Posts Tagged ‘St. Francis of Assisi’

Christian Understanding of Pain and Suffering

June 24, 2017

By Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán

The Thinking and Theology of John Paul II

Image may contain: one or more people

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, gave a lecture in July, in Aachen, Germany, on “Pain, an enigma or a mystery?”. Cardinal Barragán also visited several institutions connected with the Grunenthal Foundation for Palliative Care. The following is a translation from Italian of excerpts of the Cardinal’s lecture.

I have been asked to expound on John Paul II’s incomparable thinking on human pain. I shall first mention briefly several facts about the physiology of human pain. Then, given the Holy Father’s openness to all human values, it seems to me that it would be interesting to allude to and discuss certain key thoughts on four solutions from outside the Christian context.

The enigma of suffering

Pope John Paul II does not conceal the fact that suffering is something complex, enigmatic and intangible that must be treated with full respect and compassion and even with awe; but this does not justify the attempt to understand it, since only in this way will it be possible to come to terms with it.

He then briefly outlines the context of suffering, speaking of the vast field of suffering and of the suffering person. He notes from the outset that a misunderstanding of suffering can actually lead to the denial of God.

Pope John Paul II states: “Suffering is something which is still wider than sickness”, because there is a “distinction between physical suffering and moral suffering” (Salvifici Doloris, n. 5).

In addition to individual suffering, there is collective suffering due to human errors and transgressions, especially war. There are also times when this collective suffering becomes more acute.

Suffering has a subject and it is the individual who experiences it; yet it is not imprisoned within the person but gives rise to solidarity with others who are suffering; for the only one who has a special awareness of this is the person, the whole person. Thus, suffering involves solidarity (cf. ibid., n. 8).

It is far from easy to define the cause of suffering or of the evil connected with it. People put questions to God about its cause and frequently reach the point of denying him when they are unable to discover the reason for it (cf. ibid., n. 9).

One first needs to frame the enigma correctly and begin to seek its cause.

Suffering, the Pope says, consists in feeling cut off from good. Being cut off from good is an evil. Consequently, the cause of suffering is an evil; so, suffering and evil can be identified with each other.

As for evil, it is a deprivation; it has no positive value in itself and therefore cannot be a positive cause or principle, for its origin is a mere privation. There are as many evils as things that are wanting: an evil, according to its intensity, gives rise to pain, sorrow, depression, disappointment and even desperation; it exists in dispersion but at the same time entails solidarity. Since it originates in privation, the inevitable question is: “Why did this deprivation occur, what is its cause?”.

To respond, the Pope leaves the area of enigma and moves on to that of mystery. He does not attempt to do so with the nebulous obscurity of myth but penetrates to the very core of the Christian faith.

Mystery, in the Christian faith, is not darkness but dazzling brightness. The etymological root of the word helps us understand something about it: “mystery” derives from the Greek “Mυο” or “Mυєιν”, which means closing the eyes, not in the sense of going about blind, but of closing the eyes if they are dazzled, such as occurs, for instance, when we look directly at the sun. It is only the dazzling light, its excessive brightness, that prevents us from seeing anything in front of us, and it is in this that we car make out the mystery of suffering.

Furthermore, the Christian mystery is not only something contemplated but also experienced. Only by experiencing the mystery can we penetrate it with our minds. Only by living the mystery of Christian suffering can we get an idea of what suffering means and, as the Pope said previously, transcend it and overcome it. Let us now try to describe suffering.

The mystery of suffering

Three topics, among others, that the Pope addresses in his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris with regard to suffering as a mystery are: “evil and suffering”, “Christ takes on suffering”, and “the value of human suffering”. To enter into the mystery, let us be guided by God himself. The Pope enables us to penetrate into Revelation in order to move on to ascension in the mystery.

The Holy Father tells us that in Old Testament biblical language, suffering and evil are at first identified with each other. Thanks to the Greek language however, a distinction is made particularly in the New Testament between suffering and evil. Suffering is a passive or active attitude to evil, or rather, to the lack of a good that it would be desirable to possess (cf. ibid., n. 7).

In fact, in the Book of Job and some other Books of the Old Testament the answer is that the cause of evil the transgression of the natural order created by God. Suffering and transgression were held to be the same, at least it was believed that suffering was caused by transgression. This the opinion of Job’s friends (cf. ibid., 10).

However, although God rejects this theory and approves Job’s innocence his suffering remains a mystery: not all suffering is consequential to transgression, which is proof of Job’s righteousness. It prefigures the Lord’s passion (cf. ibid., n. 11). It further affirms that suffering is a punishment inflicted for self-correction, since good follows evil, leading to conversion and to rebuilding goodness (cf. ibid., n. 12),

The Pope now goes a step further and reaches the heart of the mystery; in his mortal life, Christ put an end to pain by his miracles, He took upon himself the suffering of all and bore it with full consciousness on the Cross (cf. ibid., n, 16}.

The only answer [to the “why” of suffering] can come from the love of God in the Cross (cf. ibid., n. 13). It is God the Father who provides the answer to the problem of suffering: it consists in the fact that he “gives” his Son to the world. Evil is sin and suffering, death. With the Cross, he overcomes sin, and with his Resurrection, death (Jn 3:16; cf. ibid., n. 14).

In the Fourth Song of the Suffering Servant in the Book of Isaiah, the meaning of Christ’s suffering in the passion is portrayed even more vividly than it is in the Gospels. His suffering is redemptive; its depth can be measured by the depth of the evil in the history of the world, especially since the person who suffers it is God (cf. ibid., n. 17).

Christ provides an answer to the problem of suffering by offering his unreserved availability and compassion; his presence is effective: he gives help and gives himself (cf. ibid., n. 28).

Through suffering, human beings are incorporated into the pain of Christ. Suffering gives rise to love for those who suffer, a disinterested love to help them by relieving it. This is now official and organized through health-care institutions and the professionals who work in them, and also through volunteers. It is a matter of a real vocation, especially when one is united to the Church with a Christian profession.

The assistance that families give their sick relatives is important in this area. Moreover, those who not only act to help the sick but also to drive away a whole series of evils, those who fight hatred, violence, cruelty and every type of physical and spiritual suffering, belong to the same category as the Good Samaritan.

Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and nature

The Good Samaritan by Walter Rane.

Every man and every woman should feel personally called to bear witness to love in suffering and must not leave those who are suffering to be cared for solely by official institutions (ibid., n.29). The Parable of the Good Samaritan corroborates what Christ said about the Last Judgment; “I was sick and you visited me”. Christ himself is the One who was cared for, and the one who fell into the hands of bandits is cared for and helped. The meaning of suffering is to do good by one’s suffering and to do good to those who suffer (cf, ibid., n.30).

The Pope ends by saying that the mystery of man is revealed in Christ, and the mystery of man is very specially connected to suffering. In Christ the enigma of pain and death is revealed. Only in love is it possible to find the saving response to pain. May the suffering of Mary and the saints help us discover this response. May pain and suffering be transformed into a source of strength for all humanity,

The comment

I think that the development of the Pope’s thought climbs six steps towards the fullness of the mystery of suffering and pain; we can sum them up as follows:

Suffering is not in itself evil but is the effect of a negative cause. Evil is not a positive entity but a privation. Deprivation does not demand a positive cause but the search for its origin.

The origin of the privation is sin. The sin committed by a person spreads by joint human liability. Sin can be eliminated through suffering itself in a very special context of solidarity.

Only God can bestow this solidarity upon us. This gift of solidarity is the meaning of the Incarnation and the meaning of Jesus Christ. For this solidarity, Christ brought the elimination of sin to completion through his suffering in his life, passion, death and Resurrection.

This divine action is an act of the Most Holy Trinity since the Eternal Father gave his Son to humanity so that he might redeem it through the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Love of the Father and of the Son, and it is only through the Love of the Spirit that we can glimpse this mysterious, redeeming solidarity.

Through Christ’s solidarity with al humanity the human pain of all time; was suffered by Christ in his passion and his redeeming death. Thus, human pain and suffering are transformed from something negative into something positive, into a source of life, as it were because they become redemptive.

Each person in his or her suffering is united with the suffering of Christ, and thus this suffering mysteriously becomes a source of life and resurrection. Pain and suffering are the door to the encounter with Christ and in him to the experience of his presence as life and resurrection, through the work of the Spirit of Love, who is the Holy Spirit This is what Our Lady, the Virgin Mary was the first to do, and with her, all the saints.

This definitive destruction of suffering through suffering leads us to destroy our actual suffering with the whole panoply of means at our disposal, as in the case of the Good Samaritan.

The Pope thus situates us in the heart of the mystery whose light dazzles us. For we find ourselves in intimacy with the Blessed Trinity, in the loving reality of the unity of the Triune God and in the depths of this mystery. This is the central mystery of the entire Christian religion, not in the abstract nor in an immensely remote way, but in a closeness present in human history into whose temporal dimensions eternity bursts, through the historical Incarnation of the Word with his birth, life, passion, death and Resurrection.

This is a Trinitarian and Christological solidarity in which the absolute fullness of life is attained through death. It is called “cross” and “resurrection”. We find ourselves at the heart of the Christian mystery, inaccessible except through an experience of it: no one who does not know it can prove its efficacy or find its solution.

The solution to the mystery of evil is not only discovered through theological exposition but also by experiencing that something which, if steadily gazed at, darkens because of its excessive brightness yet is very real – we can say the most real reality -, for it is the only way to happiness.

In this way we are within the nucleus of salvation. This is the heart of Christianity. Tertullian said: “Credo quia ineptum“. By experiencing relief from evil through suffering, and through that cruelest form of suffering which sums up all imaginable forms of suffering, the Cross, this “ineptum“, becomes “aptum“, the most just and rational that we can imagine, for it is the only way to experience happiness.

This is why the mystery of pain shifts from pain in itself to the mystery of solidarity. Solidarity, as the foundation of the whole of existence, is not only sympathy with all, a way of being socially committed and aware that we all belong to the same race, culture, nationality, etc., but is also the experiencing of a bond with all other human beings so deeply within ourselves that it is not a qualification that comes to us as soon as we exist but constitutes our existence itself.

Solidarity belongs to divinized human life as a gift received which takes part in the mystery itself of God’s very life. The life of God is infinitely perfect in each one of the divine Persons through the internal solidarity between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This infinite solidarity is infinite Love, which is the Holy Spirit who has been poured out into our hearts, an infinite Love that is God himself. The mystery of suffering is contained in the mystery of Love, in the mystery of the Spirit.

In this way, the mystery of suffering-love enters into the very constitution of God incarnate, the Son made flesh through the work of the Holy Spirit. Since Christ is the most intimate model for every person, the Holy Spirit, the Love of God and redemptive suffering enter into the actual objective, and we might say ontological, constitution of humanity.

In contrast to cold objectivity, however, it is something that indeed belongs to the objectivity of our being, but with the maximum loving subjectivity, since it is and depends upon our free will in such a way that we can accept or reject it. In accepting it we become totally human through suffering-love; in rejecting it, on the contrary, we destroy ourselves as human beings through suffering and hatred.

The Pope is aware of the difficulty of reasoning in this way and therefore tells us that the reality of suffering in solidarity should only be understood through the Resurrection. From our solidarity with the essence of life which is the Risen Christ, we can understand our loving solidarity with Christ suffering on the Cross; just as the Risen Christ includes in his Resurrection the resurrection of humanity, of each and every one of us, so too the suffering of Christ contains the suffering and pain of each and every one of us. There is no separation between the Resurrection and the Cross but convergence, both in Christ and in us; the Pope says, therefore, that Christ contains the signs of his wounds in his glorified Body.

One can thus realize and understand what would otherwise be an untenable paradox, scandal and folly: the Cross is glorious; having been the evil most feared as total death, it becomes the glorious beginning of the whole of the second creation. The nothing from which this new world of happiness or the definitive Paradise flows is not an innocent nothingness but a guilty nothingness that is the greatest evil – sin – which leads definitively to the Cross. And from the Cross, not by virtue of the Cross but by virtue of the Father’s omnipotence and the Spirit’s solidarity and Love, the Incarnate Word recreates within us the authentic Adam, the man of truth, the model planned by God from all eternity so that we might be authentically human.


Love is the only key to deciphering the enigma of pain and suffering: love that can transform nothingness into full reality. The lack of meaning, the lack of direction, the radical anticulture, contradiction, death: in a fullness of meaning, of orientation, in an ascendant culture, in joyous affirmation, in life: folly and stupidity, in what is wisest and most sensible, it is the intimate solidarity of love triumphant that raises, in loving solidarity with the most atrocious suffering that kills. It is victory over death.

Thus, John Paul II leads us to scrutinize the meaning of human suffering in a mysterious and dazzling way, and which is also the only valid perspective; at last, the enigma becomes mystery. It is a joyful, shining mystery and full of happiness. It is the paradox that returns to being logical through the Omnipotent Love of God the Father who is his Spirit, and whose effectiveness is to be found in the culmination of human history when he grants to us the close solidarity of all peoples in the Pasch of the Incarnate Word.

L’Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
7 September 2005, page 9



Image may contain: text

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 1, 2017 — Ash Wednesday — “Go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” — Interpretations by St. Francis of Assisi and Pope Benedict XVI

February 28, 2017

A churchgoer receives a cross of ashes painted on her forehead from a priest during Ash Wednesday Mass at Westminster Cathedral. 

A churchgoer receives a cross of ashes painted on her forehead from a priest during Ash Wednesday Mass at Westminster Cathedral, London, UK. Credit Getty Images

Ash Wednesday
Lectionary: 219

Reading 1 JL 2:12-18

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
gather the children
and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?'”

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
and took pity on his people.

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

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

Reading 2 2 COR 5:20—6:2

Brothers and sisters:
We are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Working together, then,
we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says:

In an acceptable time I heard you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;
behold, now is the day of salvation.

Verse Before The Gospel SEE PS 95:8

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

Gospel MT 6:1-6, 16-18

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”



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

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Joel 2:12-18; Ps 50:3-6,12-14,17; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Below by Frank Weathers

In the past, I’ve shared some stories on Christian saints who survived for long periods of time on the the Eucharist alone. Below is a story on how St. Francis of Assisi spent Lent one year, eating only a small portion of his provisions.

The story comes to us from The Little Flowers of St. Francis. Who wrote these stories? Who compiled them? Are they literally true? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. But I do know this: there is great freedom in poverty, to be able to drop everything and become a hermit for 40 days.  And great blessings for the faithful penitent.

Image may contain: one or more people

I have no trouble believing that St. Francis could go so long without food.  Because miracles always defy the conventional wisdom. Always.

How St Francis kept Lent on an island in the Lake of Perugia,

The true servant of Christ, St. Francis, was in some sense as another Christ, given to the world for the salvation of the people; therefore God the Father willed to make him in many of his actions conformable to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. This was shown in the venerable company of his twelve companions, and in the admirable mystery of the sacred stigmata, and in his continuous fast during the holy Lent, which took place in this manner.

Once on a time, St Francis on the day of the carnival went to the Lake of Perugia, to the house of one of his disciples, where he was entertained for the night, and there he was inspired by God to pass this Lent on an island in the lake. Wherefore St Francis prayed his disciple, that for the love of Christ he would carry him across in his little boat to an island in the lake where no one inhabited, and that he would do this on the night of Ash Wednesday, so that no one might know of it. Then the other, for the great love and devotion he bore to St Francis, solicitous to grant his request, carried him to the said island, and St Francis took nothing with him but two little loaves.

And when they had arrived at the island, and his friend was about to return to his home, St Francis earnestly besought him not to reveal to any one what he should do, and not to come again till Holy Thursday. So his friend departed, and Sc Francis remained alone; and there being no habitation into which he could retire, he entered into a thicket, where many trees and shrubs had formed a hiding-place, resembling a little hut: and in this shelter he disposed himself to prayer and to the contemplation of heavenly things.

And he remained there the whole of Lent, without eating or drinking, except the half of one of those little loaves, as was witnessed by his disciple when he returned to him on Holy Thursday, who found, of the two loaves, one entire, and the half of the other. It is believed that St Francis so refrained from eating out of reverence for the fasting of the blessed Christ, who fasted forty days and forty nights without taking any material food; and thus with that half loaf he kept from himself the poison of vainglory, and after the example of Christ he fasted forty days and forty nights.

And afterwards, in this spot, where St Francis had sustained this marvellous abstinence, God granted many miracles through his merits; for which cause men began to build houses there, arid to inhabit them; and in a short time there was built a large and prosperous village, and the house for the brothers, which is still called the House of the Island. And to this day the men and women of the village have great reverence and devotion for the spot where St Francis made this Lent.

Why I am Catholic? To follow in the footsteps of Christians like St. Francis of Assisi.

Lent? Here we go.

No automatic alt text available.

The Imitation of Christ, is a Classic Christian guidebook like The Little Flowers of St. Francis. Both are wonderful companions for Lent.






Commentary on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 from Living Space

We move today to a different theme, namely, the way in which we are to pay our worship to God.

Jesus’ teaching is based on the three basic acts of religion expected of a devout Jew – almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. In each case, Jesus warns his disciples not to indulge in any form of ostentation so as to attract the admiration of others.

He presents exaggerated images of how we should not do things in the way of ostentatious hypocrites. He speaks about people who blow trumpets in the streets to draw the attention of everyone when they give alms to the poor. He speaks about hypocrites who say their prayers in the most conspicuous places so that people will marvel at how holy they are. He speaks about people putting on gloomy and drawn looks so that everyone will know that they are fasting. In fact, Jews were only expected to fast on one day in the year, namely, on the Day of Atonement but the practice of regular fasting had become more common in Jesus’ time.

All this, Jesus says, is no worship of God but a kind of self-advertisement. Such people, he says, get their reward, namely, the admiration of the onlooker but it is not the reward that comes from acts of genuine worship.

When his disciples pray or fast or give alms they should do it in such a way that their actions will be directed entirely to God and not to themselves. We do remember earlier in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus said that people should be able to see the good works of his disciples but then the purpose was not that they would be praised but that people would be led to glorify God.

As a rider to this passage we should point out that Jesus’ recommendation that we pray in private where only God can see us is not to be interpreted as meaning that it is not necessary for us to take part in forms of community prayer, which Jesus himself would have done whenever he attended the synagogue or went to the Temple. It would be a gross misreading of this text to argue, as people sometimes are heard to do, that it is not necessary to attend Sunday Mass because “I can pray equally well in the privacy of my home”. To speak in such a way is to misunderstand completely the essentially communal nature of the Eucharistic celebration.




Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
10 FEBRUARY 2016, Ash Wednesday (Last Year)

SCRIPTURE READINGS: Joel 2:12-18; 2 Cor 5:20 – 6:2; Mt 6:1-6, 16-18In the first reading, the prophet, Joel was predicting the downfall of Judah and the impending judgement of God if they did not repent.  They would have to face the punishment of God, suffering the plague of locusts which would devastate the whole Kingdom.  On another level, this prophecy also hints at the invading enemy that would eventually take over Judah unless the people repented and be united in the Lord.  This, too, was the call of St Paul when he exhorted his people, “We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God … For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.”

We are in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is the same call of Pope Francis.  God is merciful to us.  He is the Lord of compassion.  As Joel said, “he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent.” St Paul begs us “not to neglect the grace of God that you have received.”  The season of Lent, which begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, is a time of grace.  God wants to renew His love and mercy for us.  He does not want us to harm ourselves.   The call to repentance is not to take away our joy and our happiness and freedom.  Rather, it is to give us true joy, lasting happiness and true freedom from our sins, follies and hurts.  The mercy and compassion of God is readily available to all who come to Him as the prophet says, “Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes, oblation and libation  for the Lord your God? … Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.”

However, to receive His mercy, we must come back to Him with a sincere and contrite heart.  This is what the prophet was telling his people. “Now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning. Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again.”  The call to enter into the mercy of God is preceded by repentance of heart.   It calls for true sorrow for our sins and for living a life that hurts us and our loved ones.  Sin always is a lack of love and causes sorrow and misery.  We all know that because of our greed, lust, anger, negligence and sloth, we have caused others to suffer.  Thus, as Joel reminds us, we need to lament sincerely for our wrong doings.  “Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament. Let them say, ‘Spare your people, Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations, “Where is their God?”‘

This is what the Lord is also reminding us in today’s gospel of the dangers of external display without a corresponding change of heart.  Rending our garments is not sufficient to receive God’s grace.  Receiving ashes on our foreheads alone does not make us holy.  Indeed, we can even perform the three pillars of the Lenten exercises, namely, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and yet it will not do us any good.  He told the disciples, “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.”   Indeed, we must not do things to impress others because it shows the lack of genuine sorrow and love.  That we want people’s attention means that we only reinforce the sin of pride and egotism in us.   Perhaps, we can cheat the world by appearing to be good but certainly not for long because they will see through us.  We can pray seven times a day, fast and give alms, but when they see our lifestyles, the way we talk and act, they will immediately know that we are hypocrites.  Even if the world cannot see, God sees through us and He knows that our heart is not for Him but for ourselves.

How, then, can we develop a contrite and sincere heart of repentance?  Firstly, we need to pray.  But as Jesus advised us, “when you pray go to your private room and, when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”  This is not to say that we should not join in community prayers, but we need time to be alone with the Lord, meditating and contemplating on His Word, doing a thorough examen every day, examining where we have failed to love God and give glory to Him; and when we have failed to recognize Him in our daily life.  Without self-awareness through prayer, we cannot grow in holiness.  I believe that many people are hardly aware of their true selves.  They sincerely think that they are quite holy and very good but they are blind to their faults and defensive when their weaknesses are highlighted.  As a result, they never grow in virtues and in holiness.  Although they can pray the whole day, be active in church, teach and preach the Word of God, yet their lives are anything but that of the life of Christ, lacking in generosity and compassion.  We must pray with the psalmist, “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done.”

Secondly, we need to fast.  This is by no means an easy exercise.  For some, they are not able to fast because they will feel giddy and unable to work or do anything.  Yet, if we fast according to our ability, since fasting has different degrees, from forgoing food altogether to fasting on bread and water, or half-meals, we can reap some graces from this exercise.  It teaches us to discipline the body so that we can discipline our mind and spirit.   It helps us to identify with the pain and suffering of Christ so that we can appreciate His sufferings more and how much He loves us. “For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God.”  Fasting is also a sure way to express our deep sincerity in desiring the grace of conversion and holiness.  Anyone who is willing to pay a price for what he wants dearly will find it.   Success is not for the faint hearted, so too is holiness!  Above all, fasting reminds us to depend on God alone as Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4)

Thirdly, to grow in sincerity of heart, we need to give alms.  Helping the poor, reaching out to them, attending to the sick, feeling and empathizing with the wounded and the weak; being with the distress and broken hearted, help us to share the joy and mercy of God who comes to be with us.   In giving alms, we learn to appreciate what we have and the sufferings of humanity so that we will go beyond our suffering.  The reason why we complain so much is because each one of us magnifies our sufferings, privation and woes as if our crosses are the biggest and the most difficult in this world.  There are many more who are suffering, so we are not alone.  Through reaching out to the poor and suffering in all its different dimensions, we become grateful and more willing to share what we have with others.  By so doing, we become compassionate, loving and able to let go of our own pains and our things as well.

For us as Catholics, we are fortunate that we need not take this journey alone.  The whole Church, together with the catechumens preparing for their baptism, is going through this journey.   When we travel together, finding support and encouragement from each other, we can better enter into this state of repentance and prayer.  This was why Joel urged the whole nation to repent and fast together.  He said, “Sound a trumpet in Zion! Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove. Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament.”  This is the same call of the Church today as we begin the season of Lent.   During Mass, at the imposition of ashes, the priests says, “Repent and believe in the gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  Truly, let us realize the shortness of life.  Let us not deprive ourselves of the grace of God that has been given to us.  Let us receive God’s mercy as we enter into the spirit of Lent, the spirit of repentance through prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore 
Homily of Benedict XVI’s last public Mass as Pope, Ash Wednesday 2013
Image may contain: 2 people, people standing
Pope Benedict XVI puts ashes on the head of a cardinal during Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Feburay 13, 2013. The service was the last large liturgical event of Pope Benedict’s papacy. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
 Venerable Brothers,

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


On Ash Wednesday, pope preaches on humility, Christian unity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Celebrating what was expected to be the last public liturgy of his pontificate two weeks before his resignation, Pope Benedict XVI preached on the virtues of humility and Christian unity and heard his highest-ranking aide pay tribute to his service to the church.

Jesus “denounces religious hypocrisy, behavior that wants to show off, attitudes that seek applause and approval,” the pope said in his homily during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Feb. 13. “The true disciple does not serve himself or the ‘public,’ but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity.”

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

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

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

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who as secretary of state is the Vatican’s highest official, voiced gratitude for Pope Benedict’s pontificate of nearly eight years.

“Thank you for giving us the luminous example of a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord,” Cardinal Bertone said, invoking the same metaphor Pope Benedict had used in his first public statement following his election in 2005.

His voice cracking slightly with emotion, Cardinal Bertone described Benedict as a “laborer who knew at every moment to do what is most important, bring God to men and bring men to God.”

Following the cardinal’s remarks, the congregation broke into a standing ovation that lasted well over a minute, ceasing only after the pope, looking surprised but not displeased, said: “Thank you, let’s return to prayer.”

The pope showed signs of the fatigue and frailty that have become increasingly evident over the last year and a half and which he had cited in announcing his resignation. At the beginning of the liturgy, he walked from his sacristy near the chapel that contains Michelangelo’s statue of the Pieta to the atrium of the basilica, but then rode his mobile platform to the main altar.

During the Mass, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s, placed the Lenten ashes on the pope’s head. The pope himself placed ashes on the heads of several cardinals and a group of Dominican and Benedictine priests.

The pope’s last homily included a plea for harmony among his flock, as he lamented “blows against the unity of the church, divisions in the ecclesial body” and called for a “more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualisms and rivalries.” Such communion favors evangelization, the pope said, by serving as a “humble and precious sign for those who are distant or indifferent to the faith.”

– – –

— By Francis X. Rocca Catholic News Service. Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden.

Man’s Desire To Know God — “In love the gates of my soul spring open.”

September 13, 2016
Fr. Karl Rahner S.J. (5 March 1904 – 30 March 1984), was a German Jesuit priest and theologian. He is considered one of the most influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century.
Fr. Rahner was completing his seminary education at about the same time that Adolph Hitler was coming to power in Germany. Fortunately for us, Father Rahner was able to keep from getting swept up into the turmoils of that time. One of his first writings that came to public notice was his treatment on the necessity and need for prayer.
Rahner believes that the very nature of the human being contains an inescapable orientation towards something greater than ourselves, often called God. But Rahner also believes that God cannot be explained or scientifically proved because of the limits of our nature requires us to understand that God’s nature is often intrinsically “mystery.”
He identifies the God of Absolute Being as Absolute Mystery.
Rahner says that God communicates Himself to us in what many call “grace” or the “Holy Spirit.” Rahner says Grace is God within us and all around us.
We at Peace and Freedom claim no mastery of Rahner’s very difficult writings. He seems a befitting messenger who transmits a powerful belief and faith rather uncommon in our everyday life today. He challenges us all to seek and find God through prayer and living out The Word of God.

Some quotes from Karl Rahner’s teachings:


“When man is with God in awe and love, then he is praying.”



“In the days ahead, you will either be a mystic (one who has experienced God for real) or nothing at all.”

“The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim Him with their mouths and deny Him with their actions is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.”

“Only in love can I find you, my God. In love the gates of my soul spring open, allowing me to breathe a new air of freedom and forget my own petty self. In love my whole being streams forth out of the rigid confines of narrowness and anxious self-assertion, which make me a prisoner of my own poverty emptiness. In love all the powers of my soul flow out toward you, wanting never more to return, but to lose themselves completely in you, since by your love you are the inmost center of my heart, closer to me than I am to myself.”

“For it is the bitter grief of theology and its blessed task, too, always to have to seek (because it does not clearly have present to it at the time)…always providing that one has the courage to ask questions, to be dissatisfied, to think with the mind and heart one ACTUALLY has, and not with the mind and heart one is SUPPOSED TO have.”
“Childhood is not a state which only applies to the first phase of our lives in the biological sense. Rather it is a basic condition which is always appropriate to a life that is lived aright.”
“In the midst of our lives, of our freedom and our struggles, we have to make a radical, absolute decision. And we never know when lightening will strike us out of the blue. It may be when we least expect to be asked whether we have the absolute faith and trust to say yes”
“Meditating on the nature and dignity of prayer can cause saying at least one thing to God: Lord, teach us to pray!”
“The dead are silent because they live, just as we chatter so loudly to try to make ourselves forget that we are dying. Their silence is really their call to me, the assurance of their immortal love for me.”
“The task of the theologian is to explain everything through God, and to explain God as unexplainable.”
“For a Catholic understanding of the faith there is no reason why the basic concern of Evangelical Christianity as it comes to expression in the three “only’s” should have no place in the Catholic Church. Accepted as basic and ultimate formulas of Christianity, they do not have to lead a person out of the Catholic Church. . . . They can call the attention of the Catholic church again and again to the fact that grace alone and faith alone really are what saves, and that with all our maneuvering through the history of dogma and the teaching office, we Catholic Christians must find our way back to the sources again and again, back to the primary origins of Holy Scripture and all the more so of the Holy Spirit.”

“If we have been given the vocation and grace to die with Christ then the everyday and banal occurrence which we call human death has been elevated to a place among God’s mysteries.”



More Quotes by Karl Rahner

“So You haven’t really sent me away from You, after all. When You assigned me the task of going out among men, You were only repeating to me Your one and only commandment: to find my way home to You in love. All care of souls is ultimately possible only in union with You, only in the love that binds me to You and thus makes me Your companion in finding a path to the hearts of men.” (Encounters with Silence, Karl Rahner, translated and foreword by James M. Demske, SJ, South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press 1999, p. 67.)

“Thanks to Your mercy, O Infinite God, I know something about You not only through concepts and words, but through experience. I have actually known You through living contact; I have met You in joy and suffering. For You are the first and last experience of my life. Yes, really You Yourself, not just a concept of You, not just the name which we ourselves have given to You! You have descended upon me in water and the Spirit, in my baptism. And then there was no question of my convincing or excogitating anything about You. Then my reason with its extravagant cleverness was still silent. Then, without asking me, You made Yourself my poor heart’s destiny.” (Encounters with Silence, p. 30.)

Related Links

Blog posts about Karl Rahner, SJ.

Why Become or Remain a Jesuit? by Karl Rahner, SJ

Karl Rahner and Ignatian Spirituality

By Philip Endean

Limited preview on Google Books includes all of Chapter 1, a significant portion of Chapter 2, “The Immediate Experience of God,” and portions of Chapter 11, “Ignatius, Rahner, and Theology.”

Karl Rahner (1904-1984)

Edited by Derek Michaud

An accessible and fairly comprehensive review of Rahner’s thought, based primarily on Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity.

It is our belief that Rahner would endorse the thoughts of Matthew Kelly, author of “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.”

Karl Rahner is a thinker and theologian. Matthew Kelly is a practical map reader on the road to bringing ordinary people closer to God.

Rahner gives us theory. Matthew Kelly tells us what to do about it that could be pleasing to God and Helpful to our Souls!

In our view at Peace and Freedom, Matthew Kelly’s book could easily have been called “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Christian,” or “”The Four Signs of People in Twelve Step Recovery Programs.”

There are Matthew Kelly’s “Four Signs” —

  1. We Pray and Meditate
  2. We study (spiritual works, like the scripture)
  3. We pour ourselves out in loving service to others
  4. We evangelize. A Christians talks about his faith — he is not ashamed. A person in AA or another 12 Step recovery program, does 12 Step work.


 (By Bishop Robert Barron)


Sermon of Pope Francis at the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital, Rio de Janeiro, Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

(Many in the audience were drug addicts and alcoholics in recovery.)

Dear Archbishop Tempesta, brother Bishops,
Distinguished Authorities,
Members of the Venerable Third Order of Saint Francis of Penance,
Doctors, Nurses, and Health Care Workers,
Dear Young People and Family Members, good night!

God has willed that my journey, after the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, should take me to a particular shrine of human suffering – the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital. The conversion of your patron saint is well known: the young Francis abandoned riches and comfort in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world – material things and the possession of them – but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others. Less well known, perhaps, is the moment when this understanding took concrete form in his own life. It was when Francis embraced a leper. This suffering brother was the “mediator of light … for Saint Francis of Assisi” (Lumen Fidei, 57), because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ. Today, in this place where people struggle with drug addiction, I wish to embrace each and every one of you, who are the flesh of Christ, and to ask God to renew your journey, and also mine, with purpose and steadfast hope.

To embrace, to embrace – we all have to learn to embrace the one in need, as Saint Francis did. There are so many situations in Brazil, and throughout the world, that require attention, care and love, like the fight against chemical dependency. Often, instead, it is selfishness that prevails in our society. How many “dealers of death” there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America. Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future. We all need to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ, and to learn to embrace those in need, in order to show our closeness, affection and love.

To embrace someone is not enough, however. We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to. Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: You have to want to stand up; this is the indispensable condition! You will find an outstretched hand ready to help you, but no one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone! The Church and so many people are close to you. Look ahead with confidence. Yours is a long and difficult journey, but look ahead, there is “a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives” (Lumen Fidei, 57). To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!

In the Gospel, we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, that speaks of a man assaulted by robbers and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! How often we say: it’s not my problem!  How often we turn the other way and pretend not to see!Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35). Dear friends, I believe that here, in this hospital, the parable of the Good Samaritan is made tangible. Here there is no indifference, but concern. There is no apathy, but love. The Saint Francis Association and the Network for the Treatment of Drug Addiction show how to reach out to those in difficulty because in them we see the face of Christ, because in these persons, the flesh of Christ suffers. Thanks are due to all the medical professionals and their associates who work here. Your service is precious; undertake it always with love. It is a service given to Christ present in our brothers and sisters. As Jesus says to us: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

And I wish to repeat to all of you who struggle against drug addiction, and to those family members who share in your difficulties: the Church is not distant from your troubles, but accompanies you with affection. The Lord is near you and he takes you by the hand. Look to him in your most difficult moments and he will give you consolation and hope. And trust in the maternal love of his Mother Mary. This morning, in the Shrine of Aparecida, I entrusted each of you to her heart. Where there is a cross to carry, she, our Mother, is always there with us. I leave you in her hands, while with great affection I bless all of you. Thank you.


Pope Francis greets a man as he meets with patients, family and staff at St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro July 24, 2013. The pope addressed a group of recovering drug addicts offering them a message of compassion and hope as well as a call to self-determination. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis at the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro talking to recovering drug addicts, July 24, 2013


Getting God’s Help: First Surrender Yourself, Then Ask God’s Power to Come In

August 13, 2016

Image may contain: indoor

People Who Have Failed At Running Their Lives Themselves Can Always Surrender — We say that because every day we meet people who express a deep sense of failure or worthlessness.

Christians have a way out. We can always surrender. But who do we surrender to? And what do we give up?

For centuries, Christians have been taught to surrender themselves to God.

Pastors for centuries have said “We need to follow Jesus. We need to try to emulate his way. We need to seek-out a “Christ like life.”

May say mankind’s greatest flaw is ego, or self. The sense of entitlement that comes with a huge ego means people start to think “I am the master of the universe.”

As long as we are filled with selfe, there isn’t too much room for God within us.

Andrew Murray is one of the great teachers of surrender. Murray authored over 240 books based upon his learning and understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ. He is perhaps the greatest evangelist of the last two centuries.

Many people in our “modern times” can benefit immeasurably from surrendering to a higher power than themselves. This is the very first step in many life-changing or healing or recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.)

 Many of us struggle with ego, false pride and self-esteem issues. Many of us constantly worry about money, our jobs, our future security, our health or health care.
Yet Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.” Again and again the theme in the Bible is: “Do not be afraid.”
A basic teaching, perhaps THE basic teaching of Christianity is: With Jesus we are OK. Do not be afraid.
If you are depressed, maybe you need some life changing therapy….
Seek medical help. And do what doctors tell you. But also, if you believe that each human being has a spiritual dimension, seek spiritual help.
John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

Andrew Murray on “Absolute Surrender”

“And Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots: and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it. And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Benhadad, Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine. And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, 0 king, according to thy saying, I am thine and all that I have” (I Kings 20:1-4).

Ahab gave what was asked of him by Benhadad – absolute surrender. I want to use these words: “My lord, 0 king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have,” as the words of absolute surrender with which every child of God ought to yield himself to his Father. We have heard it before, but we need to hear it very definitely-the condition of God’s blessing is absolute surrender of all into His hands. Praise God! If our hearts are willing for that, there is no end to what God will do for us, and to the blessing God will bestow.

Absolute surrender-let me tell you where I got those words. I used them myself often, and you have heard them numerous times. But once, in Scotland, I was in a company where we were talking about the condition of Christ’s Church, and what the great need of the Church and of believers is. There was in our company a godly Christian worker who has much to do in training other workers for Christ, and I asked him what he would say was the great need of the Church-the message that ought to be preached. He answered very quietly and simply and determinedly:

“Absolute surrender to God is the one thing.”

The words struck me as never before. And that man began to tell how, in the Christian workers with whom he had to deal, he finds that if they are sound on that point, they are willing to be taught and helped, and they always improve. Whereas, others who are not sound there very often go back and leave the work. The condition for obtaining God’s full blessing is absolute surrender to Him.

And now, I desire by God’s grace to give to you this message-that your God in heaven answers the prayers which you have offered for blessing on yourselves and for blessing on those around you by this one demand: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? What is our answer to be? God knows there are hundreds of hearts who have said it, and there are hundreds more who long to say it but hardly dare to do so. And there are hearts who have said it, but who have yet miserably failed, and who feel themselves condemned because they did not find the secret of the power to live that life. May God have a word for all!

Let me say, first of all, that God claims it from us.


Yes, it has its foundation in the very nature of God. God cannot do otherwise. Who is God? He is the Fountain of life, the only Source of existence and power and goodness.


Throughout the universe there is nothing good but what God works. God has created the sun, the moon, the stars, the flowers, the trees, and the grass. Are they not all absolutely surrendered to God? Do they not allow God to work in them just what He pleases?


When God clothes the lily with its beauty, is it not yielded up, surrendered, given over to God as He works in it its beauty? And God’s redeemed children, oh, can you think that God can do His work if there is only half or a part of them surrendered? God cannot do it. God is life, love, blessing, power, and infinite beauty, and God delights in communicating Himself to every child who is prepared to receive Him.


But ah! this one lack of absolute surrender is just the thing that hinders God. And now He comes, and as God, He claims it.

You know in daily life what absolute surrender is. You know that everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and service. I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing. That pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly.

This coat is absolutely given up to me to cover my body. This building is entirely given up to religious services. And now, do you expect that in your immortal being, in the divine nature that you have received by regeneration, God can work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot. The temple of Solomon was absolutely surrendered to God when it was dedicated to Him. And every one of us is a temple of God, in which God will dwell and work mightily on one condition-absolute surrender to Him. God claims it, God is worthy of it, and without it God cannot work His blessed work in us.

God not only claims it, but God will work it Himself.


I am sure there is many a heart that says: “Ah, but that absolute surrender implies so much!” Someone says: “Oh, I have passed through so much trial and suffering, and there is so much of the self-life still remaining. I dare not face entirely giving it up because I know it will cause so much trouble and agony.”

Alas! alas! that God’s children have such thoughts of Him, such cruel thoughts. I come with a message to those who are fearful and anxious. God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you.

Do we not read: “it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)? And that is what we should seek-to go on our faces before God, until our hearts learn to believe that the everlasting God Himself will come in to turn out what is wrong. He will conquer what is evil, and work what is well pleasing in His blessed sight. God Himself will work it in you.

Look at the men in the Old Testament, like Abraham. Do you think it was by accident that God found that man, the father of the faithful and the friend of God? Do you think that it was Abraham himself, apart from God, who had such faith and such obedience and such devotion? You know it is not so. God raised him up and prepared him as an instrument for His glory.

Did God not say to Pharaoh: “For this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power” (Exodus 9:16)?

And if God said that of him, will God not say it far more of every child of His?

Oh, I want to encourage you, and I want you to cast away every fear. Come with that feeble desire. If there is the fear which says-“Oh, my desire is not strong enough. I am not willing for everything that maycome , and I do not feel bold enough to say I can conquer everything”-l implore you, learn to know and trust your God now. Say: “My God, I am willing that You should make me willing.” If there is anything holding you back, or any sacrifice you are afraid of making, come to God now and prove how gracious your God is. Do not be afraid that He will command from you what He will not bestow.

God comes and offers to work this absolute surrender in you. All these searchings and hungerings and longings that are in your heart, I tell you, they are the drawings of the divine magnet, Christ Jesus. He lived a life of absolute surrender. He has possession of you; He is living in your heart by His Holy Spirit. You have hindered and hindered Him terribly, but He desires to help you to get a hold of Him entirely. And He comes and draws you now by His message and words. Will you not come and trust God to work in you that absolute surrender to Himself Yes, blessed be God! He can do it, and He will do it.

God not only claims it and works it, but God accepts it when we bring it to Him.


God works it in the secret of our heart; God urges us by the hidden power of His Holy Spirit to come and speak it out, and we have to bring and yield to Him that absolute surrender. But remember, when you come and bring God that absolute surrender, it may, as far as your feelings or your consciousness go, be a thing of great imperfection. You may doubt and hesitate and say:

“Is it absolute?”

But, oh, remember there was once a man to whom Christ had said: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth” (Mark 9:23). And his heart was afraid, and he cried out: “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

That was a faith that triumphed over Satan, and the evil spirit was cast out. And if you come and say: “Lord, I yield myself in absolute surrender to my God,” even though you do so with a trembling heart and with the consciousness: “I do not feel the power. I do not feel the determination. I do not feel the assurance,” it will succeed. Do not be afraid, but come-just as you are. Even in the midst of your trembling the power of the Holy Spirit will work.

Have you not yet learned the lesson that the Holy Spirit works with mighty power, while on the human side everything appears feeble? Look at the Lord Jesus Christ in Gethsemane. We read that He, “through the eternal Spirit” (Hebrews 9:14), offered Himself a sacrifice unto God. The Almighty Spirit of God was enabling Him to do it. And yet what agony and fear and exceeding sorrow came over Him, and how He prayed! Externally, you can see no sign of the mighty power of the Spirit, but the Spirit of God was there. And even so, while you are feeble and fighting and trembling, with faith in the hidden work of God’s Spirit do not fear, but yield yourself.

And when you do yield yourself in absolute surrender, let it be with the faith that God does now accept it. That is the great point, and that is what we so often miss-that believers should be thus occupied with God in this matter of surrender. Be occupied with God. We want to get help, every one of us, so that in our daily life God will be clearer to us, God will have the right place, and be “all in all.” And if we are to have that through life, let us begin now and look away from ourselves and look up to God. Let each believe- I, a poor worm on earth and a trembling child of God, full of failure, sin, and fear, bow here, and no one knows what passes through my heart.

I simply say, “Oh God, I accept Your terms. I have pleaded for blessing on myself and others. I have accepted Your terms of absolute surrender.” While your heart says that in deep silence, remember there is a God present that takes note of it, and writes it down in His book. There is a God present who at that very moment takes possession of you. You may not feel it, you may not realize it, but God takes possession if you will trust Him. God not only claims it and works it and accepts it when I bring it, but God maintains it.


That is the great difficulty with many. People say: “I have often been stirred at a meeting or at a convention, and I have consecrated myself to God.

But it has passed away. I know it may last for a week or for a month, but it fades away. After a time it is all gone.”

But listen! It is because you do not believe what I am now going to tell you and remind you of. When God has begun the work of absolute surrender in you, and when God has accepted your surrender, then God holds Himself bound to care for it and to keep it.

Will you believe that?

In this matter of surrender, there are: God and 1-1 a worm, God the everlasting and omnipotent Jehovah. Worm, will you be afraid to trust yourself to this mighty God now? God is willing. Do you not believe that He can keep you continually, day by day, and moment by moment?

Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;

Moment by moment I’ve life from above.

If God allows the sun to shine on you moment by moment, without intermission, will God not let His life shine on you every moment? And why have you not experienced it? Because you have not trusted God for it, and you do not surrender yourself absolutely to God in that trust.

A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that. Yes, it has something far more than difficulties: it is a life that with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us, praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it.

Some of you have read the words of that aged saint who, on his ninetieth birthday, told of all God’s goodness to him- I mean George Muller. What did he say he believed to be the secret of his happiness and of all the blessing which God had given him? He said he believed there were two reasons. The one was that he had been enabled by grace to maintain a good conscience before God day by day. The other was that he was a lover of God’s Word. Ah, yes, a good conscience is complete obedience to God day by day, and fellowship with God everyday in His Word and prayer-that is a life of absolute surrender.

Such a life has two sides-on one side, absolute surrender to work what God wants you to do; on the other side, to let God work what He wants to do.

First, to do what God wants you to do.

Give yourselves up absolutely to the will of God. You know something of that will; not enough, far from all. But say absolutely to the Lord God: “By Your grace I desire to do Your will in everything, every moment of every day.” Say: “Lord God, not a word upon my tongue but for Your glory. Not a movement of my temper but for Your glory. Not an affection of love or hate in my heart but for Your glory, and according to Your blessed will.”

Someone says: “Do you think that possible?”

I ask, What has God promised you, and what can God do to fill a vessel absolutely surrendered to Him? Oh, God wants to bless you in a way beyond what you expect. From the beginning, ear has not heard, neither has the eye seen, what God has prepared for them that wait for Him (I Corinthians 2:9). God has prepared unheard-of-things, blessings much more wonderful than you can imagine, more mighty than you can conceive. They are divine blessings. Oh, say now:

“I give myself absolutely to God, to His will, to do only what God wants.”

It is God who will enable you to carry out the surrender.

And, on the other side, come and say: “I give myself absolutely to God, to let Him work in me to will and to do of His good pleasure, as He has promised to do.”

Yes, the living God wants to work in His children in a way that we cannot understand, but that God’s Word has revealed. He wants to work in us every moment of the day. God is willing to maintain our life. Only let our absolute surrender be one of simple, childlike., and unbounded trust.

Read more:


There are our “top overnight reads” at Peace and Freedom:



“God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.”


Image may contain: one or more people

We recommend the book “Holy Spirit” By Edward Leen. It changed my life. It can change yours too.This is the Catholic version of Andrew Murray’s “Absolute Surrender.” (And Andrew Murray is easier to understand for many)

Image may contain: one or more people, text and outdoor

“Introduction to the Devout Life,” By St. Francis de Sales. Many people reject that word  “devout.”  But we are all devoted to a thing or two.  A crack addict is devoted to cocaine. Once a  human being decides maybe he can find a better life with the help of God, he naturally becomes less devoted to some things and more devoted to others…..

If “Introduction to the Devout Life,” looks too big, the works of St. Francis de Sales have been broken up into several volumes….


Image may contain: one or more people and text

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

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

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


 (Padre Pio) (If you are totally dependent upon God, and you are working to have a good life and want to stay alive, I guarantee you’ll have no trouble sleeping.)
Image may contain: text
“The Catholic Guide to Depression,” by Aaron Kheriaty, MD and Fr. John Cihak, STD.
 Image may contain: text

Many people have said to us that the four signs of a “dynamic Catholic” are also the characteristics of many Christians of all denominations and people in recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Dynamic Christians and the the really hard working people in recovery do the sames kinds of things:

  1. They Pray and Meditate
  2. They Study (The Good Book or the Big Book or both)
  3. They pour themselves out in loving service to others (AAs call this “Twelve Step Work”)
  4. They evangelize (They spread the message)

 — At every age, a strong faith and God helps. But as we encounter disease, tragedy and death, we need more from Him. Less me, more Him.

Pope in Assisi: “Too many people are caught up in resentment and harbour hatred because they are incapable of forgiving.”

August 4, 2016

Pope Francis addressing those inside the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels in Assisi - RV

Pope Francis addressing those inside the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels in Assisi – RV

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made a private pilgrimage on Thursday to the Italian town of Assisi and spoke about the importance of forgiveness, saying only the path of forgiveness can truly renew the Church and the world. He lamented that “too many people are caught up in resentment and harbour hatred because they are incapable of forgiving.” “These people,” he went on, “ruin their own lives and the lives of those around them.”

The Pope’s words came during an address delivered inside the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi after earlier going to pray in silence inside the small Porziuncola chapel where the Italian saint founded the Franciscan order in the 13th century. The purpose of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage there was to mark the 800th anniversary of the “Pardon of Assisi” during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

After addressing those inside the basilica, the Pope spent about an hour hearing the confessions of 19 people before greeting the friars and local religious authorities including an Imam from Perugia. He then went to the nearby infirmary to visit a number of friars who are ill before going outside where he briefly greeted pilgrims waiting outside in the square and once again stressed the importance of forgiving others.


The Pope made brief remarks:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today I would like, before all else, to recall the words that, according to an ancient tradition, Saint Francis spoke in this very place, in the presence of all the townsfolk and bishops: “I want to send you all to heaven!”  What finer thing could the Poor Man of Assisi ask for, if not the gift of salvation, eternal life and unending joy, that Jesus won for us by his death and resurrection?

Besides, what is heaven if not the mystery of love that eternally unites us to God, to contemplate him forever?  The Church has always professed this by expressing her belief in the communion of saints.  We are never alone in living the faith; we do so in the company of all the saints and of our loved ones who practised the faith with joyful simplicity and bore witness to it by their lives.  There is a bond, unseen but not for that reason any less real, which makes us, by baptism, “one body” moved by “one Spirit” (cf. Eph 4:4).  When Saint Francis asked Pope Honorius III to grant an indulgence to all who visited the Porziuncula, he was perhaps thinking of Jesus’ words to the disciples: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:2-3).

Forgiveness – pardon – is surely our direct route to that place in heaven.  Here at the Porziuncola everything speaks to us of pardon!  What a great gift the Lord has given us in teaching us to forgive and in this way to touch the Father’s mercy!  We have just heard the parable where Jesus teaches us to forgive (cf. Mt 18:21-35).  Why should we forgive someone who has offended us?  Because we were forgiven first, and of infinitely more.  The parable says exactly this: just as God has forgiven us, so we too should forgive those who do us harm.  So too does the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Our Father, in which we say: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:12).  The debts are our sins in the sight of God, and our debtors are those whom we, for our part, must forgive.

Each of us might be that servant in the parable burdened with so great a debt that he could never repay it.  When we kneel before the priest in the confessional, we do exactly what that servant did.  We say, “Lord, have patience with me”.  We are well aware of our many faults and the fact that we often fall back into the same sins.  Yet God never tires of offering us his forgiveness each time we ask for it.  His is a pardon that is full and complete, one that assures us that, even if we fall back into the same sins, he is merciful and never ceases to love us.  Like the master in the parable, God feels compassion, a mixture of pity and love; that is how the Gospel describes God’s mercy towards us.  Our Father is moved to compassion whenever we repent, and he sends us home with hearts calm and at peace.  He tells us that all is remitted and forgiven.  God’s forgiveness knows no limits; it is greater than anything we can imagine and it comes to all who know in their hearts that they have done wrong and desire to return to him.   God looks at the heart that seeks forgiveness.

The problem, unfortunately, comes whenever we have to deal with a brother or sister who has even slightly offended us.  The reaction described in the parable describes it perfectly: “He seized him by the throat and said, ‘Pay what you owe!’” (Mt 18:28).  Here we encounter all the drama of our human relationships.  When we are indebted to others, we expect mercy; but when others are indebted to us, we demand justice!  This is a reaction unworthy of Christ’s disciples, nor is it the sign of a Christian style of life.  Jesus teaches us to forgive and to do so limitlessly: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven” (v. 22).  What he offers us is the Father’s love, not our own claims to justice.  To trust in the latter alone would not be the sign that we are Christ’s disciples, who have obtained mercy at the foot of the cross solely by virtue of the love of the Son of God.   Let us not forget, then, the harsh saying at the end of the parable: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35).

Dear brothers and sisters, the pardon of which Saint Francis made himself a “channel” here at the Porziuncola continues to “bring forth heaven” even after eight centuries.  In this Holy Year of Mercy, it becomes ever clearer that the path of forgiveness can truly renew the Church and the world.  To offer today’s world the witness of mercy is a task from which none of us can feel exempted.  The world needs forgiveness; too many people are caught up in resentment and harbour hatred, because they are incapable of forgiving.  They ruin their own lives and the lives of those around them rather than finding the joy of serenity and peace.  Let us ask Saint Francis to intercede for us, so that we may always be humble signs of forgiveness and channels of mercy.    



“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, September 30, 2015 — “I will follow you wherever you go.” — “Let the dead bury their dead.”

September 29, 2015

Memorial of Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 457

Finding the commitment required to be a true follower of Jesus

Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.”

Reading 1 NEH 2:1-8

In the month Nisan of the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes,
when the wine was in my charge,
I took some and offered it to the king.
As I had never before been sad in his presence,
the king asked me, “Why do you look sad?
If you are not sick, you must be sad at heart.”
Though I was seized with great fear, I answered the king:
“May the king live forever!
How could I not look sad
when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins,
and its gates have been eaten out by fire?”
The king asked me, “What is it, then, that you wish?”
I prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king:
“If it please the king,
and if your servant is deserving of your favor,
send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves,
to rebuild it.”
Then the king, and the queen seated beside him,
asked me how long my journey would take
and when I would return.
I set a date that was acceptable to him,
and the king agreed that I might go.I asked the king further: “If it please the king,
let letters be given to me for the governors
of West-of-Euphrates,
that they may afford me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah;
also a letter for Asaph, the keeper of the royal park,
that he may give me wood for timbering the gates
of the temple-citadel and for the city wall
and the house that I shall occupy.”
The king granted my requests,
for the favoring hand of my God was upon me.

Responsorial PsalmPS 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6

R. (6ab) Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
By the streams of Babylon
we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
On the aspens of that land
we hung up our harps.
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
Though there our captors asked of us
the lyrics of our songs,
And our despoilers urged us to be joyous:
“Sing for us the songs of Zion!”
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
How could we sing a song of the LORD
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand be forgotten!
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!
May my tongue cleave to my palate
if I remember you not,
If I place not Jerusalem
ahead of my joy.
R. Let my tongue be silenced if I ever forget you!

AlleluiaPHIL 3:8-9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I consider all things so much rubbish
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 9:57-62

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding
on their journey, someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”
Let the dead bury the dead: Finding the commitment required to be a true follower of Jesus

This “let the dead bury the dead” remark is one of those passages that has troubled many Christians. It is one that we have to look at spiritually, and not so much in the physical realm. Honoring ones father, we would assume would include burying him after he has died, but the body no longer contains the spiritual essence of who the father was, and the person we were to honor in life. This is very similar to the way the Hebrews killed many of their prophets because they didn’t like their message, and then built shrines to them later on. And this is one of the reasons that Jesus lamented over Jerusalem as we are told in Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34.

Matt 23:37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

The shrine did not truly honor the prophet; it just was a way of a future generation to try to appease their guilt for scapegoating an innocent person. This kind of action and response shows a spiritual deadness in the people, which is key to our understanding the passage before us.

When we look at the situation surrounding our passage, as recorded in Matthew 8:18-23 and Luke 9:57-62, we see that people are seeking the “glamour” of following Jesus or there were other things thing that came before their desire to follow Him, for which Jesus gives several responses. All of which were designed to show the degree of commitment that is required to be a true follower of God.

“Let the dead bury the dead”


Commentary on Luke 9:57-62 From Living Space

Today’s passage has to be seen in the light of yesterday’s. Jesus has reached an important stage in his public life and mission. He is now irrevocably on his way to Jerusalem and all that that means for him – and us.

But he does not want to go alone. His whole purpose is to have people go with him. Already there are his disciples but there will be more. Today we see three “candidates” coming forward with a lot of good will but Jesus makes them aware of what following him really means. Their responses to Jesus’ remarks are not given so we do not know whether they became followers or not. The point Luke is making is to show what following entails.

  1. The first says very generously that he will go wherever Jesus is going. Jesus answers: “Foxes have their lairs and the birds of the air their nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

These words of Jesus indicate not poverty or indigence but freedom. To follow Jesus fully one needs to be free, not to be tied down by anything and not to be anxious about having or not having things.

There is no evidence that Jesus was poor in the sense of being deprived of the necessities of life. He did not own a house but it is never even hinted that he had to sleep out in the open air. He belonged to a group of people who more than willingly shared what they had with him.

  1. The second man was actually invited by Jesus to be a follower. But he asked first to be allowed to go and bury his father. This does not mean that his father had just died and he wanted to attend the funeral. It is more likely that he wanted, as a dutiful son, to wait for his father’s death before going off with Jesus.

But that is not good enough. The call of Jesus transcends needs of family, tradition and culture. The needs of the living outweigh those of the dead. His father might not die for years; what was the man supposed to do in the meantime?

Once we are aware of Jesus’ call the only time to answer is now. In spite of that, we should not read these lines too rigidly. Clearly, for example, there would be times when one would want to be present at the death of a parent, especially to provide support for the grieving spouse. That would be in total harmony with respect for parents and love for the neighbour. But the man in the example is in a totally different situation. He is talking about an event in the future whose time and place are not known.

  1. Another would-be follower asked first for permission to go home and say goodbye to his family. It was similar to a request made by Elisha when he was called to succeed Elijah as prophet. Elijah’s answer was, “Go ahead.”
  2. So what we have here seems a very reasonable request but it is rejected by Jesus who says, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, looking back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Like Jesus himself turning his face towards Jerusalem and all that it means for him, once the decision has been made to serve God and his people, there can be no turning back. Again, the words of Jesus should not be taken literally.

Read in that way, they would be totally at variance with the loving and compassionate quality of Jesus’ character. The point that is being made in all three examples is the absoluteness, the unconditionally that is required in the following of Jesus. It is a theme which is emphasised more than once in Luke’s gospel. We cannot be fence-sitters, to have our cake and eat it. Being a follower of Jesus can never be a part-time affair. It is all or nothing. At the same time, the demands of agape-love are always there. It is a matter each time of discerning where the truly loving act lies.

If we are honest, a lot of us are like these men in our following of Christ and in the living out of our faith. We do have our material wants (distinct from needs), we feel we cannot live without “our little comforts in life”.

Let us pray today for a high degree of freedom in being able to accept unconditionally God’s will for us. To have that freedom is one of the greatest blessings and graces of our life.



When Jesus calls, our response must be immediate and total.

Art: Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann



In the Gospel: Jesus invites us to follow Him. But he makes it clear we shouldn’t get bogged down by the customs and work and goodies of this world.

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”

My priest friend says, “The devil wants us thinking about the past and ourselves. God wants us thinking about others and the future.”

So why do we over eat?

We want to feel good.

We want to consume the abundance of our modern abundant world. The entire American economy is based upon “consumer spending.”

Americans consume more food, electricity, water and just about everything else more than just about all people on the globe today.

And we make more trash than any civilization ever on this earth. And that’s not even counting all the trashy Hollywood films we churn out…

We are all users, takers and consumers.  And I’m not leaving myself out here: I am as bad as any other American from what we used to call “White Middle Class.”

We are “the feel good people.”

And we want no pain or suffering — for ourselves. We are always first thinking about ourselves.

And if pain knocks on our door: screw that. We have drugs for that.

Drugs for anxiety. Drugs for depression. Drugs for “I just don’t feel right.”

It is almost as if Americans feel entitled to take more and more of this world and its resources — and without feeling any pain, guilt, anxiety or anguish.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about anguish:

Anguish is a term used in philosophy, often as a translation from the Latin for angst. It is a paramount feature ofexistentialist philosophy, in which anguish is often understood as the experience of an utterly free being in a world with zero absolutes (existential despair). In the theology of Kierkegaard, it refers to a being with total free will who is in a constant state of spiritual fear that his freedom will lead him to fall short of the standards that God has laid out for him.

In the teachings of Sartre, anguish is seen when an utterly captured being realizes the unpredictability of his or her action. For an example, when walking along a cliff, you would feel anguish to know that you have the freedom to throw yourself down to your imminent death.

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor 6:19)

In the Bible, neither Jesus nor the God of the Old Testament ever says you will feel no pain.  We invented that for ourselves.

Most Americans are fine with abortion: infanticide. Most people in America are fine with sex of all kinds — sex on demand.

The Supreme Court spoke on this very subject on Tuesday, June 25, 2013.

It’s our right. It’s legal.

So that is the Supreme Court.

Supreme for whom?

There will be an accounting. “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.” (Genesis 9:5)

The first book of the bible talks about an accounting.

I used to have a friend who often said: “When you’re standing naked before the Lord…”

When I am standing naked before the Lord, my first thought will likely be: “I should go on a died.”

My second thought will surely be: “I should have done more for others.”

But by then it will be too late. And the devil is the one who wants us thinking about the past — and ourselves.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

(I’ll go wherever you will go, “The Calling.”)


Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.”

Lectio Divina from the Carmelites


● In today’s Gospel the long and hard journey of Jesus continues from the periphery of Galilee toward the capital city. Leaving Galilee, Jesus enters in Samaria and continues toward Jerusalem. But not all understand him. Many abandon him, because the demands are enormous. But others get close to him and present themselves to follow Jesus. At the beginning of his pastoral activity in Galilee, Jesus had called three: Peter, James and John (Lk 5, 8-11). Here also, in Samaria there are three persons who present themselves or who are called. In the responses of Jesus there are the requirements or conditions in order to be able to be his disciples.

● Luke 9, 56-58: The first one of the three new disciples. At that time, as they travelled along, they met a man who said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go”. Jesus answered: “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head”. To this first person who wants to be his disciple, Jesus asks him to divest himself of everything: he has nowhere to lay his head; much less should he seek a false security where to lay the thoughts of his head.

● Luke 9, 59-60: The second one of the three new disciples. To another one he says “Follow me”. And he replied, “Let me go and bury my father first”. Jesus replied: “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God”. To this second person called by Jesus to follow Him, he asks him to leave the dead bury the dead. It is a question of a popular saying used to say: leave aside the things of the past. Do not lose time with what happened and look ahead. After having discovered the new life in Jesus, the disciple should not lose time with what has happened.

● Luke 9, 61-62: The third one of the three new disciples. “Another said: I will follow you, Sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home”. But Jesus replied: once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God”. To this third person called to be a disciple, Jesus asks to break the family bonds of union. On another occasion he had said: Anyone who loves his father and his mother more than me cannot be my disciple (Lk 14, 26; Mt 10, 37). Jesus is more demanding than the Prophet Elijah who allowed Elisha to greet and take leave from his parents (1 K 19, 19-21). This also means to break the nationalistic bonds of race and the patriarchal family structure.

● These are three fundamental requirements as necessary conditions for those who want to be the disciples of Jesus: (a) to abandon material goods, (b) not to be attached to personal goods lived and accumulated in the past (c) to break away from the family bonds. In reality, nobody, even wishing it, can break neither the family bonds, nor break away from things lived in the past. What is asked is to know how to re-integrate everything (material goods, personal life and family life) in a new way around the new axis which is Jesus and the Good News of God which he has brought to us.

● Jesus himself, lived and became aware of what he was asking to his followers. With his decision to go up to Jerusalem Jesus reveals his project. His journey toward Jerusalem (Lk 9, 51 a 19, 27) is represented as the undertaking (Lk 9, 51), the exodus (Lk 9, 31) or the crossing (Lk 17, 11). Arriving in Jerusalem Jesus fulfils the exodus, the undertaking or the definitive crossing from this world toward the Father (Jn 13, 1). Only a truly free person can do this, because such an exodus presupposes to dedicate one’s whole life for the brothers (Lk 23, 44-46; 24, 51). This is the exodus, the crossing, the undertaking of which the communities should become aware in order to be able to carry on Jesus’ project.


Personal questions


● Compare each one of these three requirements with your life.
● Which are the problems that arise in your life as a consequence of the decision which you have taken to follow Jesus?


Concluding prayer


Yahweh, you examine me and know me,
you know when I sit,
when I rise,
you understand my thoughts from afar. (Ps 139,1-2)




Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
30 SEPTEMBER 2015, Wednesday, 26th Week in Ordinary Time


Like Nehemiah, we are all called to rebuild the house of the Lord, or in the words of Jesus, we are called to be His disciples of the Kingdom.  The call to build the House of God is urgent, whether it was during the time of the prophet Nehemiah, or that of His disciples today.  Indeed, we read of the pathetic condition of the Temple. The walls were in ruins, leading to frequent attacks from invaders.  The great prophecies of Ezekiel, Second Isaiah and Zechariah about the restoration of the Temple and Jerusalem were fast becoming pure illusion. Jesus too, faced great challenges in proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and was very much aware of the challenges of missionary work, being an itinerant preacher Himself.

The Church today is not much different.  In fact, we are under the onslaught, not so much from armies with weapons, but from enemies who are equally hostile to the Church, particularly secularists who oppose the teachings and values of the gospel.  From within, we experience the weaknesses of both the religious leaders and members that have resulted in scandals and failures.  Living in an individualistic culture that is also materialistic and secularist, it is difficult to preserve one’s faith in the world.  All these attacks from within and without have made the Church lose credibility in the proclamation of the gospel.  Thus, the call to rebuild the Church by having faithful and committed disciples is even more urgent than ever.  But what is required for the disciples or the would-be disciples of Jesus to live the Kingdom life?  Three kinds of responses are identified today as being incompatible in realizing the Kingdom in our lives.

Firstly, the response to discipleship cannot be a mere emotional response.  That was what happened to the man who wanted to follow Jesus.  He told Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” But Jesus restrained him saying, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” In other words, discipleship is not for the weak and for those who are not ready to make sacrifices.  This is a clear warning for those who have converted to the Faith, or joined priestly or religious life because of some spiritual euphoria that they have experienced.  Whilst such religious experiences can be the beginning of a conversion experience or a call, yet we need time to sort out the demands of discipleship.  For the fact is that emotions and feelings do not last; only commitment lasts.  Feelings come and go.  No one is high in love always, but what is left are the daily struggles that come from living out our commitment to God and to His people.  Consequently, such people easily get disillusioned and discouraged when they are confronted with the harsh realities of Christian living and their own inner struggles. Discipleship cannot be dependent on some feelings of love but a real commitment to live the truth in love and to love in truth.  All other motives will not carry us very far.

Secondly, in the face of the offer of the Kingdom, either because of other distractions or because of the exacting demands that come from the acceptance of the gospel, many of us would want to postpone our commitment.  Like the second man in the gospel, we seek to delay our response to the invitation, saying, “let me bury my father first.”   To bury one’s father means to wait until we have fulfilled all our filial duties, which might take years.  Of course, the commandment requires that we honour our parents. However, to allow human beings to obstruct us from answering the call of God is but another form of idolatry.

We must, therefore, in the mind of Jesus, learn to rely not on human calculation but rest on heroic faith in the Lord.  We must make a decision to live the life of the Kingdom, the kingdom of love and service.  Conversion to the Kingdom life and a life of discipleship is not to be postponed indefinitely but requires an immediate decision.  This is true with regard to our desire to change our lives.  We pay lip service, consoling ourselves that we will one day live an authentic Christian life.  But in reality we keep procrastinating, whether it is a question of deepening our prayer life or living a life of integrity.  Unless we make the decision to change now, to be happy now, to live now, then we will never find the Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is already here; not a future event that is yet to come.  As for the future, things will somehow look after themselves.  We need to trust in providence.  Right now, we need only to surrender our lives in trust and faith.

The third inadequate response that we can give to Jesus is that of a divided commitment.  Like the man who wanted to follow Jesus, but on condition that he be allowed to take leave of his people at home first.  He said, “I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.”  This person has the intention to follow Jesus but his heart is torn between giving himself to the work of the Kingdom and to his loved ones.  He has a problem of attachment.  He cannot let go entirely.  And among all our attachments in life, which include things, glory, power, fame, viewpoints, the greatest attachment is to people whom we love.  It takes tremendous sacrifice to give up the people whom we love so much because that relationship prevents us from living a life of purity and truth.  This is particularly true when it comes to giving up an irregular relationship and physical intimacy with a person whom we love so much.  Indeed, there are many who want to serve the Lord and yet unable to let go of such improper relationships because whilst loving Jesus, they also desire human love and affection. Quite often, our past will prevent us from being fully open to the love of God that is coming to us in the present.  The tragedy of attachment is that our hearts become un-free for other things in life, and most of all, for the love and service of God and His people.

Attachments prevent a person from being open to others and whatever is coming into his life.  That is why Jesus makes it clear that the man who puts his hand on the plough and looks back is not fit to live in the kingdom of God.  When attachments rule our hearts, we are not free for God’s offer of life and love.  It is a situation or ‘either or’.  There is no question of having our attachments and the joy of the Kingdom at the same time.  Our commitment to the Kingdom must be a single-minded commitment, which is possible only in total detachment.  Only then can we live in the Kingdom, which is to live for the moment now, totally and fully.  But having recognized this truth, it is not easy.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  The sacrifice of giving up human love for God’s love is perhaps the greatest of all sacrifices, especially if the person whom you are giving up is the dearest love and gem in your life.

Yes, the invitation to live the Kingdom life is urgent.  And not only urgent, it requires our total commitment.  Anything less will not do.  To delay a minute longer would simply mean to delay our happiness a minute longer.  But the moment we decide to live in the present and give our whole heart to the present, then we will begin to live the Kingdom which is a kingdom of love, joy and peace.  Living in our past and in the future cannot ever bring about happiness.  Living in our attachments simply means that God’s love cannot rule our lives. To be His disciples simply means that we live the Kingdom life of love and service in total trust in the Father.

So how can we muster the strength to do what we have to do and make a decisive decision now?  We must ask for the grace to love God and His people more than we love ourselves.  Truly, to follow the Lord and work in His kingdom demands a magnanimous heart like Jesus who emptied Himself of the glory of His divinity to become one of us to serve us unto death.  Unless we have a higher love, we will not be able to give up a lower form of love.  The decision to give up our own happiness for the greater good of others demands total selflessness and self-denial.  Only a deep love for God can enable us to sacrifice our own personal needs and interests for the sake of His people.

In our dilemma to answer the call of God to give up ourselves for His sake and the people God loves, we can only rely on grace alone.  Human effort and human will alone, will break our hearts and can even lead to repression of our human needs for affection and love.  This will only make us un-loveable and even bitter against God because we made a reluctant sacrifice.  So what else can we do except to learn from Nehemiah, to surrender our emotions to the Lord in humble and earnest prayer?  Let us ask God for the grace to see the urgency and the great joy of the Kingdom, and be convinced that we can have it now.  Let us plead for a foretaste of the joy and freedom of serving Him and His people so that we will not become discouraged in the face of sacrifices and trials ahead of us.  Finally, we pray for the grace to say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Call of The Cross

From Bonaventure’s Life of Francis:

“One day when Francis went out to meditate in the fields he was passing by the church of San Damiano which was threatening to collapse because of extreme age. Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray.

Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervor and consolation as he prayed. While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord’s cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: ‘Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.’

Trembling with fear, Francis was amazed at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church; and as he received in his heart the power of the divine words, he fell into a state of ecstasy. Returning finally to his senses, he prepared to put his whole heart into obeying the command he had received. He began zealously to repair the church materially, although the principle intention of the words referred to that Church which Christ purchased with his own blood, as the Holy Spirit afterward made him realize….”

For the record, the moment recounted above took place in 1204… and then as now, the call of the Cross remains the challenge of our time. So as the work continues, on another St Francis’ Day and always, may we all ever just keep on, keep trying and — flaws, faults, warts and all —keep building.

Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart
and give me true faith,
certain hope and perfect charity,
sense and knowledge,
that I may carry out, Lord,
Your holy and true command.



Saint Francis Looking Up To God with skull

Prayer and Meditation for Thursday, September 24, 2015 — “Rebuild the house of the Lord” — “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”

September 23, 2015

Thursday of the Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 452

Reading 1 HG 1:1-8

On the first day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius,
The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai
to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak:Thus says the LORD of hosts:
This people says:
“The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.”
(Then this word of the LORD came through Haggai, the prophet:)
Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses,
while this house lies in ruins?Now thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
You have sown much, but have brought in little;
you have eaten, but have not been satisfied;
You have drunk, but have not been exhilarated;
have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed;
And whoever earned wages
earned them for a bag with holes in it.Thus says the LORD of hosts:
Consider your ways!
Go up into the hill country;
bring timber, and build the house
That I may take pleasure in it
and receive my glory, says the LORD.

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

R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people.
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.
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.
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.

Alleluia JN 14:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the way and the truth and the life, says the Lord;
no one comes to the Father except through me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 9:7-9

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.

Commentary on Luke 9: 7-9 From Living Space

Today we have a short interlude which is leading to some very special revelations.

Herod the tetrarch (his father Herod the Great’s kingdom had been divided among four sons) is hearing stories about what Jesus is doing. ‘Tetrarch’ means the ruler of the fourth part of a kingdom. This one, Herod Antipas, was one of several sons; the kingdom was divided among four of them. Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. Although not strictly speaking a ‘king’ he is called that in Matthew and Mark following popular usage.

Herod is puzzled because he is being told that Jesus is John the Baptist risen from the dead. At the same time others are saying that Elijah, whose expected return would signal the arrival of the Messiah, or some of the former biblical prophets has reappeared. Herod has recently beheaded John the Baptist and the superstitious king is filled with a mixture of fear and curiosity. He “kept trying to see Jesus”.

Luke does not actually record the death of John and, in this short passage, he prepares the reader for the later meeting of Herod with Jesus (23:8-12). So Herod’s wish will be partially fulfilled at a later date though under very unexpected circumstances and in a way that Herod will find very unsatisfactory. He is hoping that Jesus, like some circus dog, will do some ‘tricks’ or ‘miracles’ for him. [In the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Herod asks Jesus to walk across his swimming pool.]

Herod’s desire was almost entirely one of curiosity, it was the desire of the hedonist and the seeker of novelty. To see Jesus, in the full Gospel sense, is something totally other. It can only happen to those who have the eyes of faith and who can see in the person of Jesus the presence and power of God. We may recall the request of some “Greeks” who told Philip they wanted to see Jesus and the reply that Jesus gave about the grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying (John 12:20-26). We have not seen Jesus if we do not know him in his suffering and dying as his way to new life.

Let us ask to see Jesus today, a seeing that leads to a total acceptance of his way of life and following him all the way, through the cross and beyond to a life that never ends.


Lectio Divina from the Carmelites


• Today’s Gospel presents a reaction from Herod listening to the preaching of Jesus. Herod does not know how to place himself before Jesus He had killed John the Baptist and now he wants to see Jesus close to him. It is always threatening.
• Luke 9, 7-8: Who is Jesus? The text begins with the exposition of the opinion of the people and of Herod on Jesus. Some associated Jesus to John the Baptist and to Elijah. Others identified him with a Prophet, that is, with a person who speaks in the name of God, who has the courage to denounce injustices of those in power and who knows how to give hope to the little ones. He is the Prophet announced in the Old Testament like a new Moses (Dt 18, 15). These are the same opinions that Jesus received from the disciples when he asked them: “Who do people say I am?” (Lk 9, 18). Persons tried to understand Jesus starting from things that they knew, thought and expected. They tried to set him against the background of the familiar criteria of the Old Testament with its prophecies and hopes, and of the Tradition of the Ancients with their laws. But these were insufficient criteria; Jesus could not enter into them, he was much bigger!
• Luke 9, 9: Herod wants to see Jesus. But Herod said: “John, I beheaded him; so who is this of whom I hear such things?” “And he was anxious to see him”. Herod, a superstitious man without scruples, recognizes that he was the murderer of John the Baptist. Now, he wants to see Jesus. Luke suggests thus that the threats begin to appear on the horizon of the preaching of Jesus. Herod had no fear to kill John. He will not be afraid to kill Jesus. On the other side, Jesus does no fear Herod. When they tell him that Herod wanted to take him to kill him, he sent someone to tell him: “You may go and give that fox this message: Look, today and tomorrow I drive out devils and heal, and on the third day I attain my end.” (Lk 13, 32). Herod has no power over Jesus. When at the hour of the passion, Pilate sends Jesus to be judged by Herod, Jesus does not respond anything (Lk 23, 9). Herod does not deserve a response.
• From father to son. Some times the three Herods, who lived during that time are confused, then the three appear in the New Testament with the same name: a) Herod, called the Great, governed over the whole of Palestine from 37 before Christ. He appears at the birth of Jesus (Mt 2, 1). He kills the new-born babies of Bethlehem (Mt 2, 16). b) Herod, called Antipas, governed in Galilee from the year 4 to 39 after Christ. He appears at the death of Jesus (Lk 23, 7). He killed John the Baptist (Mk 6, 14-29). c) Herod, called Agrippa, governed all over Palestine from the year 41 to 44 after Christ. He appears in the Acts of the Apostles (Ac 12, 1.20). He killed the Apostle James (Ac 12, 2).
When Jesus was about four years old, King Herod, the one who killed the new-born babies of Bethlehem died (Mt 2, 16). His territory was divided among his sons, Archelaus, would govern Judea. He was less intelligent than his father, but more violent. When he assumed the power, approximately 3000 persons were massacred on the square of the Temple! The Gospel of Matthew says that Mary and Joseph, when they learnt that Archelaus had taken over the government of Galilee, were afraid and returned on the road and went to Nazareth, in Galilee, which was governed by another son of Herod, called Herod Antipas (Lk 3, 1). This Antipas governed over 40 years. During the thirty-three years of Jesus there was no change of government in Galilee.
Herod, the Great, the father of Herod Antipas, had constructed the city of Caesarea Maritime, inaugurated in the year 15 before Christ. It was the new port to get out the products of the region. They had to compete with the large port of Tyron in the North and, thus, help to develop trade and business in Samaria and in Galilee. Because of this, from the time of Herod the Great, the agricultural production in Galilee began to orientate itself no longer according to the needs of the families, as before, but according to the demands of the market. This process of change in the economy continued during all the time of the government of Herod Antipas, another forty years, and found in him an efficient organizer. All these governors were ‘servants of power’. In fact, the one who commanded in Palestine, from the year 63 before Christ, was Rome, the Empire.
Personal questions
• It is well always to ask ourselves: Who is Jesus for me?
• Herod wants to see Jesus. His was a superstitious and morbid curiosity. Others want to see Jesus because they seek a sense for their life. And I, what motivation do I have which moves me to see and encounter Jesus?
Concluding Prayer
Each morning fill us with your faithful love,
we shall sing and be happy all our days;
let our joy be as long as the time that you afflicted us,
the years when we experienced disaster. (Ps 90,14-15)


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore


We are all very busy and occupied with activities from morning until night.  Some of us do not even have sufficient time for sleep or even to take our meals.  No wonder, each day and year passes so quickly that before we know it, we have reached our old age and we have not yet begun to live!  And this becomes problematic because we are just drifting along in life, or rather, being pushed from one thing to another, whether it is our concern for our work, business, health, family or even Church involvement.  Such a life can hardly be said to be a happy life.  In fact, the outcome will be more a life that is hectic, disorientated and frustrated. That is what the prophet said to the Jews who returned from exile in Babylon: “You have sown much and harvested little; you eat but never have enough, drink but never have your fill, put on clothes but do not feel warm.  The wage earner gets his wages only to put them in a purse riddled with holes.”  In a word, we are doing so many things, and at the end of the day, our lives are no better.

And what is the reason for our lack of focus?  We fail to prioritize our values and concerns in life.  It is true that we all have many things to do.  Some are urgent but not important.  Some are important but not urgent.  Some are both urgent and important.  This was the case with the Jews.  They did not get their priorities right.  Instead of completing the task assigned by God to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem, they were slow and unenthusiastic.  After 15 years, nothing much was accomplished except for the altar.  Instead of putting the House of God first before theirs, they were more concerned about building and beautifying their own houses.  Should we be surprised?  How many of us put the House of God, the Church, before our own?  We spend most of our time and money renovating our houses than building the Church of God.  We spend our resources and time indulging in our pet hobbies rather than being concerned with the work of God.

The truth is that if God is not the most important value and person in our lives, then all other values that we hold would be competing for each other without any reference point for us to gauge which one is more essential.  Secondly, it also means that we cannot find unity in all that we do, resulting in a fragmented life.  We live without focus and meaning.  Life is reduced to activities without having any direction.  These are the consequences of not putting God as the foremost priority in what we do. That is why in both the Old and New Testaments, the exhortation is always the same: “The Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.”  This is an injunction placed upon every Jew until today, for Moses said, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”  (Dt 6:7-9)  But the Jews who returned from exile forgot to obey this command.  They neglected the Temple and the presence of God symbolized by the Temple.

When we focus on things and the pursuits of this world, we will forever remain dissatisfied.  This world can never satisfy us, because it is transient and illusive.  Regardless of whatever power, status or wealth we have, we are never fulfilled.  Man pursues one thing after another, hoping to find happiness, but the moment he attains it, he loses interest.  Such meaningless pursuit can also happen in relationships.  Sometimes, men regard women as trophies to be conquered and won in life.  They would spend all their time pursuing a woman, but the moment the woman is “caught” by the man, he loses interest in her and starts pursuing something else, be it career, money, power or even another woman, so as to boost his ego and his feeling of being powerful.  But deep within, he feels empty, disillusioned and insecure.  What is it that can truly satisfy our hearts?

But if we place God above all other things, then whatever else we do can take its direction from this vantage point.  Hence, it is of great importance for us not to neglect our spiritual life, irrespective of how busy we are in our work, family responsibilities and Church involvements.  If we only take care of our physical and material needs, we will be living the life of an animal.  Even if we pay attention to our emotional needs, without a strong spiritual life, because of our insecurity, our relationships will become clingy and possessive, resulting in mutual manipulation of each other’s body and feelings.  Eventually, both will hurt each other and the relationship will turn sour.  So God is the one who can provide us all that we need.

For this reason, God challenged His people, asking how they could live in luxury when His house was in ruins. “Is this a time for you to live in your paneled houses, when this House lies in ruins?”  When God’s house is in ruins, how much worse will ours be?  External beauty cannot take the place of the beauty of the heart of the person.  By attending to the superficial and neglecting his essential needs, especially his spiritual needs, man will destroy himself because he is no longer available to the blessings of God.  When his interior life is in disorder, it will be seen in all the other dimensions of his life.  This was certainly the case for Herod.  He too did not get his priorities right.  When does one fail to get his priorities right? What would be the factors that can prevent a person from doing the right thing?

Firstly, we are told that there is the temptation of finding security from men.  Herod placed the importance of his approval rating among men above how God would rate him.  If he had put God as the first person in His life, he would not have ended in a mess, and most of all, live with an accusing conscience day and night, simply because he listened to Herodias rather than to his conscience.  He knew what he should do, but because of his lack of relationship with God, he went against his conscience, whether it was with regard to his adultery with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, or with John the Baptist’s execution.  His conscience became dull and then dead when he could not distinguish between right from wrong, or he was lacking in the will to do the right thing.  From today’s gospel, we can be certain that he was continually being haunted by the death of John the Baptist.  Well, some of us too, measure our security and self-esteem by our popularity, checking how many people access our Facebook, where we stand in opinion polls, the number of friends we have, etc.

Secondly, it could be due to fear.  If we are more concerned with our job than our family, it is because we feel that without lots of money the family cannot be happy.  So the husband and wife could be working day and night to strengthen their careers at the expense of their interpersonal relationship, or that with their children.  Similarly too, some parents think that giving their children that extra edge in education or personal development is the most important, even to the extent of depriving their children of religious education and participation in Church activities.  Little do they know that being the brightest does not mean having the right values of honesty, filial piety and above all, integrity!.  So too was the case of the Jews.  When they returned from Babylon in 538 BC to rebuild the Temple, they faced lots of opposition from their enemies.  This caused them to become discouraged.  As a result, they stopped work on the Temple for over 15 years.  What we should fear is the Lord, for the book of Proverbs says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 1:7)

What about us? “So now, the Lord of hosts says this: Reflect carefully how things have gone for you.”  Today, the Lord invites us to confront the ghosts in our lives that hinder us from giving priority to Him and also to the most important things in our lives.  If we, like Judah, are living with confused priorities, then it is urgent that we take time to reflect on what are those things that really matter to us so that we can give the time and attention to them.  Otherwise, we will only regret when we come to the end of our lives, realizing that we have done all the wrong things, abandoning God, our spouse, our children and our friends.  We might be successful and famous, but we will be all alone with no one who really loves us and cares for us.

Indeed, let us learn to live a holistic and balanced lifestyle.  Such a lifestyle is not possible unless we trust in Him.  If we surrender our lives to the Lord, He will look after us and help us to live rightly.  We need not fear, for if He gives us the task, He will give us the means and the strength to accomplish our responsibilities. We must therefore stop making excuses for failing to give time to God and to our spouse and family members. All other things must be subordinated to the love of God, including our family.  When we make other priorities more important than giving glory and honour to God, we will create more problems for ourselves.  Then, like King Herod, the guilt of our past will come back to haunt us.  So let us pray for the wisdom and courage to get our priorities straight and set our hearts to do the right things, the important things, first.

The Life of St. Francis of Assisi

The founder of the Order of Friars Minor known as the Franciscans, St. Francis was born at Assisi in Umbria in 1181 A.D. His mother named him Giovanni after St. John the Baptist. However, his father, Pietro Bernadone, a cloth merchant, who was away during the child’s birth renamed him Francesco (the equivalent of calling him a Frenchman) as he did not want a son to be a man of God but rather a merchant who shared his passion for France.

Francis lived a rather carefree and rich existence. He was always happy and charming and everyone loved him. He was a born leader. Francis developed his father’s love of France and desired to be a knight. He got his chance to gain the prestige that he desired when Assisi declared war on its longtime enemy, Perugia. Many of his comrades were killed but due to the social stature of Francis, he was instead taken prisoner and held for ransom. Ransomed by his father, he returned home and was seriously ill for over a year. Francis again had a chance for glory during the Fourth Crusade; however, upon leaving Assisi he had a dream in which God told him to turn back which he did.

Francis spent the next 25 years spending more time in prayer and weeping for his sins. He also continued on with his business.

The Ministry of St. Francis

While praying at the Church of San Damiano, he heard Christ speak to him saying, “Francis, repair my church.” In order to fulfill this request, he sold some of his father’s goods. This angered his father greatly and he took Francis to see the local bishop. Francis threw off his rich clothes in the presence of the bishop and revealed that he was wearing a shirt made of hair. The bishop, upon seeing this, covered him with his own cloak as a sign of accepting him into the religious life. After this, his father disowned and disinherited Francis.

Francis then went back to San Damiano and rebuilt the church with his own hands. He did not realize that God did not mean the church at San Damiano to be rebuilt but rather the universal church that was suffering from inside scandal and avarice as well as outside heresies.

Soon after, Francis started to preach about a return to God and strict obedience to the Church. Francis had many followers who assisted him in his mission. Francis told them that their rule was to follow take up the cross daily and to renounce all material possessions. He and his companions followed the Gospel literally and went out to preach in twos. Not only did Francis’s companions come from all walks of life, but also from nature itself. He felt that all of God’s creations were part of his brotherhood.

One famous story tells of Francis preaching to hundreds of birds about being thankful to God for their independence and His care. According to the story the birds remained still and only flew away when Francis allowed them to leave.

Francis continued to live with and for the poor. Wishing to found a new order, the Brotherhood of Poverty, he went to Rome in 1210 when Pope Innocent III gave him the permission to do so.

Read more:



Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, August 4, 2015 — We Put Ourselves into God’s Hands and Receive the Holy Spirit

August 3, 2015

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest
Lectionary: 408

Art: Jesus Walking On The Water By Norbert Mcnulty

Reading 1 NM 12:1-13

Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on the pretext
of the marriage he had contracted with a Cushite woman.
They complained, “Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks?
Does he not speak through us also?”
And the LORD heard this.
Now, Moses himself was by far the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam,
“Come out, you three, to the meeting tent.”
And the three of them went.
Then the LORD came down in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.
When both came forward, he said,
“Now listen to the words of the LORD:Should there be a prophet among you,
in visions will I reveal myself to him,
in dreams will I speak to him;
not so with my servant Moses!
Throughout my house he bears my trust:
face to face I speak to him;
plainly and not in riddles.
The presence of the LORD he beholds.Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?”So angry was the LORD against them that when he departed,
and the cloud withdrew from the tent,
there was Miriam, a snow-white leper!
When Aaron turned and saw her a leper, he said to Moses,
“Ah, my lord! Please do not charge us with the sin
that we have foolishly committed!
Let her not thus be like the stillborn babe
that comes forth from its mother’s womb
with its flesh half consumed.”
Then Moses cried to the LORD, “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 6CD-7, 12-13

R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense;
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned;
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
That you may be justified in your sentence,
vindicated when you condemn.
Indeed, in guilt was I born,
and in sin my mother conceived me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not off from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

AlleluiaJN 1:49B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rabbi, you are the Son of God;
you are the King of Israel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 14:22-36

Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side of the sea,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret.
When the men of that place recognized him,
they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought to him all those who were sick
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak,
and as many as touched it were healed.

Or MT 15:1-2, 10-14

Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said,
“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?
They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.”
He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand.
It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man;
but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”
Then his disciples approached and said to him,
“Do you know that the Pharisees took offense
when they heard what you said?”
He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted
will be uprooted.
Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.
If a blind man leads a blind man,
both will fall into a pit.”


Commentary on Matthew 14:22-36 From Living Space

As soon as the people had been filled with the food that Jesus gave them, Jesus packs his disciples off in the boat to the other side of the lake. He sends the crowds away and then retreats to the mountain to pray all by himself.

We know from John’s account that the people wanted to make him a king. If Jesus wanted to take control of the crowd this was the moment; they were ready to follow enthusiastically. Jesus was indeed their king but not the kind they were expecting. He would draw the crowds to him in a very different way, hanging in shame on a cross.

It looks too as if he did not want his disciples to get any wrong ideas either. They must have been elated at their role in the extraordinary event of feeding more than 5,000 people. So, perhaps with a lot of grumbling, they are sent off even before the excited crowds have dispersed.

As they make their way across the lake in this dark mood, things get even worse. They run into a big storm and their boat is being tossed about like a cork. Then, out of the darkness, between 3 and 6 in the morning hours, they see Jesus approaching them across the water. Far from being delighted, they are terrified out of their wits. Superstitious men that they are, they think it is a ghost. Ghosts were very much a part of their world.

Words of encouragement come across the water: “Courage! It is I [Greek, ego eimi, ‘ego ‘eimi] = I AM]. Do not be afraid.” Jesus gives himself the very name of Yahweh; this is all the reassurance they need. Their God is with them.

Only in Matthew’s account of this story do we have Peter’s reaction. “Lord, if it really is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”


Peter gets out of the boat and goes towards Jesus. It is an act of love and faith/trust. But not quite enough. The power of the wind and waves gets stronger than his desire to be with Jesus. He begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” Jesus lifts him up, “How little faith/trust you have!”

As soon as Jesus and Peter get into the boat, there is a complete calm.

The rest of the disciples are overwhelmed: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

We have here behind this story an image of the early Church, of which the boat and the disciples are a symbol. The surrounding water is the world and the wind and waves, the forces which threaten the tiny community. Jesus seems to be far away but he is not and he appears in the midst of the storm. Once he steps inside the boat, there is calm, not only because the surrounding storm has stopped but also because of the peace which the awareness of Jesus’ presence gives.

There is an added element in this story in that Peter, the leader of the community, comes hand in hand into the boat with Jesus. In time, the authority of Jesus will be passed over to him.

There is also, of course, in the calming of the storm an indication of Jesus’ real identity, expressed in the awe-filled words of the disciples, “Truly, you are the Son of God”, echoing Jesus’ own statement of “I AM”.

There is a brief epilogue at the end of our passage. The boat reaches the area of Gennesaret. The name refers either to the narrow plain, about four miles long and less than two miles wide on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee, north of Magdala, or to a town in the plain. Significantly for the work that Jesus was about to do, the plain was considered a garden land, fertile and well watered.

As soon as Jesus reaches the shore the crowds again gather in huge numbers especially to have their sick cured. So great was their faith that they asked only to touch the fringe of his garment. All those who did so (in faith) were healed.

Jesus had sent away the crowds earlier probably because of the late hour but also perhaps because of the mood of the crowd which was taking on political overtones not wanted by Jesus.

But now they are back to seek from him what he came to give them: healing and wholeness.



First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
Today’s Gospel tells us again to keep in mind one of the most often repeated lessons from Jesus: DO NOT BE AFRAID.
The Gospel tells us “Do not be afraid” — but today the saints tell us also to “speak the truth.” These are rare things in the world today. Having a real relationship with God allows us to overcome our fears, ourselves and the drag of our modern society. Be alive and joyful as God expects from us. It seems as if “Do Not Be Afraid” is one of the most frequent messages in the Gospels. Link to some of the other scripture references to do not be afraid:
If we love God we follow God’s commandments. Once we are doing those things we seek a stronger and stronger personal relationship with Jesus — and everything is OK.
St. John Vianney is one wonderful saint we can all follow: just work hard and pray. Live simply. He ate small meals and slept on a small cot. Mostly he heard confessions and served as God’s instrument of forgiveness. We should all go to confession more and keep ourselves ‘clean.”
From Catholic OnLine:

Accustomed to the most severe austerities, beleaguered by swarms of penitents, and besieged by the devil, this great mystic manifested a imperturbable patience. He was a wonderworker loved by the crowds, but he retained a childlike simplicity, and he remains to this day the living image of the priest after the heart of Christ.

He heard confessions of people from all over the world for the sixteen hours each day. His life was filled with works of charity and love. It is recorded that even the staunchest of sinners were converted at his mere word. He died August 4, 1859, and was canonized May 31, 1925.


Thomas Merton: You should want to be a saint.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is — to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. Every one can do just enough to get by. It’s not hard.

But many of us are challenged to do more….

One of our favorite stories of Thomas Merton is here:

See also:


Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
The Gospel today describes the difficult and tiresome crossing of the sea of Galilee in a fragile boat, pushed by a contrary wind. Between the discourse of the Parables (Mt 13) and of the Community (Mt 18), there is once again, the narrative part (Mt 14 to 17). The discourse of the Parables calls our attention again on the presence of the Kingdom. Now, the narrative part shows the reactions in favour and against Jesus provoked by that presence. In Nazareth, he was not accepted (Mt 13, 53-58) and King Herod thought that Jesus was a sort or reincarnation of John the Baptist, whom he had murdered (Mt 14, 1-12).
The poor people, though, recognized in Jesus the one who had been sent by God and they followed him to the desert, where the multiplication of the loaves took place (Mt 14, 13-21). After the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus takes leave of the crowd and ordered the disciples to cross the lake, as it is described in today’s Gospel (Mt 14, 22-36).
• Matthew 14, 22-24: To begin the crossing asked by Jesus. Jesus obliges the Disciples to go into the boat and to go toward the other side of the sea, where the land of the pagans was. He goes up to the mountain to pray. The boat symbolizes the community. It has the mission to direct itself toward the pagans and to announce among them the Good News of the Kingdom also, which was the new way of living in community. But the crossing was very tiring and long. The boat is agitated by the wave, because the wind is contrary. In spite of having rowed the whole night, there is still a great distance left before reaching the land.
Much was still lacking in the community in order to be able to cross and go toward the pagans. Jesus did not go with his disciples. They had to learn to face together the difficulties, united and strengthened by faith in Jesus who had sent them. The contrast is very great: Jesus is in peace together with God, praying on the top of the mountain, and the Disciples are almost lost there below, in the agitated sea.
• The crossing to the other side of the lake symbolizes also the difficult crossing of the community at the end of the first century. They should get out of the closed world of the ancient observance of the law toward the new manner of observing the Law of love., taught by Jesus; they should abandon the knowledge of belonging to the Chosen People, privileged by God among all other peoples, for the certainty that in Christ all peoples would be united into one Only People before God; they should get out from isolation and intolerance toward the open world of acceptance and of gratitude. Today also, we are going through a difficult crossing toward a new time and a new way of being Church.
A difficult crossing, but which is necessary. There are moments in life in which we are attacked by fear. Good will is not lacking, but this is not sufficient. We are like a boat faced with the contrary wind.
• Matthew 14, 25-27: Jesus comes close to them but they do not recognize him. Toward the end of the night, that is between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus goes to meet the Disciples. Walking on the water, he gets close to them, but they did not recognize him. They cried out in fear, thinking that it was a ghost. Jesus calms them down saying: “Courage! It is me! Do not be afraid!” The expression “It is me!” is the same one with which God tried to overcome the fear of Moses when he sent him to liberate the people from Egypt (Ex 3, 14). For the communities, of today as well as for those of yesterday, it was and it is very important to be always open to novelty: “Courage. It is me!. Do not be afraid!”
• Matthew 14, 28-31: Enthusiasm and weakness of Peter. Knowing that it is Jesus, Peter asks that he also can walk on the water. He wants to experience the power which dominates the fury of the sea. This is a power which in the bible belongs only to God (Gn 1, 6; Ps 104, 6-9). Jesus allows him to participate in this power. But Peter is afraid. He thinks that he will sink and he cries out: “Lord, save me!” Jesus assures him and takes hold of him and reproaches him: “You have so little faith! Why did you doubt?” Peter has more strength than he imagined, but is afraid before the contrary waves and does not believe in the power of God which dwells within him. The communities do not believe in the force of the Spirit which is within them and which acts through faith. It is the force of the Resurrection (Eph 1, 19-20).
• Matthew 14, 32-33:Jesus is the Son of God. Before the waves that come toward them, Peter begins to sink in the sea because of lack of faith. After he is saved, he and Jesus, both of them, go into the boat and the wind calms down. The other Disciples, who are in the boat, are astonished and bowed before Jesus, recognizing that he is the Son of God: “Truly, you are the Son of God”. Later on, Peter also professes the same faith in Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Mt 16,16). In this way Matthew suggests that it is not only Peter who sustains the faith of the Disciples, but also that the faith of the Disciples sustains Peter’s faith.
• Matthew 14, 34-36: They brought all the sick to him. The episode of the crossing ends with something beautiful: “Having made the crossing they came to Gennesaret. When the local people recognized him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all who were sick to him, begging him just to let them tough the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were saved”.
Personal questions
• Has there been a contrary wind in your life? What have you done to overcome it? Has this happened sometimes in the community? How was it overcome?
• Which is the crossing which the communities are doing today? From where to where? How does all this help us to recognize today the presence of Jesus in the contrary waves of life?
Concluding Prayer
Keep me far from the way of deceit,
grant me the grace of your Law.
I have chosen the way of constancy,
I have moulded myself to your judgements. (Ps 119,29-30)



Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: NUM 12:1-13; MT 14:22-36

We know very well that leaders are not perfect.  The decisions that we make will not always please those people that we serve.  Of course, there are times when we will make sincere mistakes.  Even in such situations, we tend to receive harsh criticisms.   This was true of Moses as well.  In spite of his greatness, it seems that Moses made a decision that was displeasing and unacceptable to some members of his community, represented by Aaron and Miriam.  Scholars are not very clear as to why Aaron and Miriam spoke against him.  Perhaps, it was because he divorced his first wife or took a woman from among the Cushites not accepted by the community.

Voicing our unhappiness with the decisions of our superiors in itself is not wrong.  However, when our criticisms are no longer constructive but become personal attacks on their personal integrity and even at their office and authority, then such reactions can no longer be justified.  This could imply that we are no longer objective, and our dissent could spring from jealousy, personal interests or lack of knowledge.  This precisely was the real mistake committed by Miriam and Aaron. They became vicious in their opposition against Moses and said things against him in a disparaging manner, “Has the Lord spoken to Moses only? Has he not spoken to us too?”  Passing this remark was tantamount to challenging the appointment of Moses by God as the leader of the community and even doubting the wisdom and sovereignty of God’s choice.

So the Lord called three of them to the Tent of Meeting.  But it was not meant to be a meeting to discuss the problem.  Rather, it was a meeting to reprimand and punish Miriam and Aaron. God said, “How then have you dared to speak against my servant Moses? The anger of the Lord blazed out against them.  He departed, and as soon as the cloud withdrew from the Tent, there was Miriam a leper, white as snow!”  Ironically, instead of isolating Moses from the rest of the people, the Lord punished Miriam with leprosy.  In rejecting His appointed leader, they had also rejected the authority of God in the final analysis.

What then should we do in the face of opposition to our authority?  Like St Peter who lost his self-confidence in the authority the Lord had given him to walk on the sea, in the face of the storms in our lives, quite often we, too, are shaken in the office we hold because of difficult and unpleasant criticisms.  How can we remain firm and confident, upholding the office the Lord has given to us?

Firstly, we can learn something from Moses.  We must remain calm and humble.  The first reading told us “Moses was the most humble of men, the humblest man on earth.”  To be humble does not mean that we are spineless.  Meekness is to be calm and yet firm in our dealings with people who oppose us.  It also presupposes that we are ready to admit our mistakes, to reconsider our decisions, that we could be judgmental or fail to see the whole problem.  What is significant about Moses was his silence before their charges and accusation.  He did not take things into his own hands.  He must have prayed over it but he did not react with anger and resentment.  He left it to the Lord! 

Secondly, we must pray. That was what Jesus did.  The gospel told us “after sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray.” Jesus must have felt the need to discern and to take direction from His Father in the prospect that the people wanted to make Him king.  We, too, must pray before we make any decision.  When the work becomes difficult; when, like the disciples, we are “battling with a heavy sea” and “a head-wind”, all the more we must cling on to Jesus.  Prayer helps us to recover our identity as His appointed servants, purify our motives for service and, most of all, through the criticisms, discern His will as to whether it comes from the Lord or from the selfishness of the human heart.

Thirdly, we must realize that all legitimate authority comes from God.  The authority that we exercise is on His behalf and not for ourselves.  That was what God told Aaron and Miriam.  He said, “If any man among you is a prophet, I make myself known to him in a vision, I speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses: he is at home in my house; I speak with him face to face,    plainly and not in riddles, and he sees the form of the Lord. How then have you dared to speak against my servant Moses?”  Indeed, the sin of Aaron was a misplaced disloyalty, questioning the unique position of Moses.  He was chosen by God, not by men!  This is what differentiates our appointment from the secular world.  They are chosen by popularity, credentials, qualifications, and by their fellowmen.  As such, they can be deposed from their office if they are found to be disagreeable or when they fall out of favour.  The Sacrament of Holy Orders particularly, is by divine election; not by human choice.  No one can demand to hold an office except when the community discerns it as coming from God’s choice.

Once we have these dispositions, we can then consider how we should respond to our detractors.  When we are confident that it is the Lord who bestows the authority on us, we can afford to be more forgiving and compassionate with those who do not understand our position.  We must forgive those who, in their folly, have misjudged us.  The magnanimity of Moses is seen in the prayer he interceded on behalf of Aaron and Miriam who turned against him.  “Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God,’ he said ‘please heal her, I beg you!’”  One of the most important qualities of a leader is to forgive those who hurt him and be humble sufficiently to ask for forgiveness as well.

Secondly, as leaders, we must be people who encourage those who have failed us, especially those who have been judgmental towards us.  Jesus was sympathetic with Peter and the disciples.  When the disciples were terrified and cried out in fear, “at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I!  Do not be afraid.’” When Peter lost faith “as soon as he felt the force of the wind…and began to sink” he cried, “Lord!  Save me!” Jesus “put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’  And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.”  Jesus knew that they needed time to come to realization that He is truly the Son of God.  Let us be patient with our detractors and slanderers.  When God enlightens them and makes them aware of their selfishness or ignorance, they will repent and change their attitude towards us.

Finally, we must pray for those who oppose us. Just as Moses pleaded for Aaron and for Miriam, we too mustleave judgment to the Lord.  Moses prayed for the one who challenged him and asked God to bless his oppressors. We can be sure that God will honor His servant in the face of challenges and troubles. By praying for our enemies, we will become less resentful, more compassionate and understanding.  If not, we might nurse grudges and hurts in our encounters with them, leading to vindictiveness and hatred.  This will make us lose all objectivity and eventually lose the moral authority to lead on behalf of God. Yes, we must pray for calmness and a detached objectivity to the decisions that we make for those under our care.

In this way, we can become fearless and compassionate leaders, serving without vested interest, conscious only that we are exercising authority on behalf of God for the good of the community.  God who appoints us for the office will ensure that He gives us the necessary graces to accomplish His task, so long as we are receptive and docile to His grace.  Like St Paul we should also pray, “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:3-6)

St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars

St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars and patron saint of priests, is well known for being a confessor who could see into others’ souls and for taking great penances upon himself for the conversion of sinners. Less known, though, is his wisdom. John Vianney may have had difficulties learning Latin and passing his seminary exams, but he preached beautiful insights:

“To approach God you should go straight to Him, like a bullet from a gun.”

“Prayer is the conversation of a child with his Father.  Of a subject with his King.  Of a servant with his Lord.  Of a friend with the Friend to whom he confides all his troubles and difficulties.”

“A pure soul is with God, as a child with its mother.  The child caresses and embraces her, and its mother returns all its endearments.”

“Just as a mother holds her child in her hands to cover it with kisses, so does God hold the devout person.”

“Our Lord takes pleasure in doing the will of those who love him.”

“God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.”

“You must accept your cross.  If you bear it courageously it will carry you to heaven.”

“Here is a rule for everyday life: Do not do anything which you cannot offer to God.”

And as we turn now towards the Eucharist, let us keep this final thought in mind: “To content his love, God must give Himself to us separately, one by one.”


For many years, around 300 people would travel by train each day to a small town of 230 people. Why did they come? They came because they sought the mercy and counsel of Christ in the confessional of John Marie Vianney. Why did Father John 12 to 17 hours a day sitting in his confessional? He was there because he believed that this sacrament was that important.

Today we often hear people say, “Why do I have to confess my sins to a priest when I can just pray to God directly? It’s like the complaint of Aaron and Miriam in the first reading,  “Is it though Moses alone that the Lord speaks?”

Jesus, in the upper room, breathed on his apostles and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Did Jesus give them this authority and power for no purpose at all?

Jesus gave us the sacrament of reconciliation because we need it. Confession prevents my sins from just being between me and myself. It prevents me from making mountains into molehills, and molehills into mountains. It allows me to know with absolute confidence that this sin of mine is forgiven forever. When we go to confession we acknowledge the Incarnation, that Christ redeemed us in His flesh, not merely by composing a prayer to the Father.

If you are too shy to admit your sins to a priest, who won’t know who you are, and couldn’t tell another soul even if he did, then what makes you think you will have the poise to stand face to face with Christ at the judgment?

When Miriam and Aaron sinned, they turned for mercy to the Lord’s servant, Moses, and their sin was healed. If you have neglected confession, please come. There is mercy, peace, and God’s help awaiting you.

If you already go to confession with some frequency, then please offer a penance today for the conversion of sinners. St. John Vianney did penances for conversions because he was convinced that it made a difference.

In the Gospel we heard that every sick person who came and touched Jesus’ cloak was healed, but those sick people first had to be brought to Jesus. Help carry them.

There are many delightful and worthwhile books to help us “get to know” St. John Vianney, the Cure’ of Ars
Jesus Christ’s Holy Mass

“The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.” —St. Thomas Aquinas

“Man should tremble, the world should vibrate, all Heaven should be deeply moved when the Son of God appears on the altar in the hands of the priest.” —St. Francis of Assisi

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.” —St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

“One single Mass gives more honor to God than all the penances of the Saints, the labors of the Apostles, the sufferings of the martyrs, and even the burning love of the Blessed Mother of God.” —St. Alphonsus Liguori

“All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.” —St. John Vianney

“If the Angels could envy, they would envy us for Holy Communion.” —St. Pope Pius X

“Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you–for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart.” —St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Prayer and Meditation for Friday, July 31, 2015 — “You shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves and offer an oblation to the Lord.”

July 30, 2015

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
Lectionary: 405

Reading 1 LV 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34B-37

The LORD said to Moses,
“These are the festivals of the LORD which you shall celebrate
at their proper time with a sacred assembly.
The Passover of the LORD falls on the fourteenth day of the first month,
at the evening twilight.
The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD’s feast of Unleavened Bread.
For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.
On each of the seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD.
Then on the seventh day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.”The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel and tell them:
When you come into the land which I am giving you,
and reap your harvest,
you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest
to the priest, who shall wave the sheaf before the LORD
that it may be acceptable for you.
On the day after the sabbath the priest shall do this.“Beginning with the day after the sabbath,
the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf,
you shall count seven full weeks,
and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day,
you shall present the new cereal offering to the LORD.“The tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement,
when you shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves
and offer an oblation to the LORD.“The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD’s feast of Booths,
which shall continue for seven days.
On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly,
and you shall do no sort of work.
For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD,
and on the eighth day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and offer an oblation to the LORD.
On that solemn closing you shall do no sort of work.

“These, therefore, are the festivals of the LORD
on which you shall proclaim a sacred assembly,
and offer as an oblation to the LORD burnt offerings and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11AB

R. (2a) Sing with joy to God our help.
Take up a melody, and sound the timbrel,
the pleasant harp and the lyre.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
For it is a statute in Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob,
Who made it a decree for Joseph
when he came forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.

Alleluia 1 PT 1:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of the Lord remains forever;
this is the word that has been proclaimed to you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:54-58

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
Art: Jesus in the Synagogue at Nazareth, by Greg K. Olsen

Commentary on Matthew 13:54-58 From Living Space

Immediately following the discourse on the parables of the Kingdom, we see Jesus going to his home town of Nazareth. TheNew American Bible marks this as the beginning of a new section in Matthew’s gospel which it calls ‘Jesus, the Kingdom and the Church’. It ends with chapter 18, which contains the fourth of the five discourses which are distinctive to Matthew.

As was his right, Jesus spent some time teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. The townspeople were quite amazed to hear the local carpenter’s son speaking as he did. “Where did he get his wisdom and his miraculous powers?” (The New International Version says that the word usually translated ‘carpenter’ could also mean ‘stonemason’.) All his family were well known to the people and they knew he could not have got it from them but they failed to make the next step as to the real origin of what he was saying and doing.

And, in the contrariness of human nature, they were so impressed that they rejected him! He was just too much. A perfect example of familiarity breeding contempt and blinding the eyes to the obvious. And Jesus sadly comments that a prophet can get a hearing everywhere except among his own. Probably all of us have had some experience, directly or indirectly, of this! We Irish, in particular, are well known for our ‘begrudgery’!

It might be helpful for us to see how often and where we ourselves have been guilty of this. How often have we written off what people we know very well, or think we know very well, suggest to us? It is important for us to realise that God can communicate with us through anyone at all and we must never decide in advance who his spokespersons will be.

Finally, we are told that Jesus could not do in Nazareth any of the wonderful things he had done elsewhere “because of their lack of faith”. His hands were tied. Jesus can only help those who are ready to be helped, those who are open to him. How open am I?



Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
.• The Gospel today tells us the visit of Jesus to Nazareth, his native community. Passing through Nazareth was painful for Jesus. What was his community at the beginning, now it is no longer so. Something has changed. Where there is no faith, Jesus can work no miracles.
• Matthew 13, 53-57ª: The reaction of the people of Nazareth before Jesus. It is always good for people to go back to their land. After a long absence, Jesus also returns, as usual, on a Saturday, and he goes to the meeting of the community. Jesus was not the head of the group, but just the same he speaks. This is a sign that persons could participate and express their own opinion. People were astonished. They did not understand Jesus’ attitude: “Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” Jesus, son of that place, whom they knew since he was a child, how is that now he is so different? The people of Nazareth were scandalized and do not accept him: “This is the carpenter’s son, surely?
The people do not accept the mystery of God present in a common man as they are, as they had known Jesus. In order to speak about God he should be different. As one can see, not everything was positive. The persons, who should have been the first ones to accept the Good News, are the first ones to refuse to accept it. The conflict is not only with foreigners, but also with his relatives and with the people of Nazareth. They do not accept because they cannot understand the mystery envelops Jesus: “Is not his mother, the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?” They are not able to believe.
• Matthew 13, 57b-58: Reaction of Jesus before the attitude of the people of Nazareth. Jesus knows very well that “no one is a prophet in his own country”. And he says: A prophet is despised only in his own country and in his own house”. In fact, where there is neither acceptance nor faith, people can do nothing. The prejudice prevents it. Jesus himself, even wanting, can do nothing. He was astonished before their lack of faith.
• The brothers and sisters of Jesus. The expression “brothers of Jesus” causes much polemics between Catholics and Protestants. Basing themselves in this and in other texts, the Protestants say that Jesus had many brothers and sisters and that Mary had more children! Catholics say that Mary did not have any other children. What can we think about this? In the first place, both positions, that of Catholics as well as that of Protestants, contain arguments taken from the Bible and from the Tradition of their respective Churches.
For this reason, it is not convenient to discuss this question with arguments which are only intellectual, because it is a question of profound convictions, which have something to do with faith and with the sentiments of both and of each one. The argument which is only intellectual cannot change a conviction of the heart! It only irritates and draws away! Even if I do not agree with the opinion of others, I have to respect it. In the second place, instead of discussing around texts, all of us, Catholics and Protestants, should unite ourselves much more to fight for the defence of life, created by God, a life so disfigured by poverty, injustice, lack of faith.
We should recall some other phrases of Jesus. “I have come so that they may have life and life to the full” (Jn 10, 10). “That all may be one, so that the world may believe that you, Father, has sent me” (Jn 17, 21). “Do not prevent them! Anyone who is not against us is for us” (Mk 10, 39.40)
Personal questions
• In Jesus something changed in his relationship with the Community of Nazareth. Since you began to participate in the community, has something changed in your relationship with the family? Why?
• Has participation in the community helped you to accept and to trust persons, especially the more simple and the poorest?
Concluding Prayer
For myself, wounded wretch that I am,
by your saving power raise me up!
I will praise God’s name in song,
I will extol him by thanksgiving. (Ps 69, 29-30)


Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

SCRIPTURE READINGS: LEV 23:1-37; MT 13: 54-58

In our lives, we must have come across many great, famous and charismatic people.  And we have been impressed by them.  Yet, who are those people that are really great? Are they those who are highly gifted; making themselves so awesome to approach; making us feel small when we speak to them? Or are they those who are highly gifted and yet appear and relate to us as if they are normal and ordinary people?  Indeed, the truly, truly great are those who are great per se but make themselves so ordinary; are so humble in their ways, making us feel that we are somebody before them.  I was told by the helpers of MC that when Mother Teresa came, she lived among the sisters and lived as one of them without any special treatment accorded to her.  That is indeed someone really great.

Yes, this is the theme of today’s gospel.  God comes to us in ordinary ways, in very human ways. Unfortunately, like the people in Jesus’ hometown, many of us cannot accept that God can manifest Himself to us that way.  The people could not accept Jesus because they knew Him too well.  He was so ordinary, He was one of them.  They knew His family and relatives too.  How could one with such a village background be the Messiah who was promised in the Old Testament? And so they rejected Him, as they would again at the crucifixion.  They wanted God to appear in more fantastic and spectacular ways.  Yes, Jesus was a scandal to them.

But that is not the way of God.  In fact, God has always revealed and related to us in ordinary and human ways.  The first reading from the book of Leviticus prescribes the three great festivals of Israel, viz, the Passover, Weeks or Pentecost; and Tabernacles.  The lives of the Jews were structured around these three great feasts.  The origin of the Passover was a pastoral festival which celebrates the spring yeaning.  The Feast of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, is simply the harvest festival, the feast of the first-fruits of the grain harvest.  The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated at autumn is actually a harvest festival for the fruits of the threshing floor and wine press.  Like Passover and Pentecost, Tabernacles combines an agricultural motif and a historical motif which developed later on.

What, then, are the implications for us with regard to our own lives and in our relationship with others?

Firstly, with regard to ourselves, how should we live our lives?  We should live ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.  That is to say, we should just be.  There is no need to make a show of what we do or who we are.  When we are natural with ourselves, we will radiate the love of God and the presence of God.  But when we attempt to exaggerate the uniqueness in us, we become artificial and phony.  Being ordinary does not mean to be mediocre.  Mediocre people are those who pretend to be what they are not and, worse of all, fall short of what they pretend to be.  Precisely, Jesus was so ordinary that people who lacked the faith-vision or God-vision could not see His divine presence.

Secondly, with regard to others, we should not be too impressed by what they do and who they are.  Quite often, we are easily impressed by how the person speaks and dresses, and the credentials and offices he holds.  And we tend to treat those who are more impressive with greater respect and honour.  But let us not be deceived.  Not all of them are truly great people.  They might be impressive, but behind the mask of their externals, they could be hiding deep insecurities and inferiority.  Rather, the great man is one who is truly great but thinks that he is ordinary.  He does not want to be treated differently and prefers to be just ordinary.  They are the people who are wise and great and who live happy lives.  These are people whom we should really look up to so that we too can live full lives.

But to think and live that way takes faith. Jesus told us in the gospel to see how God is working in our ordinary lives.  Without faith, we cannot see the prophetic signs of God working through the lives of others and in our ordinary events.  And like the people of Jesus’ time, we will deprive ourselves of experiencing the miracles of God in our lives.  So the question is:  do we see the world with the vision of God and Jesus, or through the eyes of the world?




St. Ignatius

Founder of the Society of Jesus
Ignatius was born in 1491 at Loyola in Guipuzcoa. After spending some time as a courtier, he turned to a military career. In 1521, while convalescing after a wound received at the siege of Pamplona, he suddenly conceived a burning desire to follow the footsteps of Christ. His spiritual experiences during his retreat at Manresa were to provide the core of his book `Spiritual Exercises’. In 1537, he was ordained in Venice, and in the same year moved to Rome. There, in 1540, he founded the Society of Jesus, and in the following year was elected its first General. In every kind of apostolic work, he contributed greatly to the Catholic revival of the sixteenth century and to the renewal of the Church’s missionary activity. He died in Rome in 1556, and was canonized by Gregory XV in 1622.


First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
In my own spiritual journey, we’ve seen over and over again the paramount importance of keeping focused on what is most important in life. To this end we start each day with this simple prayer:
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!
As illness comes to us  — illness that is life threatening in me now — we are reminded that the greatest saints like St. Ignatius of Loyola spoke of “Holy Indifference.”
To me this means: I am here to know, love and serve God and to make my way to heaven. Ignatius explains much better than this poor soul ever could.
From “Father Broom’s Blog”

What is your philosophy of life?  We all have one even though we may not be aware of it! These key words express the “Philosophy” of life of many:  Materialism, Hedonism, Agnosticism,  Atheism, and Moral Relativism.

In his consideration at that start of the Spiritual Exercises ( # 23)  known as “Principle and Foundation”, St. Ignatius expresses clearly a philosophy of life in the first sentence:  “Man is created to praise God, reverence God, serve God and by means of that to save his soul…”  Put concisely, man’s existence must praise and glorify His Creator and culminate in the salvation of his immortal soul for all eternity.

The last part of Principle and Foundation has been termed classically as “Ignatian Holy Indifference”.   By “Indifference” Ignatius does not mean apathy, a “who cares”, “I don’t give a darn”, “whatever…” attitude or interior disposition. On the contrary, “Holy Indifference” really means a total openness to the will of God in one’s life.  In other words, whatever God wills for me, I will strive with all of the energy of my will and the proposition in my intellect to conform my will to His Almighty will.   As the poet Dante expressed it: “In God’s will is our peace.”

With respect to Ignatian Holy Indifference, St Ignatius divides it into four separate categories.  “Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed by free choice and are not under any prohibition.  Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short. The same holds for all other things.” (Spiritual Exercises # 23)

To arrive at this lofty spiritual disposition requires extraordinary grace, limitless patience, as well as firm purpose and determination of the will. However, if understood, willed and assumed as an interior disposition of mind and will, the fruits of striving for “Holy Indifference” in one’s life are innumerable! Among the most important blessings is that of peace of mind, heart, soul, and an unreserved trust in God’s loving and constant guiding Divine Providence. As St. Paul reminds us, “If God is with us who can be against us.” Jesus Himself calls us to trust with the comforting words: “My Father has you in the palm of His hand and nobody can snatch you from His hand.” Let us offer a few examples of Holy Indifference taken from those who strived to live it out best— the saints!

St. Alberto Hurtado joyfully works with the youth

First category: “Not to prefer health over sickness.”  A modern saint, a Jesuit Chilean priest, SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO. Involved in a whirlwind of activity—Catholic action, retreats to young, vocational presentations, radio-ministry and an apostolate designed to help the poor of Chile, in his early 50s he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When the news was brought to him by his Vice-Provincial as he lay suffering in a hospital bed, his response was, “Contento Señor Contento!!!”  (Content Lord, content!!!!) “Now I will have time to prepare myself to meet my Maker!”   Saint Alberto did not despise life; rather he loved life and lived it to the fullest!  Through Holy Indifference he recognized God’s will clearly. If indeed his life was given to him by God as a gift, then God had a right to take his life when He best deemed fit. Now he is SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO living forever with God in heaven!

Blessed Jacinta Marto, Lucia de los Santos and Blessed Francisco Marto

Second category: “Not to prefer long life over short.”  BLESSED FRANCISCO MARTO.   He was one of the three shepherd children that Our Lady of Fatima appeared to from May 13, 1917 until October 13, 1917. Once Our Lady of Fatima made the announcement that both he and his sister Jacinta would soon die, little Francisco rejoiced!  The reason for his rejoicing was this interior attitude of Holy Indifference.  The abundant joy that overflowed from his little heart was motivated by his faith in God and ardent yearning to be with Our Lady of Fatima and Jesus in heaven forever. Indeed not long after Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions both Francisco and his sister Jacinta died and were taken to heaven. They were both Beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II, among the youngest saints in the Church Calendar! This attitude of Holy Indifference teaches us that what is important is not a long life, but a holy life. (Imitation of Christ, Thomas Kempis).

St. Francis of Assisi embracing the leper

Third category: “Not to prefer riches over poverty.” One of the common hallmarks of the saints is a detachment from wealth as well as material possessions in general.  Religious, both men and women, make a vow of Poverty. Among the many saints that lived out intensely and authentically the attitude of holy indifference with respect to poverty was SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI.  Being bred, brought up and raised by a father who was a wealthy clothes-merchant, as a youth Francis felt drawn to vanity and luxurious dress, the party-life and worldliness. Once converted, Francis gave up all he had and even had to cut ties with his father and with a total confidence in God said, “From now on I will say only Our Father who art in heaven..”  The final proof of this detachment and total embracing of holy indifference was the famous encounter he had with the leper in rags and Francis still in his elegant clothes. Overcoming himself, Francis returned to the leper and exchanged his elegant and expensive clothes for the rags of the leper. From that moment on Francis lived out to the fullest extent Ignatian Holy Indifference renouncing all attachments to riches to embrace what he termed, “Lady Poverty”—the wife that he would be espoused to the rest of his life!

Fourth category:  “Not to prefer honors over dishonors.”   Humility indeed is a very difficult virtue to acquire in life. Once we think we have it, circumstances in life quickly prove the contrary! Nonetheless, the royal path to arrive at humility is through the narrow and difficult path of humiliations. Indeed humiliations humble us. Once again we find ourselves in the schema of Holy Indifference.

The Mystical Doctor, St. John of the Cross +

SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS.  With Saint Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross was called to the exceedingly difficult task to reform a decadent, declining and worldly state of affairs in the Religious life—specifically the Carmelite Order. Neither the men nor the women took a liking to someone rocking their comfortable boat of complacency!  God chose these two saints to disrupt their comfortable status quo!

The anger which led to fury leveled against Saint John of the Cross was so intense that violent persecutions descended upon the saint like an unending tempest!   John was kidnapped, locked in a small cell in a Carmelite convent. He was scourged, deprived of saying Holy Mass, barely given enough food to eat so as to survive, nor even a bath to take for hygiene purposes. Through Our Lady’s intercession St John escaped.

After all of this unjust abuse both verbal, physical, mental and spiritual, the great mystical doctor of the Church Saint John of the Cross, never uttered an unkind word against any of those who plotted and carried out against his person such unjust and uncharitable actions!

At the end of his life he was asked where he would like to end his days— in a convent where he would be loved and appreciated to end his days or in the convent of a Superior that detested him. St John of the Cross preferred the latter so as to conform his life more and more to the passion, suffering and humiliations of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

In conclusion Principle and Foundation teaches us who God is, where we come from, where we are heading and how to get there. An essential component of Principle and Foundation is “Ignatian Holy Indifference”.   A key means to attaining Holy Indifference is a constant and dynamic prayer life, which leads to a total confidence in God, which is translated and manifested in a total willingness to give one’s whole self to God as a sacrifice, offering and oblation.

Jesus in the Garden conforming His will to “Abba” Father

Of course Jesus is our Way, Truth and Life and best example. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus battled with this Holy Indifference in His human nature and conquered with these words of total and absolute Holy Indifference— conformity to the will of the Heavenly Father.  “Father if it is possible, remove this chalice from me; however, not my will but yours be done.” (Mt. 26:39)

Mary’s “yes” to God’s will brought us the Savior.

May Our Lady’s “Fiat” (total and willing consent to God) motivate all of us to strive to understand, pray over and embrace “Holy Indifference” in our lives.  “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your will.” (Lk. 1: 38) In God’s will is our peace. (Dante)

Pope Francis (left) and St. Francis of Assisi


The Journey of a Spiritual Life: “Alcoholics Anonymous is the beginning, not the end.”

April 7, 2015


By John Francis C.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Since my first few years as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, the voices of spiritual teachers throughout the centuries have reverberated within me with the message that the Principles we find in AA are deeply a part of all the greatest spiritual thinkers of the ages.

In Appendix V of the Big Book, called “The Religious View on A.A.,” Father Edward Dowling, S.J. writes:

“Alcoholic Anonymous is natural; it is natural at the point where nature comes closest to the supernatural, namely in humiliations and in consequent humility. There is something spiritual about an art museum or a symphony, and the Catholic Church approves of our use of them. There is something spiritual about A.A. too, and Catholic participation in it almost invariably results in poor Catholics becoming better Catholics.”

Many times during my journey, while reading some of the great spiritual writers and teachers, my mind wanders some and reminds me of the intersection between what is written in the Gospels and analyzed through the ages, and the simple truths of the Big Book.

While reading St. Augustine it occurred to me that many in AA would find Augustine a perfect soul-mate. He started as a lawyer who was constantly fighting against Christian teachings. His personal slave was also his lover, by whom he had a child. He lived in the same house as his Mother who constantly prayer for his salvation. He ended as a bishop — and the author of some of the most learned texts in the library of great Christian thought.

Similarly, St. Francis de Sales, takes us on a spiritual journey in “An Introduction to the Devout Life.” St. Francis de Sales frequently preached upon the essential nature of man’s total dependence upon God. Francis speaks to us in laymen’s terms and he always challenges us to find and do the Will of God.

Reading “An Introduction to the Devout Life” by St Francis de Sales probably increased my understanding of the life AA wants us to live, more than any other single book.

A few AAs have told me they found the use of the word “devout” off putting. Of course, until our devotion to alcohol dissipates for some time, many of us are unsure of how and where to devote our new-found energy.

For readers that might find reading this most complete of Francis’s works too time consuming, several key topics have been broken out and published separately in short, easy to read volumes dedicated to small portions of the spiritual life.

“Consoling Thoughts on Sickness and Death,” by St Francis de Sales (Edited by Pere Huguet) gave me my first understanding of Christian suffering and death, which we read while assisting another AA with lung cancer, radiation, chemotherapy and finally, death.

“Abandonment to Divine Providence,” by J.P. de Caussade teaches us how to “pour ourselves out” in service to others. By pouring out for another, we forget to focus upon our own selfish ego and learn some small amount of humility — a commodity not often highly valued in our modern society.  But humility is the key commodity of Jesus and the disciples.

When we pour out, we make room for the someone much more helpful than “self.” We make room for the “Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”

Even after more than sixteen years of Catholic education, I confess that I had no clue to how the Holy Spirit was meant to be a part of my life.

Father Edward Leen, a sober Irish priest and author of “Holy Spirit” set me straight.

Simply put, Fr. Leen teaches that from birth be have sanctity in the form of our soul and the one who dwells within us: The Holy Spirit. Leen encourages us who start with only a small light within us — something the size of the pilot light in a gas stove —  and to stoke that fire up so that it glows within us and changes how we lead our lives.

All of the authors and books that became essential to my small but growing understanding of the spiritual life are frequently cited here in the Peace and Freedom web site — especially in the daily “Prayer and Meditation” articles.

And why would anyone go on a journey of spiritual awakening by reading and studying spiritual books? Well, after AA gets our sobriety started, each of us has to decide what to do next. Service to others, especially other alcoholics, is the best way to stay sober, according to the Big Book. But we also have this little problem of eternity waiting for us somewhere. Time marched on while we were drunk and not too cognizant of our spiritual nature and our spiritual journey. After we get sober, it becomes difficult to ignore the goodness of God. Once out of a deep, dark pit — we naturally want to give thanks for this miracle and look ahead to eternity, instead of living in constant fear.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Father Benedict J. Groeschel C.F.R.

On Easter Morning, just a few days ago, I picked up Father Benedict J. Groeschel’s book “The Reform of Renewal,” opened it at random, and read the first thing that my eyes had found:

“Realize that you are really powerless to overcome serious spiritual obstacles, because the things that are opposed to your conversion are usually more immediately attractive. This is most obvious in the case of compulsive behavior, but it is a hidden fact in many other problems. We simply cannot heal ourselves. For this reason fervent intercessory prayer is necessary. We must constantly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that we do not save ourselves. Often we do not understand our own motives. We need to analyze the roots of our spiritual problems.”

Groeschel cautions us against resentments.

“This is important because we can all blame someone else for out problems. People with Spiritual problems may blame God, their parents, the Church, life or others…”

A few lines down the page Fr. Groeschel discusses the steps that might be helpful in moving us toward a better life and cautions readers to seek out a spiritual director to assist in the process of recovery, conversion or whatever we care to call it.

Fr. Groeschel mentions in his books that he is “an honorary member of Alcoholics Anonymous.”  When we asked him about that he said, “I was not addicted to alcohol, but many spiritual people told me that Alcoholics Anonymous provided the most powerful spiritual renewal method of the twentieth century,” so I went to learn where the smart people were.

He also said, once we become sober, our spiritual life begins. “Alcoholics Anonymous is the beginning, not the end,” he told us.

Father Groeschel and many of my other favorite teachers have gone off to heaven now; and as I encounter more pain and suffering I still relish the joy and love of recovery — and how each of us can change a life for the better on our Spiritual Way.


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!

Image may contain: 1 person, text

“Introduction to the Devout Life,” By St. Francis de Sales

Image may contain: one or more people and text

“Self- Abandonment to Divine Providence” by de Caussade — the goal is total dependence upon God.

Image may contain: one or more people

“Holy Spirit” by Edward Leen


Books and published works by Father Benedict Groeschel:
  • God and Us, Daughters of St. Paul, 1982
  • Listening at Prayer, Paulist Press, 1984
  • Spiritual Passages: The Psychology of Spiritual Development “for those who seek”, Crossroad, 1984
  • The Courage to be Chaste, Paulist Press, 1985. ISBN 978-0-8091-2705-4
  • Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones: Spiritual Answers to Psychological Questions, Paulist Press, 1988
  • Thy Will Be Done: A Spiritual Portrait of Terence Cardinal Cooke, Alba House, 1990
  • The Reform of Renewal, Ignatius Press, 1990. ISBN 978-0-89870-286-6
  • A Still Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations, Ignatius Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-89870-436-5
  • Healing the Original Wound: Reflections on the Full Meaning of Salvation, Servant, 1993
  • Heaven in Our Hands: Living the Beatitudes, Servant, 1994
  • Augustine: Major Writings (Crossroad Spiritual Legacy Series), Crossroad, 1995
  • Arise From Darkness: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, Ignatius Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0-89870-525-6
  • In the Presence of Our Lord, Our Sunday Visitor, 1997
  • A Priest Forever: The Life of Eugene Hamilton, Our Sunday Visitor, 1998
  • Praying In The Presence Of Our Lord: Prayers For Eucharistic Adoration, Our Sunday Visitor, 1999
  • Quiet Moments: 120 Daily Readings, Servant, 2000
  • The Journey Toward God, Servant, 2000
  • The Cross at Ground Zero, Our Sunday Visitor, 2001
  • Behold, He Comes: Meditations on the Incarnation, Servant, 2001
  • From Scandal to Hope, Our Sunday Visitor, 2002
  • The King, Crucified And Risen: On The Passion And Glory Of Christ, Servant, 2002
  • Rosary: The Chain of Hope, Ignatius Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-89870-983-4
  • There Are No Accidents: In All Things Trust in God, Our Sunday Visitor, 2004
  • Praying To Our Lord Jesus Christ: Prayers and Meditations Through the Centuries, Ignatius Press, 2004. ISBN 978-1-58617-041-7
  • A Drama of Reform, Ignatius Press, 2005. ISBN 978-1-58617-114-8
  • The Virtue Driven Life, Our Sunday Visitor, 2006
  • Praying with the Creed: Meditations from the Oratory, Our Sunday Visitor, 2007
  • Questions and Answers About Your Journey to God, Our Sunday Visitor, 2007
  • Everyday Encounters with God: What Our Experiences Teach Us about the Divine, Word Among Us, 2008
  • Experiencing the Mystery of Christ: Meditations from Oratory, Our Sunday Visitor, 2008
  • The Journey of Faith: How to Deepen Your Faith in God, Christ, and the Church, Our Sunday Visitor, 2009
  • Tears of God, Ignatius Press, 2009
  • After This Life: What Catholics Believe About What Happens Next, Our Sunday Visitor, 2009
  • Praying Constantly: Bringing Your Faith to Life, Our Sunday Visitor, 2010
  • Travelers Along the Way: The Men and Women Who Shaped My Life, Servant, 2010
  • I am with You Always, Ignatius Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-58617-257-2
  • The Saints in My Life: My Favorite Spiritual Companions, Our Sunday Visitor, 2011
  • Jesus and Mary: In Praise of Their Glorious Names, Our Sunday Visitor, 2012