritual inner peace but strengthened it.

He gave spiritual direction to most people through letters, which attested to his remarkable patience. “I have more than fifty letters to answer. If I tried to hurry over it all, I would be lost. So, I intend neither to hurry or to worry. This evening, I shall answer as many as I can. Tomorrow I shall do the same and so I shall go on until I have finished.”

During this time, it was wrongly thought that achieving real holiness of life was a task reserved for only for the clergy and those in religious life, and not for lay men and women. In addition, that only contemplatives, people who withdraw from active participation in the world, could really achieve holiness.

Francis insisted that every Christian was called to holiness and sanctity, lived within their own state in life. In holding that belief, he reflected the teaching of Jesus and the early Church Fathers.

Francis laid the groundwork for the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on what is now called the ?universal call to holiness. It reaffirms the teaching of Jesus and the early Church that every Baptized Christian is called to sanctity, no matter what their career or state in life. In every career and state in life, Christians can become more and more like Jesus Christ. That is, after all, what holiness really means.

Francis gave spiritual direction to lay people who were living real lives in the real world. He had proven with his own life that people could grow in holiness while involved in a very active occupation. He also recognized that Christian marriage and family life is itself a call to holiness.

His most famous book, INTRODUCTION TO THE DEVOUT LIFE, was written for ordinary lay people in 1608, not just the clergy and religious. Written originally as letters, it became an instant success all over Europe — though some clergy rejected the notion that lay men and women could achieve holiness in the experience of their daily life. Some tore it up because Francis encouraged dancing and jokes!

For Francis, the love of God was like romantic love. He said, “The thoughts of those moved by natural human love are almost completely fastened on the beloved, their hearts are filled with passion for it, and their mouths full of its praises. When it is gone, they express their feelings in letters, and can’t pass by a tree without carving the name of their beloved in its bark. Thus, to those who love God can never stop thinking about him, longing for him, aspiring to him, and speaking about him. If they could, they would engrave the name of Jesus on the hearts of all humankind.”

The key to love of God was prayer.

“By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God. Begin all your prayers in the presence of God.”

For busy people living in the world, he advised, “Retire at various times into the solitude of your own heart, even while outwardly engaged in discussions or transactions with others and talk to God.”

The test of prayer was a person’s actions.

“To be an angel in prayer and a beast in one’s relations with people is to go lame on both legs.”

He believed the worst sin was to judge someone or to gossip about them. Even if we say we do it out of love we’re still doing it to look better ourselves. We should be as gentle and forgiving with ourselves as we should be with others.

As he became older and more ill he said, “I have to drive myself but the more I try the slower I go.” He wanted to be a hermit but he was more in demand than ever. The Pope needed him, then a princess, then Louis XIII. “Now I really feel that I am only attached to the earth by one foot…” He died on December 28, 1622, after giving a nun his last word of advice: “Humility.”

St. Francis de Sales was beatified on January 8, 1661 and canonized on April 19, 1665 by Pope Alexander VII.

He is often featured with the Heart of Jesus and a Crown of Thorns.

In 1923, Pope Pius XI named St. Francis de Sales the patron saint of Catholic writers and the Catholic press because of the tracts and books he wrote. He is also the patron saint of the deaf, journalists, adult education, and the Sisters of St. Joseph. His feast day is celebrated on January 24.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=51

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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24 JANUARY, 2018, Wednesday, 3rd Week, Ordinary Time
NEW EVANGELIZATION EVER OLD AND YET EVER NEW

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 SM 7:4-17PS 89:4-5,27-30MK 4:1-20 ]

It was only in recent times that the Church started speaking about the New Evangelization, beginning with St John Paul II.  This term was used to reawaken and elicit renewed efforts in a new missionary and evangelizing undertaking.  It is new in its ardour, methods and expression.  “Consequently, the new evangelization is not a matter of redoing something which has been inadequately done or has not achieved its purpose, as if the new activity were an implicit judgment on the failure of the first evangelization. Nor is the new evangelization taking up the first evangelization again, or simply repeating the past. Instead, it is the courage to forge new paths in responding to the changing circumstances and conditions facing the Church in her call to proclaim and live the Gospel today.”  (Lineamenta, 13th Synod of Bishops, No 5).

In other words, the Church is invited to renew her efforts to meet the new challenges facing Church and society in the face of changing cultures as a result of globalization, technological advancement and urbanization.  Today, because of mass communication and a digital era, the way we proclaim the gospel would be quite different from our forefathers.  How are we to live the Christian life today in a urban and affluent setting?  How do we speak of the family unit in a world where family members no longer stay together in the same locale, or even same country?  How do we speak of the indissolubility of marriage and sexual ethics in a world where the ideals of marriage are seen to be impractical and irrelevant? How can we maintain the traditional understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman in the face of same-sex union?  How can we maintain the uniqueness of Christ as the Saviour of the World and the fullness of truth in the wake of inter-religious dialogue?

It is encouraging to read in today’s gospel how the work of the New Evangelization was already in practise during the time of Jesus.  We read how Jesus was not stuck in the old ways of proclaiming the gospel: He “began to teach by the lakeside, but such a huge crowd gathered round him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there.  The people were all along the shore, at the water’s edge.”  Until then, Jesus was using the traditional places to proclaim the gospel, namely, in the synagogues where the Jews would gather to worship and listen to the Word of God.  But His preaching there was often not welcomed because of His criticism of the laws and the religious leaders and most of all, the breaking of the Sabbath.  He aroused much opposition from the religious leaders.

Hence, He felt that perhaps the best way to proclaim the message of His Father’s unconditional love and mercy was not in the synagogues but in the open fields, at the sea shore and on the hills.  Instead of waiting for the people to come to the synagogue, He went out to them in the countryside.  Jesus brought His mission to the people.   He did not confine Himself to a synagogue but He brought God’s love directly to the people wherever He went.  His synagogue was the field or along the road.  He did not need a permanent place to preach the Word of God.

This brings to mind today’s first reading when King David was feeling guilty that he was living in a house of cedar whilst the Ark of the Covenant was housed in a tent.  King David wanted to build a Temple for the Lord.  But the Lord thought otherwise.  He said, “I have never stayed in a house from the day I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today, but have always led a wanderer’s life in a tent.  In all my journeying with the whole people of Israel, did I say to any one of the judges of Israel, whom I had appointed as shepherds of Israel my people:  Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”  The truth is that the God we worship is a Trek God, a God who lives in the midst of His people and moves with them.  This God is so close to His people He wants to be near them.  He does not want to be isolated and kept away from His people.

This is our constant temptation, which is to compartmentalize God in daily life.  This is what secularization seeks to do as well.   Many of us feel happy to put God at an altar, or in the tabernacle at church.  We live a dichotomy between faith and life.  We are Catholics only when we are in church, but outside of church, we behave like everyone else.  Our faith is not expressed in our daily life.  Our God is kept in our churches and in our homes.  That is why God is not felt in public and daily living.  We only remember Him once a week for an hour.  And we feel happy about that because the rest of the time is ours to live according to how we want to live.  We do not think of God unless we are in trouble.

Precisely, the New Evangelization challenges us to go out of our churches, our comfortable and secured confines, to the people where we are to share the Good News.  Many of us are happy to meet only in church for instructions and for activities.  This makes us exclusive, but we are not reaching out to the unreached and to the crowd who do not yet know Jesus.  This is why Pope Francis invites us to go out to preach and share the gospel;  “In our day Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples’ echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary ‘going forth’.   Each Christian and every community must dis­cern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.”  (EG 20)

Pope Francis wrote, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rath­er than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.  If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friend­ship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat’ (Mk 6:37).  (EG 49)

Not only are we to witness Christ in the world, beyond the walls of our parishes and churches, but we must use a new language to speak to our people, especially the young.  In the gospel, Jesus said, “The secret of the kingdom of God is given to you, but to those who are outside everything comes in parables, so that they may see and see again, but not understand.”  What was unique about Jesus as a teacher was that He used parables to convey the God-experience to the people.  He used everyday life examples to help people connect with the love and mercy of God.  Jesus knew that if he continued to use the language of the day, they would be inattentive and He would not be able to sustain their interest more so in the wide open fields where the people could leave as and when they liked.  To help them relate with God’s love, He used parables and stories so that they could identify with what Jesus sought to speak to their hearts and evoke their experiences of God in their lives.

Again, this is what the New Evangelization is asking of us.  We need to find new ways not just new means to express the unchanging truths of the gospel.   By merely repeating the orthodox language of our faith, we are not understood. Moreover, such language no longer holds the attention of the people.  The unchanging truth must be expressed in a way that is not alien to our people.  We also need to reconsider some of our customs, precepts, devotions and even the way we worship.  Some of these were once useful and effective in helping people to encounter God but has now become alien to the modern generation.  Liturgy evolves with time and it is not fixated as many would like to think.  Liturgy is a celebration of life.  Whilst the essence of worship cannot change, the way we worship needs to evolve according to the time. The work of the New Evangelization requires us to communicate more effectively the perennial truths of the gospel in a new way.

In the final analysis, let us not run the risk of losing the heart of the Gospel’s message, which is to help people to encounter Jesus personally.  Let us focus on the essentials, what is beautiful, liberating, joyful and enriching, rather than on the secondary dimensions of our Catholic Faith.  This was what Jesus sought to do in His preaching.  Instead of being bogged down by the traditions, customs and rules of the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus proclaimed the essential message of the gospel – the Father’s unconditional love and mercy through His healing miracles, exorcisms, works of mercy and forgiveness of sins.   He came to set His people free from guilt, a slavish observance of the laws and a religion that makes life burdensome.  We must not allow the presentation of the Catholic Faith to degenerate into a modern Pharisaism.  This is the heart of the gospel as described by Pope Emeritus Benedict, “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”.  (Deus Caritas, 1)

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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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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, August 21, 2017 — “If you wish to be perfect, sell what you have and give to the poor…” — The more we give the poorer we become — How rich is the poverty brought on by giving alms

August 20, 2017

Memorial of Saint Pius X, Pope
Lectionary: 419

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Reading 1 JGS2:11-19

The children of Israel offended the LORD by serving the Baals.
Abandoning the LORD, the God of their fathers,
who led them out of the land of Egypt,
they followed the other gods of the various nations around them,
and by their worship of these gods provoked the LORD.

Because they had thus abandoned him and served Baal and the Ashtaroth,
the anger of the LORD flared up against Israel,
and he delivered them over to plunderers who despoiled them.
He allowed them to fall into the power of their enemies round about
whom they were no longer able to withstand.
Whatever they undertook, the LORD turned into disaster for them,
as in his warning he had sworn he would do,
till they were in great distress.
Even when the LORD raised up judges to deliver them
from the power of their despoilers,
they did not listen to their judges,
but abandoned themselves to the worship of other gods.
They were quick to stray from the way their fathers had taken,
and did not follow their example of obedience
to the commandments of the LORD.
Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, he would be with the judge
and save them from the power of their enemies
as long as the judge lived;
it was thus the LORD took pity on their distressful cries
of affliction under their oppressors.
But when the judge died,
they would relapse and do worse than their ancestors,
following other gods in service and worship,
relinquishing none of their evil practices or stubborn conduct.

Responsorial Psalm PS 106:34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43AB AND 44

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They did not exterminate the peoples,
as the LORD had commanded them,
But mingled with the nations
and learned their works.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They served their idols,
which became a snare for them.
They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to demons.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They became defiled by their works,
and wanton in their crimes.
And the LORD grew angry with his people,
and abhorred his inheritance.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Many times did he rescue them,
but they embittered him with their counsels.
Yet he had regard for their affliction
when he heard their cry.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

AlleluiaMT 5:3

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are the poor in spirit;
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 19:16-22

A young man approached Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”
He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?
There is only One who is good.
If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
He asked him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus replied, “You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
honor your father and your mother;

and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him,
“All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go,
sell what you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad,
for he had many possessions.

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Reflection From Spirituality Matters — The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales
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And the man went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Listen carefully to Jesus’ words. He doesn’t say, “Give it all to the poor”.

He does say, “Give to the poor.” This presumes that what – or how much – is given to the poor is left to the individual to decide.

In the case of the unnamed young man in today’s Gospel, perhaps his sadness was caused by the fact that he didn’t want to give anything – not one bit – to the poor. His unwillingness to share even the smallest amount of his good fortune with others makes his reluctance he even more saddening.

In his Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales counseled:

“We must practice real poverty in the midst of all the goods and riches that God has given us. Frequently give up some of your property by giving it with a generous heart to the poor. To give away what we have is to impoverish ourselves in proportion as we give, and the more we give the poorer we become. It is true that God will repay us not only in the next world but even in this world…Oh, how holy and how rich is the poverty brought on by giving alms!” (IDL, Part II, Chapter 15. p. 165)

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Listen carefully to Francis’ words: “Frequently give up some of your property…”

Count your blessings. Name your possessions. Be they material, like money, or non-material, like influence, time or talent, what transforms our riches into wealth is our willingness to share them with the poor, with the impoverished, with the less-fortunate and with those who have fallen on hard times.

Do you want to gain eternal life? How many – or much – of your possessions are you willing to share with anyone poor or needy?

Just today?

http://www.oblates.org/spirituality-matters-feed/

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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21 AUGUST, 2017, Monday, 20th Week, Ordinary Time
HISTORY IS AN INTERPLAY OF SIN AND GRACE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Jdg 2:11-19Ps 106:34-37,39-40,43-44Mt 19:16-22 ]

In the first reading, we read about the existential struggle of every human person.   We see the history of man’s infidelity towards God and his fellowmen.  We are fundamentally sinners, ignorant and weak.  We are ungrateful and unrepentant, until we suffer the consequences of our sins, then we repent and behave ourselves.   But eventually, such things are forgotten and we once again repeat our sins.   This has been the state of humanity since the beginning of time.

Indeed, our attitudes are no different from that of the Israelites.   So before we condemn them, let us remember that we will also repeat their mistakes and history.  Like them, we are blind, ignorant or too weak to resist the temptation to serve false gods.  Instead of acknowledging that God is our only Lord we serve other gods in our lives. “The sons of Israel did what displeases the Lord and served the Baals.  They deserted the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from the gods of the peoples round them.  They bowed down to these; they provoked the Lord; they deserted the Lord to serve Baal and Astarte.”  The god of Baals were gods of fertility and that of the vegetation.  The sons of Israel were no longer nomads and so they sought the pagan gods to protect their crops.   Astarte was also the goddess of love, hatred, wars and fertility.  She was important for their protection from their enemies.   We too worship what we seek in life.  We seek power, glory and wealth hoping that these things could give us the security and satisfy our yearnings.

Then we are punished accordingly.  This is because what we sow is what we reap. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  (Gal 6:8f)

Truly, the Lord behaves like a father who disciplines His child.  “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  (Heb 12:7-11)

After the discipline, the Lord who loves us all the same would then send His messengers to offer us salvation and freedom.   This is the constant experience of humanity with regard to the love and mercy of God, provided we are receptive of His mercy and forgiveness.  This is what the psalmist expressed of our situation.  “Time after time he rescued them, but in their malice they dared to defy him.   In spite of this he paid heed to their distress, so often as he heard their cry.  When the Lord appointed judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and rescued them from the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived, for the Lord felt pity for them as they groaned under the iron grip of their oppressors.”   God is always forgiving and He is always there to assure us of His forgiveness.   He hears our cry for liberation from sin and from the clutches of the Evil One.  He is with us in our struggles and loneliness.

Then this history of infidelity repeats itself.  “But once the judge was dead, they relapsed and behaved even worse than their ancestors.  They followed other gods; they served them and bowed before them, and would not give up the practices and stubborn ways of their ancestors at all.”  This, then, is the ongoing cycle of sin and the prevalence of grace.  Regardless of what situation we are in, the Lord remains faithful to us.   He will not abandon us but He will allow the punishment to unfold itself because of the consequences of our actions.  “Then the Lord appointed judges for them, and rescued the men of Israel from the hands of their plunderers.  But they would not listen to their judges.  They prostituted themselves to other gods, and bowed down before these.  Very quickly they left the path their ancestors had trodden in obedience to the orders of the Lord; they did not follow their example.”

We learn the hard way.  This is the reality of life.  Experience is the best teacher but we have to pay an exorbitant price for the experience.  Somehow, we are slow learners and often forgetful of the mistakes we make.  What lessons can we learn from the Israelites?  

Firstly, serving false gods will lead us to other sins.  When we worship the illusions of our lives, we tend to forget the more essential dimensions of life, such as a clear conscience, love and right relationships.  When we begin to worship the means and forget the ends of all that we do, we are worshipping the false gods of our lives.   All other things can die or disintegrate but not God.   To worship false gods is to worship an illusion.  Only the love of God is true.

Secondly, there is a need to accommodate the beliefs of other religions, especially in this secular global village.   However, secularization can lead us to sin if we are not discerning as to what is good and what is bad. “They failed to destroy the peoples as the Lord had given command, but instead they mingled with the nations and learned to act as they did. They worshipped the idols of the nations and these became a snare to entrap them.  They even offered their own sons and their daughters in sacrifice to demons.  So, they defiled themselves by their deeds and broke their marriage bond with the Lord till his anger blazed against his people; he was filled with horror at his chosen ones.”  That was why the laws in those days were very strict with respect to mingling with people of other religions.

Today, because of better communication and dialogue with other religions, we are able to accommodate and learn from them as much as they from us.  “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.”  (Nostra Aetate, 2)   We must seek out what is true and noble for the development of humanity.   That is why we must affirm our common goal of building a united family of peoples.  But we must be judicious.

But life is more than not just getting into trouble.   It is more than obeying the commandments to worship God alone.  This call to worship God alone is spelt out concretely also in the love of our fellowmen.  This is where Jesus brings us further in the application of the observance of God’s commandments.  When the rich man asked the Lord, “’Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’  Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good.  There is one alone who is good.  But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’”   What are these commandments?  Significantly, it concerns an authentic love of self and for others.   Jesus listed the commandments in terms of authentic justice towards our fellowmen.  “You must not kill.  You must not commit adultery.  You must not steal.  You must not bring false witness.  Honour your father and mother, and: You must love your neighbour as yourself.”   It is the love of our fellowmen, practicing mercy and compassion that puts us in the right religion.  Jesus sums up, “Do this and we will have life.”

However, if we want to find a perfect life, then Jesus tells us, “go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  This is a very tall order.   It is not everyone’s calling to do that.  Indeed, this was too much for the young man, for he was attached to his wealth.  He had not come to the state of totally falling in love with Jesus, or have the faith to entrust our his life totally to the providence of God. That is why some of us feel incomplete in life even though we have everything we want.  Many of us are attached to the luxurious lifestyle, food and creature comforts.  It is a lifelong process of submitting everything under the Lordship of Christ.  In this way, the worship of God is the ultimate commandment because it leads to living a life of authentic love and compassion for our brothers and sisters.

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

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
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It is not the riches of this world that hold us back: it is our own selves failing to give them up.
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Isn’t everything we have, everything we seem to gain, a gift from God? Isn’t our work a result of the gifts God has given to us?
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My mind jumps ahead to the story of the Camel unable to get through the eye of the needle.
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Jesus then said to his disciples, “I assure
you: it will be very hard for rich people to
enter the Kingdom of heaven. I repeat:
it is much harder for a rich person to enter
the Kingdom of God than for a camel
to go through the eye of a needle”
(Matt. 19:23-23).
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Which way to the needle?

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Have you ever thought of trying to get through the “eye of the needle”? Me neither! I have a bad enough time just trying to “thread” a needle. Either there is not enough light, or the thread is frayed, or my eyes just cannot seem to focus too well. I have many excuses including that … the eye of the needle is too small.

Of course, Jesus was not talking about me, but of a camel, getting through the eye of a needle. I always wondered about that phrase in the Gospels….

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Related:

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Pain, Suffering, Addiction and Spiritual Growth — Everyone Has Issues to Resolve — Here Are Some Resources

June 15, 2017

A friend asked us for a quick update on our spiritual journey — Here are some resources for others to consider….

Related:

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Above: This is the life of the average American man. At the bottom (the biggest part) is sex, drugs and rock and roll. (Notice there is a lot of wreckage near here!) As we move up, through the years, God hopes we are growing spiritually and throwing out things that get us into trouble. When we get to the top, He hopes we can reach out closer to Him. Many of us choose to fail….

If you stay at the bottom, You’ll die in the desert

Related:

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Research Going Badly: I tried everything before I tried to allow God to find me!

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The Brain and Being Human: